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Saint Etienne Hosts “A Central Park Picnic” With Phil Spector, Burt Bacharach, Dion, The Drifters

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Saint Etienne PicnicFor the inaugural release of his new Cherry Red imprint Croydon Municipal, Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley has curated a collection of Songs for a Central Park Picnic.  Songwriter/producer Stanley’s label is an extension of his Croydon Municipal blog, in which he holds forth on subjects as diverse as Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s Guilty, the evolution of Britpop, and the fortunes of HMV.  Like Stanley’s blog, his new CD compilation reflects his eclectic musical passions.

Saint Etienne Presents Songs for a Central Park Picnic, arriving July 29 in the U.K. and August 6 in the U.S.,  is a hip and breezy soundtrack to a gathering in a fantasy New York that may or may not have ever existed.   In Stanley’s New York, the future Candy Man Sammy Davis, Jr. cavorts with street-corner harmonists like Dion DiMucci, as Burt Bacharach, Teddy Randazzo and Barry Mann plunk away at upright pianos in the Brill Building and environs.  The young upstart Phil Spector takes in the sounds of the city as he prepares to head back west, where Henry Mancini is holding court in his silver screen lounge.  Bossa nova is wafting through the air, up from Brazil right into the city, and there’s a sense that anything’s possible.  In this alluring setting, exotic Peruvian vocalist Yma Sumac runs into the young Artie Garr (a.k.a. Art Garfunkel) and Vince Guaraldi captures the scene with his jazz piano.

With Stanley’s own liner notes serving as your guide, this 25-track collection takes in both familiar and rare tunes from the New York scene and beyond.  (A New York state of mind, if you will?)  From Bacharach’s pen comes The Rangoons’ otherworldly “Moon Guitar” and Gloria Lynne’s soulful response to Gene McDaniels, “You Don’t Have to Be a Tower of Strength.”  Hal David is co-credited for the instrumental “Moon Guitar,” while Bob Hilliard co-wrote “Tower.”   (1961’s “Moon Guitar” holds the distinction of being the first-ever production jointly credited to Bacharach and David.)  One of the key singers in Bacharach’s early years, Jerry Butler, offers his hit take on Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River,” while Mancini is heard leading his sexy, Latin-flecked “Something for Cat” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Another future Hollywood film score icon, Lalo Schifrin, channels the bossa nova on his atmospheric “Boato (Bistro)” with both sinuous flute and pounding piano.

There’s plenty of uptown soul here, too, particularly appropriate considering the park’s location in Manhattan.  The Drifters reinvented British clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” as a Top 20 AC hit; Bilk’s original was the first No. 1 single by a British artist in the era of the Billboard Hot 100.  Southern soul man Arthur Alexander and New Jersey’s own Sammy Turner both navigated through swelling strings on their renditions of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Where Have You Been” and Aaron Schroeder and Chuck Kaye’s “Raincoat in the River,” respectively.   “Raincoat” was produced by Phil Spector, clearly under the sway of his mentors Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  Another New Jersey native, Connie Francis, rocks and rolls with the sassy “It’s Gonna Take Me Some Time.”  Francis and Gloria Lynne aren’t the only girl singers in Stanley’s Central Park; The Paris Sisters are unrequited in their affection on their 1962 ballad “Yes, I Love You.”  Another Spector production (and one he also wrote), “Yes, I Love You” is very much in the template of the Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me.”  A third early production from the future Wall of Sound architect comes via Billy Storm’s dramatic 1961 Atlantic single “A Kiss from Your Lips.”  Spector would later create such triumphs as “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Then He Kissed Me” with Ellie Greenwich, who’s heard here as Ellie Gaye for the single “Cha-Cha Charming.”

After the jump: we have more details, including the complete track listing with discography and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 14, 2013 at 12:44

Reviews: Dion’s “Complete Laurie Singles,” David Cassidy’s “Romance”

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Today, we’re taking a look at two recent releases from Real Gone Music!

