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Archive for January 23rd, 2014

Short Takes: Digital Updates on Billy Joel, Black Sabbath and More

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When not releasing intriguing physical products, sometimes labels like to do neat things to spice up their digital offerings, making complete discographies available or taking advantage of Apple’s “Mastered for iTunes” initiative. Here’s a few notable digital-oriented stories we’ve caught wind of in recent days!

52nd Street Billy Joel

  • He’s a living legend, a multiplatinum bestseller, a Kennedy Center honoree and – in 2014 – the first musical franchise at New York’s Madison Square Garden. This week, Legacy Recordings calibrated Billy Joel’s resurgence into a newly-streamlined offering on iTunes. All of the Piano Man’s studio and live albums have been Mastered for iTunes, and the 2011 Complete Albums Collection is available for digital purchase as well. (This box does, of course, not entirely live up to its title: several live albums, including KOHUEPT (1987) and 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert (2000), are omitted in favor of a bonus disc collecting tracks from compilations and other rarities, many found on the My Lives box set of 2005.)

    But it’s not only about digital treats for Joel: next week, Showtime will premiere a new documentary about Joel’s sojourn to the Soviet Union to perform live in 1987 – one of a few Western acts to penetrate the Iron Curtain. A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia combines new interviews with rare and unreleased concert and behind-the-scenes footage of Joel, his band and his family in what was a very strange land to an American in the late ’80s. (I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a release of this film, perhaps paired with the original KOHUEPT concert film released on videotape back in the day.)

We Sold Our Soul for Rock N Roll

  • Hot off the success of their latest album, last year’s 13 (which reunited most of the band’s classic lineup), metal gods Black Sabbath have also been treated to a fancy new iTunes store. The Mastered for iTunes treatment is only bestowed on the albums with the original lineup of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward – that’d be 1970’s self-titled debut to 1978’s Never Say Die, plus the compilations We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll (1976) and Greatest Hits 1970-1978 (2006) – but it looks like the original albums are all there. (A digital box set collecting those MFiT titles is also available.)


  • They’re best known for a pair of New Wave/MTV-friendly singles – 1979’s “What I Like About You” and 1983’s Top 5 hit “Talking in Your Sleep.” But Legacy Recordings has made all five of The Romantics’ albums for Nemperor Records (now part of the Epic Records family) available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Digital newcomers National Breakout (1980), Strictly Personal (1981) and In Heat (1983) – which spun off “Talking in Your Sleep” – join 1980’s self-titled debut and their Nemperor swan song Rhythm Romance (1985) on all digital providers.

Si Se Puede

  • On March 11, in honor of legendary activist Cesar Chavez’s birthday at the end of the month (and a forthcoming biopic starring Michael Peña as the labor leader), Fantasy Records will digitally release a Chavez tribute album, Sí Se Puede!, for the first time. This 1976 LP, which donated money to Chavez’s United Farm Workers, marked the recording debut of East L.A. band Los Lobos, two years before their proper debut LP and a decade before attaining international acclaim on the soundtrack to La Bamba.

Written by Mike Duquette

January 23, 2014 at 17:31

Cherry Pop Revives Hazell Dean’s Rare Burt Bacharach LP, Weather Girls’ Second Album

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Hazell Dean - BacharachThe sound of Hazell Dean has long been associated with the sound of Hi-NRG, the dance-pop genre in which she scored hits like “Searchin’ (I Gotta Find a Man),” “Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)” and “Who’s Leaving Who.”  But thanks to Cherry Pop, fans can discover another side of Hazell Dean on The Sound of Bacharach and David.  This ultra-rare promotional LP, originally issued in 1981, was commercially released for the first time on CD this week in the U.K.; it hits U.S. stores next Tuesday.

