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Holiday Gift Guide Review: “The Classic Christmas Album” Series

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JMCCJohnny Mathis. Frank Sinatra. Perry Como. Steve Vai? Menudo? When it comes to Christmas music, Legacy Recordings doesn’t pull its punches. The label’s series of Classic Christmas Album releases has become a bit of an annual tradition, and this year’s batch of single- and various-artist anthologies once again draws on names both expected and unexpected. While the packages are bare-bones, with no liner notes (but happily with full credits and discographical annotation), the music most certainly is not.

Johnny Mathis recorded his first Christmas album in 1958 and his most recent in 2013; it’s no wonder that the eternally silky vocalist has become one of the artists most associated with the holiday music genre. Hot on the heels of Legacy’s Complete Global Albums Collection for Mathis – which itself features one new-to-CD Christmas album from the artist, 1963’s The Sounds of Christmas – producers Didier C. Deutsch and Jeff James have gone the extra mile for Mathis’ Classic Christmas Album. Two previously unissued tracks make their first appearances anywhere, both from a September 1961 session with Percy Faith’s orchestra – Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh’s jovial “Ol’ Kris Kringle” and “Give Me Your Love for Christmas,” from the same session. The latter is the title of Mathis’ 1969 Christmas album, named for a Jack Gold/Phyllis Stohn song. The pair is credited here, but this newly-discovered ballad is wholly different from the more pop-flavored 1969 track. Two single sides arranged and conducted by the great Gene Page in 1979 make their first appearance on CD here – “Christmas in the City of the Angels” b/w “The Very First Christmas Day.” 1970’s surprisingly funky, socially-conscious “Sign of the Dove,” the B-side to the lilting “Christmas Is” (also included here), is another new-to-CD track. These rare treats are joined by highlights such as Mathis’ 2006 duet with Bette Midler of “Winter Wonderland/Let It Snow,” his incomparable 1958 rendition of “Sleigh Ride,” and 2013’s “Home for the Holidays.” Maria Triana has beautifully remastered all tracks.

FrankFrank Sinatra’s Classic Christmas Album also finds room for rarities. This set features 14 holiday favorites from Young Blue Eyes’ Columbia Records period, long before he was “The Chairman of the Board.” At Columbia, Sinatra was, simply, “The Voice” – the voice which inspired bobbysoxers to riot and listeners everywhere to swoon. In sharp contrast to his later, swingin’ period (which is foreshadowed by tracks here like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” from 1948 and 1950, respectively), the tone here is largely reverential. This collection, which has the entirety of the 1948 10-inch LP Christmas Songs by Sinatra, also offers two spirituals featuring The Charioteers first issued on a 1947 single (“Jesus is a Rock (In a Weary Land)” and “I’ve Got a Home in That Rock”); both are somewhat unusual fare for a holiday album.  You’ll hear pure recordings from The Voice on “Silent Night,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Adeste Fideles.” Sinatra is equally affecting and bittersweet on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which like most of these tracks was arranged and conducted by his first great collaborator, Axel Stordahl. Two previously unissued performances round out this fine compilation: a loose take of Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with soprano Dorothy Kirsten and an alternate version of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow!” with the Page Cavanaugh Trio. This alternate is radically different than the 1950 version as it takes the song as a soft ballad rather than as a big-band swinger. Sinatra performed “Baby” with Kirsten on 1949’s Light Up Time radio program; it’s a real treat as the song wasn’t subsequently recorded in the studio by Sinatra. “Let It Snow” with Cavanaugh dates to 1946’s Songs by Sinatra show. Sound is top-notch courtesy of Maria Triana’s remastering.

After the jump: a look at Perry Como, Barbra Streisand and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 5, 2014 at 11:14

Release Round-Up: Week of October 7

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Stevie Nicks - 24 Karat

Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault (Reprise)

2-LP Vinyl + Download Card: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Standard Edition CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

The Fleetwood Mac rock legend dips into her vault for a newly-recorded album of songs composed between 1969 and 1995.  The album features co-production by Dave Stewart and guitar great Waddy Wachtel, and is also available in a deluxe edition exclusive to Nicks’ website.

JMCC

Various Artists, The Classic Christmas Albums (Legacy)

Legacy has a new batch of Classic Christmas Albums, and the Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra titles both feature previously unreleased and new-to-CD music unavailable anywhere else!  Click on the above link for full track listings and order links for all eight titles from artists also including Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Il Divo and more!

