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Morello Label Rescues Rare Glen Campbell with Bobbie Gentry and Anne Murray, Brings Helen Schneider to CD

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The Morello imprint of Cherry Red Records has kept busy of late. Following its initial slate of country releases from George Jones, Marty Robbins and Lacy J. Dalton, the Morello team reintroduced gems to the catalogue from Crystal Gayle and Dan Seals, respectively Crystal Gayle / Somebody Loves You, and Rage On / Rebel Heart. Though Dan was England Dan in the pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, Rage On and Rebel Heart were both excursions into pure country. For its latest two releases, however, Morello is diversifying. A most exciting addition to the label’s slate is the two-fer pairing 1977 and 1978 albums from New York-born chanteuse Helen Schneider, while Morello reaffirms its country commitment by premiering on CD two very hard-to-find albums from the legendary Glen Campbell.

Though she’s found her greatest success in Germany, singer/actress Helen Schneider is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She’s found tremendous acclaim singing the cabaret songs of Kurt Weill as well as the big Broadway ballads of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But long before Schneider appeared as Norma Desmond in Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, she recorded a pair of pop albums in the late seventies with two very well-known producers. These two rare LPs are back on one CD from Morello.

1977’s So Close teamed an expressive if tremulous-voiced Schneider with Ron Dante, then in the midst of a string of successes as co-producer of Barry Manilow’s hit albums. Dante and engineer Michael DeLugg (also a Manilow veteran) selected the crème of the pop crop for Schneider’s debut, pairing her with top arrangers including Charlie Calello (of Four Seasons fame) and a “Who’s Who” of songwriters. The title track was a Jake Holmes tune. Neil Sedaka contributed “Trying to Say Goodbye” with Phil Cody and “Sad Eyes” with Howard Greenfield. Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and Daryl Dragon, the Captain with Tennille, offered “Cuddle Up.” Ron Dante brought his own “How I Miss You” to the table, and two songs he had already recorded with Manilow: Barry and Marty Panzer’s heartfelt “All the Time” and the up-tempo rocker “Why Don’t We Live Together.” Laura Nyro was tapped for “I Never Meant to Hurt You,” already recorded by artists including Barbra Streisand. Dante even anticipates Schneider’s future work in musical theatre with the offbeat cabaret take on Mose Allison’s “Your Mind is on Vacation.” This classy collection of big pop ballads so distinctively sung by a youthful Schneider has long been ripe for rediscovery, and makes for one of the most enjoyably unexpected reissues of the year. But that’s not all.

So Close has been paired with Schneider’s 1978 follow-up Let It Be Now, in which Tony Camillo took the producer’s chair. The R&B-oriented Camillo had his biggest success co-producing Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” but also worked with artists including Dionne Warwick, The Ebonys, Freda Payne and Millie Jackson. Camillo, recording in New York, didn’t stray too far from the orchestral template of the first album, and strings enhanced a number of the songs including David Gates’ “Someday.” Gates is just one of the top-tier songwriters represented on this album, including David Pomeranz, Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, and Tom Snow. Musicians included Ascher, Funk Brother Bob Babbitt and future David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer. Schneider cut loose on the disco-flecked “Every Step of the Way,” and the wailing “Rock Me and Caress Me,” while she taps into the melancholy of Williams and Ascher’s “Loneliness.” Kudos to Morello for rescuing these two different, but ultimately complementary, albums.

After the jump: we revisit two duets albums from Glen Campbell! Plus: track listings for all titles plus order links!

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Written by Joe Marchese

December 5, 2012 at 12:03