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Heavy “Drama”: SoulMusic Slate Includes The Dramatics, Nancy Wilson, D.J. Rogers

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Nancy Wilson - Take My LoveAs the old expression goes, all good things must come to an end.  And so Nancy Wilson’s 37-album, 20-year tenure at Capitol Records ended in 1980 with the release of Take My Love.    At Capitol, Wilson had proved her mastery of Broadway, Hollywood, traditional vocal jazz, fusion jazz, pop and soul, and had collaborated with the likes of George Shearing, Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell, and Oliver Nelson.  On her final Capitol LP, Wilson enlisted producers Larry Farrow and Carolyn Johns with whom she had worked on Life, Love and Harmony (also reissued by SoulMusic as part of the series that has so far seen fifteen Nancy Wilson albums on CD, many for the first time).  Farrow and Johns composed the near-entirety of Take My Love for Wilson, incorporating just two songs from outside sources: Tim Stevens’ “The Sadness in My Eyes” and Leon Ware’s “I Loved You All the Time.”

Contemporary pop-soul was the preferred genre for the versatile Wilson, Farrow and Johns this time out, though supporting players ranged from a jazz quartet to a 50-plus piece orchestra.  The title track was a bid for the crossover audience of, say, Earth, Wind and Fire, as was the majestic modern R&B workout of “Let’s Hold Onto Love” featuring vocals by Bill Champlin of Sons of Champlin and Chicago.  “Someone Else” channeled MOR soul à la The Doobie Brothers.  For the final three tracks on the album, Farrow and Johns crafted a mini-concert suite to be performed “live” in the studio, concluding with a specialty-composed playoff of the type one might hear when a diva exits the stage after a concert.  Such was the idea, for Wilson to literally take a bow to the newly-written “Bows,” ending her 20 years at the Capitol Tower.  There are no bonus tracks on the new CD (one single was issued from the LP, “Let’s Hold On to Love” b/w “Welcome Home”) but A. Scott Galloway has supplied a comprehensive new liner notes essay.  Alan Wilson has remastered.

After the jump: what’s new from The Dramatics and D.J. Rogers? Plus: full track listings with discography, and order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 19, 2013 at 17:04

SoulMusic Records Is “Born to Love” With Reissues from Peabo and Roberta, Nancy Wilson and Tavares

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Peabo and Roberta - Born to LoveWith its latest batch of reissues, including titles from Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, Tavares, and Nancy Wilson, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint can truly be said to cover a wide swath of the soulful spectrum.

Duets have long been staples of great R&B.  Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, James Ingram and Patti Austin, and Otis Redding and Carla Thomas – just to name a few in the pantheon – all proved that “it takes two.”  (That title, in fact, gave Gaye and Kim Weston a hit.)  Flack first teamed with Peabo Bryson for the 1980 Atlantic Records live album Live and More before the duo reteamed at Capitol for 1983’s Born to Love, now available in an expanded and remastered edition from SoulMusic.  As was the custom for countless albums released in the 1980s, numerous producers were enlisted for Flack and Bryson’s studio set.  They enlisted the cream of the crop, however.  Michael Masser helmed two tracks, both written with Brill Building legend Gerry Goffin.  Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager produced another pair, and Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe of Four Seasons fame handled another three songs.  To round out the LP, Flack and Bryson each produced a song.

Despite their varied CVs, the various production teams all turned out music in a sleek, then-contemporary R&B vein.  Masser and Goffin (“Theme from Mahogany,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” “Saving All My Love for You”) were behind the biggest hit off Born to Love, opening track “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.”  The song had been written for Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross, but hadn’t been recorded by the “All of You” pair, setting the stage for a Top 5 single in the hands of Bryson and Flack.  Masser and Goffin also wrote the up-tempo “Comin’ Alive” with burbling synths from Robbie Buchanan.

