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Release Round-Up: Week of July 29

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Allman Brothers - Fillmore BoxThe Allman Brothers Band, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings (Mercury/UMe)

The four shows in March 1971 that made up the band’s legendary breakthrough album are presented in full for the first time, along with the group’s closing set at the Fillmore East that following June. The Blu-ray version features the material in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound.

6CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3-BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4LP Highlights: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Dream Academy - Morning LastedPeggy Lipton, The Complete Ode Recordings / Gene Rains, Far Away Lands — The Exotic Music of Gene Rains /How to Stuff a Wild Bikini: Original Stereo Soundtrack / Cass Elliot, Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore Plus Rarities – Her Final Recordings / Dee Dee Warwick, The Complete Atco Recordings / The Shirelles, Happy and in Love/Shirelles / The Dream AcademyThe Morning Lasted All Day — A Retrospective (Real Gone Music)

This diverse Real Gone set includes a compilation from underrated ’80s synthpop group The Dream Academy and recordings from Peggy Lipton, star of The Mod Squad; she covers the songs of Carole King, Laura Nyro, Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Jimmy Webb on this release, which has liner notes from our own Joe Marchese!

Peggy Lipton: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Gene Rains: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Wild BikiniAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cass Elliot: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dee Dee Warwick: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Shirelles: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Dream Academy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Deep Purple Mark 1Deep Purple, Hard Road: The Mark 1 Studio Recordings 1968-1969 (Parlophone U.K.)

Deep Purple’s first three albums get the box set treatment with bonus tracks and stereo and mono mixes of the first two albums. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

Get On UpJames Brown, Get on Up: The James Brown Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Polydor/UMe)

In honor of the new film opening this week, Universal’s got a new JB compilation, naturally featuring a pair of unreleased live tracks from 1966. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The BreezeEric Clapton and Friends, The Breeze (An Appreciation of J.J. Cale) (Bushbranch/Surfdog)

The legendary bluesman and some famous friends (Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer) pay tribute to the late blues singer-songwriter on this new album.

Standard Edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD Box Set: Surfdog Records
4LP: Surfdog Records

LC CookeL.C. Cooke, The Complete SAR Records Recordings (ABKCO)

This anthology collects the complete recordings of L.C. Cooke for his older brother Sam’s SAR Records label, including one complete shelved album produced and largely written by Sam, plus alternate takes, unreleased tracks, session chatter and bonus recordings from the Checker and Destination labels!  Musicians include Bobby and Cecil Womack, Billy Preston and “Pink Panther” saxophonist Plas Johnson! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

I Hope We Get to Love in TimeSilver Convention, Get Up and Boogie: Expanded Edition / Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., I Hope We Get to Love in Time: Expanded Edition / Phyllis Nelson, Move Closer (Big Break Records)

Big Break has three more R&B classics arriving on CD this week  including the first post-5th Dimension album from Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. featuring their smash “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).”

Silver Convention: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn & Billy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Phyllis Nelson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Super ChiefVan Dyke Parks, Super Chief (Yep Roc)

Yep Roc reissues Van Dyke Parks’ 2013 “orchestral fantasy” on standalone CD (previously only available as part of a Record Store Day vinyl package) for the first time! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

GOTG SoundtrackVarious Artists, Guardians of the Galaxy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Hollywood Records)

Here’s the only collection approved for listening by The Star Lord! This indeed-awesome all-catalogue mix includes vintage cuts from The Jackson 5, The Raspberries, David Bowie, The Runaways, Blue Swede, Rupert Holmes and more – all but one of which (Norman Greenbaum’s immortal “Spirit in the Sky”) play key roles in the Marvel blockbuster-to-be! Also available as part of a 2CD or 2LP deluxe edition also including the film’s orchestral score by Tyler Bates!

