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Release Round-Up: Week of October 22

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TFF The Hurting boxTears for Fears, The Hurting: Deluxe Edition (Mercury/UMe)

The landmark debut album from the U.K. hitmakers celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new double-disc deluxe edition stocked with rare single-only material and a deluxe box set version with a bonus disc of John Peel sessions and the In My Mind’s Eye live concert film on DVD.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Van Morrison - Moondance BoxVan Morrison, Moondance: Expanded Edition (Warner Bros./Rhino)

Though Van would rather you not buy this box, it features his classic 1970 album (newly remastered and in a new 5.1 surround sound mix on the Blu-Ray) plus three discs of session outtakes.

1CD remaster: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD/1BD:  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Fisherman's BoxThe Waterboys, Fisherman’s Box: The Complete Fisherman’s Blues Sessions 1986-1988 (Parlophone)

This six-disc set features every take from the making of this celebrated album from Mike Scott’s band. A deluxe version features the original album on vinyl and a further bonus disc of songs that influenced the album – all of which will be broken down in full in a post later today!

6CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
7CD/1LP: Amazon U.K.

Chrysalis FB bannerTen Years After, Recorded Live: Expanded Edition / Robin Trower, State to State: Live Across America 1974-1980 / UFO, “Hot ‘N’ Live”: The Chrysalis Live Anthology 1974-1983 (Chrysalis/Rhino)

These three hard-rockin’ releases from the Chrysalis vaults are ready to purchase this week – or you can win them from us!

Ten Years After: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Robin Trower: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
UFO: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

XTC - NonsuchXTC, Nonsuch: Expanded Edition (Panegyric)

The band’s 1992 album, featuring modern rock hit “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead,” features a new stereo and surround mix by Steven Wilson, plus a host of audiovisual extras.

CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
CD/BD: Amazon U.K.

Sparks BoxSparks, New Music for Amnesiacs: The Ultimate Collection (Universal U.K.)

One of the pioneering acts in quirk rock have a swag-filled five-disc career-spanning box set tangible object in the market. (Amazon U.K.)

Woody Guthrie American Radical PatriotWoody Guthrie, American Radical Patriot (Rounder)

A stunning 6CD/1DVD/1LP box set includes, for the first time, all of Guthrie’s historic recordings for Alan Lomax, plus scores of rarities – including a rare early Bob Dylan recording, too. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Freddie Tribute BDQueen, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert: Deluxe Edition (Eagle Rock)

The life of the late Queen frontman was celebrated in one of the greatest benefit concerts of all time – and this expanded version features, for the first time on DVD or Blu-Ray, tribute performances from the first half of the concert.

3DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Monro RaritiesMatt Monro, The Rarities Collection (Parlophone)

Three discs of rarities from the legendary crooner; most were originally released on The Rare Monro and/or Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro, but many have been sonically upgraded, with more rarities included herein! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Laura Nyro - SmileLaura Nyro, Smile: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

Nyro’s 1976 release, issued after a four-year absence, is expanded with three rare demos. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Love to Love You DonnaDonna Summer, Love to Love You Donna (Verve)

Classic Donna Summer tracks, newly remixed by modern dance acts and producers, plus an unreleased collaboration between Summer and longtime producer Giorgio Moroder.

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

TLC 20TLC, 20 (Epic)

A new compilation from the acclaimed ’90s R&B girl group features a new track, “Meant to Be,” penned by R&B singer Ne-Yo. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

“Smile”: Laura Nyro’s 1976 Album Returns To CD From Iconoclassic

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Laura Nyro - SmileIconoclassic Records is giving fans of the late Laura Nyro a reason to Smile with tomorrow’s expanded reissue of the singer-songwriter’s 1976 album of the same name.  Smile marked Nyro’s return to music after a four-year hiatus following her Gamble and Huff-produced Philly soul gem Gonna Take a Miracle. This reissue – which appends three bonus tracks receiving their first domestic release – is the latest in Iconoclassic’s impressive series which also includes reissues of Season of Lights (1977), Nested (1978) and A Mother’s Spiritual (1984).

Much had changed for Laura Nyro since the R&B-flavored LaBelle collaboration Gonna Take a Miracle.  She married and divorced David Bianchini, and during the recording of Smile, was faced with the death of her mother from ovarian cancer, the same disease that would take her own life two decades later. Despite these challenges and heartaches, Nyro sounded to be in relatively content territory on much of Smile. Charlie Calello, with whom she had worked on 1968’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, returned as producer for the first time in almost a decade, and she brought a clutch of new, timely, and intensely personal compositions to the studio.

