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Archive for the ‘Les Baxter’ Category

“I Hunger For Your Touch” Collects 31 Recordings of “Unchained Melody” From Elvis, The Righteous Brothers, Many More

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Unchained MelodyIt began life as the theme to a 1955 B-movie that asked, “No locks!  No walls!  In the prison without bars!  What keeps men like these from crashing out?”  The film was Unchained, and the song was “Unchained Melody” with music by Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus) and lyrics by Hy Zaret (“Dedicated to You”).  Though the movie – in which just a brief snippet of the song was sung by Porgy and Bess’ original Porgy, Todd Duncan – is hardly remembered today, the intensely romantic ballad  is anything but.  As such, it’s the subject of a new CD from Bear Family.  I Hunger for Your Touch: Unchained Melody offers 31 renditions of the song recorded between 1955 and 1985.  It joins the rare club of single-song CDs; other songs to have received similar treatment include “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from Bear Family, and “Louie, Louie” from labels including Rhino, Ace and Jerden.

“Unchained Melody” received an Oscar nomination, losing out to “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” from the movie of the same name.  But on the sales charts, it was an instant winner.  In addition to presenting Duncan’s original recording from Unchained, the new anthology includes many of the song’s earliest covers.  Les Baxter’s choral rendition on Capitol hit No. 2 on the U.S. pop chart, and not long after, Al Hibbler’s vocal version reached No. 3.  Mining the soulful potential of the North melody, Roy Hamilton took it to No. 1 R&B as well as No. 6 Pop.  “Unchained” was unstoppable.  Other early versions here are from rockabilly trailblazer Gene Vincent, vocalist Harry Belafonte (who sang it at the Academy Awards), and country legends Eddy Arnold and Chet Atkins.

Yet despite a steady stream of recordings continuing into the 1960s, “Unchained” didn’t achieve true immortality until producer Phil Spector and The Righteous Brothers (more specifically, Bobby Hatfield) brought it to No. 4 on the U.S. Pop chart in 1965.  It was first the B-side of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin song “Hung on You,” but DJs flipped the record, and the rest is history.  Over the years, this version kept “Unchained” on the radio, influencing nearly every version that followed and culminating in the song’s appearance in the 1990 blockbuster Ghost.  Upon its inclusion in the movie, the original 1965 recording and the Brothers’ new re-recording simultaneously resided in the Hot 100 for eight weeks!

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

Ace Boldly Goes To “Outer Space” and The Bay Area On Two New Themed Collections

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Greatest Hits from Outer SpaceAce Records is Going Wild!…not just with a rip-roaring rock-and-roll compilation of that name, but with a journey to the farthest reaches of the galaxy!  Yes, the London-based label is travelling from the Bay Area to the Milky Way with two of its latest releases: Greatest Hits from Outer Space and Going Wild! Music City Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Based on the 24 tracks of Ace’s Greatest Hits from Outer Space, the final frontier engaged a wide variety of artists in every conceivable musical genre.  On this zany set compiled by Tony Rounce, you’ll hear classical tracks, jazz, soul, folk and rock from one of the most eclectic artist rosters on an Ace release yet.  And that’s saying something!

There are delightfully kitschy song titles a-plenty here: “Maid of the Moon,” from jazz piano great Dick Hyman and vocalist Mary Mayo; “Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer” by the legendarily swinging Ella Fitzgerald; “Destination Moon” from the pop vocal quartet The Ames Brothers (including future solo star Ed, then Eddie, Ames); exotica king Les Baxter’s “Lunar Rhapsody.”

No space-themed anthology would be complete without an appearance from producer Joe Meek’s “Telstar,” which charted simultaneously in the U.S. and U.K. in its recording by The Tornados.  The equally famous “Space Oddity” from David Bowie appears in an early alternate version recorded before Bowie’s departure from the Deram label.  Shelved until 1989, it’s a more desolate and eerie version than the hit single.  Considerably jauntier is The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman,” a Top 40 country-esque romp from the group’s psychedelic Fifth Dimension album.

A few famous television themes appear via The Ventures’ surf take on “The Twilight Zone,” Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s “Doctor Who,” and Leonard Nimoy’s “Theme from Star Trek.”  The original Doctor Who theme is heard in its mono mix.  What Nimoy, a.k.a. Mr. Spock, had to do with the rendition of the Star Trek theme included on his Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space LP is up in the air (or in outer space…), but the rendition of the famed Alexander Courage/Gene Roddenberry tune is a faithful one.  Movie themes haven’t been left out, either, even “inherited” ones: the set kicks off with the Berliner Philharmoniker’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 1958.  A decade later, Stanley Kubrick famously utilized the performance for the soundtrack to his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, gaining it immortality.