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

Essential NSYNC*NSYNC, The Essential *NSYNC (Jive/Legacy)

This two-disc set from the late ’90s/early ’00s boy band lives up to its name for fans, featuring all the great hits (“Bye Bye Bye,” “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” “Pop”) plus a myriad of rarities from compilations, soundtracks and international pressings. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ghostbusters_SoundtrackVarious Artists, Ghostbusters: Original Soundtrack Album (Arista/Legacy)

A sequel of sorts to the Record Store Day single co-produced by our own Mike Duquette, this is a straight reissue of the original soundtrack, newly remastered for vinyl. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Release Round-Up: Week of February 11

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Camper - Our BelovedCamper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart/Key Lime Pie: Deluxe Editions (Omnivore)

Omnivore expands both Virgin Records releases from the winning alt-folk group, released in 1988 and 1989.

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Key Lime Pie (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Def Leppard SlangDef Leppard, Slang: Deluxe Edition (Bludgeon Riffola)

The band’s fan-favorite 1996 album gets a generous deluxe edition treatment with B-sides and unreleased demos.

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

The Organisation of PopVarious Artists, The Art of The 12″, Volume Three The Organisation of Pop: 30 Years of Zang Tuum Tuub / Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Frankie Said: Deluxe Edition (ZTT/Salvo)

New ZTT comps abound this week, including an updated double-disc retrospective for the U.K. (which differs from last year’s U.S. edition on Razor & Tie) and a CD/DVD edition of the latest Frankie best-of.

The Art of The 12″: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Organisation of PopAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Frankie SaidAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Visions of EightHenry Mancini, Visions of Eight: Music from the Original Soundtrack / Sid Ramin, Stiletto: Selections from the Soundtrack (Dutton Vocalion)

Some underrated soundtrack goodness is due from this U.K. label. Stiletto features the song “Sugar in the Rain” as written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, while Visions of Eight also features Just You and Me Together Love, Mancini’s 1977 collaboration LP with poet Joe Laws.

Mancini: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Ramin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

WizardVarious Artists, The Wizard of Oz: 75th Anniversary Anthology (Sepia)

Produced through the unintended convenience of U.K. copyright/public domain laws, Sepia provides a neat little “bonus disc” to accompany the immortal soundtrack to the 1939 film. (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)

Ross Culture FactoryDiana Ross, Ross / The Temptations, All Directions / James Brown, Ain’t It Funky The Popcorn /Rod Stewart, The Rod Stewart Album / The Runaways , Live in Japan  (Culture Factory)

Culture Factory dips into the Motown and James Brown catalogues (among others) for vinyl replica CD reissues.

Diana: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Temptations: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. Ain’t It Funky: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. The PopcornAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rod: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Runaways: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Dusty SACDDusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Stereo Hybrid SACD) (Analogue Productions)

One of the greatest albums of its decade gets the SACD treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 11, 2014 at 08:28

Holiday Tunes Watch: Sony CMG Celebrates The Season with Bing, Buck, B.J., JB, Elvis and More

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Christmas With Bing CoverOccasionally the aisles of your local grocery or big-box store turn up releases you won’t find even in your local indie music store.  Such is the case with a recent batch of holiday-themed titles from Sony Commercial Music Group.  Just in time for Christmas ’13, CMG has unveiled a number of holiday compilations – and a handful of straight album reissues – for fans of classic pop (Bing Crosby, Patti Page), country (B.J. Thomas, Buck Owens, Roy Clark), rock-and-roll (Elvis Presley) and R&B (James Brown, and latter-day incarnations of The Drifters, The Platters, The Miracles and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes).  As you’ll see, there are some buried treasures to be discovered here.

Bing Crosby Enterprises has released a number of projects in recent years featuring ultra-rare Crosby tracks from the late legend’s archives, and the new Christmas with Bing! is no exception.  This release follows other recent, unique seasonal collections like 2011’s Bing Crosby Christmas from Sonoma Entertainment and South Bay Music and Christmas Favorites from Somerset Entertainment. Produced by Robert S. Bader, the compilation offers 14 tracks including a few reprised from the indispensable Crosby Christmas Sessions (Collectors’ Choice Music, 2010).  Three duets are sprinkled in among vintage singles and rare radio performances, including Ella Fitzgerald on “A Marshmallow World,” Bing’s widow Kathryn Crosby on “Away in a Manger,” and David Bowie on, of course, “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”   Real Gone Music has recently reissued the late Patti Page’s 1955 Mercury release Christmas with Patti Page; now CMG has delivered the singer’s 1965 Columbia set of the same name which featured re-recordings of some of the earlier album’s music plus new holiday songs.  The Columbia Christmas with Patti Page includes such favorites as “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Christmas Bells” and “Pretty Snowflakes.”