Bacharach and Sager, in the early years of their songwriting partnership and marriage, supplied two ballads, “Blame It on Me” and “Maybe.”  Both songs featured an all-star cast of musicians including Abe Laboriel (bass), Jim Keltner (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards) and Paulinho da Costa (percussion), and the latter had another key member of the musical team: Sager’s ex-boyfriend Marvin Hamlisch.  The romantic “Maybe” (described in the new liner notes by Flack as “one of the most beautiful songs ever written”) was crafted from one of Hamlisch’s themes for the 1983 film Romantic Comedy and can be heard over the end credits to that film.  It’s the only writing collaboration between the two titans of melody, Bacharach and Hamlisch, though the two did have a history together: Hamlisch arranged the music for the movie The April Fools, which featured a title song written by Bacharach and Hal David.

Gaudio and Crewe brought Bryson and Flack the rhythmic “Heaven Above Me,” the disco-flavored title song of Frankie Valli’s 1980 solo album, as well as the sweet “You’re Lookin’ Like Love to Me,” which they co-wrote with Sugarloaf’s Jerry Corbetta.  For their third production, they selected Terry Skinner, Kenneth Bell and J.L. Wallace’s “I Just Came Here to Dance.”  Bryson wrote, produced and sang “Born to Love,” the only solo song on the album, and Flack produced and co-wrote (with Al Johnson) the closing track “Can We Find Love Again.”

SoulMusic’s reissue has been expanded with three bonus tracks, the 7-inch and 12-inch single versions of “Heaven Above Me,” and the 7-inch single version of “You’re Looking Like Love to Me.”  Alan Wilson has remastered, and Gail Mitchell of Billboard supplies new liner notes which draw on fresh quotes from Roberta Flack.  The expanded Born to Love is available now, and after the jump, you’ll find the full track listing and order links.  Plus: the scoops on Tavares and Nancy Wilson! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 2, 2013 at 09:11

Good Love: SoulMusic Expands Two From Nancy Wilson and Meli’sa Morgan

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Mel'isa Morgan - Good LoveFollowing its 2012 reissue of R&B songstress Meli’sa Morgan’s Capitol Records debut Do Me Baby, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint has turned its attention to Morgan’s second long-player for the label. Good Love built on the success of Do Me Baby.  Besides boasting a No. 1 R&B title track, the album established the Queens-born Morgan as a top R&B talent in her own right.  She had previously sung on background vocals for the likes of Whitney Houston and Kashif, and fronted the groups Shades of Love and High Fashion, but her rendition of Prince’s song sealed the deal and proved that she was a viable headliner.

Like Do Me Baby, 1987’s Good Love counted Paul Laurence among its producers.  Morgan and her frequent co-writer Lesette Wilson handled production on five tracks themselves, and multi-hyphenate talent Kashif also brought his expertise to a handful of tracks.  His magic touch worked.  Kashif produced, played and duetted with Morgan on soul man Skip Scarborough’s “Love Changes,” originally a 1978 hit for Mother’s Finest.  Whereas the Mother’s Finest recording made it to a not-too-shabby No. 26 R&B, the Morgan/Kashif version reached No. 2 on the chart.  It wasn’t the only success from Good Love, though.  Paul Laurence’s uptempo dancer “If You Can Do It: I Can Too!!” escalated the R&B chart almost simultaneously with the duet, also hitting the No. 2 spot.  “Here Comes the Night,” produced by Kashif with its writers Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers, also went Top 20 R&B.

SoulMusic’s reissue returns Good Love to CD, and adds six bonus tracks, all various remixes.  These include club and dub mixes of “If You Can Do It: I Can Too!!,”  an extended remix and remix edit of the album’s title track, and an 8+-minute Special Club Opus mix of “Here Comes The Night,” along with its edited version.  Justin Kantor has written new liner notes drawing on interviews with Morgan and Kashif, and Alan Wilson has remastered.

