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Review: Joanie Sommers, “Come Alive! The Complete Columbia Recordings”

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Joanie Sommers - Come AliveOn the opening track of Joanie Sommers’ 1966 Columbia LP Come Alive!, the velvet-voiced singer seductively taunted, “You better love me while you may!  Tomorrow I may fly away…”  True, the Hugh Martin/Timothy Gray tune was originally sung by the late Elvira, a ghost haunting her husband in the musical High Spirits.  But it could just as easily have applied to Sommers.  Following a string of hit albums and singles for Warner Bros. Records, her home since 1960, the winsome “Pepsi Girl” and “Voice of the Sixties” decamped Warners for Columbia.  Though WB had guided Sommers to stardom from her teenage years, the move made perfect sense, as Columbia was home of the great vocalists – Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and Robert Goulet, to name a few.  Her brand of adult pop would fit right in.  Her label debut was titled after her Pepsi campaign jingle, produced by Allen Stanton and arranged and conducted by Mort Garson, perhaps best known for composing “Our Day Will Come.”  But soon, Sommers did indeed fly away from the music business.  Save a few singles and one unreleased LP, another new album didn’t bear her name until 1982.  And Come Alive! slid into obscurity…until now.  The original LP has been rescued and reissued by Real Gone Music, adding twelve rare sides (six of which are previously unreleased) to create Come Alive! The Complete Columbia Recordings (RGM-0185).

At Warner Bros., Sommers brought her sweet but deft touch to pop songs (Sherman Edwards and Hal David’s “Johnny Get Angry”), Broadway showtunes (“One Boy” from Bye Bye Birdie) and bossa nova ballads (1965’s Softly: The Brazilian Sound, with guitarist Laurindo Almeida).  Though promoted as a teen star, Sommers was also paired with jazz heavyweights like Marty Paich and Neal Hefti for maturely sung collections of standards.  (Her wide-ranging music can be sampled on Real Gone’s Complete Warner Bros. Singles.)  For her Columbia debut, Stanton and Garson didn’t veer too far from the formula, showcasing Sommers’ distinctive and seasoned pipes in beguiling settings.  Most of the album is devoted to then-current songs of stage and screen.  Sommers charms on Garson’s cha-cha arrangement of “You’d Better Love Me,” and is similarly radiant on the upbeat “A Wonderful Day Like Today” from The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.  Most impressively, on the bright “I’m All Smiles” from the short-lived musical adaptation of The Yearling, Sommers holds her own against none other than Columbia labelmate Barbra Streisand.  La Streisand’s dreamy version can be found on her 1964 People LP; whereas that version was released before The Yearling hit the stage, the musical was long gone by the time of Sommers’ release.  Following eleven previews, it ran just three performances at New York’s Alvin Theatre in December 1965!

The film songs are an equally classy lot.  Sommers is as tender on the Academy Award-winning “The Shadow of Your Smile,” from The Sandpiper, as she is insouciant on “Sunday in New York” from the movie of the same name.  The Peter Nero melody was also recorded by Mel Torme, Bobby Darin and Nero himself.  If Sommers can’t beat Darin’s rendition for sheer swing, her invitation is just as delightful.  Her soft, girl-next-door vocals are gentle and persuasive on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s “Watch What Happens,” swathed in an orchestration with swirling strings, atmospheric flute and vibes.  Sommers and Garson even reached back to 1951’s Royal Wedding for a sensual reading of Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s wistful standard “Too Late Now.”  Sommers’ proclivity for jazz shines through on Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup’s slinky “Girl Talk” from the biopic Harlow, as well as on a brassy version of Tony Hatch’s (non-film song) pop hit “Call Me.”