Buck Owens ChristmasThe late Bakersfield, California country hero Buck Owens has been in the spotlight for much of 2013 thanks to Omnivore Recordings’ stellar release program and the release of his autobiography Buck ‘Em!.  CMG’s Christmas with Buck Owens, produced by Rob Santos and licensed directly from Owens’ estate, includes twelve originals from Owens and his Buckaroos, including “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stagecoach” and a still-relevant lament about “Christmas Shopping.”  Its eleven tracks sample Owens’ Capitol long-players Christmas with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (1965) and Christmas Shopping (1968).  Buck’s Hee-Haw co-host and compatriot Roy Clark also gets a holiday overview with A Christmas Collection, produced by Doug Wygal.  Its fifteen tracks including such classics as “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Home for the Holidays” and “White Christmas” have all been licensed from Grand Ole Opry member Clark.

B.J. Thomas - Christmas LiveSony collects twelve Christmas tunes from Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”) on Christmas, licensed from Cleopatra Records.  As well as “Tennessee Christmas” and “Lone Star Christmas,” Greenwood sings traditional classics from “The Little Drummer Boy” to “White Christmas.”  For years, B.J. Thomas has successfully walked the line between country and pop, and he showcases his still-strong voice on his enjoyable Christmas Live set.  This collection, licensed from Cleopatra and of mid-2000s vintage, features twelve live Christmas songs from the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” man, including “The Christmas Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Tennessee Christmas.”  A longer version of the concert, with some non-holiday material, can be obtained on CD-R from Goldenlane Records as Hooked on Christmas or on DVD from Video Music as B.J. Thomas’ Christmas.

B.J. shared some of his repertoire, such as “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” with Elvis Presley.  Twelve of the King’s Christmas staples are represented on Merry Christmas…Love Elvis, produced by Jeff James and Lisa Grauso and remastered by Tom Ruff.  The compilation is drawn from Elvis’ 1957 and 1971 Christmas albums plus the 1966 single “If Every Day Was Like Christmas.  On the classic rock front, CMG also offers up a reissue of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s A Lovemongers’ Christmas.  Originally released in 1998 as The Lovemongers’ Here is Christmas, credited to the Wilsons’ Heart side project, it’s since been reissued under the official Heart name.  This edition contains the two bonus tracks that did not appear in 1998 but have been added to subsequent reissues, Patty Griffin’s “Mary” and Ann Wilson and Sue Ennis’ “Let’s Stay In.”

After the jump: we have the scoop on the soulful titles in this series, plus full track listings and pre-order links for all releases, plus discographical information where available! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of June 25

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Help BDThe Beatles, Help! (Blu-Ray Disc) (Capitol/Apple)

The Fab Four’s second film gets the hi-def disc treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Hidden World RevealedThe Three O’Clock, The Hidden World Revealed (Omnivore)

Early works by power-pop legends The Three O’Clock shine on this new compilation, featuring cuts from their early works on Frontier Records and 10 unreleased tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt MeBig Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Omnivore)

Released on limited colored vinyl for Record Store Day this year, the soundtrack to this new Big Star documentary features 21 unreleased outtakes and new mixes of favorites from the legendary cult heroes.

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

Timeless Flight full boxThe Moody Blues, Timeless Flight (UMe)

Released in the U.K. earlier this month, this new anthology from the Moodies comes in two-disc, four-disc or 17-disc CD/DVD editions. Nothing like freedom of choice, right?

