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Archive for November 4th, 2013

A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening: Ace Collects The Innocents’ “Reprise, Decca, Warner Bros. and A&M Recordings”

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The Innocents - Ace

Ace Records has recently given a classic vocal group its due with the release of The Innocents’ Classic Innocents: The Reprise, Decca, Warner Bros. and A&M Recordings…Plus More.  Drawing from the vaults of all of those labels, the new 28-track collection premieres 12 previously unissued tracks from the California doo-wop trio best-known for “Honest I Do,” “Gee Whiz,” and “A Thousand Stars,” the latter with Kathy Young.  The non-chronologically-sequenced new anthology is a belated follow-up to Ace’s 1992 The Complete Indigo Recordings, which compiled the group’s earliest material.

The Innocents formed in Sun Valley, California out of the remains of junior high school vocal group The Emeralds.  Darron Stankey had sung in The Emeralds with Frank Zworkin, Wayne Edwards and Larry Tamblyn (brother of actor Russ), his fellow members of car club The Innocents.   When The Emeralds drifted apart, Stankey joined with two of his other car club pals, Al Candelaria and Larry New, to form The Echoes.  Soon, Jim West was singing with the group, too, and they were working with Herb Alpert and Lou Adler at Keen Records.  The Echoes’ single “Time” b/w “Dee-Dee-Di-Oh” was released on the Andex label to little fanfare, and the group moved on sans Larry New.

The streamlined trio of lead vocalist West (first tenor), Stankey (second tenor) and Candelaria (baritone) soon crossed paths with “Hollywood Maverick” Gary Paxton and the one and only Kim Fowley.  Paxton and Fowley were riding high from their No. 1 hit “Alley-Oop,” credited to The Hollywood Argyles but actually sung by Paxton and a motley crew of friends.  Fowley took a liking to West, Stankey and Candelaria’s “Honest I Do,” which the trio had written.  Paxton and Fowley arranged for the master – with Stankey on guitar, Marshall Leib of The Teddy Bears on bass and Dean “Spider” Webb on drums – to be sold to the small Indigo Records.  The record paid off for the group now christened The Innocents after their car club.  It became a regional chart-topper in L.A. and a Top 30 hit on the Billboard 200 in 1960, and it opens Ace’s new anthology.

After the jump, we have full details on the new package plus order links and the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2013 at 14:32

It’s Love That Really Counts: Él Continues Vintage Burt Bacharach Series

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Burt Bacharach - Make It EasyIn 1962 alone, Burt Bacharach premiered more than 30 new compositions, recorded by a variety of artists from Marlene Dietrich to The Drifters.  It’s even fair to say that ’62 was the year the composer truly came into his own.  While previous years offered their share of hits for the songwriter – “I Wake Up Crying,” “Tower of Strength,” “Baby, It’s You,” “Magic Moments,” “The Story of My Life” – the Bacharach sound hadn’t completely crystallized.  With Jerry Butler’s July 1962 single of Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself,” Bacharach became his own producer.  Vee-Jay’s Calvin Carter turned over the sessions to the songwriter when he realized “he felt the song better than anyone else did.”  The credit on the 45 still just read “Arranged by Burt Bacharach,” but a new chapter was being written.  That landmark song with melody, orchestration and production by Bacharach, gives the title to the third volume in a series of Bacharach collections from Cherry Red’s Él label.  Make It Easy on Yourself 1962 follows First Book of Songs 1954-1958 and Long Ago Last Summer 1959-1961 and compiles 27 of Bacharach’s songs (some in multiple versions) from one pivotal year with outgoing partner Bob Hilliard and incoming partner Hal David.

One of the essential “love triangle” songs in all of pop music, the stirring “Make It Easy on Yourself” was the fullest expression yet of the mature Bacharach style.  Ethereal backing vocals melded with majestic strings and wistful, sighing horns before Butler bleakly intoned, “Breaking up is so very hard to do…” in a way that Neil Sedaka couldn’t have imagined.  Bacharach and David found beauty and poetry in the blues: “And if the way I hold you can’t compare to his caress/No words of consolation will make me miss you less/My darling, if this is goodbye/Oh, I just know I’m gonna cry/So run to him before you start crying, too…”   Bacharach’s orchestration melded the above instruments with roiling drums, chiming percussion, and well-placed guitar licks, adding up to just over 2-1/2 minute of tension in which the music and lyrics were in perfect harmony.