Top-tier soul man Bobby Womack reinvents Jonathan King’s “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” a No. 3 U.K./No. 17 hit in 1965 for its writer.  Womack cut his version in Memphis with co-producer Chips Moman, bringing a new dimension to it in the process.  The similarly-titled “Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon” is a Jimmy Webb tune brought to life by Thelma Houston on the occasion of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.  The moon figures in yet more tracks here, like Moon Mullican’s “Rocket to the Moon” (1953) and Johnny Harris’ dark instrumental “Footprints on the Moon,” also from 1969.  (Mr. Mullican’s name apparently derived from illegal booze, not from the actual moon.)  Neil Armstrong was among those astronauts celebrated by Webb with his song; John Stewart (“Daydream Believer”) took the tribute one step further with his “Armstrong.”  Lightnin’ Hopkins saluted another famous astronaut with “Happy Blues for John Glenn.”

Nick Robbins has remastered all tracks.  You might find yourself rockin’ in orbit with Greatest Hits from Outer Space.  Live long, and prosper!  After the jump, you’ll find the full track listing with discography and an order link.  Plus: ground control to Major Tom – we’re headed from outer space to the San Francisco Bay Area! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 15, 2013 at 09:54

Soundtrack Corner: We Will Always Love “The Bodyguard” Plus Jerry Lewis Goes “Geisha” and Les Baxter for Halloween

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Though the 1992 soundtrack to Mick Jackson’s film The Bodyguard is the best-selling soundtrack album of all time, its success was largely on the strength of star Whitney Houston’s performances of “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing” and “I’m Every Woman.”  Featured on just one track was the work of Alan Silvestri, the composer of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit who provided the film’s original score.  The under-three minute snippet featured on the Grammy-winning Arista album barely scratched the surface of Silvestri’s score for The Bodyguard.  Twenty years later, La-La Land Records has teamed with Sony Music and Warner Bros. for the first-ever release of Silvestri’s complete orchestral score.

This 3,500-unit limited edition release includes 23 tracks and seven bonus cuts including alternates and source music.  (Of course, none of the film’s songs or vocal performances are heard on this release.)  James Nelson (Kritzerland’s Follies, Promises, Promises) has mastered this release under the supervision of producer Dan Goldwasser, and Tim Grieving has written new liner notes incorporating comments from Mick Jackson and Alan Silvestri.

The Bodyguard: Original Score from the Motion Picture is available now from La-La Land Records for $19.98 plus shipping.

Hey laaaaady!  After the jump: how about some musical merriment from a Jerry Lewis classic?  And what spooky offerings does Intrada have for Halloween?  Plus: track listings and order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 18, 2012 at 10:02

Kritzerland Wraps Up 2011: Orson Welles on “Trial”, and Les (Baxter) Is More

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2011 may be coming to a close, but the Kritzerland label still has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.  The label this morning announced its final two releases of the year, and both are offbeat gems: Lex Baxter’s scores to two Edgar Allan Poe offerings (Roger Corman’s 1963 The Raven and the Vincent Price-starring 1970 television special An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe) and Jean Ledrut’s score to Orson Welles’ 1962 film The Trial, described by the Citizen Kane director as “the best film I ever made.”

Emphasizing comedy over horror (just check out that cover artwork for the new CD!), The Raven starred Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson, and was one in a line of Corman’s Poe-inspired B-movie classics.  Despite Baxter’s fun, eerie and effective score, The Raven had never seen a soundtrack release, until now!  Tape research for The Raven revealed only the second of two reels of the film’s music, but the label pressed forward as it was a full reel with music from not only the second part of the film but several cues from the first part, for a total of nearly 25 minutes of Baxter’s best.  Several of the composer’s electronic cues have been included as a bonus.   The Raven has been paired with the original soundtrack of  An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe.  Previously released on CD by Citadel in “fake stereo,” Kritzerland’s release has been mastered from  its original mono tapes and in proper sequence.  The main and end titles, taken from the DVD release, have also been appended for the most complete presentation of the score yet.

The Trial was Orson Welles’ 1962 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Franz Kafka, and Welles captured the air of menace and danger that pervades Kafka’s work.  Anthony Perkins, post-Psycho, starred as the persecuted Joseph K., whose crime is never revealed.  Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau, and Elsa Martinelli all figure in K.’s life and trial.  Welles himself (also the author of the screenplay) portrays The Advocate, K.’s lawyer and also the main antagonist of the film.  Jean Ledrut composed the score, including adaptations of Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor.” Ledrut wasn’t prolific, but his music has left a lasting impression.  His score plays on variations of the Albinoni “Adagio,” in addition to his own evocative, original cues.  Martial Solal, of Breathless fame, contributes the jazz piano work, and it all adds up to one wonderfully varied soundtrack to a remarkable (and remarkably forgotten) film.  Kritzerland’s edition has been mastered from a quarter-inch tape source in excellent condition.

Both titles are limited editions of 1,00o copies priced at $19.98 plus S&H.  Both are scheduled to ship the third week of January from Kritzerland.  Pre-orders at Kritzerland typically ship an average of one to five weeks earlier, however.

Hit the jump for track listings, pre-order links and the complete press releases for each title! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2011 at 12:24