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Archive for December 19th, 2013

Lucinda Williams’ Self-Titled LP Back Into Print, Expanded for January

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Lucinda WilliamsLucinda Williams’ self-titled third record – arguably, featuring her first great moments as a country singer-songwriter – will get reissued as a double-disc set next month on the artist’s new imprint label, affiliated with independent label Thirty Tigers.

Initially released on the Rough Trade label, Lucinda Williams saw the Louisiana native craft a unique blend of country, folk, blues and rock that was miles away from her first two records for Smithsonian Folkways in 1979 and 1980 (the former of which was all covers). Tracks like “Crescent City,” “Passionate Kisses,” “Changed the Locks” and “Side of the Road” were alternately celebratory and heartrending, bursting forth with unbridled emotion. “Passionate Kisses” was covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, winning a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (and another nod for Song of the Year) in 1994; “Changed the Locks” was covered by Tom Petty for the soundtrack to She’s the One in 1996, while Ben Folds delivered a stirring version of “Side of the Road” for an EP in 2005.

As for Williams, she continued to work deliberately, releasing only two albums in the next decade: Sweet Old World for the Chameleon label in 1992, and signing with major label Mercury for the critically-acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road in 1998. Her most recent album, Blessed, was released in 2011.

Out of print for over a decade, Lucinda Williams features the album remastered from the original tapes, having recently been discovered after years of misplacement. A bonus disc combines an unreleased 1989 live show from The Netherlands with a fistful of live radio sessions first released on a 1998 CD reissue. The package is rounded out with liner notes from Robin Hurley (former A&R for Rough Trade) and music journalist Chris Morris.

The new remaster, which will also be available on vinyl, hits stores January 14. After the jump, check out the full track list, plus Amazon links.

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 19, 2013 at 15:57

Ace Celebrates Soulful Girls with “The Artistry of Brenda Holloway” and “Where the Girls Are”

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Where the Girls Are 8If you want to know Where the Girls Are, look no further than two of Ace Records’ latest releases.  The eighth installment of the label’s Where the Girls Are series is a grab-bag of the best girl-group pop you’ve never heard, while The Artistry of Brenda Holloway gives a much-deserved spotlight to the underrated Motown vocalist who so often found herself in the shadows of Diana Ross or Martha Reeves.

Where the Girls Are Volume 8, compiled and annotated by Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick, offers 25 girl-pop nuggets that sound as fresh today as when they were first recorded in the 1960s.  There aren’t many familiar artists represented, but one group with top-tier credentials here is certainly The Blossoms.  When Lou Adler launched his Ode Records, it was with a 45 of the Darlene Love-led group’s rendition of Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End.”  Here, then, is their follow-up, Nick Ashford, Valarie Simpson and Jo Armstead’s “Cry Like a Baby,” previously recorded by none other than Aretha Franklin.  The Blossoms, who got their due as perhaps the preeminent group of background singers in the recent film Twenty Feet from Stardom, are also heard on “I Still Like Rock and Roll” under the pseudonym The Darlenes.  The latter was produced by Lee Hazlewood for the Stacy label, who frequently utilized the girls under a variety of names largely intended to fool his then-rival Phil Spector.  Speaking of Spector, his onetime Teddy Bears partner Carol Connors – future Academy Award-winning songwriter of “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky – gets a slot here with the deliciously sassy “My Baby Looks, But He Don’t Touch.”

Another familiar name here is Little Eva.  Her post-Dimension Records output is infrequently revisited, so it’s a treat to hear her 1965 cover of “Stand by Me” with unusually rocking guitar!  “Stand by Me” is just one of the songs on Volume 8 from the production team of Feldman-Goldstein-Gotteher, recipients of a previous Ace anthology all their own.  (Where the Girls Are affords the label the chance to revisit past subjects, and indeed this volume complements many previous titles in the Ace catalogue.)  Also from the F-G-G team is The Four Havens’ “Gee, But He’s Fine,” Ravita Marcell’s “That’s My Man,” and Diane Christian’s “Why Don’t the Boy Leave Me Alone.”  Grammar notwithstanding, this is one of those productions that shouldn’t have missed.  The angst-ridden teen drama is set to a big, bold, string-laden arrangement, and offers a powerful lead and tight vocal harmony – in other words, all of the ingredients for a hit.

Van McCoy, another past Ace subject, wrote Carol Slade’s “I Wanna Know Right Now” with strings adding a hint of elegance, and wrote and produced Kendra Spotswood’s classy “Stickin’ with My Baby.”  Though information as to some of these artists has been lost to time, Baumgart and Patrick have done an exceptional job tracking many down.  We learn, for instance, that Spotswood was a New Jersey singer once known as Sandi Sheldon and a part-time touring Shirelle!

