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Archive for November 8th, 2013

Wild Swans’ “Coldest Winter” Heats Up on Occultation Recordings

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The Coldest Winter for a Hundred YearsBritish postpunk band The Wild Swans, led by singer/songwriter/keyboardist Paul Simpson, have recently reissued their most recent album with a raft of bonus material.

The haunting work of Simpson first came to prominence in the late ’70s as member of the short-lived A Shallow Madness, which featured two future frontmen from the same genre: Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes and Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen. His Wild Swans project has existed in three phases: once from 1980 to 1982, where the band issued one single, “The Revolutionary Spirit” (one of the final releases on Liverpool label Zoo Records) and were championed by John Peel; once again from 1988 to 1990, where they released two albums for Sire/Reprise; and finally from 2007 on, when Simpson recruited a new group of musicians to revive the group he once described as “a beautiful, holy, sexy, disturbing, dreamy nightmare about breaking into heaven to have sex with the angels.”

Signing to U.K. indie Occultation Recordings, The Wild Swans issued several singles before a 2011 LP, The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years, came to light. The new record found the band on tour once again, in Europe and The Philippines, where the band has had a cult following for years.

This new version of Coldest Winter pairs the original album with a bonus disc of non-LP and single material as well as two previously unreleased tracks. It’s available in two formats: a standard, double-vinyl release and a deluxe package that adds the material on CD plus a collectible poster, postcard, badge and special lyric insert, all in specially-printed outer packaging. (Occultation has informed us that a third, super-deluxe format with even more goodies has actually sold out.) If this one sounds like the set for you or that special post-punk fan in your life, head to Occultation’s website and place an order. (A photo gallery is here.) After the jump, you’ll find a full track list and a preview of one of the new songs, “Maybe It’s You.”

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 8, 2013 at 14:04

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! BBR Reissues, Expands Four Kool and the Gang Classics

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Kool and the Gang - Ladies NightYou can’t keep a Kool man down.  This week, Robert “Kool” Bell (now known as Muhammad Bayyan) leads the legendary funk-soul-R&B-disco outfit Kool and the Gang through its latest studio album, the Best Buy/Wal-Mart exclusive Kool for the Holidays.  But for nearly 45 years, the music of Kool and the Gang has been celebrated for all seasons.  Big Break Records last revisited the Kool catalogue in 2011 with an expanded edition of 1976’s Open Sesame, but the label is returning to the group in a big way with deluxe reissues of all four of Kool and the Gang’s classic albums produced by Brazilian jazz great Eumir Deodato.  Between 1979 and 1982, Deodato steered Kool and the Gang to three U.S. platinum sellers and one gold disc: Ladies’ Night (1979, Platinum), Celebrate! (1980, Platinum), Something Special (1981, Platinum) and As One (1982, Gold).  The first two titles are out now, with the last two due on November 25.

Formed in Jersey City, New Jersey as The Jazziacs, Kool and the Gang signed with De-Lite Records in 1969, scoring a hit single right away with an eponymous instrumental single.  The No. 59 Pop/No. 19 R&B entry signaled the arrival of a band that could deftly blend soul, pop and jazz into a cohesive whole.  Their successes continued apace, with highlights including the 1974 gold-selling Wild and Peaceful (“Funky Stuff,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging”), the Grammy-nominated gold disc Light of Worlds (1975) and  Open Sesame, with its title track achieving disco immortality on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.  But the best was still yet to come.  Enter Eumir Deodato.

Keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Deodato began his career as a major proponent of the bossa nova scene in his native Brazil, and soon became a sought-after arranger for the likes of Roberta Flack, George Benson, and even The Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra.  Although he had been a solo recording artist since the early 1960s, Deodato‘s solo career took off at Creed Taylor’s CTI label at the dawn of the new decade.  In addition to a high-profile collaboration with Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine (1971’s Gilberto with Turrentine), Deodato scored an unexpected crossover hit the next year with his jazz-funk rendition of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”  When the classical composition and 2001: A Space Odyssey theme was released as a single, it shot to No. 2 Pop.  It eventually netted a 1974 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.  More solo work followed for CTI (including 1974’s Deodato/Airto in Concert with fellow Brazilian, drummer Airto Moreira), MCA and Warner Bros., but a chance encounter with Kool and the Gang in West Orange, New Jersey’s House of Music studio proved fateful.  The band invited Deodato to produce their next album, and despite some false starts, the project that eventually became Ladies’ Night came together.

We have full details on all four albums, plus track listings and order links, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 8, 2013 at 13:01

Dial-a-Reissue: Edsel to Release Two-Fers by They Might Be Giants

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TMBG 1“I’m your only friend
I’m not your only friend
But I’m a little glowing friend
But really I’m not actually your friend
But I am”

If those lyrics mean anything to you, you’ll probably dig Edsel’s next round of two-fers: all four albums released by quirk-rock band They Might Be Giants on the Elektra label.

Formed by John Flansburgh and John Linnell, two teenage friends from Massachusetts who found themselves moving to the same building in Brooklyn on the same day, TMBG gained early cult success with their idiosyncratic live shows (full of absurd asides and tape loops, with Flansburgh playing guitar and Linnell playing saxophone and accordion, as you do), smart lyrical wordplay and wildly prolific output (often captured through the famous “Dial-a-Song,” a working phone number connected to an answering machine that would play literally hundreds of song ideas the Johns would conceive).

After a pair of moderately successful albums on the Bar/None label, TMBG signed to Elektra, marrying their catchy hooks and funny tales to polished pop production: 1990’s Flood was helmed by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, and produced the smash modern rock hit “Birdhouse in Your Soul” as well as the quirky “Particle Man” and a cover of The Four Lads’ Top 10 novelty hit “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” (Kids of the early 1990s will recognize the latter two as the subjects of music videos on the Warner Bros. series Tiny Toon Adventures.) The follow-up, Apollo 18 (1992) was released as the duo were named Musical Ambassador’s for NASA’s International Space Year campaign; it’s perhaps best known among casual fans, though, for the song “Fingertips” – 21 disparate sketches of songs that, depending on if you used your CD player’s shuffle function or not, would be one continuous freak-out of a song or some humorous snippets sprinkled throughout.

TMBG 2In 1994, after dramatically altering their live shows to include a real backing band, TMBG released the guitar-heavy John Henry to mixed reviews; they followed it up with the more traditional (for them, anyway, while still keeping the backing band concept) Factory Showroom in 1996. Shortly thereafter, they left Elektra over disputes about publicity; the Johns continue to perform to this day, having released their 16th studio album Nanobots earlier this year and earned a new wave of success in the 2000s with a string of children’s albums (No! (2002), Here Come the ABCs (2005), Here Come the 123s (2008) and Here Comes Science (2009), the latter three of which all went gold in America).

Edsel’s pair of two-fers keep each album on one disc and append the contents of a relevant CD single or EP to the track lists, adding almost two dozen bonus tracks between both sets. They hit U.K. shops on December 3; hit the jump for Amazon links and full track lists!

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 8, 2013 at 11:58

Back To Muscle Shoals: Ace Revives Classic Southern Soul From Dan Penn, James Govan

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Dan Penn - Road Leading HomeDirector Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals brought some long-overdue attention to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – a hotbed of southern soul that attracted some of the most notable artists in rock and soul, from The Rolling Stones to Aretha Franklin.  But the folks at Ace Records have never overlooked Muscle Shoals’ immeasurable contribution to the sound of American soul.  Two recent compilations cast further light on the historic music that made the city a destination on the map.

A Road Leading Home: Songs by Dan Penn and Others is a follow-up to 2010’s Sweet Inspiration: The Songs of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham as well as 2012’s Dan Penn: The Fame Recordings.  Penn is somewhat of an unsung hero of popular music, despite having co-written such classic songs as “I’m Your Puppet,” “Cry Like a Baby,” “Do Right Woman (Do Right Man),” and “The Dark End of the Street.”  Sweet Inspiration compiled Penn/Oldham songs by artists including Dionne Warwick, Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke, Tommy Roe and Ronnie Milsap, while the latter offered Penn’s own solo recordings made in Muscle Shoals.  The various-artists compilation A Road Leading Home turns the spotlight primarily onto Penn’s songs not written with Spooner Oldham.  As such, it’s the latest essential volume to chronicle Penn’s discography.  Though Penn is rightly considered an architect of southern soul, his songs were recorded by artists of all genres, as these anthologies show.  But at their heart is the sound and style of Muscle Shoals and of Memphis, where Penn relocated in 1966 at the behest of Chips Moman’s American Studios.

A number of artists featured on A Road Leading Home also appeared on Sweet Inspiration, among them Ronnie Milsap, Irma Thomas, Ted Taylor, Percy Sledge, Tommy Roe and, yes, The Sweet Inspirations.  Penn and Rick Hall co-wrote Roe’s 1963 “Come On,” a stylistic successor to Roe’s hit “Everybody.”  Taylor’s 1968 “Without a Woman” from Penn, Quin Ivy and Drew Miller was a quintessential anguished ballad, much like The Sweet Inspirations’ 1967 “Oh, What I’ve Fool I’ve Been” by Penn, Oldham and Darryl Carter.  The girls brought their gospel-influenced sound to the track, arranged by the great Ralph Burns (Broadway’s Sweet Charity, Chicago) with appropriate grit.  Irma Thomas offers one of the compilation’s most recent tracks, a smoking 2000 re-cut of Penn, Oldham and Fritts’ “Zero Willpower,” which she had first recorded in the 1970s.  Spooner Oldham even plays piano on the tune which lyrically quotes “I’m Your Puppet.”

There are many delightfully surprising inclusions, too, showing off Penn’s stylistic range.  Jerry Lee’s sister Linda Gail Lewis’ 1965 “Break Up the Party,” co-written with Oscar Franck and Rick Hall, is a raucous teen rocker as arranged by Ray Stevens and produced by Felton Jarvis.  Jeanie Fortune’s obscure “Once More with Feeling” from Penn and Marlin Greene is another rocker, a blend of country and pop with Fortune recalling young Dolly Parton.  Penn and Donnie Fritts’ “(Almost Persuaded to Give Him) One More Try,” as sung by Linda Carr, brings to mind Diana Ross fronting the Shangri-Las!  And even the quintessential New York uptown soul act The Drifters got into the Penn act, recording Penn and Marlin Greene’s “Far from the Maddening Crowd” in a sublimely brassy Bert Keyes arrangement produced by Bert Berns in 1965.  Penn and Roger Hawkins’ “I Can’t Stop,” heard here in a 1968 recording by Jamaica’s Blues Busters, can’t hide its debt to the melody of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t It Peculiar,” but it’s an intriguing deep-soul spin on Motown.

After the jump: more on Songs by Dan Penn plus details on James Govan’s The Fame Recordings.  Plus: full track listings with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 8, 2013 at 11:06