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David Foster Makes Christmas “Merry and Bright” With Rod Stewart, Celine Dion, More

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Merry and Bright

In a career spanning five decades, producer-musician-songwriter David Foster has virtually become a brand name in himself. After making his name in bands like Skylark and Airplay, the Canadian multi-hyphenate contributed as sideman, writer and arranger to albums by George Harrison, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Earth Wind and Fire; he won one of his sixteen Grammy Awards for co-writing that band’s “After the Love is Gone.” Beginning in the 1980s, he launched a solo career and also established himself as a marquee producer for artists as diverse as The Tubes, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Chicago. Today, he heads up the venerable Verve Music Group. The Foster oeuvre, ranging from R&B to AOR and MOR, has been anthologized in the past, but Starbucks is putting a spin on a “Foster’s greatest hits” CD with a new, exclusive holiday compilation. Merry and Bright samples the holiday music recorded by producer Foster over the years with contributions from artists including Celine Dion, Michael Bublé and Rod Stewart.

Unsurprisingly, Merry and Bright leans heavily on the adult contemporary balladeers that have become Foster’s stock in trade. Michael Bublé kicks off the compilation with Meredith Willson’s classic “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from the fellow Canadian’s chart-topping 2011 holiday release. Mel Tormé and Robert Wells’ standard “The Christmas Song” is rendered by Celine Dion from her 1998 Grammy-nominated These Are Special Times. Dion shared a duet on that album with Italian crossover tenor Andrea Bocelli, who is featured on two songs here: “O Tannenbaum” and a duet on “Jingle Bells” with Jim Henson’s famous Muppets. A major break for Josh Groban was subbing for Bocelli on a rehearsal of his Dion duet, “The Prayer,” for the 1998 Grammy Awards. Groban became another associate of Foster’s. “Little Drummer Boy” is heard here from Groban’s 2007 quintuple-platinum release Noël, the best-selling album in the U.S. for the entire year.

After the jump: more details including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 26, 2014 at 15:06

Release Round-Up: Week of May 27

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H-D-H Box Cover

Holland-Dozier-Holland: The Complete 45s Collection: Invictus/Hot Wax/Music Merchant 1969-1977 (Harmless)

The H-D-H compositions/production didn’t stop after the trio left Motown; they in fact created several labels and did an awful lot of work for them, as evidenced by this massive eight-disc box set of their works for three labels through the late ’60s and ’70s. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)


You wanted the best, you got the best, in the form of a double-disc hits compilation representing every KISS studio, live and compilation album with some rare tracks and an unreleased demo for collectors. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Getz-Gilberto 50thStan Getz and Joao GilbertoGetz/Gilberto: 50th Anniversary Edition (Verve)

The 50th anniversary edition of the landmark bossa nova classic presents the album in both mono and stereo, with the mono version appearing on CD for the first time.  It also adds two original single sides and new liner notes from Marc Myers. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Adam Lambert PlaylistVarious Artists, Playlist: The Very Best of (Legacy)

Legacy’s long-running Playlist series now features new single-disc compilations for American Idol contestants Adam Lambert and Kellie Pickler (both featuring unreleased performances from the TV series) and a very diverse collection for Rick Derringer (“Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” “Hang On Sloopy” and “Real American” on one disc?!).

Johnny Cash duets: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rick Derringer: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Celine Dion (All the Way…A Decade of Song): Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Fifth Dimension: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
George Jones duets: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Adam Lambert: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Kellie Pickler: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Elvis Presley – Movie Songs: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Edgar Winter: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

REO Box Set SeriesREO Speedwagon, The Box Set Series (Epic/Legacy)

Part of Legacy’s four-disc budget series, this title sets itself apart with a really cool gem: the inaugural release of the original studio version of live favorite “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” with Kevin Cronin’s vocal (he was replaced briefly by singer Mike Murphy following creative disputes). (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Patti LaBelle - Tasty

Patti LaBelle, Tasty / Carolyn Franklin, If You Want Me (Big Break)

The latest from BBR: Joe’s full rundowns are coming soon!

Patti LaBelle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Carolyn Franklin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Swan EstherSwan Esther: Original Concept Album  (Stage Door)

Stage Door Records has the CD premiere of Nick Munns and J. Edward Oliver’s 1983 British musical retelling of the Biblical story of Esther, starring Denis Quilley and Stephanie Lawrence.  This special edition adds a number of never-before-released demos recorded in 1985 for the revised show’s touring premiere as Swan Esther and The King. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Near, Far, Wherever You Are: “Titanic” Soundtrack to Be Reissued This Spring

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A hundred years ago, it was the largest maritime disaster in history. Fifteen years ago, it was the highest-grossing film of all time and the last massive soundtrack on the pop charts. Now, Sony Classical brings the soundtrack to James Cameron’s Titanic back to the surface in a major way with two collector’s editions of the popular album.

On paper, Titanic would have been your average romantic tearjerker: lower-class boy woos upper-class girl to the displeasure of her wealthy suitor. But that simple story was set against the real-life backdrop of the April 15, 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, the world’s largest luxury ocean liner touted for its unsinkability. In total, 1,517 people did not survive the ship’s collision with an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean.

