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He Picks The Songs That Make The Whole World Sing: Clive Davis Curates “The Soundtrack of My Life”

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Clive bookIn a year that counts Tommy Mottola, Cissy Houston, Burt Bacharach and Paul Anka among the music biz icons who have published, or will publish, their memoirs, one such figure’s autobiography has already made headlines: Clive Davis’ The Soundtrack of My Life.  The attorney-turned-music mogul took a no-holds-barred approach to chronicling his history, including his tenures at Columbia, Arista, J and the RCA Label Group.  This should come as no surprise to anybody who’s followed his illustrious and admittedly controversial career, but some readers might still be surprised at the sheer volume of remarkable musicians affected in one way or another by Davis’ “golden ears,” including Bob Dylan, Donovan, Lou Reed, The Kinks and Sean “Puffy” Combs.  Since his appointment by towering music industry leader Goddard Lieberson to lead Columbia Records in 1965, Davis has never stopped making waves with his bold, hands-on hitmaking style.

Now, as Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment (a position Davis has held since 2008 at the current parent company of all the aforementioned labels), Davis has teamed with Legacy Recordings to reflect on his career via a series of Spotify playlists with special commentary tracks.  Though it’s unusual here at this branch of Second Disc HQ to direct our readers to Spotify – after all, aren’t there plenty of amazing physical releases out there demanding your listening attention? – the opportunity to hear a venerable legend reflecting on his considerable C.V. isn’t one to pass up.  And Legacy’s “The Legacy Of” app, on which Davis’ playlists are featured, is a prime example of how the online streaming service’s offerings can complement a physical music collection.

Spotify users who navigate to “The Legacy Of” app will discover Davis as the Featured Artist.   The menu provides links to: Albums / Biography / Photos / Playlists / Discography. Head over to “Playlists” to listen or subscribe to six new playlists curated by Davis himself. Each is populated by artists with whom he has worked during his career at CBS Records (Columbia and Epic and their associated labels), Arista Records (including LaFace and Bad Boy), J Records and more.  You can directly visit the “Legacy Of” app at this link. Davis’ six playlists are entitled The Soundtrack of My Life, Best of 2000s, Best of 1990s, Best of 1980s, Best of 1970s, and Best of 1960s.  Naturally, the Soundtrack of My Life playlist is the one with commentary from Davis.  He has recorded reminiscences for fourteen of the playlist’s 20 tracks, and the playlist includes songs from many of the artists with whom he is most associated.

Which songs has Davis selected?  Hit the jump for details and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Reissue Theory: Queen, “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. On an iconic rock star’s birthday, we hope for a concert celebrating his life and work to make it onto CD someday.

On this day, 66 years ago, Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar. The world would, of course, know him by another name: Freddie Mercury, the iconoclastic frontman for the British hard rock band Queen. Between 1973 and 1991, the band’s idiosyncratic sense of vocal and guitar harmonies, affinity for baroque pop melodies and penchant for studio trickery had earned them a devoted following worldwide. Even as the band moved into the ’80s and adapted both New Wave stylings and MTV-ready visuals to suit their needs, the crowds still went wild; one needs only to watch Mercury’s command performances with Queen at Live Aid in 1985 and London’s Wembley Stadium the following year to understand why.

Of course, we all know the story of Mercury’s has a tragic ending. In 1991, literally hours after announcing his long-hidden battle with AIDS, Mercury would succumb to complications from the disease. Freddie’s life was one of many at the time rightly memorialized to raise awareness and money for AIDS research. Twenty years ago, Freddie bandmates, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, united to fight AIDS the best way they could: through rock music. A concert held at Wembley on April 20, 1992 attracted some 72,000 attendees and, thanks to simultaneous live television and radio broadcasts, a worldwide audience of some 1 billion. Mercury’s showman spirit was celebrated by fellow rock gods and contemporaries who guested with Queen during the show, including members of Guns N’ Roses, Extreme, Metallica, Black Sabbath and appearances by David Bowie, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant and George Michael. All profits from the concert founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity still active to this day.

Mercury’s life has been well-celebrated in recent years. This year alone – after a 2011 that saw a flurry of catalogue activity – Island reissued a greatly-expanded edition of Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Barcelona this week, with a new Mercury documentary, The Great Pretender, due out on DVD this month and a live Queen show from Hungary being screened theatrically as well. (Mercury even made the transformation to Angry Bird as part of this week’s “Freddie for a Day” event.)

