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Virgin Records Celebrates “40 Years of Disruptions” with New Compilation, Picture Discs

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Virgin 40Virgin Records, one of England’s most iconic labels, turns 40 this year – and they’re celebrating with a new compilation full of hits from their storied existence.

The Virgin label was largely the brainchild of one young businessman named Richard Branson. The London-born Branson began his career selling records by mail order and later opening a shop on Oxford Street. The Virgin label was blessed with early success thanks to a willingness to sign acts that major U.K. labels were keen to dismiss. This netted them a smash hit with their very first release, Mike Oldfield’s captivating instrumental “Tubular Bells,” as well as a place in cultural history as the label who’d ultimately made the strongest commitment to punk band The Sex Pistols, after EMI and A&M each dropped the band. (It was Virgin who’d pressed the commercial version of their No. 2 hit “God Save The Queen” as well as their sole studio album, Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.)

The decades to come found Virgin succeeding with all sorts of genres: MTV-ready pop/rock (Culture Club, The Human League, The Spice Girls), groundbreaking alt-rock and New Wave (Simple Minds, XTC), multi-generational rock (Genesis and its two most famous frontmen, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins; The Rolling Stones, for a time) hip-hop and dance (Soul II Soul, Neneh Cherry, Daft Punk, Massive Attack) and more, all the way up to the present (recent critical and commercial hits include tracks by Swedish House Mafia, Emili Sandé and CHVRCHES).

Branson would ultimately sell Virgin to EMI in 1992 to keep other parts of his business empire afloat; the iconoclastic entrepreneur found success in everything from air travel to publishing to music festivals (Europe’s V Festival) to record stores (the late Virgin Megastores) to mobile phones to…well, even more interesting stuff (Branson plans to be aboard the inaugural Virgin Galactic flight – a commercial space trip – this year.) The label continues to exist, now of course under the Universal Music Group family.

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions plans to honor the label’s indomitable spirit across two discs, along with a bonus EP of current Virgin artists covering some classic tracks, including cuts by John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack and others. The set is in stores today, amid a swath of exhibitions in honor of the label around the U.K. area. The label is also selling a handful of their most beloved titles, including singles and albums, as limited edition vinyl titles (many of which are picture discs). The full list is available at Universal’s Uvinyl page.

As always, you can check out the track list and buy the set after the jump.

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Baby, It’s Burt: “The Warner Sound” and “The Atlantic Sound” Compile Rare Bacharach Tracks

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Warner Sound of BacharachIn his 85th year, Burt Bacharach has kept a pace that would wear out many a younger man.  In addition to performing a number of concert engagements, the Oscar, Grammy and Gershwin Prize-winning composer has released a memoir, continued work on three musical theatre projects, co-written songs with Bernie Taupin and J.D. Souther, and even penned a melody for Japanese singer Ringo Sheena.  Though Bacharach keeps moving forward, numerous releases this year have looked back on his illustrious catalogue.  Universal issued The Art of the Songwriter in 6-CD and 2-CD iterations to coincide with the publication of his memoir, Real Gone Music rescued his three sublime “lost” 1974 productions for Dionne Warwick from obscurity, and Warner Music Japan reissued the near-entirety of Warwick’s Scepter and Warner Bros. tenures under the umbrella of Burt Bacharach 85th Birth Anniversary/Dionne Warwick Debut 50th Anniversary.  Two more titles have recently been added to that Japanese reissue series: The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach and The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach.  These 2-CD anthologies are both packed with rarities and familiar songs alike for a comprehensive overview of the Maestro’s recordings on the Warner family of labels.

The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach is the more wide-ranging compilation of the two, drawing on recordings made not just for Warner Bros. Records but for Valiant, Festival, Elektra, Reprise, Scepter, and foreign labels like Italy’s CDG and Sweden’s Metronome.  This 2-CD set is arranged chronologically, with the first CD covering 1962 (Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over,” her only appearance on the set) to 1978 (Nicolette Larson’s “Mexican Divorce”), and the second taking in 1981 (Christopher Cross’ Oscar-winning chart-topper “Arthur’s Theme”) to 2004 (Tamia and Gerald Levert’s “Close to You”).