This time, the prevailing sound was jazz-influenced, with the Brecker Brothers, Will Lee, Hugh McCracken and Rick Marotta among the players. The result made Nyro sound a bit like Joni Mitchell to casual listeners, despite the fact that Nyro’s earliest pop/jazz forays predated the famous Canadian’s. It was impossible to hear the albums’ opening cut, Moments cover “Sexy Mama” (the album’s lone song not written by Nyro), and not hear a bit of Court and Spark.  But elsewhere, Smile couldn’t have been mistaken for anything but the work of the boundary-breaking, genre-bending Laura Nyro.  She’s playful adopting the voice of a rather perceptive feline in “The Cat-Song,” heartbroken but guardedly optimistic on “Stormy Love,” and wounded but stronger on the ironically upbeat “Money,” likely a jab at her former manager David Geffen.  “Midnite Blue” is a love song likely aimed at then-boyfriend Greg Bennett; the impressionistic and musically spellbinding “I Am the Blues,” on the other hand, builds on its lyrical conceit with a variety of evocative images.

After the jump: more details including the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 21, 2013 at 10:20

Posted in Laura Nyro, News, Reissues

Review: Duane Allman, “Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective”

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Skydog - Duane Allman Retrospective

“I ain’t wastin’ time no more,” Gregg Allman sang following the death of his brother Duane at the age of 24 in October 1971, “’cause time goes by like pouring rain…and much faster things/You don’t need no gypsy to tell you why/You can’t let one precious day slip by.”  Surveying the remarkable new box set Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (Rounder 11661-9137-2), it’s evident that Duane Allman’s too few days certainly were precious, filled with soulful sounds that transcended genre tags like rock, blues, pop and R&B.  It’s sobering to realize that the seven-disc box’s consistently surprising, dynamic and gripping licks were recorded in just six short years, between 1965 and 1971, and only three of its 129 tracks were recorded under the name of “Duane Allman.”  Rather, as a leader of the Allman Brothers Band and anonymous session man for everybody from Lulu to Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman generously placed his gifts as a musician in the service of others.

Skydog tells the story of Howard Duane Allman’s transformation from journeyman guitarist in a number of bands to session pro and ultimately, rock star.  (“Skydog” was his nickname.)  It’s artfully crafted in chronological fashion by recording date, including all of the major touchstones in Allman’s career as well as a number of tracks that add color, context and a further understanding of the man’s art.  All told, 33 of its tracks are new to CD or previously unreleased altogether, and each disc as so expertly curated by producers Bill Levenson and Duane’s daughter Galadrielle Allman creates a distinct chapter of a tragically too-short story.

Dive in, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Can You Surry, Can You Picnic? Ace, Legacy Celebrate the Songs of Laura Nyro

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In Wendy Wasserstein’s play Third, a professor is sitting at her desk, cigarette in hand, listening to “Wedding Bell Blues.”  Her student enters, and recognizes the tune: “Is that the 5th Dimension?”  The professor sharply replies, “Not in my office!”  Beat.  “It’s Laura Nyro.  She wrote it.”  He replies, “Cool.  Does she have anything new out?”  Professor Nancy Gordon answers, “She died of ovarian cancer a few years ago,” and changes the subject.  Cancer would take Wendy Wasserstein, too, like Laura Nyro a quintessential New York artist.  In her mere 49 years, Nyro’s work spoke to generations of fans, captivated by her juxtaposition in song of heaven and earth.  And like Professor Gordon in the play, many fans felt that only Laura could do justice to her singular songs, despite the fact that she wrote hit records for Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat and Tears, and yes, The 5th Dimension.  Well, now you can decide for yourself.

Laura Nyro was drawn lyrically to lonely and loving women, and two-timing, tom-catting flim flam men.  Ace Records has just compiled a new multi-artist anthology of her songs, and Sassafras and Moonshine: The Songs of Laura Nyro (CDCHD 1336) is a lustrous collection of some of the finest pop songs ever written.  And only one of those aforementioned artists appears, with the collection choosing to put the spotlight on some deliciously rare renditions from the songwriter’s catalogue rather than assembling just her most famous radio hits.  Laura’s own recordings are absent, but a new collection from Legacy Recordings fills that gap, too.  Playlist: The Very Best of Laura Nyro (88725477022) offers fourteen examples of Nyro Sings Nyro, culled from nine albums.

