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Hi-Rez Round-Up: Audio Fidelity Plans Clapton, Butterfield Reissues; Mobile Fidelity Does Sinatra, Chicago, Hall and Oates

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Clapton - Behind the SunAll that glitters is not (necessarily) gold.  Two of the U.S.’ preeminent audiophile labels, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and Audio Fidelity – the latter a successor to DCC Compact Classics – made their name on Gold CDs, and have in recent years made the gradual change to hybrid stereo SACDs.  These discs, playable on all CD players in standard CD quality, are remastered to the same high standard as the gold releases but also give consumers with SACD playback capabilities the opportunity to listen in high-resolution, superior-to-CD sound.   Both Mobile Fidelity and Audio Fidelity have been busy in 2014.  The former label has released, or will release, hybrid SACDs from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Chicago, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Los Lobos and Daryl Hall and John Oates; the latter label has just offered titles from Heart, Jon Anderson, Alice Cooper and Peter, Paul and Mary, and has announced forthcoming releases from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Eric Clapton.

Though Mobile Fidelity has made the gradual switch to the SACD format, Audio Fidelity has recently issued a statement confirming that the label will no longer manufacture 24K Gold CDs.  Label founder Marshall Blonstein has written in an email to subscribers of AF’s limited edition series that “as many of you know, over the past months we have had many delays with our 24K release schedule. Primarily it’s been due to the inability of our manufacturer to secure the gold target necessary to make 24K discs.  Since 2013, we’ve responded to the encouragement of many of our fans and friends by converting to the Hybrid SACD format.”

Blonstein continues, “Though it’s possible in the future we could release 24K titles, it’s not likely.  We’ve made this decision after a lot of thought and realistic evaluation of market conditions – our 24K manufacturer is unable to assure us that in the future they would be able to deliver the product you expect and we demand.  Meanwhile, we’re having a great run with our Hybrid SACD titles, our brand remains intact and our unique and appealing slipcase packaging remains consistent with our tradition.

So, it is with great sadness we are informing you that we will leave an old friend, our 24K Gold disc behind, but with also with great joy, knowing that we are moving forward with a much more consistent and broadly appealing format.”

After the jump, we’ll take a look at the recent release slate from both Audio Fidelity and Mobile Fidelity! Read the rest of this entry »

The “Lowdown” On Friday Music’s Expanded Reissue of “Chicago III”

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Chicago IIIIn his recently released memoir The Soundtrack of My Life, Clive Davis speaks rhapsodically about one band he signed to Columbia Records who went on “to be one of the best-selling bands of the seventies…[and] successful in every succeeding decade, selling millions of albums along the way.”  The mogul added, “They’re still active, and every year their fans lobby relentlessly for them to be nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor the band very much deserves.”  Davis is, of course, speaking of Chicago.  The septet’s third album, and third consecutive 2-LP set, arrived on Columbia in 1971, and now Chicago III is returning to compact disc in an expanded edition from Friday Music set for release on March 12.

Though the group met with great success in the singles market thanks to melodic pop gems like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” “Beginnings,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World” (all from the band’s remarkable first two albums), Chicago’s heart and soul initially seemed to be with extended musical suites that best displayed the group’s unmistakable fusion of rock, jazz and soul.  Chicago III, produced as its predecessors had been by James William Guercio, was recorded in November 1970 at Columbia’s New York studios after a busy year for the band.  It included three extended pieces: Terry Kath’s “An Hour in the Shower,” James Pankow’s “Elegy,” and “Travel Suite,” a collaborative effort with an emphasis on Robert Lamm’s songs.  Four shorter tracks – well, relatively speaking! – began the sprawling album, but its most successful single (Lamm’s No. 2 hit “Free”) was, in fact, extracted from the “Travel Suite.”  Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine’s “Lowdown” charted, too, hitting a peak of No. 35.

