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Archive for August 19th, 2013

Come Out of Your Shell: “Lost” Staple Singers Album Reissued by Ace

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Staple Singers - This Time AroundThe legacy of Chicago’s own Staple Singers was solidified when the quartet moved to Stax Records and became the label’s biggest act at the time, courtesy of some of the best funk of the early 1970s. A new reissue from Ace extends that legacy, with the release of 1981 outtakes compilation This Time Around, available on CD for the first time.

After gospel-tinged stints on Vee-Jay, Epic and other labels throughout the ’60s, the Staple Singers – Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his children Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne (who replaced Pervis in 1971) and Mavis – signed to the legendary Stax label in 1968, releasing a pair of LPs with Booker T & The MG’s ably backing up the group. But it was 1971’s The Staple Swingers that turned the Staples’ fortunes, in which they found themselves under the guidance of longtime Stax producers Al Bell and engineer Terry Manning and decamping to the famed Muscle Shoals. At Muscle Shoals they pursued a tighter funk direction, ultimately striking gold with their second collaboration with Bell and Manning. Be Altitude-Respect Yourself, released in 1972, yielded two smash hits in “Respect Yourself” (No. 12 pop, No. 2 R&B) and “I’ll Take You There,” a No. 1 single on both pop and R&B charts.

By 1981, the Staples had moved from the bankrupt Stax to Curtom and then Warner Bros. Records, attaining only moderate interest when they appeared in The Band’s The Last Waltz. (They covered “The Weight” on their first Stax LP, and joined the group both in concert and later in studio to re-record the song. The latter version was used in the final film.) But a small trove of half-finished rarities from sessions between 1970 and 1972 lay in wait for fans to discover. Ultimately, it was decided that instrumentalist Herb Jimmerson, one-half of the Fantasy Records disco act Paradise Express, would complete the tracks. (By this point, Fantasy distributed the Stax catalogue, both old and new; the Stax name would primarily be reissue-based from this point forward. As for Paradise Express? A cover of Paul Jabara’s “Dance” was a chart hit, while “Star in My Life” was buoyed by background vocals courtesy of Two Tons O’ Fun, later known as The Weather Girls.)

Jimmerson’s arrangements, recorded nearly a decade after the fact, were modern but not terribly distracting, and This Time Around remains an intriguing curio in the legacy of The Staple Singers, which still looms large to this day. With its first release on CD courtesy of Ace Records, fans can finally rediscover this lost period in the group’s history.

This Time Around is available today, August 20, and can be ordered after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 19, 2013 at 13:48

Review: Dionne Warwick, “The Complete Warner Bros. Singles”

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Dionne - Warner SinglesDionne Warwick’s 1972-1977 tenure at Warner Bros. Records has long been a subject of much confusion.  Why couldn’t the Burbank giant yield any hit records with the superstar artist after signing her to a record-breaking deal? Sure, the “triangle marriage” of Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David was breaking up, but Warner paired her with some of the most famed names in soul music: Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jerry Ragovoy, and Thom Bell among them.  Bell scored a hit for Warwick with “Then Came You,” and the Spinners duet earned her – unbelievably – her first Billboard No. 1 Pop record during the Warner years – on the Spinners’ label, Atlantic!  Dionne couldn’t strike gold on Warner despite her best efforts.  Had disco irrevocably altered the soul marketplace?  Did the records suffer from a lack of promotion?  Two new releases from Real Gone Music – The Complete Warner Bros. Singles (RGM -0169) and We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters (RGM-0170) – finally give reason to completely re-evaluate Dionne Warwick’s Warner Bros. years.  Sure, maybe the label did make some missteps, particularly in the material left sitting on the shelf.  But maybe the public got a few things wrong, too.

The Complete Warner Bros. Singles is not just a singles collection, but also an effective primer on Warwick’s tumultuous 5+ years on WB.  It features tracks drawn from all five of her releases there – Dionne (1972), Just Being Myself (1973), Then Came You (1974), Track of the Cat (1975), and Love at First Sight (1977) – plus two sides of one non-LP single.  The constant among these 21 diverse recordings is the high level of Warwick’s artistry, combining silky tones with an actress’ skill for interpretation.  She could be vulnerable or gritty as she ran the emotional gamut, but exuded vocal control and frequently understated power.