On the Elektra label, Love scored a hit with “My Little Red Book,” presented here in its mono single version.  The composer didn’t care for the band’s melodic liberties, but the Sunset Strip rockers’ version is today better known than the Manfred Mann original.  From the Reprise catalogue, you’ll hear the great arranger Marty Paich with a swinging instrumental version of “Promise Her Anything,” a genuine Bacharach and David rocker originally recorded by Tom Jones.  Trini Lopez’s groovy “Made in Paris” is also heard in its mono single version.  Morgana King is sultry on a Don Costa arrangement of “Walk On By.”  Buddy Greco delivers a hip “What the World Needs Now,” and Tiny Tim makes the same song his own.  Ella Fitzgerald puts her stamp on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” produced like Tiny Tim’s “World” by Richard Perry.  Another production great, Wall of Sound architect Jack Nitzsche, brings a touch of class to the Paris Sisters’ dreamy “Long After Tonight is All Over.”

Numerous tracks on the first CD come from the worldwide Warner vaults.  The two stars of the original Italian production of Promises, Promises – Catherine Spaak and Johnny Dorelli – are heard in their beautiful, low-key performance of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” as released on the CDG label.  The Sweden Metronome label yields Svante Thuresson’s “This Guy’s In Love with You,” Siw Malmkvist’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” and one of the strangest songs in Bacharach and David’s entire catalogue, “Cross Town Bus” as sung by the Gals and Pals in English.  Australia’s Festival label – the original home of the Bee Gees – has been tapped for Noeleen Batley’s “Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time)” and Jeff Phillips’ “Baby It’s You.”  The treasures on the Warner Bros. label proper are just as eclectic, from Liberace’s gentle “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” to The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s torrid “I Wake Up Crying.”  Harpers Bizarre’s “Me Japanese Boy (I Love You),” with an atmospheric Nick DeCaro arrangement, is another highlight.  The Everly Brothers truncated Bacharach’s melody to “Trains and Boats and Planes” but their harmony blend is at its peak in a 1967 recording.

The second disc of The Warner Sound emphasizes latter-day R&B as Bacharach branched out with a variety of lyricists.  Chaka Khan is heard on “Stronger Than Before” by Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager;  Earth Wind and Fire on “Two Hearts” co-written with Philip Bailey and Maurice White; Tevin Campbell on “Don’t Say Goodbye Girl” co-written with Narada Michael Walden and Sally Jo Dakota; and Randy Crawford on “Tell It To Your Heart” from Bacharach and Tonio K.  Mari Ijima’s original version of “Is There Anybody Out There” – penned by Bacharach, John Bettis, James Ingram and Puff Johnson – is a welcome surprise; the song was recorded in 2012 by Dionne Warwick on her Now album.  Ingram is also heard with “Sing for the Children.”  On the 1993 track, co-producer/arranger Thom Bell channeled Bacharach’s classic flugelhorn sound to great effect.  Old favorites are also revisited and reinterpreted on this disc via Everything But the Girl’s “Alfie,” The Pretenders’ “The Windows of the World,” Linda Ronstadt’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” Anita Baker’s “The Look of Love,” guitarist Earl Klugh’s “Any Old Time of Day” and frequent Bacharach collaborator Elvis Costello’s “Please Stay.”  With big hits (“Arthur’s Theme”) alongside rarely-anthologized gems (the George Duke-produced “Let Me Be the One” performed by Marilyn Scott), there’s something for everybody here.

After the jump: check out The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach!  Plus: track listings with discography and order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

The Year in Reissues: The 2012 Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Gold CDWow!  Was it just over a year ago when a rather dubious report began circulating (that, shockingly, was picked up by many otherwise-reputable publications) that proclaimed the death of the CD was secretly scheduled by the major labels for 2012?  Well, 2012 has come and (almost) gone, and it might have been the most super-sized year in recent memory for reissues, deluxe and otherwise, from labels new and old.  Here at the Second Disc, we consider our annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards a companion piece to Mike’s own round-up over at Popdose, and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year’s most amazing reissues as possible – over 80 worthy, unique titles.  We also hope to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2012. As we’re literally deluged with news around these parts, these ladies and gentlemen prove, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world.  We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to them, and to you, the readers.  After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past alive and well.

With that in mind, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2012? Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2012′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out! Read the rest of this entry »


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Congratulations to our winner, JAYSEN KRALOVETZ!