Dion DiMucci greeted the 1960s on his own, just 20 years old but already a chart veteran with soon-to-be-classics like “I Wonder Why” and “A Teenager in Love” under his belt.  Those songs, though, were recorded with his friends The Belmonts.  When Carlo Mastrangelo, Angelo D’Aleo and Fred Milano wanted to emphasize doo-wop harmonies and Dion wanted to rock and roll, Dion and the Belmonts split.  How would the Italian kid from the Bronx follow that amazing first act?  The results have been comprehensively chronicled for the very first time on Real Gone’s 2-CD The Complete Laurie Singles (RGM-0092) covering each of Dion’s solo 45s released on the New York indie between 1960 and 1969.

The heart and soul of The Complete Laurie Singles is the run of songs that cemented the Dion legend, forever immortalizing that cocky street corner kid.  The first of those songs was Dion’s first No. 1.  “Here’s my story, it’s sad but true…It’s about a girl that I once knew…”  The song started like any of the other maudlin ballads that Dion had recorded in his first year as a solo artist, with a chorus backing him sympathetically.  “She took my love then ran around…”  He stretched the word, dramatically.  “…with every single guy in town!”  And then the Del-Satins launched into their wordless backing vocals, snapping and stomping like on the street corner, while Dion wailed the warning to “keep away from Runaround Sue!”  Dion’s own composition with Ernie Maresca, “Runaround Sue” introduced a near-mythological character to the rock and roll pantheon.  Though intricately arranged by the singer, “Runaround Sue” has the sound and the spirit of the street corners on which Dion first sang, the same corner that the two-timing Sue doubtlessly prowled.  Much like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons epitomized blue-collar New Jersey, Dion was New York in the pre-Beatles era, and “Runaround Sue” could have been a barroom sing-along, with one misfit advising the crowd of small-time hoods and dreamers in song as he riffs and scats over the wail of a lonely saxophone.

Dion must have been particularly gratified that “Runaround Sue” made it to No. 4 on the R&B chart.  He had always been drawn to the blues, and to the sadder side of the pop spectrum.  But its B-side, “Runaway Girl,” typified the melancholy, sad songs he had been recording prior to the blast of energy provided by “Sue.”  His supremely sensitive vocals elevated many of these tracks, including the No. 12 hit “Lonely Teenager” and the ironically titled Pomus and Shuman tune “Havin’ Fun” (in which Dion is accompanied by a sad horn as he cries, “Friends keep on tellin’ me that I’m a fool to be so in love while you’re just havin’ fun…”), but “Runaround Sue” introduced a new persona, with the Del-Satins replacing the ubiquitous female backing vocals heard on many of the early singles.  “Runaway Girl” was immediately a relic of the past, although Dion would return to this sound as on “Little Girl” from the same writing team of Barbara Baer, Eliot Greenberg and Robert Schwartz.  Its tinkling piano recalls Johnny Mathis’ “Misty,” but Dion’s vocal roots it squarely in the streets.

“Runaround Sue” was followed by “The Majestic,” a dance number with a “Sue”-derivative melody, but its B-side soon eclipsed it.  Another story in song, Maresca’s “The Wanderer” was inspired by a real-life Bronx character observed by Dion.  “The Wanderer” built off of its “Kansas City”-esque shuffle and was, in many ways, a “Runaround Sue” in reverse: “I’m the type of guy who will never settle down/Where pretty girls are, well, you know that I’m around/I kiss ‘em and I love ‘em/’Cause to me they’re all the same!  I hug ‘em and I squeeze ‘em/They don’t even know my name!”  Many of the elements from “Sue” were amplified in the irresistible “Wanderer”: the prominent group backing vocals, the insinuating, bleating sax, the rawness and bravado.  The brash Dion scored another No. 2 hit, and memorably followed it up with the almost unbearably dark and pained “(I Was) Born to Cry” and its B-side, “Lovers Who Wander.”  Both echoed “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer,” but rather than seeming like pale imitations, all of these songs were truly of a piece, or variations on a theme.  “Born to Cry” was even referenced in the opening lines of the boisterous “Lovers Who Wander,” which boasted yet another infectious Dion vocal riff.