But through all the catalogue celebration, it’s surprising that the landmark concert itself has never been released on CD. We explore further after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 5, 2012 at 16:23

Ever Changing Times: Aretha In The 1980s, Anthologized by Legacy

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On March 25, 2012, Aretha Franklin will turn 70 years old.  That hardly means she’s ready to slow down, however.  2011 found the Queen of Soul looking trim and sounding vibrant as she returned to the concert stage and released a new studio album.  Surely her landmark birthday will be celebrated with countless airings of her 1960s golden hits like “Respect,” “Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.”  But Legacy Recordings and Arista Records are seeing to it that a latter-day hitmaking period for the music icon is given its due attention.

Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998 will arrive on January 31.  It spans almost the entirety of Franklin’s tenure at Clive Davis’ storied Arista label, with tracks from every studio album recorded by the singer between 1980’s Aretha and 1998’s A Rose is Still a Rose.  (Only 2003’s So Damn Happy is not represented.)  Its chronologically-sequenced sixteen cuts reveal a still-growing artist sounding revitalized in a modern setting after a string of unsuccessful (and still unavailable on CD) records on the Atlantic label, home to her greatest triumphs.

What’s most remarkable about the selections on Knew You Were Waiting is how simple it is to draw a line from the deep soul of the Atlantic days to the glossy productions at Arista.  The compilation’s lead-off track, 1980’s “United Together,” features Aretha once again backed by the Sweet Inspirations (Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shenwell and Estelle Brown).  Atlantic’s legendary producer and arranger Arif Mardin helmed “Love All the Hurt Away,” a 1981 duet with George Benson.  (Incidentally, Benson was recording at Columbia in the mid-1960s under the aegis of John Hammond, one of Franklin’s guiding lights during her time with the label!)  Burt Bacharach, who supplied Franklin with the enduring Atlantic hit “I Say a Little Prayer,” finally got the chance to produce her at Arista on “Ever Changing Times.”  The 1987 song was originally recorded for the film Baby Boom by Siedah Garrett (best known for joining Michael Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”) but Bacharach and co-writer/producer Carole Bayer Sager delivered it to Franklin for 1991’s rather unfortunately-titled What You See is What You Sweat.  Franklin and her duet partner, Michael McDonald, then took the song to the Top 20 of the R&B chart!  It’s presented here in a mix that’s previously unreleased on CD!

Hit the jump for much more, including the complete track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 2, 2012 at 09:59

Reissue Theory: Live Aid on CD

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Twenty-six years ago today, on two different continents, the music world came together for a worthy cause: to raise awareness of famine in Ethiopia. Live Aid, a pair of concerts organized by Bob Geldof in London and Philadelphia on July 13, 1985 and broadcasted live on the BBC, ABC and MTV, was seen in person by some 172,000 people and on television by nearly 2 billion across the globe.

And, if you can believe it, none of it has ever been released on LP or CD.

Granted, it’s not entirely unsurprising. Geldof promised artists that the performances were very much a one-off, never to be seen past the initial broadcast. (That of course turned out to be untrue, with the release of a four-disc DVD set in 2004.) But you have to wonder, given not only the fiercely charitable nature of the organization as well as the capitalistic nature of the music industry, why a commemorative album was never put out to raise even more money for charities.

But if they did, this is how it might go down.

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Reissue Theory: WHAM! “The Final: Live at Wembley”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look back at notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Twenty-five years after one of pop’s guiltiest pleasures said goodbye to a packed live audience, we wonder what a release of that show would look like.

On June 28, 1986, twenty-five years ago today, WHAM! became a past-tense pop act. It wasn’t your typical pop meltdown, however; it was a breakup for the ages. What other group bids their fan base (80,000 attendees worth) farewell with a handful of guest megastars and a lengthy, sugar-sweet set list?

Of course, that was par for the course for WHAM!, who had entered 11 of their 12 singles into the U.K. Top 10 (six of which were chart-toppers) and would sell about 20 million albums worldwide when all was said and done. From the beginning, when a lucky scheduling conflict got them a spot on Top of the Pops in 1982, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were two of the flashiest stars on the pop scene.

As an unironic fan of WHAM!’s effortless bubblegum pop, it would give this writer great pleasure to see some sort of catalogue activity occur for the boys. And this final show at Wembley Arena might be the flashpoint for any such product. Hit the jump to read up on how everything in the band’s career culminated in that show – and how we’d present the concert for fans, Reissue Theory-style! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 28, 2011 at 17:32

Reissue Theory: George Michael’s Different Corners

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on well-known albums of the past and the reissues they could someday see. With the reissue of George Michael’s most flawless pop album, today’s installment takes you into the corners of the world pop music scene to prove how part of the musical culture he really was.

