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The Legacy of Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, Jerry Lee Lewis and More Anthologized On “Essential” Releases

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Essential NilssonToday, Legacy Recordings issues a number of titles from some of music’s greatest artists as part of the label’s ongoing Essential series of anthologies.  We’re taking a look at the collections from Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pete Seeger, Mott the Hoople and Midnight Oil!  Plus: we have track listings for all titles!

A 2010 documentary posed the question, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  Well, if you don’t already know the answer, The Essential Nilsson will go a long way in providing it for you.  Harry Nilsson was the songwriter’s songwriter, who enjoyed his two biggest hits with songs not written by him: Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Pete Ham and Tom Evans’ “Without You.”  He was the hard-partying pal of John Lennon’s capable of almost painfully tender moments in song like “Don’t Forget Me.”  He was the rocker who penned vaudeville tunes for The Monkees (“Daddy’s Song,” “Cuddly Toy”) and recorded an album of standards with legendary arranger Gordon Jenkins long before such albums were in vogue.  And he was the composer of effortless pop melodies like “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” which he provided with a four-letter punch line as if to torpedo its chances for the Top 40.  Harry Nilsson was a man of many contradictions, but they’re all represented in this 2-CD, 40-track collection of his RCA years (1967-1977) produced by Rob Santos and Andrew Sandoval.  (Sandoval also contributes the essay.)

By the numbers, The Essential Nilsson falls short of the standard set by 1995’s 49-song survey Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology.  But even those who own Personal Best should invest in Essential, both for Vic Anesini’s revelatory remastering and for a couple of unreleased tracks and a handful of mono single rarities.  You’ll savor Nilsson’s perky melody in the new, previously unissued remix of “Girlfriend” (better known as “Best Friend,” the theme to TV’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), and the touching simplicity of “Life Line” in a never-before-heard piano-and-voice take.  There’s plenty of Harry’s trademark humor on The Essential (the aforementioned “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” the novelty-esque hit “Coconut,” the offbeat television homage “Kojak Columbo”) as well as his tributes to pals Lennon and McCartney (“You Can’t Do That”) and Randy Newman (“Sail Away,” “Vine Street” and the sublime “Living Without You”).  That last-named Newman song boasts the lyric “It’s so hard, it’s so hard, living without you.”  For fans of intelligent, frequently stunningly-crafted pop, it’s been so hard living without Harry Nilsson.  The Essential Nilsson captures Harry –the angel-faced choirboy of his early albums and the bearded, vocally-battered figure of his later albums – in all his many colors.  Don’t miss it.

After the jump: plenty more on every title in this batch including full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2013 at 10:05

Release Round-Up: Week of April 30

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Shalamar Friends 2CD

Shalamar, Friends: Deluxe Edition / The Isley Brothers, Winner Takes All: Expanded Edition / Bootsy Collins Presents Sweat Band: Expanded Edition / The Gap Band, Gap Band VII: Expanded Edition / Billy Paul, Lately: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The Big Break titles we covered yesterday include a double-disc expansion of one of Shalamar’s most enduring LPs, plus Isleys, P-Funk and albums from Total Experience Records. Full coverage/pre-order links here!

David Allan Coe

Blue Oyster Cult, Imaginos / Sea Level, Cats on the Coast/On the Edge Wilderness Road, Sold for the Prevention of Disease Only / David Allan Coe, Texas Moon / Eddy Arnold, Complete Original #1 Hits / Johnny Lytle, The Soulful Rebel/People & Love / Allspice, Allspice / Larry Williams, That Larry Williams (Real Gone Music)

Read all about Real Gone’s latest here.

Essential Mott

Midnight Oil, Essential Oils / Indigo Girls, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mott the Hoople, Harry Nilsson, Pete Seeger, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, The Essential (Legacy)

Two-disc Essential sets for a bunch of artists! Unreleased tracks can be enjoyed on the Andy Williams and Nilsson sets, and the others are solid overviews.  Joe reviews ’em here!

Indigo Girls: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Midnight Oil: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Mott: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nilsson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Seeger: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Andy Williams: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Johnny Winter: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

History of Eagles

Eagles, History of the Eagles (Jigsaw)

The new two-part documentary on the legendary rock band, coupled with an unreleased concert from 1977.

DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Super Deluxe Blu-Ray: Amazon U.S.

Tubes - Remote Control

The Tubes, Remote Control: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

Four unreleased tracks complement this new version of the band’s final A&M album, a classic concept album produced by Todd Rundgren. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ambrosia - Life Beyond LA

Ambrosia, Life Beyond L.A.: Deluxe Edition (Friday Music)

Led by David Pack, this smooth album spun off the hit “How Much I Feel”; here, it’s expanded with an unreleased bonus live set. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Phyllis Hyman - Somewhere

G.C. Cameron, Love Songs and Other Tragedies: Expanded Edition / Phyllis Hyman, Somewhere in My Lifetime: Expanded Edition / Meli’sa Morgan, Good Love: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Music on My Mind / Life, Love and Harmony (SoulMusic Records) (Order all titles here from Amazon U.K.)

Here’s the latest batch from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records label!  Read Joe’s review of Somewhere in My Lifetime here!

James Taylor - JT Paper Sleeve

West, Bruce and Laing, Whatever Turns You On / West, Bruce and Laing, Live ‘n’ Kickin’ / Walter Egan, Fundamental Roll/Not Shy / James Taylor, JT/Flag/Dad Loves His Work (Culture Factory)

The latest in mini-LP replica remasters from Culture Factory.

Release Round-Up: Week of January 29

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RumoursDeluxeBoxFleetwood Mac, Rumours: Expanded/Deluxe Editions (Warner Bros.)

Ahead of the band’s forthcoming tour, a new 4CD/1DVD/LP deluxe box set edition of their most popular album, featuring the original album on CD and vinyl, two discs of studio outtakes (including the one from the 2004 reissue) and an unreleased documentary. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) A three-disc edition collects the album and the two new bonus CDs, so if you own the last expansion and can live sans DVD, you can pick the rest up for a reasonable fee. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Miles Davis - Bootleg 2Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Volume 2 (Columbia/Legacy)

This 3CD/1DVD set features Miles’ “lost” quintet lineup (featuring Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, who never laid down studio tracks on their own) in four European shows from France, Stockholm and Berlin. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Double TroubleStevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Texas Flood: 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

SRV’s searing debut LP, newly expanded with an unreleased live set from the period. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Destiny's Child - Love SongsDestiny’s Child, Love Songs (Music World/Columbia/Legacy)

A new compilation of lesser-known, romantic album cuts, bolstered by – gasp! – the first new Destiny’s Child track since the mid-’00s! Place your bets as to whether Beyoncé will include the tune in her Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday… (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Deep Purple Paris 1975Deep Purple, Paris 1975 (Eagle Rock)

First in a series of upcoming live Deep Purple reissues, this set chronicles the band’s last Mark III-era show, before Ritchie Blackmore left to perform with his new band Rainbow. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Broken English Deluxe EditionMarianne Faithfull, Broken English: Deluxe Edition (Island/Universal U.K.)

Faithfull’s incendiary, signature 1979 album has been expanded in the U.K. with some great audiovisuals, including rare and unreleased mixes. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Five StarFive Star, Five Star: Deluxe Edition Shine: Expanded Edition (Cherry Pop)

Available in the U.K. today are two comparatively obscure albums by the British pop/R&B group, expanded with many remixes. (Five Star: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S., Shine: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Playlist - Box TopsVarious Artists, Playlist: The Very Best Of (Legacy)

Among the titles in this batch: neat mixes of hits and deep-ish cuts from Andy Williams, The Highwaymen and Harry Nilsson; Sun-era sets for Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and a disc of Box Tops singles, all in glorious mono.

Rare Gems Hidden in New “Playlist” Wave

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Playlist - Box TopsThe latest wave of Playlist releases is almost here from Legacy Recordings, and the series dedicated to collecting “the hits plus the fan favorites” doesn’t look to disappoint.  On January 29, Playlist volumes will be released for an eclectic cadre of artists in a variety of genres: vintage metal (Accept), traditional pop (Andy Williams), blue-eyed soul (The Box Tops), classic rock (Mountain, The Doobie Brothers, Harry Nilsson), country (Sara Evans, The Highwaymen), hip-hop (G. Love and Special Sauce, Nas), rock-and-roll (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis) and even New Age (Yanni).  There are bona fide rarities on the volumes from Andy Williams, The Box Tops, G. Love and Special Sauce, and more.  All Playlist titles are now packaged in traditional jewel cases, and each title’s booklet contains a historical essay plus complete discographical annotation.

