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Archive for September 10th, 2014

Crazy For Leavin’: Raven Collects Four Albums From Troubadour Guy Clark

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Guy Clark - American DreamIn 2014, Guy Clark netted the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for My Favorite Picture of You. Dedicated to his wife and muse of 40 years, Susanna Clark, My Favorite Picture proved that the years hadn’t dulled the ability of the Texas-born pioneer of the progressive country movement to craft a moving, tender, keenly-observed and well-crafted collection of songs. Following its release of the Clark anthology Hindsight 21/20 (1975-1995), Australia’s Raven Records label has revisited his catalogue for An American Dream: 4 Classic Albums 1978-1992. This new 2-CD set features four Clark albums originally released under the Warner Music Group umbrella. The first three arrived consecutively from the less-than-prolific artist on the Warner Bros. label: 1978’s self-titled album, 1981’s The South Coast of Texas and 1983’s Better Days. Following Better Days, Clark didn’t release another album until 1988 when he re-emerged with Old Friends on the Sugar Hill label. An American Dream resumes, however, with his next Warner release, 1993’s Boats to Build, on the just-reactivated Asylum label.

Alongside such artists as Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark was at the vanguard of so-called progressive country. The sub-genre rebuffed the lush Nashville Sound and edged country-and-western into the present day by blending traditional honky-tonk style with newer elements influenced by rock and the burgeoning singer-songwriter sound. Progressive country also spawned outlaw country, which took the rock attitude even further. In fact, it was Walker (“Mr. Bojangles”) who helped raise Clark’s profile considerably when he recorded Clark’s songs “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” (Three early Walker albums have also been recently reissued in one package by Raven.)

Mentoring talents like Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle while nurturing his own solo career, first at RCA and then at Warner Bros., Clark also befriended contemporaries like fellow Texan Van Zandt whom he considered a major influence; in fact, he included Van Zandt songs on numerous LPs including two of the albums presented here. Clark’s third album, 1978’s self-titled Guy Clark, opens Raven’s set with seven Clark compositions, one by Van Zandt, one by Crowell and one Jimmie Rodgers cover. Many familiar sidemen joined Clark for his Warner Bros. debut including Willie Nelson’s long-serving harmonica man, Mickey Raphael, plus “Nashville” David Briggs on piano, Buddy Emmons on steel guitar, Albert Lee on guitar, and Don Everly and Rodney Crowell on background vocals. “Fools for Each Other” cracked the Billboard country chart at No. 96.

Clark followed the album three years later with The South Coast of Texas, on which Crowell played a much larger role. The former member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band had launched his own solo career in 1981 to acclaim. Proving Oscar Hammerstein II’s adage that “by your pupils you’ll be taught,” Crowell became as much an influence on Clark as Clark had been on Crowell. For South Coast, the younger artist co-wrote a couple of songs with Clark in addition to taking over production duties from Neil Wilburn. Crowell’s then-wife Rosanne Cash and future superstar Vince Gill joined the sessions to contribute vocals, and Crowell assembled another top-tier band including Glen D. Hardin on keyboards, Emory Gordy on bass, Richard Bennett on piano, Hank DeVito on guitar, and Ricky Skaggs on fiddle. One year later, in 1982, bluegrass master Skaggs would earn a No. 1 C&W hit with Clark’s “Heartbroke.” The Clark/Crowell co-write “The Partner Nobody Chose” reached No. 38 on the C&W singles chart, while “She’s Crazy for Leavin’” – their other co-composition – was revisited by Crowell in 1988 on his Diamonds and Dirt album. It went to No. 1 and remained on the chart for fourteen weeks!

Don’t miss a thing – there’s more on this set after the jump, including the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2014 at 13:15

A Bernstein Bouquet: Cherry Red’s él Label Reissues Elmer’s “Mockingbird” and “Brass”

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Bernstein - Mockingbird ElIn a career that placed him among the most legendary of film composers, Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004) penned the scores to more than 200 films in what seemed like every genre conceivable –comedies (Airplane!), dramas (Sweet Smell of Success), musicals (Thoroughly Modern Millie), fantasies (Ghostbusters) and of course, westerns (The Magnificent Seven). But among his most beloved scores is 1962’s Academy Award-nominated To Kill a Mockingbird. Cherry Red’s él imprint has paired the re-recorded soundtrack album, originally released on Ava Records, with Bernstein’s long out-of-print 1956 Decca album Blues and Brass – two things Bernstein certainly knew all about! The two-fer will arrive on September 15 in the U.K.!

Director Robert Mulligan made many inspired choices in his film adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), but chief among them was selecting Elmer Bernstein to compose the score. Bernstein’s sensitive, multilayered score captured the essence of the rich cast of characters– the noble lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), his children Scout and Jem (Mary Badham and Philip Alford), the unfairly accused Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), the misunderstood Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). The music of Mockingbird evoked Americana through the eyes of the children at the film’s heart, particularly via the subtle, gentle piano lines that recur throughout. But the dramatic score, one of Bernstein’s finest accomplishments, also encompasses tension and fear (“The Search for Boo,” “Tree Treasure”), pulse-pounding danger (“Children Attacked”), triumph (“Jem’s Discovery”) and stately beauty (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” the string-laden “Footsteps in the Dark”).

The 11-track album presentation was recorded by Bernstein for Ava Records, of which Bernstein was one of the founders alongside Fred Astaire, Jackie Mills and Thomas Wolf. Conducting his own score at United Recorders for credited producers Mills and Wolf, Bernstein employed many of the same players who actually performed on the original film soundtrack. The orchestrations of Hollywood vets Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes were used for the album, as well. Fans interested in this period of the prolific Bernstein’s career are advised to seek out Intrada’s recent 3-CD set The Ava Collection featuring all six of Bernstein’s LPs for the label. In addition, the Intrada release presents Mockingbird – and the other five albums – remastered for the first and only time from the original stereo session masters.

The él release, however, has been paired with the CD debut of Blues and Brass. With twelve smoky, seductive compositions composed, arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Bernstein and a stunning Saul Bass-designed cover (reprinted in the booklet of él’s new release), Blues and Brass was an extension of the hard-boiled jazz style utilized by Bernstein for his Academy Award-nominated score to 1955’s The Man with the Golden Arm. The West Coast “cool school” of jazzmen turned out in full force for this LP, with artists including Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Maynard Ferguson, Andre Previn, Pete Candoli, Bill Holman, Dave Pell and Ted Nash all contributing. The original liner notes – reprinted in this reissue – cite the influence of Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and Count Basie on these sophisticated, urbane “city blues.”

Hit the jump for more, including the complete track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2014 at 10:32