The Bonnets’ “Ya Gotta Take a Chance,” recorded at Los Angeles’ famed Gold Star studio, would have fit snugly on Ace’s Phil’s Spectre series.  It’s a dead ringer for Spector’s bombastic Wall of Sound productions, and writer/producer Al Allen recalls Hal Blaine being the man responsible for the thunderous drums, and Larry Levine or Stan Ross engineering.  The music of New York writer-producer Bert Berns was also anthologized by Ace, and here, the Bang Records founder is represented with two quirky tracks from a group alternately dubbed The Pussycats and The Witches (Berns and Farrell’s “My Little Baby” arranged by Artie Butler, and “Come On and Ska,” with a Teacho Wiltshire chart, respectively).

There has yet to be a definitive history of the early recordings of Philadelphia’s Mighty Three trio of Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, but there are a handful of choice titles here that should set the pulse racing of any Philly Soul fan.  The Orlons’ “I Ain’t Comin’ Back” was co-written by Gamble and produced by Gamble and Huff, and is a quintessential slice of uptempo Philly pop-soul circa 1965.  Huff co-wrote “No, No Baby” for The Sherrys, and the Madara/White production on Mercury was a deliciously defiant slab of girl group goodness with a Steve Douglas-esque honking sax solo, a rollicking piano part and potent horns.  The third member of the Mighty Three, Thom Bell, co-wrote Nikki Blu’s “(Whoa Whoa) I Love Him So” with Chubby Checker – who also produced!    There’s no sign of Bell’s future lush style here, but the track is another sassy, danceable and catchy nugget with prominent piano and punchy brass.

In addition, Philly fans will find 1965’s rousing “Gotta Have Your Love” from The Sapphires – a Brill Building gem by Tony Powers (early partner of Ellie Greenwich) and Jack Keller, produced by Jerry Ross and arranged by Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner – plus the future Mrs. Gamble Dee Dee Sharp, with a female spin on Mel Torme’s cool “Comin’ Home Baby.”

There’s more after the jump on both Where the Girls Are and The Artistry of Brenda Holloway! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2013 at 15:02

Eric Clapton Goes to the “Crossroads” and Brings Friends On New CD, DVD, BD

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Eric Clapton - Crossroads

Eric Clapton is big on giving back.  The guitar god founded Antigua’s Crossroads Centre for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction in 1998, and in 2004, spearheaded the creation of the Crossroads Eric Clapton Guitar Festival to benefit the facility of the same name.  Since that first ’04 fest, Crossroads Festivals have taken place every three years, in 2007, 2010 and 2013.  Highlights from the 2013 shows, which took place on April 12 and 13 at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, are now available on CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Rhino.

Headlined of course by Clapton, the first Crossroads Festival was held in Dallas, Texas and endeavored to represent instrumentalists from the blues, rock, country and even jazz realms.  The festival featured such diverse guitar greats as Jeff Beck, J.J. Cale, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana as well as singer-songwriters like Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor and the up-and-coming John Mayer, as well as bands like Booker T and the MG’s, Styx and ZZ Top.  The 2013 line-up welcomed back many artists who had played at that very first event (and subsequent ones) such as B.B. King, Booker T. Jones, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Robert Randolph, Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, Doyle Bramhall II, Jimmie Vaughan and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.  Other performers included Keith Richards, Earl Klugh, Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban, Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal.

The DVD and BD releases present 45 songs from both evenings of Crossroads 2013 in director Martyn Atkins’ concert film, playable in either stereo or 5.1 surround.  The CD edition boasts 29 tracks on two discs.  In all formats you’ll get Clapton’s performances of signature songs “Tears in Heaven,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Got to Get Better in a Little While” and some collaborations: “Lay Down Sally” with Gill, “Key to the Highway” with moonlighting Glimmer Twin Richards, “Why Does Love Got to Be So Bad” with the Allman Brothers Band, and “Gin House Blues” on which he accompanies Andy Fairweather-Low.  The DVD/BD releases add Clapton’s “Crossroads,” “Spider Jiving” with Fairweather-Low, “Big Road Blues” with Kurt Rosenwinkel, “Everyday I Have the Blues” with B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan and The Robert Cray Band, and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with The Band’s Robbie Robertson.

All-star duets are often among the most tantalizing aspects of benefit concert performances, and Crossroads 2013 is no exception.  In addition to the previously mentioned Clapton duets, the Crossroads CD includes such collaborations as John Mayer and Keith Urban on The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” Mayer and Doyle Bramhall II on “Change It,” Vince Gill with Albert Lee on “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ on “Diving Duck Blues,” and a jam on the stone-cold Stax classic “Green Onions” with Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper joined by Keb’ Mo’, Blake Mills, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Albert Lee.  Of course, there’s more on the DVD/BD such as the same group doing Jones’ “Born Under a Bad Sign,” Booker T and Cropper’s “Green Onions,” and Gill, Urban and Lee doing The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice.”

After the jump: more on Crossroads, including full track listings and order links for each format! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2013 at 11:44