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Archive for October 15th, 2014

A Case of Joni: Mitchell Curates New Love-Themed, Career-Spanning Box Set

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Joni - Love Has Many FacesIn 2007, Joni Mitchell released her last studio album to date, Shine.  That release was her first recording since 2002’s Travelogue and first collection of new songs since 1998’s Taming the Tiger.  Over the past seven years, the influential singer-songwriter has mainly made headlines for her candid and revealing interviews, on which she’s held forth about such topics as Bob Dylan’s alleged plagiarism and her own struggles with Morgellons disease.  So it’s refreshing that Mitchell is back in the spotlight for her music, thanks to a new box set to arrive just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.  On November 17, Rhino will release a new four-disc collection entitled Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced.

In the tradition of past compilations curated by Mitchell including The Beginning of Survival, Dreamland and Songs of a Prairie Girl, Love Has Many Faces promises to be a thematic exploration of the artist’s poetic, soulful and jazz-inflected music created over the decades.  The set includes 53 newly-remastered songs selected from her catalogue which began with 1968’s David Crosby-produced album Song to a Seagull and has encompassed such acknowledged classics as Ladies of the Canyon (1970), Blue (1971), Court and Spark (1974) and Both Sides Now (2000).  It’s promised that the remastered songs on Love will be “familiar but fresh,” with “a lot of sonic adjustment.” In a press release, Mitchell elaborated, “I am a painter who writes songs. My songs are very visual. The words create scenes …What I have done here is to gather some of these scenes (like a documentary filmmaker) and by juxtaposition, edit them into a whole new work.”

As the title indicates, the box set was initially conceived for the ballet stage.  “I wanted the music to feel like a total work – a new work,” Mitchell writes in the liner notes. “No matter what I did, though, at that [ballet performance] length, it remained merely a collection of songs.”  So the artist rearranged 53 songs into “thematic acts” like that of a ballet. Comparing her to that of a film editor, she offers, “I had 40 years of footage to review. Then, suddenly, scenes began to hook up. Then series began to form.” She elucidates, “Instead of it being an emotional roller coaster ride as it was before — crammed into one disc — themes began to develop. Moods sustained. I was getting there…When this long editorial process finally came to rest, I had four ballets or a four-act ballet — a quartet. I also had a box set.”

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

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2014 at 12:06

Precious Dreams: Cherry Pop Rediscovers Cock Robin

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Cock RobinWho killed Cock Robin?

Fans might have been forgiven for wondering that when Peter Kingsbery and Anna LaCazio went their separate ways after the release of 1989’s First Love/Last Rites, the band’s third album. Yet, in 2006, Cock Robin returned with a new album, and since then, they’ve sporadically recorded and toured. Now, Cherry Red’s Cherry Pop imprint is celebrating the legacy of the San Francisco-formed band with deluxe, generously expanded reissues of Cock Robin’s first and second albums, 1985’s Cock Robin and 1987’s After Here Through Midland.

Songwriter/bassist/keyboardist Peter Kingsbery, originally of Texas, formed Cock Robin with California native Anna LaCazio, bolstering the group with English guitarist Clive Wright and Pennsylvanian drummer Louis Molino III. Signed to Columbia Records in the U.S. and parent CBS internationally, Cock Robin enlisted Steve Hillage – a veteran of genres from progressive rock to dance – as producer of the band’s eponymous debut. Hillage brought the goods in terms of contemporary, synth-driven eighties new wave luster, with the twin lead vocal approach of Kingsbery and LaCazio adding dimension. Kingsbery’s varied musical background was an asset in creating songs that would endure; a student of classical music in his youth, the multi-instrumentalist had toured with country-pop dynamo Brenda Lee and would go on to sing on Tim Rice’s musical-theatre concept album Tycoon. In addition to the core band members, Cock Robin featured contributions from guest musicians including ubiquitous percussionist Paulinho da Costa and Hillage himself on guitar.

Yet from the start, Cock Robin had difficulty cracking the lucrative U.S. and U.K. markets. Most unexpectedly, the band became sensations elsewhere in Europe! The pulsating “The Promise You Made” gave Cock Robin its only British hit when it reached No. 28 in May 1986. Though it failed to chart in the U.S., the track beautifully blending Kingsbery and LaCazio topped the chart in Belgium, was a No. 2 hit in the Netherlands, and also went Top 10 in Germany and France! In America, “When Your Heart is Weak,” a Kingsbery solo mixed by Val Garay (Kim Carnes, The Motels), peaked at No. 35 Pop; it missed the U.K. chart, but went Top 10 in Germany and France. The album’s third single release “Thought You Were By My Side” was a Top 5 hit in Belgium and the Netherlands, and just missed the Top 20 in Germany. Though it only reached No. 61 in the U.S., the album went Top 10 in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, setting the stage for a sophomore effort.

ACock Robin - After Here Through Midlandfter Here Through Midland arrived in 1987 on Columbia, with engineer-turned-producer Don Gehman taking the production reins from Hillage. Gehman had scored big hits for John Mellencamp with the likes of “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good,” and also helmed R.E.M.’s Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. He brought a somewhat grittier texture to the album, again penned entirely by Peter Kingsbery and anchored by an autobiographical title song. Cock Robin itself was slimmer this time around, though, with Wright and Molino having left the band. To compensate for their departure, more session musicians were enlisted including Tim Pierce (Foreigner, Rick Springfield) and Denny Fongheiser (Belinda Carlisle, The Rembrandts). Producer Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Camper Van Beethoven) supplied guitar on “The Biggest Fool of All,” and Brian Kilgore added congas to “Precious Dreams.” Wright couldn’t stay away for long, though; he supplied guitar for the uptempo “Dreams,” as well.

Gehman didn’t radically alter the band’s sound, however, blending guitars and synths on the sparkling “Just Around the Corner,” which missed the charts in the U.S. and U.K. but continued Cock Robin’s winning streak in Europe with Top 20 placements in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The second single, “The Biggest Fool of All,” was inspired by country epics like Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and Gene Pitney’s Bacharach/David-written “24 Hours from Tulsa.” It, too, charted in those four European countries, with its best showing a No. 23 placement in Belgium. Third single “El Norte” took its name from the 1983 Oscar-nominated drama; it didn’t make any chart impression. After Here impressively made the Top 10 in a host of European countries, among them France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands and Sweden despite stalling at No. 166 stateside. Some of the album’s tracks like “Every Moment” looked forward to the more “adult contemporary,” sophisti-pop approach Cock Robin would take on their third album (and final release before disbanding), 1989’s First Love/Last Rites.

We have much more on these reissues after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2014 at 09:52

Posted in Cock Robin, News, Reissues