There’s plenty more on Mr. DiMucci following the jump.  Plus: David Cassidy’s Romance! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 1, 2012 at 08:01

Release Round-Up: Week of October 2

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Barry Manilow, Elvis Presley, Kenny GWillie Nelson, John Denver, Luther VandrossThe Classic Christmas Collection (Legacy)

Oh my goodness, it really is almost sort of kind of close to Christmas, yes? Legacy’s getting your seasonal fix early with new compilations full of cheer (and, in a few cases, some harder to find Yuletide songs and tracks licensed from non-Legacy albums).

Dion, The Complete Laurie Singles / Shoes, 35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection / David Cassidy, Romance / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Volume 27 – Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA – 12/16/1992 / John Zacherle, Monster Mash/Scary Tales (Real Gone)

A diverse slate from Real Gone for the month of October: the first collection of Dion’s many, many hits for the Laurie label; a brand-new compilation for power-pop legends Shoes; David Cassidy’s U.K.-only hit LP for Arista; the latest Dick’s Picks reissue and two novelty Cameo-Parkway LPs by a legendary horror broadcaster.

Walt Disney’s Cinderella: Collector’s Edition Soundtrack (Walt Disney Records)

To coincide with the film’s Diamond Edition DVD/Blu-ray release today, the soundtrack to the Disney animated classic Cinderella is expanded with seven rare demos and brand-new recordings of each of those seven songs!

Of Romance, Ghouls, Shoes, Wanderers and The Dead: Real Gone Announces October Line-Up

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Summer’s still underway, but Real Gone Music is looking to October with the announcement of a new batch of reissues due for the month that gives us Halloween and the World Series.  Returning favorites will take their place alongside artists new to the label, and a certain ghoulish host is even getting involved!

On October 2, the Real Goners will collect, for the very first time, The Complete Laurie Singles of Dion DiMucci.  This 2-CD, 36-track comp offers the crème of the Dion crop, including “Lonely Teenager,” “Lovers Who Wander” and “Abraham, Martin and John,” all in original mono mixes.  Illinois power pop luminaries The Shoes have carried on the attitude and rock spirit, if not the sound, of Dion, for the past three-and-a-half decades, and Real Gone’s 35 Years—The Definitive Shoes Collection brings together the best of the band from 1977’s incendiary debut all the way through 2012’s Ignition.

Two seventies albums from David Cassidy kicked off Real Gone’s reissue campaign for the former Keith Partridge, and the series continues with a real rarity.  1985’s Romance never received an American release (not the first time this had happened to Cassidy, always popular on the European continent), but that hardly stopped it from becoming a Top 20 album in the U.K. and spawning hit singles including one collaboration with George Michael!  “She Knows All About Boys” and “The Last Kiss” anchor a powerful pop album that has to be heard to be believed.  In addition to Cassidy, The Grateful Dead returns to Real Gone with another reissued installment of Dick’s Picks.   Volume 27 – Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA 12/16/92 preserves the final Grateful Dead line-up featuring Vince Welnick on keyboard. With rare cover versions of Beatles and Who songs, this is a special Dead concert not to be missed, if you didn’t grab it the first time around!

Last but certainly not least, the Cool Ghoul, John Zacherle, arrives on Real Gone with a Halloween-themed two-fer containing his hit single and Halloween perennial, “Dinner with Drac.”  Monster Mash and Scary Tales were originally recorded for Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway family in 1962 and 1963, respectively.  These were first reissued on Collectors’ Choice Music in 2010 but quickly went out-of-print.  They’re back now on Real Gone in an edition retaining the liner notes by Zacherle and his ardent fan, Mr. John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful!  As it’s ready-made for your Halloween party, you won’t want to miss this!

Hit the jump for pre-order links and more details on each title! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 16, 2012 at 09:35

Chili Peppers Revisit Classic Covers on Digital EP

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How do the Red Hot Chili Peppers celebrate their graduation to legend status per their recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction? They pay tribute to the ones that came before on a new digital EP that includes a handful of B-sides paying tribute to their favorite fellow inductees.

We Salute You, to be released May 1, includes covers of Dion and The Belmonts, The Ramones, The Stooges, Neil Young, The Beach Boys and David Bowie, all of which can certainly be argued as influences for the long-running funk-rock outfit.  Half of the covers are studio takes, having appeared on CD singles or other compilations (the band’s take on The Ramones’ “Havana Affair” dates from 2003’s We’re a Happy Family tribute album, for example). The other half are live tracks, one of which is being released for the first time anywhere. (All but one of these tracks have never appeared in digital format before.)

