The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for August 22nd, 2013

Back Tracks: John Mayer

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Paradise_Valley_cover,_by_John_MayerThis week saw the release of Paradise Valley, the sixth full-length album by singer/songwriter/guitarist John Mayer. The Connecticut-born performer remains one of the most intriguing figures in pop music since the dawn of the 2000s: educated at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Mayer was the complete package for a generation – multifaceted in his musical talents (kind of an insane cross between James Taylor and Stevie Ray Vaughan), an unabashed encyclopedia of modern pop – and, as it happened, blessed with looks that would make ladies swoon and an off-the-wall sense of humor that would satiate the boyfriends who had to attend his concerts.

Mayer’s evolution has been almost unprecedented on the pop scene: he’s transitioned astoundingly from coffeehouse acoustic pop to muscular blues to laid-back country-folk in nearly 15 years as a major-label artist. And he’s had to adjust his public persona considerably after his sense of humor (and ladies’-man placement in the tabloids) threatened to overshadow his music.

But to this longtime fan who’s seen Mayer more than any other current pop artist, Paradise Valley finally finds John Mayer confident and musically stronger than he’s been since the release of his greatest achievement, the blues-pop Continuum in 2006. (He’s also, of course, come back from a potentially career-ending throat condition, which makes his rebound all that sweeter.) In honor of the new album, I’ve decided to take a Back Tracks-style look at Mayer’s discography; not many reissues abound, but there are some fun rarities we’ll talk about.

Keep reading after the jump to dive into the world of John Mayer!

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 22, 2013 at 14:03

Original Jazz Classics Celebrates 60 Years of Riverside with Evans, Montgomery, Baker, More

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Mulligan Meets Monk

From its headquarters at 553 West 51st Street in New York, New York, the Riverside Records label presided over an impressive roster of jazz talent.  Founded in 1953 by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer, Riverside was home at one time or another to Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Alberta Hunter, Johnny Griffin, plus a number of artists currently being recognized with deluxe reissues from the Riverside catalogue: Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans.  That “Who’s Who” of jazz is represented via five new titles as part of Concord Records’ Original Jazz Classics series celebrating Riverside’s 60th anniversary:

  • Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, Mulligan Meets Monk (1957)
  • Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson, Things Are Getting Better (1958)
  • Chet Baker, Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959)
  • Wes Montgomery, So Much Guitar! (1961)
  • The Bill Evans Trio, How My Heart Sings! (1964)

All five titles are available now, newly remastered by Joe Tarantino and expanded with bonus tracks and new liner notes by writers including Neil Tesser (Mulligan and Monk), Willard Jenkins (Adderley and Jackson), James Rozzi (Baker), Marc Myers (Montgomery) and Doug Ramsey (Evans).  Producer Orrin Keepnews’ original notes have been reprinted, as well.  After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at each of them! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 22, 2013 at 13:11

SoulMusic Records Delivers the Love with Phyllis Hyman’s “Buddah Years”

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Phyllis Hyman - Buddah YearsSoulMusic Records, an imprint of the Cherry Red Group, continues its non-chronological tour through the catalogue of the late Phyllis Hyman with the release of The Buddah Years.  Despite the compilation title, this 13-track CD is actually a straight reissue of Hyman’s very first solo album, recorded for Buddah Records, plus four bonus tracks.

Though she had previously recorded a single for Private Stock Records, the statuesque soul singer’s first major splash came as guest vocalist for producer Norman Connors.  Hyman’s deliberate, sensual reinvention of Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s “Betcha by Golly Wow” appeared on Connors’ album You Are My Starship beside a duet she recorded with Michael Henderson, “We Both Need Each Other.”  Both songs featuring Hyman became Top 30 R&B singles, and another one-off single (this time for the Desert Moon label) also charted, at No. 76 R&B.  Soon, Buddah Records – also home to Connors – saw potential in the striking Ms. Hyman as a solo artist.

Phyllis Hyman, as her solo album was simply titled, featured productions by veteran Jerry Peters (The Sylvers, The Friends of Distinction), Hyman’s husband Larry Alexander with Sandy Torano, and Philly soul maestro John Davis of the Monster Orchestra.  In Rashod Ellison’s strong new liner notes for SoulMusic’s reissue, Davis notes, “I’m surprised [the album] holds up so well, because none of us knew what the other was doing.”  Indeed, Peters recorded his three tracks in Los Angeles, Alexander and Torano cut theirs in New York City, and Davis helmed his trio at Philadelphia’s famed Sigma Sound.  The New York tracks featured such prominent session men as bassist Will Lee and drummer Andy Newmark.  At Sigma, Davis utilized much of the regular Philly gang including Larry Washington on percussion, Charles Collins on drums, “Sugar Bear” Foreman on bass, Richie Rome on keyboards, and the Sweethearts of Sigma (Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton, Carla Benson) on backing vocals.  Peters’ team wasn’t filled with slouches, either, counting drummer Raymond Pounds and guitarist Gregg Poree among the musicians.

The album included renditions of two more songs penned by Hyman’s friend Thom Bell, who would play a major role in her later career at Arista and Philadelphia International.  The album-opening “Loving You, Losing You” was the work of producer Jerry Peters, while John Davis brought a new arrangement of “I Don’t Want to Lose You” to life. (Both songs by Bell were originally recorded by The Spinners.)  Despite the varied production teams, Phyllis Hyman established a blueprint that many of her subsequent albums would follow, combining Quiet Storm ballads with upbeat R&B pop-soul and jazz-inflected numbers.  For the tracks most overtly calling on Hyman’s jazz chops, arranger Onaje Allan Gumbs was enlisted by Alexander and Torano as he had arranged “Betcha By Golly Wow” for Connors.  Funk and disco also made brief flashes on Phyllis Hyman, but the singer’s creamy, dramatic and commanding vocals always took center stage.

What’s on The Buddah Years?  After the jump, we have more details, a track listing with discography and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 22, 2013 at 10:02