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Archive for September 18th, 2014

Ooh Baby Baby: New “Opus Collection” Celebrates Linda Ronstadt

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LR OpusStarbucks has unveiled the latest addition to its Opus Collection library, and the subject artist is one who’s always beat to a “different drum”: Linda Ronstadt.  Throughout her career, Ronstadt has rocked to Buddy Holly and Warren Zevon, performed Gilbert and Sullivan on Broadway, sang out front of Nelson Riddle’s orchestra, made sweet country harmonies with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, celebrated her rich Mexican heritage, and explored folk and Cajun traditions.  In short, Ronstadt’s remarkable – and remarkably diverse career – can’t possibly be encapsulated on one compact disc, but the new Opus Collection does offer 16 tracks displaying the breadth of Ronstadt’s vocal talents.  It follows other recent releases for the artist including Rhino’s volume of Duets and Universal’s budget-priced ICON compilation.

This Opus Collection spans the period between Ronstadt’s second solo album, 1970’s Silk Purse, and 2006’s Grammy-nominated studio farewell, Adieu, False Heart, a collaborative LP with Ann Savoy.  Following the usual template of this series, Ronstadt’s edition includes a number of hits but eschews others in favor of lesser-known gems.  That the earliest track is Gary White’s ballad “Long, Long Time” is appropriate; with its No. 25 placement on the Billboard Hot 100, it was a milestone for Ronstadt that also earned her a Grammy nomination.  (“Different Drum,” from The Stone Poneys, had reached No. 13 in 1967 but “Long, Long Time” marked Ronstadt’s first major solo hit.)

Compilation producer Steven Stolder has selected some of Ronstadt’s most beloved hits from her amazing streak in the 1970s produced by Peter Asher: “You’re No Good” (No. 1, 1975, from Heart Like a Wheel), “Blue Bayou” (No. 3, 1977, from Simple Dreams), “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” (No. 31, also from Simple Dreams), and “Ooh Baby Baby” (No. 7, 1979, from Living in the U.S.A.)  Anna McGarrigle’s title track to 1974’s chart-topping album Heart Like a Wheel, featuring an understated piano/string quartet arrangement and the harmony vocals of Maria Muldaur, is also a selection.

Ronstadt’s natural affinity and ability to blend with her fellow singers has never been in doubt.  Opus Collection draws on the Grammy-winning Trio II album from Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for the traditional “Lover’s Return,” first popularized by the Carter Family in the 1930s, and on Adieu False Heart for Ronstadt and Ann Savoy’s delicious reinvention of The Left Banke’s pop hit “Walk Away Renee.”   Another favorite duet partner of Ronstadt’s is the great New Orleans soul man Aaron Neville; he’s heard on Tom Snow, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Don’t Know Much,” a No. 2 Pop/No. 1 AC hit in 1989 from the multi-platinum album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.  From that same LP, this collection reprises Jimmy Webb’s poignant “Adios,” featuring the angelic, multi-layered harmonies of Brian Wilson, and the Eric Kaz-written title track.  Kaz also co-wrote the beguiling title song to Ronstadt’s acclaimed 1993 album Winter Light, heard here, with Ronstadt and film score composer Zbigniew Antoni Preisner.

The final quartet of tracks represents Ronstadt’s varied forays into standards.  Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Bobby Capó’s “Piel Canela” is derived from Ronstadt’s Grammy-winning Frenesí.  Two tracks are taken from Ronstadt’s series of albums with the legendary arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle – “What’ll I Do” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”  Opus Collection closes with “Cry Me a River,” another venerable standard from the Great American Songbook.  Ronstadt recorded it not with an orchestra, but with a jazz combo, for her 2004 Verve album Hummin’ to Myself.

After the jump, we have more on this set including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 18, 2014 at 13:55

Listen to the Nyah-Rock: Cherry Red Expands Cymande’s First Three Albums

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CymandeOn September 25, 2014, Cymande will appear at the Koko in London. The gig will be the first time that all of its original members have performed together in the U.K. since 1974. The group, named for the Calypso word for Dove and pronounced “sah-mahn-day,” blends together funk, jazz, calypso, African tribal music and reggae into a sound of music the group dubbed “Nyah Rock.” Due to the sampling of some their songs in recent times, Cymande’s reputation has grown larger and Cherry Red Records have recently reissued expanded edition of their three LPs:   1972’s Cymande, 1973’s Second Time Around and 1974’s Promised Heights.

In 1972, John Schroeder (a producer who wrote Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” and also discovered the band that became Status Quo) walked into a Soho nightclub to discover new talent and found Cymande.   The group (all hailing from islands in the Caribbean) had been founded a year earlier by Patrick Patterson (guitar) and Steve Scipio (bass). The pair was joined by Mike Rose (sax, flute, percussion), Sam Kelly (drums), Derek Gibbs (alto sax) and Pablo Gonzales (congas, bongos). A little later, vocalists Ray King and Joey Dee, plus saxophonists Peter Serreo and Desmond Atwell came onboard.

Cymande - Second TimeSchroeder took them into the studio to record their songs (most written by Paterson and Scipio but with contributions from others in the band; vocals alternated but predominantly featured Joey Dee) on what became their self-titled debut LP. He got them signed to Janus in the U.S., an imprint of Chess Records. A single of “The Message” was released and it climbed to the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 20 on the R&B Chart. They began an American tour supporting Al Green and becoming the first British band to perform at the famed Apollo Theater.

Ironically, Cymande’s U.S. success didn’t translate to their U.K. home. In Britain, they mostly booked shows in clubs and their second LP in 1973 did not even get a British release. It did better in the U.S. and lead to another American tour where the band had reverted to its core of Patterson, Scipio, Rose, Kelly, Gonzales, Dee and Gibbs.

Cymande released a third and final record in 1974 (which did get issued in the U.K. on Contempo) but it fared poorer than its predecessors. The Nyah-rockers broke up in 1975 with a final single from their last recording session being released in 1976. The members went their separate ways, some into music and others into other pursuits. Some have formed together for various Cymande tributes over the years. In 1981, Paterson produced what was called “a new Cymande project” entitled Arrival, but it is not considered part of the band’s official release canon.

After the jump: more on Cymande, including the complete track listings for all three titles plus order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 18, 2014 at 10:43

Posted in Cymande, News, Reissues