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The Year in Reissues: The 2013 Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Gold CDWelcome to The Second Disc’s Fourth Annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Though this is a slow time of year for news, it’s the perfect time to look at the year in review.  As with every year’s awards, our goals are simple: to recognize as many of the year’s most essential reissues and catalogue titles as possible, and to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who make these releases possible in what many might deem an increasingly-challenging retail landscape.  These labels have bucked the trends to prove that there’s still a demand for physical catalogue music.  And from our vantage point, there’s still great strength and health in this corner of the music industry.  By my very rough estimate, The Second Disc covered around 500 releases in 2013 – and we firmly believe that the best is still yet to come.  We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to the creators of the music and releases we cover, and to you, the readers.  After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past – this site’s raison d’etre – 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 2013?  Please join us in recognizing 2013′s best of the best.

Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out!

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

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black_friday_logo

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 »

Back to Black: Legacy Unveils Record Store Day Black Friday Exclusives From Simon, Dylan, Davis, Nilsson, Hendrix & More

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Record Store Day Black Friday

It’s that time of year again!  Though Black Friday has taken a backseat in recent years to the once-unheard-of Thanksgiving Day sales, the folks at Record Store Day still hold the day after Thanksgiving in high esteem.  News has begun to trickle out about this year’s RSD Back to Black Friday exclusives, and the team at Legacy has certainly put together a collection of special vinyl releases – and a handful of CDs, too – that look back to recent releases from the label and forward to future titles.  All titles are available in participating Record Store Day locations on November 29!

Classic rock releases, naturally, are at the forefront of the Legacy slate:

RSDproductShot(*) denotes numbered edition

Cheap Trick, The Classic Albums 1977-1979 * (Epic/Legacy) – A new box set of five 12” 180-gram LPs includes the first five Cheap Trick records: Cheap Trick (1977), In Color (1977), Heaven Tonight (1978), At Budokan (1978) and Dream Police (1979), all newly mastered in 2013 from the original analog tapes and packaged with original album artwork.

Clash - London Calling

The Clash, The Clash / Give ‘Em Enough Rope / London Calling / Sandinista! / Combat Rock (Epic/Legacy) – These five classic Clash albums, included in the Sound System box set, are released separately as vinyl-replica CDs.

Dylan

Bob Dylan, Side Tracks * (Columbia/Legacy) – The two-disc set of non-album material from The Complete Album Collection Vol. One is available as a numbered, 200-gram vinyl triple-LP set.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Fire b/w Foxey Lady (Live at The Miami Pop Festival) * (Experience Hendrix/Legacy) – This 7” single contains two performances from the Experience’s previously-unreleased set at the Miami Pop Festival in 1968, which is coming to CD very soon from Experience Hendrix and Legacy.

Still Crazy - Paul Simon

Paul Simon, Paul Simon / There Goes Rhymin’ Simon / Still Crazy After All These Years (Columbia/Legacy) – Rhymin’ Simon’s first three post-Simon & Garfunkel studio albums, recently on CD as part of The Complete Albums Collection, all arrive in remastered 180-gram LP editions, each also containing a download card.

After the jump: Legacy gets funky with Sly and the Family Stone, plus vintage rock and roll from Roy Orbison, classic pop from the one and only Harry Nilsson, Miles Davis in mono, and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Harry Nilsson, “Flash Harry”

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Harry Nilsson - Flash HarryWhen Harry Nilsson’s The RCA Albums Collection was finally unveiled earlier this year by Legacy Recordings, many finally stood up and took notice of the gifted singer-songwriter whose art deftly blended the high and the low, the angelic and the devilish, the euphoric and the melancholy.  That astounding box set included each one of Nilsson’s albums for the RCA label – in other words, his entire solo discography save one album.  And now, that final missing link is finally here, on CD to join its brethren.  At long last…Flash Harry!

