The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for March 17th, 2014

R.E.M. “Unplugged” Set to Complicate Your Life on Record Store Day

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REM Unplugged RSD

A then-unheard of gap of three years stood between R.E.M.’s first two albums for Warner Bros. Records – 1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time – so there’s still time to go before the departed band’s ongoing 25th anniversary album remaster campaign enters the 1990s. With that, Warner Bros. is instead releasing, for the first time, two complete live sets the band recorded for the beloved MTV Unplugged series. Both sets will first be available in a single, four-disc vinyl box set to be released on Record Store Day.

The Athens, Georgia quartet’s first appearance on the program followed the release of seventh studio album Out of Time, which would become a massive hit off the strength of Top 10 singles like “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People.” Six of the set’s 17 performances hail from tracks recorded during the album’s sessions, including non-LP B-sides “Fretless” and “Rotary 11.” (Those two tracks, as well as acoustic renditions of  Document‘s “Swan Swan H” and Green‘s “Get Up” and “World Leader Pretend,” were never included in the original broadcast and are heard here for the first time.

Almost exactly a decade later, R.E.M. reappeared on Unplugged a somewhat different band – not the least of which was due to the departure of drummer Bill Berry. In promotion of the band’s second album as a trio, Reveal, the group delivered a slightly more diverse set, stretching all the way back to 1984’s “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” and including some of the best tracks from the band’s early trio years, including “Daysleeper,” “At My Most Beautiful” and “Imitation of Life.” Six of the 16 performances from this set were excised from the original airing.

For those who are looking for a smaller or less expensive way to enjoy this one, fear not: a two-disc CD edition will be released on May 20. But for those looking to put this on your RSD shopping list – and don’t forget, the full list is live this Thursday – this is definitely going to be one to look for. (Doubly so if you frequent Bull Moose Records in Scarborough, Maine, where R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills will be on hand on April 19 to sign copies of the RSD-exclusive box.)

After the jump, check out the full track list for the set!

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 17, 2014 at 15:20

Big Day: XTC’s “Skylarking,” with Improved Sound, to Get CD Reissue

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XTCFour years after it was upgraded for vinyl, XTC’s Skylarking will get the same sonic upgrade on CD next month.

XTC’s ninth (and arguably best) album found them working an uneasy alliance with producer Todd Rundgren, with whom singer-songwriter Andy Partridge found himself frequently at odds with (despite Partridge’s lasting respect for Rundgren’s work on the album). But a spate of killer songs by Partridge (“Summer’s Cauldron,” “Earn Enough for Us”) and vocalist/bassist Colin Moulding (singles “Grass” and “The Meeting Place”) recalled The Beatles and The Kinks at their most pastoral, which greatly resonated with fans of all stripes.

What got them new fans, though, was a track that was initially left off the album. Partridge’s “Dear God,” a cutting demolition of theism, was relegated to the flipside of “Grass,” but American DJs put the song in considerable rotation (within the Top 40 of Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock charts), enough for Geffen Records (the band’s Stateside label) to repress the record with the track included.

Skylarking took on new weight in 2010, when Partridge’s Ape House label remastered and reissued the album, making two significant tweaks: reinstating the originally intended artwork that Virgin Records refused to use (included after the jump, so as not to offend more sensitive readers), and, thanks to remastering engineer John Dent, correcting a strange, previously-undetected error from the original master. As explained in a statement:

Somewhere, possibly in the transfer from the multi-channel tape to the stereo master, a polarity had been reversed. This is not the same thing as a reversed left/right channel which puts a stereo picture out of phase & makes the sound unlistenable, but a much more difficult to pin down event that can be triggered by something as simple as a badly wired plug in the overall system which, nonetheless, removes some of the punch & presence from a finished recording.

This bright new master of Skylarking will finally make it to compact disc on April 14. The press release promises an eventual 5.1 surround mix by engineer Steven Wilson, who gave the band’s Nonsuch the similar treatment last year – but with one caveat: “when & if the multi-track tapes can be found.” While we wait for that to happen, pre-order the new CD after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 17, 2014 at 09:53

Posted in News, Reissues, XTC

California Dreamin’: Carole King, Merry Clayton, The Everly Brothers Featured on “Lou Adler: A Musical History”

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Lou Adler - A Musical HistorySongwriter, manager, A&R man, producer, director, impresario, diehard L.A. Lakers fan – in his eighty years, Lou Adler has worn all of those labels proudly.  It’s hard to believe that the same man behind The Rocky Horror Show – both on stage and on screen – and Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke also helmed one of the most successful records ever in Carole King’s Tapestry, or that the same man penned a bona fide standard in Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.”  But much of Lou Adler’s extraordinary career has defied belief, and Ace Records has recently summed it up in an exciting new compilation entitled Lou Adler: A Musical History.  Over 25 tracks released between 1958 and 1974, the anthology chronicles a singular showbiz life and also serves as a mini-history of Los Angeles pop-rock.

A Musical History traces the ascent of Chicago-born, L.A.-raised Adler from hustling songwriter to in-demand producer.  With future Tijuana Brass bandleader and A&M Records leader Herb Alpert, the young Adler co-wrote tunes for a diverse crop of artists including Cooke (“All of My Life”), Sam Butera and the Witnesses (“Bim Bam”), Jan and Dean (“Honolulu Lulu”) and Johnny “Guitar” Watson (“Deana Baby”).  Equally adept at rock-and-roll, doo-wop and R&B, the duo also found time to produce not just their own songs for these artists, but outside compositions.  The Adler/Alpert team revived The Spaniels’ “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” for The Untouchables and gave The Hollywood Argyles a run for their money with a cash-in cover of “Alley-Oop” by Dante and the Evergreens.  These slices of early-sixties pop kick off this set on a high note, but Adler’s first Golden Age really came when he split with Alpert in 1961.

The parting of the ways worked out for both men, with Alpert launching The Tijuana Brass, the hit “The Lonely Bull” and of course, A&M Records, just one year later with new partner Jerry Moss.  As for our man Adler, his association with Don Kirshner led to his opening the West Coast office of Aldon Music, as well as a production credit on tracks like The Everly Brothers’ Top 10 hit “Crying in the Rain.”  Most importantly, though, Adler made connections at Aldon that would come to, in large part, define his career – connections with the likes of Carole King and P.F. Sloan.  The achingly vulnerable “Crying” was co-written by Carole King and Howard Greenfield, moonlighting from their respective partners Gerry Goffin and Neil Sedaka.   In addition to King, Adler also met P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri at Aldon, pairing the two songwriters up and soon snatching them away from Kirshner’s empire to his newly-formed Dunhill Productions.

After the jump: much more on Adler’s illustrious career, including the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 17, 2014 at 09:02