The late cult hero Alex Chilton got his start as the deep, soulful voice of The Box Tops, lending his pipes to the band’s classic renditions of Wayne Carson Thompson’s “The Letter,” “Soul Deep” and “Neon Rainbow,” Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Cry Like a Baby,” and so many other stone-cold Memphis classics.  Playlist: The Very Best of the Box Tops offers fourteen selections, all drawn from the group’s singles discography.  Most excitingly, all of these titles (including each song named above) are heard in their original mono single mixes.  Of the lesser-known songs, Playlist includes Chilton’s first composition released on a single, “I See Only Sunshine,” and Chilton favorite “Turn on a Dream,” penned by Mark James of “Suspicious Minds” and “Hooked on a Feeling” fame.  Southern soul-pop doesn’t get any better than this.

Playlist - Andy WilliamsWhen Howard Andrew Williams, better known as Andy Williams, died on September 25, 2012, American popular music lost one of its titans.  Like his Columbia Records contemporary Johnny Mathis, Williams blazed a musical path that allowed him to record everything from early rock and roll to lush renditions of standards, film themes, Broadway hits and MOR pop.  Ten of the fourteen tracks on Playlist: The Very Best of Andy Williams date to Andy’s 1960s heyday, with the remaining four songs from his still-vibrant 1970s period.  In the former category, you’ll hear Academy Award-winning classic “Moon River” (of course) but also three other movie tunes written by Williams’ friend Henry Mancini: “In the Arms of Love,” “Dear Heart” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”  Williams’ pop hits “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” and “Music to Watch Girls By” are also included, while two more famous cinema songs are represented from the seventies: “Speak Softly Love” from The Godfather and “Where Do I Begin” from Love Story.  Most exciting for collectors, though, will be a rare 1964 promotional single.  Written by the Li’l Abner team of Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul, “Exercise Your Prerogative” encourages young listeners to “get the vote through on the big Election Day…let liberty and freedom live, go and exercise your prerogative!”  It’s all set to a swinging big-band chart by Dave Grusin.

After the jump: more specs on rarities, plus full track listings and pre-order links for every title! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tom Northcott, “Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings”

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Extra!  Extra!  Lost Folk Singer Found!

His name is Tom Northcott, and had things turned out a little differently, he might be remembered in the same breath as Joni Mitchell or Gordon Lightfoot, fellow Canadian troubadours.  After founding the Tom Northcott Trio, he headed for California during perhaps the most fertile period ever for creative, boundary-breaking musical exploration, the mid-1960s.  Northcott opened for The Who, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, and was signed to Warner Bros. Records.  He gained solid regional airplay and a minor chart entry in the U.S., but his music never struck the same chord in America as in his native Canada.  In the early 1970s, Northcott retreated from the music business to practice law, returning only sporadically.  Thanks to the team at Rhino Handmade, however, the fresh and inventive music he created in his heyday is available once more.  Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings (Rhino Handmade RHM2 524879) brings together twenty long-lost tracks on one CD.  Is it sunshine folk?  Is it baroque coffeehouse?  This genre-defying and blissfully offbeat music speaks for itself.

Northcott was supported by a virtual “Who’s Who” of the L.A. scene, including Harry Nilsson, Leon Russell, Randy Newman and Jack Nitzsche, all under the watchful eye of Warner Bros.’ supreme A&R man, Lenny Waronker.  He stood apart from many of his contemporaries, though, by his reliance on material from outside songwriters.  Though an accomplished composer and lyricist with six self-penned tracks included here, Northcott was launched by Warner Bros. as an interpretive singer in an era when the rules were being rewritten on the spot.  Young men, armed with guitars, had little need for the songs coming from New York’s Aldon or Los Angeles’ Metric offices.

