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Déjà Vu: Expanded Reissue of Dionne Warwick’s 1979 “Dionne,” Produced by Barry Manilow, Arrives on CD

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Dionne Warwick recently announced a new album, produced by Phil Ramone.  Entitled Now, the projected October release will reflect on a storied career that’s lasted 50 years.  But Warwick was in a very different place then, meaning in 1979.  The sophisticated soul singer was at a crossroads.  Her unprecedented string of pop and R&B hits written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David at Scepter Records were far in the rearview mirror.  Bacharach and David had bitterly split after just one album with Warwick at Warner Bros. Records, despite Warwick’s having been handsomely signed to the label expressly to the view of further collaborations with the duo.  One more dynamic success awaited with 1974’s “Then Came You,” unbelievably Warwick’s first-ever No. 1 Pop single, a duet with The Spinners produced by Thom Bell.  But other than that one single, Warwick’s studio career was commercially floundering.  Her expressive voice was as strong as ever, maybe even stronger than before, but producers including Jerry Ragovoy, Michael Omartian and Holland/Dozier/Holland had all been unable to rekindle the magic she had with her “triangle marriage.”  Enter Clive Davis and Barry Manilow.

That’s the story being told on Big Break Records’ new expanded and remastered reissue of Warwick’s 1979 Arista debut Dionne, arriving in U.K. stores on August 27 and in the U.S. one week later (CDBBR 0176).  Manilow was Arista’s golden child, having delivered to label president Clive Davis nine Top 10 hits including three that went straight to the top, not to mention a No. 1 album and many more charting singles.  Manilow and Davis also had a close friendship and intuitive sense of song selection.  Davis would often find a potential hit for Manilow, and the singer/songwriter would deftly rearrange it to his strengths as a vocalist.  Witness Manilow’s sublime reworkings of David Pomeranz’ “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again,” Randy Edelman’s “Weekend in New England,” and Ian Hunter’s “Ships,” just to name a few.  Davis knew that Manilow was the right man to reinvigorate Dionne Warwick’s career once she was signed to Arista.  The resulting album is one of the strongest entries in Warwick’s impressive catalogue, and also one of the most enduring albums produced by Manilow.

Barry Manilow’s love of soul and R&B has never been in doubt to those who know his discography, despite an image that might suggest otherwise.  He covered Martha and the Vandellas’ “My Baby Loves Me” on his second album, doffed his hat to “Dancing in the Streets” with his own “It’s a Miracle,” and even performed a Motor City medley in early concerts.  That love, combined with a kinship for the songwriting of Laura Nyro and the craft of the great musical theatre writers, led to the development of Manilow’s own trademark sound.  He applied all of that knowledge in producing Dionne, and he and Davis selected a nearly perfect 10-track line-up for the singer possessed of class, elegance and a sublime vocal restraint.  Manilow played piano, with the rhythm section also including bassist Will Lee, percussionist Alan Estes, keyboardist Bill Mays, drummer Rick Schlosser and guitarist Mitch Holder.

Hit the jump for much more, including the track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 27, 2012 at 10:08

Reissue Theory, In Memoriam: Various Artists, “The Essential Marvin Hamlisch”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they may someday see. Today’s installment looks back at the mighty career of the late Marvin Hamlisch and how his best songs might be compiled into a truly “Essential” release.

On Tuesday morning, August 7, news broke that composer Marvin Hamlisch had unexpectedly died the day before, at the age of 68.  The worlds of music, theatre and film were all shocked, as Hamlisch’s latest musical, The Nutty Professor, had started performances in Nashville, Tennessee, and the busy conductor had continued to fulfill his concert appearances.  Barbra Streisand reflected, “I’m devastated…he was a musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being.”  Her sentiment was echoed by many with whom he had worked.  Rupert Holmes, his lyricist on The Nutty Professor, commented, “The music of Marvin Hamlisch is invariably compassionate, charming, tender, uplifting, classy, delightful and profoundly moving.  The world has not lost a note of his genius.  His music will live on.  What I have lost as his devoted collaborator is a friend who was invariably…compassionate, tender, uplifting, classy, delightful and often profoundly moving.”  Robert Klein, star of Hamlisch’s musical They’re Playing Our Song, admitted, “He was inscrutable in some ways, but was a loving collaborator who composed the most beautiful melodies, and thankfully we are left with them.  It is sad to think of all the beautiful music he would have composed in days to come.”  Liza Minnelli, a childhood friend, summed it up: “I have lost my lifelong best friend, and sadly we have lost a splendid, splendid talent.”

