The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for September 19th, 2014

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Real Gone Christmas: Label Preps Robert Goulet, Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers, B.J. Thomas, More

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GouletThe first day of autumn is almost here, but Real Gone Music is looking ahead to winter – and the most spectacular line-up of holiday music we’ve seen since The Second Disc started up nearly five years ago!  The label has just unveiled its release slate for November 4, with a whopping seven Christmas titles, two contemporary Christian albums from a classic pop legend that make a perfect seasonal  complement, and – just to keep things rocking – a hotly-anticipated CD from a classic rock great.

I’m doubly proud to announce that four of the titles in this batch are extra-special to us here at Second Disc HQ.  I’ve compiled and annotated the first-ever collection of The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings of the one and only Mr. Robert Goulet!  That means both of Mr. Goulet’s sparkling holiday LPs (This Christmas I Spend with You and Robert Goulet’s Wonderful World of Christmas), of course, but we’re also adding a little extra under the Christmas tree with both sides of a rare mono 45 and all three duets recorded by Goulet and his then-wife Carol Lawrence – including “The Christmas Waltz,” never before on CD!  Spectacularly remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios, these long out-of-print Christmas classics from one of the most distinctive vocalists of all time have never sounded better!

Williams BrothersI’ve also written the liner notes for another true labor of love for the Real Gone team: the first-ever wide-release CD issue of 1970’s The Williams Brothers Christmas Album – the only full-length album featuring Andy Williams and his brothers Bob, Dick and Don!  With some of the most spectacular harmony singing ever put on a Christmas record, the album is highlighted by an amazing side-long medley of holiday favorites and the Williams Brothers’ renditions of Kay Thompson’s “The Holiday Season” and “Jingle Bells,” this original Barnaby Records release – freshly remastered from the original tapes for the first time by Mike Milchner at SonicVision – finally can take its place among Andy Williams’ Christmas treasures on compact disc.  This reissue of  The Williams Brothers Christmas Album follows last year’s comprehensive, 2-CD release from Real Gone of Andy’s complete Columbia Christmas recordings!

BJ - Home HappyReal Gone is also chronicling a key chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas with two new releases.  In the mid-1970s, Thomas became one of the most successful artists ever in the field of contemporary Christian music, recording a series of record-breaking, Grammy Award-winning albums for the Myrrh label that reflected the style and high production values of his pop material but with a spiritual emphasis.  Featuring key players from Muscle Shoals and the Nashville A-Team and songs by Hal David, Chris Christian, Archie Jordan, Pete Drake, and B.J. and his wife Gloria, these albums have never received their due on CD – until now!  Home Where I Belong/Happy Man and You Gave Me Love/Miracle, with two albums on each CD, reveal a major chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas – and these amazing, heartfelt and incredibly catchy records aren’t just for Christian music fans!  Best of all, B.J. was kind enough to contribute to my liner notes for both releases, illuminating this often-misunderstood period of his remarkable, and still-thriving, career.

These four titles are joined by other must-have stocking stuffers from The Statler Brothers, The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, Frank DeVol and Rosemary Clooney – plus Real Gone has the long-lost solo album from Alice Cooper and Lou Reed’s frequent collaborator Dick Wagner on CD!  After the jump, we have the label’s press release and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

The Sound of Young America, Seventies-Style: Big Break Goes Motown

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Lenny Williams - RiseBig Break Records has long kept each month packed with the most soulful records of all time, but the label has recently done something a little extra special – an entire group of six releases drawn exclusively from the vaults of Motown Records!  (And there’s more on the way!)

Atop this mighty list is a long-awaited remaster of Stephanie Mills’ Motown debut, For the First Time.  Released in 1975 – the same year Mills took Broadway by storm in The Wiz – the LP was the “first time” she recorded for Motown, and the last time that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote and produced an album together.  We’ll be covering that title soon in a special review!

