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Review: Carole King, “The Carole King Collection: Simple Things, Welcome Home, Touch the Sky, and Pearls”

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Carole King was ready for a fresh start in 1977.  She had recently split from manager/producer Lou Adler’s Ode Records, the label with which she had signed back in 1968 as the lead singer of The City.  It was, of course, at Ode where King triumphed with Tapestry, and over the years introduced a parade of memorable songs like “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” You’ve Got a Friend,” “Sweet Seasons,” “Been to Canaan” and “Jazzman.”  Yet the four albums recorded by King at Capitol between 1977 and 1980 have been overlooked since their original releases; all but one had never been domestically released on compact disc.  Through her own Rockingale Records label and Concord Music Group, King has now reissued Simple Things (RKG 33601-02), Welcome Home (RKG-33597-02), Touch the Sky (RKG-33599-02) and Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King (RKG-33603-02) as The Carole King Collection.  This quartet fills in a major gap in King’s catalogue, and there’s plenty to rediscover!

King’s band Navarro took the place of her Ode-era stalwarts like Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and second husband Charles Larkey.  But despite the fine musicianship of Navarro (guitarists Rob McEntee and Mark Hallman, bassist Rob Galloway, drummer Michael Wooten, percussionist Miguel Rivera and flutist/saxophonist Richard Hardy), the sound of Simple Things doesn’t stray too far from King’s stylistic signature.  The title track “Simple Things,” co-written with King’s third husband, Rick Evers, features that same warm acoustic sound, augmented with a subtle string arrangement.  King embraced a “back to nature” outlook both in life and in song, relocating with Evers to his home state of Idaho: “Simple things mean a lot to me/Some things only children can see/Simple things, like horses running free/And easy acceptance of life.”  In making this life change, King had discovered an answer to friend and collaborator James Taylor’s “Secret o’ Life.”  She even concludes in song, “The secret of living is life.”  The album begins with “Simple Things” and ends with a reprise of the same sentiments in “One”: “He is one, she is one/A tree is one, the earth is one, the universe is one/I am one, we are one.”

Evers was King’s only co-writer for the LP, with three songs to his credit; the remaining seven compositions were all from King’s pen alone.  He also contributed guitar to a couple of songs, with King herself stepping from behind the piano to play guitar on “Hold On.”  She’s in fantastic voice throughout the album, contributing strong vocals and harmonies to ballads like the beautiful, piano-driven “In the Name of Love” and “Time Alone.”  Richard Hardy fills in for Tom Scott for the jazzy saxophone on “Labyrinth,” and the beguiling Latin rhythms of Ode hit “Corazon” get a new spin on one of the most memorable tracks off Simple Things, “Hard Rock Café” – no relation to the chain of restaurants founded in 1971!  Elsewhere, King and Navarro credibly rock on “You’re the One Who Knows” and “God Only Knows,” although the latter pales in comparison to another, rather better-known song of the same name.  It’s hard not to read into the lyrics of “To Know That I Love You,” on which King sounds blissful in love: “Over and over again, we light the flame/Rediscovering that we are the same/And I love you.”  Evers joins her for a duet on this touching paean to a deeply felt romance.  Simple Things may be the great lost album of King’s long career, with the title song, “Hard Rock Café” and “In the Name of Love” all able to stand alongside her most sterling accomplishments.

We continue after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 27, 2012 at 13:05

Posted in Carole King, Features, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Touch the Sky: Four Classic Carole King Albums Reissued

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When Carole King left Lou Adler’s Ode Records, the label that guided her in the transition from urban Brill Building queen to singer/songwriter/earth mother, it marked the end of an era.  And how would the Tapestry weaver top the two distinct periods that had come before?  King signed to Hollywood’s venerable Capitol Records label, and the title of her first LP for the label said it all: Simple Things.  King’s final Ode LP, 1976’s Thoroughbred, had emphasized a return to nature in its cover photo of the singer on a horse, and Simple Things would be a back-to-basics album.  Yet only one of the four long players recorded by King at Capitol between 1977 and 1980 has ever been domestically released on CD, 1980’s Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King.  That’s about to change, however.  King herself is finally bringing her lost LPs to light via Concord Records and her own Rockingale imprint.  February 28 will see the release of Simple Things (1977), Welcome Home (1978), Touch the Sky (1979) and the aforementioned Pearls.  (King has had a long relationship with Concord, with past releases including The Living Room Tour and with James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour.)