A story that grandiose earned its stripes as a filmmaking epic when James Cameron, the creator of the Terminator series and The Abyss, tackled a $200 million film adaptation. Despite the major financial stake, three hour-plus running time and cast led by relative unknowns Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Titanic was a dizzying success. It grossed $1.8 billion worldwide, made stars out of its cast and won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director – a tie for the most statuettes won in a single night.

The film’s stirring score was composed by noted composer James Horner. Though Horner had a rocky past with Cameron thanks to the high-pressure scoring of Aliens in 1986, his evocative melodies, colored with wordless solo vocals, were lauded by critics.

Coupled with a bombastic end title single, “My Heart Will Go On,” written by Horner and lyricist Will Jennings and recorded by Canadian megastar Celine Dion, the Titanic soundtrack was as much a smash as the film it came from. Altogether, the album was certified diamond in the U.S. with over 11 million units shipped; it topped the charts for 16 consecutive weeks and won a total of four Oscars and Golden Globes (one of each award for the score and one for “My Heart Will Go On,” respectively). “My Heart Will Go On” would win four Grammys of its own, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Now, to tie in to the 100th anniversary of the sinking and subsequent 3-D theatrical reissue, Sony Classical will release two expanded editions of the soundtrack next month. Does the Heart of the Ocean (musically speaking, anyway) lurk within these sets? Find out after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 19, 2012 at 12:40

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

Prince Week Day 5: Prince in Other Places

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Prince’s influence has been discussed far and wide, from fashion to music videos to the actual, Hendrixian quality of his guitar playing. But it’s always unusual when the mercurial purple genius decides to directly contribute to another artist’s canon, particularly since one really never knows where he’s going to end up next.

What follows is a chronological list of ten of Prince’s most interesting “guest appearances.” Half of them are actual guest appearances, the other half either songs he wrote or covers of his hits (we have disqualified anything Prince produced, as everyone knows as soon as Prince sits in a producer’s chair, it’s essentially his song). Some of these might not be new to you if you’re a die-hard Prince fan, but at least you can reflect on His Royal Badness and the far-flung influence he’s had on pop music for more than a quarter-century. Take a look after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 8, 2010 at 13:11

Reissue Theory: Celine Dion, “Falling Into You”

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The Second Disc’s Mother’s Day Mania continues with a Reissue Theory look at Celine Dion’s Falling Into You, the Canadian chanteuse’s fourth English-language LP and one of her all-time best.

Wait, what?

For some, it is weird to label a Celine Dion record as good. Even more forgiving folks will come down hard on her for what some would consider her increasingly schmaltz output over the years (particularly after the inescapable “My Heart Will Go On” helped propel Titanic to an even wider appeal). Those that decry her for being a too-calculated woman in pop need only observe when she was more of a girl – her earnest covers of Jennifer Rush’s “The Power of Love” and Patti LaBelle’s “If You Asked Me To,” or her fantastic contribution (with Peabo Bryson) to the theme to Disney’s superb Beauty and the Beast – and then one might find something to like.

This is perhaps why Falling Into You may be her most satisfying LP (at least to this writer): she ably straddled the girlish and womanly impulses in her ’90s pop niche, and the result was a great mix of tunes that included a few phenomenal covers (“River Deep, Mountain High,” “All by Myself” and Jim Steinman’s superb “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” originally an obscurity by Pandora’s Box!) and light tunes like “Dreamin’ of You” and the title track.

This album largely showcases Dion for what she really is: she’s not heavily reliant on vocal acrobatics (at least, not yet), but she could make a song her own, no doubt about it. If Legacy ever reissues the album, there are a few bonus cuts worth adding for good measure, and you can take a look after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

May 7, 2010 at 11:08

Posted in Celine Dion, Features, Reissues

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Friday Feature: “Licence to Kill”

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Recent coverage of soundtracks on The Second Disc has been warmly received. To this end, we have added a the Friday Feature. Every Friday, you’ll find some sort of article devoted to a soundtrack or film composer of merit. We hope you enjoy these trips through Hollywood’s musical landscape!

Our first Friday Feature deals with one of the oddest of the James Bond films. No, not Never Say Never Again (that’s not really a Bond film, anyway). Licence to Kill was the second and final feature with Timothy Dalton as 007 and the last to be filmed during the existence of Bond’s mortal enemy, the Soviet Union. That alone should make it an intriguing journey, but Licence to Kill is more than a little strange.

In the film, 007 turns rogue to avenge an ally, DEA agent Felix Leiter (protrayed by David Hedison, who also played Leiter in 1973’s Live and Let Die). His adventures take him to the fictional “Republic of Ithsmus” and pit him against drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).

Though it received a fair amount of acclaim upon release (less so today – many mistakenly believe its commercial failure in the U.S. delayed the franchise until 1995’s GoldenEye picked up the pace), Licence to Kill is a bit of an odd duck in the 007 franchise for a few reasons. Dalton’s portrayal of Bond was far less cheeky than Roger Moore’s tenure as the agent, but Licence to Kill is almost devoid of humor entirely. The fantastical elements were kept to a minimum, too; the villains were unconcerned with world domination and more driven by the drug trade (a real-world concern at the time). It was also considerably gorier than its predecessors, becoming the first Bond film to receive a PG-13 rating. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 23, 2010 at 11:22