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Archive for September 12th, 2014

In Memoriam: Bob Crewe (1931-2014)

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Bob CreweFrom you’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off you to voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?, some of the most memorable phrases in popular music came courtesy of Bob Crewe. The multi-hyphenate talent – a songwriter, producer, singer, entrepreneur, artist, philanthropist, activist, and candidate for the title of “Fifth Season” – passed away yesterday at the age of 82, but not before leaving behind a rich legacy guaranteed to endure for decades to come. Crewe’s songs were built around big, powerful emotions, packed with drama and filled with heart.

Newark, New Jersey-born Stanley Robert Crewe dreamt big. His early years saw him studying architecture at Parsons School of Design, working successfully as a fashion model, and trying his luck as a singing star and potential teen idol. But Crewe, despite his good looks, found his truest calling behind the scenes of the music business. With writing partner Frank Slay, he gifted “Silhouettes” to The Rays and “Tallahassee Lassie” to Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon. Then, he formed arguably his most felicitous creative partnership with fellow Jersey boy Bob Gaudio. “[Gaudio] brought the finished song [“Sherry”] to Bob Crewe, independent hit record producer,” read the liner notes of the Seasons’ debut platter Sherry and 11 Others. “One listen was all Bob (Crewe) needed to be sold on the idea. The song was recorded and released immediately. An unknown group only a couple of months ago, today the whole music business and public alike are talking about the ‘different sound’ of The 4 Seasons.” They still are.   Jersey Boys, chronicling the group’s rocky road to stardom and beyond, has been breaking records on Broadway since 2005. A film adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood premiered in 2014. Though the film was critically dismissed, Mike Doyle earned praise for his touching, funny and multilayered portrayal of Bob Crewe.

Sherry and 11 Others, of course, bore production credit for Crewe. A renaissance man, he was also credited with arrangements, conducting the orchestra, and even designing the cover artwork! The album ended with “Sherry,” but began with “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” heralding the arrival of the Bob Gaudio/Bob Crewe writing team. With Crewe primarily supplying lyrics to Gaudio’s melodies, the pair created that “different sound.” Though rooted in doo-wop and street-corner harmonies honed on the mean streets of northern New Jersey, Crewe and Gaudio’s fresh songs and immaculate, elegant productions exploded from AM radios. Valli’s ethereal falsetto soared above a youthful, vibrant and contemporary beat imbued with rock-and-roll attitude. The artful songs the team crafted throbbed with urgency and grit. Crewe’s gutsy words had universal appeal but remained honest to the group’s working-class backgrounds: “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Man’s World,” “Rag Doll,” “Ronnie,” “Save It for Me,” “Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye).” The ballads were just as impressive as the stomping rockers, and were similarly drawn from the heart: the shimmering “Silence is Golden,” the aching “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

We continue our Bob Crewe tribute after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2014 at 11:59

Posted in Bob Crewe, News

Talking About Rock ‘N’ Roll Mercenaries: Cherry Red Revisits Meat Loaf’s “Blind Before I Stop” With New Reissue

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Meat Loaf - Blind Before I StopBy 1986, Meat Loaf found himself in a bit of a predicament. 1984’s Bad Attitude had failed to reach the heights scaled by Bat Out of Hell or even its follow-up Dead Ringer for Love. After the disappointing sales of 1983’s Midnight at the Lost and Found, that made two straight albums which failed to meet the artist’s potential. So the powerhouse vocalist chose to wait a bit before recording his next album. He hoped to bring back the main ingredient of his first two albums: composer/lyricist/auteur Jim Steinman. His record label at the time, Arista, had other plans. They wanted a record out much sooner and did not want to wait on the famously perfectionist Steinman. Without his principal collaborator, Meat Loaf entered the studio in January 1986 to begin recording what would become Blind Before I Stop. The 1986 album has just been reissued by the Cherry Red imprint Hear No Evil Recordings. This follows the label’s reissues of Bad Attitude and 1987’s Meat Loaf: Live at Wembley.

Blind was a sonic departure for the singer. It was the first of his albums to fully embrace the production style of the 80s with a large reliance on synths and electronics.   This shift was undoubtedly due to the producer brought into to oversee the project, Frank Farian. Hailing from Germany, Farian was the mastermind behind the 1970s group Boney M. Not only achieving great success in his native land, they also scored two UK No. 1 albums: 1978’s Nightflight to Venus and 1979’s Oceans of Fantasy. In addition, they had a No. 1 UK single with “Rivers of Babylon” (reaching a peak of No. 30 in the U.S.) and the U.K. top Christmas single in 1978: “”Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord” (a cover of the Harry Belafonte song in a medley with a newly composed tune.) While not an issue for Farian when working with Meat Loaf, the members of Boney M who performed live were not all the same musicians and singers who recorded the songs for their albums. This did not generate controversy for the group at the time, but Farian’s practice would gain much more notoriety with his next major success as a producer later in the 1980s: Milli Vanilli.

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Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2014 at 10:18

Posted in Meat Loaf, News, Reissues