The Second Disc

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Archive for October 10th, 2013

And One More For The Road: Frank Sinatra’s “Duets” Goes Super Deluxe In November

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Frank Sinatra - Duets SDE

The way he wore his hat…the way he sipped his tea (or likely, something stronger)…the memory of all that…no, they can’t take that away from us.  Frank Sinatra’s influence is still felt every day – in style, in attitude, especially in song.  Though 2013 has been a quiet year for the Chairman’s catalogue, that’s about to change on November 19 when Capitol and UMe celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Sinatra’s triple-platinum Duets album with a variety of commemorative reissues including a 2-CD/1-DVD Super Deluxe Edition, 2-CD Deluxe Edition and 2-LP vinyl set.  All iterations will include Duets II, the 1994 Grammy-winning follow-up, and both CD editions will include bonus duets with Tom Scott, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Luciano Pavarotti and George Strait.

Duets, originally released on November 2, 1993, marked Sinatra’s return to Capitol Records after a more than thirty-year absence.  His first studio album for the label since 1962’s Point of No Return, Duets teamed the celebrated icon with producer Phil Ramone, co-producer Hank Cattaneo, and a host of performers from various musical styles.  Some of Sinatra’s choices for duet partners were naturals, such as his friends Tony Bennett (his self-professed “favorite singer”) and Liza Minnelli, or Barbra Streisand.  Others came from the worlds of R&B (Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin), and rock (Bono).  Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat, had a deep connection to the standards created by the likes of Sinatra and her dad, while Carly Simon had ventured into the Great American Songbook on her 1981 collection Torch.  Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and Charles Aznavour all added international flavor to the album.

Frank Sinatra - Duets DEPhil Ramone was able to deftly blend Sinatra’s classic style of recording with modern technological advances allowing for virtual duets.  He chose to record Sinatra in Capitol’s Studio A, the same room Sinatra had inaugurated in 1956.  Sinatra would sing an array of his most famous songs in front of a live orchestra, as always, with musical director Patrick Williams conducting his own charts as well as those by Nelson Riddle, Don Costa, Billy Byers and Quincy Jones.  Ramone told The Independent just before the album’s release, “We had separated him from the band in the beginning – not extremely, but with enough separators and bits of plexiglass and stuff and he was very uncomfortable.  He said, ‘I wanna be with the guys.’ The only thing to do was to put him out in the middle of the room…We put [his longtime accompanist] Bill Miller in front of him, so he could tease him, bust him. Bill’s been with him 40 years…Ordinarily, I would use two mikes on him – one above, one below. But he wasn’t comfortable, so I got him a stool and a hand-mike. It’s a way in which I’ve recorded Jagger and Bono. It’s not going to win any audio awards. But he’s the most comfortable with that. He did nine songs one night, straight. Three of the tracks that made it to the album are Take Ones.”  As he recalled in his book Making Records, Ramone utilized the Entertainment Digital Network system, developed in part by George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, to record the duet partners via long-distance: Aznavour in Paris, Minnelli in Brazil, Bono in Ireland, Estefan and Iglesias in Miami, and Franklin and Baker in Detroit.

Duets was an unqualified commercial success, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard album chart in the U.S. and No. 5 in the U.K., and selling over three million copies in the United States.  The following year, Capitol released Duets II, once again in time for the holidays.  This time, Ramone and Sinatra corralled an arguably even more diverse gallery of duet partners.  Sinatra’s pals Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme showed up, as did old friend Antonio Carlos Jobim and the legendary Lena Horne.  Willie Nelson, who successfully transformed standards into his own laconic style on Stardust, joined Sinatra, as did Linda Ronstadt, who shared with Sinatra a close collaboration with Nelson Riddle.  Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffett, Chrissie Hynde, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder all brought their instantly recognizable styles to Duets II.  Frank Sinatra, Jr. even joined his pop on a swinging “My Kind of Town.”  Duets II also made the Billboard Top 10, though it fared less well abroad with a No. 29 peak in the United Kingdom.  It went on to sell over one million copies and netted Sinatra the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

What will you find on Capitol’s various anniversary editions of Duets?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Soundgarden’s Sub Pop Years to Be Remastered and Expanded

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Screaming Life-FoppAcclaimed grunge outfit Soundgarden are revisiting their years on the Sub Pop label with a new remastered compilation due in November.

Before they burst onto the national scene with 1991’s Badmotorfinger, the Seattle quartet (featuring vocalist Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and – at first, bassist Hiro Yamamoto, ultimately replaced by Ben Shepard in 1990) started off their career with a pair of EPs for the famed local label. 1987’s Screaming Life, recorded with producer Jack Endino, featured six raw original tunes and was met with rave reviews.