At the heart of Sunny Goodge Street is the 10-track Best of Tom Northcott, a Canada-only LP release.  It included a number of Northcott’s American single sides such as Harry Nilsson’s “1941” and a version of the Donovan song that gives the new Rhino anthology its title.  One month prior to the May 1967 release of Northcott’s “Sunny Goodge Street,” Leon Russell and Lenny Waronker had crafted the immaculate title track to Harpers Bizarre’s Feelin’ Groovy, and Russell is also responsible for the most vividly imaginative arrangements here.  The ornate, dreamy take on “Sunny Goodge Street” is even more far-out than “Feelin’ Groovy.”  The song is dramatically reinvented from Donovan’s slow, lysergic original, with Russell layering on a shimmering harp, calliope, accordion, strings, horns and background vocals in a beautiful cacophony.  Did Russell take his cue from the lyric’s “strange music boxes sadly tinkling?”  There are some similarities to Judy Collins’ earlier version of the song, but the vision of Northcott, Waronker and Russell is strikingly original.  The luscious orchestration contrasts with the impressionistic and vaguely disturbing words:  “On the firefly platform on sunny Goodge Street, violent hash-smoker shook a chocolate machine, involved in an eating scene/Smashing into neon streets in their stonedness, smearing their eyes on the crazy cult goddess, listenin’ to sounds of Mingus, mellow fantastic/My, my, they sigh!”  Northcott recalled in 1997 that Glen Campbell, James Burton, Larry Knechtel and Jim Gordon, all of the “Wrecking Crew,” all played on the song.

Perhaps proving the old adage that one must know the rules before breaking them, Russell ironically made his own solo career on stripped-down, raw and visceral rock and roll, the complete opposite of the style he supplied on songs like “Sunny Goodge Street,” John Hartford’s “Landscape Grown Cold” and Harry Nilsson’s “1941.”  Northcott, alas, didn’t find the same kind of success with “Landscape” that Glen Campbell did with Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind.”  James Burton fronts the Russell arrangement on dobro.  Nilsson’s “1941,” a sad and personal tale of one family’s history repeating itself, is adorned by Russell’s grandiose orchestra which embraces the song’s circus setting.  Northcott supplies an imploring vocal, and the resulting production is less delicate than Nilsson’s stately 1967 original.  “1941” cracked the U.S. pop charts at No. 88, and another Nilsson song, “The Rainmaker,” was issued the following year.  Jack Nitzsche was responsible for the quirky arrangement on Northcott’s version.

Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 2, 2012 at 13:13

Who Is Tom Northcott? Rhino Handmade Clues You In with New Warner Bros. Anthology

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Somewhere in rock’s back pages, you might find the name of Tom Northcott, troubadour.  After establishing himself as the folk-singing frontman of The Tom Northcott Trio in his native Canada, Northcott headed for California, and proved himself in the fertile musical ground of the San Francisco Bay Area, opening for acts like The Who, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane.  Soon he found himself even further south, signed to Los Angeles’ Warner Bros. Records.  And between 1966 and1969, Northcott recorded some twenty sides for the label, working with names from the WB “house team,” gents like Lenny Waronker and Leon Russell.   At the water tower, Northcott also had access to some of rock’s great songwriters, so he recorded compositions by the likes of Harry Nilsson and, of course, Waronker’s close pal Randy Newman.  But when Tom Northcott abandoned music to practice law in the early 1970s, after having cut one 1971 LP for UNI Records, he was all but forgotten.  In recent months, Rhino Handmade had been asking the question “Who is Tom Northcott?” in various teasers.  Now, the question is answered, and in the best way possible: via the man’s music.

Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings collects twenty of Northcott’s recordings for the label, including six previously-unreleased tracks from 1968 and 1969, recorded in both Los Angeles and London.  The collection has been many years in the making, beginning with Andrew Sandoval and Bill Inglot’s unearthing of the original tapes and finding the additional unissued tracks and rare single versions.  The complete, 10-track The Best of Tom Northcott LP as originally released in 1970 is, of course, included in full.  This LP never received wide release in the U.S., designed for the Canadian market, so the music contained within its grooves will be particularly new to many listeners. (Billboard noted on August 1, 1970 that the album was “enjoying much Vancouver sales success.”)  The album also contains the single versions of “Sunny Goodge Street” and its flip, “Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice’s Garden,” plus Northcott’s final single with Warner Bros., “Make Me an Island,” written by Albert (“It Never Rains in Southern California”) Hammond and arranged by Nilsson collaborator Perry Botkin, Jr.