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Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne: Deluxe 15th Anniversary Edition (Rounder) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Rounder has reissued the 1999 debut of country-pop troubadour Shelby Lynne on 2 discs, expanding the original album on CD with six previously unreleased bonus tracks and adding a DVD of Lynne’s 2000 concert recorded at Los Angeles’ House of Blues!

TV Eyes

TV Eyes, TV Eyes (Omnivore) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

In 2006, Jason Falkner and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., both of Jellyfish, joined with composer Brian Reitzell (Lost in Translation, Hannibal)  in TV Eyes.  The band’s debut album was only released in Japan, however…until now!  Omnivore’s reissue features the nine tracks from TV Eyes, plus 3 bonus tracks from the Japanese only EP Softcore—each of which is a song from TV Eyes, remixed by a member of the band. This set also includes the first CD appearance of “She’s A Study,” which was featured in the film Lost In Translation, and previously only available on a white label promo 12” single a decade ago.  TV Eyes is also available on double-vinyl with a download card, with the first pressing on translucent yellow vinyl!  Both the CD and LP formats boast photos and liner notes from Falkner.

Sleeping Beauty - Legacy Collection

Sleeping Beauty: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – The Legacy Collection (Walt Disney Records) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Walt Disney Records’ deluxe Legacy Collection series continues for this release coinciding with today’s arrival of a Blu-ray reissue of Sleeping Beauty!  This new presentation on 2 CDs adds previously unissued demos and Lost Chords performances of those demos, as well as a couple of rare tracks previously available only on LP.

Batman TV

Batman: Exclusive Original Television Soundtrack Album (Mercury/UMe)

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Vinyl: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Holy Soundtracks, Batman!  In anticipation of next month’s long-awaited release of the campy, star-studded Batman television series of the 1960s on Blu-ray and DVD, Mercury has brought this groovy 1966 LP back into print on both CD and vinyl.  Originally released on 20th Century Records, this disc includes Neal Hefti’s iconic theme song and Nelson Riddle’s swingin’ orchestral score together with dialogue from Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and George Sanders!

Butterfield

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band / Peter, Paul and Mary, In the Wind (Audio Fidelity)

The Paul Butterfield Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Peter, Paul and Mary: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Audio Fidelity has two more classic albums on hybrid stereo SACD – the 1965 debut of Paul Butterfield’s searing blues-rock outfit and Peter, Paul and Mary’s chart-topping third album, from 1963!  Steve Hoffman remasters Peter, Paul and Mary, and Kevin Gray handles Butterfield!  These discs will play on all CD players, and will play in high-resolution on those equipped for SACD.

Best of Stylistics

The Stylistics, Best of The Stylistics and More: 30th Anniversary Edition (Amherst) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

Amherst celebrates 30 years of The Stylistics’ first anthology by adding three new tracks to the original 10-song line-up.  New songs are “Because of You,” “My Heart” and “What Ever It Takes,” while the Philly soul classics still feature Thom Bell and Linda Creed classics like “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “People Make the World Go Round” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

Monkees in Mono

The Monkees, The Monkees in Mono (Friday Music) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Are you a believer?  The Monkees’ first five mono LPs are boxed up in this new collection from Friday Music featuring 180-gram heavyweight vinyl reissues of The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.

Let It Snow! Legacy Has Eight New “Classic Christmas” Titles Including Unheard Sinatra, Mathis Tracks

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FrankIt’s that time of the year again! Legacy Recordings’ Classic Christmas Album series has become an annual tradition, and the label is once again drawing on the Sony Music vaults to offer new seasonal anthologies from a group of truly celebrated artists. This year, the bona fide legends include Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, and Johnny Mathis, and their volumes will be joined by an entry for the classical crossover quartet Il Divo as well as by various-artists compilations spotlighting hard rock, country and pop Christmas classics. These eight new, remastered titles will be available October 7, 2014 and feature a variety of holiday treats!

