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Give ‘Em a Spin: The Second Disc’s Essential Back to Black Friday 2013 Release Guide

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Another year…another Black Friday. Yes, it’s that time of year again in which consumers start off the holiday shopping season on a mad, frenetic note. This year is another one in which numerous big-box retailers in the U.S. have made headlines by blackening Thursday, or Thanksgiving Day itself, by sales starting on the holiday. So many might give thanks that the folks behind Record Store Day are waiting until the traditional Friday to release their twice-yearly slate of exclusive releases.

As usual, many top artists are represented, from Bob Dylan to U2, with titles aimed coming from both the new and catalogue ends of the spectrum. With that in mind, Mike and I have once again selected our picks for the crème de la crème of titles being released this Friday. Don’t hesitate to head over and drop by your local independent record store, and don’t fear the crowds. With everybody at the mall, the Black Friday RSD event is usually a bit more manageable than the April festivities. You can find a full list of RSD Back to Black Friday exclusives (and a list of participating shops) here.

Without further ado, we’ll kick things off with five of Joe’s favorite slabs of vinyl due on Friday…

Nilsson Sessions LPNilsson, Sessions 1967-1975: Rarities from the RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Legacy)

Let’s go ahead and say it: 2013 has been The Year of Nilsson. Legacy’s well-curated sampler The Essential Nilsson whetted appetites for its crown jewel box set The RCA Albums Collection, and that landmark collection was followed by the first-ever CD reissue of Flash Harry on Varese Vintage. Now, Legacy caps off this yearlong celebration with the 180-gram vinyl release of a Nilsson album that never was. Sessions 1967-1975, adorned with Steve Stanley’s wonderful original artwork created for the box set, features twelve of the best Nilsson tracks you might not have known – and won’t soon forget. An alternate of “One” (“…is the loneliest number you’ll ever know”) and a demo of “Coconut” sit alongside John Lennon’s “Isolation” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little” on this remarkable distillation of a singular musical life. To vinyl collectors who already own the box, Sessions is a fine complement. To those who don’t…you’re in for a treat. Doctor’s Orders: Put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning.

Van Dyke Parks - Come to the Sunshine

Van Dyke Parks, “Come to the Sunshine” b/w “Farther Along” 7-inch single (Sundazed)

Musical iconoclast (and close pal and collaborator of Harry Nilsson) Van Dyke Parks returns with a replica 45 of his 1966 single, originally on the MGM label. “Come to the Sunshine” has proved a rallying cry for the sunshine pop genre, covered by artists including Harpers Bizarre – who included it as the very first track on their debut album. One part jazz, one part vaudeville, one part psychedelia and all- infectious, the intricately arranged “Come to the Sunshine” is packaged by the Sundazed crew in a new sleeve with a period photo of Parks and new liner notes from California pop historian Domenic Priore.

Percy Dovetonsils Christmas

Ernie Kovacs, A Percy Dovetonsils Christmas (Omnivore)

Omnivore has our candidate for the wackiest release of the Christmas season – or is that the Christmath theathon? Yes, everyone’s favorite lisping poet is back. And if Ernie Kovacs’ kooky creation isn’t your favorite lisping poet, he might well be once you take a chance on A Percy Dovetonsils Christmas. “The Night Before Christmas on New York’s Fashionable East Side” is a most unique Christmas Eve tale, and it’s joined on this festive vinyl 10-inch picture disc by five more of Dovetonsils’ rather refined poems. Grab your smoking jacket (zebra pattern not required) and your glasses (painted-on eyeballs optional, as well) and rest in your easy chair with some of the strangest – and most strangely enjoyable – odes you’ll hear this holiday season.

The Doors - RSD

The Doors, Curated by Record Store Day (Elektra/Rhino)

This 180-gram LP offers eight rare studio and live tracks from Jim, Ray, Robby and John including four mono mixes (“Break on Through,” “Soul Kitchen,” “Moonlight Drive” and “When the Music’s Over”) plus the LP version of “Love Street,” “The Unknown Soldier” from the Hollywood Bowl in 1968, “Roadhouse Blues” from New York’s Felt Forum in 1970, and “Five to One” from Boston, also 1970. All tracks have been remastered by Bruce Botnick, and surviving Doors Robby Krieger and John Densmore have hand-written the track listing on the artwork.

Roy Orbison - Monument Vinyl

Roy Orbison, The Monument Vinyl Box (Legacy)

Here, then, is a Monumental 4-LP box for a Monumental artist. The Big O immortalized such heartbreakingly dramatic mini-operas as “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” “Running Scared” and “Blue Bayou,” all of which you’ll hear on the first three LPs in this new vinyl box set: Lonely and Blue, Crying and In Dreams. The fourth LP is a wholly new creation: an Oh! Pretty Woman album featuring the title track, “Ooby Dooby,” “Claudette,” and other tracks handpicked by Orbison’s sons. This one will sure look great under the tree – wrapped in some pretty paper, of course.