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

Written by Joe Marchese

January 19, 2012 at 14:05

Happy Halloween! Taking a Bite Out of “Son of Dracula”

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Happy Halloween!  To celebrate this spookiest of holidays, we’re bringing you a special holiday reprise from The Second Disc Archives in which we revisit the immortal, undead “Son of Dracula,” starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr!

October 2010 will bring a major reissue campaign devoted to the Apple Records discography, seeing most of that storied label’s output arrive in editions remastered by the same team behind the Beatles’ catalogue overhaul last year. But one Apple-related LP is among the titles not coming on CD: the 1974 soundtrack to Son of Dracula. Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s musical horror/comedy romp was the sole release on the Rapple label (Nilsson’s label RCA + Apple = Rapple, get it?  Good!) and has only enjoyed a CD appearance via a short-lived Japanese edition (RCA BVCP-7314).

The germ of the idea for Son of Dracula originated with Ringo Starr, who quickly approached his pal in debauchery, the talented, eccentric singer and songwriter Harry Nilsson. Harry had already explored the “rock Dracula” theme with the cover to his 1972 Son of Schmilsson (RCA LSP-4717) which followed up his breakthrough Nilsson Schmilsson (RCA AFL1-4515). Son of Schmilsson’s cover featured the artist in full vampire mode, cape and all, with the album’s title dripping in blood. The idea for the film must have been irresistible to Nilsson, though he was surprised to find that Ringo wasn’t inspired by his album cover at all (despite having played on the LP!), but rather arrived independently at the concept. Son of Dracula would be written by Jennifer Jayne and directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, with Starr sharing executive producer credit and setting the film up with Apple Films. Francis had previously honed his B-moviemaking abilities working at Britain’s infamous Hammer studio in the 1960s and brought that unique sensibility to the project.

Got your plastic fangs in, and your cape on? Click on the jump to read more about the wild musical adventures of Count Downe (uh huh) and his arch-nemesis Baron Frankenstein (or is that Fronk-en-steen? Sorry, wrong movie!) set to the songs of the one and only Mr. Harry Nilsson… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 31, 2011 at 11:10

Review: Harry Nilsson and John Stewart, “Spotlight on Nilsson/Willard”

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Whenever the temptation exists to get depressed about the state of the catalogue business, a reissue comes along as a reminder of a couple things. One, that good things, indeed, do come to those who wait. Two, that sooner or later most everything will see the light of day. One such reissue arrived from DRG Records on June 29 to sadly little fanfare. This totally unexpected set joins albums by two disparate artists, yet stands as a cohesive and altogether rewarding listening experience. Harry Nilsson’s never-on-CD, pre-RCA Spotlight on Nilsson has been joined on CD with John (“Daydream Believer”) Stewart’s Willard, both rescued from the Capitol/EMI vaults and combined as DRG CD 8512.

As Will Friedwald’s lengthy and typically-erudite liner notes point out, there are fewer degrees of separation than one might expect between Nilsson and Stewart. Both had songs recorded by The Monkees: in Nilsson’s case, “Cuddly Toy”; in Stewart’s, the evergreen “Daydream Believer.” Stewart’s Willard was produced by Peter Asher, Apple Records’ A&R director and close friend of The Beatles, who often cited Nilsson as their favorite artist. And despite their careers in front of the microphone, both late gentlemen may be best remembered as songwriters. In recent years, Nilsson’s substance-fuelled escapades with John Lennon during Lennon’s “lost weekend” seem to have gained the “Everybody’s Talkin’” singer more notoriety than discussion of his music. But the complicated Nilsson cannot be painted with just one brush; like Stewart, he was an astute, singular and altogether creative tunesmith. Read about these early albums after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 7, 2010 at 09:02