Laura Nyro’s songs possessed both a deep spirituality and a keen appreciation of earthly joys, often both at the same time in one three-minute recording!  Though New York-born and bred, she also frequently embraced bucolic imagery, finding something mystical in nature and in simple pleasures.  Only Nyro could have made “sassafras and moonshine” in “Stoned Soul Picnic” into something magical; and who else would have characterized her subject as having “his mean streak from the gutter, his kindness from God” than this empathetic woman?  Nyro’s imaginative, evocative wordplay wasn’t always literal; when performing her own hit “Stoney End” in 2006, Barbra Streisand joked with her audience that she never understood the words: “What is the stoney end?”  But however fanciful her lyrics could be, Nyro always imparted her meaning with vivid emotion.

Though her songs were intensely personal, they stylistically reflected a varied pool of influences, making them quite adaptable for recordings by other singers.  A full nine of the twelve titles from her 1967 debut album, More Than a New Discovery, are heard on Sassafras and Moonshine.  Rock, folk, soul, jazz, doo-wop, Brill Building pop, theatre music and even gospel all figured into her special, idiosyncratic brand of music.  Artists in nearly all of those genres get a chance to “spread their wings and fly” on Ace’s new compilation.  And Nyro likely would have approved that Sassafras and Moonshine overwhelmingly consists of recordings from female artists.  It appropriately, leads off with “Sweet Blindness” in the 5th Dimension’s irresistibly rollicking arrangement from Bob Alcivar, Ray Pohlman and Bill Holman, as produced by Bones Howe.  The group became closely identified with Nyro, recording eight of her songs including the blissful pop perfection of “Wedding Bell Blues.”  Here, that most famous of Nyro’s works is performed by Bobbie Gentry in a much more plaintive arrangement with gentle flute, piano and strings billowing over Gentry’s languid vocal.  Other hit versions, too, have been overlooked in favor of illuminating might-have-beens like Esther Marrow’s “And When I Die” and The Friends of Distinction’s “Eli’s Comin’” rather than the familiar singles by Blood Sweat and Tears, and Three Dog Night, respectively.

The 5th Dimension only appears once on Sassafras and Moonshine, but their influence is felt throughout, most especially on the Staples Singers’ recording of the dreamy “Stoned Soul Picnic,” which closely follows Bones Howe’s production template.  Howe didn’t limit his Nyro activities to the 5th Dimension, however; his recording for the post-Diana Ross Supremes of “Time and Love” has also been selected for inclusion by the Ace team.  (Howe actually intended the track for Diana Ross, whose vocal was later issued.  Motown recycled the backing track for Mary Wilson and company.)  The boisterous “Save the Country,” another 5th Dimension favorite, is sung here with grace by the young Thelma Houston.  Houston brings gospel fervor to Nyro’s invitation to “come on down to the Glory River” to “wash you up and wash you down, gonna lay that devil down!”

Hit the jump for more, plus order links and track listings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2012 at 10:08

Short Takes: Paul is Digital, New Rock Hall Class, Rush Box Issues, The Cure Make “Wish” for 2012

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  • Paul McCartney is not dead, but he is digital: a new beta version of his website, developed with Hewlett-Packard, brings his solo catalogue to fans through a cloud service, along with a host of interactive features. Fans can stream all of his studio albums (including collaboration projects like The Fireman and Twin Freaks) through a jukebox, and premium members can download that jukebox as a desktop app. Additionally, a new “Rude Studio” section of his site allows fans to play and mix three-track stems of some of his greatest hits. Conspicuously absent is the bonus material from any of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissues. (Due credit to Super Deluxe Edition for their reportage.)
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2012 have been announced. The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Laura Nyro, The Small Faces/Faces and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were rewarded in the performer category, Freddie King will be inducted as an early influence, the Ahmet Ertegun (nonperformer) award will go to Don Kirshner and the Awards for Musical Excellence go to producer Tom Dowd and engineers Cosimo Matassa and Glyn Johns. A hearty congratulations to all those recognized.
  • Rush have announced that production flaws exist on two of the three recently-released Sectors box sets. Fans have noted problems with Fly By Night (1975) in the Sector 1 box and the DVD version of A Farewell to Kings (1977) in Sector 2. A disc replacement program will be implemented shortly, per the band. (Thanks to Ultimate Classic Rock for the tip.)
  • Tuesday was grey (and Wednesday too) at Second Disc HQ, but it’s brightened with the news of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame non-inductees The Cure reissuing hit single “Friday I’m in Love” next year for Record Store Day and the Teenage Cancer Trust. The single, which you – yes, you – could design the cover art for – also looks to be a tie-in for a reissue of the album it came from, 1992’s Wish, for its 20th anniversary, so there’s another expansion we can look forward to in the coming year. (Hat tips abound to Slicing Up Eyeballs for this one.)

