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Archive for the ‘Deniece Williams’ Category

Johnny Mathis’ Expanded “Special Part of Me” Highlights Paul Anka and Michael Jackson Collaboration

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Johnny Mathis - A Special Part of MeIt’s been a wonderful, wonderful time to be a fan of Johnny Mathis, with the singer’s long-lost Mercury Records catalogue recently having been upgraded to CD by Real Gone Music.  As 2013 opens, another label is turning its attention to the Mathis catalogue.  Funky Town Grooves is returning the 1984 album A Special Part of Me to CD in a first-ever expanded edition due on January 15.

Mathis’ association with Columbia Records began in 1956 when he was just 21 years of age, and these many years later, he’s still a label fixture, with his most recent album (2010’s Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville) having arrived on Columbia.   Other than the 1963-1966 tenure at Mercury, Columbia saw Mathis through every conceivable genre of music.  While at Mercury, Mathis dipped his toes in the waters of the “covers album,” in which he would record “the Johnny Mathis” version of popular, charting songs.  The romantic, lush tones that had served him so well on readings of Broadway and Hollywood standards in his early years proved remarkably adaptable to songs by Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney, and Jimmy Webb.

Producer/composer/arranger Thom Bell was one of the first to realize Mathis’ untapped potential as a true soul singer, tailoring the lush 1973 album I’m Coming Home to the artist’s rich vocal talents.  Steadily recording throughout the seventies, Mathis reached the “top of the pops” in 1978 with “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a duet with Deniece Williams, and stayed current with disco-flavored cuts (1978’s “Gone, Gone, Gone” for one), hit film themes (Marvin Hamlisch and the Bergmans’ “The Last Time I Felt Like This,” with Jane Olivor, from Same Time, Next Year) and even a funky, dancefloor-ready collaboration with CHIC (the still-unreleased album I Love My Lady).

We meet Mathis in 1984 after the jump!  Plus: a pre-order link and full track listing. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 10, 2013 at 09:52

Heaven In Her Eyes: BBR Reissues Two From Deniece Williams

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The curriculum vitae of Deniece Williams can boast some of the most esteemed names in popular music: Maurice White, Charles Stepney, David Foster, Thom Bell and George Duke, just to name a few.  All of those gentlemen produced albums for, or with, Williams, whose career has been the subject of a series of deluxe reissues from Big Break Records.  Earlier this year, BBR (part of the Cherry Red group of labels) added Williams’ 1976 debut This is Niecy to its previous four titles from the artist: her sophomore effort Song Bird, disco-flavored third solo album When Love Comes Calling, Thom Bell-produced soul masterpiece My Melody and pop classic Let’s Hear It For the Boy.  Two more titles have since been added to BBR’s Williams catalogue, meaning that her first seven solo albums are now on BBR.  These latest additions are 1982’s Niecy, co-produced by Williams and Thom Bell, and its 1983 follow-up, the George Duke-produced I’m So Proud.  That latter title was expanded just this past March by Funky Town Grooves, but the BBR edition goes it one better with more comprehensive notes and two additional bonus tracks.

Niecy may be the most beloved album in Williams’ catalogue.  Reteaming the singer with Philadelphia’s Thom Bell, it built on the sound of its gold-selling predecessor, My Melody (1981).  Bell seamlessly and tastefully integrated the sound of a synthesizer into his lush, symphonic soundscapes.  Adding to the album’s singular sound, Bell recorded Williams with a live rhythm section, quite anomalous for a production circa 1982.  Even that rhythm section itself was surprising; Bell brought in new musicians to the newer, largely untried studio at Sigma Sound, joining familiar names like Bobby Eli and Don Renaldo.  Williams wrote every track on the album save one, and four of her songs were co-written with Bell.  But the one song Williams didn’t write, ironically, became the album’s calling card.