After the jump: details on the bonus tracks, a pre-order link, track listing and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 27, 2013 at 12:59

Posted in Chicago, News, Reissues

Chicago Reissues Return From Friday Music, “Hot Streets” Kicks Off Campaign

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On 1971’s Chicago III, one of the band’s passionate anthems went, “I just want to be free…”  But it took until 1978 for the band to be truly free, and that year’s Hot Streets was an album of firsts.  The freedom largely came as a result of the group having severed its ties with longtime producer/manager James William Guercio; hence, Hot Streets was Chicago’s first album in many years not recorded at Guercio’s famed Caribou Ranch.  It was also the first to lack a number in its title and first to feature a band portrait on the cover.  Tragically, however, it was the first album without founding guitarist Terry Kath, who died earlier in the year of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Hot Streets (the band’s twelfth album, for those of you keeping count, and also a No. 12 LP on the Hot 100) brought producer Phil Ramone and guitarist Donnie Dacus into the Chicago fold; both only lasted for a couple of albums but made strong impressions.  Rhino Records reissued Hot Streets in 2003 as part of its Chicago “expanded and remastered” program; that series ended abruptly in the U.S. after Chicago 17, although Rhino’s Japanese arm continued with 18, 19 and 21.  (The American remasters of 16 and 17 erroneously included alternate versions of some original album tracks, and these were corrected on the 2010 Japanese pressings of those two titles.)

Now, Friday Music has announced its own Chicago reissue campaign by arrangement with Rhino, and that series is kicking off with the return of (the now out-of-print) Hot Streets.  According to the label’s Facebook page, it’s due in stores on March 27.  Hit the jump for more details, including the track listing and discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 27, 2012 at 09:56

Posted in Chicago, News, Reissues

Reach Out For Them: New 2-CD Comps Coming In September For Dionne, Chicago

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Following collections devoted to Foreigner, Christopher Cross, Otis Redding and Yes, the U.K.’s Music Club Deluxe label (a member of the Demon Music Group family) continues its exploration of the Warner Music Group catalogue with new compilations focusing on the long, diverse careers of Dionne Warwick and Chicago.  Either of these esteemed acts would be solid candidates for our Greater Hits feature, in which we compare an artist’s “greatest hits” output.  Both certainly have been the subjects of countless compilations over the years.  Music Club’s The Essential Dionne Warwick and Chicago – The Ultimate Collection are both due in U.K. stores on September 5, and while they may not be the finest introductions to these legendary artists, nor are they to be completely dismissed.

The Essential Dionne Warwick is unique in that it includes ten songs (nearly a quarter of the total material) from Warwick’s Warner Bros. Records period between 1972 and 1978.  Warwick entered the Warner Bros. family with high hopes.  She had just completed a nearly unprecedented seven-year streak as the hitmaking queen of Scepter Records, one-third of the “triangle marriage” with producers and songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  (Many of the team’s Scepter hits are present on the new set, which begins with a 1-2-3 punch of “Walk On By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Alfie.”)  On the advice of astrologer-to-the-stars Linda Goodman, Dionne became Warwicke, adding an “e” to the end of her surname, and signed a deal with the Burbank label that was reported to be the biggest ever for a female recording artist.  Bacharach and David were also signed to continue working with Dionne and the result was 1972’s Dionne, a low-key, soulful record that went largely unnoticed on its release. The Essential includes that album’s “Hasbrook Heights,” written by Bacharach and David but arranged and conducted by jazz great Bob James.  Not only did the LP fail to make an impression, but things quickly turned sour for the team whose sound had helped define an era of popular music.  Bacharach and David fell out after the failure of their film musical Lost Horizon, and lawsuits flew.  Warwick remained at Warner Bros., working with a succession of producers.  From the 1973 Holland/Dozier/Holland effort Just Being Myself comes “I Think You Need Love” and the title song.  Four tracks are drawn from 1974’s Jerry Ragovoy-helmed Then Came You, including its title cut which was, of course, produced and arranged by Philadelphia’s Thom Bell.  Bell took the reins for the entirety of 1975’s Track of the Cat, three delicious songs from which are included here.  Only the 1977 Steve Barri/Michael Omartian production Love at First Sight is ignored, which is too bad; the album has some fine performances including “Early Morning Strangers,” written by Hal David and Barry Manilow!

While the golden Scepter period makes up the lion’s share of the 2 CDs, the Arista period is only represented by two songs, both of which were licensed by Music Club from Sony: “Heartbreaker” and “All the Love in the World,” both written and produced by the Brothers Gibb for the album Heartbreaker.  That means that “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Déjà vu,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “No Night So Long,” and Warwick’s other late-period hits are missing entirely.  (Warwick’s Arista tenure has already been compiled by Music Club on another 2-disc set, All in the Love in the World, MCDLX044.  The non-chronologically-sequenced set does, however, include some buried treasures from Scepter as well as the Warner Bros. years.  While those rarely-heard Warner cuts may make this an attractive set for Warwick fans who don’t own those individual albums, the often-overlooked Scepter material is also choice, gems like “Odds and Ends,” “Who Is Gonna Love Me,” “Any Old Time of Day” and “Let Me Go to Him.”

