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Release Round-Up: Week of September 2

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Real Gone - September 2014

Willie Hutch, In Tune (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / Willie Hutch, Midnight Dancer (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / Esther Phillips, Alone Again, Naturally (Expanded Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. ) /Ullanda McCullough, Ullanda McCullough/Watching You, Watching Me (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / Ray Griff, The Entertainer – Greatest U.S. & Canadian Hits (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / Rick Wakeman, Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / The Ides of March, Vehicle (Expanded Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 16 – Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA 11/8/69 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. ) (all Real Gone Music)

Real Gone Music is kicking off September with classic soul, disco, country, prog rock, jazz-rock and more on this packed slate of eight titles!

George Benson - Breezin SACD

George Benson, Breezin’ SACD (Audio Fidelity) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Audio Fidelity makes a splash in the multi-channel audio arena with this hybrid SACD release featuring stereo and surround mixes of the guitar great’s pop breakthrough!


Big Star, # 1 Record and Radio City (Stax)

# 1 Record : Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Radio City: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Concord has a pair of standalone reissues of Big Star’s first two albums with new liner notes from R.E.M.’s Mike Mills!

Jackie DeShannon - She Did It

Jackie DeShannon, She Did It! The Songs of Jackie DeShannon, Volume 2 (Ace) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ace has a second volume filled with hits and rarities from the pen of the great Jackie DeShannon – including tracks from Olivia Newton-John, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, Peter and Gordon, Rita Coolidge, Tammy Grimes, The Carpenters, Randy Edelman, and of course, Kim Carnes with the smash hit “Bette Davis Eyes” – plus an exclusive demo from Jackie herself!  Look for Joe’s review coming soon!

Game Theory - Blaze of Glory

Game Theory, Blaze of Glory (Omnivore) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Omnivore has CD and vinyl reissues of the 1982 debut album from power pop/new wave band Game Theory, generously expanding the CD edition with fifteen bonus tracks – eleven of which are previously unissued!  The label promises this will be the first in a series, so don’t miss out – this is the ground floor!

10cc - Ten Out of 10

10cc, Ten Out of 10 and Windows in the Jungle (UMC)

10cc’s eighth and ninth albums get the deluxe treatment in the U.K.!  The expanded  Ten Out Of 10  features 7 bonus tracks including B-sides and live versions; Windows, 10cc’s first collaboration with Andrew Gold, adds seven bonuses including B-sides and tracks from the U.S. version of the album.

Ten Out of 10: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Windows: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Other Side of Midnight

Michel Legrand, The Other Side of Midnight: Original Music from the Motion Picture (Intrada)

Intrada is now shipping the CD premiere of composer Michel Legrand’s (The Thomas Crown Affair, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) lush, atmospheric score to director Charles Jarrott’s (Lost Horizon) 1977 film based on Sidney Sheldon’s novel.

Gorky Park OST

James Horner, Gorky Park: Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack (Intrada)

Also newly-available from Intrada: a newly expanded presentation of James Horner’s (Titanic, Braveheart) score to Michael Apted’s 1983 crime thriller.  This edition features the complete score in true stereo for the first time, and a brace of bonus tracks!

Written by Joe Marchese

September 2, 2014 at 08:39

Release Round-Up: Week of August 25

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Kinks - Lola

The Kinks, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround: Deluxe Edition (Sanctuary/BMG, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

The Kinks’ 1970 classic is expanded with a second album – 1971’s Percy – plus an array of bonus tracks (many previously unreleased) on a new 2-CD set!

Mary Poppins 50

Mary Poppins: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – The Legacy Collection (Walt Disney Records) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

Walt Disney Records’ deluxe Legacy Collection unveils its second release – a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 3-CD expansion of Mary Poppins that promises to be the most comprehensive presentation of the Sherman Brothers’ score yet!

Randy Bachman - Vinyl Tap

Randy Bachman, Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story (ILS)

Randy Bachman of Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive renown, is “shakin’ all over” with this new release of his 2013 hometown concert at Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre!  This greatest hits-centric set – featuring “Undun,” “No Time,” “Laughing,” “No Sugar Tonight,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Takin’ Care of Business” and more – updates a similarly-titled program of Bachman’s from over a decade ago, and melds music with Bachman’s stories behind the songs!  It’s available in a DVD/CD set as well as a standalone CD.  Features Bachman’s band including Marc LaFrance on drums and vocals, Brent Howard Knudsen on guitars and vocals, and Mick Dalla-Vee on bass and vocals.