This year’s line-up introduces various-artists releases to the series, and also expands its purview to include previously unissued tracks and rarities (much in the style of Sony’s long-running Playlist series) on the Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra titles. Frank Sinatra’s Classic Christmas Album features 14 holiday favorites from his 1940s Columbia Records period, long before he was “Ol’ Blue Eyes” or “The Chairman of the Board.” At Columbia, Sinatra was “The Voice” – the voice which inspired bobbysoxers to riot and listeners everywhere to swoon. In addition to familiar fare (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas”), this collection offers two spirituals first issued on a 1947 single (“Jesus is a Rock (In a Weary Land),” “I’ve Got a Home in That Rock”) and two previously unissued performances: Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with singer Dorothy Kirsten and an alternate version of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” with the Page Cavanaugh Trio. This alternate version follows a different approach to the performance of the same song Sinatra recorded four years later with the B. Swanson Quartet in 1950 (which is also included on the CD). Sinatra performed “Baby” with Kirsten on 1949’s Light Up Time radio program; “Let It Snow” with Cavanaugh dates to 1946’s Songs by Sinatra show.

JMCCRare songs also feature on the Johnny Mathis volume. Two previously unissued tracks make their first appearances anywhere – “Ol’ Kris Kringle” and “Give Me Your Love for Christmas.” The latter has been confirmed as an alternate recording to the familiar version from 1969’s Give Me Your Love for Christmas LP. This holiday collection also includes both sides of two rare singles: “Christmas in the City of the Angels” b/w “The Very First Christmas Day” (1979) and “Christmas Is” b/w “Sign of the Dove” (1971). “Christmas Is” was previously issued on CD by Sony Special Products in 1999 as the title track of a budget compilation, but the other three single sides make their CD debuts here. In total, Johnny’s Classic Christmas Album includes 14 songs including his 2006 duet with Bette Midler of “Winter Wonderland/Let It Snow!,” drawing on his rich Christmas catalogue which dates back to 1958’s Merry Christmas and to date encompasses six full-length holiday LPs.

After the jump: Perry Como, Barbra Streisand, Il Divo and more – plus pre-order links and track listings for all eight titles!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 23, 2014 at 11:20

Release Round-Up: Week of September 16

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JH

Jimi Hendrix, The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

Legacy and Experience Hendrix have reissues of Jimi Hendrix’s first two posthumously-released albums, both from 1971; The Cry of Love is long out-of-print on CD, while Rainbow Bridge makes its first authorized appearance in the CD format.  Both titles have been freshly remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog masters.

The Cry of Love: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Rainbow Bridge: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack : Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

 

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Charles Lloyd, Manhattan Stories (Resonance) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Jazz great Charles Lloyd, on saxophone and flute, is joined by guitarist Gábor Szabó, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Pete La Roca on this set premiering two 1965 New York concerts.  The deluxe 2-CD edition, remastered by Bernie Grundman, features new liner notes by Stanley Crouch, Willard Jenkins, Don Heckman & Michael Cuscuna.

Scruffy

Scruffy the Cat – Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990 (Omnivore) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

College radio heroes and alt-country rockers Scruffy the Cat return on this new anthology from Omnivore Recordings featuring 23 songs – one issued on a rare single and 22 never released anywhere – encompassing both live and studio tracks.

Galway

James Galway, The Man with the Golden Flute: The Complete RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Masterworks) (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)

This 73-disc (!) box set chronicles the career of “The Man with the Golden Flute.”  Over  71 CDs and 2 DVDs, Galway tackles both classical and pop repertoire with collaborators including Henry Mancini, The Chieftains, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, and many of the greatest orchestras and conductors in the world.

Salsoul Christmas

The Salsoul Orchestra, Christmas Jollies: The Deluxe Edition (Friday Music) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Friday Music’s new collection re-presents The Salsoul Orchestra’s first holiday album from 1976, produced, arranged and conducted by the late, great Vince Montana, plus three bonus tracks – “New Year’s Americana Suite” and the single versions of “Merry Christmas, All” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Ray Price Christmas

Ray Price, The Ray Price Christmas Album (Friday Music) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

Friday Music also has the late country crooner’s 1969 Columbia holiday LP on CD featuring “Jingle Bells,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and more.

BS

Barbra Streisand, Partners (Columbia) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Okay, this isn’t a catalogue title, but it’s Barbra Streisand!  The legendary artist returns with her latest studio album, featuring duets with Billy Joel, John Legend, John Mayer, Blake Shelton, Michael Buble, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and the late Elvis Presley.  Target stores have an exclusive edition with five bonus tracks – four previously released duets with Barry Gibb, Barry Manilow, Bryan Adams and Frank Sinatra plus one outtake with the album’s co-producer, Babyface.  (He’s also heard on Partners with “Evergreen.”)  This edition is also available in the U.K. from general retailers!