The expanded edition of Good Love is available now and can be ordered after the jump, where you’ll also find a track listing with discography.  Plus: what’s the latest reissue from the legendary Nancy Wilson? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 21, 2013 at 14:42

Nancy Wilson Goes Pop and Philly Soul With New Two-For-One CD Reissue

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Nancy Wilson - Now I'm a Woman Two-FerBy 1970, Nancy Wilson had already been a marquee recording artist for Capitol Records for a decade. The supreme song stylist never allowed herself to be pigeonholed into one musical style, having made her successful debut single with a Broadway showtune (“Guess Who I Saw Today”), dabbled in R&B (“Save Your Love for Me”) and collaborated with jazz greats such as Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. All in all, Wilson was a leading light of adult pop, selling out nightclubs and even playing a Vegas club singer on television’s I Spy. But the times they were a-changin’, and so was pop music. As the sixties gave way to the seventies, “adult” artists like Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee were being encouraged to record hit pop-rock songs in “adult-friendly” versions. In this strange new world, songs like “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “Spinning Wheel” became virtual standards overnight. Some modern songbooks, deservedly, ascended into the pantheon (those by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Jimmy Webb, Laura Nyro, Paul Simon, to name a few). Other oft-covered songs from this period (“Little Green Apples,” anyone?) didn’t share quite the same fate as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” or “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It was in this climate that Capitol ushered Nancy Wilson into the 1970s with two very different, contemporary albums – one of which is very nearly a lost masterwork.

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (1970) and Now I’m a Woman (1971) have both been reissued on CD for the very first time by SoulMusic Records on one CD (SMCR 25087). The former wasn’t Wilson’s first foray into the modern repertoire; in fact, its title track had been recycled from a 1969 hit single (No. 27 R&B, No. 52 Pop) and the Hurt So Bad album, also scheduled to be reissued by the SoulMusic label. The Bob Gaudio/Bob Crewe song, a No. 2 hit for Frankie Valli in 1967, had also been recorded by the likes of The Lettermen, Andy Williams, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations, among so many others. But Nancy’s swinging and soulful treatment signified that she had more affinity for current pop material than many artists. Producer David Cavanaugh assembled Can’t Take My Eyes Off You with both the kind of material common to these MOR-pop albums (“You Made Me So Very Happy,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” the title track) and some unexpected choices.

We’ll explore both albums after the jump! Plus: the full track listing and order link!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 4, 2013 at 10:07

Posted in Nancy Wilson, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of April 2

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Alexander O'Neal vinylThe S.O.S. Band / Cherrelle / Alexander O’Neal, “Tabu Reborn” Vinyl Editions (Wave 1) (Tabu/Edsel)

The start of a lengthy reissue campaign from Demon Music Group, these are 180-gram vinyl reissues of The S.O.S. Band’s III (1982), Cherrelle’s 1984 debut Fragile, and Alexander O’Neal’s self-titled debut from 1985. Expanded editions of these albums come out on CD next week, followed by a great many more waves of product throughout 2013 and into 2014!

S.O.S. Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cherrelle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alexander O’Neal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Martha and The Vandellas Singles CollectionThe Four Tops / Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collections (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Two new lavish sets collect all the single sides worldwide by two of Motown’s most underrated vocal groups – and in the case of Martha & The Vandellas, there’s a bonus disc of unreleased “lost and found” content to enjoy, too!

Four Tops: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mad Season - AboveMad Season, Above: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

This short-lived grunge supergroup, featuring Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley and members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees, only put out one record, but it’s been expanded as a 2CD/1DVD set featuring unreleased tracks (with vocals by Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan) and live audiovisual content. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Born Under a Bad SignAlbert King, Born Under a Bad Sign: Expanded Edition (Stax/Concord)

One of the Memphis’ label’s most celebrated blues albums is remastered and expanded with five unreleased alternate takes! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

David Gates - Early YearsDavid Gates, The Early Years: The Early Songwriting Genius of David Gates (Rare Rockin’)

Before leading Bread, Gates was a talented singer-songwriter whose early works were covered by a myriad of vocalists – many of which are making their CD debuts on this compilation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Simple Minds CelebrateSimple Minds, Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (Virgin/EMI)

As the ’80s hitmakers embark on a new tour, this new hits compilation – available in double and triple-disc variants – was made available in the U.K. last week. (A U.S. release is reportedly slated for later this spring.)