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

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

Blu-ray:  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Esther Phillips - Black-Eyed and Capricorn

Esther Phillips, Black-Eyed Blues/Capricorn Princess (Soul Brother) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Two of Esther Phillips’ CTI/Kudu LPs – including the long out-of-print Capricorn Princess – are combined on one CD from the U.K.’s Soul Brother label!

Switch - Switch BBR

High Inergy – Turnin’ On / Switch – Switch (BBR)

High Inergy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Switch: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Big Break continues its series of Motown reissues with 1977’s Turnin’ On from High Inergy and the self-titled 1978 set from Switch!  Full rundowns of both titles are coming soon!

Wild is the Wind

Dimitri Tiomkin, Wild is the Wind: Music from the Motion Picture (La-La Land)

La-La Land is now shipping its 2-CD expansion of the original soundtrack to the 1957 Hollywood drama, and this set features both the original film recordings composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and the re-recorded Columbia Records soundtrack release including the title song performed by Johnny Mathis!

All That Jazz - Criterion

The Criterion Collection: All That Jazz (Dual-Format BD/DVD Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Criterion Collection has a lavish new edition of Bob Fosse’s 1979 film All That Jazz on tap!  The deluxe BD/DVD edition includes a variety of special features illuminating just how the innovative director/choreographer/auteur turned the movie musical on its ear with the shocking, and shockingly autobiographical, motion picture.

Written by Joe Marchese

August 25, 2014 at 08:25

Real Gone Is “In Tune” With September Slate Featuring Grateful Dead, Ides of March, Willie Hutch, More

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Real Gone - September 2014

September 1 marks Labor Day, but Real Gone Music isn’t taking much time off! The very next day, the label launches a new crop of eight titles emphasizing soul, funk and R&B but also encompassing country, classic rock and a touch of prog!

At Motown, Willie Hutch gifted The Jackson 5 with his song “I’ll Be There,” saw his songs recorded by the label’s elite including Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, and penned funky soundtracks including The Mack. In 1977, he departed Berry Gordy’s empire for Whitfield Records, headed (of course) by Motown expatriate Norman Whitfield. Hutch’s two Whitfield albums In Tune and Midnight Dancer are arriving on U.S. CD for the first time anywhere. Hutch is joined by R&B great Esther Phillips on the Real Gone roster, as the label has a reissue of Phillips’ 1973 CTI/Kudu platter Alone Again Naturally. The former Little Esther tears into not only Gilbert O’Sullivan’s title track but gives her all to the likes of Bill Withers’ “Use Me” and Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Do Right Man, Do Right Woman,” popularized by Aretha Franklin. Real Gone’s edition is based upon the out-of-print edition by Reel Music including its two live bonus tracks and A. Scott Galloway’s essay. Alone Again has resulted from the partnership of Real Gone and SoulMusic Records; the labels’ affiliation is also yielding two rare albums by the soulful Ullanda McCullough for the Atlantic label on one CD, including a set written and produced for the singer by Ashford and Simpson!

Not in an R&B mood? Real Gone has country fans covered with the first-ever compendium of the chart hits of Ray Griff, the country singer-songwriter known to his fans as The Entertainer! Griff’s The Entertainer – Greatest U.S. and Canadian Hits collects 24 tracks from seven (yes, seven) record labels spanning the period of 1967-1986!

If classic rock is your bag, you might want to hop a ride on an expanded edition of Vehicle from the other Chicago horn band, The Ides of March! This reissue adds four bonus singles and new liner notes by Richie Unterberger (including new quotes from Ides of March/Survivor man Jim Peterik) to the original 1970 album and celebrates the band’s 50th anniversary. You might say “Yes!” to Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record, recorded shortly after the keyboard great rejoined Yes for the Going for the One album in 1977. Last but not least, Real Gone returns to Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks series for a key 1969 show on the band’s home turf at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium!