Written by Mike Duquette

December 7, 2011 at 15:40

Back Tracks: Laura Nyro

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Laura Nyro (1947-1997) never became as famous as her songs. In an all-too-short 49 years, Nyro provided major hits for a diverse array of artists from Three Dog Night and Blood, Sweat & Tears to Barbra Streisand and most famously, The Fifth Dimension. Yet her own albums never achieved mainstream success, with audiences largely preferring to hear her compositions performed by others. (In this respect, she could be compared to her contemporary Jimmy Webb.) Perhaps this was just as well for the woman who matter-of-factly stated she was “not interested in conventional limitations.” She pushed the boundaries of songwriting, incorporating elements of rock, folk, soul, jazz, doo-wop, Brill Building pop, theatre music and even gospel into her special, idiosyncratic brand of music.

Nyro influenced a disparate number of artists as well, with Todd Rundgren and Barry Manilow among her biggest fans. Rundgren musically described what made Nyro so special in an interview with “I think there is that more sophisticated R&B thing or the Burt Bacharach side of pop music that involves not just chords that are richer, major and minor sevenths and suspensions and things like that, but the sort of melodic movement and the classical counterpoint elements–that’s one of the things that attracted me. But I know for a fact that her influences were the more sophisticated side of R&B, like Jerry Ragovoy and Mann & Weil and Carole King. That is Laura Nyro’s lineage. She was a source for that, in a sense, and she also had her own very original and very jazz-influenced way of seeing things. It was that extra layer that made her influential.”

Today’s Back Tracks celebrates the all-too-unknown solo albums of one of music’s true originals, Laura Nyro.  For a look at the catalogue of this one-of-a-kind artist, hit the button and jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 9, 2010 at 15:36

Posted in Features, Laura Nyro, Reissues

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News Roundup: Going for the Gold

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Yet another sub-genre of the catalogue world is the audiophile reissue. Companies like Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Audio Fidelity and Analogue Productions specialize in reissuing classic titles for an audiophile audience, often utilizing the original master tapes for a release on gold CD, hybrid SACD or high-quality LP. With excellent sound quality as the main mandate, bonus tracks and new liner notes are rare on these releases which generally intend to replicate the original artwork and listening experience. Audio Fidelity last week announced two titles due on CD in June which may be of more than passing interest to readers of The Second Disc.

Stevie Wonder’s 1972 Talking Book is one of Wonder’s most beloved albums, including the massive hits “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” in addition to the gorgeous “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).” Jeff Beck, David Sanborn and Ray Parker, Jr. all guested on the album which receives the Audio Fidelity 24 Karat Gold CD treatment courtesy of mastering engineer Kevin Gray. This marks the first Motown release to be licensed to Audio Fidelity.

In addition, the label will offer the audiophile debut of Laura Nyro’s Time and Love: The Essential Masters, a 2000 Sony Legacy compilation containing 16 of the influential singer/songwriter’s best tracks. While Nyro may be best known for providing classic hit singles for artists as diverse as The Fifth Dimension (“Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic”), Three Dog Night (“Eli’s Comin’”), Barbra Streisand (“Stoney End”) and Blood Sweat and Tears (“And When I Die”), her own renditions of her famous songs are considered by many to be definitive. This release should be a fitting tribute to the late, underrated Nyro, who successfully blended Broadway, blues, gospel, jazz, soul and rock into a sound uniquely her own. Her musical collaborators on these tracks include notable talents such as Roy Halee, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Charlie Calello, Arif Mardin and Felix Cavaliere. Steve Hoffman does the mastering honors here.

Pre-order here and here, and read the track listings after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2010 at 11:53