A series of incidents, ranging from lack of promotion to the label’s release of a “greatest hits” collection with a Harry lookalike on its cover (!), led Nilsson to sever his ties with the only record company he ever truly called home.  1977’s Knnillssonn turned out to be his final RCA album, but in 1980, it was time to greet the new decade with a new label (Mercury) and a new album: Flash Harry.  Problem was, hardly anybody ever heard it!  Despite a starry array of musicians including Van Dyke Parks, Ringo Starr, Lowell George, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Keith Allison, Dr. John and Klaus Voormann, a name producer (Stax guitar great Steve Cropper) and an eclectic crop of songs, the LP was withheld from release in North America.  Issued only in Europe and Japan, Harry disappeared in, well, a Flash.  It’s never been reissued in any format, until now.  Varese Sarabande has rescued Nilsson’s studio swansong and reissued it on both vinyl and CD, and it makes a perfect complement – indeed, a necessary one – to the expansive RCA box.

A taut collection of just ten loose songs, Flash Harry has an air of an artist not taking himself too seriously, for good or ill.  Blink and you will have missed it – and given the album’s fate, this ephemeral quality is fitting.  Despite Cropper’s presence as co-producer (with Cherokee Studios’ owner/engineer Bruce Robb), Flash Harry isn’t Nilsson’s “R&B album.”  There are soulful elements for sure – but Nilsson, even at his most vocally diminished, always possessed a soulful tone.  Cropper may have brought that timbre of his voice out on Flash Harry, but moreover, its spirited, anything-goes party vibe both stands in marked contrast to, and as a natural continuation of, RCA farewell Knnillssonn.  That underrated classic brought Nilsson full circle to his ornate, early productions for the label, with the stunning ballad “All I Think About is You” and sweet “Perfect Day” taking spots alongside calypso, rock and theatrical vaudeville excursions.  Flash Harry lacks anything as beautiful or evocative as those two songs or the equally-wonderful “Blanket for a Sail.”  But it has the same rollicking stylistic diversity as its predecessor of three years earlier.  By 1980, Nilsson had committed himself to penning musicals for stage and screen, and those projects informed his work on the album, as well.

Join us for more in a Flash – just hit the jump!

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Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2013 at 09:38

Posted in Harry Nilsson, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of August 13

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Harry Nilsson - Flash HarryHarry Nilsson, Flash Harry (Varese Vintage)

Never released in the U.S. or on CD, the wave of Nilssonmania continues with this: Harry’s last album, released in 1980, now available on remastered vinyl or CD with several unheard bonus tracks.

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

The RiddleNik Kershaw, The Riddle: Remastered Expanded Edition (UMC)

Kershaw’s second LP, featuring one of the most criminally underrated singles ever in the title track, is reissued as a double-disc set with B-sides, remixes and rare vintage live cuts. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

South Side of Soul StreetVarious Artists, The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 (Omnivore)

Two discs of single sides from the forgotten Nashville label Minaret are collected for your listening pleasure. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

 

Love Makes No SenseThe S.O.S. Band, Just the Way You Like It / Kathy Mathis, A Woman’s Touch / Alexander O’Neal, Love Makes No Sense: “Tabu Reborn” Expanded Editions (Tabu/Edsel)

The fifth wave of Tabu’s ongoing reissue campaign.

S.O.S. Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Kathy Mathis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alexander O’Neal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Cash Life UnheardJohnny Cash, LIFE Unheard (Sony Music)

A companion piece to a new book of rare and unreleased photos from LIFE magazine, this disc features a handful of tracks from the Cash Bootleg Series along with two unreleased cuts. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CSN Gold DiscHi-res reissues: Crosby, Stills & Nash, CSN / James Taylor, Gorilla (24K Gold CDs – Audio Fidelity) / Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits (SACD – Analogue Productions)

Thank God It's FridayCulture Factory remasters: 38 Special, Special Delivery Thank God It’s Friday: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack / Kim Carnes, Barking At Airplanes Lighthouse

Written by Mike Duquette

August 13, 2013 at 07:41

Review: Nilsson, “The RCA Albums Collection”

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Nilsson - RCA Albums Cover

A largess universal like the sun
His liberal eye doth give to every one,
Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all,
Behold, as may unworthiness define,
A little touch of Harry in the night.