Northern Soul - The Soundtrack

Various Artists, Northern Soul: The Soundtrack (Harmless) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Demon Music Group’s Harmless imprint has the soundtrack to director Elaine Constantine’s new film chronicling the U.K. Northern Soul movement that gave new life to classic American soul records; the soundtrack set consists of two CDs (the actual songs from the film on the first CD and other Northern Soul favorites compiled by the director on the second disc) plus an exclusive DVD with Elaine Constantine being interviewed about the making of the film by actor James Lance who portrays Northern Soul DJ Ray Henderson in the movie.  A special limited edition set of vinyl singles is also available.

Real Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini / Neil Sedaka / Paul Anka / Harry Belafonte / Aretha Franklin, The Real… (Sony U.K.)

The U.K. arm of Sony Music continues its series of 3-CD anthologies drawing primarily from the Columbia and RCA archives, adding a number of favorite classic pop artists to a series that’s already 25+-titles strong.

The Real Henry Mancini: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

The Real Neil Sedaka: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

The Real Paul Anka: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

The Real Harry Belafonte: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

The Real Aretha Franklin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Elmer Bernstein - GE

Elmer Bernstein, Themes from the General Electric Theatre / See No Evil (Intrada)

The Intrada label has two new titles from the composer and maestro Elmer Bernstein including the CD premiere of Columbia Records’ soundtrack to the anthology television series starring future President Ronald Reagan, and the world premiere release of Bernstein’s score to Richard Fleischer’s 1971 thriller starring Mia Farrow, See No Evil!

Release Round-Up: Week of April 29

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Nightclubbing DeluxeGrace Jones, Nightclubbing: Deluxe Edition (Island/UMe)

Pull back up to the bumper with a generously expanded version of the almighty Jones’ most beloved album.

2CD: Amazon U.K.
1CD: Amazon U.S.
2LP:  Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Blu-Ray Audio: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Supremes - Funny GirlDiana Ross & The Supremes, Sing and Perform Funny Girl: Expanded Edition (Motown Select)

A digital-only expansion of The Supremes’ 1968 album of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill musical, featuring the original LP alongside a brand-new remix and a pair of live cuts. (Amazon U.S.)

Funny Girl Box SetFunny Girl: Original Broadway Cast Recording – 50th Anniversary Edition (Capitol/UMe)

Speaking of which, the original cast album – featuring the one and only Barbra Streisand – is also reissued today as a CD/LP set with a deluxe book! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Vanilla Fudge Atco SinglesBob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Riding Your Way — The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music, 1946-1947 / Vanilla Fudge, The Complete ATCO Singles / Rick Wakeman, White Rock / X, Under the Big Black Sun: Expanded & Remastered Edition / Cannonball Adderley, The Black Messiah

The latest Real Gone slate is quite the eclectic one! Read all about it here.

Bob Wills: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vanilla Fudge: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rick Wakeman: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
X: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. (TBD)
Cannonball Adderley: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Rush ReDISCoveredRush, Rush: ReDISCovered Box Set (Mercury/UMe)

A deluxe recreation of the Canadian legends’ first album on vinyl. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Blue Light Til DawnCassandra Wilson, Blue Light ‘Til Dawn: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blue Note/UMe)

The neo-blues vocalist’s breakthrough album, featuring stirring interpretations of tracks by Robert Johnson, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and others, is reissued with three unreleased live tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Can't Fight FateTaylor Dayne, Can’t Fight Fate Soul Dancing: Deluxe Editions (Cherry Pop)

The ’80s dance diva’s second and third albums are expanded as two-disc sets with plenty of rare and unreleased remixes and B-sides, plus an all-new remastering for each original album.

Can’t Fight Fate: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Soul DancingAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Cryan ShamesThe Cryan Shames, A Scratch in the Sky: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)

Now Sounds presents the Chicago band’s 1967 sunshine pop-flavored album for the first time on CD in mono, adding a plethora of bonus tracks! Joe’s full review is coming soon! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Silver ConventionSilver Convention, Save Me / The Salsoul Orchestra, Up the Yellow Brick Road / How High (Big Break Records)

Joe’s full writes-ups on three more Salsoul/BBR reissues are coming soon!

