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Archive for the ‘Paul Williams’ Category

Release Round-Up: Week of February 5

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Taj Mahal - Albums ContentsTaj Mahal, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy)

Fifteen discs of the blues legend’s Columbia output, including last year’s The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal compilation of unreleased material. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Sunshine Boy - TownesTownes Van Zandt, Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971-1972 (Omnivore)

A new two-disc set features entirely unreleased outtakes, alternates and demos from the Texan singer-songwriter’s early-’70s career. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Classical BarbraBarbra Streisand, Classical Barbra: Expanded Edition (Masterworks)

A newly-expanded version (with two bonus tracks) of Barbra’s 1976 album of pieces by Handel, Debussy, Orff and others. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dick Jensen - Dick JensenBilly Paul, Going East: Expanded Edition / Dick Jensen, Dick Jensen / Azteca, Azteca: Expanded Edition Pyramid of the Moon: Expanded Edition / Tyrone Davis, In the Mood with Tyrone Davis: Expanded Edition / Carmen McRae, I Am Music (Big Break)

Check out the scoop on the latest Big Break batch (complete with Amazon links) here, and read Joe’s review of Dick Jensen here!

Jewel Greatest HitsJewel, Greatest Hits (Atlantic/Rhino)

One of the biggest country-pop hitmakers of the ’90s releases her first compilation with a new single and two new duet recordings of previous hits with Pistol Annies and Kelly Clarkson. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tony Bennett - As Time Goes ByTony Bennett, As Time Goes By: Great American Songbook Classics (Concord)

A new budget-line, 12-track compilation of Tony’s mid-’70s Improv and Fantasy output. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Slaves and MastersDeep Purple, Slaves and Masters: The Deluxe Edition (Friday Music)

The band’s only Mk. V album, featuring onetime Rainbow frontman Joe Lynn Turner on vocals, gets expanded on CD with two bonus tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Midney Evita EmpireBoris Midney and Festival, Evita/The Empire Strikes Back (Harmless)

Two mind-blowing disco adaptations of a legendary Broadway musical and the superb score to a sci-fi sequel? Yes, indeed! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Paul Williams Still AlivePaul Williams, Still Alive (Virgil Films)

A compelling documentary on one of the best songwriters of his age, newly released on DVD. (Amazon U.S.)

Review: The Monkees, “Instant Replay: Deluxe Edition”

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When The Monkees’ Instant Replay was released in February 1969, less than three years had passed since the band’s vinyl debut in October 1966.  But the pop world of 1966 might have been a lifetime ago.  Five days before Instant Replay’s February 15 release, The Beach Boys unveiled the album 20/20, on which America’s band surreptitiously recorded a song by Charles Manson.  Two days after, The Temptations skyrocketed to Cloud Nine, meeting psychedelia head-on.  By the year’s end, the dream of peace that had flowered at Woodstock seemed shattered in the violence of a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway.  It was into this heady time that Instant Replay was released, the product of a fractured group of Monkees.  Peter Tork had departed the group after filming the 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee television special in December 1968, which would air to disastrous ratings the following April.  Instant Replay fared somewhat better, climbing to No. 32 to stake its claim as The Monkees’ final Top 40 album.  The album’s production period was not without tension, and Michael Nesmith would depart the band after just one more album, leaving Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones to soldier on as the lone Monkees as 1970 progressed.  Instant Replay is unmistakably the sound of a fractured group, with Nesmith having assessed it as “a final choking cough of the engine before it completely died.”  Andrew Sandoval to the rescue!  The producer has uncovered enough hidden treasures to warrant its journey from a 12-track LP to a 19-track CD in 1995 to finally, a lavish 89-track box set containing three CDs and one 45 RPM vinyl single (Rhino Handmade RHM2 528791, 2011).

Instant Replay is marked chiefly by the sound of three individuals rather than a band.  It’s tempting to call the album the Monkee equivalent of The White Album, but a more accurate comparison might be to a hypothetical LP containing tracks from McCartney, All Things Must Pass, Plastic Ono Band and yes, Ringo’s Sentimental Journey!  The grab-bag of songs is disparate and varied, and don’t sound as if they necessarily belong on the same album; the remaining band members originally intended the LP to echo the sounds of the past while still looking musically forward.  The greatly expanded content of the box set works in the album’s favor, illuminating each nook and cranny of what once resembled a crazy quilt of Monkee music.