Hit the jump for Real Gone’s press release with more details on all eight titles, plus pre-order links! All releases are due from the label on September 2. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 28, 2014 at 10:08

SoulMusic Round-Up: Label Expands, Reissues Esther Phillips, The Tymes, Lenny Williams and Benét

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Esther Phillips - From a Whisper ExpandedSoulMusic Records has kept a busy profile in recent months on both sides of the Atlantic. A quartet of the label’s recent U.K. releases spotlight memorable voices from across the R&B spectrum.

The one-time “Little Esther,” a.k.a. Esther Mae Jones, a.k.a. Esther Phillips, came to CTI Records’ Kudu imprint in 1971 as a veteran artist. Though she was just shy of 36 years old, she already had 22 years of her career behind her. If Atlantic Records was unsure of the best setting in which to place Phillips’ distinctive voice, Kudu’s Creed Taylor had the formula from Day One. Taylor surrounded the vocalist with the best of his crossover-jazz roster on fresh, funky and contemporary songs, embracing soul, jazz, pop, and later, disco. The result was From a Whisper to a Scream, the subject of a new, expanded SoulMusic reissue.

From a Whisper to a Scream was named after the Allen Toussaint composition. Esther’s future musical director Pee Wee Ellis and Jack Wilson traded off arrangement duties on the album’s songs, with CTI “house arranger” Don Sebesky sweetening some tracks with his trademark strings. Richard Tee, Bernard Purdie, Eric Gale, Hank Crawford and Airto Moreira all added their instrumental prowess. The album’s nine tracks included another cut from the New Orleans piano man, “Sweet Touch of Love,” as well as songs from Eddie Floyd (“That’s All Right with Me,” “’Til My Back Ain’t Got No Bone”), Marvin Gaye (“Baby I’m for Real”), Big Dee Irwin (“Your Love is So Doggone Good”) and Gil Scott-Heron (the wrenching “Home is Where the Hatred Is,” on which Esther laid her soul and her own personal demons bare). Whisper garnered a great deal of attention when Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her Young, Gifted and Black LP and turned it over to fellow nominee Phillips: “I liked Esther’s record…I felt she could use encouragement,” the generous Queen commented.

From a Whisper was reissued earlier this year as part of the Australian Raven label’s package of Phillips’ first four Kudu LPs. SoulMusic’s new edition, however, adds four bonus tracks (one of which also appeared on the Raven set) from the same December 1971 sessions which yielded the album. These tracks – Carole King’s “Brother, Brother,” Leonard and Jane Feather’s “How Blue Can You Get,” Craig Lockhart’s “Don’t Run to Him” and Stanley Styne and Donald Kahn’s “A Beautiful Friendship” – were all previously issued on CD by Sony. SoulMusic’s David Nathan adds new liner notes with a personal touch, and Alan Wilson has remastered.

Tymes - Tymes UpPhiladelphia vocal group The Tymes, best-known for their 1963 chart-topper “So Much in Love,” found themselves experiencing a happy career renaissance with their RCA 1974 single “You Little Trustmaker.” Both the 45 and the album from which it was derived, Trustmaker, announced that it was once again time for The Tymes. Weathering the departure of George Hilliard (who was replaced first by Charles Nixon and then by Jerry Ferguson), the group pressed on for a second RCA long-player which is receiving its CD debut from SoulMusic Records. Tymes Up was a New York/Philadelphia crosstown affair, reuniting The Tymes with Trustmaker arranger/conductor and Philly soul veteran Richie Rome. Tymes Up brought the sextet’s vocal sound into a disco context, with disco pioneer Tom Moulton handling the final mix on the LP produced by Billy Jackson. Rhythm tracks were laid down by Jackson and Rome in New York, with strings, horns and additional voices added at the epicenter of Philly soul, Sigma Sound, by Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings and The Sweethearts of Sigma.

A “who’s who” of soul, R&B and disco provided songs for the album, including Fonzi Thornton (“If I Can’t Make You Smile,” “God’s Gonna Punish You” and “To the Max(imum),” Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy (“It’s Cool”) and the unusual team of Four Seasons songwriter Sandy Linzer and Russian producer Boris Midney (“Hypnotized”). The sleek style of Tymes Up owed not just to the dancefloor but to the sophisticated soul stylings of Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff; the latter production duo had, ironically, declined a place on the Philadelphia International roster to The Tymes when the hometown group submitted for a place on the label.  Tymes Up performed respectably, reaching No. 40 R&B/No. 202 Pop. Its singles fared even better, with “It’s Cool” reaching No. 3 R&B/No. 68 Pop, and both “Only Your Love” and “To the Max(imum)” hitting No. 3 on the disco survey. Two more RCA albums followed. SoulMusic’s CD issue of Tymes Up includes comprehensive new liner notes from Charles Waring, new remastering from Alan Wilson, and two bonus tracks – the single edits of “God’s Gonna Punish You” and “Only Your Love.”

