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The Year in Reissues: The 2012 Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Gold CDWow!  Was it just over a year ago when a rather dubious report began circulating (that, shockingly, was picked up by many otherwise-reputable publications) that proclaimed the death of the CD was secretly scheduled by the major labels for 2012?  Well, 2012 has come and (almost) gone, and it might have been the most super-sized year in recent memory for reissues, deluxe and otherwise, from labels new and old.  Here at the Second Disc, we consider our annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards a companion piece to Mike’s own round-up over at Popdose, and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year’s most amazing reissues as possible – over 80 worthy, unique titles.  We also hope to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2012. As we’re literally deluged with news around these parts, these ladies and gentlemen prove, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world.  We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to them, and to you, the readers.  After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past alive and well.

With that in mind, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2012? Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2012′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

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

Now Sounds Unearths Lost Leon Russell-Produced Psych-Pop Classic “Daughters of Albion”

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Daughters of AlbionBefore he actually became The Master of Time and Space to his fans, Leon Russell was manipulating everything but time and space on a psychedelic pop opus that nobody heard.  The fantastically imaginative Daughters of Albion was, well, DOA in the commercial sense upon its initial release in 1968.  Its blend of dense lyrics, elaborate vocal arrangements, shifting moods and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-oh-hell-we’ll-throw-that-in-too approach to the musical accompaniment might have been too far out even for ’68.  But you can decide for yourself on Now Sounds’ first-ever authorized CD reissue of this long-hidden gem (CRNOW 39).

Daughters of Albion was one of Leon Russell’s first production assignments, alongside its sister album, Look Inside the Asylum Choir (recorded by Russell and Marc Benno, who adds guitar to Daughters of Albion).  This ambitious song cycle was the brainchild of arranger/producer Russell, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Greg Dempsey, vocalist Kathy Yesse (later Dalton) and songwriter Dave “Luff” Linden, who departed the project in its early days.  Dempsey brought his formidable songwriting skills to the table; he and Linden had already written songs for artists including Dino, Desi and Billy, and Vic Dana.  With co-writer Jack Nitzsche, Dempsey had also provided Don and the Goodtimes with one of the most infectious, underrated songs of the entire decade, “I Could Be So Good to You.”  (Though Russell didn’t contribute any songs to DOA, he and Dempsey would later team to pen songs including “Roll Away the Stone.”)  Prior to DOA, Dempsey and Yesse were two-fifths of The Gas Company, a Reprise recording act that will be anthologized on a future Now Sounds release.  Though he recorded the album in Hollywood, Russell enlisted his Oklahoma crew of musicians rather than the L.A. Wrecking Crew.  Their participation lends DOA a different flavor than might have been expected.

This trip to a sonic carnival is a curiosity, no doubt, but occasionally a transcendent one.    “I Love Her and She Loves My” (no, that’s not a typo), the album’s catchy opening track, marries Cowsills-esque bubblegum vocals to twangy, country-flecked guitars, with majestic, classical strings adding tension and gravitas.  And that’s just the first song!  Every track, with the exception of the closing suite, is a nugget of the three-minute variety, yet even the most straightforward pop songs here have some strikingly unusual element to them.  The jaunty “Our Love is Growing” has offbeat vocalizations over a piano-driven instrumental bed that otherwise could have been plucked from one of Russell’s records with Gary Lewis and the Playboys.  Shimmering harp opens the ethereal, Dalton-led “Candle Song” with its Pet Sounds bass figures and fragile music box quality.  As sad, sensitive and strange as “Candle Song” is, “Ladyfingers” is brassy, with its bold, vaudevillian horns anything but subtle.  The oom-pah band returns to cut loose on the mini-symphony “Hats Off and Arms Out, Ronnie.”

There’s sonic overload at times, as when Dempsey sings two different sets of lyrics in counterpoint on “Sweet Susan Constantine,” with Russell orchestrating Mamas and the Papas-style vocal answers from Dalton, piano reminiscent of Jimmy Webb, and even burbling water effects as the impressionistic lyrics ask, “Who shot John and who shot Bobby?  Who shot Martin, Brother Malcolm?  Who shot Andy, who shot me?”  Daughters of Albion lyrically offers a sideways look at society, culture and love in all their many permutations.  (Animation giants Disney and Hanna-Barbera also get name-checked in the bizarre lyrics of “Sweet Susan Constantine,” with Dempsey factually observing that “Hanna-Barbera does not rhyme!”)  It’s arguable that a more razor-sharp focus might have commercially behooved Russell and co., but there’s no doubt that these artists stayed true to their vision.

There’s more on Albion after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2012 at 09:23