The future Hi-NRG queen came to the catalogue of Burt Bacharach and Hal David via writer-producer Paul Curtis, with whom she had worked in the band Union Express and also recorded “I Couldn’t Live Without You for a Day,” his 1976 entry in the Song for Europe competition.  (Curtis holds the record as the songwriter with the most songs to make the finals of this contest in which the annual Eurovision song entry for the U.K. is selected.)  Curtis’ publishing was administered by Carlin Music, who also controlled the Bacharach/David copyrights.  Carlin’s Freddy Bienstock approached Curtis and Dean about recording an album of the duo’s famous songs to be used for placement in radio, television, films and commercials.  As Dean recalls in her new liner notes for Cherry Pop’s reissue, “I had to sing the songs very straight, no bending notes, and no ad libs.  In other words, I could not make the songs my own or put my unique vocal stamp on them.  That was very hard for me.”

Despite the challenges of recording such a project, The Sound of Bacharach and David has become a prized item among Hazell Dean’s fans over the years.  Her straightforward delivery well-served the familiar Bacharach and David compositions such as “What the World Needs Now is Love,” “Walk on By,” “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” and “Close to You.”  (The closest thing to a “deep cut” from the B&D catalogue is “To Wait for Love,” which had previously been recorded by Tony Orlando, Tom Jones, Jackie DeShannon and Herb Alpert, among others.)  Producer/background vocalist Curtis surrounded her pristine and versatile voice with a variety of mostly stripped-down settings that sometimes echoed the original arrangements and other times updated them.  Dean today recalls The Carpenters’ vocal style as an influence on the backing vocals which she and Curtis performed themselves, and indeed, the arrangement here of “Close to You” adopts the hallmarks of Richard Carpenter’s famous chart.  Though the LP was first released in 1981, Dean notes that the album “brings back so many memories of the ‘70s,” an accurate assessment of its style.

The Sound of Bacharach and David is a most welcome addition to Cherry Pop’s series of Hazell Dean reissues, following expanded editions of such albums as Always and Heart First.  Dean’s sleevenote accompanies numerous rare photographs in the CD’s booklet as well as images of the original album.  Andy Pearce has remastered from the original vinyl, as the master tapes for this project are long lost.

After the jump: Cherry Pop returns to the catalogue of The Weather Girls! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 23, 2014 at 14:11

Def Leppard Work It Out with Expanded Edition of “Slang”

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Def Leppard SlangDef Leppard went in a bold new direction for the release of their sixth album Slang in 1996. Now, nearly 20 years later, they’re dusting it off as a long-promised deluxe edition.

Slang came at the end of a very successful period for the British rockers. Over the past decade, the band and producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange created a host of arena-shaking, MTV-ready pop/rock albums, including Pyromania (1983), Hysteria (1987) and Adrenalize (1992) (the latter produced by the band and Mike Shipley and executive produced by Lange). Thirteen Top 10 singles were taken from those albums in the U.S., and many were released on the band’s multiplatinum compilation Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits, in 1995.

After a period of personal trials, including divorce, death and illness, the members of the band – vocalist Joe Elliott, guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell (who’d joined the band after the death of Steve Clark, who succumbed to substance abuse early in the recording of Adrenalize), bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen – convened in Spain without Lange to record a much more organic, introspective album than its predecessors. (Part of the key to this new formula was a new, acoustic drum kit taken up by Rick Allen, whose iconic drum effects crystallized the band’s early sound.)

The result? An album that, unfortunately, was the beginning of the end of Def Leppard’s commercial hot streak. It was their first album not to go platinum in the U.S., missed the Billboard Top 10 and had few hit singles in any territory (the title track was the highest-charting from the album, managing only No. 17 in the U.K.; in America, none of the songs charted on the Hot 100, though “Work It Out” was a Top 10 Mainstream Rock single). But the band remains partial to the album, issuing outtakes from the Slang sessions as B-sides to the band’s next album, Euphoria, in 1999.

And, as this new reissue on the band’s own Bludgeon Riffola label indicates, there was much experimentation during the album sessions. This two-disc set includes the original album, five previously-released bonus tracks and a disc of 14 unreleased demos, alternate mixes and outtakes.