After the jump, we have a look at recent reissues from Lenny Williams and Benét, plus track listings and pre-order links for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 23, 2014 at 10:00

Little Esther, All Grown Up: Raven Collects Esther Phillips’ First CTI Albums

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Esther Phillips - Baby I'm for RealAs the premier vocalist on CTI Records’ Kudu imprint, Esther Phillips (1935-1984) played a key role in producer Creed Taylor’s “Cool Revolution” at CTI. A gifted vocalist, Phillips nonetheless struggled with personal demons throughout her too-short life. The former “Little Esther” had her first taste of success in 1949, just fourteen years old, and a taste of heroin not long after; stories of her mercurial behavior have entered into legend. But her talent was never in doubt. CTI recorded Phillips in a variety of settings from smooth pop to jazz, disco and funk, realizing the adaptability of her pinched, distinct style. Now, Australia’s Raven Records label has compiled Phillips’ first four albums for CTI/Kudu as one 2-CD set entitled Baby I’m for Real, and it’s a set that no fan of soul or jazz should miss.

Discovered by the great Johnny Otis at the age of fourteen, the Texas-born Little Esther scored her first hit in 1950 with the rather mature “Double Crossing Blues.” Though her offstage troubles threatened to derail her career even at a young age, she bounced back with hits in the sixties including “Release Me” (1962) and “And I Love Her” (1965), the latter at Atlantic Records. After Atlantic, Phillips landed at Taylor’s up-and-coming CTI label. Though CTI was known for its pop-leaning fusion jazz, Taylor intended Kudu to emphasize the hybrid genre of soul-jazz. Phillips shared the roster with the likes of Grover Washington, Jr., Johnny Hammond and Hank Crawford.

Her 1971 Kudu debut, From a Whisper to a Scream, was named after the Allen Toussaint composition. Pee Wee Ellis and Jack Wilson traded off arrangement duties on the album’s songs, with CTI “house arranger” Don Sebesky sweetening some tracks with his trademark strings. The album’s nine tracks included another cut from the New Orleans piano man, “Sweet Touch of Love,” as well as songs from Eddie Floyd (“That’s All Right with Me,” “’Til My Back Ain’t Got No Bone”), Marvin Gaye (“Baby I’m for Real”), Big Dee Irwin (“Your Love is So Doggone Good”) and Gil Scott-Heron (“Home is Where the Hatred Is”). Whisper garnered a great deal of attention when Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her Young, Gifted and Black LP and turned it over to fellow nominee Phillips: “I liked Esther’s record…I felt she could use encouragement,” the generous Queen commented.

Whisper has been paired on the first disc of Raven’s set with its follow-up, 1972’s Alone Again, Naturally. Phillips naturally found the innate anguish in Gilbert O’Sullivan’s chart-topping title track, and also brought her soulful stamp to Bill Withers’ “Use Me” and “Let Me in Your Life,” Eddie Floyd and Booker T. Jones’ “I’ve Never Found a Man (To Love Me Like You Do),” Big Joe Turner’s “Cherry Red” and the southern soul staple “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” from Dan Penn and Chips Moman. Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, George Benson, Richard Tee, Ralph MacDonald, and Hank Crawford all played on Alone Again, with arrangements again by Ellis. Phillips scored another Grammy nomination for her vocal on the title track.