Both Thom Bell and Deniece Williams had history with the Teddy Randazzo/Bob Weinstein/Lou Stallman song “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” originally performed by The Royalettes in 1965.  When Williams told Bell one day that it was a song she had wanted to tackle ever since performing it in a school talent show, Bell recounted his own history with the song.  He had arranged it and even played piano for Laura Nyro on her 1971 album produced by Gamble and Huff.  The album’s title?  Gonna Take a Miracle.  The song became Bell’s ultimate tribute to Randazzo and producer Don Costa, two of the talents he most admired.  The reworked but still faithful take on the oldie went to No. 1 R&B, No. 6 AC and No. 10 Pop.  It also helped Niecy make the Top 20 pop album chart, and earned Williams her first Grammy nomination.  Clearly “waiting” was on the minds of Bell and Williams.  Follow-up singles “Waiting by the Hotline” and “Waiting” (both written by the duo) appeared later in the year, and though they didn’t repeat the success of “Gonna Take a Miracle,” all three songs illustrate the high quality of songwriting, singing and production on Niecy.

Whereas an otherwise-exemplary 2008 edition on the Reel Music label didn’t add any new material, and 2009’s SPV reissue paired the LP with Let’s Hear It for the Boy, Big Break’s reissue includes the single versions of “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” “Waiting” and “How Does It Feel” (the B-side of “Waiting”).  Christian John Wikane’s great, entertaining essay includes candid recollections from Bell, which are worth the price of admission alone.  Reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson has remastered.

Hit the jump for the scoop on I’m So Proud! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 16, 2012 at 12:00

Release Round-Up: Week of June 26

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The Beat, I Just Can’t Stop It Wha’ppen? Special Beat Service: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

The Beat’s discography is expanded in the U.K. by Edsel in fashionable 2 CD/1 DVD editions. (Don’t forget: a similar five-disc box is coming out from Shout! Factory in the U.S. next month.)

The Miracles, Renaissance Do It Baby (Hip-o Select/Motown)

The first two post-Smokey LPs by The Miracles on one CD.

The Electric Prunes, The Complete Reprise Singles / The New Christy Minstrels, A Retrospective 1962-1970 / The Tokens, It’s a Happening World: Deluxe Edition / Timi Yuro, The Complete Liberty Singles / Rita Pavone, The International Teen-Age Sensation (Real Gone)

A veritable ’60s bonanza from our pals at Real Gone, including some international rarities, an expanded Tokens LP and some singles compilations.

Deniece Williams, NiecyI’m So Proud: Expanded Editions / KC and The Sunshine Band, KC and The Sunshine Band: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

U.K. label Big Break’s offerings today: expanded editions of Deniece’s last two pre-Footloose LPs and the disco band’s breakthrough disc.

Teena Marie, Emerald City Naked to the World: Expanded Editions (Soul Music)

Two high points in Lady T’s late-’80s work for Epic, newly expanded from Cherry Red’s Soul Music label.

Gonna Take a Miracle: Deniece Williams Trio Coming From BBR and FTG

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Let’s hear it for Deniece Williams.

By the time of her debut album in 1976, the resilient singer with the remarkable range had already recorded a Northern Soul favorite (“I’m Walking Away” on the small Lock Records label), performed with Minnie Riperton and Roberta Flack, and been a member of Stevie Wonder’s versatile backing group Wonderlove.  This is Niecy, on Columbia Records, was produced by Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire and Charles Stepney of Chess Records fame, and their confidence in the vocalist paid off. 

Now, on the occasion of its 35th anniversary, This is Niecy is receiving an expanded reissue from the U.K.’s Big Break Records, one of the Cherry Red family of labels.  (BBR has previously released expanded editions of four of Williams’ albums: her sophomore effort Songbird, disco-flavored third solo album When Love Comes Calling, Thom Bell-produced soul masterpiece My Melody and pop classic Let’s Hear It For the Boy.  In addition, the label’s Facebook page recently confirmed exciting plans for an upcoming reissue of the 1982 Williams/Bell Niecy.)  Not wanting to be left out of the action, however, the Funky Town Grooves label has planned two more Williams reissues, both expanded: 1983’s I’m So Proud and 1986’s Hot on the Trail.  (Williams’ back catalogue has been mined by numerous labels in recent memory.  Both Reel Music and SPV Yellow Label have previously tackled Niecy for reissue, and the latter paired it with Let’s Hear It for the Boy.  We eagerly await Big Break’s plans for the much-loved album!)

