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Archive for September 10th, 2013

In His “Reality”: Philly Soul Meets Jazz On Monk Montgomery Reissue

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Monk Montgomery - Reality

UPDATE 9/10/13: Just yesterday, we published the following review of Monk Montgomery’s 1974 album Reality, produced, arranged, and co-written by a true legend of soul music and architect of The Sound of Philadelphia, Mr. Bobby Martin.  Today, word has arrived that Martin, 83, has passed away following a brief illness.  A masterful orchestrator of horns and strings with a background steeped in jazz, Martin created music that was sweet and sophisticated, romantic and wrenching. and always positively soulful.  Whether with Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, The O’Jays, The Manhattans, L.T.D. or Monk Montgomery, Bobby Martin’s music is for the ages.  We’ll always remember.

Nestled in the Philadelphia International Records discography between The O’Jays’ Survival and Billy Paul’s Got My Head on Straight, you’ll find two of the label’s most unusual releases: Potpourri, from trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis, and Reality, from bassist Monk Montgomery.  These 1974 LPs represented PIR’s first major stabs into the jazz market, though elements of the genre certainly informed the shaping of the Philly soul sound itself.  And now, nearly forty years after its release, a freshly remastered compact disc edition of Montgomery’s third and final solo album is indeed a Reality.  Big Break Records has restored one of the most criminally unknown PIR titles to CD in an expanded edition with one bonus track.

In the album’s original liner notes, critic Joe Delaney praised William Howard “Monk” Montgomery for having “de-bastardized the Fender bass.”  Born in 1921 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Montgomery was the older brother of guitarist John Leslie a.k.a. “Wes” and pianist/vibraphonist Charles a.k.a. “Buddy”; the three had frequently played together as the Montgomery Brothers.  But Monk’s C.V. was hardly less impressive than that of his kid brother, who found his greatest fame recording a series of pop-jazz albums for producer Creed Taylor’s early A&M-distributed CTI label before his untimely death in 1968 at just 45 years of age.  Monk is recognized today as the first prominent electric bassist in jazz, switching from double bass to “go electric” as early as 1951 and making his name as a member of Lionel Hampton’s orchestra.  (Wes also got his start with Hampton’s unit and though younger than Monk, rose to prominence first.)  After a brief time in the Montgomery Johnson Quintet with Wes, Buddy, tenor sax man Alonzo Johnson and drummer Robert Johnson, Monk founded the Mastersounds with Buddy on vibes, Benny Barth on drums and Richie Crabtree on piano.  Still later, he played with vibraphone masters Cal Tjader and Red Norvo.  Monk only recorded three solo albums in his lifetime, however. 1969’s aptly-titled Motown release It’s Never Too Late was followed by 1971’s Bass Odyssey on the Motown-distributed Chisa imprint.  Reality, his first and only PIR album, was also his last solo effort.

Read all about it after the jump – plus the full track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2013 at 16:06

Posted in Monk Montgomery, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Kritzerland Requests The Pleasure of Your Company For Classic Newman Score

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Pleasure of His CompanyFilm legend Alfred Newman – that’s “Brother” to Lionel and Emil Newman, “Uncle Al” to Randy Newman, and “Dad” to Thomas and David Newman! – has long had a home at the Kritzerland label.  2013 alone has seen Kritzerland release Newman’s scores to Leave Her to Heaven (paired with his Take Care of My Little Girl) and How Green Was My Valley, and now, those titles are being followed up by another CD premiere release which is now available for pre-order.

Director George Seaton’s The Pleasure of His Company was scored by Newman at Paramount Pictures in 1961 following his departure from longtime home 20th Century Fox one year earlier.  The starry comedy featured Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Lilli Palmer and Tab Hunter and was based on Samuel Taylor and Cornelia Otis Skinner’s 1958 play of the same name.  Astaire played “Pogo” Poole, the absentee father of debutante Jessica (Reynolds) who returns in time for the wedding of his daughter to cattle rancher Roger Henderson (Hunter).  Par for the course in a frothy comedy, Poole’s arrival causes all kinds of trouble – particularly when sparks fly between him and ex-wife Katharine (Palmer), much to the dismay of her second husband (Gary Merrill).  Astaire picked up a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Pogo.