For those fans that haven’t warmed up to new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who joined following original arguably best-known guitarist John Frusciante’s second departure last year, fear not: almost every one of these tracks features the band’s innovative axeman. (The cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” dates from the band’s most recent tour last year, while their take on Bowie’s “Suffragette City” was released on a CD single during the One Hot Minute era, when Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction served as guitarist.)

Check out the full track lineup after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 20, 2012 at 12:48

From The King of the New York Streets to The Wolf King of L.A.

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It seems that the Cherry Red family of labels’ slogan should be “expect the unexpected.” Each label is run by a different team, resulting in an extremely diverse array of offerings. Steve Stanley’s Now Sounds celebrates, but isn’t strictly limited to, the musical era of 1964-1972. Past reissues have encompassed such styles as harmony and sunshine pop (Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends, The Association), folk (Janis Ian), light psychedelia (Colours), “Bacharock” (The Golden Gate) and the sunkissed sounds of the West Coast (Mark Eric). Now Sounds has just announced two upcoming reissues that continue its mission of presenting long-lost LPs for a new generation.

Due on June 8 is Dion DiMucci’s 1969 LP Wonder Where I’m Bound. This album is a rare example of a vault collection being artfully assembled into a unique product of its own. Essentially a collection of studio outtakes – all dating no later than 1965 – excavated by the label in the wake of Dion’s 1968 “comeback” on the Laurie label with “Abraham, Martin and John,” Wonder Where I’m Bound features production on some tracks by Tom Wilson (of Simon & Garfunkel and Velvet Underground fame) and reveals the singer to have been an early proponent of what would become known as folk-rock. Its title track is a cover of a Tom Paxton composition, with orchestration added by renowned producer Jimmy Wisner to echo the sound of “Abraham, Martin and John.” Bob Dylan’s songs make their compulsory appearance via “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and the lesser-known “Farewell.” DiMucci foreshadows his later blues explorations (such as 2006’s Bronx in Blue on Razor & Tie 79301 82960-2 and 2007’s Son of Skip James on Verve Forecast B0010173-2) with Woody Guthrie’s “900 Miles” and even references his own doo-wop roots with a reworking of “A Sunday Kind of Love.” Anthologies have covered Dion’s Columbia era before, but 4 tracks make their CD debut here, as does the album in its complete, original sequence.  While there are no bonus tracks, one can typically count on Now Sounds for lavishly annotated and illustrated liner notes.

While Dion is practically synonymous with the street corners of New York City, Now Sounds turns to the West Coast for its July 6 reissue of the self-titled album Jamme, originally released in 1970 on John Phillips’ short-lived Warlock Records label. Don and Keith Adey formed the duo, and were joined on the LP by session vets Larry Knechtel on bass and Jim Gordon on percussion. Phillips himself produced in his home studio (with such luminaries as George Harrison and Keith Richards reportedly in attendance), and with this release, another chapter of The Mamas and The Papas story is unearthed. Now Sounds have secured no fewer than 6 unreleased tracks to bolster the LP’s 10 songs, and have also added both sides of a mono 45, bringing the grand total to 18 songs. Harmonies are of course on display, and the label likens the album’s sound to that of artists as different as Badfinger, Emmit Rhodes, Buffalo Springfield, The Bee Gees and even Big Star. For Mamas and the Papas fans and those interested in the further musical explorations of Phillips, this looks like a must-have release. The booklet features unreleased photos and new liner notes by Mamas and the Papas historians Jeffrey A. Greenberg and Chris Campion with full cooperation of Jamme. This disc also should be a fine complement to Varese Vintage’s ongoing “Papa John Phillips Presents” series, the latest title of which is Many Mamas, Many Papas (Varese 067016), slated for June 29 release and comprising 2 discs of primarily-unreleased recordings from a latter-day incarnation of the fabled group.

Check out Amazon pre-order listings here and here, and read the track listings after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2010 at 11:39