Save Me: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Up the Yellow Brick Road: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
How High: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

She’s The Greatest Star: Barbra Streisand’s Broadway “Funny Girl” Goes Super Deluxe For 50th Anniversary

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Funny Girl Box Set

Attention people who need people! Funny Girl is turning 50, and that’s no laughing matter.   To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the classic Broadway musical that launched Barbra Streisand to superstardom, Capitol/UMe is releasing a CD/LP super deluxe edition of the original cast album of Funny Girl on April 29th.

The musical by librettist Isobel Lennart, composer Jule Styne (Gypsy, Bells Are Ringing) and lyricist Bob Merrill (Carnival, New Girl in Town) depicted the rise to fame of comedienne/Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice (Streisand, in her second Broadway role) and her troubled relationship with husband Nicky Arnstein (Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie and star of Styne’s Bells Are Ringing and Subways Are For Sleeping). Kay Medford and Danny Meehan also starred as Mrs. Brice and Eddie Ryan, respectively, and future All in the Family “Dingbat” Jean Stapleton was featured as Mrs. Strakosh. Funny Girl, directed by Garson Kanin and produced by Brice’s son-in-law Ray Stark, opened on March 26, 1964 after 17 previews at the Winter Garden Theatre (today, home to the musical Rocky). It then transferred to two more theaters before closing in 1967 after 1,348 performances; Mimi Hines succeeded Streisand as Fanny.   The show earned eight Tony nominations, but won none of them thanks to the unstoppable competition from David Merrick’s production of Hello, Dolly!. Streisand would be awarded for her portrayal of Fanny, however, when she won Golden Globe and Academy Awards for the 1968 film version. It would be her first role in a film. The musical produced a number of standards, including “I’m The Greatest Star,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and, of course, “People,” not to mention one of the most electrifying overtures ever composed.

The original cast album, one of Streisand’s only recordings not on Columbia Records, was recorded over just one session (as was standard practice at the time) at the Manhattan Center studios on April 5, 1964 and was produced by Dick Jones. Longtime Broadway champion Goddard Lieberson, the president of Columbia, reportedly passed on the cast album but made a stipulation that Streisand record a number of songs from the score for Columbia which she did in December of that year. (Two – “Who Are You Now” and “Cornet Man” – still remain locked in the Columbia vaults.)  Lieberson might have rethought his passing on the album if he could have foreseen its success. In stores just a scant week after it was recorded, it went on to spend 51 weeks on the Billboard chart. It peaked at No. 2, kept from pole position only by The Beatles’ Second Album (illuminating how much the charts have changed over 50 years!). The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Funny Girl would eventually be certified Gold in September of 1964 and go on to win the Grammy for Best Original Cast Album. It was released on CD in 1987 on Capitol and in 1992 on EMI’s Broadway Angel Label, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

What will you find on the 50th Anniversary release?  Hit the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 26, 2014 at 12:32

Tony Bennett’s “The Classics” Features Solo Hits Plus Streisand, Winehouse, Sinatra Duets

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Tony Bennett - The ClassicsFollowing the success of 2013’s Bennett/Brubeck: The White House Sessions Live 1962 and Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas 1964, Columbia Records, RPM Records and Legacy Recordings are starting off 2014 with a newly-assembled collection from Tony Bennett due on January 28.

The Classics, available in a 20-track standard edition or a 30-track deluxe configuration, features material personally selected by the 87-year old living legend.  In a statement provided by Legacy, Bennett confirmed that he kept two things in mind while compiling this celebratory project: “choosing songs that exemplify to the highest degree a timeless quality, while selecting a performance of those songs that present them in a very immediate and ‘live’ approach. I feel that songs I selected for The Classics absolutely meet both of these criteria.”

Both editions of The Classics open with “Because of You,” the artist’s first Columbia Records single and first chart-topping record.  It goes on to include the “solo tracks that I felt most closely represented the highest level of musical craftsmanship that has been my mandate as I have built my recording catalogue” and includes a number of recent duets, sung “with artists who I admire and have loved working with over the years.”  No rare or new-to-CD material is present.