Real Gone’s reissue, produced by Jim Pierson and sublimely remastered by Sean Brennan at Battery Studios, adds 12 bonus tracks to the album’s original 11 songs.  Let’s take a listen, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 17, 2013 at 14:23

Release Round-Up: Week of September 3

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Rod Stewart - RaritiesRod Stewart, Rarities (Mercury/UMe)

It’s Rod at his rarest: two discs of outtakes, non-LP singles and other good stuff, including two unreleased BBC session tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Real Gone September 30 GroupJefferson Starship, Live in Central Park NYC May 12, 1975 / Claudia Lennear, Phew! / Ponderosa Twins Plus One, 2+2+1=Ponderosa Twins Plus One / Jo Ann Campbell, All the HitsHer Complete Cameo Recordings / Joanie Sommers, Come Alive!—The Complete Columbia Recordings / Stonewall Jackson, Original Greatest Hits / The Paley Brothers, The Complete Recordings (Real Gone Music)

The latest releases from the folks at Real Gone Music, all of which you can read about here.

Jefferson Starship: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Claudia Lennear: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Ponderosa Twins Plus One: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jo Ann Campbell: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Joanie Sommers: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Stonewall Jackson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Paley Brothers: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Crises BoxMike Oldfield, Five Miles Out Crises: Deluxe Editions (Mercury/UMC)

The latest in the Mike Oldfield reissue series includes a triple-disc version of his seventh album from 1982 and a five-disc version of the 1983 follow-up.

Five Miles Out CD: Amazon U.K.
Five Miles Out 2CD+DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Five Miles Out LP: Amazon U.K.
Crises CD: Amazon U.K.
Crises 2CD: Amazon U.K.
Crises 3CD+2DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Crises LP: Amazon U.K.

yesboxYes, High Vibration SACD Box (Warner Music Japan)

A new hybrid SACD box set includes every Yes album from 1969 to 1987, plus a 12-track disc of bonus non-LP tracks and remixes. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Rocky Horror BoxVarious Artists, The Rocky Horror Show: Album Box Set (Salvo)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show box set, released on CD in 1990, is replicated on this new set from Salvo. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Breeders LSXX vinylThe Breeders, LSXX (4AD/Beggars Archive)

Already available on CD, this expanded edition of The Breeders’ Last Splash comes as a seven-disc vinyl box. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Kim Wilde Close 25Kim Wilde, Close: Remastered Expanded Edition (Universal U.K.)

One of Kim Wilde’s most successful albums gets the double-disc treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Monterey PopVarious Artists, Monterey International Pop Festival (Salvo)

Four discs of performances from the acclaimed 1967 festival. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gilbert Every Song Has Its PlayGilbert O’Sullivan, By Larry Every Song Has Its Play (Salvo/Union Square Music)

O’Sullivan’s 1994 and 1995 albums are the latest to be reissued by Salvo, with new sleeve notes (and a bonus track for Larry).

By Larry: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Every Song Has Its Play: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Rush Hemispheres SACDPoco, Pickin’ Up the Pieces / Rush, Hemispheres (Hybrid SACD-DSD) (Audio Fidelity)

The latest SACDs from Audio Fidelity: Poco’s 1969 debut, mastered by Steve Hoffman, and a Kevin Gray-mastered version of Rush’s sixth album.

Poco: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rush: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

It’s a Real Gone September with Jefferson Starship, The Paley Brothers, Joanie Sommers and More

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Jefferson Starship - Live

While we await previously announced titles coming later this month from Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., P-Funk offshoot Parlet and more, Real Gone Music is already looking forward to summer’s end with a new release slate due on September 3.

Real Gone is making a couple of very contemporary connections with releases from Claudia Lennear and Ponderosa Twins Plus One.   Lennear, a longtime background singer, recently stepped to the fore as one of the artists featured in director Morgan Neville’s documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.  And the all-but-forgotten Jackson 5 sound-alikes Ponderosa Twins Plus One were sampled by none other than Kanye West on his new album Yeezus.  Add to those a comprehensive collection from musical sweetheart Joanie Sommers (including an unreleased track penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), two discs of previously unreleased music from Jefferson Starship, a complete anthology from power-pop icons The Paley Brothers (with a never-before-issued Phil Spector production!), plus more unexpected country and rock-and-roll treats, and you’ve got an idea of what to expect from Real Gone in September!

