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Put Your Hands Together: The O’Jays, Delegation, Black Slate, Donna Allen, George McCrae Arrive from BBR

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O'Jays - Ship AhoyThe many varied strains of soul and R&B have long found a home at Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint, and this week’s offerings from the label are no different, with five albums having just arrived from five very different artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

The most well-known release in this batch is The O’Jays’ 1973 opus Ship Ahoy, produced and largely written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff for their Philadelphia International label.  Though it yielded the hit singles “Put Our Hands Together” and “For the Love of Money,” Ship Ahoy was, in fact, one of the most intricate collections to come from the Philly team.  BBR’s deluxe 40th anniversary reissue includes three bonus tracks (a live version of “Put Your Hands Together” plus the single edits of “For the Love of Money” and the ballad “Now That We Found Love”) and a new essay from Christian John Wikane.  Ship Ahoy follows BBR’s past reissue of 1972’s Back Stabbers.  Watch this space for a full review of Ship Ahoy very soon!

George McCrae - Diamond TouchDiamond Touch is BBR’s third reissue from the TK Records catalogue of George McCrae, following his breakthrough Rock Your Baby and second, eponymous album.  1976’s Diamond Touch replaced the KC and the Sunshine Band production team of Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch with Gregg Diamond (Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More”).  Diamond and McCrae set up shop in New York, away from the singer’s usual Florida home base, and the producer – whose influence even extended, obviously, to the album’s title – replaced the breezy good-time feel of KC’s productions with grandiose strings, horns and four-on-the-floor disco rhythms.  The gamble paid off when “Love in Motion” scored a No. 4 placement on the U.S. disco chart.  Yet the album didn’t fare well, and Diamond moved on to bring his touch elsewhere including to studio group Bionic Boogie.  McCrae soon returned to the tried-and-true and even reunited with Casey and Finch in 1979.  BBR revisits his bold experiment with two bonus tracks (singles of “Love in Motion” and “Givin’ Back the Feeling”) and new liner notes from J. Matthew Cobb.

After the jump: what’s just been reissued from Delegation, Donna Allen and Black Slate? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 8, 2013 at 10:17

Release Round-Up: Week of March 5

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Hendrix - People, Hell and Angels

Jimi Hendrix, People, Hell & Angels / The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced (200-Gram Mono Vinyl) Axis: Bold As Love (200-Gram Mono Vinyl) (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

Not only does today see the release of a new posthumous Hendrix compilation, comprised of newly unearthed outtakes from the vaults, but the original mono mixes of his first two LPs (including both U.S. and U.K. editions of Are You Experienced) make their first appearances on vinyl since their initial releases.  Read Joe’s review of People, Hell & Angels here!

People, Hell & Angels CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
People, Hell & Angels LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Are You Experienced LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Are You Experienced LP – U.K. sequence: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Axis: Bold As Love LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Otis Redding - Deepest Soul

Otis Redding, Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding (Stax/Concord)

A new “concept compilation” that explores Otis’ deep cuts in a decidedly retro fashion, down to the aged album jacket.  Read Joe’s review here!

Lonely and Blue CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Lonely and Blue LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.


André Cymone, AC: Expanded Edition (Funkytowngrooves)

This onetime Prince collaborator (whose big hit off this LP, “The Dance Electric,” was written and co-produced by Mr. Purple Rain himself) issues a double-disc edition of his last album for Columbia, featuring all the B-sides and remixes plus a slew of tracks from the vault. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Sheena Twofer 2

Sheena Easton, You Could Have Been with Me + Madness, Money and Music A Private Heaven + Do You (Edsel)

Two new two-disc sets compile four of the Scottish chanteuse’s albums from the ’80s, two of them sweet and poppy, another two more on the down ‘n’ dirty (and Prince-ly) side.

You Could Have Been…/Madness, Money…Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
A Private Heaven/Do YouAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

O'Jays - Ship Ahoy

Donna Allen, Perfect Timing / Black Slate, Amigo / Delegation, Deuces High / George McCrae, Diamond Touch / O’Jays, Ship Ahoy (Big Break)

Five newly expanded titles from BBR, anchored by a 40th anniversary edition of The O’Jays Ship Ahoy, which spun off Top 10 hits in “Put Your Hands Together” and “For the Love of Money.”