The best way, of course, to celebrate Hamlisch’s life is with his music.  Surely the man who wrote “The Way We Were” and “One [Singular Sensation]” is deserving of a retrospective collection.  And so we’ve created one, Reissue Theory-style!  A box set would seem most natural, with one disc devoted to his orchestral soundtrack work, another to his Broadway musicals, and a third to his pop music and hit film songs.  But would it be possible to distill the essence of Marvin Hamlisch onto one disc?  His was an enormously versatile talent; there’s not a signature Marvin Hamlisch sound the way there is a “Burt Bacharach sound” or a “Henry Mancini sound.”  What Hamlisch’s compositions have in common is an unerring sense of melody, an open heart and a true positivity.  And you’ll certainly hear some musical trademarks on these tracks.

For our not-yet-a-reality The Essential Marvin Hamlisch, we have attempted to bring together the best of all three of Hamlisch’s musical worlds, with both hit songs and some pieces which might be unfamiliar.  Some amazing tracks had to fall by the wayside, all of which are every bit as worthy as those we have chosen: “At the Ballet,” from A Chorus Line, perhaps that score’s most thrillingly visceral moment.  “At the Fountain,” the heart-stopping soliloquy from Sweet Smell of Success.  The yearning “Disneyland” from Smile.  “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” the Lesley Gore pop hit.  “Life is What You Make It,” from the film Kotch.  “Cause I Believe In Loving,” an affecting song that closes Woody Allen’s Bananas in a version performed by singer Jake Holmes.  The dramatic cues for films like Sophie’s Choice and Ordinary People.  The list goes on and on.  Hamlisch even wrote a number of songs for performers who might not usually be associated with him.  The young Paul Simon recorded a demo of the song “Flame.”  The Chambers Brothers, Stephanie Mills, Tevin Campbell and Peter Allen all recorded music by Marvin Hamlisch.

You can read our full tribute to Marvin Hamlisch here.  Or hit the jump for our hypothetical track listing to The Essential Marvin Hamlisch, with track-by-track “liner notes” and complete discographical information as to where you can find each of these remarkable songs! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 10, 2012 at 10:06

Reissue Theory: Barry Manilow, “Live at the Troubadour 1975”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look back at notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Today’s column takes a slight departure, looking at an album that never was, but certainly could be.   We present Barry Manilow’s Live at the Troubadour!

Rolling Stone may have famously proclaimed him “the showman of our generation,” but when Clive Davis signed Barry Manilow to the fledgling Arista label, he was anything but.  Manilow was a longtime accompanist, jingle writer, arranger and producer on the New York scene, and signed to Arista predecessor Bell Records.  But “showman” wasn’t in his vocabulary.  He was armed only with a youthful confidence in his skill as a behind-the-scenes music man and his belief that the music he was writing was, indeed, good music, inspired in equal parts by the Broadway musical tradition and the singer/songwriter style of Laura Nyro.

When Manilow took the stage at Los Angeles’ Troubadour on February 25, 1975, there was no flash (and no Lady Flash!), no pizzazz.  There was just a musician at work, behind the piano, and a real band: two guitarists, a keyboardist, a bassist, two percussionists, and four background singers, one of whom had been an Archie and a Detergent.  Manilow’s performance was captured in stellar sound but its only commercial release has been through the digital treasure trove known as Wolfgang’s Vault.  The time is long overdue to expose this performance to an audience more familiar with Manilow the Las Vegas entertainer extraordinaire.  The only pyrotechnics at Doug Weston’s Troubadour came from Manilow and his band, whereas today, patrons at a Manilow concert will find costumes, time-honed routines and dazzling showmanship.  The artist has allowed some glimpses into his past in recent years, including a DVD release of a 1974 New York City rehearsal at Carroll’s Studio (on the 2-DVD set First and Farewell, also including his performance on a 2004 tour for maximum contrast) in which he agonizes over his set list as he’s about to go solo.  With Manilow having recently announced a new Live in London CD, the time couldn’t be better to imagine Barry Manilow: Live at the Troubadour!  Our proposed release would offer a glimpse into another path that Manilow might have taken (though few could argue with the success of his phenomenal career).

Hit the jump, and you’ll find yourself on Sunset Boulevard on a winter evening in 1975! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 17, 2011 at 10:21

Posted in Barry Manilow, Features, Reissues

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Reissue Theory: Bette Midler, “The Divine Miss M”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look at notable albums and the reissues they may someday see.  Long before “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From a Distance,” Bette Midler was blazing a path like few others before or since with her blend of outrageous comedy, musical invention and pure showmanship.  Yet despite a treasure trove of unreleased material, Midler’s platinum debut, The Divine Miss M, has never been expanded on CD.  What might such a reissue be like?