Hit the jump and we’ll take you back to Chicago! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2011 at 12:38

Eagles, Deep Purple, Yes! Out-Of-Print DVD-Audios Coming To SACD

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It wasn’t so long ago that high-resolution audio formats like SACD and DVD-Audio were shelved alongside CDs at major retailers such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble and Borders. Yet with today’s retail landscape perhaps irrevocably altered (and still evolving and shrinking, thanks to the likely-imminent liquidation of Borders), those formats have been consigned to niche shoppers. For those who discovered high-rez and 5.1 audio late, the best source for many releases has been eBay, often at outrageously steep prices. Well, slight relief may be forthcoming. The Japanese SACD market has been booming of late, with Universal having issued a number of titles as stereo SACDs, including some new to the format. Now, Warner Japan is one-upping its rival label with the August release of five 5.1 surround SACDs drawn from the long-dormant Warner Bros./Rhino DVD-Audio line and six further additions in September. Unlike the Universal titles, these will be hybrid multichannel SACDs, with the stereo layer playable on all CD players. And while the prices of Japanese SACDs are indeed high, they’re in most cases lower than what the original DVD-Audio titles are currently commanding on the secondhand market.

The five titles launching the series are all bona fide classics of popular music: Eagles’ Hotel California; Deep Purple’s Machine Head; Yes’ Fragile; Chicago’s Chicago V and Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New. These will be followed in September by another round of five acclaimed titles: Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Doobie Brothers’ The Captain and Me, Foreigner’s 4 and The Doors’ self-titled debut album. The majority of these titles were originally mixed for surround and released by Rhino on DVD-Audio between 2001 and 2003. The Nightfly was reissued in 2004 as a short-lived experiment in the DualDisc format and again as an “MVI” disc in the 2007 Nightfly Trilogy box set (that last one lacking Advanced Resolution), while the surround mix of The Doors arrived in 2006 as part of Rhino’s Perception box.

For collectors, these could be a great boon. CDJapan (one of the many trusted sites from which to purchase Japanese imports) offers the titles at roughly $38 USD a pop.  At the time of this writing, the least-expensive Amazon Marketplace prices for the original DVD-As (most, used) are much higher: $124.95 for Hotel California, $69.69 for Machine Head, $50.00 for Fragile, and $69.93 for Chicago V. What’s New is the most affordable title of the first batch in the DVD-A format, available now for $25.50. Of the second batch, Foreigner 4 is another high-priced title at $124.97; the others hover around the $50.00 mark, and The Doors is making its stand-alone surround debut.

Three of these titles have been mixed into surround by the dean of the format, Elliot Scheiner. His 5.1 mixes are notable for generous (but not gimmicky!) use of all channels for a truly immersive, atmospheric listening experience. The Scheiner titles included in the first two waves are Hotel California, The Nightfly, and The Captain and Me.  Any of those three would make a terrific introduction to surround music and, in fact, The Nightfly is this author’s reference-quality disc of choice.

Hit the jump for the complete track listings to these titles! We have included the bonus tracks present on the original DVD-Audio releases, as it is thought they will be included on the new SACDs. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 15, 2011 at 09:49

Review: Chicago, “Live in ’75”

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When they took the stage at Largo, Maryland’s Capital Centre in June, 1975, nostalgia was foremost on the minds of the members of Chicago.  Early in the set so immaculately preserved by Rhino on the new Live in ’75 (Rhino Handmade RHM2 526436, 2011), comments are made from the stage with a great deal of surprise: “[Here’s] another blast from the past!”  “Nostalgia is in nowadays.”  “We would like to be nostalgic.”  Would the Robert Lamm, Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and James Pankow of 1975 been able to conceive that they’d be playing the very same songs in 2011 that formed the crux of their set in 1975?  “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” a Chicago fixture now as then, was prefaced with “This song goes back very many years” – six, in fact!  It’s clear that the members of Chicago didn’t expect their songs to have a shelf life of a whopping six years, yet those songs still are beloved today.  (Of the song, it was added that “Terry hates it!”)