The new compilation also makes room for the sublime original recording of “Any Day Now,” the most successful song penned by Bacharach with Bob Hilliard.  Soul great Chuck Jackson anticipates his lover’s departure (“My wild beautiful bird, you will have flown/Any day now, I’ll be all alone…”) with just enough anguish and pathos, finding the space in the offbeat arrangement which featured Bacharach playing an ashtray (!) as percussion.  (Jackson previously recorded Bacharach’s “I Wake Up Crying” in 1961; you can hear it on Long Ago Last Summer.)  A contemporary, more “pop” cover by Philadelphia’s Dee Dee Sharp is included for contrast’s sake.

Indeed, Bacharach and David were turning out stone-cold classics at quite a clip.  (After the success of “Blue on Blue” in 1963, Bacharach would make his partnership with David an exclusive one.)  Tremolo guitar and tinkling piano notes signify Tommy Hunt’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” another unbearably lonely, and unbelievably beautiful, song.  Hal David, as always, put into the words feelings that so many – perhaps everybody – had experienced at one time or another: “Goin’ to a movie only makes me sad/Parties make me feel as bad/When I’m not with you, I just don’t know what to do…”  Bacharach matched David’s words with another eloquent, sophisticated and dramatic melody that ran the gamut of emotions itself, veering from serene to pensive to pained.  It’s no wonder everybody from Elvis Costello to the White Stripes cottoned to the song.

Tommy Hunt is also the (unexpected) voice you’ll hear on “Don’t Make Me Over.”  This was the song that changed the lives of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David forever, beginning pop’s most successful “triangle marriage.”  But not long after Dionne charted with the defiant powerhouse of a ballad, Scepter reused its backing track for Hunt’s recording which sat on the shelf until 1986.  Much as “Any Day Now” was transformed from male to female, “Don’t Make Me Over” works just fine with a male singer, proving early on the adaptability of Bacharach’s hits.  Another great soul man, Jimmy Radcliffe, has his breakup moment with Bacharach and David’s deliciously offbeat, Latin-flavored “There Goes the Forgotten Man.”  One of the best of the quotient of (relatively) rare tracks here is “Don’t Envy Me,” which only received one other recording, by George Hamilton in 1963.  Both Powers’ vocal and the production by Hugo and Luigi are a touch histrionic, but the song has a killer melody rendered with almost reggae-style percussion, not to mention an amusing lyrical conceit from Hal David: the singer has lots of girls, but none of them love him…so he’s “filled with such misery,” imploring, “don’t envy me!”  Bobby Vee’s teen waltz “Anonymous Phone Call” is another enjoyable find, flecked with a light country sound.

There’s more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2013 at 11:26

Strictly Tabu: Edsel Readies Reissue Campaign for R&B Label (UPDATED 8/29)

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Tabu 2013

UPDATE (11/4): This post now has confirmed track lists for the FIRST EIGHT WAVES of reissues.

The long-gestating reissue campaign for Tabu Records by Demon Music Group looks to be taking shape – not only for the first wave of titles in the spring, but for a slew of content ambitiously planned through 2014.

Founded in 1976 by Clarence Avant (who’d previously started the Venture and Sussex labels), Tabu scraped by for six years until a chance meeting and an inconvenient snowstorm gave the label two of its greatest staff producers. An early key act, The S.O.S. Band, had a late disco hit with debut single “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” a Top 5 hit in 1980. Three years later, their fourth album On the Rise was being produced in their native Atlanta by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the keyboardist and bassist for Minneapolis funk outfit The Time.

When a freak blizzard caused the duo to miss a gig, Jam and Lewis were summarily fired by The Time’s creator, producer and songwriter, Prince. Their loss became Tabu’s gain, however, as Jam and Lewis, through their Flyte Tyme Productions partnership, produced a flurry of hits for not only Tabu artists but others, including Janet Jackson.

The Flyte Tyme sound – a more brazen variation on Prince’s “Minneapolis sound” – was well-formulated at Tabu. Alexander O’Neal, a vocalist with whom the pair had worked with in an early lineup of The Time, scored several big R&B hits with Jam and Lewis in the late ’80s, including “Fake,” “Criticize” and “If You Were Here Tonight.” Likewise, the duo did wonders for Cherrelle, a female vocalist who had her biggest successes duetting with O’Neal (“Saturday Love,” “Never Knew Love Like This”) but also had her own measure of solo success. (Hers was the first version of Jam and Lewis’ “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” later a Top 10 hit for Robert Palmer on both sides of the Atlantic.)

A recent Facebook post from the label indicates plans to “re-issue the entire Tabu catalogue on expanded re-mastered CDs, digital, a selection of 180GM vinyls, and some amazing boxsets.” Find out just what that covers after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 4, 2013 at 09:05