After the jump: more on this release, including the full track listing and order links!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 1, 2014 at 13:00

From Manhattan to Memphis: Ace, Kent Collect Classic Soulful Sides on Three New Releases

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Though they’re located across the pond, the team at Ace Records literally has the entire map of the U.S. covered when it comes to celebrating classic soul sounds.  Among the numerous titles recently issued by the Ace family are three geographically-attuned sets sure to pique your ears and interest.  Ace’s journey begins in the American northeast, and specifically in New York City, with a second volume of Manhattan Soul.  Like the first volume in the series, it’s drawn from the considerable archives of Scepter, Wand and Musicor Records, and it brings together songs from cherished vocalists like Tommy Hunt, Jimmy Radcliffe and Big Maybelle, along with a whole slew of artists who may not have achieved notoriety, but sure did wax some great music.  Next, the Ace team heads down to Alabama, where The Charmels and Jeanne and the Darlings might have shouted, “We’re the Soul Girls!”  This 29-track anthology collects the complete recordings of two of Stax Records’ criminally-underrated girl groups, with many tracks appearing on CD for the very first time.  Finally, Ace basks in the glow of the heartland with Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul, exploring the crossroads of those two distinct genres.

Both volumes of Manhattan Soul conjure up the urbane R&B sound that came out of the 1960s in that storied borough of New York City.  Florence Greenberg’s Scepter and Wand labels (home to Maxine Brown, Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles and B.J. Thomas) and Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor (home to Gene Pitney, George Jones and the Platters) boasted diverse rosters, but both had a keen interest in soul music, frequently swathing it in strings and lush orchestrations.  It’s no surprise that one maestro of sophisticated soul, Burt Bacharach, had his biggest successes on Scepter, and also provided hits for Musicor.  There were many other ties; Luther Dixon departed the Greenberg empire for Musicor, while Van McCoy, Bert Keyes, and Bert DeCoteaux all arranged platters for both labels.  Each of those names is represented on Manhattan Soul, Volume 2.

This is uptown soul, for sure, with further contributions from producers such as Teddy Randazzo (Porgy and the Monarchs’ “That Girl”), Chips Moman (The Masqueraders’ “I Don’t Want Nobody to Lead Me On,” recorded in Memphis but released in Manhattan on Wand), and songwriters like the young Kenny Gamble (Nella Dodds’ “I Just Gotta Have You”) and Curtis Mayfield (Something New’s “You Babe”).  Fetching big beat ballads proliferate on this 24-track CD, such as Ed Bruce’s “I’m Gonna Have a Party.”  The track was written by Bruce arranged by Florence Greenberg’s son Stan Green (nee Greenberg) on Wand, and is almost a sideways rewrite of Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” a sizeable Wand hit by Chuck Jackson.  Though the second volume of Manhattan Soul doesn’t feature as many high-profile artists as the first (which had The Shirelles, Johnny Maestro, The Platters and Maxine Brown all represented), it’s just as rewarding, if not more so.  These songs meld sophisticated, sometimes Latin-flavored arrangements with deep soul, plenty of booming baritones and swelling strings.  There are even four interesting unreleased tracks, including Jimmy Radcliffe’s beguiling “Deep in the Heart of Harlem” and “No Jealous Lover,” by Lois Lane, a.k.a. Louise Williams, a U.S. Congresswoman since 1988!  Ady Croasdell annotates, and even teases us with a liner note about a song that wasn’t included: Sylvia Jenkins’ “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin which was rejected for its “excruciating passages!”  Bring on Volume Three.

After the jump: to Alabama and beyond, plus track listings and pre-order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2012 at 10:04

Review: The Cool Revolution Continues – Four From CTI and Kudu

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When he established Kudu as an offshoot of his titanic jazz label CTI, Creed Taylor wore his ambitions on his sleeve.   The label was named after the long-horned African mammal and its logo adorned with Afro-centric colors, as Taylor intended to do no less than make Kudu a home for releases “indigenous to the black popular music of the United States.”   Taylor always knew the importance of a visual, and much as CTi releases were recognizable for their striking, provocative cover photographs and lavish gatefolds, Kudu’s were no-frills, with bold, plain print and simpler photos or artwork in single-jacket sleeves.  Spartan though the design may have been, no less care was expended on the music.  Much of Kudu’s output could sit comfortably alongside CTI’s, even employing many of the same artists.  Even the repertoire was often similar, with familiar pop songs used as fodder for jazz exploration.  (It was no accident; these hit titles would often draw new listeners to the albums!)  But Kudu’s releases were cut from a funkier cloth.  Four of the best examples have just been reissued by Sony Masterworks, concluding its 40th anniversary series of CTI reissues.  Though there’s currently no indication, here’s hoping that the series resumes to mark CTI’s 41st…and 42nd!  These albums are very much “of their time,” but transcend that tag thanks to impeccable, enduring musicianship.