Newman was a natural choice to score the picture, as he had collaborated with director Seaton on numerous earlier films including Chicken Every Sunday, The Big Lift, For Heaven’s Sake and Anything Can Happen.  Their partnership would continue onto Seaton’s next Paramount film, The Counterfeit Traitor, as well.  CD producer Bruce Kimmel asserts of Newman’s score for The Pleasure, “It’s hard to imagine a more luscious, melodic, beguiling, and captivating romantic comedy score than what Newman delivered,” and he singles out the “stunning” theme “Lullaby in Blue,” which recurs throughout the movie.  Kimmel continues, “The main secondary theme occurs soon thereafter, Newman’s Pleasure of His Company theme. There’s a wonderful theme for Astaire, a kind of ‘traveling music’ that is infectious and fun. And there are other lovely themes along the way to the happy ending. The score is like a sparkling glass of champagne – sophisticated, lush, witty, tender and pure Newman.”

Read more after the jump!  Plus: the pre-order link and track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2013 at 15:33

Funky Town Grooves Stirs Up Chocolate Milk Reissues

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Chocolate MilkThe rich New Orleans soul of Chocolate Milk will be revisited by Funkytowngrooves in the fall.

First gaining prominence as a backing band for Allen Toussaint in the 1970s, Chocolate Milk would release eight albums for RCA in the ’70s (all of which were produced or co-produced by Toussaint) and ’80s. They’re now perhaps best known for the title cut to debut LP Action Speaks Louder Than Words (1975), which featured a breakbeat popular in hip-hop, namely Eric B. & Rakim’s “Move the Crowd” in 1988.

FTG will reissue the band’s self-titled album and Comin’, both released in 1976, as well as 1981’s Blue Jeans. All feature single edits and/or extended mixes, although Chocolate Milk may be the most confusing, including three single edits for songs that have nothing to do with the album in question. (The albums those songs do come from, We’re All in This Together (1977) and Milky Way (1979), were released as a two-fer – notably, with no bonus tracks – by the label in 2010 and repressed last month.) Blue Jeans features seven bonus tracks, three of which date ahead to the band’s final album, Friction (1982).

These three albums are due November 15; as such, no Amazon links are live, but they can be pre-ordered from the label. And, as always, full track lists are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 10, 2013 at 15:06

Ellie Goulding Burns Up U.K. Charts with “Halcyon” Reissue

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Halcyon DaysBritish dance-pop singer Ellie Goulding enjoyed her biggest worldwide success to date with the release of sophomore album Halcyon in 2012. Late last month, a heavily-expanded edition of the album was released with the hopes of taking that success even further.

The 27-year-old Goulding earned national acclaim in England when she won the Critic’s Choice BRIT Award and topped the BBC’s Sound Of… poll in 2010 – just the second artist to achieve both, two years after Adele did so in 2008. Her vocals fit nicely against intimate arrangements (a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” hit No. 2 in the U.K. in 2010; she personally sang the song for the first dance of Prince William and Duchess Catherine) or electronic rhythms (2011 single “Lights” was a No. 2 hit in the United States). Follow-up Halcyon, assessed as a strong follow-up by many critics, featured U.K. hits in “Anything Could Happen” and “Explosions”; the former was a No. 1 Dance single in the U.S. and featured in advertisements for the much talked-about HBO series Girls.

The inevitable third-quarter repackaging of the album, Halcyon Days, is packed with not only all the tracks from the existing deluxe edition of the original album (including a remix of “Lights” by Australian duo Pnau and “I Need Your Love,” a hit single by producer/remixer Calvin Harris which features Goulding’s vocals) but a 10-track bonus disc, featuring U.K. chart-topper “Burn,” co-written and co-produced by Ryan Tedder of the pop-rock band OneRepublic. There’s also a cover of “How Long Will I Love You,” a 1990 single by The Waterboys.