“One bathhouse. We played one bathhouse….No, it was only ever that one bathhouse.”

So responded Barry Manilow earlier this month to Vanity Fair when queried whether he was nostalgic for the bathhouses he played in the early days of the 1970s as Bette Midler’s musical director. But Manilow’s stint playing for Midler at New York’s Continental Baths has entered into show biz lore, as it launched not one, but two, superstar careers that endure to the present day. As Manilow explained, “[The Continental Baths] had a cabaret stage, and they hired me as the house piano player. They asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to play piano here full-time?’ And I was like ‘Sure, why not?’ I played with all of the acts that came through, all the singers. Bette was the best of them…so I stayed with her…She was fucking brilliant. I mean it. You never saw anything like it. It topped anything Lady Gaga is doing today. And she did it without any stage tricks or fancy effects. It was just Bette and me and a drummer.” And while Manilow may sound hyperbolic, many reports at the time confirm his recollections.  Bette Midler was, and is, unquestionably an original.

Midler had played her first engagement at the Baths in August 1970, after she had already begun courting much larger stages with appearances on The David Frost Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and the biggest talk show of them all, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The girl from Hawaii who had played a lengthy run as Tzeitel in Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof and then a stint in the off-Broadway rock musical Salvation had her eyes on mainstream success. She was an instant smash with Carson on her first appearance of August 12, 1970; she began at the Baths two nights later and returned to the Tonight Show and its smitten host on August 31. Barry Manilow came into her life in late 1970 or early 1971; though exact dates are fuzzy, he became Midler’s musical director by the time of the September 1971 stand at New York’s Downstairs at the Upstairs cabaret. Though she had become the toast of New York and television with her boisterous, outrageous stage antics and wild reworkings of old standards, novelties and rock and roll tunes, Midler naturally desired to become a recording star. A 1969 demo session including her then-trademark take on Harry Akst and Grant Clark’s 1929 “Am I Blue?” was shopped around but hadn’t led anywhere. Perhaps her bawdy persona and eclectic repertoire simply couldn’t be contained on vinyl?

That all changed with the release of 1972’s The Divine Miss M on the Atlantic label. Though it received a remastered edition in 1995 and last month was reissued as an audiophile LP from Mobile Fidelity, the album has never been expanded on CD. Yet there a number of riches that still remain in the Atlantic vaults that paint a fuller picture of the hungry young performer, equal parts singer, actress and performance artist. Today’s Reissue Theory imagines a 2-CD expanded edition of Midler’s eclectic, electric debut.  Hit the jump for a story involving Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, music legend Ahmet Ertegun, Philly soul architect Thom Bell, jazz guru Joel Dorn, Brill Building stalwart Doc Pomus, and of course, Barry Manilow and Bette Midler! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 23, 2011 at 10:42

Release Round-Up: Week of May 3

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Sade, The Ultimate Collection (Epic)

The sultry British soul band anthologized across two discs, featuring several brand-new tracks – the perfect teaser for their long-awaited summer tour. (Official site)

Loudon Wainwright, 40 Odd Years (Shout! Factory)

The witty singer/songwriter is anthologized across four CDs and a DVD. Check for Joe’s review later today! (Shout! Factory)

Rush, Moving Pictures: Deluxe Edition (Blu-Ray) (Mercury/UMe)

Already available at Best Buy since April, the CD/Blu-Ray edition of the classic Canadian rockers’ album makes a wider retail debut. (Official site)

The Association, And Then…Along Comes The Association! Expanded Edition (Now Sounds)

A forgotten classic of ’60s folk-pop, presented in mono for the first time since its original vinyl release and expanded with a dozen bonus cuts. Do note: this title, as well as the next three entries, have been available in the U.K. for a week and are now stocked with U.S. retailers. (Now Sounds)

Pennye Ford, Pennye Ford: Expanded Edition / Yarbrough & Peoples, Be a Winner: Expanded Edition / Loose Change, Loose Change: Expanded Edition / Tom Moulton, TJM: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The latest slate from Big Break, featuring rare 12″ mixes and what have you. (Big Break)

The Fall, The Marshall Suite: Expanded Edition (Cherry Red)

An expanded version of the indie rockers’ techno-influenced album, expanded to three discs, featuring CD single material and rare live tracks. (Cherry Red)

Pepsi & Shirlie, All Right Now: Special Edition (Cherry Pop)

