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Archive for February 17th, 2014

Starbucks Goes Hip and Jazzy On Venti Release Slate

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Music for Little HipstersIf you’re looking for a little music to go with your grande toffee nut latte, Starbucks has recently unveiled a number of new audio offerings to kick off 2014.  In addition to its annual Sweetheart disc – an anthology of new(ish) artists playing old(ish) love songs including, this year, songs by John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Harry Nilsson – the coffee giant has curated a selection of Music for Little Hipsters, sets dedicated to Women of Jazz and When Jazz Meets Guitar, and an Opus Collection volume for the one and only Dusty Springfield.  Here, you’ll find the scoop on the first three of those releases; watch this space for our all-Dusty special coming soon touching on four new releases from the late soul queen!

Music for Little Hipsters is one set that’s as intriguing as its title.  Its sixteen tracks share in common a childlike sensibility that crosses generational and genre divides; hence, Devo’s upbeat if ironic “Beautiful World” sits alongside The Free Design’s sunshine pop confection “Kites are Fun.”  The Beach Boys’ “Vegetables” (in its Smiley Smile recording) comes a few tracks after Booker T. and the MG’s “Soul Limbo,” appropriate for both adults and children on the dancefloor!  The compilation also showcases lesser-known “hipsters” from France (Franck Monnet’s tasty “Goutez-Les”), The Netherlands (Arling and Cameron’s ode to the “W.E.E.K.E.N.D.”), Florida (The Postmarks’ “Balloons”) and Seattle (Caspar Babypants’ “Stomp the Bear”).  A couple of tracks here have found a following on Nickelodeon’s offbeat Yo Gabba Gabba, including “Balloons” and I’m From Barcelona’s “Just Because It’s Different Doesn’t Mean Scary.”  The loopy, eclectic Music for Little Hipsters isn’t the usual coffeehouse fare.  On the reverse of its track-by-track liner notes you’ll find puzzles and word finds; a set of stickers is also included in the digipak.

When Jazz Meets GuitarWhen Jazz Meets Guitar is a more straightforward set, with thirteen tracks representing undisputed guitar greats such as Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny.  As each of these gentleman’s styles is singular, the disc serves as a Jazz Guitar 101-style primer.  Christian, Reinhardt and Les Paul represent the early practitioners of the art form, with “Solo Flight,” “Anniversary Song” and “Somebody Loves Me,” respectively.  Barney Kessel, a versatile member of the famed L.A. studio “Wrecking Crew,” offers up Henry Mancini’s “Something for Cat” from the score to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Grant Green and Kenny Burrell also represent the swinging sixties with selections from Blue Note Records outings.  Two of producer Creed Taylor’s trademark pop-jazz amalgams appear via the legendary Wes Montgomery’s “Bumpin’ on Sunset” and Montgomery disciple George Benson’s reinvention of The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.”  The underrated Joe Pass is heard on “How High the Moon” – popularized by Les Paul and Mary Ford – and tracks by modern masters including Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin show how the art form has developed while still building on the foundation laid by heroes of the past.  Steven Stolder provides informative track-by-track notes.

After the jump, we’ll take a peek at Women of Jazz!  Plus, we have track listings and order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 17, 2014 at 14:28

Bear Family Making Plans for Box Set of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton Recordings

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Porter Dolly boxJohnny and June. George and Tammy. Porter and Dolly. The world of country music had some of its greatest successes in pairs – duets whose songs projected all the joy and pain of love and loss, just like any good country song should. Whether the joy or pain was real or simply projected very well is another matter, as anyone who’s seen Walk the Line can attest.

In the case of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, their relationship was never romantic and often turbulent, but it did yield one of the most bountiful dual discographies in the genre. This year, Bear Family Records will celebrate that union with Just Between You and Me: The Complete Recordings 1967-1976, a six-disc box set featuring every one of Porter and Dolly’s recordings for the RCA Victor label.

In 1967, Porter Wagoner was left with the unenviable task of replacing singer Norma Jean Beasler, an RCA Victor artist and co-star of his long-running syndicated television show since its inception in 1960. Audiences were quick to judge the blonde, buxom Parton, who’d been previously signed to Monument Records as a bubblegum pop artist despite a desire to pursue her country roots. But Parton’s intoxicating, vibrato-laden voice and natural on-stage chemistry with Wagoner made her a natural starlet, both as part of Wagoner’s line-up and on her own. By the early 1970s, she was a bona-fide country legend, with singles like “Just Because I’m a Woman,” “Mule Skinner Blues,” “Coat of Many Colors” and the incomparable “Jolene.”

