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Archive for January 28th, 2014

Review: The Beatles, “The U.S. Albums”

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The Beatles - U.S. Albums Box

I. Meet the Beatles!

Did The Beatles save rock and roll?

If John, Paul, George and Ringo didn’t save the still-young form, they certainly gifted it with a reinvigorating, exhilarating jolt of musical euphoria the likes of which hadn’t been seen before – and hasn’t been duplicated since.  The scene was early 1964.  Buddy Holly was long gone, and the big hits had dried up – at the moment, at least – for Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.  Elvis had served his time in the Army, threatening to turn the rebellious rogue into a symbol of The Establishment.  Of course, all was far from lost.  The rise of the Brill Building led to some of the most well-crafted, immaculately-produced records of all time, though many of those were as indebted to classic Tin Pan Alley songwriting as to the youthful spirit of rock and roll.

Enter The Beatles.  By the end of the tumultuous year, the group had charted 28 records in the U.S. Hot 100 (11 in the Top 10) and released five – count ‘em, five – albums on Capitol plus one soundtrack on United Artists.  Capitol had a lot of catching up to do to sate seemingly insatiable demand for the music of the Liverpudlian quartet.  Those heady early days in which The Beatles began the charge that would transform “rock and roll” into “rock” are chronicled on the splendid new 13-CD box set The U.S. Albums.  It presents the unique albums released stateside between 1964 and 1966, plus one from 1970, including five which have never before appeared on CD (well, legally, anyway) anywhere in the world.  [Every album in the box is also available for individual sale save The Beatles’ Story which is exclusive to the box.]

From the time The Beatles broke into the British Top 20 in late 1962 with “Love Me Do,” there was no turning back.  By the end of 1963, the hard-working band had scored five singles in the U.K. Top 20, three of which went to No. 1.  Debut long-player Please Please Me was No. 1 on the U.K. Albums Chart for 30 weeks, only finally displaced with the arrival of sophomore LP With the Beatles.  The stage was set for world domination, and the key to that international success was America.  But could The Beatles repeat that level of success on American shores?

Dave Dexter Jr., head of Capitol’s international A&R, had been rejecting Beatles singles since late 1962 and “Love Me Do.”  Dexter’s recalcitrance led to EMI entering into early licensing agreements with labels like Swan and Vee-Jay (Remember The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons?  Or Introducing…The Beatles?  Altogether unsurprisingly, they’re not included in this box set!).  But the executive could only ignore the future Fabs for so long.  “She Loves You,” rejected by Dexter for U.S. release, had become the first British record to sell one million copies prior to its release; With the Beatles sold 500,000 copies within a week of its release date.  Capitol had no choice but to pay attention to these numbers, especially given the small size of the U.K. compared to the U.S. market.  When Capitol finally acquiesced and signed the lads, Dexter was the one in charge of packaging the band’s music for American audiences.

Meet the Beatles, his first newly-created U.S. album, was based on With the Beatles, the group’s second British LP.  It arrived in stores on January 20, 1964, just weeks before the band debuted on the February 9 broadcast of The Ed Sullivan Show.  73 million viewers tuned in, a higher number than had watched any program in television history.  The reviews weren’t all glowing; in fact, many were far from it.  But Beatlemania couldn’t be stopped.  The ensuing frenzy was, perhaps, a manifestation of the power of the nascent youth culture, but soon the Fab Four dominated culture, period.

The American media was poised to rebel against this revolution, looking upon The Beatles’ seemingly inevitable success with curiosity and distrust.  But America, still smarting from the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, was poised to accept these bright young men with all of their enormous promise, goofy humor, and messages of love and hope in their music.  What wasn’t immediately evident except perhaps to the most perceptive listeners was the mélange of influences that informed The Beatles’ revolutionary sound – showtunes, music hall ballads, rockabilly, country-and-western, Brill Building pop, and rhythm and blues, to name a few.  It didn’t hurt that the lads’ looks were as revolutionary as their music.  They were, of course, “the whole package.”    The Beatles were frequently queried about how long such success could possibly last.  Even the most confident of them likely couldn’t have imagined the fact that, 50 years later, their music would remain just as beloved – perhaps even more – as during those heady days of 1964.