The Capitol era is marked by King’s retreat from the rapidly-changing environs of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon for the greener pastures of Idaho.  King had fallen in love with Rick Evers, a leather worker and musician who introduced her to the state she would call home for more than a decade.  Evers, battling a heroin addiction against which King felt powerless, was a major collaborator on the first two Capitol albums.  King told The New York Times in 1984, “Rick wasn’t disciplined enough to stay with anything long enough to pursue it to career success.  I felt helpless watching him be caught up in the Los Angeles drug scene, but I eventually had to accept that it was karma, for lack of a better word.  Even though I was not involved in the drug scene myself, I too felt I was in danger of being done in by L.A.  And because I’m a survivor, I got out in time.  The ending, tragic as it was, was also a beginning.  I took three of my children and went back to Idaho, and built a new life.”  Evers, King’s third husband, succumbed to his addictions in 1978, and King later married rancher Rick Sorensen, though that marriage ended in divorce.

Hit the jump for all the details on this Carole quartet, including pre-order links and track listings with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 8, 2012 at 08:08

Posted in Carole King, News, Reissues

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 13 (#40-36)

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It’s the lucky thirteenth part of our look at the many reissues of the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003! We’ll explore the various versions of these classic albums on disc, letting you know which audio treasures can be found on which releases. In today’s group, we get the blues, meet the Brits, head to Laurel Canyon and fall in Love! 

40. Love, Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967)

Welcome to the Top 40!  Released just months after the so-called Summer of Love, Forever Changes was the third studio album by the group simply and boldly called Love.  But more than just that four-letter word was on the mind of bandleader/songwriter Arthur Lee, who saw more than sunshine and flowers that summer.  Love traded in the punchy electric guitar sound of the group’s first two albums (and successful singles like “7 and 7 Is” and a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “My Little Red Book”) for a denser, more orchestrated style that incorporated strings and horns alongside acoustic guitars.  Despite the often beautiful sound, though, Forever Changes was a song suite that referenced war, violence, drug abuse, failed romance and racial tension in songs like “A House is Not a Motel” (playing off another Bacharach/David song, “A House is Not a Home”), “The Red Telephone” and “Live and Let Live.”  Bryan MacLean contributed the album’s single “Alone Again Or” which kicked off the album in a collision of AM-meets-FM styles.

Forever Changes has always been better-regarded in the United Kingdom than in its United States birthplace; it went Top 30 in Britain but only reached No. 154 in America.  That hasn’t stopped the album’s cachet from growing every year, however, and it’s been celebrated in a number of reissues.  The original 1987 CD of Forever Changes (Elektra 74013-2) retained the original track listing of the LP, and it was included in its entirety on Rhino’s 1995 double-disc anthology Love Story.  In 2000, Rhino reissued the album with a brace of seven bonus tracks as R2 76717.  These included demos, alternate mixes, outtakes, single sides and session highlights.  A bare-bones mini-LP replica was released on CD in 2007 (Elektra/Rhino R2 74802) and a standard edition was released again (this time, in a jewel case) in 2011 at a budget price point.   In 2008, though, the Rhino label issued the most comprehensive version of the album to date.  The 2008 Collectors’ Edition (Elektra/Rhino R2 428796) featured the original album only as Disc 1, while Disc 2 included a complete Alternate Mix as well as ten more bonus tracks.  This edition, partially remastered by Steve Hoffman, is the definitive version of this album.

39. The Beatles – Please Please Me (Parlophone, 1963)

The debut long-player from Liverpool’s favorite lads, Please Please Me was rush-released by Parlophone after The Beatles had taken the United Kingdom by storm with the singles “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do.”  Of the album’s fourteen songs (a common number for U.K. albums of the time, whereas U.S. releases usually had twelve), eight were Lennon/McCartney originals.  Ten songs were recorded in a whirlwind day to supplement the four previously-released single sides.  Under such inauspicious circumstances was a classic born by John, Paul, George and Ringo, and producer George Martin.  Originals like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and the title song were joined by covers of Goffin and King’s “Chains,” Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams (Luther Dixon)’s “Baby, It’s You,” Phil Medley and Bert Russell (Bert Berns)’s “Twist and Shout,” and Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow’s  ubiquitous “A Taste of Honey.”

