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And One More For The Road: Frank Sinatra’s “Duets” Goes Super Deluxe In November

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Frank Sinatra - Duets SDE

The way he wore his hat…the way he sipped his tea (or likely, something stronger)…the memory of all that…no, they can’t take that away from us.  Frank Sinatra’s influence is still felt every day – in style, in attitude, especially in song.  Though 2013 has been a quiet year for the Chairman’s catalogue, that’s about to change on November 19 when Capitol and UMe celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Sinatra’s triple-platinum Duets album with a variety of commemorative reissues including a 2-CD/1-DVD Super Deluxe Edition, 2-CD Deluxe Edition and 2-LP vinyl set.  All iterations will include Duets II, the 1994 Grammy-winning follow-up, and both CD editions will include bonus duets with Tom Scott, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Luciano Pavarotti and George Strait.

Duets, originally released on November 2, 1993, marked Sinatra’s return to Capitol Records after a more than thirty-year absence.  His first studio album for the label since 1962’s Point of No Return, Duets teamed the celebrated icon with producer Phil Ramone, co-producer Hank Cattaneo, and a host of performers from various musical styles.  Some of Sinatra’s choices for duet partners were naturals, such as his friends Tony Bennett (his self-professed “favorite singer”) and Liza Minnelli, or Barbra Streisand.  Others came from the worlds of R&B (Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin), and rock (Bono).  Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat, had a deep connection to the standards created by the likes of Sinatra and her dad, while Carly Simon had ventured into the Great American Songbook on her 1981 collection Torch.  Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and Charles Aznavour all added international flavor to the album.

Frank Sinatra - Duets DEPhil Ramone was able to deftly blend Sinatra’s classic style of recording with modern technological advances allowing for virtual duets.  He chose to record Sinatra in Capitol’s Studio A, the same room Sinatra had inaugurated in 1956.  Sinatra would sing an array of his most famous songs in front of a live orchestra, as always, with musical director Patrick Williams conducting his own charts as well as those by Nelson Riddle, Don Costa, Billy Byers and Quincy Jones.  Ramone told The Independent just before the album’s release, “We had separated him from the band in the beginning – not extremely, but with enough separators and bits of plexiglass and stuff and he was very uncomfortable.  He said, ‘I wanna be with the guys.’ The only thing to do was to put him out in the middle of the room…We put [his longtime accompanist] Bill Miller in front of him, so he could tease him, bust him. Bill’s been with him 40 years…Ordinarily, I would use two mikes on him – one above, one below. But he wasn’t comfortable, so I got him a stool and a hand-mike. It’s a way in which I’ve recorded Jagger and Bono. It’s not going to win any audio awards. But he’s the most comfortable with that. He did nine songs one night, straight. Three of the tracks that made it to the album are Take Ones.”  As he recalled in his book Making Records, Ramone utilized the Entertainment Digital Network system, developed in part by George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, to record the duet partners via long-distance: Aznavour in Paris, Minnelli in Brazil, Bono in Ireland, Estefan and Iglesias in Miami, and Franklin and Baker in Detroit.

Duets was an unqualified commercial success, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard album chart in the U.S. and No. 5 in the U.K., and selling over three million copies in the United States.  The following year, Capitol released Duets II, once again in time for the holidays.  This time, Ramone and Sinatra corralled an arguably even more diverse gallery of duet partners.  Sinatra’s pals Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme showed up, as did old friend Antonio Carlos Jobim and the legendary Lena Horne.  Willie Nelson, who successfully transformed standards into his own laconic style on Stardust, joined Sinatra, as did Linda Ronstadt, who shared with Sinatra a close collaboration with Nelson Riddle.  Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffett, Chrissie Hynde, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder all brought their instantly recognizable styles to Duets II.  Frank Sinatra, Jr. even joined his pop on a swinging “My Kind of Town.”  Duets II also made the Billboard Top 10, though it fared less well abroad with a No. 29 peak in the United Kingdom.  It went on to sell over one million copies and netted Sinatra the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

What will you find on Capitol’s various anniversary editions of Duets?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Kritzerland’s Got the Action with “Butch and Sundance” and Vintage Dean Martin Comedy

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Butch and SundanceKritzerland has just announced its first releases for 2013, and these two rare soundtracks, both of which are making their CD debuts, couldn’t be more different: George Duning’s Who’s Got the Action? and Patrick Williams’ Butch and Sundance: The Early Days.

Almost ten years after the runaway success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 20th Century Fox realized its hopes for a follow-up film with Butch and Sundance: The Early Days.  At the conclusion of the first film, though, raindrops weren’t just falling on the titular anti-heroes’ heads: Butch and Sundance were mowed down in a blaze of gunfire.  Hollywood’s solution, then, was to release a prequel film; in fact, some have suggested that Butch and Sundance was the first film to use the term “prequel.”  Director George Roy Hill didn’t return, and Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, Robin and Marian) took the directorial reins.  Screenwriter William Goldman, who picked up an Oscar for his work on the original film, did return for the prequel as an executive producer and co-writer with Allan Burns (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant).  Joining Hill among the absent, however, was Burt Bacharach, who won two Oscars for his work on Butch Cassidy.  Burns enlisted frequent collaborator Patrick Williams to provide the score.  An accomplished composer and arranger, Williams’ credits included Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, and the 1978 film Breaking Away, for which he received an Oscar nomination.  To fill the shoes of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Tom Berenger and William Katt were enlisted.  Familiar faces like Peter Weller, John Schuck, Brian Dennehy and Christopher Lloyd rounded out the cast.  Williams wisely didn’t try to emulate Bacharach’s style for his score, but in the words of reissue producer Bruce Kimmel, he composed “an eclectic score – playful, beautiful, filled with adventure and bravado, tenderness, and gorgeous melodic themes. It works perfectly in the film, complementing the visuals, the comedy, and the drama, a real old-fashioned honest-to-goodness film score by a master composer.”

Williams recorded virtually all of his score for Butch and Sundance: The Early Days twice. Some cues remained exactly the same in both orchestration and writing, while others had slight variations in orchestration and timing.  Still other cues had very different musical material. Kritzerland’s expanded edition offers the entire score as used in the film (plus one unused cue), plus a bonus section.  The bonus tracks present the original versions of cues where they differed from the re-recorded cues.   Butch and Sundance: The Early Days is limited to 1,000 copies, and is set for release the last week of February, though pre-orders directly from the label usually arrive an average of four weeks’ early.

After the jump: Who’s Got the Action?  We’ve got the answer, plus track listings and pre-order links for both titles. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 22, 2013 at 09:54