– William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV

He’s a pretty nifty guy
Always looks you in the eye
Everybody passing by will sigh
For Harry…

– Eric Idle, “Harry”

Harry Nilsson had the voice of an angel, and raised hell like the devil.  A consummate songwriter, he had his biggest hits with two songs written by others: Tom Evans and Pete Ham’s “Without You” and Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.”   He turned The Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That” into a dazzlingly sophisticated mélange of words and music and just as easily spun one single chord into musical gold with “Coconut.”  He celebrated the songcraft of Irving Berlin and Harold Arlen with no irony, shortly after making his own bid for a radio hit with “You’re Breaking My Heart” (“So f—k you!” goes the chorus).  The high and the low routinely co-existed in Nilsson’s life and music.

Harry Edward Nilsson III (1941-1994) was a man of many contradictions who began his career at RCA Records with tremendous promise and ended it with considerably less fanfare, alienated from both the record label brass and his dwindling fan base.  In recent years, many projects have sought to understand this complicated artist, including John Scheinfeld’s documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) and Alyn Shipton’s biography Nilsson: The Life of a Singer/Songwriter.  The book’s very title seemingly reflected the author’s desire to place the emphasis not on Nilsson’s hard-partying ways, but on his art…just where it belongs.  If the real Harry Nilsson might have been a man of many faces – he certainly was a man of many voices – his heart and soul doubtless resided in his life’s work.  And that life’s work forms the basis of an absolutely stunning new box set from RCA Records and Legacy Recordings entitled Nilsson: The RCA Albums Collection.  With 17 discs, 14 expanded albums and over 50 previously unreleased tracks, it is an illuminating window into the spirited world of an artist who stubbornly stayed true to himself and left behind a body of work ripe for rediscovery.  A little touch of Harry in the night – or the morning, or the afternoon – is one both fascinating and revelatory.

After the jump, we’re exploring the new box with an album-by-album look at the man and his art.  Join us, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 30, 2013 at 12:46

Posted in Box Sets, Harry Nilsson, News, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of July 30

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Nilsson - RCA Albums BoxNilsson, The RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Legacy)

Easily one of the box set purchases of the year. Every one of the legendary singer/songwriter’s 14 solo albums for the RCA label, newly remastered and expanded with bonus tracks, mono mixes and other treasures, plus another three discs of rarities and outtakes. The packaging is beautiful and the music more than matches. You will not be disappointed. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dionne - We Need to Go BackDionne Warwick, The Complete Warner Bros. Singles / We Need to Go Back — The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters / Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., The Two of Us (Expanded Edition) / Marilyn & Billy (Expanded Edition) / Parlet, Pleasure Principle / Invasion of the Booty Snatchers / Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Zero Time (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone’s Portsmouth Sinfonia title may have been unfortunately cancelled, but there are some amazing titles coming from the label this week.

The Complete Warner Bros. SinglesAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
We Need to Go BackAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Two of UsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn & BillyAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Pleasure PrincipleAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Invasion of the Booty SnatchersAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Zero TimeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Big Country At The BBCBig Country, At The BBC (Mercury/Universal)

A 3CD/1DVD box chronicling just about everything the Scottish rockers had recorded by the BBC in the 1980s. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Electric PeaceThe Cult, Electric Peace (Beggar’s Archive)

The post-punk band’s acclaimed 1987 album, produced by Rick Rubin, is paired up with the original version of the album helmed by producer Steve Brown for the first time in one package.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Sly and the Family Stone - There's a Riot Gold

Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On: Gold Edition (Get On Down)

Sly and the Family Stone’s incendiary 1971 album There’s a Riot Goin’ On – which spawned the hit single “Family Affair” – gets the gold CD treatment from Get On Down.  Along with some detailed liner notes, the label is promising actual embroidered fabric for the flag on the CD’s cover!  (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Bright Side of Life: Harry Nilsson’s “Flash Harry” (Finally!) Comes To CD In Expanded Form

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Harry Nilsson - Flash HarryWhat should have been a new beginning became a rather inauspicious end to a remarkable career.  Harry Nilsson’s final studio album, 1980’s amusingly-titled Flash Harry, was his first on the Mercury label.  It followed a decade-plus stint at RCA and signaled a fresh start.  But despite its starry array of musicians, and typically solid songwriting, the album produced by Stax guitar legend Steve Cropper with engineer Bruce Robb was withheld from release in North America.  Flash Harry only was issued in Europe and Japan, and soon after,  it was gone without a trace.  Much to the chagrin of Nilsson fans, the album had never resurfaced in any format…until now.  We’re excited to report that Varese Vintage has just announced that Flash Harry will be making its North American premiere, on both CD and vinyl.  This long-awaited reissue is due on August 13.

