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The Legacy of Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, Jerry Lee Lewis and More Anthologized On “Essential” Releases

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Essential NilssonToday, Legacy Recordings issues a number of titles from some of music’s greatest artists as part of the label’s ongoing Essential series of anthologies.  We’re taking a look at the collections from Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pete Seeger, Mott the Hoople and Midnight Oil!  Plus: we have track listings for all titles!

A 2010 documentary posed the question, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  Well, if you don’t already know the answer, The Essential Nilsson will go a long way in providing it for you.  Harry Nilsson was the songwriter’s songwriter, who enjoyed his two biggest hits with songs not written by him: Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Pete Ham and Tom Evans’ “Without You.”  He was the hard-partying pal of John Lennon’s capable of almost painfully tender moments in song like “Don’t Forget Me.”  He was the rocker who penned vaudeville tunes for The Monkees (“Daddy’s Song,” “Cuddly Toy”) and recorded an album of standards with legendary arranger Gordon Jenkins long before such albums were in vogue.  And he was the composer of effortless pop melodies like “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” which he provided with a four-letter punch line as if to torpedo its chances for the Top 40.  Harry Nilsson was a man of many contradictions, but they’re all represented in this 2-CD, 40-track collection of his RCA years (1967-1977) produced by Rob Santos and Andrew Sandoval.  (Sandoval also contributes the essay.)

By the numbers, The Essential Nilsson falls short of the standard set by 1995’s 49-song survey Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology.  But even those who own Personal Best should invest in Essential, both for Vic Anesini’s revelatory remastering and for a couple of unreleased tracks and a handful of mono single rarities.  You’ll savor Nilsson’s perky melody in the new, previously unissued remix of “Girlfriend” (better known as “Best Friend,” the theme to TV’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), and the touching simplicity of “Life Line” in a never-before-heard piano-and-voice take.  There’s plenty of Harry’s trademark humor on The Essential (the aforementioned “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” the novelty-esque hit “Coconut,” the offbeat television homage “Kojak Columbo”) as well as his tributes to pals Lennon and McCartney (“You Can’t Do That”) and Randy Newman (“Sail Away,” “Vine Street” and the sublime “Living Without You”).  That last-named Newman song boasts the lyric “It’s so hard, it’s so hard, living without you.”  For fans of intelligent, frequently stunningly-crafted pop, it’s been so hard living without Harry Nilsson.  The Essential Nilsson captures Harry –the angel-faced choirboy of his early albums and the bearded, vocally-battered figure of his later albums – in all his many colors.  Don’t miss it.

After the jump: plenty more on every title in this batch including full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2013 at 10:05

“Essential Oils” Collects Greatest Hits Of Aussie Rock Legends On New 2-CD Set (UPDATED WITH PRE-ORDER LINK!)

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Midnight Oil - Essential OilsColumbia Records and Legacy Recordings are burning the midnight oil with the April 30 release of Essential Oils, a 2-CD, 36-song chronicle of one of Australia’s favorite bands, Midnight Oil.  This new survey of the rockers’ long career takes in all twelve of Midnight Oil’s studio albums in addition to two rare EPs.

Midnight Oil had its roots in the band Farm.  Founded in 1972, Farm performed familiar classic rock as part of its repertoire and evolved to touch on the burgeoning sounds of progressive rock.  Eventually, the members of Farm – Peter Garrett on vocals and synthesizer, Rob Hirst on drums, Andrew James on bass guitar and Jim Moginie on keyboards and lead guitar – developed a hard-rock approach all their own, and the group’s style solidified further with the addition in 1977 of guitarist Martin Rotsey.  Soon, the renamed and re-energized Midnight Oil was recording its first, self-titled album.   The group jumped from its independent Powderworks label to CBS with the 1981 release of the Glyn Johns-produced Place Without a Postcard, but its true breakthrough didn’t come until one year later with 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Of course, there had been a personnel change by this point – Peter Gifford had replaced Andrew James on bass – but Midnight Oil scored a No. 3 hit in Australia with the album lasting 171 weeks on the chart.  10, 9 was also the group’s first album to be picked up for U.S. distribution by Columbia Records.  All of these key early career highlights, and beyond, are captured on Essential Oils.

The first disc of the chronologically-assembled Essential Oils spotlights the band’s formative years, through 1985’s Species Diseases EP, while the second disc picks up with 1988’s international hit Diesel and Dust and ends up all the way at 2002’s swansong  Capricornia.  All told, 28 single sides are joined by eight album and EP tracks.  David Fricke of Rolling Stone has provided the new liner notes, writing, “In their time, on stage and record, there was nothing in rock – in Australia or anywhere else – like Midnight Oil.” Fricke details the “14-album, 25 year campaign against glitz, injustice and complacency, corporate greed and environmental crime, by a band that had everything going against it but believed – stubbornly, rightly – that nothing would stop it.”  With Australian chart-topper Diesel and Dust, too, the band successfully penetrated the American consciousness.  From 1988 to 1993, Midnight Oil placed nearly a dozen songs on the Top 20 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts, starting in 1988 with “Beds Are Burning.”  “The Dead Heart” and “Dreamworld” built on the popularity of “Beds,” and Midnight Oil achieved platinum sales certifications (and gold in the U.K.) for the Diesel album.  It spent more than one year on the Billboard 200.

There’s more on Midnight Oil’s anthology after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 13, 2013 at 09:35