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2012 at 10:21

Linkage: Catalogue Encounters from Around the Internet

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While The Second Disc tries to be your No. 1 source for cool news and views on stuff around the catalogue music scene, it can’t hurt to give it up for others that are doing great things in the same field. Here’s a little catch-up on some nice things in that area:

  • The Quietus has a lengthy interview with Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt on their career and the great new reissues that are out now. The pair have some nice things to say about Edsel – things that are hard to argue with among most catalogue fans this year!
  • Our friend and sometime contributor Eric Luecking at Record Racks has a nice review of Harmless’ Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Mixes box set. (RR is also giving away some music prizes this summer, having just finished a giveaway for the new Norah Jones album; this is good a time as any to remind you that we’re giving away a Graceland box, too!)
  • One of our own commenters, Snaporaz d’Uzine, has just started a neat little Facebook page for people to share their ideas for albums worthy of reissues. Go on and give it a like; we can say from experience that you really never know who’s reading sites like ours…!

Written by Mike Duquette

June 22, 2012 at 12:26

Review: Deluxe Editions from Everything But The Girl

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The band’s name is Everything But The Girl, but the reissue campaign might as well be titled Everything But the Kitchen Sink.  Over the course of four 2-CD sets, the Edsel label has crafted a comprehensive, definitive retrospective of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt’s early years as merchants of cool, sophisticated and literate pop.  EBTG’s first four albums, originally released on the Blanco Y Negro label, have each been granted the deluxe treatment with an additional disc of non-LP singles, B-sides, demos and live performances.  Best of all, each album is housed classy packaging befitting the stylish sounds within.

Having met while students at Hull University, Thorn and Watt first collaborated in 1982 on a reinterpretation of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” not the most common choice of repertoire in the early days of that decade.  It’s absent from these new reissues, but it was an auspicious start, and the choice of a jazz standard anticipated subsequent projects.  Watt and Thorn pursued separate, solo paths immediately after, but soon reunited for a cover of The Jam’s “English Rose” before crafting their own full-length debut.  1984’s Eden is the first of the four titles just reissued by Edsel (EDSK 7004).  All four albums have very different stylistic signatures from one another, but all draw clearly on musical influences without ever being strictly derivative.

Sadness permeates Eden, with each track written by Thorn and Watt, either collectively or individually.  Thorn took the role of primary lead vocalist, with Watt handling guitars and organ.  Their songs here are tautly crafted; only five out of twelve tracks surpass the 3-minute mark.  And although overt melodic hooks aren’t emphasized, the songs still captivate with airy, often Brazilian-influenced arrangements.  Eden flirts with jazz, the kind of album Creed Taylor might have produced for Astrud Gilberto in 1984.  The breezy, trumpet-flecked bossa nova of the opening track, “Each and Everyone,” is just the first evocation of steamy Latin evenings.  “Even So” (replete with castanets!) is another perfect, moody piece, as is “I Must Confess,” with its dash of “The Girl from Ipanema” courtesy of the slinky tenor sax of Nigel Nash.  The melancholy in the lyrics is brought out by the ironic contrast of the bossa nova settings.

Though nothing’s easy about the listening, Eden is ideal late night music suitable for listening with a cocktail in hand.  Tracey Thorn’s vocals are smoky, while vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Watt glides above her with a harmony on “Bittersweet.”  Its bed of percussion and subtle guitar accent a stark, if conversational, sadness:  “Being pushed about is nothing much to shout about, I know…”  Watt offers haunting vocal on “Soft Touch” and a jazzier, low-key lead on “Tender Blue,” which he shares with Tracey.  This dark story song is arranged with an evocative horn hovering in comment, eventually taking a mournful solo.

The album is far from monotonous, however.  “Another Bridge” tells its story of love lost in a guitar-pop idiom, with a groovy electric organ underpinning its lyric (“You can’t hold onto everything/And I’ve forgotten what we talked about a long time since/Can’t recall days with regret/Tomorrow remember today/And all the rest forget”).  And a sleek, saxophone-driven instrumental “Crabwalk” brings yet another dimension to Eden.

