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Archive for May 19th, 2014

Near Wild Heaven: R.E.M. Bundle Warner-Era B-Sides for Digital Box

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REM WB RaritiesNo sooner did R.E.M. plan a generous digital equivalent of a two-disc set collating nearly all of their B-sides and rarities for I.R.S. Records have the departed Athens quartet – or label Warner Bros., anyway – planned a massive digital bundle of their B-sides for their major label era.

Complete Warner Bros. Rarities 1988-2011 features a similar packaging scheme as its I.R.S. comparison, but the scope of time certainly allows for more material – 131 tracks, in fact. The complete claim is not entirely true – several obscure instrumental versions only available on vinyl singles are no shows, and some EPs as well (2001’s Not Bad for No Tour, last year’s Record Store Day exclusive of live cuts from the concert on the bonus disc of Warner Bros. debut Green). But there’s far more to parse here than any other Warner-era rarities set (the only one being the bonus disco to In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003). Soundtrack songs, live cuts, the odd single versions and even the 12″ promotional single of “Shiny Happy People” are replicated herein. It’s certainly an investment at $79.99, but for the true fan who’s missed a lot of these tracks along the way, probably worth it.

If only this had a physical release; it’d likely rival the likes of other Rhino-era B-side boxes like The Cure’s Join the Dots and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s The Power of Negative Thinking. In any case, Complete Warner Bros. Rarities 1988-2011 is available now, and yours to enjoy after the jump (along with an intensely thorough discographical breakdown!).

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 19, 2014 at 13:09

Review: Bee Gees, “The Warner Bros. Years: 1987-1991”

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Bee Gees - Warner Bros. YearsTonight, Barry Gibb’s Mythology tour continues making its way through the United States, as the surviving member of The Bee Gees celebrates his family’s legacy in song. From humble beginnings in Australia (1965’s The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs) through international stardom and a final studio farewell (2001’s This is Where I Came In), Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb mastered an ever-shifting array of styles. Baroque, lightly psychedelic pop/rock ceded to tough funk-infused R&B, which informed the brothers’ infectious brand of mainstream disco. When the eighties came around, the Gibbs kept their pulse on current radio, taking a break from the band but churning out hits for Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton like a mini-Brill Building. The Bee Gees finally followed up 1981’s Living Eyes with another full studio album in 1987, their first for Warner Bros. Records. That release, E.S.P., showcased a synth-pop style that would inform all three of the LPs made at Warners between 1987 and 1991. Over the years, those three albums have been lost in the shuffle, taking a backseat to the group’s first hitmaking records, and of course, the disco years. But they’ve returned, bolstered by a never-before-released live recording, in Rhino’s new 5-CD box set The Warner Bros. Years 1987-1991.

E.S.P. fused the Bee Gees’ traditional melodic sensibility with thick, metallic production, drum machine beats and electronic instrumentation, and the stomping, majestic “You Win Again” proved that the group’s harmonies could flourish in such a setting. Every song on E.S.P. bore a shared songwriting credit for Barry, Maurice and Robin – the same would go for both of its Warner Bros. follow-ups included here. Lyrically, the album returns time and again to themes and imagery of resilience, togetherness and camaraderie in the face of darkness and adversity, altogether appropriate for the band’s first album in years. To helm E.S.P., Barry, Robin and Maurice turned to producer Arif Mardin, who had guided them to an artistic rebirth years earlier with Mr. Natural and Main Course, and assembled a band of rotating musicians including Robbie Kondor, Will Lee, Marcus Miller, Greg Phillinganes, and Brian Tench.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barry Gibb dominates the album with eight solo or shared lead vocals, followed by Robin on four tracks and Maurice on two. Barry and Robin share the lead on the driving, catchy title track; Barry and Maurice share “Live or Die (Hold Me Like a Child)” on which Barry’s falsetto soars à la “Too Much Heaven.”   The busy, contemporary production distracts from the sheer beauty of the dreamy Barry Gibb ballad “Angela,” but “Crazy for Your Love” succeeds with its bright, Motown-goes-eighties feel. Barry also has a couple of the least successful tracks on the album with “Backtafunk” and the frenetic “This is Your Life.” The latter takes in a rap section referring to ten-plus Bee Gees classics (sample: “Jive talkin’, more rap, less crap/Times are bad, money is tight/Ain’t too much heaven on a Saturday night…”) to strained results. Robin offers a strong lead on the burbling “Giving Up the Ghost,” with Maurice joining on the chorus, and also has the lead on “The Longest Night,” a mid-tempo ballad with an unconventional structure. The Maurice-led “Overnight” has the heaviest sound on the album. The Warner Bros. Years adds five bonus tracks including three alternates of “E.S.P.” – the demo, the single edit and Arif Mardin’s extended mix – plus the extended “You Win Again” and the single edit of “Angela.” E.S.P. asserted the Gibbs’ chart supremacy in Europe, but barely reached the Top 100 in the U.S., and even more shockingly, “You Win Again” – a U.K. No. 1 and Ivor Novello Award-winning song – didn’t get any higher than No. 75 stateside.