Meet the Beatles! didn’t disappoint…far from it.  Dexter’s LP remained at No. 1 on the Billboard chart for eleven weeks, ceding only to The Beatles’ Second Album.  When the United Artists soundtrack album to A Hard Day’s Night arrived, it spent 14 weeks at No. 1, the longest run of any album in 1964.  Capitol’s Something New could have been considered a disappointment as it peaked at No. 2, but it was held from the top position by…A Hard Day’s NightBeatles ’65 spent nine weeks at No. 1 and was crowned the best-selling LP of 1965.  The Beatles were no flash in the pan.

After the jump: what exactly will you find in The U.S. Albums?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2014 at 13:10

Posted in Box Sets, Reviews, The Beatles

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Status Quo Deliver Expanded “Piledriver” in March

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Piledriver DeluxeTo commemorate the forthcoming live dates from Status Quo’s “Frantic Four” reunion, the British boogie-rockers’ first release for Vertigo Records, Piledriveris getting reissued and expanded in March.

The classic lineup of Status Quo – guitarist/vocalists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan had existed in one shape or another since 1967, five years after schoolmates Rossi and Lancaster decided to start a band. Their first three albums, which included early favorites like “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and “Ice in the Sun,” were recorded with a fifth member, keyboardist Roy Lynes, and on a different label, Pye Records. With Piledriver, a move to Vertigo and further away from their early semi-psychedelia toward straightforward boogie rock, the band found themselves back on top of the charts with the No. 8 single “Paper Plane.” (It would be the band’s first of 33 Top 40 singles in the U.K. between 1972 and 1988.)

The deluxe Piledriver comes with a new bonus disc of 15 live bonus tracks, including BBC sessions with John Peel and a live show recorded at London’s Paris Theatre for BBC in Concert. Dave Ling of Classic Rock Magazine contributes new liner notes, which feature rare photos from former Quo tour manager Bob Young. Look for the set on March 24, four days before the tour kicks off.

Full track specs and order links are after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 28, 2014 at 12:12

Posted in News, Reissues, Status Quo

In Memoriam: Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

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Pete Seeger

American music has many diverse strains – from the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the jazz of 52nd Street, and everything in between.  But it’s no exaggeration to state that Pete Seeger is American music.  Though the singer-songwriter-activist died on January 27 at the age of 94, his song – a song filled with honesty, integrity, compassion, conscience and bold simplicity – will continue to be sung by every man, woman and child who picks up an instrument with the belief that music can make the world a better, and more charitable, place in which to live.

Seeger has been frequently described as a folk singer, and he was, indeed, a singer for all folks.  If Pete’s only accomplishment was to have helped popularize and transform the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” into an anthem, his place in culture would have been ensured.  But Seeger’s influence on the entire rock and roll generation – a generation in which youth shared his belief that the establishment could be peacefully challenged – can’t be underestimated.  His composition “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” became a hit for the Kingston Trio and Johnny Rivers, and his “If I Had a Hammer” was indelibly recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary as well as Trini Lopez.  His adaptations of “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” and “The Bells of Rhymney” were adopted by The Byrds, and “Guantanamera” was memorably sung by The Sandpipers.   Such was the power of Pete Seeger’s music to blur lines of genre, age and background.  He also memorably engaged audiences in sing-alongs of the music he loved, sharing the work of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs and so many others in his performances.  A survivor of the blacklist, Seeger never stopped taking the world’s stages, even throughout the numerous periods when controversy threatened to derail his career.  His spirit proved indomitable as he enthusiastically delivered messages of peace, civil rights and harmony with nature and each other.

To everything, there is a season.  Pete Seeger, the man, might be gone, but his music will continue to resonate for each person who passes on a favorite song – whether of protest or of celebration – to a friend, hoping that it may augur a brighter day to come.

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2014 at 11:06

Posted in News, Pete Seeger

WE HAVE A WINNER! A Copy of Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression: Legacy Edition” is YOURS!

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Uncle Tupelo Fb banner

LORI LONDON, you’ve won a copy of Uncle Tupelo’s NO DEPRESSION: LEGACY EDITION! Thanks to all who entered!