Flash Harry will arrive in stores just a couple of weeks following RCA/Legacy’s The RCA Albums Collection, the mammoth 17-CD box set containing all of the singer-songwriter’s solo albums for the label plus over 50 unreleased tracks.  Yet that’s not all residing in the Nilsson House vaults!  Like that box, Varese’s Flash Harry will premiere some never-before-released Nilsson music via four bonus tracks.  And it deserves a place on your shelf next to that box set for the complete album experience…or The Full Harry, if you will.

In retrospect, the loose, spirited Flash Harry seems a fitting conclusion to Nilsson’s album career.  In addition to Cropper, guests and co-writers on the Los Angeles-recorded album include Van Dyke Parks, Lowell George, Eric Idle, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Keith Allison, Dr. John, Klaus Voormann, and two of the Beatles – Harry’s pals John Lennon and Ringo Starr.  Idle’s contributions bookend the album.  For the opening song “Harry,” he joins Charlie Dore in warbling a tongue-in-cheek theme for a “pretty nifty guy.”  (The track was a gift from the Monty Python man to his new friend Nilsson.)  And Harry returned the favor, ending the album with a rendition of the comedian/songwriter’s “(Always Look on) The Bright Side of Life.”  (This Monty Python’s Life of Brian tune would later become the centerpiece of Idle’s Broadway musical Spamalot.)

Van Dyke Parks’ influence is felt on his two tropical-flavored collaborations, “Cheek to Cheek” and “Best Move.”  Nilsson reteamed with arranger Perry Botkin, Jr. (Pandemonium Shadow Show, Sandman) for “I’ve Got It,” a tune written for their musical Zapata.  The show received its premiere production at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House in late 1980, but didn’t enjoy a further life.  Harry and Paul Stallworth co-wrote the sleek soul of “It’s So Easy,” its arrangement recalling “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”  Nilsson even recalled past ballad triumphs like “Without You” with Rick Christian’s reflective “I Don’t Need You,” later a hit single for Kenny Rogers.  His only solo songwriting credit on Flash Harry, “Rain,” is another breezy pop confection.

What else will you find on Flash Harry?  We have more details, plus the scoop on bonus tracks and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 11, 2013 at 10:14

Remember (Harry): Nilsson Box Set Chronicles RCA Albums, Premieres Unreleased Tracks

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Nilsson - RCA Albums CoverLong ago, far away…life was clear, close your eyes…Remember is a place from long ago, remember, filled with everything you know…remember, when you’re sad and feeling down…

When you’re sad and feeling down, a sure cure-all is the music of Harry Nilsson.  Sweet and sincere or withering and witty, Nilsson had a song for every occasion.  Even when his own vocal cords deserted him, his sure sense of songcraft never did.  Between 1967 and 1977, Nilsson recorded a remarkable series of albums for the RCA label, dissecting, celebrating and subverting every convention of the pop and rock genres.  Now, the long-rumored box set bringing together all fourteen of those RCA albums is finally here from Legacy Recordings as The RCA Albums Collection.  Even better, this comprehensive 17-CD set compiles the various bonus tracks released on past CD reissues and anthologies, throws in rare mono mixes of Nilsson’s first two albums, and adds more than 50 previously unreleased tracks.  Are you salivating yet?  The treasure chest breaks down as follows:

  1. Pandemonium Shadow Show (Mono & Stereo) (1967)
  2. Aerial Ballet (Mono & Stereo) (1968)
  3. Harry (1969)
  4. Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)
  5. The Point! (1971)
  6. Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971)
  7. Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
  8. Son of Schmilsson (1972)
  9. A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973)
  10. Pussy Cats (1974)
  11. Duit on Mon Dei (1975)
  12. Sandman (1976)
  13. . . . That’s The Way It Is (1976)
  14. Knnillssonn (1977)
  15. Nilsson Sessions 1967-1968
  16. Nilsson Sessions 1968-1971
  17. Nilsson Sessions 1971-1974