The deluxe edition is bolstered with no fewer than eight associated singles including the up-tempo “Laugh You Out the House,” and “Never Could Have Been Worse” another dark vignette of a painful relationship.  Johnny Marr plays the wailing harmonica on “Native Land,” the closest cut here to a mainstream rock track, while “Don’t You Go” is a John Martyn cover.  In addition to the singles, you’ll find five vocal-and-guitar demos and four BBC session recordings for a total of seventeen bonus tracks.  Of the demos, “Frost and Fire” is raw in its acoustic setting; of the BBC cuts, “Another Bridge” is a bit tougher in its live rendition.

As was the norm decades earlier with U.K. pop acts from The Beatles to Dusty Springfield, EBTG’s recordings were reshuffled for American release.  Eden was not released in America; in its place came a self-titled set with six tracks from Eden and the remaining six drawn from non-LP singles.  Thankfully, all of those tracks long familiar to U.S. listeners are included among the bonus material here.  After the jump, we look at the remaining three reissues!  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 18, 2012 at 11:46

Release Round-Up, Week of May 29

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Amen Corner, Round Amen Corner: The Complete Deram Recordings (RPM)

The complete Deram output of Andy Fairweather-Low’s soulful group Amen Corner is collected by RPM Records, including the 1968 album that gives this reissue its title!

The Critters, Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings (Now Sounds)

The first album from New Jersey’s Critters (“Younger Girl,” “Mr. Dieingly Sad”) is reissued along with a plethora of rare singles and bonus songs!

Everything But the Girl, Eden…Plus / Idlewild, Plus… / Baby The Stars Shine Bright…Plus / Love Not Money…Plus (Edsel)

Edsel unveils beautifully-designed reissues of the first four albums from the sophisticated British pop duo!  Each 2-CD set is housed in a hardcover digi-book and bolsters the original album with rare songs and performances that no fan will want to miss.

Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, I’m Not Me / Jerry Reed, The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed / Nashville Underground (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone Music offers the CD debut of  a rare outing from Mick Fleetwood plus two albums on one CD from Nashville’s legendary “guitar man,” Jerry Reed!

Small Faces, Small Faces (Decca) / In the Beginning (Decca/Universal)

The 1966 and 1967 Decca albums from Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan arrive in eagerly-awaited 2-CD expanded editions!

The Supremes, The Supremes at the Copa (Motown/Hip-o Select)

Detroit’s legendary ladies take New York’s swank Copacabana by storm in this 1965 set, now expanded to 2 CDs and jam-packed with unreleased material!

Various Artists, Playlist titles (Legacy Recordings)

Sony’s Legacy Recordings offers a variety of budget-priced Playlist compilations from a diverse array of artists including Harry Belafonte, Jim Brickman, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Ciara, Alice Cooper, Rodney Crowell, Raheem DeVaughn, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, The Fugees, Heather Headley, Kenny Loggins, Prong, Pete Seeger and Tonex!

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 08:45

Nothing But Everything But the Girl: U.K. Pop Duo Expands First Four Albums

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Fans of U.K. sophisti-pop duo Everything But the Girl are justified in saying they miss them. They’re even justified in saying they miss Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, who haven’t performed under the EBTG moniker since 2000, the same way the deserts miss the rain.

But all is not lost, thanks to the tireless efforts of Demon/Edsel (arguably the hardest-working U.K. reissue label in the game right now), who are working with Thorn and Watt in expanding the band’s first four albums (originally released on Blanco Y Negro Records) with a heaping helping of rare and unreleased material.

The expanded, two-disc editions of Eden (1984), Love Not Money (1985), Baby the Stars Shine Bright (1986) and Idlewild (1988), repackaged in casebound, book-style packaging with new liner notes from the duo and all original lyrics, will also feature bonus discs littered with excellent treats for hardcore fans, including single-only A and B-sides – many of them awesome covers of standards by Jimmy Webb, Irving Berlin and others, and most of which haven’t been in print for years – a total of 20 unreleased demos, live performances recorded by the BBC and other rarities, like the alternate version of Idlewild‘s “Apron Strings” that appeared in the John Hughes film She’s Having a Baby.

It remains to be seen if Demon will expand the remainder of the band’s catalogue, which would of course cover well beyond the band’s worldwide smash “Missing.” But for now, there’s plenty to look forward to when these four sets arrive in U.K. shops May 28. Hit the jump for the full rundown.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 11, 2012 at 09:50