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Spend the Night in Bangkok: “Chess” Reissued for 30th Anniversary

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ChessTim Rice had been thinking about writing a musical about the Cold War for some time in the late 1970s.  Fascinated by the Soviet-U.S. chess rivalry of the time, the lyricist-librettist approached his longtime collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber with the idea.  Lloyd Webber, however, was not available, as he was too busy developing a little show known as Cats.  A suggestion from a producer put Rice in touch with songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA.   Looking to pursue some projects outside of the group, Andersson and Ulvaeus met with Rice in 1981 and signed onto the project.  Over the course of the next couple of years, the group worked on the musical with Rice writing lyrics (with some contributions from Ulvaeus) and Andersson and Ulvaeus writing the music.  In order to raise money, it was decided to release a concept album first, a strategy that had worked for Rice previously with Jesus Christ Superstar and EvitaChess was released in 1984, and now to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Universal U.K. is releasing Chess: The Original Recording – Remastered Deluxe Edition, a 2-CD/ 1-DVD set.

Chess tells the fictional Cold War-era story of Soviet chess grandmaster Anatoly and his American opponent Freddie.   While competing against each other, Anatoly becomes romantically involved with Freddie’s second and presumed lover, Florence.   This leads him to defect to the United States setting off political machinations and romantic entanglements (including Anatoly’s Soviet wife Svetlana) which come to a head around the concluding chess match.  Standout songs from the score include “Nobody’s Side,” “Anthem,” “Heaven Help My Heart,” “Pity the Child,” “I Know Him So Well” and “One Night in Bangkok.”

The original concept album was released in the fall of 1984.  Murray Head played Freddie and Tommy Korberg portrayed Anatoly (although they were just referred to as “The American” and “The Russian” on the album).  Florence was played by Elaine Page and Svetlana by Barbara Dickson.   The LP release featured lyrics and a basic description of the plot.  It received favorable critical notices and reached No. 47 on the Billboard 200 in US but fared even better in the U.K., climbing into the Top 10.  A couple of singles were released including “One Night in Bangkok” sung by Murray Head.  It peaked at No. 12 in the U.K. but impressively hit No. 3 on the U.S. Hot 100.  Having greater success in the U.K. was the duet between Paige and Dickson, “I Know Him So Well.”  The soaring power ballad topped the British chart for four weeks and remains the best-selling single by a female duo ever in the country.   The song was later covered by artists like Whitney Houston with mom Cissy, and a solo Barbra Streisand.

With the album’s success, Chess was brought to London’s West End and premiered in May of 1986.  The plot was expanded and several new songs and characters were added from the original album.  Michael Bennett, the theatrical genius behind such shows as A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, was brought on to direct.  Unfortunately, he became ill while working on the show and had to pull out before tragically dying from an AIDS-related illness in 1987 at the age of 44.  Trevor Nunn, who had directed the massive musical hits Cats and Les Miserables, came onboard as Bennett’s replacement.  Nunn married his more realistic style to some conceptual elements which had already been planned for the Bennett version.  Head, Paige and Korberg all reprised their roles from the concept album but Dickson was unavailable and was replaced by Siobhan McCarthy.  The musical opened to generally mixed to favorable reviews and ran for three years.  It did not have a new original cast album recorded.

There’s more on the history of Chess, plus details on this new deluxe reissue, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 3, 2014 at 11:03

Release Round-Up: Week of May 13

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Michael Jackson - XscapeMichael Jackson, Xscape (Epic)

Where was this three years ago? This collection of eight outtakes, augmented with tasteful future-retro production by Timbaland, Stargate, L.A. Reid and others, is possibly the best project to escape the MJ vaults yet. For the discerning fan, Epic’s done you a solid, offering a deluxe package with the same songs in their untouched demo form. It’s really something.

Standard CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Deluxe CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Brain Salad SurgeryEmerson, Lake & Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery: Deluxe Edition (Sony Music U.K.)

One of ELP’s defining albums is now available in an imported deluxe multi-disc box featuring original and new stereo remixes of the album, an alternate assembly from rare and unreleased outtakes and DVDs featuring documentary footage and a 5.1 mix of the album.

3CD/2DVD/1LP: Amazon U.K.
2CD/1DVD: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S. (on Razor & Tie 7/1)

A Boy Named Charlie BrownThe Vince Guaraldi Trio, Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown (Fantasy)

Before A Charlie Brown Christmas, this was Vince Guaraldi’s first album devoted to Charles M. Schultz’s lovable comic strip hero – the score to a never-aired documentary. It’s been remastered and expanded for its 50th anniversary, and a full story is forthcoming!

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Porter Dolly boxPorter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, Just Between You and Me: The Complete Recordings 1967-1976 (Bear Family)

A brilliant six-disc box set chronicling the dozen-plus RCA Victor albums created by this immortal country duo, not to mention more than a dozen rare and unreleased tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Beat - Complete BoxThe Beat, The Complete Studio Recordings (Edsel)

Edsel’s no stranger to The (English) Beat’s catalogue, but this smart new box keeps it to the essentials: all three original studio LPs, plus a disc of essential B-sides and remixes. (Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K.)

