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Archive for August 13th, 2014

Shine Her Light: “The Midnight Special” Box Set Arrives In September with Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees, ELO, More

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Midnight Special Box Set

Between August 1972 and May 1981, late night television was a little more rockin’.  Producer Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special followed Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on Friday evenings, welcoming viewers with Johnny Rivers’ rousing rendition of the traditional tune (a Top 20 hit for Rivers in 1965).  Over the course of 450 episodes, The Midnight Special presented a staggering array of music’s top talent on network television with most songs performed live for the majority of its run.  The program, featuring announcer Wolfman Jack and a variety of guest hosts, premiered as a one-off special in August 1972 but was promoted to full-time status in February 1973.  It first arrived on DVD in 2006 with episodes available as mail order exclusives, heavily promoted via infomercials.  On September 9, however, StarVista/Time Life will make The Midnight Special more widely available for the first time with 11-DVD, 6-DVD and 1-DVD releases.  With the resurgence in many of the ‘70s’ greatest pop hits thanks to the hit Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack the time couldn’t be better!  (Indeed, many of the Star Lord’s favorite songs were performed on The Midnight Special and will be included on these DVDs.)

The 11-disc Midnight Special Collectors’ Edition is now available to order exclusively online at MIDNIGHTSPECIALDVDS.COM for just under $100.00; while it’s expected that this set may eventually arrive to general retail (in the tradition of other StarVista sets for The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts), it will remain a website exclusive for the foreseeable future.  This edition features roughly 10 hours of musical performances plus 5 hours of newly-produced bonus material and a 32-page booklet.  The single-disc and 6-disc versions will be released on September 9 to stores everywhere. The Midnight Special played host to artists from the many genres that occupied the Top 40 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1970s, including Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees, Linda Ronstadt, The O’Jays, Dolly Parton, David Bowie (who broadcast his final television appearance as Ziggy Stardust on the program), Alice Cooper, Electric Light Orchestra, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, Alice Cooper, frequent host Helen Reddy, and countless others who are featured on StarVista’s new sets.  The Midnight Special also gave the spotlight over to the era’s top comedians like Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin and Freddie Prinze.

After the jump: a look at what you can expect to find on these collections! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 13, 2014 at 13:15

Beyond “Taxi”: Robinsongs Pairs Two LPs From Fender Rhodes Hero Bob James

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Bob James - Sign Two-FerCherry Red’s Robinsongs label, which has recently been responsible for reissues from jazz greats like Hank Crawford, Richard Tee and Ramsey Lewis, has turned its attention to producer-arranger-composer Bob James with the two-for-one release of his 1980 and 1981 albums, H and Sign of the Times.  The electric piano master has been making records as a leader since 1963 – his most recent is 2013’s Quartette Humaine with saxophonist David Sanborn – and this pair comes from the early years of his own Tappan Zee label (formed in1977).

The Missouri-born, Berklee-trained Bob James’ first outing as a leader, 1963’s Bold Conceptions for the Mercury label, remained his only such recording until 1974.  Instead of pursuing above-the-title stardom, James busied himself as a keyboardist and arranger, contributing an arrangement to Quincy Jones’ 1969 CTI record Walking in Space which first acquainted him with the Fender Rhodes electric piano.  James never planned on becoming so closely identified with the instrument, but his mastery of the Rhodes contributed mightily to the sound of 1970s crossover and fusion jazz styles.  James continued arranging and playing at Creed Taylor’s CTI, which spun off from its A&M Records roots into a true independent.  At CTI, he made significant contributions to sets from Grover Washington, Jr., Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and outside of Taylor’s empire, James added color to recordings by Paul Simon and Neil Diamond and composed the wistful theme to television’s Taxi.  But his key roles as arranger and sideman led to his artistic rebirth on the 1974 album One.

Each year between 1974 and 1977, James issued a numbered release, from One to BJ4, arranging, conducting and playing both his own tunes and choice cover versions.  With 1977’s Heads, he parted ways with Taylor, establishing his own Tappan Zee banner under the aegis of Columbia Records.  He was rewarded when the album became his first Jazz No. 1 LP.  Also serving for a time in A&R at Columbia, James continued to turn out records like clockwork.  He also took along the masters to his first four albums and saw to their reissue at Tappan Zee.  H marked his first album of the 1980s.

Hit the jump for details on both albums included on this reissue, including track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 13, 2014 at 10:16

Posted in Bob James, News, Reissues