Halcyon Days is available now; full specs and order links are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 10, 2013 at 13:34

Out of the Shadow(s): Morton’s Story Features Shangri-Las, Vanilla Fudge, New York Dolls

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Shadow Morton StoryA scrappy street fighter with a knack for teenage melodrama, George “Shadow” Morton lived with a “self-invented mythology,” in the words of Jerry Leiber.  But his work with The Shangri-Las, Janis Ian, The New York Dolls and many more solidified Morton’s place as a real-life “leader of the pack.”  Ace’s new anthology Sophisticated Boom Boom: The Shadow Morton Story (CDTOP 1369) brings the songwriter and producer out of the shadow and into the (spot)light.

In a 1968 Time Magazine blurb:, Morton once claimed, “I am the greatest producer in the business.  I am also an egomaniac.”  But whether it was ego or a pure creative spark driving him, Morton was responsible for some of the most vivid records to emerge out of the 1960s.  Expertly compiled and annotated by Mick Patrick, Sophisticated Boom Boom plucks 24 tracks from Morton’s career as a producer, a songwriter or both.  Presented chronologically and accompanied by nearly 40 pages of Patrick’s liner notes, this is the definitive account of the man’s musical history.

Think of Shadow Morton and the group that usually comes to mind is the Shangri-Las, so it’s no surprise that four tracks from the Mary Weiss-led quartet feature here.  What is surprising, however, is that “Leader of the Pack” isn’t one of them.  The 1964 No. 1 hit – perhaps the epitome of the “death disc” – forever established the Shangri-Las as the toughest gals in town with a series of remarkable records for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird label.  With spoken introductions, sound effects, dramatic vocals and a rather foreboding atmosphere, The Shangri-Las’ records as produced and written by Morton were true mini-movies.

So although Patrick opted to leave out that crucial part of The Shadow Morton Story, the sweeping, melodramatic style of Morton and the girls is represented with the equally-powerful “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)” (heard here in a previously unissued alternate version), ebullient “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” lesser-known Mercury side “I’ll Never Learn,” and the Red Bird record that perhaps was the team’s zenith: “Past, Present and Future.”  This unusual psychodrama recited by Mary Weiss over a Beethoven-inspired backdrop of theatrical strings unsurprisingly stalled at No. 59 on the U.S. Pop chart, but today stands apart for its completely singular quality.  In the liner notes, Billy Joel offers memories of playing on the session for “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand).”

There’s more on Shadow after the jump, including the complete track listing with discography and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2013 at 10:10

Release Round-Up: Week of September 10

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Clash - Sound SystemThe Clash, Sound System Hits Back / 5 Studio Album Box Set (Columbia/Sony Music/Legacy)

Coming from the U.K., a new double-disc Clash compilation, a simple box of the band’s classic albums in new mini-LP packaging (The Clash (U.K.), Give ‘Em Enough RopeLondon Calling, Sandinista! and Combat Rock) and a deluxe swag-filled set featuring those five albums, three discs of non-LP tracks and unreleased rarities and a DVD full of more rare treats.

Hits Back (2CD): Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Hits Back (3LP): Amazon U.K.
5 Studio Album Box Set (CD): Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
5 Studio Album Box Set (LP): Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Sound SystemAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Hall and Oates - No Goodbyes (H&Ode)Daryl Hall & John Oates, No Goodbyes (Wounded Bird)

When the famed soul-pop duo split from Atlantic for RCA, this compilation (featuring tracks from their three LPs for the label plus three unreleased recordings) was released to capitalize on their newfound fame. This reissue is actually its first time on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Back to BoomtownThe Boomtown Rats, Back to Boomtown: Classic Rats Hits (Universal U.K.)

Bob Geldof’s reunited Irish punk band, set to tour this winter, returns with a new 16-track compilation with two brand-new tunes. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

September 10, 2013 at 08:28