After the jump, we have full details including the track listing for both versions! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 16, 2013 at 16:29

Holiday Gift Guide Spotlight: Diamond, Streisand, Williams, Cash, Jones, Wynette and More Join “Classic Christmas Album” Roster [UPDATED]

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Andy Williams - Classic Christmas Revised CoverLegacy Recordings’ Classic Christmas Album series has grown this holiday season.

Last year brought volumes from a variety of artists across the rock, pop, country and R&B spectrum including Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Kenny G and Elvis Presley.  For 2013, another eight seasonal anthologies have arrived under the Classic Christmas Album umbrella from Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Alabama, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Martina McBride.

Christmas is the one time of the year you’re guaranteed to hear the voice of the late, great Andy Williams on the radio.  In fact, thanks to Andy, you just might think of Christmas as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  And that 1963 Edward Pola/George Wyle standard is just one of the sixteen favorites you’ll hear on Williams’ Classic Christmas Album, newly remastered by Tim Sturges.  Selections have been drawn from all three of Andy’s Columbia Christmas recordings: 1963’s timeless The Andy Williams Christmas Album, 1965’s equally-impressive follow-up Merry Christmas, and the far lesser-known, low-key 1975 Christmas Present.  On the latter, Williams mainly limited his repertoire to traditional hymns, and the new compilation features five of them (“Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child is This,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Ave Maria”) tenderly sung in the vocalist’s pristine tone.  Highlights from the first two, perennial Christmas albums include “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song” (1963) and “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and the haunting reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” (1965).  One simply can’t go wrong with any anthology of Andy Williams’ holiday recordings, including The Classic Christmas Album.  But one would be better advised to check out Real Gone Music’s new 2-CD anthology The Complete Christmas Recordings.  This set, licensed from Columbia, includes the entirety of Williams’ three Columbia Christmas LPs plus three singles and two previously unreleased tracks.  As every track is essential listening, it’s one-stop shopping for Andy’s Columbia-era holiday music.

Barbra Streisand - Classic ChristmasAnother Columbia Records mainstay, Barbra Streisand, released her first Christmas album, simply entitled A Christmas Album, in 1967, not recording another holiday-themed set until 2001 and Christmas Memories.  Barbra’s Classic Christmas Album reprises nine titles from the first LP and seven from its belated sequel.  Naturally, among the 1967 tracks is Streisand’s iconic reinvention of “Jingle Bells,” along with other staples such as “The Christmas Song,” “My Favorite Things” and “White Christmas.”  From 2001, you’ll hear standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as well as more contemporary material including Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Christmas Lullaby,” Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa’s “Christmas Mem’ries,” the Bergmans and Johnny Mandel’s “A Christmas Love Song,” and Streisand’s seasonal reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s haunting “I Remember,” written for the 1967 television musical Evening Primrose.  This is an intelligently-compiled sampler, but both complete original Streisand albums are essential.  Tim Sturges has again remastered.

Neil Diamond - Classic ChristmasStreisand’s fellow Brooklynite and onetime duet partner Neil Diamond is the subject of his own Classic Christmas Album.  Diamond’s twelve-track compilation is drawn from his first two massively successful Columbia Christmas releases, 1992’s The Christmas Album and 1994’s Volume Two.  (Diamond returned to Christmas music for 2009’s A Cherry Cherry Christmas, which blended five new songs with nine returning favorites, but its new songs – among them the self-referencing title track and a cover of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” – have been overlooked here.)  Classic Christmas Album makes room for Neil’s very own holiday standard “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” (originally recorded on 1984’s Primitive but remade for The Christmas Album) alongside Diamond-ized renditions of songs both spiritual (“Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night”) and secular (“The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” “Sleigh Ride”).  Don’t let Neil’s country-western attire on the cover artwork fool you; The Classic Christmas Album features 12 tracks of traditional holiday pop, even if selections from A Cherry Cherry Christmas would have made this Christmas dish even sweeter.  (An extra bonus: whereas most titles in this series have no liner notes, Diamond has penned an introduction for his volume.)  Diamond’s preferred mastering engineer Bernie Becker has handled those duties here.

After the jump: we cross over to the country side of town and beyond!  Plus: we have full track listings with discographical annotation, and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of November 26

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Animals - Mickie Most YearsThe Animals, The Mickie Most Years and More / Tower of Power, Hipper Than Hip: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow – Live on the Air & in the Studio 1974 / Lisa Fischer, So Intense / The Alabama State Troupers, Road Show / The Obsessed, The Church Within (Real Gone Music)

An Animals box set and a compilation of unreleased Tower of Power greatness head off Real Gone’s slate for the end of the year!

