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Archive for September 29th, 2014

Queen & King (of Pop) Surface on New Compilation

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QueenOn November 10, Queen returns with a new anthology – available in both single- and double-CD iterations with 20 and 36 songs, respectively – that intends to live up to its title, Queen Forever.  While the collection eschews a traditional “greatest hits” approach (and with it, hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You”), it premieres three songs including a long-anticipated collaboration with the late Michael Jackson.  In addition to the three “new” tracks available on both editions, Queen Forever also includes album tracks and favorites selected by Roger Taylor and Brian May to be “representative of our growth rather than the big hits,” per May.

The Virgin Records/UMe release introduces the Queen/Michael Jackson debut song “There Must Be More to Life Than This,” first written by the late Freddie Mercury during sessions for Queen’s 1981 album Hot Space. At the time, the band recorded a backing track, but the song remained incomplete. Mercury later recorded Michael Jackson on the song at the King of Pop’s home studio in Los Angeles. Queen revived the track during sessions for 1984’s The Works, but again it was shelved prior to completion, and in 1985, Mercury released a solo version on his debut LP Mr. Bad Guy. This new version fuses Queen’s original backing track with both Mercury and Jackson’s vocals, and has been produced and remixed by producer William Orbit.

The second previously unissued track is May’s composition “Let Me in Your Heart Again.”  Initially recorded by Queen for The Works, it, too, was shelved.   The version on Queen Forever presents the original live-in-the-studio band performance with newly-recorded guitar parts from May and new backing vocals from May and Taylor.  The third new track, “Love Kills,” was composed by Mercury and producer-songwriter Giorgio Moroder in 1984 for Moroder’s new pop soundtrack to the 1927 silent movie Metropolis. Mercury’s dance version of the song became his first solo hit in 1985, but the production may have obscured the fact that all four members of Queen played on the original track.  Prior to Queen embarking on their recent tour with lead singer Adam Lambert, Brian May proposed performing an acoustic ballad version of the song; this ballad arrangement is the basis for the recording that premieres on Queen Forever.  It features the original band performance and Mercury vocal, augmented by newly recorded guitars and drums by May and Taylor.

There’s more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discography, and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 29, 2014 at 12:50

Review: Big Star, “#1 Record” and “Radio City”

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Big_Star_Number_One_Record

Our mini-Power Pop Festival begins here!  Next, look for our reviews of new reissues from The Posies and Game Theory!

O My Soul! Big Star is back! Despite an amazingly small catalogue – four studio albums, a handful of live releases, an even bigger handful of compilations, a key soundtrack, and one stunning box set – there never seems to be a shortage of releases for the biggest band that never was. Two of the most recent have arrived from Stax Records and Concord Music Group, and they’re back to basics. The label has recently reissued the band’s first two albums, 1972’s # 1 Record and 1974’s Radio City, as stand-alone CD releases after years of being twinned on a two-for-one album. (Similar standalone reissues arrived in the U.K. in 2009.) For Big Star completists, these simple reissues allow both original LPs to stand on their own; for those not yet acquainted with the magic of singer-guitarists Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, these provide a happy and affordable entrée to the world and mystique of Big Star.

Big Star frontman Alex Chilton’s closest turn as a “big star” came in his youth, as he led The Box Tops through a series of southern-soul-flecked pop hits including “The Letter,” “Cry Like a Baby” and the aptly-titled “Soul Deep.” 1972’s optimistically-titled # 1 Record, as perfect a record as any, was recorded in Memphis, and though Chilton’s voice had the smoky grit of a Memphis soul man, it was aglow with the sounds of Los Angeles and London. # 1 Record – largely written by the team of Chilton and Chris Bell – was a textbook example of power-pop. Pete Townshend coined the term circa 1967 to describe “what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop The Beach Boys played in the days of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.” Power-pop was bold, melodic, guitar-driven, catchy and pulsating, all words which describe Big Star’s debut. It should have galvanized listeners. Yet it went all but unheard.

A California record made in Memphis – a touch of the Byrds here, a dash of the Beach Boys there, a dollop of San Francisco heaviness a la Moby Grape – all by way of The Beatles, # 1 Record brims with energy, abandon, joy, vulnerability and a hint of recklessness. It also augured for a new, important team in Chilton and Bell. Bell’s high, punky voice filled with a near-glam swagger that contrasted with Chilton’s burnished pop tones on this ebullient set of sing-along, take-home tunes. It had to be intentional that the album almost strictly alternated between Chilton’s and Bell’s lead vocals, culminating in a pair of tracks on which they shared the lead. And whenever the group harmonies kick in, as they frequently do, the album soars into the stratosphere.

The Byrds’ influence might be the strongest on # 1 Record, best captured in the defiant, not to mention defiantly melodic “The Ballad of El Goodo.” Its bizarre title masked a gorgeous, anthemic melody and Roger McGuinn-inflected lead from Chilton; it’s followed on the original LP sequence by “In the Street,” with the vibrantly snarling vocals of Chris Bell. Never has the mundane sounded so exciting (“Hanging out, down the street/The same old thing we did last week/Not a thing to do/But talk to you!”). Nearly every track on # 1 Record could have been selected as a single, making its initial lack of success even more utterly puzzling – whether the perfect pop of “When My Baby’s Beside Me” or the unbridled, simple rock and roll of “Don’t Lie to Me.”

After the jump: more on # 1 Record plus Radio City! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 29, 2014 at 10:16

Posted in Big Star, News, Reissues, Reviews

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