Hit the jump for the scoop on each title plus pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

The Grateful Dead, Cameo-Parkway Christmas, ? and the Mysterians, Ed Ames On Deck From Real Gone

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Real Gone Music, the label founded by Gordon Anderson and Gabby Castellana, has announced its debut slate for November, and it’s no surprise that the founders of Collectors’ Choice Music and Hep Cat Records, respectively, are launching their new venture with a broadly eclectic line-up of releases crossing all genre lines. 

With distribution from Razor and Tie, Real Gone’s slate includes releases from The Grateful Dead, a contingent of sixties girls, legendary garage group ? and the Mysterians, and a trio of holiday releases to make your Christmas a bit brighter.

On November 8, three previously-reported singles collections from Shelby Flint, Connie Stevens and Joanie Sommers are joined by a delightfully unexpected release all the way from Hooterville!  Come one and come all, and we’ll take that Cannonball to the junction, Petticoat Junction, with the original Imperial Records singles from The Girls of Petticoat Junction!  Featuring Linda Kaye Henning, Lori Saunders and Meredith MacRae, this collection marks these rare singles’ very first time on CD.  Every track is making its first appearance in stereo, and previously unreleased cuts have been appended.  Look for songs by Jimmy Webb, Neil Sedaka and more!

The following week, come hear Uncle John’s Band for three volumes of the long-running Dick’s Picks series, from the archives of the Grateful Dead!  Named for Dick Latvala, the official tape archivist for the Dead until 1999, these three volumes of Dick’s Picks will be available at retail from Real Gone, and spotlight gigs from Rochester, New York (1977); San Diego, California (1971); and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1972). 

The Dead is joined by another band whose career could be summed up as a long, strange trip!  ? (that’s Question Mark to you!) and the Mysterians hit it big with the chart-topping “96 Tears” in 1966.  Real Gone brings the band’s 96 Tears album as well as its 1967 follow-up, Action!, to 180-gram vinyl.  These two LPs are available thanks to Real Gone’s relationship with ABKCO, successor to the original Cameo-Parkway label.  The Cameo-Parkway vaults have also been opened for Cameo-Parkway Holiday Hits, a compilation originally announced for Collectors’ Choice Music.  The 18-track comp boasts 13 new-to-CD cuts from the Philadelphia label’s roster, including  Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker, Bobby the Poet, The Rudolph Statler Orchestra, the Lonesome Travelers and even Bob Seger and the Last Heard!

On November 22, two more Christmas-themed titles will arrive, following in Collectors’ Choice’s grand tradition of bringing rare holiday music to compact disc.  Composer/arranger David Rose (“The Stripper”) is represented with 1968’s The David Rose Christmas Album from the vaults of Capitol Records, and beloved vocalist Ed Ames (“My Cup Runneth Over”) is the recipient of a two-fer bringing his 1967 Christmas with Ed Ames and 1970 Christmas is the Warmest Time of Year to CD, both originally released on RCA Victor.

Are you excited yet?  Hit the jump for the complete schedule!

  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2011 at 13:21

Real Gone Rescues Shelby, Joanie and Connie: Complete Singles Coming In November

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It was nearly one year ago to the day – September 13, 2010 – that The Second Disc brought you news of four exciting collections planned from Collectors’ Choice Music: Complete Singles collections from beloved sixties gals Petula Clark, Connie Stevens, Joanie Sommers and Shelby Flint.

Shortly thereafter, on October 7, news broke that the Clark set had been cancelled.  Gordon Anderson, the then-veep of Collectors’ Choice, confirmed to The Second Disc that “at the eleventh hour, Petula’s management decided that they did not want the project to come out.”

The other three releases were still on the schedule last October, but they, too, were soon scuttled when Collectors’ Choice abandoned its thriving reissue label.  Good things do often come to those who wait, however.  Flash-forward to the present day, and Anderson has launched Real Gone Music with business partner Gabby Castellana.  Surely many smiles came when Real Gone tweeted last Friday evening that three of the label’s debut releases would be the long-in-gestation Complete Warner Bros. Singles of Connie Stevens and Joanie Sommers, and Complete Valiant Singles of Shelby Flint!

November 8 is the new date that you can expect all three collections to be released by Real Gone.  In the meantime, hit the jump for more info, including track listings and discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 13, 2011 at 09:41