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
11CD/6DVD box: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Scared to Get HappyVarious Artists, Scared to Get Happy: A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989 (Cherry Red)

A new five-disc anthology that’s basically the Nuggets of its genre, from Creation to Rough Trade, The Jesus & Mary Chain to The Stone Roses. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Brothers and Sisters - Super DeluxeAllman Brothers Band, Brothers and Sisters: 40th Anniversary Edition (Mercury)

Four decades after “Ramblin’ Man” was an immense pop hit, the Allmans’ 1973 album comes back as a super-deluxe box featuring a disc of unreleased outtakes and a complete show from the Winterland Ballroom.

4CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K.
1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

JB Apollo 50James Brown, Best of ‘Live at the Apollo’ 50th Anniversary (Polydor/UMe)

A single-disc compilation of the best of JB’s three King/Polydor live albums from the famed New York venue, along with two unreleased tracks from an unreleased fourth volume of material. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Hardcore DEVODevo, Hardcore Vols. 1 & 2 (Superior Viaduct)

Long out-of-print, these compilations of early Devo works make their debut on vinyl; a reissued CD edition with extra tracks will be released in two weeks.

Volume 1: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Volume 2 (2LP):  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Earle WBSteve Earle, The Warner Bros. Years (Shout! Factory)

This new box features Steve Earle’s three Warner albums from 1995 to 1997, plus two unreleased concerts on CD and DVD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Going for the One SACDElvis Presley, King Creole / Yes, Going for the One (SACDs) (Audio Fidelity)

Yes’ 1977 album, the first with Rick Wakeman since 1973, and Elvis’ 1958 soundtrack album (featuring “Hard Headed Woman”), are the latest to get the Audio Fidelity SACD treatment, mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray respectively.

King Creole: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Going for the One: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mighty RealSylvester, Mighty Real: Greatest Dance Hits (Fantasy)

The legendary disco performer is celebrated with a new compilation featuring his most classic hits and a new remix of “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”

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

Magica DeluxeDio, Magica: Deluxe Edition (Niji Entertainment)

A new two-disc edition of the 2000 Dio album. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Legend RemixedBob Marley and The Wailers, Legend Remixed (Tuff Gong/Island/UMe)

New remixes of classic reggae favorites.

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

There It Is: UMe Celebrates 50 Years of James Brown at The Apollo with New Compilation

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JB Apollo 50“So now, ladies and gentlemen, it is Star Time. Are you ready for Star Time?”

With those words by emcee Fats Gondor on the stage of The Apollo Theater in New York City on October 24, 1962, history was made. James Brown was set to take the stage at the famed Harlem theater – but what could have been just another show on Brown’s breakneck touring schedule became a flashpoint for not only Brown’s career but for the entire pop, rock and soul canon, thanks to Brown’s insistence on recording and, the following May, releasing the show (at his own expense!).

Now, 50 years after the release of the acclaimed Live At The Apollo LP, UMe is releasing a new compilation, Best of Live at The Apollo: 50th Anniversary.

Live performance was, of course, an accepted fact of the genre; millions would gasp at Elvis Presley’s hip-swiveling dance moves on network variety shows, and Beatlemania spread to America the second the Fab Four graced the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show. But releasing a live album? It hadn’t really been done before.

But even Mr. Dynamite himself couldn’t be accurately represented through his deeply funky sides on wax. And not only did Live At The Apollo seal the deal for plenty of cratediggers that Brown was truly the hardest working man in show business, it established a symbiotic bond between performer and venue – one of the first, and perhaps most notable, of its kind in pop history.

James Brown released three live albums recorded at The Apollo during his prime years as a recording artist: the 1963 original and 1968’s Live At The Apollo Volume II (both released on King Records) and 1971’s Revolution of the Mind: Recorded Live At The Apollo Vol. III, released by Polydor Records. Best of Live At The Apollo will feature the highlights of those three original Apollo LPs, and two tracks from another, ultimately shelved fourth LP, recorded in September 1972. (That album, Get Down At The Apollo with The J.B.’s: Live At The Apollo Vol. IV, was to feature not only Brown’s new band, created in 1970, but also The Female Preacher herself, Lyn Collins.) 