The reissue of George Michael’s iconic Faith album has your humble catalogue correspondent excited. Really excited. So excited that today’s Reissue Theory talks about two albums from the same time period he managed to contribute to despite being inescapable with the singles off of his own album. They involve one of Michael’s best side musicians and a strangely satisfying (and successful) family connection. And they’re yours to read about after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 1, 2011 at 16:19

Review: George Michael, “Faith: Legacy Edition”

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It won’t make any sense in today’s media-saturated world, but in 1987 and 1988, George Michael was inescapable. The idea that one single artist could grab multiple genders, races, cliques and generations by the shoulders with his or her music is all but impossible today, but the man born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou did just that. Faith, released by Epic Records in the fall of 1987, put six tracks in Billboard‘s Top 5 (two-thirds of them No. 1 hits), netted him a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, sold in excess of 25 million copies worldwide (10 million of those in the U.S. and one million of that 10 million in a single week) and turned him into one of pop’s hottest lightning rods, thanks to the controversial single “I Want Your Sex” and the racy video, both banned by the BBC. He also accomplished all of this in a year where Michael Jackson was at his most monolithically famous, Prince at his most artistically ambitious and U2 at their most Spider-Man-free.

Of course, all those accolades belie the most important facts behind the album: that Michael was at his most personally tortured as a human being, and that the resultant album is really as good as all the hype would have one believe. That latter point is the main thesis of Legacy’s deluxe edition of the album, available as a two-disc with DVD set (Epic/Legacy 88697 75320-2) or a deluxe box with vinyl and other bonus swag. The songs of Faith are still radio staples today, and enduring reminders of Michael at his best, rather than the more unfortunate stories that have surrounded him in the last decade (the most recent of which actually resulted in this set being delayed from September to now).

With years of hindsight, how does Faith stack up as an album? And how does this new reissue treat the material? These answers are after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

February 1, 2011 at 14:53

Posted in Box Sets, George Michael, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of February 1

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George Michael, Faith: Legacy Edition (Epic/Legacy)

There’s going to be a review of the two-disc/one-DVD edition of this album (also available as a deluxe box set) coming up later today, but let me say right now: Damn. If you forgot how good this record was – how it makes a lot of ’80s pop look temporarily flawed and full of effort – go buy this immediately. I’ll wait. (Official site)

Bob Marley and The Wailers, Live Forever: September 23, 1980 – The Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA (Tuff Gong/UMe)

A two-disc set of Marley’s final concert, presented in full to honor the reggae immortal. Note that this is the first catalogue set of the year with some retail exclusives: Best Buy’s version comes with a bonus disc (exact content has not been confirmed), while Target’s exclusive is a T-shirt. Of course, hardcore fans can skip both and get the super-deluxe version of this set. (Official site)

Aretha Franklin, The Great American Songbook (Columbia/Legacy)

A single-disc teaser for March’s exhaustive box set covering her entire Columbia tenure, before the Queen joined Atlantic. (Amazon)

Kiki Dee, I’m Kiki Dee: The Fontana Years (RPM)

Before she promised Elton John not to go breakin’ any hearts, Kiki Dee was a soulful pop singer on Fontana Records; a good chunk of her work is collected herein. (RPM)

Rod Stewart, The Best of the Great American Songbook (J)

Zzzzzzzzzz…..oh! Sorry. A compilation of the five Great American Songbook albums Rod has released in the past decade. (Official site)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 1, 2011 at 08:48

Here’s When You’ll Have “Faith”

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Legacy has confirmed the previously-delayed deluxe reissue of George Michael’s Faith for January 31, 2011. Good news, for sure.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 8, 2010 at 11:56

Don’t Look Now, There’s a Monkey on Your Back: “Faith” Reissue Delayed

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In what may be the most potent anti-drug message for catalogue fans, George Michael’s reissue of Faith has been postponed.

The singer, recently jailed for eight weeks for driving under the influence of drugs, was to have seen his solo album – a landmark of ’80s pop – reissued in several configurations on September 28. A Legacy spokesperson says the release has been delayed to next year.

Stay tuned for more info as it develops.

Written by Mike Duquette

September 17, 2010 at 12:38