Elaine Paige - Ultimate CollectionElaine Paige, The Ultimate Collection (Warner Music UK)

A brilliant career-spanning compilation from the U.K. musical theatre star, available in standard and deluxe editions with some choice rarities to boot.

Standard Version:  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Special Edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Delicate Sound of ThunderPink Floyd, Delicate Sound of Thunder (Parlophone)

A new remaster of Pink Floyd’s 1988 double live album, recorded on the Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ned Doheny - Separate OceansNed Doheny, Separate Oceans (Numero Group)

A cult favorite on the edges of the California rock sound of the ’70s, Ned Doheny is celebrated with a new compilation combining some previously released tracks for Columbia and Asylum with ten unreleased demos – three of which feature the talents of Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

 

The Sound - Jeopardy Plus BoxThe Sound, Jeopardy/From the Lion’s Mouth/All Fall Down…Plus (Edsel)

A criminally underrated British post-punk band gets their due on a new set from Edsel collating the band’s first three albums, all expanded, with a DVD of BBC performances. (Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K.)

Glad All Over BDThe Dave Clark Five, The Dave Clark Five and Beyond: Glad All Over DVD & Blu-ray (PBS Home Video)

Fifty years after the DC5 took part in the British Invasion, this documentary features new testimonials from famous fans and contemporaries plus great, rarely-seen archival footage.

DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Androcles OST

Original Television Soundtrack Recording, Androcles and the Lion (Masterworks Broadway)

The RCA Victor soundtrack recording of composer/lyricist Richard Rodgers’ 1967 television musical Androcles and the Lion – starring Ed Ames, Noel Coward, John Cullum, Inga Swenson and Norman Wisdom is receiving its first-ever reissue in any format exclusively from Masterworks in a limited quantity of MOD CD-Rs as well as digital download.

Dave Van Ronk - Monterey

Dave Van Ronk, Live in Monterey 1998 (Omnivore)

Omnivore presents sixteen never-before-released live tracks from the great folk troubadour who inspired Inside Llewyn Davis. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

 

Still Here: Elaine Paige Celebrates Career On New “Ultimate Collection” With Previously Unreleased Songs and Rare Singles

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Elaine Paige - Ultimate CollectionThough her appearances on the Broadway stage have been rare, Elaine Paige remains one of the reigning first ladies of musical theatre around the world. Paige has been a fixture in London’s West End since her debut there in the 1968 production of Hair, rising to fame as the first actress to portray Eva Peron onstage in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita in 1978. Paige went on to introduce the role of Grizabella and the song “Memory” in Cats, and subsequently starred in such musicals as Chess, Anything Goes, Sunset Boulevard, The King and I, The Drowsy Chaperone, and most recently in New York, Follies. What might be less well-known (in the U.S., at least!) is that Paige has also recorded a number of U.K. hit albums and singles.   The May 12 release from Rhino U.K. of The Ultimate Collection draws on Paige’s remarkable body of recordings between 1978 and 2011, and the standard edition premieres a couple of unreleased songs as well as a new club remixThe 2-CD Special Edition adds 20 more tracks, all culled from Paige’s singles discography and featuring 4 new-to-CD tracks.

The Ultimate Collection recognizes Paige’s acclaimed 50 years in show business, beginning with her professional debut onstage in 1964. The chronologically-sequenced set begins, of course, with “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” which was already familiar to listeners thanks to Julie Covington’s performance on the Evita concept album. Paige made the song her own, however, and began her collaboration with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber who is also represented here with “Memory” from Cats, the two key songs from Paige’s star turn in Sunset Boulevard, and a studio rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Paige didn’t portray Mary Magdalene onstage in the show, but recorded the song for her 1983 studio album and third solo LP, Stages. Produced by David Bowie’s famed collaborator Tony Visconti, Stages was a phenomenon in Paige’s native United Kingdom. It remained on the British album chart for 48 weeks, garnering a 2x Platinum certification by the BPI (The British Recorded Music Industry) for U.K. sales. From that collection of theatre music, The Ultimate Collection also reprises its songs from A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls and Nine. “Be on Your Own,” from Nine, is heard not in its original version, but in the radio edit of its new Almighty Remix.

Visconti and Paige reunited for the follow-up to Stages. Instead of Broadway showstoppers, Cinema took aim at the songs of Hollywood. The result was another Top 20 Platinum-seller, from which the standard “Unchained Melody” and the song “Sometimes,” from the films Unchained and Champions, respectively, have been culled. 1985’s Love Hurts showed off Paige’s pop side, which she previously visited on albums including 1981’s Warner Music debut Elaine Paige. That album featured new songs from Paul McCartney (“Hot as Sun”), Barry Gibb (“Secrets”) and Vangelis (“The Second Time”); though none are featured here, The Ultimate Collection offers three Love Hurts tracks: Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” Judie Tzuke’s “For You” and a little song from the musical Chess which became one of Britain’s biggest-selling singles of 1985. “I Know Him So Well” was penned by Tim Rice and ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Paige’s duet with Barbara Dickson sold over 900,000 copies, and the Love Hurts album went Top 10.

Hit the jump for more on The Ultimate Collection, including the complete track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 6, 2014 at 13:17