The original 1987 CD (Capitol CDP 7 46435-2) was the first time Please Please Me saw an American release; its tracks were released in America on such U.S.-only LPs as Vee-Jay’s Introducing…the Beatles and Capitol’s The Early Beatles.  In 2009, the entire Beatles catalogue was remastered, and a new CD of Please Please Me (Capitol 09463 82416-2) replaced the 1987 issue.  It was, of course, included in the complete Beatles stereo box set (Capitol 50999 69944-9) .  The album was also released on CD in mono as part of the Beatles in Mono box set (Parlophone/EMI 50999 69945-1, 2009).

After the jump, we’ll traverse some Muddy Waters, head west and check into the Hotel California! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 14, 2011 at 12:01

Release Round-Up: Week of August 29

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Spin Doctors, Pocket Full of Kryptonite: 20th Anniversary Edition (Epic/Legacy)

The “Two Princes” guys…hey, stop laughing…have their hit debut album remastered and expanded – cut that out! – with a bonus disc of demos and rarities. (Official site)

Aerosmith, Celine Dion, The Byrds and Carole King, The Essential 3.0 (Columbia/Epic/Legacy)

Four Essential compilations get the third-disc treatment. Note that the Celine Dion title is identical to 2008’s My Love: The Essential Collection and the Aerosmith set is identical to 2002’s O Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits. (Amazon: Aerosmith, Celine, Byrds, Carole)

Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott: From the Vault – Volume 1 (Hidden Beach)

The R&B singer’s original label, having recently lost her after a nasty court battle, decides to raid its vaults and finds 14 good tracks. (Official site)

The Association, Renaissance: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)

Another great Association LP, nearly doubled in length by bonus tracks! (Now Sounds)

Alberta Hunter, Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery (RockBeat)

The legendary blues singer with a great story (Hunter sang from the ’20s to the ’40s before leaving the music scene to become a nurse – and then made a surprise comeback after retiring from that career in the ’70s) is represented on CD with this hard-to-find performance from 1981. (Amazon)

Ice Cube, Kill at Will (RockBeat)

Cube’s beloved 1990 EP is now available on CD and vinyl from one of our new favorite reissue labels. (Amazon)

Written by Mike Duquette

August 30, 2011 at 08:09

Where The Hits Are: Sedaka and Greenfield Profiled in “Songwriters” Series

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Doo doo doo down doo be do down down/Come a come a down doo be do down down…

One year before “Da Doo Ron Ron,” eleven before “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” and eighteen before “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield taught the world that “Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do” with their immortal wordless refrain.  Sedaka went on to become the king of the “Tra-la-las” and “shoo-be-doos” with his early rock-and-roll records, and the Juilliard-trained musician was one of the relatively rare few rockers of his generation equally adept at both performing and songwriting.  As active members of Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music stable (which could also claim Carole King and Gerry Goffin as well as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil!), Sedaka and his frequent lyricist Howard Greenfield turned out one tune after another for a great number of famous artists.  Following in the footsteps of its compilations devoted to other Brill Building greats like Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Goffin and King and Mann and Weil, Ace devotes the latest installment of its Songwriters and Producers series to the team of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.  Where the Boys Are will be available on September 6 in the U.K. and features 25 tracks, 17 of which were written by the team and a further eight penned by one member with an outside collaborator.

Where the Boys Are spans a remarkably prolific 15-year period from 1956 until 1971, at which time Sedaka began in earnest to rekindle his solo career.  (1974’s Sedaka’s Back sealed the deal.)  His last hit in the U.S. had come in 1965, and he’d tried to make it over the next few years almost exclusively as a songwriter in an era when the Brill Building was waning and singer/songwriters were becoming the norm.  (It was lost on many that Sedaka had been writing his own material since he was a teenager.)  He had a great amount of success even after RCA Victor dumped his recording contract in 1966, and his songs, with and without Greenfield, were recorded by The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, The Cyrkle, Frankie Valli and more.  Ace’s, well, ace producers Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce tell that story from its very beginning.

Hit the jump for a look into the Brill Building hits of Sedaka and Greenfield! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2011 at 09:18

What The World Needs Now Is Rockbeat Records

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Billy Vera, Alberta Hunter and Jackie DeShannon may not have terribly much in common at first glance.  But they’re just a few of the artists coming your way thanks to Rockbeat Records.  Yes, there’s a new player in the catalogue field, and their slate of reissues proves that they’re ready to make a big impression!