Porter and Dolly would record a dozen records for RCA in a decade, often featuring songs they wrote themselves. They logged 20 singles on Billboard‘s Country Top 40, including “The Last Thing on My Mind,” “Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man,” “Just Someone I Used to Know,” “If Teardrops Were Pennies” and the chart-topping “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me.” But the duo did not always get along offstage. Dolly told The Los Angeles Times in 2008, “He was in charge, and it was his show, but he was also very strong willed. That’s why we fought like crazy, because I wouldn’t put up with a bunch of stuff. Out of respect for him, I knew he was the boss, and I would go along to where I felt this was reasonable for me. But once it passed points where it was like, your way or my way, to prove to you that I can do it, then I would just pitch a damn fit. I wouldn’t care if it killed me.”

Ultimately, Dolly parted ways with Porter by 1976, although her respect for him as a partner as well as one who gave her a chance to break through in the country world led to the writing of one of Parton’s greatest compositions: “I Will Always Love You.” And the duo would patch up their personal and professional differences in later years: a 1980 album, Porter & Dolly, was comprised of outtakes from the pair’s partnership including the No. 2 smash “Making Plans.” And Dolly was there to induct Porter into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002, and joined his family to say goodbye when he passed away in 2007.

Just Between You and Me features every track from the duo’s 13 albums, several compilation-only tracks, a few rarities – namely a 45 RPM single recorded in honor of The American Freedom Train that ran for the country’s bicentennial and live cuts from 1970’s A Real Live Dolly – and 13 unreleased tracks, including alternate takes. Alanna Nash, author of 1978’s Dolly: The Biography, pens the set’s liner notes.

The box is available May 5. Order it here and hit the jump for a complete track list! (Thanks to super reader Richard Eric for the tip!)

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 17, 2014 at 14:03

Brand New Year, Brand New Compilation: Legacy Preps “The Essential Eric Carmen”

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Essential Eric CarmenWill the real Eric Carmen please stand up?  There’s Eric Carmen, the power pop prince of The Raspberries.  There’s Eric Carmen, the classically-inspired balladeer of “All By Myself” and “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.”  And there’s Eric Carmen, the eighties “comeback kid” of “Make Me Lose Control” and the Dirty Dancing perennial “Hungry Eyes.”  Luckily, all sides of the versatile artist figure prominently on Arista Records and Legacy Recordings’ upcoming release of The Essential Eric Carmen.  This 2-CD, 30-song anthology, due on March 25, encompasses every aspect of Carmen’s career, and includes two previously unissued live recordings, one new-to-CD track, and one newly-recorded song.

Ohio-born Carmen made his major-label debut as a member of Cyrus Erie, signed to Epic Records for a handful of singles including “Get the Message” which makes its CD-era debut here.  When Cyrus collapsed, Carmen and guitarist Wally Bryson joined with Bryson’s old bandmates Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley of The Choir to form The Raspberries.  And this time, Carmen had the formula to “go all the way.”    The Raspberries led the power-pop pack in synthesizing the tight melodies, layered harmony vocals, indelible riffs and polished production of the likes of The Beatles, The Hollies and The Beach Boys into a sound that was perfect for its own time period.  The band broke up in 1975, but had already left a lasting legacy with the crackling likes of “Go All the Way,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” and “Let’s Pretend,” all of which are included on The Essential Eric Carmen.

The Raspberries frontman’s eponymous 1975 debut for Arista Records got his solo career off to an auspicious start.  The No. 21-charting LP yielded two hit singles, both of which spoke to Carmen’s musical acumen as they were inspired by themes from classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).  Sans his Raspberries comrades, Carmen might have felt “All By Myself,” but the song of the same title soared to No. 2 on the Billboard chart and No. 1 on Cash Box.  Its follow-up, “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again,” peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Easy Listening chart.  In what must have been an ultimate compliment, Frank Sinatra performed both songs in concert.

Carmen’s sophomore effort Boats Against the Current continued his winning streak, as both the title track and “She Did It” hit the charts.  “Love is All That Matters” drew on a Tchaikovsky theme; all three songs plus the album’s third single “Marathon Man” are among its tracks included on the new compilation.  Carmen remained at Arista for two more albums, Change of Heart and Tonight You’re Mine, before jumping ship to Geffen for another self-titled album co-produced by The Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio.  All three albums are represented on The Essential, as are the songs which defined Carmen for a new generation: the Dirty Dancing anthem “Hungry Eyes” (1987) and the nostalgic single “Make Me Lose Control” (1988).

There’s still more!  Hit the jump, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 17, 2014 at 09:44