A follow-up, Fopp (1988), was a bit more of a curve ball, featuring the titular cover of an Ohio Players tune as well as a take on “Swallow My Pride” by fellow Seattle rockers Green River. The band cut a full-length, Ultramega OK, later that year for SST, ultimately gaining the attention of A&M Records, who’ve had the band ever since. (Soundgarden, of course, were a dominant force in ’90s rock before splitting up in 1997; the band reunited in 2010, releasing a new compilation and a new LP, King Animal, in 2012.)

Screaming Life/Fopp was first combined into one long-player in 1990. This version, available on CD and double-vinyl, will also include one more track the band cut for Sub Pop, a winking tribute to the scene called “Sub Pop Rock City” and released on the Sub Pop 200 compilation in 1988. (That tune shared space with exclusive tunes by Green River, Mudhoney and Nirvana.)

The new reissue will be available on November 25. Hit the jump to pre-order your copies!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 10, 2013 at 13:50

La-La Land Unleashes “Dead,” “Black Beauty”

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Black BeautyLa-La Land’s soundtrack reissues this week include a title that’s perfect for Halloween and an offbeat score by a composer normally responsible for music that’s perfect for Halloween.

That latter title is the first up this week: in 1994, Danny Elfman – known best for his offbeat scores for Tim Burton (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, BeetlejuiceBatmanThe Nightmare Before Christmas, countless others) – was commissioned to write a soundtrack for Warner Bros.’ adaptation of Black Beauty, the acclaimed 1877 novel by Anna Sewell told from the perspective of a horse living (and caring for) several owners in England.

Despite sturdy performances by British actors including Sean Bean and David Thewlis – and even a memorable performance by Docs Keepin Time as the titular horse of the film (who would, in one of the most amazing sentences I’ve ever typed for this site, became an in-demand horse in Hollywood, starring in a television series based on The Black Stallion and Robert Redford’s adaptation of The Horse Whisperer) – the film was a major box-office failure, one of many that helped sideline Warner Bros.’ Family Entertainment imprint by the end of the decade. But Elfman’s score, a notable departure from his usual fare, is robust and acclaimed by fans and critics of the composer alike – and La-La Land greatly expands its original release on the Giant Records label with this new disc, featuring nearly 79 minutes of music and copious unused and unreleased material.

When there is no more room on the page, the dead will walk after the jump (propelled by a reissued score to a George Romero classic)!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 10, 2013 at 12:02

Special Review: Joe Grushecky, “Somewhere East of Eden”

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Joe Grushecky - Somewhere East of EdenAs these words are being published, we’re in Day 10 of the U.S. government shutdown, with no end apparently in sight.  Could Joe Grushecky have picked a better time to release his seventeenth and latest solo album, the poltiically-charged and socially-conscious Somewhere East of Eden (Schoolhouse/Warner Nashville 2-535518, 2013)?  Grushecky has always evinced that he cares deeply for America, and for its citizens – particularly the blue-collar, working class.  On Eden, the rootsy singer-songwriter (frequently categorized alongside the likes of John Mellencamp and Bob Seger as a proponent of “heartland rock”) directs one track at the “politician man,” but though he seethes on that song and elsewhere, the album is more than just a polemic.  It’s a deeply personal statement of who he is, where he’s been, and where he’s going.  Eden is very much in the spirit of Grushecky’s past work, but though the terrain is familiar, the artist has managed to find new corners to illuminate.

This release from Grushecky’s Schoolhouse Records is being distributed by Warner Music Nashville, and though Eden is not a country album proper, the focused collection of twelve songs is certainly imbued with a hint of that flavor.  But more often, the attack is straight-ahead, guitar-driven, melodic rock and roll from a plain-spoken narrator with a fire in his belly.  “Don’t you know these days, it’s the cold, hard truth,” the singer asserts on the album’s opening lines.  “All my money goes to guys in suits/Who always take more than they need/Don’t even try to hide their greed…”  With its chorus of “the rich get rich and the poor stay poor,” Grushecky is mad as hell in the hard-rocking opening salvo, “I Can Hear the Devil Knocking.”  The up-tempo groove of the pointed “Prices Going Up” is similarly blunt in its take on modern life (“I’ve been workin’ too hard, bustin’ my butt/I’ve been breakin’ my back…I can’t afford the gas…I can’t afford the bread…”) and ends with perhaps the only response possible: a pained wail.

Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 10, 2013 at 10:23

Posted in Joe Grushecky, News, Reviews

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