Founded by Arny Schorr of S’more Entertainment and distributed by eOne, Rockbeat counts among its team an alumnus of Rhino Records.  James Austin, the former Vice President of A&R at Rhino, serves in the same capacity at the up-and-coming label.  Rockbeat promises “the release of enhanced CDs and vinyl and the creation of reissues and compilations on a variety of music genres.”  The label is making good on that promise with a diverse group of artists and releases, all of which can be found at its website.  These include releases in genres ranging from blues and country to folk and adult contemporary.  Among the enticing albums already available or in the pipeline: Billy Vera’s career anthology The Billy Vera Story, Alberta Hunter’s Downhearted Blues, Carole King’s Pearls: The Songs of Goffin and King, Quicksilver Messenger Service’s self-titled debut, Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile and Ike and Tina Turner’s Festival of Live Performance.

One upcoming title isn’t a reissue, but should be of great interest to a number of our readers nonetheless.  Jackie DeShannon’s last studio album was 2000’s You Know Me on the Varese Sarabande label.  Since then, fans of DeShannon have had to content themselves with numerous reissues of her original albums as well as anthologies of her finest work.

Rockbeat has just announced the September 27 release of When You Walk in the Room, a newly-recorded collection of some of DeShannon’s greatest hits and personal favorites.  Much like a great catalogue reissue can cast a vintage recording in a new light, DeShannon intends to do the same with the stripped-down acoustic reworkings of her familiar songs.  Guitar, voice and bass are the order of the day, with occasional flourishes of electric guitar or subtle strings. The eleven tracks include both those written by DeShannon (“Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” “Bette Davis Eyes”) and those in her songbook written by others but popularized by Jackie (Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What The World Needs Now,” Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono’s “Needles and Pins”).

When You Walk in the Room is a particularly timely release, coinciding with DeShannon’s 2011 induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.  That august institution is currently chaired by Jackie’s contemporary, Jimmy Webb, with Hal David a Chairman Emeritus.  The album isn’t an exercise in recreating the sounds of yesteryear (though DeShannon’s voice has more than held up over the years) in the style of Squeeze’s Spot the Difference or America’s The Hits, but rather an intimate recasting of some cherished compositions, more in the style of Randy Newman’s Songbook volumes.

Hit the jump for more on Jackie DeShannon and Rockbeat Records! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 27, 2011 at 11:32

Some Kind Of Wonderful: Carole King’s “Music” Set For SACD and LP Release

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Fronting a band called The City in 1968, Carole King titled her first full-length LP Now That Everything’s Been Said. Thankfully, King actually had much, much more to say. She began her solo career, proper, in 1970 with Writer, and had the breakthrough the following year with Tapestry. But how to follow an album that spawns three number one pop hits and wins four Grammy Awards, not to mention igniting the entire female singer/songwriter movement? King wasted no time, and less than one year later, she released the simply-titled Music. The LP reunited her with producer Lou Adler and much of the same personnel from Tapestry including James Taylor, Charles Larkey, Ralph Schuckett and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, her bandmate in The City. Percussionist Bobbye Hall joined drummer Russ Kunkel to give the album a unique sound, and befitting its title, Music drew on R&B, soul, gospel, rock and pop influences.  Mobile Fidelity has just confirmed release of Music as a hybrid SACD playable on all CD players and also a 180-gram audiophile vinyl edition. The release of Music was confirmed by The Second Disc last November, and was preceded by Mobile Fidelity’s release of The Carnegie Hall Concert in those same formats.

Eight of the twelve tracks featured on Music were self-written by King, including the haunting “Song of Long Ago” (a near-duet with Taylor), the bright, jazz-inflected title track and “Carry Your Load,” which continues the theme of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Three songs were co-written with Toni Stern, who had contributed lyrics to “It’s Too Late” and “Where You Lead” on Tapestry. King and Stern wrote the album’s two most commercial tracks: “Sweet Seasons,” the album’s highest charting single (No. 9) and “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” subsequently covered later in 1972 by the Carpenters in a more lush arrangement. Richard and Karen’s take on the wistful yet hopeful song was rewarded with a No. 12 pop placement. One song was taken from the classic Goffin and King song, and the new arrangement of “Some Kind of Wonderful” (a minor 1961 hit for The Drifters) was stripped down to the song’s essence.  Hit the jump for more, including track listing and ordering info! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 29, 2011 at 13:06

Posted in Carole King, News, Reissues

Release Round-Up: Week of March 1

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James Brown, The Singles Vol. 10 1975-1979 (Polydor/Hip-o Select)