Written by Mike Duquette

January 28, 2014 at 10:43

Kritzerland Heads Into The Arena With “Demetrius and the Gladiators”

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Demetrius and the GladiatorsTwentieth Century Fox’s 1953 Biblical epic The Robe boldly trumpeted on its posters, “The First Motion Picture in CinemaScope – The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses!”  So confident was Fox about the success of The Robe and indeed, the widescreen CinemaScope format, that the studio began production on a sequel (or “continuation,” as it was dubbed) before the first film had even reached theatres.  Screenwriter Philip Dunne, producer Frank Ross, art directors George W. Davis and Lyle Wheeler, and actors Victor Mature as the titular slave-turned-gladiator, Michael Rennie as Peter, and Jay Robinson as the notorious Caligula all returned for Demetrius and the Gladiators.  Director Henry Koster, cinematographer Leon Shamroy, and composer Alfred Newman – all still occupied with The Robe – gave way to Delmer Daves, Milton Krasner and Franz Waxman, respectively for Demetrius.  But though the sequel didn’t match the success of its predecessor, it was far from a disappointment and actually ranked as the fourth highest-grossing film of 1954.  In addition to its repeat performances from the above-mentioned actors, Demetrius also featured Ernest Borgnine, Susan Hayward, Anne Bancroft and Julie Newmar among its cast!  The picture has held up remarkably well, with no small credit due to Waxman’s score.  Kritzerland is premiering a new restoration of this grandiose soundtrack as its latest release, now available for pre-order.

Franz Waxman deftly incorporated Alfred Newman’s themes for The Robe into the sonic tapestry he devised for Demetrius and the Gladiators.  Kritzerland producer Bruce Kimmel writes that Waxman’s score “manages to display a modernist élan and power all its own. Demetrius and the Gladiators was this fabulously versatile composer’s first Biblical epic; as usual, he adapted his talents to a new genre with superbly dramatic dexterity. Beginning with a pulse-pounding ‘Prelude’ which twines Newman’s themes with his own, Waxman moves on to one stunning cue after another.”

After the jump: the lowdown on what sets the 2014 Demetrius apart from its past CD release, plus a pre-order link and the full track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2014 at 10:20

Release Round-Up: Week of January 28

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Uncle Tupelo - No Depression Legacy EditionUncle Tupelo, No Depression: Legacy Edition (Legacy)

After at least two teasers in the form of Record Store Day releases, one of the most beloved alt-country albums is greatly expanded as a double-disc set with a host of rare and unreleased demos. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tony Bennett - The ClassicsTony Bennett, The Classics (RPM/Columbia/Legacy)

One of the most beloved singers of the 20th century is the subject of a new career-spanning compilation, available in single and double-disc iterations.

1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S.

Sinatra with LoveFrank Sinatra, Sinatra, with Love (Capitol/UMe)

The first in a new Sinatra series (now distributed by Universal) explores the Chairman’s romantic side, with an unreleased alternate take on “My Foolish Heart” from Sinatra’s last studio session for Reprise. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gaslight Anthem B-SidesThe Gaslight Anthem, The B-Sides (SideOneDummy)

The New Jersey rockers compile their rarer tracks on a new single-disc compilation.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Presenting Dionne EdselDionne Warwick, Presenting Dionne Warwick/Anyone Who Had a Heart/Make Way for Dionne Warwick/The Sensitive Sound of Dionne WarwickHere I Am/Live in Paris/Here Where There is Love/On Stage and In the MoviesThe Windows of the World/Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls/Promises, Promises/Soulful…PlusI’ll Never Fall in Love Again/Very Dionne/Dionne/Just Being Myself (Edsel)

Sixteen Dionne Warwick albums (plus some bonus tracks) combined on four new sets from Edsel.

Presenting…Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.
Here I Am…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Windows…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Everybody's Dancin'Kool & The Gang, The Force / Kool & The Gang, Everybody’s Dancin’ / Leon Haywood, Naturally (Big Break Records)

The latest from BBR includes two semi-obscure Kool & The Gang LPs (released between their biggest hit periods of the early-mid ’70s and early-mid ’80s) and a funky classic from Leon Haywood.

The Force: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Everybody’s Dancin’: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Naturally: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Hazell Dean - BacharachHazell Dean, The Sound of Bacharach and David (Cherry Pop)

An ultra-rare promotional LP from the Hi-NRG queen, making its debut on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

DORY LANGDONDory Previn (Langdon), My Heart is a Hunter (Croydon Municipal)

The debut LP from the Oscar-winning singer/songwriter (otherwise known as The Leprechauns Are Upon Me). Features new sleeve notes by Bob Stanley, author of the recent Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Privates on ParadePrivates on Parade: Original London Cast Recording (Stage Door Records)

The original cast recording to this U.K. farce (later made into a film with John Cleese) gets a CD release. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)