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Written by Joe Marchese

May 19, 2014 at 10:13

Posted in Bee Gees, Box Sets, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of May 19

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Oasis Definitely MaybeOasis, Definitely Maybe: Chasing The Sun Edition (Big Brother/Ngrooves)

Oasis’ debut album is remastered and expanded; the first in a planned series of multi-format reissues from the legendary Britpop band.

1CD remaster: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP remaster: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD deluxe edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD/2LP/1 x 7″ box set: Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.

Billy Joel - BD BoxBilly Joel, A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia (Columbia/Legacy)

The Piano Man’s 1987 sojourn to the USSR is chronicled anew, with expansions of both the original KOHUEPT album and video program and a newly-filmed retrospective documentary on Billy’s trip.

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

Deep Purple Made in Japan boxDeep Purple, Made in Japan: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Editions(Universal U.K.)

No less than six formats of the band’s breakthrough live album are now available overseas. All together now: “Smooooooke on the waaaaaater”!

1CD remaster: Amazon U.K.
2CD deluxe edition: Amazon U.K.
4CD/1DVD box set: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
2LP remaster: Amazon U.K.
9LP box set: Amazon U.K.
Blu-Ray Audio: Amazon U.K.


REM Unplugged CDR.E.M., Unplugged 1991/2001: The Complete Sessions (Warner Bros.) / Complete I.R.S. Rarities 1982-1987 (I.R.S./UMe)

Originally released as a vinyl box on Record Store Day, both of R.E.M.’s trips to MTV Unplugged are now available as a more affordable two-disc set. Also, a digital compilation nets just about every B-side and bonus track the band put out for their first label.

Unplugged: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
I.R.S.: Amazon U.S.

Roy Orbison - Mystery Girl DeluxeRoy Orbison, Mystery Girl Deluxe (Roy’s Boys/Legacy)

Released weeks after Orbison’s sudden passing, Mystery Girl rightfully restored Roy’s legend and even got him onto pop radio with “You Got It.” It’s expanded with unheard studio demos, an unreleased song completed by Roy’s sons with John Carter Cash, and also available with a DVD packed with a new documentary and rare and unseen promo videos.

Deluxe CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Expanded CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Deluxe 2LP: Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.

Hank Williams - Garden SpotHank Williams, The Garden Spot Programs 1950 (Omnivore)

Long-lost radio rarities from one of the kings of country are uncovered for the first time!

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

Doors - Weird ScenesThe Doors, Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine (Elektra/Rhino)

A double-disc 1972 Doors compilation gets its premiere release on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Essential R KellyR. Kelly, The Essential R. Kelly (RCA/Legacy)

Love him or hate him – yes, we’ve been listening – the 35 tracks on this two-disc set do a good job of pointing out Kellz as one of the best male R&B performers of his generation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Aaron Neville Toussaint SessionsAaron Neville, For the Good Times: The Allen Toussaint Sessions (Fuel 2000)

Fuel collects 22 vintage sides from two New Orleans legends: vocalist Aaron Neville and songwriter-producer Allen Toussaint! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Miles Blue NoteMiles Davis, Take Off: The Complete Blue Note Albums (Blue Note)

Blue Note’s 75th anniversary program continues with this release collecting Davis’ small but important output, from the period of 1952-1954, for the venerable label. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Someething Else for EverybodyDevo, Something Else for Everybody (Booji Boy)

Fresh factory rejects from the band’s most recent studio album! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)