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

RKivesRilo Kiley, RKives (Little Record Company)

A collection of rare and unreleased material from the now-defunct L.A. band.

Margaret Whiting - Wheel of HurtChet Atkins with The Boston Pops, The Pops Goes Country/The Pops Goes West / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 24: Cow Palace, Daly City, CA – 3/23/1974 / Tom Jans, Take Heart/Tom Jans / Barbara & Ernie, Prelude To… / Steve Lawrence, Winners!/On a Clear Day / Don Nix, Living by the Days / Eydie Gorme & The Trio Los Panchos, Amor/More Amor / Margaret Whiting, The Wheel of Hurt: Deluxe Edition Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore/Pop Country / Alfred Newman, The Diary of Anne Frank: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The latest wares from Real Gone: plenty of two-fers, a rare Alfred Newman soundtrack, a new Dead reissue and expanded works from country-pop singer Margaret Whiting.

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

Mills MercilessJerry Butler, Love’s on the Mend/Suite for the Single Girl / Stephanie Mills, Merciless: Expanded Edition / Donna Washington, Going for the Glow: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman (SoulMusic)

A slew of great titles from SoulMusic are out this week, including a Stephanie Mills album produced by the late Phil Ramone. Check out the above post for details.

Jerry Butler: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Stephanie Mills: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Donna Washington: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nancy Wilson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Anita WardCaston and Majors, Caston and Majors / Fern Kinney, Groove Me / Arthur Prysock, All My Life / Anita Ward, Songs of Love (Big Break)

And the latest expanded titles from Big Break include some Motown and T.K. rarities, including Anita Ward’s megahit “Ring My Bell.”

Caston and Majors: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Fern Kinney: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Arthur Prysock: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Anita Ward: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Judy Garland CreationsJudy Garland, Creations 1929-1962 (JSP)

A four-disc U.K.-only compilation of “the songs that Judy Garland sang first.” (Amazon U.K.)  U.S. customers may order at CD Universe or Collectors’ Choice Music for April 9 release.

eagles_boxEagles, The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Elektra/Rhino)

Every one of the California hitmakers’ original studio albums, in a handy slipcase. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Little Bit O’Soul: Thelma Houston, Syreeta, Nancy Wilson, Brecker Brothers, George Duke Reissued

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Thelma Houston - MoWestSoul music was alive and well in 2012, and some of the finest reissues arrived courtesy of Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records label.  With the label already looking forward to 2013 releases from artists including Ronnie Laws, Patti Austin, Stephanie Mills, George Duke, Gwen Guthrie and Freda Payne (more on those soon), the time is right to revisit some of the year-end titles that might have fallen under the radar!

In addition to celebrating the post-Motown recordings of Mary Wells at 20th Century Fox and The Miracles at Columbia Records, two other Motown-centric releases were highlights of the SoulMusic rollout.  The short-lived MoWest label hasn’t always gotten a lot of love, with Light in the Attic’s 2011 compilation Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s MoWest Story 1971-1973 an exception. In fact, Berry Gordy’s West Coast operation yielded more unissued albums than issued ones!  Yet one that did make the cut for release was Thelma Houston’s self-titled LP, the second MoWest album following the eponymous debut of New Jersey rock group Lodi.   Houston’s 1972 album makes its CD debut from SoulMusic in an expanded edition with nine bonus tracks appended to the ten original songs.  Though commercially unsuccessful, Thelma Houston was a prestige effort for MoWest, with productions and songs from many Motown staff favorites.  On the songwriting side, Patti Dahlstrom and the team of Nick Zesses and Dino Fekaris made contributions, while the album’s tracks were produced by Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino, Al Cleveland and Eddie Langford, and Joe Porter.  Arrangements came from heavyweights like Gene Page, Michael Omartian and Artie Butler.  The eclectic album also featured a song penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“Black California”) and covers from Kris Kristofferson (“Me and Bobby McGee”) and even Anthony Newley (“There’s No Such Thing as Love”).  The bonus tracks include all four songs added to the U.K. release of Thelma Houston plus single sides.  These feature contributions from Pam Sawyer, writing with both Gloria Jones and Michael Masser, and more from the Larson/Marcellino team.  The result is a stunningly soulful, funky trek back to the days when Detroit went Hollywood.