Both of those new tracks  – the instrumental “Hot Pants Road” and “There It Is” – have been remixed just for this disc; this live take of “There It Is” previously appeared on the 1988 compilation Motherlode, and the original LP mix of the track appeared on a Record Store Day single last year.

Best of Live At The Apollo: 50th Anniversary hits stores on June 25. Hit the jump to place your order and check out the track list!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

May 13, 2013 at 12:35

Review: Aretha Franklin and James Brown, Reissued By BBR

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In today’s reviews, we’re looking at three albums from two true legends of soul.  What do they have in common?  Each title has been reissued by Big Break Records, and each found its respective artist conquering new terrain: the pop music world of the 1980s!

Aretha Franklin, Jump to It (Arista AL-9602, 1982 – reissued Big Break Records CDBBR 0154, 2012)

Each era of Aretha Franklin’s long and remarkable career has gotten some catalogue love lately, from the artist’s first days at Columbia Records to her oft-overlooked final years on the Atlantic label.  Now, following Funky Town Grooves’ 2-CD expansion of Franklin’s 1985 pop smash Who’s Zoomin’ Who, Big Break Records is turning the clock back to her third and fourth albums on Arista with lavish, lovingly annotated reissues.

Following two respectable efforts which reunited Aretha with Atlantic’s Arif Mardin, the Queen of Soul turned to a hot, rising talent to take the producer’s chair.  That talent was Luther Vandross, who knew from soul.  Despite his great love of the classic sounds made by Franklin, Dionne Warwick, the Sweet Inspirations and others in the 1960s, Vandross chose not to pastiche those records, but rather produce a wholly modern album on Franklin.  The result was 1982’s Jump to It.  The album lacks the deep soul of her Atlantic years and even the passionate interpretive talent of her Columbia years.  Instead, it’s all about the beat – but Vandross also knew from the beat!  Jump to It earned Franklin her first Top 40 hit and first gold album in the U.S. in six years, and its overtly “modern” sound also garnered a Grammy Award nomination for the already-legendary singer.

It’s a taut album at just eight tracks, built around the danceable grooves of its title song.  “Jump to It” simply doesn’t let up, built around the foundation laid by Doc Powell’s guitar, Marcus Miller’s bass and Yogi Horton’s drums.  Vandross and Miller joined another bona fide soul sister, Cissy Houston, as part of the background chorus imploring Aretha, “Jump, jump, jump to it!” while Franklin coos, scats, caresses and wails the simple lyrics with an almighty fire.  Miller’s bass is one of the most prominent sounds on the album, and it’s slinky and funky on “Love Me Right.”  Just as important to Jump to It are the backing vocals, knowingly crafted by Vandross as a major part of the equation.  Vandross’ backing section prominently echoes Franklin’s lead although it soon morphs into a Philly/disco mood with string backup.  The second single, “Love Me Right” is every bit as infectious, if not more so, than the hit title track.

Songwriter Sam Dees (“One in a Million You,” Franklin’s “Love All the Hurt Away”) offered up “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’”: “If she don’t want your lovin’/Give it to me/’Cause I’ll take it!”  But Franklin never sounds desperate as she pleads – far from it.  It’s another track with seamlessly –integrated background vocals, with Darlene Love now part of the group.  The song also gives Aretha a chance to supply her inimitable spoken ad-libs.  After the workout of “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’,” Aretha might rightfully have been crowned the Queen of Sass!  (On the Vandross-penned ballad “This is For Real,” she smirks, “Miss Ree ain’t playin’ this time,” and there’s no reason to doubt her.)

Franklin intuitively doesn’t have to unleash the full power of her volcanic voice on every track, preferring to ride the rhythms with an effortless style.    A steamy duet with the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs on Aretha’s own “I Wanna Make It Up to You” boasts another Motown connection thanks to Paul Riser’s string arrangement.  Another Motown stalwart, Smokey Robinson, contributed the song “Just My Daydream.” Its Latin-accented, subtle, shifting melody adds a seductive vibe to the LP.  Less successful is a cover of “It’s Your Thing,” with horn charts from the ubiquitous Jerry Hey, Steve Love on a blazing guitar solo and Erma Franklin on backing vocals.  It’s altogether glossier than the truly funky original.