The Godfather of Soul’s penultimate complete singles compilation from Select. One more to follow! (Hip-o Select)

Carole King and James Taylor, Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter (Hear Music)

A new documentary on the California singer/songwriter scene of the 1970s, coupled with a bonus disc of some of the best songs from that period. (Amazon)

Various Artists, Icon (UMe)

Budget compilations from artists across the Universal spectrum, from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly to War and The Four Tops. (Original post with Amazon links)

Metallica, Garage Inc. (Vinyl) (Warner Bros./Rhino)

A three or six-LP audiophile reissue of the band’s covers compilation, featuring newly recorded takes on Metallica’s favorite bands and previously released B-side covers from the ’80s and ’90s. (Official site)

Written by Mike Duquette

March 1, 2011 at 10:43

The Man Who Sang “Liberty Valance”: RPM Continues Gene Pitney Reissues

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With one of the most resonant and recognizable voices in rock and roll, Gene Pitney (1940-2006) was the rare American talent to be able to withstand the British Invasion and continue to thrive. He collaborated with Phil Spector and The Rolling Stones, wrote hit songs for Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, Ricky Nelson and the Crystals, and brought to life the songs of others, too. Among the recipients of the Pitney treatment were Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and even (two-time Oscar winner) Randy Newman. He popularized Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s “Town Without Pity,” an Oscar-nominated song from 1961, and had even greater success with “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance.” While it was an “exploitation” song not actually in the 1962 film of the same name, it became a signature song for Pitney.

His long out-of-print albums for Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor label were reissued in a series of two-fers by Sequel Records in the late 1990s. Upon their deletion, they began commanding high prices on the second-hand market. Pitney’s catalogue has since been marked by an inordinate number of budget releases, making it difficult for a new fan or even a longtime collector to know where to start. Thankfully, RPM (another arm of Cherry Red) is ready to reintroduce Pitney’s original album classics to a new generation. The label has begun reissuing the Sequel two-fers in new editions featuring updated liner notes by Roger Dopson as well as redesigned artwork. Last year brought Pitney’s first two albums, The Many Sides of Gene Pitney and Only Love Can Break a Heart, as RETRO 881, and just last week, RPM delivered Sings Just for You and Sings World-Wide Winners as RETRO 887. Hit the jump for stories behind both albums, plus track listings and discographical information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 28, 2011 at 09:20

King, Taylor and Fellow “Troubadours” Arrive on DVD with Bonus CD

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Morgan Neville’s 2010 film Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter is nothing if not ambitious. A participant in the Sundance U.S. Documentary Competition, Troubadours functions as a dual biography of Carole King and James Taylor, as well as the story of Doug Weston’s club on Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard that gave rise to King, Taylor and so many others. Their 2007 reunion and subsequent tour in 2010 provides the framework for the film. Yet moreover, it touches on the entire singer-songwriter ethos that rose out of the turbulent last days of the 1960s, and in doing so, also biographically spotlights Jackson Browne, Elton John, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell and other Troubadour mainstays such as Don Henley and Glenn Frey of Eagles. (Steve Martin, a frequent guest at the Troubadour’s “Hoot” nights with his banjo in tow, contributes much of the film’s humor with his wry and on-the-money recollections. One such memory involves Frey setting him straight on the band’s name in something out of a “Who’s on first?” routine. It’s “Eagles,” Martin stresses today. Not “The Eagles!”) With its limited theatrical run wrapping up, Concord Music Group, a producer of the film, gives Troubadours a DVD release on March 1 via its Hear Music label in a special package that also contains a 10-track CD.

The accompanying CD is not a soundtrack to the film; wouldn’t that have been something, with its exclusive (and sometimes impromptu!) performances and rare archival footage of Taylor, King and others. Instead, we’re offered a sampler with some of the biggest names to play The Troubadour and be associated with the Los Angeles music scene of the early 1970s. As guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar points out in the film, don’t call these musicians mellow! They include Taylor and King, of course, who are represented with “Sweet Baby James” and “It’s Too Late,” respectively, but also Raitt, John, Kristofferson, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and also 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Waits. Lowell George’s Little Feat is the only group present, and a track from Linda Ronstadt is also included. While Ronstadt herself wasn’t a singer-songwriter, Neville’s film points out her importance to the era as a first-rate interpreter of many of her friends’ songs.

What rare treats are offered in the film? Hit the jump for details, plus pre-order information and track listing for the bonus CD! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 11, 2011 at 09:52