Syreeta - One to OneSyreeta Wright was a MoWest labelmate of Thelma Houston for her own self-titled album Syreeta in 1972.  By 1974, Syreeta was on Motown’s Tamla label, where she recorded her third LP, 1977’s One to One, newly reissued by SoulMusic.  Though her marriage to Stevie Wonder lasted a mere year and a half, they made a dream team in the studio even after their personal union crumbled.  Wright teamed with Wonder on both Music of My Mind and Talking Book, and he returned the favor producing her first two studio albums, including the MoWest effort.  With Wonder otherwise occupied, Syreeta produced One on One herself, with her second husband, bassist Curtis Robertson Jr., and Leon Ware, who had just come off some groundbreaking work with Marvin Gaye, as co-producers.  Stevie Wonder’s one-off single production, “Harmour Love,” was added to the album at Motown’s behest.  Musicians including Greg Phillinganes, Gary Bartz and Michael Sembello all played on One to One.  But despite its all-around high quality, One to One didn’t fare well on the charts.  Syreeta later teamed with artists including The Spinners’ G.C. Cameron and Billy Preston, with whom she had a major chart success in 1980 with “With You I’m Born Again.”  She passed away in 2004, aged just 57, as a result of complications from cancer.  SoulMusic’s reissue is the album’s first CD release outside of Japan, and though there are no bonus tracks, it features a comprehensive new essay from A. Scott Galloway.

After the jump: info on new titles from the Brecker Brothers, George Duke and Nancy Wilson, plus order links and full track listings with discography for all releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 9, 2013 at 11:52

Dionne, Natalie, Nancy Reissues Coming from Soulmusic Label

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Cherry Red’s got soul.

Mike and I reported last week on the impressive slate planned by Cherry Red’s Big Break Records label. A smaller yet equally rich line-up is on the way from another Cherry Red division, Soulmusic.com Records.On February 14 in the U.K. and one week later stateside, the label will reissue five classic albums from a trio of accomplished vocalists: Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole.

Perhaps most exciting is the two-on-one CD release of Wilson’s 1974 Capitol LP All in Love is Fair and its follow-up, 1975’s Come Get to This. After a successful career at Capitol as a premier jazz vocalist interpreting many great standards and songbooks from both Broadway and Hollywood, Wilson began experimenting with more modern sounds. While some of her late-’60s efforts consisted of the titles being covered by so many of her contemporaries (“Spinning Wheel,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Little Green Apples”), she hit her soulful stride with 1970’s Now I’m a Woman. For that LP, she set up shop with Gamble and Huff in Philadelphia. Thom Bell notably contributed his typically-lush and sophisticated charts, and Wilson effortlessly matched them with her vocals. After that significant effort, Wilson’s repertoire continued to include both jazz-leaning “adult” pop and more recent songs, setting her up for the triumph of All in Love is Fair. Working with Larkin Arnold, the head of Capitol’s Black Music department, Wilson teamed with arranger Gene Page for this successful album and its follow-up. Wilson and Page returned to Thom Bell’s catalogue with “You’re as Right as Rain,” which scored Wilson her first Top Ten R&B hit in a decade, and turned to Stevie Wonder for the supreme title track. The following year’s Come Get to This featured a Marvin Gaye title song and a beautiful reworking of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Clearly Miss Wilson had found her groove. Both of these albums have been long unavailable, making this a must-own for fans of Wilson, Page or classic soul. (Now can we please get Now I’m a Woman reissued on CD? Pretty please?)

Catch up with Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole after the jump, along with full specs and track listings for each release! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 1, 2011 at 09:38