After the jump: Mike selects his five picks for Back to Black Friday! Read the rest of this entry »

Omnivore Unveils Colorful Black Friday Slate with Van Zandt, Clark, Kovacs

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Here at Second Disc HQ, we know that we can count on Omnivore Recordings for some of the most colorful and fun releases for Record Store Day’s Back to Black Friday shopping event!  On the day after Thanksgiving, you might find yourself at your local indie record store to pick up one of Omnivore’s three Black Friday collectibles.  As usual, it’s a diverse trio, with releases from two late troubadours – Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark – and one legendary late comedian, Ernie Kovacs.

Omnivore Black Friday 2013This past March, Omnivore unveiled The White Light Demos from The Byrds’ Gene Clark, which traced the development of the music that was released on Clark’s August 1971 LP for A&M Records, White LightFor Back to Black Friday, The White Light Demos arrives as a limited edition orange vinyl pressing.  Clark’s second post-Byrds solo record, White Light was a rootsy collection of intensely personal, and frequently transcendent, music.  Of the twelve demos on Omnivore’s release, six (“White Light,” “For A Spanish Guitar,” “Where My Love Lies Asleep,” “The Virgin” “Because Of You,” and “With Tomorrow”) appeared in final form on White Light. Two (“Opening Day” and “Winter”) appeared in final form as bonus tracks on A&M’s 2002 CD reissue of the album. One track (”Here Tonight”) is an alternate version of a song that appeared on the Flying Burrito Brothers compilation Close Up The Honky Tonks.  The remaining trio of songs (“For No One,” “Please Mr. Freud” and “Jimmy Christ”) had never been issued previously in any form prior to Omnivore’s CD release.  This is the first appearance of The White Light Demos on vinyl.

After the jump: what’s coming from Townes Van Zandt and Ernie Kovacs? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 29, 2013 at 13:28

Holiday Gift Guide Review: The Comedy and Music of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams

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Welcome to 2012’s Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide!  We’ll use these special reviews to highlight not only seasonally-themed releases, but box sets, deluxe reissues and other special titles that might make the perfect gifts under your tree this holiday season!

Groucho Marx once observed that “marriage is a wonderful institution,” before adding, “but who wants to live in an institution?”  A few lucky couples have not only thrived in that institution, however, but also in the world of comedy: Gracie Allen and George Burns, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs.  A renaissance man, Kovacs was a comedian, actor, author, clown, surrealist, and pioneer of the television camera, and even served as host of what’s widely acknowledged as television’s first “morning show,” broadcast out of Philadelphia over NBC.  His wife, Adams, was no second banana.  An accomplished actress and singer, the Juilliard and Columbia School of Drama graduate was crowned “Miss U.S. Television” in 1950, and appeared alongside Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey prior to being spotted by the producer of Kovacs’ then-local show in Philadelphia. In one of his last interviews, Kovacs quipped, “I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only; the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it: Let’s get married.’” Kovacs and Adams tied the knot in 1954; their marriage was only cut short by Kovacs’ death in 1962.  (Adams remarried twice, and died in 2008, aged 81.)  Now, thanks to Omnivore Recordings and Shout! Factory, the beloved duo is in the spotlight once again on two delightful new releases.

The Edie Adams Christmas Album featuring Ernie Kovacs 1952 (OVCD-42) shows off both sides of the winsome, young Adams.  She’s as comfortable with a lovely, subtle reading of Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song” as she is with a tongue-in-cheek “Household Holiday Blues” in which she joshes around with her brash comic foil Kovacs.  The album’s fifteen tracks, in which Adams sings to piano accompaniment, are all derived from the month of December 1952 for the Kovacs Unlimited television program and make their first appearance on CD (or in any audio format) here.

The song selection is wonderfully varied, from familiar secular tunes (“The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!”) to spiritual selections ( “I Wonder as I Wander”) and lesser-known songs (Al Stillman and Victor Young’s “It’s Christmas Time,” also recorded by artists including Carpenters).  Adams’ pristine and expressive soprano is engaging on both the ballads and the up-tempo cuts, including the jazzy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Let It Snow.”  As on “Household Holiday Blues,” Adams is joined by Kovacs on the former.  Ernie’s most expressive turn, however, is on the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans classic “Silver Bells.”  Although Kovacs was no Bing Crosby, he holds his own with Adams, and their heartfelt duet is one of the album’s highlights.