Peter Cetera, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, Lamm, Parazaider, Loughnane and Pankow burst onto the charts in 1969 as Chicago Transit Authority with an album of the same title.  Cetera (bass), Kath (guitar), Lamm (keyboards) and Seraphine (drums) would have made one hell of a rock band, but when they were augmented by Loughnane (trumpet), Pankow (trombone) and Parazaider (woodwinds), they had a sound like none other.  CTA, the album, announced their musical intentions in a big way.  A 2-LP set, CTA was a fusion of rock, classical, jazz and pop, and introduced two of the band’s most enduring songs, both by Robert Lamm: “Beginnings” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is.”  By the time of the 1975 joint tour with The Beach Boys, unofficially dubbed “Beachago,” Chicago was already on the way to becoming the biggest-selling American rock band in music history, and their set already resembled a “greatest hits.”  In the excitingly paced marathon performance in Largo, Chicago packed in the hits but found room for their most recent release, Chicago VIII, too.  From the performance captured on disc, Chicago’s energy never flagged as they vibrantly attacked one song after the next as if their lives depended on it.

The sheer musicianship of the band members is striking, as they perfectly coalesced as one unit.  Their hunger to stay relevant despite playing “nostalgic” songs is palpable; their live performances were often polished enough to be studio recordings but with a raw energy and freedom that kept them from being mere replicas of those tracks.  Kath’s guitar scorches throughout the 24 tracks over 2 discs, while Seraphine’s drums anchor the songs.  He propels “Free” from its introduction, the horns keeping in perfect synch with him.

Those who have seen the band in concert in recent years will no doubt be surprised by the jazz-inspired approach.  In 1975 Chicago was still flush with improvisational spirit.  Loose jams broke out with great frequency, even on the soft rock staple “Just You ‘n’ Me,” a song which otherwise pointed to the band’s future adult contemporary direction.  There’s an extended version of Lamm’s “25 or 6 to 4” and a 12+ minute take on “I’m a Man,” kicked up a notch from the Spencer Davis Group’s original.  The entire set is performed at a high-octane level; the very first track, “Introduction,” features jazz, blues, funk and rock led by Terry Kath.  There’s such dynamic interplay on this track that it sounds inconceivable that the harmony would eventually cease offstage.  The forceful, driving “Now More Than Ever” lives up to its title.  It concluded James Pankow’s “Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon,” including hits “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World.”  While the mini-song suite may be taken for granted now, it remains an ambitious calling card for a band determined to push musical boundaries.  Read on after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 25, 2011 at 12:16

Posted in Chicago, Reissues, Reviews

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Rhino Knows What Time It Is: Chicago “Live in ’75” Coming from Handmade (UPDATED 4/11)

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UPDATE 4/11: The link just before the jump takes you directly to the order page for this set.

Original post: Billboard has certified them as the second-most successful American rock band in music history, only following The Beach Boys. The RIAA places them handily in the Top Ten of all-time album sales from an American group. So it’s fair to say that Chicago is still perhaps the most successful American rock band to have been wholly ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band has endured a variety of personnel and stylistic changes over the years; even this many years later, it’s hard to believe that the same band recorded both “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” But Chicago’s music endures to this very day, and the band – still containing original members Robert Lamm, Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and James Pankow – remains a viable live act worldwide. Rhino Handmade will soon offer a special treat for fans of Chicago’s classic line-up with the release of Live in ’75, a lavish 2-CD set housed in a hardbound slipcase due on May 24. Recorded at Largo, Maryland’s Capital Centre on June 24-26, 1975, Live includes cuts from all of the group’s albums through its then-current Chicago VIII.

While there is no mention in the press release, those dates were part of the “Beachago” tour featuring Chicago and The Beach Boys. Based on the set lists from those dates, it’s possible that “Wishin’ You Were Here” will feature The Beach Boys on background vocals and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” will present Mike Love sharing the lead with Peter Cetera. (Other songs performed by Chicago with The Beach Boys during the Capital Centre Beachago stand and not included on Rhino’s release are “Saturday in the Park,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “God Only Knows,” “Darlin”,” “California Girls” and “Fun Fun Fun.”)