Warner  missed the boat with the selection of Warwick’s first two singles off the Dionne album.  Jacques Brel, Eric Blau and Mort Shuman’s “If We Only Have Love” was paired with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” both covers.  The latter was clearly inspired by the Carpenters’ recent hit version, already making the song “old news.”  In addition, Warwick had already released a fine version of the song in 1965.  Burt Bacharach didn’t even arrange or conduct “Close to You,” ceding duties to Bob James.  Though the production of Dionne was credited to Bacharach and David, the busy, distracted Bacharach only arranged and conducted four of its tracks.  Surely a Bacharach/David original would have made a better A-side.  The bouncy, retro-feeling “If You Never Say Goodbye” should have been earmarked for single release, perhaps backed by James’ arrangement of the duo’s cheerful “Hasbrook Heights.”  (“I Just Have to Breathe,” “The Balance of Nature” and “Be Aware,” the other three pure Bacharach tracks, were all too subtle to have much single potential.)  Though their vocals were – and are – lovely, “If We Only Have Love” (arranged by the talented Don Sebesky, like James a mainstay of the CTI jazz label) and the retread of “Close to You” simply didn’t excite listeners.  The single reached just No. 84 Pop/No. 37 AC.   With Bacharach and David going their separate ways, an era was over.

Dionne should have met with more luck for Just Being Myself, written and produced by the Motown-reared team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.  H-D-H did take Warwick in a different direction, emphasizing the soul quotient of her pop-soul formula.  The dramatic “I Think You Need Love” was chosen as the A-side, and while it’s a powerful performance, its B-side was the more commercial song.  “Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You” had a familiar feel to its lyrics, with Warwick persevering in the face of heartbreak, and an even more familiar sound in its arrangement thanks to the Bacharach-esque horn accents.  This single was followed up by the title song “(I’m) Just Being Myself” with its striking Latin percussion b/w “You’re Gonna Need Me,” toughened up by a prominent electric guitar.  This single charted a minor R&B hit (No. 62).  Was Dionne having an identity crisis?  Though her vocals were as committed and satisfying as ever, Warwick admitted discomfort with the tracks on Just Being Myself, all of which were laid down prior to her participation.  Many sounded, naturally, more Motown than New York.  Nonetheless, Warwick’s next album project would also be a departure.

After the jump: a look at the singles produced by Jerry Ragovoy, Thom Bell and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 19, 2013 at 10:57

Somewhere Only They Know: Keane Announce Greatest Hits Compilation in Various Formats

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KeaneBritish pop-rockers Keane are set to commemorate a decade of releases with a new greatest hits compilation in November.

While most knowledge of the Sussex band begins and ends with 2004’s radio-ready, piano-led ballad “Somewhere Only We Know” (a modest No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100), Keane have become quite a driving force in U.K. pop/rock. All four of their studio albums (and one extended EP) have topped the British charts, and they’ve amassed 10 Top 40 hits, including Top 10s “Everybody’s Changing,” “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Bedshaped,” all from 2004 debut Hopes and Fears, and the rollicking “Is It Any Wonder?” from 2006’s Under the Iron Sea. (In 2008, both albums were named on Q‘s list of the best British albums; Keane were the only band to have two albums in the Top 20 – The Beatles, Radiohead and Oasis all settled for one apiece in the same space.)

The Best of Keane will be available in several formats: a single-disc overview featuring 20 tracks, including selections from Hopes and FearsUnder the Iron SeaPerfect Symmetry (2008), the EP Night Train (2010) and Strangeland (2012) as well as two new songs; a double-disc set collecting an extra disc of B-sides (many unavailable outside of U.K. CD singles) and a super deluxe version, to feature both CDs, a DVD of an acoustic concert (slated for recording later this month) and a 7″ x 7″, 100-page hardback book.

All formats will street worldwide on November 11. Click here for a new interview frontman Tom Chaplin gave to Rolling Stone about the compilation, and keep an eye out here for when Amazon links go live. In the meantime, the track list for both discs is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 19, 2013 at 10:23

Posted in Compilations, Keane, News