J. Matthew Cobb contributes liner notes to the expanded Jump to It as well as to its follow-up, Get It Right.  Cobb’s notes offer particular insight on the often stormy relationship between Vandross and Franklin and the heightened emotions at play when they clashed.  When Vandross once put his foot down with a stern “I’m the producer!,” he was met with a steely “Well, I’m the Queen of Soul!”  Who could argue with that?  Nick Robbins has handled the remastering, and Big Break has added five bonus tracks that will keep you dancing: three single versions and two 12-inch mixes.

After the jump: does Aretha Get It Right?  And James Brown shows off his Gravity! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 2, 2012 at 11:46

Funk Soul Brothers: Ace Collects “Royal Grooves” From King, “Southern Soul” From Stax

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If you prefer your soul with a twist of funk, the Ace family of labels has two offerings that should get your fingers clicking and your feet dancing.  Both Royal Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the King Records Vaults (BGP CD BGPD250) and Nobody Wins: Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 (Kent CDKEND 370) cover roughly the same turbulent period of music history, with the former compilation drawing on tracks recorded between 1967 and 1973, and the latter taking in the “Second Golden Age” of Stax Records between 1968 and 1975.  This is the period when King, the Cincinnati-based label that was home to James Brown, was following in the Godfather’s funky footsteps, and Stax was reinventing itself with a new roster of artists that could follow the legendary likes of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Booker T and the MGs.

Though King Records was founded in 1943 by consummate record man Syd Nathan and made its name emphasizing country-and-western, it was successful in the decision to move into the R&B field.  But Nathan was unprepared for the revolution that one of those R&B artists, James Brown, would create.  Nathan and Brown’s relationship had become strained when Brown, his star in the ascendant, signed with Mercury’s Smash label while still under contract to King.  But he returned to King in 1965 with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and by 1967, when this anthology picks up the story, the label’s roster was largely dedicated to Brown, his associates or sound-alike records, some of which were released under the “James Brown Productions” banner.  Nathan died in 1968, but the company continued to thrive until Brown’s departure in 1971, at which time he took his back catalogue to Polydor with him.  New owners (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) attempted to revive King’s fortunes, but the label eventually reconciled itself with its fate as a strictly back-catalogue operation.

Royal Grooves covers this tumultuous period for the label in detail.  James Brown’s presence is heavily felt, and he’s represented with productions from Wendy Lynn (“I Can Remember”), Kay Robinson (“The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow”), Leon Austin (“Steal Away”) and Carlton “King” Coleman (“The Boo Boo Song”).  He’s also a co-writer of The Brownettes’ “Baby, Don’t You Know” and Clay Tyson’s “Clay Tyson (Man on the Moon).”  The Brownettes, formerly the Jewels, performed with the James Brown Revue and frequently sang background vocals on his recordings.  Tyson was another performer in the Revue, a comedian who rapped over the backing track to Brown’s “I Got the Feeling” for “Man on the Moon,” one of this set’s truest curiosities.  Hank Ballard, the writer of “The Twist” who was signed to King in 1953, joined Brown’s revue in 1967.  “Unwind Yourself” from that year’s You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down LP is heard here.

From the post-Brown period, Royal Grooves includes a Leiber/Stoller-produced revival of “Cool Jerk” by The Coasters, and Gloria Edwards’ “(Need Nobody to Help Me) Keep Up with My Man” produced by Huey Meaux’s Crazy Cajun Productions.  Collectors might thrill most to a track from Barbara Burton and the Messengers.  As The Messengers Unlimited with Sonny Morrison as lead singer, they released the rare Soulful Proclamation album. For their lone single on DeLuxe, Barbara took the lead for “Love’s Sweet Water.”  This lost funk workout is so rare, it’s possibly that the single was never actually released, but Ace has liberated the 1972 cut for inclusion here.