Live in ’75 is available Monday, April 11 for pre-order exclusively at Rhino for $39.98 and ships on May 24.  Hit the jump for the full press release and track listing for this exciting new release!
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 11, 2011 at 16:20

Release Round-Up: Week of March 22

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Aretha Franklin, Take a Look: Complete on Columbia (Columbia/Legacy)

Before she was the Queen of Soul on Atlantic, she cut her teeth in the genre on Columbia. Eleven CDs and a DVD tell the tale. (Official site)

Soundgarden, Live on I-5 (A&M/UMe)

The recently-reunited grunge band commemorates their 1996 tour on this disc. (Official site)

Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs, The MGM Singles (Sundazed)

Every A and B-side by the “Wooly Bully” band in remastered monaural sound. (Sundazed)

A Flock of Seagulls, A Flock of Seagulls Dream Come True: Expanded Editions (Cherry Pop)

The first and last albums by the original lineup of the band are expanded with B-sides and remixes by Cherry Pop in the United Kingdom. The first one has the songs everybody loves, including “I Ran” and “Space Age Love Song.” (Cherry Pop)

Sir Douglas Quintet, The Mono Singles ’68-’72 (Sundazed)

Another Sundazed mono singles compilation for the week, compiling the Sir Douglas Quartet’s single sides on the Smash, Philips and Mercury labels, including hits “She’s About a Woman” and “Mendocino.” (Sundazed)

Suzi Quatro, Suzi Quatro / Quatro: Expanded Editions (7Ts)

The one-time Leather Tuscadero’s first two albums, produced by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, are expanded by U.K. label 7Ts to include non-LP single sides and more. (7Ts)

Josh Turner/Billy Currington, ICON (MCA Nashville/Mercury/UMe)

Two modern country stars get their own entries in Universal’s budget compilation. (Amazon: Turner, Currington)

James Taylor, Walking Man: 24 KT Gold CD (Audio Fidelity)

One of Taylor’s lesser-known albums is remastered by Steve Hoffman. (Audio Fidelity)

Chicago, Chicago VI (Vinyl) (Friday Music)

A 180-gram audiophile reissue of the band’s 1973 album, featuring “Feeling Stronger Every Day” and “Just You N’ Me.” (Friday Music)

The Year in Reissues, Part III: The Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Well, another New Year is in sight, the CD still isn’t dead (told you so!) and celebration is in the air at The Second Disc. Back on December 23, Mike shared The Year in Reissues both here and over with our pals at Popdose. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks until you read these indispensable columns!

Are you back with me? Good. Now, I’d like to take this opportunity to take a fun look back at a few of my favorite things via Joe’s Gold Bonus Disc Awards! I’m awarding these to the reissues that have raised the bar over the past 12 months. You’ll notice a number of titles that have already been praised by Mike, as well as new entries, but overall, I’ve simply tried to recognize as many diverse, worthy releases as possible. It’s my sincere hope, though, that you’ll take a chance on a title previously unknown to you; all of the artists, producers, and labels mentioned here have kept great music alive in 2010.

Friends, as always, please share your thoughts and comments below. Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2010’s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chicago – “Chicago Transit Authority” Quadradisc

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What is Quadio?  That’s the question currently being posed by the fine folks over at  For an answer and some fun interactivity, click here.  But in short, Quadio describes the new series of four-channel audio DVDs (or “Quadradiscs”) being introduced by Rhino with the reissue of 1969’s Chicago Transit Authority, the first album by the band later known simply as Chicago.

This release is a landmark in a number of ways.  For one thing, it signals a new attempt to court the dedicated niche market of audiophiles largely ignored by the major labels when they abandoned the high resolution, multichannel formats of SACD (Super Audio CD) and DVD-Audio.  Secondly, it’s one of the few modern reissues of an original quadraphonic, or four-channel, mix.  Finally, the audio is presented in both DTS 96/24 and Dolby Digital, both playable in virtually all DVD players, to reach the largest number of interested customers without requiring any special hardware.  Quadraphonic never caught on in the way stereo did, but in its 1970s heyday, literally hundreds of renowned rock, pop, jazz and soundtrack albums received the “quadio” treatment.  With this format largely forgotten today, the amount of unheard mixes of familiar albums is staggering and long overdue for reissue. 

CTA is a stunning offering, and a fantastic way to kick off the Quadradisc series.  Long before “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” or “You’re the Inspiration” cemented Chicago’s reputation as purveyors of 1980s AOR pop, the band then known as Chicago Transit Authority was breaking new ground with an exciting fusion of jazz and rock.  The seven-man ensemble, along with producer James William Guercio, offered something for everyone in their sprawling double-LP debut: big, hook-filled pop singles (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” both penned by frontman Robert Lamm), heavy blues-rock (the wailing “South California Purples”), political agit-rock (“Someday (August 29, 1968)”) and even seven minutes of avant-electric guitar (the aptly-named “Free Form Guitar,” courtesy of the band’s incendiary Terry Kath). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 12, 2010 at 16:03

Posted in Chicago, DVD, Reissues, Reviews

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