The former WHAM! backup singers’ debut album, expanded with rare single sides. (Cherry Pop)

Poison, Double Dose: Ultimate Hits (EMI/Capitol)

Do you need another Poison compilation? If so, here you are! A two-disc one. (Official site)

Barry Manilow, Duets (Arista/Legacy)

Another Manilow comp, focusing on his work with others. (Official site)

Rob Zombie, ICON (Geffen/UMe)

Oh dear, reader Don wasn’t kidding. This first came out back in 2010. This is a reissue of a reissue. The universe is clearly about to turn inside out. But…there’s a single-disc edition this time around, so…there’s that. (Amazon: 1-CD, 2-CD)

Written by Mike Duquette

May 3, 2011 at 08:57

Barry Manilow Revisits His Classic “Duets” on New Collection

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While Barry Manilow’s fans patiently wait for 15 Minutes, his first album of all original material since 2001’s Here at the Mayflower, Arista and Legacy will offer a chance to look back at some past moments in Manilow’s long career. Duets compiles fifteen teamings, some more difficult to find than others, spanning the period between 1980 (“The Last Duet” with Lily Tomlin, from Barry) and 2008 (“Islands in the Stream” with Reba McEntire, from The Greatest Songs of the Eighties.) This 15-track collection is due on April 5.

Duets covers all of the eclectic bases in Manilow’s lengthy career. His work as a film score composer is represented by two tracks from Don Bluth’s animated films (“Let Me Be Your Wings,” a duet from Thumbelina with Debra Byrd, now an American Idol vocal coach, and “Now and Forever,” a Sheena Easton duet from The Pebble and the Penguin) while his explorations into jazz and swing are covered by collaborations with a legendary and now-deceased group – Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan – as well as the very-much-alive and still active Diane Schuur. A trip to Broadway on Showstoppers yielded “Look to the Rainbow” from Finian’s Rainbow with the renowned Barbara Cook. Songs not released on Manilow’s own albums or soundtracks are present, too, including 2003’s reunion with Bette Midler on the Frank Loesser classic “On a Slow Boat to China” and 2002’s “I Don’t Want to Be the One to Let Go” which joined Manilow with fellow Brooklynite Barbra Streisand for the first time on disc. (This song is actually a duet in more ways than one, as it was co-written with none other than Richard Marx!) Among the most underrated tracks present (other than the delicious and all-too-unknown “Last Duet” in which Manilow spoofs a number of hit songs) is the 1985 teaming with Dionne Warwick on The Bee Gees’ “Run to Me.” For more details as well as the full track listing with discographical information, hit the jump, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 3, 2011 at 13:15

Playlist Tracks Aplenty

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Way back in August, The Second Disc reported on a flood of titles in Legacy’s budget Playlist series. Today, a whole bunch of them are released, and if you haven’t yet made your weekly trip to the record store and were wondering what might be in store, you’ll have your answer after the jump.

Read on to see the newest compilations for Barry Manilow, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Isley Brothers, gospel titles from Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton and much more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

October 12, 2010 at 15:35

Compilation Deluge Due from Legacy: Joplin, Presley, Dylan, Cash Included

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Playlist (Eco-Friendly Packaging)

The Second Disc kicks off the week with a bit of synergy. Our very own Mike Duquette contributed a wonderful piece over at Popdose looking at the hidden musical treasures you can find at your local grocery store – of all places! – including Sony/Legacy’s Playlist: The Very Best of Daryl Hall & John Oates. If you haven’t checked out Mike’s incisive, entertaining feature, please do so now, and then rejoin me here. Okay? Good. Welcome back! With summer turning to fall, and fall traditionally being the season when record labels release the most product in anticipation of the holidays, Sony has turned its attention to releasing a staggering amount of compilations in both their Essential and Playlist lines.

The Second Disc last reported on Barry Manilow, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Henry Mancini and Lena Horne joining the ranks of those anthologized in The Essential series, with Horne’s entry boasting some rare, new-to-CD tracks. Now a varied group joins that already eclectic lineup. August 31 will bring Essential 3.0 releases for Patti LaBelle, Simon and Garfunkel, Hezekiah Walker, Fred Hammond and Gloria Estefan, while October 12 will see The Essential Ronnie Milsap 3.0. Perhaps surprisingly given Legacy’s recent acquisition of his solo catalog, no new Paul Simon catalogue compilation has yet been announced.