Hit the jump for a trip to Memphis! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2012 at 10:05

Knock You Out! James Brown’s “Gravity” to Be Expanded by BBR

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It’d be wrong to say that the fine folks at Universal Music Enterprises are doing it to death when it comes to James Brown; there’s been a solid two decades of box sets, compilations and reissues to enjoy, and that list is only going to get longer with the news that Live at The Apollo box set is coming out later this year.

But there is one brief, substantial period of the Godfather of Soul’s career that’s often not as focused on: a brief but bright pop crossover in the mid-’80s on Scotti Bros. Records with a cheesy but fun hit single that inadvertently paved the way for his critical reappraisal. The song was “Living in America,” from the film Rocky IV, and the album was 1986’s Gravity, now due for an expanded reissue from Big Break Records.

By 1985, James Brown had more than his share of ups (some of the greatest funk and soul singles throughout the 1960s and early 1970s) and downs (the expiration of his contract with Polydor in 1981 and subsequent reduction of his touring schedule). He turned in a great performance of the gospel standard “The Old Landmark” for 1980’s The Blues Brothers, and he guested on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Unity” – arguably, one of the first singles to acknowledge the Godfather’s influence on the nascent genre of hip-hop – but things were quiet for awhile, with a few independent releases coming and going.

“Living in America” was an out-of-nowhere opportunity, reportedly requested personally by Rocky IV star/writer/director Sylvester Stallone. The song was performed by Brown himself within the movie, to introduce retired champ Apollo Creed’s exhibition bout against fearsome Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. The song’s writers were Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman, both well known for their work on soundtrack hits, notably Hartman’s Top 10 hit “I Can Dream About You” for the Streets of Fire soundtrack in 1984. The duo would receive a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Song for “America.”

Midnight and Hartman would serve as writer-producers for all of Gravity, enlisting a stunning stable of backing talent, including Brown’s longtime horn player Maceo Parker, lead keyboardist Steve Winwood, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and backing vocals from Alison Moyet. Key tracks included Top 40 R&B single “Gravity” and Top 10 R&B hit “How Do You Stop,” later covered by Joni Mitchell and Seal in 1994.

In true BBR form, this new edition includes a heap of bonus tracks, effectively doubling the album to 16 tracks. Remixes of “Living in America,” “Gravity,” “How Do You Stop” and album cut “Goliath” all appear, along with single edits and an instrumental of “America.”

The expanded disc is out in the U.K. May 21. Hit the jump for the full track list!

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 24, 2012 at 14:20

Posted in James Brown, News, Reissues

The Second Disc’s Record Store Day 2012 Essential Releases

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Well, Record Store Day is finally upon us!  Tomorrow, Saturday, April 21, music fans and collectors will descend upon their local independent record stores to celebrate both the sounds on those black platters and the cherished physical shopping environments alike.  As Record Store Day 2012 will offer a typically eclectic array of limited edition releases (primarily on vinyl but also some on CD, too!) from many of our favorite artists here at Second Disc HQ, we thought we would take a moment to count down the titles to which we’re most looking forward!  I’ll take my turn first, and then after the jump, you’ll find Mike’s picks for some of the finest offerings you might find at your local retailer!  And after you’ve picked up your share of these special collectibles, don’t hesitate to browse the regular racks, too…you never know what you might find!

You’ll find more information and a link to a downloadable PDF of the complete Record Store Day list here, and please share your RSD 2012 experiences with us below.  Happy Hunting!

5.            Miles Davis, Forever Miles (Columbia/Legacy)

This five-track collection spotlights various eras of the legendary trumpeter via alternate takes and rare mixes new to vinyl plus a previously unreleased live recording.  It adds up to a sonic journey through the many iterations of jazz itself.  From the fifties comes a 1956 take of “Dear Old Stockholm” with John Coltrane and the first take of 1957’s “Blues for Pablo” with Gil Evans.  “Hand Jive” is an alternate from the Miles Davis Quintet box chronicling Davis’ “Second Great Quintet” of 1965-1968.  A new mix of “Early Minor” from the In a Silent Way box (1969) rounds out the set along with a previously unreleased “Directions”  from 1970 at The Fillmore East.