The Animals: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Tower of Power: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Lisa Fischer: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Alabama State Troupers: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Obsessed: CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Badfinger - TimelessBadfinger, Timeless: The Musical Legacy (Apple)

A new single-disc compilation devoted to the would-be Beatle heirs, the first to be derived from Apple’s 2010 remasters. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Big Star - PlaylistBig Star, Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star (Legacy) / Nothing Can Hurt Me (Magnolia)

A double dose of Big Star today: a new compilation in Legacy’s Playlist line that marries some of the band’s classic early recordings with latter-day live tracks from their mid-’90s reunion, and a new feature-length documentary on the band.

PlaylistAmazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.
Nothing Can Hurt Me: DVD (Amazon U.S.) BD (Amazon U.S.)

Thelonious Monk Paris 1969Thelonious Monk, Paris 1969 (Blue Note)

An unreleased live set from later in Monk’s career, available in multiple formats (including an equally unseen video!).

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Screaming Life-FoppSoundgarden, Screaming Life/Fopp (Sub Pop)

An expanded remaster of the Seattle grunge icons’ debut EPs.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Barbra - Back to BrooklynBarbra Streisand, Back to Brooklyn (Columbia)

Barbra takes Brooklyn – specifically, the new Barclays Center – by storm in these shows, recorded in October 2012.

CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

It's a Scream How LevineVarious Artists, It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba (Idelsohn Society)

Subtitled “The Latin-Jewish Musical Story 1940s-1980s,” this double-disc set (featuring performances by Carole King, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente and more) is a fun, occasionally wacky musical archaeology session that’ll keep you amused and informed. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Wicked - DeluxeWicked: Original Broadway Cast Recording 10th Anniversary Special Edition (Verve/UMe)

Defy gravity with this deluxe two-disc version of the Tony-winning musical about the witches of Oz. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

As If She Never Said Goodbye: Barbra Streisand Goes “Back to Brooklyn”

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Barbra - Back to Brooklyn1969’s lavish Academy Award-winning film Hello, Dolly! found Barbra Streisand’s Dolly Levi returning to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant where she was serenaded with Jerry Herman’s famous title tune: “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong…!”  Some 43 years later, the same sentiments were applicable when Streisand – as herself, natch – took the stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for two sold-out homecoming concerts.  On Tuesday, Columbia Records will release Back to Brooklyn, available in both CD and CD/DVD packages, to commemorate the event.  With a number of songs never previously performed by the superstar in concert, Back to Brooklyn draws on last year’s acclaimed from-the-vaults compilation Release Me as well as other Streisand staples and rarities.

Reviewing Release Me here at The Second Disc, we wrote, “On Saturday evening, October 13, Barbra Joan Streisand triumphantly concluded a two-night engagement at Brooklyn, New York’s brand-new Barclays Center.  The two evenings marked her first public performances in the borough of her birth since she dropped the ‘a’ from Barbara and followed the call of superstardom, first to Manhattan and then to Hollywood.  Streisand recalled to the audience of 19,000 that her last time singing in Brooklyn was on a stoop!  Still, she serenaded the community with special, lighthearted lyrics set to Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’ and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye,’ relishing her hometown comeback.  More serious than all the talk of knishes and bialys, however, was Streisand’s deeply emotional performance of a song introduced in the 1967 Broadway musical Hallelujah, Baby!

‘Being Good Isn’t Good Enough’ was written by Funny Girl composer Jule Styne, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and it translated a central point of Arthur Laurents’ provocative book into song.  (Laurents, of course, was another close associate of Streisand’s, having directed her Broadway debut in I Can Get It for You Wholesale.  He would later pen The Way We Were for the star.)  In the musical, a young black woman harbors dreams of stardom, cognizant that she must be more than superlative to overcome the obstacles society has placed due to the color of her skin.  Though Streisand wouldn’t compare her own journey to that of the character in the musical, she found resonance in the lyric, as an artist famously branded as a ‘perfectionist’ and as a performer for whom being simply good is altogether insufficient.”

What will you find on this new live album?  Hit the jump to find out!  Plus: pre-order links and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 21, 2013 at 14:17

Posted in Barbra Streisand, DVD, News