Some comedy features on the disc, of course.  A very brief rendition of “A Marshmallow World” has Adams engaging in some goofing mid-song, and Ernie’s patter leads into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  Adams adopts an Irish brogue for “Christmas in Killarney,” most famously recorded by Crosby just a year earlier at Decca.  But music takes the center stage.  Wartime standard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is poignant in Adams’ rendition.  Another treat is Adams singing the seldom-recorded verse to Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “Let It Snow!”  She also throws in a bit of Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on that song, and does justice to the composer/lyricist’s torchy perennial, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

There’s plenty of heart in this sweet, vintage holiday fest.  Due to the age and origin of the recordings, there are audio imperfections that are difficult to ignore.  But the “pops, ticks and general surface noise” truthfully acknowledged in the notes hardly detract from the warm and nostalgic performances.  Reuben Cohen and Gavin Lurssen have remastered the audio to as best a quality as is possible.  Edie Adams’ son, Josh Mills, contributes his personal reminisces about his mom.  His touching recollections about his mom’s holiday fervor and the celebrity friends that populated his childhood (including both halves of the onscreen Odd Couple, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) add up to an essential part of the album, attractively designed with retro flavor by Greg Allen.

After the jump: there’s much more on Edie and Ernie as we look at Shout! Factory’s exciting new DVD release from these legends of television! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 9, 2012 at 14:04

Let It Snow! Omnivore Celebrates Christmas with Comedienne, Actress and Singer Edie Adams

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Let it snow!  It may only be August, but the annual spate of holiday-themed releases is just around the corner.  And we’re pleased as punch (or egg nog!)  to inaugurate our coverage of this year’s crop with the announcement of the all-new, yet all-vintage, Edie Adams Christmas Album!  It’s arriving on October 9 from our busy friends at Omnivore Recordings, the label fresh off the first-time release of Ernie Kovacs’ Percy Dovetonsils Thpeaks!  Kovacs, of course, was Adams’ co-star and husband until his tragic death in 1962, and all of the tracks on the new Christmas collection have been derived from early- to mid-1950s broadcasts of the Kovacs Unlimited television program.

Far from being a second banana to the pioneering comedian, however, Edie Adams was an accomplished actress and singer in her own right, and a presence from the earliest days of television.  The Juilliard and Columbia School of Drama graduate was crowned “Miss U.S. Television” in 1950, and appeared alongside Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey prior to being spotted by the producer of Ernie Kovacs’ then-local show in Philadelphia.  In one of his last interviews, Kovacs quipped, “I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only; the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it: Let’s get married.’”  (They did so in 1954.)  Kovacs and Adams’ talents were too large simply for a regional audience, and soon they received a national network berth.  Adams also made pivotal appearances on the Broadway stage.  She introduced “Ohio” with Rosalind Russell as one of the sisters of Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein’s 1953 Wonderful Town, for which she received a Theatre World Award, and portrayed Daisy Mae opposite Peter Palmer’s Li’l Abner in the 1956 musical of the same name.  The adaptation by Norman Panama, Melvin Frank, Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul of the Al Capp comic strip netted Adams a Tony Award.  When Rodgers and Hammerstein produced their first television musical version of Cinderella starring Julie Andrews, Adams was the “Impossible?  It’s possible!” Fairy Godmother.

Hit the jump and you’ll find much more on Edie Adams, including the full track listing and pre-order link for this future holiday classic! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 8, 2012 at 11:44

Review: Omnivore’s Legends of Music and Comedy, Buck Owens and Ernie Kovacs

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In the pantheon of American comedy legends, you’d likely find Ernie Kovacs, the gifted, gone-too-soon (1919-1962) personality who carved out a niche in the early days of American television.  Joining Ernie in that esteemed company might well also be Buck Owens (1929-2006), the influential guitarist and songwriter who made a second career out of joking, a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’ on the cornpone television variety show Hee Haw.  However different these two gentlemen are, however, Omnivore Recordings has celebrated both of them in high style with two recent releases, Buck Owens’ Live at the White House (…And in Space) and Ernie Kovacs’ Percy Dovetonsils…Thpeaks!

Though Buck could be quite a character in the environs of Kornfield Kounty, even the genial host might have been at a loss had Percy Dovetonsils been guesting on Hee Haw!  One of Ernie Kovacs’ most beloved creations, the lisping poet Mr. Dovetonsils could most often be found reciting his unusual odes in thick glasses with glued-on eyeballs, and a stylish, zebra-patterned smoking jacket.  What place is there in 2012 for such a, um, genteel and tasteful soul?  Omnivore makes a case for the longevity of Percy with his first and only LP release, the long-lost Speaks, I mean, Thpeaks (OVCD-27).  The album was recorded in 1961 but has remained unreleased till now, when it could be launched upon a discerning public.

Percy sets the scene for his vinyl (not to mention CD and digital) debut: “I’m sitting here beside my Italian harpischord…”  He describes the instrument in detail, and makes it clear that he’s sipping a martini.  But that’s not all.  ”Behind me is a marble bust…well, perhaps not a bust, but it wasn’t a complete success, either!”  Kovacs’ sincere delivery makes even the hoariest joke worthy of a smile.  You’ll find more about Percy and Buck after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 20, 2012 at 13:02

Posted in Buck Owens, Ernie Kovacs, Reissues, Reviews

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