Lonnie Smith only recorded one title for the Kudu label, but 1971’s Mama Wailer (88697 94704-2) holds a significant spot in the label’s legacy as the second-ever Kudu album.  Smith, on clavinet and organ, contributed two original compositions.  “Mama Wailer,” with vocal interjections on the title phrase, boasts a percolating groove from its leader but also an impressive tenor saxophone solo from Marvin Cabell.  “Hola Muncea” is a little less melodic than the title track, but reaches a similar place at the intersection of latin soul and funk.  Two pop classics round out the album.  Tapestry was still fresh on the record racks when Smith selected Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” for a workout.  His organ gives it a decidedly different identity than King’s piano, and he brings the grease to Laurel Canyon!  The most remarkable track, however, is the epic reworking of Sly Stone’s “Stand!” which filled the entirety of Side Two on the original LP.  With layered, overdubbed B3 parts, Smith’s organ licks are fired off like machine gun blasts.  Almost nine minutes in, there’s an insinuating call and response which leads to a furious Grover Washington Jr. solo (Grover would go solo on the third Kudu album, Inner City Blues).  Billy Cobham’s drumming remains the anchor throughout the song’s shifting dynamics; the great, cosmic conclusion of “Stand!”  looks forward to Smith’s later works.

Hit the jump to revisit Hank Crawford, Johnny Hammond and Esther Phillips’ Kudu classics! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 18, 2011 at 10:15

Ode To A Kudu: CTI Masterworks Series Continues In October With Kudu Titles

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Tuesday, August 9 brought the most recent quartet of CTI jazz titles to CD from Sony’s Masterworks Jazz division.  For the next batch, due October 4, the label has turned its attention to CTI’s offshoot label, Kudu.  Named after the long-horned African mammal, Kudu was launched by CTI’s Creed Taylor in 1971.  Taylor described his new endeavor as “a black awareness label, more commercial oriented than CTI and indigenous to the black popular music of the United States.”  Even the logo’s familiar Afro-centric colors would be a calling card to Kudu’s mission.  If the Kudu albums were designed in a much less lavish fashion than their CTI counterparts, the music within the grooves could be just as incendiary.

Four Kudu titles are arriving in new, remastered editions housed in soft-pack digipaks: Lonnie Smith’s Mama Wailer; Esther Phillips’ Performance; Hank Crawford’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing; and Johnny Hammond’s Wild Horses/Rock Steady.    While the other titles have been available as expensive imports, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing is making its first appearance on CD.  Although Sony no longer controls the Kudu catalogue of Grover Washington, Jr. (which was sold by Taylor to Motown as part of the deal to dissolve Kudu’s distribution deal with the Motor City giant), these four titles prove without a doubt that Kudu had much to offer.

Lonnie Smith’s 1971 Mama Wailer was only the second Kudu release, after Johnny Hammond’s Breakout.   Smith, on organ, clavinet and vocals, contributed two original songs alongside two well-selected contemporary pop covers: Sly and the Family Stone’s powerfully-charged “Stand!” (stretched to a monumental 17+ minutes!) and Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”  CTI family members like Ron Carter and Airto Moreira contributed to the album, as did Kudu labelmate Grover Washington, Jr., whose Inner City Blues would follow as Kudu’s third release.

Continuing chronologically, Hammond’s Wild Horses/Rock Steady was originally issued in 1972 as the fourth Kudu album.  Electric pianist/organist Hammond, who had covered Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and the Jackson 5’s Clifton Davis-penned “Never Can Say Goodbye” on his debut Breakout, continued to demonstrate his good taste in cover material.  On Wild Horses/Rock Steady, he tackles not only those Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin songs, respectively, but Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and two songs from rock musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, and Galt MacDermot and John Guare’s “Who is Sylvia?” from Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Bob James arranged and conducted the album’s orchestration, while Washington, Moreira, Carter and George Benson all guested.  This album epitomizes producer Creed Taylor’s crossover style, with equal appeal to jazz fans and rock/pop fans alike.  After the jump we’ll fill you in on what’s coming from Esther Phillips and Hank Crawford, as well as full track listings for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 9, 2011 at 10:44