Slang: Deluxe Edition will be available on three different formats: a double-disc CD edition, a 180-gram double-vinyl set featuring the original album and seven of the 19 bonus tracks included on the CD and a digital edition which will feature “its own set of exclusive songs” (as yet undetermined). A digital Slang Video Collection will feature the original promo videos for “Slang,” “Work It Out” and “All I Ever Wanted.” Everything is available February 11; full bonus track specs and Amazon links are after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 23, 2014 at 12:50

Posted in Def Leppard, News, Reissues

Wanna Have Fun: Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual” Revisited for 30th Anniversary

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Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

She’s So Unusual!  On October 14, 1983, the world discovered that of Cyndi Lauper, catapulting the artist’s debut album to Top 5 status.  The native New Yorker picked up two Grammy Awards for She’s So Unusual, and over the years has remained in the limelight as a recording star, club favorite, Broadway composer, fashion icon and LGBT rights activist.  On April 1, Legacy Recordings will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Lauper’s first album with a reissue available in 1-CD, 2-CD and 1-LP formats.  The centerpiece of the campaign is the 2-CD edition, which will feature never-before-released demos, rehearsals, live performances and more.  All three editions will also boast three new remixes, hardly an unusual move for an artist whose music still reverberates on the dancefloor.  Lauper’s “Sex is in the Heel,” from her Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, was a Top 10 Dance hit in the U.S. even before the show opened on Broadway.

She’s So Unusual marked Lauper’s creative freedom following the break-up of her band Blue Angel.  In addition to four tracks co-written by Lauper including “Time After Time,” the LP repertoire included tracks by Prince (“When You Were Mine”), Robert Hazard (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”), Jules Shear (“All Through the Night” and Lauper co-write “I’ll Kiss You”), former Hollies member Mikael Rickfors (“Yeah, Yeah”) and even the late Al Sherman, father of Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (the brief title track, written as “He’s So Unusual” in the 1920s!).

Five singles were released from the Portrait Records album, and all five reached the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 30 – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” “All Through the Night” and “Money Changes Everything.”  The first four all shot to the Top 5, with “Time After Time” reaching the coveted No. 1 spot and “Girls” not far behind at No. 2.  Produced by Rick Chertoff and featuring Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian of the band The Hooters as well as Brill Building legend Ellie Greenwich on background vocals, She’s So Unusual made Lauper the first female artist to have four Top 10 singles on a debut album. It went on to sell over 16 million copies worldwide and netted Grammys for Best Album Package as well as for Lauper as Best New Artist.  Her unique fashion sense and bold, colorful personality also made her a natural for the nascent music video form, and she picked up an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

All formats of She’s So Unusual include three new remixes of album tracks – the Yolanda Be Cool remix of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and Nervo and Bent Collective remixes of “Time After Time.”  (On the LP, these remixes will be included on a download card.)  The 2-CD edition includes a nine-track second disc, with demos of “Girls” (two different versions) and “Money Changes Everything” plus rehearsal recordings of “Rules and Regulations” and “All Through the Night,” a 1984 live performance from Boston of “Witness,” Arthur Baker’s remix of “She-Bop,” a rough mix of “Time After Time,” and the non-LP B-side “Right Train, Wrong Track,” co-written by Lauper, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Kent.

In addition to these additional recordings, the physical deluxe edition includes a rather unusual surprise from the team at Legacy. It includes a reusable sticker set, including vinyl cut outs of Lauper’s cutting-edge outfits and accessories that can be arranged in different combinations on a 3-D fold-out backdrop of the bedroom featured in her “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” music video.   Author Jancee Dunn, who worked with Lauper on her 2012 autobiography A Memoir, penned the new liner notes.  The upcoming releases do not carry over the live bonus tracks (“All Through the Night,” “Money Changes Everything” and “She Bop”) appended to the 2000 reissue.

There’s more on She’s So Unusual after the jump, including the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 23, 2014 at 10:28