Remastered versions of Nilsson’s fourteen RCA solo albums (including The Point! but not Son of Dracula or Skidoo, although Harry’s unique tracks from that latter soundtrack are present) are included as CDs 1-14 of the new box set.  1967’s Pandemonium Shadow Show (with Harry’s ultimate Beatles tribute of “You Can’t Do That” plus the beautifully pensive “Without Her,” baroque “1941” and thunderous “River Deep-Mountain High”) and 1968’s Aerial Ballet (with the quirky “Good Old Desk,” vaudevillian “Daddy’s Song,” breezy “Wailing of the Willow” and immortal “Everybody’s Talkin’”) are both included in mono and stereo versions.  (Aerial Ballet even adds one previously unreleased track, a radio spot.)  Bonus tracks, either new, old or a blend of the two, are present on each and every album in the box set.  There’s a particular wealth of material on 1971’s Aerial Pandemonium Ballet, a reworked distillation of those first two albums; the Aerial Pandemonium disc here includes four Italian versions, six live-at-the-BBC tracks, plus a remix and a radio spot.  Elsewhere you’ll find alternates (Pussy Cats, Duit on Mon Dei), outtakes (Sandman) and demos (Knnillssonn).  The Knnillssonn disc also premieres four performances with Dr. John of standards like “Sweet Lorraine” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

After the jump: what else will you find on the box set?  We have more details, plus a pre-order link and a full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 14, 2013 at 11:10

Starbucks Serves “Self-Portraits” of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and Others

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Starbucks Self-PortraitsSome of the music featured on Starbucks Entertainment’s latest compilation album, Self-Portraits, is a bit atypical for a coffeehouse setting: Warren Zevon, Judee Sill, Randy Newman, John Prine, Loudon Wainwright III.  The songs on Self-Portraits, by and large, demand attention, as all are drawn from the realm of the singer-songwriter with an emphasis on confessional or first-person songs.  The 16-track CD focuses on the 1970s (with just one track from 1969), and although there are a few unquestionably familiar, oft-anthologized songs, there are also a few that might make this disc worth perusing.

The hit singles come first on Self-Portraits.  Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” kicks off the disc, as it did King’s 1971 sophomore solo album Tapestry.  That was, of course, the album that ignited King’s career as a solo artist, and the same could be said for James Taylor’s second long-player.  “I Feel the Earth Move” is followed by “Fire and Rain,” from the troubadour’s 1970 Sweet Baby James, which featured (you guessed it) Carole King on piano.  Though Judy Collins had the hit single of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” Self-Portraits includes Mitchell’s version from her 1969 album Clouds, and then segues to British piano man Elton John for a track off his second album: the ubiquitous “Your Song.”

Following “Your Song,” the disc – as curated by Starbucks’ Steven Stolder – veers off in interesting directions.  Leon Russell, whose style was an influence on budding artist John’s, is represented with his piano-pounding “Tight Rope.”  Like Leon Russell (a key player in the Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” of session musicians), Jimmy Webb spent his formative years behind-the-scenes.  In Webb’s  case, he was a songwriting prodigy with hits like “Up, Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” under his belt by the time he began his proper solo career with 1970’s “Words and Music.”  From that album, Self-Portraits draws “P.F. Sloan,” Webb’s remarkable, multi-layered ode to a songwriting colleague.  Any discussion of popular songwriters would be incomplete without a mention of Bob Dylan, and his “If You See Her, Say Hello” from his singer-songwriter masterwork Blood on the Tracks is the choice here.  Perhaps the least-known songwriter here is Judee Sill, the troubled Lady of the Canyon whose small discography yielded touching and unusual gems like “The Kiss.”

Self-Portraits also includes tracks from artists with more explicitly folk leanings than, say, King, Webb and Taylor.   Both Loudon Wainwright III (whose only hit single remains “Dead Skunk,” alas) and his wife Kate McGarrigle are heard here; Kate is joined by her sister Anna for “Talk to Me of Mendocino” from their eponymous album.  Another folk hero, John Prine, gets a spot with “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,” with which Prine draws comparisons between the Indian actor’s life and his own.  From the Brit-folk scene, Richard and Linda Thompson (“Dimming of the Day”) and Nick Drake (“Northern Sky”) appear.

After the jump: we have much more on the new comp, including the full track listing and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »