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Archive for November 18th, 2013

Not Forever, Just for Now: Legacy to Expand Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression”

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Uncle Tupelo - No Depression Legacy EditionAfter several years in the making, the landmark debut album by alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo will be released as a double-disc edition from Legacy Recordings in 2014.

No Depression, originally released in 1990 on the Rockville Records label, was the proper debut of the Belleville, Illinois trio, comprised singer/guitarist Jay Farrar, singer/bassist Jeff Tweedy and drummer Mike Heidorn. The trio had played together since high school and, a year before their debut, were hailed by The CMJ New Music Report as the year’s best unsigned band.

Critics and audiences alike lauded No Depression’s fusion of hardcore punk and traditional country, with evocative lyrics that tackled the starkness of small-town middle America and the relationships formed there. Before long, acts like the Old 97’s, Whiskeytown and The Drive-By Truckers were counting Uncle Tupelo as a major musical influence, turning No Depression into the unintentional benchmark of an entire genre. (A magazine devoted to modern roots and Americana music takes its name from the record.) Uncle Tupelo would grow and shift as the 1990s wore on, eventually splitting in 1994, after which the trio would find separate, greater commercial success in two other influential alt-country bands; Farrar and Heidorn in Son Volt, and Tweedy forming Wilco.

This double-disc Legacy Edition, touted by two Record Store Day releases over the years (a 2012 box set of the band’s 7″ singles on Rockville and a new 7″ featuring unreleased covers from the No Depression sessions to be released this year), will feature 22 rare and unreleased bonus tracks, including all of the bonus cuts from a 2003 single-disc reissue of the album. (Vic Anesini does mastering honors for this new package.) Writer Richard Byrne, who was an early champion of the band in St. Louis alt-weekly The Riverfront Times, contributes new liner notes to the package. This new set is available on January 28; hit the jump to order your copy and check out the full track list!

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2013 at 17:22

Posted in News, Reissues, Uncle Tupelo

Taste the Happy: Varese Compiles Score Tracks from “Arrested Development”

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Arrested DevelopmentThe folks at Varese Sarabande have not made a huge mistake with one of their latest, somewhat archival soundtrack releases: a compilation of songs and score from the acclaimed television series Arrested Development.

“Now, the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” A catchy intro from the show’s narrator/executive producer, an uncredited Ron Howard – but for a number of semi-explainable reasons, Arrested Development failed to catch on with audiences in its three seasons on network television. Despite a killer ensemble cast (including Jason Bateman as beleaguered honest businessman Michael Bluth, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter as his scheming, lawbreaking parents; Will Arnett, Tony Hale and Portia de Rossi as his wacky siblings, David Cross as his bizarre brother-in-law and Michael Cera as his well-meaning son), the show’s mix of mockumentary vérité, rapid-fire wordplay, visual gags and humorous guest star turns only won rave reviews and six Primetime Emmys rather than ratings success for the Fox network. Of course, the Bluth family (and its creator, Mitch Hurwitz) got the last laugh this year, when the streaming service Netflix backed a fourth season of 15 episodes with the original cast intact.

As if Arrested Development didn’t have enough going for it, one of the series’ great secret weapons was its musical score. Composer David Schwartz’s twenty-second theme song, propelled by a bright ukelele riff and some whistling, was just the tip of a musical iceberg that mixed jaunty, peppy material with humorous forays into different genres and silly songs like “It Ain’t Easy Being White” (sung by Arnett as Gob Bluth, with the help of his Sesame Street-skewering African-American puppet Roosevelt Franklin), the folky “Big Yellow Joint,” the atonal rock theme song to Mock Trial with J. Reinhold (sung by famed American Idol reject William Hung) and the spy pastiche “Mr. F.”

At Long Last…Music and Songs from Arrested Development includes liner notes from Schwartz and Hurwitz, as well as tunes from all four seasons of the show, including tunes like “Fantastic 4” and “Boomerang,” sung by Schwartz’s daughter Lucy. All in all, it’s one of those really great soundtrack albums that’ll do well to put a smile on your face no matter how well you know the show: the score cues are bouncy and relaxed enough, even if you’re not driving a stair car, partying with The Hot Cops or filling a prescription for Teamocil.

The disc is in stores tomorrow; order links and the full track list are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2013 at 13:08

Posted in News, Soundtracks

Are We Having Fun Yet? Nickelback Release Hits Compilation

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NickelbackWhat happens when a band seemingly despised by the entirety of the universe releases a compilation? We’re about to find out with tomorrow’s release of The Best of Nickelback Volume 1.

The Canadian quartet have, in an era dominated largely by dance pop and hip-hop, eked out considerable success with straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. Breakthrough single “How You Remind Me,” released in 2001, remains one of the last traditional rock songs to hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100; follow-up singles “Someday,” “Photograph,” “Far Away,” “Rockstar” and “Gotta Be Somebody” all peaked within the Top 10 of those charts, while their last six albums have gone gold or platinum (2005’s All the Right Reasons shipped eight million copies).

What makes all of that interesting is how quickly critics are to write off the band. If the only people you talk to are media gadflies and record collectors, Nickelback make Matchbox Twenty look like Led Zeppelin. They’re hated for frontman Chad Kroeger’s hangdog long-hair/bro-goatee countenance, the maniacal similarity of their songs, their schizophrenic lyrical content (wistful stadium ballads like “Photograph” and “If Everyone Cared” mix it up with rockers like “Something in Your Mouth,” the “something” of which I’m not comfortable spelling out) and what’s perceived as a humorless approach to music (the band rarely give interviews, and have stopped at least one concert thanks to some hecklers). Things perhaps reached a fever point in 2010, when the Facebook page “Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?” [sic] did exactly that.

But, for better or worse, Nickelback remain bulletproof, continuing to enjoy a financial windfall of rock and keeping moderately visible in the music star scene (Kroeger recently married fellow Canadian pop-rocker Avril Lavigne). They even seem to be warming to the idea of poking fun at themselves. And – your catalogue correspondent owes it to you to be honest – the group have mastered the art of MOR pop-rock, which is a far more admirable vocation than, say, manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Featuring 19 singles from the past dozen years (but no new material), The Best of Nickelback Volume 1 awaits your judgment in stores tomorrow. Hit the jump to order your copy and check out the track list.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2013 at 10:59

Slices of Bread: David Gates and James Griffin’s Solo Records, Reissued and Remastered

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David Gates - Elektra AlbumsBread occupied a unique place on the Elektra Records roster.  The so-called “soft rock” band shared a label with the likes of Love, The Doors, The Stooges and The MC5, and regularly visited the charts with such signature songs as “Make It with You” (No. 1, 1970), “It Don’t Matter to Me” (No. 10, 1970), “If” (No. 4, 1971), “Baby I’m-a Want You” (No. 3, 1971), “Everything I Own” (No. 5, 1972) and “The Guitar Man” (No. 11, 1972).  All of those staples were written and sung by David Gates, the band’s de facto leader who was going through a true purple patch after toiling in relative obscurity as a songwriter for most of the 1960s.  But songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Gates wasn’t the only songwriter in Bread.  The team of James Griffin and Robb Royer even received an Academy Award for their song “For All We Know,” co-written with Fred Karlin for the 1970 film Lovers and Other Strangers and later popularized by the Carpenters.  Indeed, the band originally was intended to showcase both Gates’ and Griffin’s songs, but Gates’ mellow ballads were invariably chosen as single A-sides…and became hits on multiple charts.  Bread broke up in 1973 with tension high, though a brief 1976 reunion led to one more LP.  During that hiatus and after, both Gates and Griffin took to solo recording.  Edsel has recently reissued all four of David Gates’ Elektra albums as one 2-CD set with the straightforward title of First/Never Let Her Go/Goodbye Girl/Falling in Love Again, while Hux Records has delivered James Griffin’s two Polydor albums on one disc as Just Like Yesterday: The Solo Anthology 1974-77.

For 1973’s First, David Gates was joined by Bread members Mike Botts (drums) and Larry Knechtel (piano/bass) along with such stellar session men as Larry Carlton, Russ Kunkel and Jim Gordon.  The LP wasn’t Gates’ first solo work, however; he had recorded singles under his own name as far back as the late 1950s.  One could be forgiven for mistaking a number of the album’s tracks for Bread songs, with Gates’ reassuring vocals and always-impeccable songcraft keeping the ballads squarely in Bread territory.  But on First, Gates (also acting as producer and arranger) melded rock and folk influences (not to mention folk-rock!) and tackled an 8+ minute orchestral suite of two linked compositions, “Clouds” and “Rain.”  Despite compelling material like the opening track “Sail Around the World,” the jazzy, electric piano-driven “Lorilee” and the Bread-esque ode “Ann,” First peaked at No. 107 on the Billboard 200, bested by the No. 2 chart peak of The Best of Bread!  1975’s Never Let Me Go again welcomed Knechtel and Botts and emphasized the group’s style even more than First had – no surprise, considering that most of the group was playing on the record.  The title track, a bit reminiscent of “Baby I’m-a Want You,” scored a Top 30 hit for the solo Gates, and Gladys Knight and the Pips picked up on “Part Time Love.”

Following Never Let Her Go, Gates, Knechtel and Botts reunited with Griffin.  (Robb Royer had left Bread after 1971’s Manna, and was replaced by Wrecking Crew veteran Knechtel.)  Bread’s “reunion” album Lost Without Your Love yielded the group’s final Top 10 hit with the title track, again written by Gates.  But with Bread’s reunion a short-lived one, Gates plunged into more solo work, and was rewarded with his biggest-ever solo hit with 1977’s “Goodbye Girl.”  The theme to Neil Simon’s film comedy The Goodbye Girl, it reached a No. 15 Pop peak, and an album was built around the song.  (The vocalist Rumer has recently applied her honeyed voice to a cover of Gates’ emotional composition.)  Joining “Goodbye Girl” and five more new Gates compositions (including the breezy “Took the Last Train” and the bleak “Overnight Sensation”) were five retreads from First and Never Let Her Go; accordingly, Edsel has only included the six original songs on the Goodbye Girl portion of the reissue.

Edsel’s set concludes with Gates’ final solo LP for Elektra, 1980’s Falling in Love Again.  “Where Did the Lovin’ Go” cracked the Top 50, but commercially speaking, the time had largely passed for the kind of Southern California soft rock perfected by Bread in the seventies.  As on Goodbye Girl, Bread-mates Knechtel and Botts played on Falling in Love Again.  Gates has only recorded sporadically since 1980, issuing a couple of solo LPs and a career overview with new material; Bread even reunited with both Gates and Griffin for a brief spin in 1996-1997.  The 2-CD set, remastered by Phil Kinrade, includes a 36-page booklet with a new essay from Alan Robinson plus complete lyrics and credits.

After the jump: onto the solo albums of James Griffin! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 18, 2013 at 10:20