Lenny Williams, former lead singer for Tower of Power, didn’t break through as a solo artist until he signed with ABC Records in 1977.  But prior to that, Williams released two LPs: one for Warner Bros. while he was still with Tower of Power, and one with Motown: Rise Sleeping Beauty.  Seeking not to veer too far away from the ToP sound, he teamed as co-producer with the band’s Chester Thompson.  Six of the ten tracks on Sleeping Beauty were co-written by Williams and David Stallings; among the album’s musicians were ToP alumni Steve Kupka and Mic Gillette.  Despite some controversy over the cover – a fairy-tale image which seems rather tame today – the album, recorded in San Francisco, scored one minor hit with the Sly and the Family Stone-influenced “Since I Met You.”  In addition to the album version, the track is included in its promotional single version on Big Break’s new reissue as a bonus cut. Alternating between lushly romantic songs and funky grooves, Rise Sleeping Beauty is both a missing link in the Williams story and a lost R&B gem.  Andy Kellman provides the new, comprehensive liner notes, and Kevin Reeves has remastered. Rise Sleeping Beauty is handsomely presented in a Super Jewel Box, as are all of these Motown releases.

Originals - Down to Love TownBig Break returns to the catalogue of The Originals with 1977’s Down to Love Town, following the label’s 2011 reissue of the group’s 1975 California Sunset.  The Originals, formed in 1966 but with roots tracing back to the 1950s’ Voice Masters group, worked their way up the Motown ranks as background singers for Stevie Wonder, Edwin Starr and Jimmy Ruffin.  With Marvin Gaye championing them, The Originals scored their most memorable hits with “Baby, I’m for Real” (1969) and “The Bells” (1970), both co-written and produced by the Motown legend. Down to Love Town, on the Soul imprint, followed 1976’s Communiqué, and had its roots in that LP.  The title track, “Down to Love Town,” was featured on Communiqué, and its 12-inch remix took The Originals all the way to No. 1 on the U.S. Disco chart, their best chart showing since “The Bells.” This extended version, which cut many of the lyrics and emphasized the groove, appeared on the new LP.  “(Call on Your) Six Million Dollar Man” from “Love Town” co-writers Michael B. Sutton and Brenda Sutton also notched a No. 6 Disco hit for the vocal quartet.  Michael Sutton produced three of the album’s seven tracks, with two more produced by the group itself (led by founding member Freddie Gorman) and one by Sutton and Motown stalwart Frank Wilson (who would join Lenny Williams at ABC). Down to Love Town proved to be The Originals’ Motown swansong; their next album appeared on the Fantasy label.  Big Break’s new reissue of this lost disco-soul platter, remastered by Reeves, features copious notes from Justin Cober-Lake.  One bonus track, an alternate version of the title track, is also included to round out the package.

High InergyA few months later in 1977, Motown’s Gordy imprint released the debut of High Inergy. Turnin’ On introduced the four-person girl group that Berry Gordy hoped would follow in the footsteps of The Supremes.  Gordy’s older sister, Gwen Gordy-Fuqua, guided Vernessa and Barbara Mitchell, Linda Howard and Michelle Martin to Motown and assigned a number of producers to the album: Kent Washburn, Jimmy Holiday, Al Willis and Dee Ervin.  They, in turn, drew on Motown’s Jobete publishing arm to supply High Inergy with fresh material.  Two songs had origins in material Washburn had recorded in demo form for Diana Ross herself: “Let Me Get Close to You” and “Searchin’ (I’ve Got to Find My Love).”    Another track, “Love is All You Need,” was previously recorded by Tata Vega but given a smoking new interpretation by High Inergy.  One song came from the tried-and-true team of Marilyn McLeod and Pam Sawyer (“You Can’t Turn Me Off (In the Middle of Turning Me On),” introduced by Millie Jackson) and two more from future soul superstar James Ingram (“Could This Be Love,” “Save It for a Rainy Day”).  All of this assembled talent – including musicians Ray Parker, Jr. and Ollie Brown – augured for success, and Turnin’ On achieved it.  With its contemporary blend of R&B styles – from classic-styled romantic balladry to light disco and funk – the album reached a No. 6 R&B peak and also went Top 30 Pop, while “You Can’t Turn Me On” hit No. 2 R&B and a still-impressive No. 12 Pop position.  Second single “Love is All You Need” also went Top 20 R&B, and cracked the top 100 on the Pop side.  BBR’s Kevin Reeves-remastered reissue chronicles the group’s history in a fine new essay from Rico “Superbizzee” Washington and adds both of those single versions.

After the jump: the scoop on Platinum Hook and Switch, plus full track listings and order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 19, 2014 at 10:32