Donna Allen: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Black Slate: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Delegation: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
George McCrae: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
O’Jays: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Rock of the Westies Gold

Elton John, Rock of the Westies (24K Gold CD) / Scorpions, Virgin Killer (24K Gold CD) / Yes, Close to the Edge (SACD) / Rush, Counterparts (SACD) (Audio Fidelity)

The latest from Audio Fidelity: gold discs of Elton’s 1975 LP, featuring “Island Girl” and “Grow Some Funk of Your Own,” and the Scorpions’ fourth album (the one with that extremely not-work-safe cover, although this version does not replicate that image); plus hybrid SACDs from a prog band at the top of their game and a Canadian trio’s highest-charting album in America.

Elton: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Scorpions: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Yes: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rush: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 5, 2013 at 10:52

Big Break Goes Disco with KC and the Sunshine Band, George McCrae, Johnnie Taylor

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KC and the Sunshine Band - Part 3The Temptations had sunshine on a rainy day, John Denver had it on his shoulders, and the O’Jays took their cue from an old standard to address a loved one as “my sunshine.”  But Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, forming Miami’s KC and the Sunshine Band, had sunshine both in the band name and in the joyful, exultant brand of music they played.  Big Break Records has recently reissued one title recorded by those disco titans, one title produced by them, and one with another connection to the genre.  All three of BBR’s expanded editions will transport you to those heady days when the dance underground became the pop mainstream.

KC and the Sunshine Band’s 1976 long-player was simply and efficiently titled Part 3 (CDBBR 0817).  As the title made explicit, the album wasn’t an attempt to redefine or expand the band’s sound.  Instead, Part 3 continued the style the group of musicians had already established.  After 1974’s unsuccessful Do It Good, Casey and Finch reinvented their group with a self-titled album in 1975 that asked listeners to “Get Down Tonight.”  That was clearly the way listeners liked it (uh huh, uh huh), so Part 3, too, was all about the groove – and how it makes you move!  With simplicity and clarity, KC and the Sunshine Band invited listeners to “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Your Booty.”  And though the other seven selections on the album would inevitably fall in the shadow of that No. 1 Pop and R&B hit, this new reissue proves the album is an upbeat delight from start to finish.

In the fine and detailed liner notes from J. Matthew Cobb (who supplies the essays for all three titles reviewed here), Harry Wayne Casey reveals “Shake, Shake, Shake” as an ode to self-empowerment and to fearlessness of doing your own thing.  Of course, that unbridled freedom was a major part of the disco identity at its roots, and few groups expressed personal liberation with more vitality than KC and the Sunshine Band.  Cobb’s essay also frankly discusses the implications of Casey and Finch, two Caucasian men, making such an impact in disco, and the feelings from some quarters that they had somehow co-opted black music.  This probing discussion gives a subtext to the listening experience that can’t be overestimated.  Still, Part 3 is a sunny, ready-to-party record, as evidenced by that significant rainbow on the front of the album artwork.

The album’s other major hit, “I’m Your Boogie Man,” followed “Booty” to No. 1 Pop (and No. 3 R&B).  And if it’s not as stone-cold a classic, it has all the hallmarks of KC’s disco-funk-pop perfection.  “Let’s Go Party” could be the band’s mantra, and the funk is ladled on this tight track, too.  It’s certainly not excessive, at under three minutes’ length, but is a reminder that KC and co. were deft musicians far more than “just” a disco band.  Casey and Finch’s production hallmarks extend to the lesser-known tracks;  “Baby I Love You (Yes I Do)” was only released on 45 as a flip, but it could have been an A-side, with its (likely intentional) echoes of “That’s the Way I Like It.”  It’s difficult to discern any deeper meaning to “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” (“Come on, come on!”) with its shrieks and wails of pleasure, but it’s likely you’ll want to join in.  “I Like to Do It” is another simple but insistent affirmation with bold horns, its melody set to the familiar KC percolating dance groove: to boogie down all night long, to shake it up, all “with you.”  The album-closing “Keep It Comin’ Love” is another sexy pop confection with an irresistible hook (“Don’t stop it now, don’t stop it now”).

BBR has added two bonus tracks, the single versions of “Boogie Man” and “Keep It Comin’ Love,” to Part 3.  (Singles were also released for “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Your Booty,” of course, as well as “I Like to Do It” and “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.”)  KC and the Sunshine Band’s disco hits are still staples of oldies radio today, but this full-service reissue makes the experience of listening to the band’s music a more immediate, and ultimately more fulfilling, one.

Hit the jump for the scoop on the latest reissues from George McCrae and Johnnie Taylor! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 16, 2013 at 10:04