The Playlist series takes its turn with two waves of releases, as well. Unfortunately no releases from the dormant catalogues of Philadelphia International Records or Philles Records have been announced, and Legacy’s plans for both labels are still unknown. That said, the artists getting the Playlist treatment are definitely diverse. From the jazz world, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Weather Report all have titles arriving in stores on September 14.  (Armstrong’s offering appears to be cross-licensed, containing tracks from the Universal catalogue.) October 12 brings volumes from Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Isley Brothers, Elvis Presley and Barry Manilow, among others. (Can I vote for “Tight Connection to My Heart”  from 1985’s Empire Burlesque for the Dylan volume, dedicated to his 1980s work?) These titles often feature a rarity or two in the mix, so keep an eye out for track listings when they’re announced. Perhaps Manilow’s “Oh, Julie!” will finally appear here, having been passed over for The Essential 3.0

Finally, thanks to our friends at the indispensable Musictap for a heads-up on more interesting compilation news from Legacy’s associated labels. Apparently a new series of 3-CD sets is scheduled for October 5 under the nondescript banner The Music Of.  The first artists in this series will be Dan Fogelberg, Jefferson Airplane, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Gladys Knight. As more details are revealed, we’ll report back.

Hit the jump for the full list of upcoming Playlist volumes, and pre-order links for all of the Playlist and Essential titles mentioned! Read the rest of this entry »

Barry Manilow, “Weird Al” Yankovic Upgraded to 3.0

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And Legacy’s Essential train just keeps on rolling along. Upgrades to Essential 3.0 have been announced for two popular volumes in the long-running series, The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic and The Essential Barry Manilow. The new editions will expand the 2-CD releases with a third disc containing 6 and 7 tracks, respectively. While none of the tracks on the third discs appear to be rare, Essential 3.0 titles are usually priced very similarly to the original 2-CD sets (retailing for approximately $25, they can often be found as inexpensive as $15) and therefore a terrific bargain for fans who didn’t already buy the first release.

The tracks on Al’s Disc 3 encompass 20 years of the musical humorist’s career, from his 1983 debut (“Ricky”) to his second-to-last studio album, 2003’s Poodle Hat (“Wanna Be Ur Lovr” and “Genius in France”). Manilow’s 8 tracks are likewise eclectic. The heartfelt “All the Time” and showstopping “Sweet Heaven” were notable omissions from the original set, so they’re particularly welcome. Legacy has seen fit to include the too-little-known early gem “I Am Your Child” while Manilow’s latter-day patriotic anthem “Let Freedom Ring” might sit oddly in this collection. Fans will be happy to know that 1982’s hit Four Seasons cover “Let’s Hang On” is included, but the same year’s charting “Oh, Julie!” still isn’t making a long-awaited appearance on CD. In its original form, The Essential Barry Manilow was notable for including some rare and new-to-CD mixes; it’s disappointing that Disc 3 doesn’t appear to be following suit.

Even in 2-disc form, The Essentials remain the best one-stop shopping for both the Yankovic and Manilow catalogues. In 3-disc form, the deal is even sweeter for those who haven’t bitten yet.  You can pre-order The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic 3.0, due on August 31, here and The Essential Barry Manilow 3.0, set for October 12 release, here.

You know the routine: click on the jump for full track listings and complete discographical information for all 3 discs of both releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 12, 2010 at 09:36

So Much News

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Apologies if The Second Disc is flooding your Web space with posts today. I, for one, am thrilled; it’s nice to see great news getting us catalogue enthusiasts through the week. And here are three little briefs to further your excitement for all things reissues:

  • Steven Van Zandt recently talked to a U.K. radio station about the long-in-development reissue of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). It looks like it might follow the format of this year’s Exile on Main St. reissue; Van Zandt said that at least ten outtakes not included on the Tracks outtake box set have been found – and Springsteen is doing “a little bit of fixes” on them. “I’m not sure how many we’ll put on there,” he said. “We’ll go back and he might finish a lyric on one or two, or finish a harmony on one or two, but we’ll keep them intact pretty much.”
  • EMI has given out a few streamable goodies from the upcoming reissue of R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). Hear the demo of “Auctioneer (Another Engine)” at Consequence of Sound and the demo of “Can’t Get There from Here” at Entertainment Weekly‘s Music Mix blog.
  • And some grist for the rumor mill: David Wild, one of your catalogue correspondent’s favorite journalists, is penning liner notes for something related to Barry Manilow. Last time I recall him mentioning liner notes, it was Bon Jovi-related, months before the reissues were announced. So this might be a hint at something. Stay tuned, as always.

Written by Mike Duquette

June 29, 2010 at 15:11