4.            David Bowie, Starman (Virgin)

Remember the picture disc?  Virgin Records brings it back with this 45 RPM single containing two versions of David Bowie’s “Starman,” off The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, soon to be celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new CD/DVD edition.  Bowie, in his most far-out garb, adorns the vinyl, on which you’ll hear both the original song and a live Top of the Pops performance!

3.            The Mynah Birds, It’s My Time/Go On and Cry (Motown)

It might be difficult to resist an offering from Neil Young or Rick James, but how about a 45 RPM single from a band which counted both gentlemen among its members?  The single “It’s My Time” b/w “Go On and Cry” was slated for 1966 release on Motown’s V.I.P. imprint, but was shelved until 2006’s Complete Motown Singles Volume 6 box set arrived.  Now, six years later, the single comes full circle and finally gets its intended vinyl pressing.  Get it while you can!

2.            Various Artists, Never To Be Forgotten – The Flip Side of Stax 1968-1974 (Light in the Attic)

Light in the Attic has pulled out all of the stops for this Record Store Day crown jewel: a 7” vinyl box set containing ten singles from the Stax library circa 1968-1974!  Artists include Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Mable John, Melvin Van Peebles and the Mad Lads, and their singles are housed in a stunning 10 x 7” magnetic flip-top box which also contains an 84-page book.  Though a digital edition was released last week, no CD version has been announced, so vinyl is truly the best option to experience these seldom-heard Stax sides.  And who could resist that book?  You might also want to check out LITA’s new Lee Hazlewood compilation, The LHI Years!  It arrives soon on CD, but is making an early appearance on vinyl as part of the RSD festivities!

1.            Buck Owens, Coloring Book and Flexi Disc (Omnivore)

Were there prizes awarded for Most Creative and Most Fun Releases this year at Record Store Day, the top honors would surely go to the team at Omnivore Recordings!  They’ve given nostalgia a new meaning with the release of the Buck Owens Coloring Book and Flexi Disc.  The country star and Hee Haw host planned to release his official coloring book in 1970, but instead, the books languished in a warehouse.  Omnivore to the rescue!  The clever label has bundled one of these original Owens treasures with a newly-pressed flexi-disc (available in red, white or blue, natch). The coloring book tells the story of Buck and his Buckaroos, with the grand finale a concert performance that can be heard on the flexi-disc. “Act Naturally,” “Together Again,” “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” and “Crying Time” are all mentioned in the coloring book and can be played by you, the reader! All four songs come from Owens’ White House performance on September 9, 1968 before President Lyndon B. Johnson. A digital download card also contains all four songs, and the full concert will be released later this year on CD from Omnivore.  In the meantime, this unique offering just might make you join me in shouting, “Hee haw!”

Hit the jump for Mike’s top picks! Read the rest of this entry »

Bowie, McCartney, Joplin, Springsteen, Clash, Davis, Small Faces, More Lead Record Store Day Pack

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We’re just three weeks away from Record Store Day on April 21, and following individual announcements from fantastic labels like Omnivore Recordings, Concord Records, Sundazed Music and Rhino/Warner Bros., we can finally reveal the full line-up of RSD-related goodies!

These limited editions, available at independent music retailers across the U.S. and even internationally, are primarily vinyl releases in various formats (7-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, etc.) and range from replicas of classic albums to EPs and singles premiering exclusive content.  Some of our favorite artists here at TSD HQ are represented, including David Bowie, James Brown, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Lee Hazlewood, Janis Joplin, Buck Owens, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bruce Springsteen, and even the “odd couple” pairing of Neil Young and Rick James as members of Motown’s The Mynah Birds!  All told, there’s plenty for fans of rock, pop and jazz on offer this year!

Without further ado, hit the jump for our exhaustive list of RSD releases related to the catalogue artists we celebrate each and every day here at The Second Disc.  For those in need of a checklist, you can find a downloadable PDF here of the complete list, and this official Record Store Day list also includes all of the releases of a more recent vintage.  Sound off below on which title you are most eagerly awaiting, and thanks for supporting your local independent record retailer! Read the rest of this entry »