The centerpiece of This is Niecy remains “Free,” still a signature song for Williams today.  Co-written by the Gary, Indiana native (as was each track on the album), “Free” scored chart victories both in the United States (No. 2 R&B, No. 25 Pop) and the United Kingdom (No. 1 Singles).  “That’s What Friends Are For” (not the Burt Bacharach song, or for that matter, the Paul Williams song, either!) and “Cause You Love Me Baby” both followed “Free” up the R&B charts, and the former even cracked the U.K. Top Ten.  The newly-remastered edtion of This is Niecy includes three bonus tracks:  the single versions of “Free” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” as well as an alternative single mix of “Free.”  Housed in a super jewel box, the 35th anniversary edition features copious liner notes, customary for BBR, based on new interviews with the album’s personnel!

The success of This is Niecy led to another success with 1977’s Song Bird, and an even bigger one in an unlikely place.  Columbia teamed its new star with a label mainstay, the velvet-voiced Johnny Mathis, for a one-off single arranged by Gene Page, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”  The song by Nat Kipner and John McIntyre Vallins took the triple crown, going all the way to No.1 on the pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts.  It was Mathis’ first chart-topper since 1957 and the first for Williams.  Its success led to an entire album of duets, 1978’s That’s What Friends Are For, which arrived in between Song Bird and When Love Comes Calling, her first LP for Maurice White’s Columbia-distributed ARC label.

Hit the jump for the scoop on Funky Town Grooves’ expanded editions of I’m So Proud and Hot on the Trail! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 3, 2012 at 10:20

Let’s Hear It for the Big Break May Slate

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Not long after the Cherry Red labels update their calendars for April, their ever-busy Big Break Records imprint preps a set of R&B reissues for May. And there are quite a few hits contained therein.

No less than six new expansions are on the label’s schedule in the next month, most of them from the Sony catalogue. The biggest hits by far would be Back Stabbers, the sophomore release by The O’Jays and the album that spun off the immortal chart-topping hit “Love Train,” and Deniece Williams’ Let’s Hear It for the Boy, the title track of which featured as one of many hits in the 1984 film Footloose. Each of those albums will be expanded with single edits and remixes. There are two other dance-heavy titles on the roster, too. The Gap Band’s Gap Band VI had the Top 10 R&B hits “Beep a Freak” and “I Found My Baby,” while the relatively obscure Linx had a raft of U.K. hits with debut album Intuition, newly expanded with six bonus remixes.

If full-on dance/funk isn’t your thing, there are the chilled-out sounds of Jon Lucien, the singer from the Virgin Islands whose Song for My Lady album is due for expansion from the label (his second, after an expansion of hit album Rashida for the label last year), or Linda Lewis, the British singer-songwriter whose Woman Overboard, featuring production by Allen Toussaint and Cat Stevens, will be expanded with non-LP material (again, following an expansion of her first album for Arista from Big Break last year).

The O’Jays, Lucien, Lewis and Linx all drop in the U.K. on May 23, with Williams and The Gap Band following a week later on May 30. And of course, each of them come to the U.S. through Amazon a week after their British release dates (May 31 and June 7, respectively). Order them from the label here and hit the jump for the track lists!

The O’Jays, Back Stabbers: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0051, 2011)

  1. When the World’s at Peace
  2. Back Stabbers
  3. Who Am I
  4. (They Call Me) Mr. Lucky
  5. Time to Get Down
  6. 992 Arguments
  7. Listen to the Clock on the Wall
  8. Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind of People
  9. Sunshine
  10. Love Train
  11. 992 Arguments (Single Version)
  12. Who Am I (Single Version)
  13. Love Train (A Tom Moulton Mix)

Tracks 1-10 from Philadelphia International Records LP KZ-31712 (U.S.)/PIR-65932 (U.K.), 1972
Track 11 from Philadelphia International Records 7″ single ZS7-3522, 1972
Track 12 from Philadelphia International Records 7″ single S PIR-2213 (U.K.), 1972
Track 13 from Philadelphia Classics promo compilation – Philadelphia International Records PZG-34940, 1977

Jon Lucien, Song for My Lady: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0052, 2011)

  1. Soul Mate
  2. Dindi
  3. You Are My Love
  4. Creole Lady
  5. Song for My Lady
  6. Mother Land
  7. Maiden Voyage
  8. Follow Your Heart
  9. Creole Lady (Single Version)
  10. Follow Your Heart (Alternative Version)

Tracks 1-8 from Columbia LP PC-33544, 1975
Track 9 from Columbia single 3-10232, 1975
Track 10 possibly from Love Everlasting: The Very Best of Jon Lucien (BMG 74321 66043-2 (U.K.), 1999)

Linda Lewis, Woman Overboard: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0053, 2011)

  1. You Came
  2. Shining
  3. Bonfire
  4. Come Back and Finish What You Started
  5. No. 1 Heartbreaker
  6. Dreamer of Dreams
  7. Moon and I
  8. Light Years Away
  9. My Love is Here to Stay
  10. My Friend the Sun
  11. So Many Mysteries to Find
  12. Flipped Over Your Love
  13. Never Been Done Before
  14. Can’t We Just Sit Down and Talk It Over

Tracks 1-11 from Arista LP SPARTY 1003 (U.K.), 1977
Track 12 from Arista single 100 (U.K.), 1977
Track 13 from Arista single 125 (U.K.), 1977
Track 14 from Arista single 170 (U.K.), 1977

Linx, Intuition: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0054, 2011)

  1. Wonder What You’re Doing Now
  2. I Won’t Forget
  3. Intuition
  4. There’s Love
  5. Rise and Shine
  6. Throw Away the Key
  7. Together We Can Shine
  8. Count on Me
  9. You’re Lying
  10. Don’t Get in My Way
  11. You’re Lying (U.K. 12″ Mix)
  12. Throw Away the Key (U.K. 12″ Mix)
  13. Together We Can Shine (U.S. Recording)
  14. Wonder What You’re Doing Now (U.S. Remix)
  15. You’re Lying (U.S. Remix)
  16. Throw Away the Key (U.S. Remix)

Tracks 1-10 from Chrysalis LP CHR 1332 (U.K.), 1981
Track 11 from Chrysalis 12″ A-side CHS 12 2461 (U.K.), 1980
Track 12 from Chrysalis 12″ A-side CHS 12 2519 (U.K.), 1981
Tracks 13-16 from The Last Linx – Chrysalis CHR 1409 (U.K.), 1983

Deniece Williams, Let’s Hear It for the Boy: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0055, 2011)

  1. Let’s Hear It for the Boy
  2. I Want You
  3. Picking Up the Pieces
  4. Black Butterfly
  5. Next Love
  6. Haunting Me
  7. Don’t Tell Me We Have Nothing
  8. Blind Dating
  9. Wrapped Up
  10. Whiter Than Snow
  11. Let’s Hear It for the Boy (12″ Dance Mix)
  12. Next Love (12″ Dance Mix)
  13. Black Butterfly (Single Version)
  14. Let’s Hear It for the Boy (Instrumental)
  15. Next Love (Instrumental)

Tracks 1-10 released as Columbia LP FC 39366 (U.S.)/CBS LP 26010 (U.K.), 1984
Tracks 11 and 14 from Columbia 12″ single 44-04988 (U.S.), 1984
Tracks 12 and 15 from Columbia 12″ single 44-05043 (U.S.), 1984
Track 13 from Columbia 7″ single 38-04641 (U.S.), 1984

The Gap Band, Gap Band VI: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0056, 2011)

  1. Interlude – The Sun Don’t Shine Everyday
  2. Video Junkie
  3. Weak Spot
  4. The Sun Don’t Shine Everyday
  5. I Believe
  6. I Found My Baby
  7. Beep a Freak
  8. Don’t You Leave Me
  9. Disrespect
  10. The Sun Don’t Shine Everyday (Vocal)
  11. Beep a Freak (12″ Dance Mix)
  12. I Found My Baby (12″ Dance Mix)
  13. Disrespect (12″ Dance Mix)

Tracks 1-10 from Total Experience Records LP FL-89426, 1984
Track 11 from Total Experience Records 12″ A-side TED1-2606, 1984
Track 12 from Total Experience Records 12″ A-side TED1-2613, 1985
Track 13 from Total Experience Records 12″ A-side TED1-2615, 1985

Written by Mike Duquette

April 11, 2011 at 12:50