The three discs of the new Instant Replay are largely arranged by mixes. The first disc is dedicated to stereo and contains a newly-remastered and restored transfer of the original album, expanded with 16 additional stereo mixes including “nearly all” of Nesmith’s 1968 Nashville sessions (more on those soon).   Disc Two is all-mono, which is particularly intriguing as Instant Replay was never issued in true mono.  (The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees was the band’s last Colgems album to see such a release.)  But most of the album’s songs were mixed into mono, so those tracks make their first appearances here. Rare and unreleased recordings round out the disc.  Finally, Disc 3 is subtitled “Sessions,” and two thirds of the disc is devoted to backing tracks, though the completed songs from the surviving video master of 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee should intrigue even the most difficult to please fan of the group!

Hit the jump and go Instantly into more Monkee-mania! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 16, 2012 at 13:53

Friday Feature: Muppet Memories

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This month, it’s finally time to play the music and light the lights, with the release of The Muppets, a brand new film featuring Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and just about all of Jim Henson’s furry, felt-covered creations in an all-new story co-written by fabulous funnyman and human co-star Jason Segel (star of TV’s How I Met Your Mother and co-writer and star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

The film, which sees the Muppet gang reunite after years out of the limelight to save their old theatre, is unquestionably one of the major motion picture events of the year, bringing the characters back to a generation that hasn’t had many opportunities to catch them in film or television (the last theatrical venture was 1999’s commercially disappointing Muppets from Space). But more excitingly, it is a great movie. Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s script strikes the perfect balance between unabashed appreciation for the characters and accessible, tasteful humor for modern-day kids and their parents. It wouldn’t be out of place to imagine the dearly departed Henson appreciating its simple, timeless message of the power of friendship and laughter in the face of a pop-cultural landscape that too often dabbles in cynicism and irony.

And the music! Longtime fans will appreciate the appearance of some of the most famous Muppet tunes in the new film, but the new songs, most of them written by Bret McKenzie – best known as half of the comedy-folk duo Flight of the Conchords – possess exactly the kind of spirit you’d want from a Muppet movie. (In particular, “Life’s a Happy Song” is destined to score more than a few trips to the Disney parks.) Indeed, music has been an integral part of Muppetology since the very beginning: from the inescapable theme from Sesame Street to the endearing kitchen-sink/music hall playlists of each episode of The Muppet Show (often sprinkled with a dash of endearing originals, like Joe Raposo’s “Bein’ Green”).

It’s in that spirit that we present this weekend’s Friday Feature, which showcases the soundtracks of those first three Muppet movies which set the template for this great new one. All of them have some wonderfully captivating songs (and stories behind songs) as well as – what else? – checkered histories on CD. So for the lovers, the dreamers and you: this is our tribute to Muppet movie music, and it starts after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 25, 2011 at 11:17

Entering the Culture Factory: New Reissue Label Launches with Robert Palmer, Paul Williams’ “Paradise”

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Despite the spurious reports of the “death of the CD,” the reissue biz is still thriving on the little silver platter, offering up all manner of deluxe editions for the discerning customer.  (That means you, dear reader!)  In 2011, we’ve seen the launch of such heavyweights-to-be as Real Gone Music, Omnivore Recordings and RockBeat Records, and we’re now happy to welcome another name to the fold.  Culture Factory USA quietly launched this past September, with releases from Mink DeVille, Moon Martin, Kim Wilde and the Motels.  This month brings deluxe audiophile reissues of five consecutive albums from the late rock/jazz/soul giant Robert Palmer as well as a cult classic soundtrack from the pen of Mr. Paul Williams.

Each Culture Factory reissue contains the original album sequence plus a Japanese-style OBI strip and a “vinyl replica deluxe” design.  The CD labels are adorned with period label art, and the titles have been remastered using 96 kHz/24-bit technology (although playback in that high resolution is not possible as these are standard “redbook” 44/16 compact discs).  Though Culture Factory’s website is currently on the sparse side, to be kind, each title so far has been available from the label itself on at very reasonable prices, especially compared to the high stickers being charged by Amazon proper.

In the heady atmosphere of 1970s Hollywood, the new breed of film auteurs taking the town was finally able to follow some rather radical muses.  This impulse of exploration led to the cult classic Phantom of the Paradise, a rock musical written and directed by Brian De Palma.  At the time of Phantom’s filming, De Palma was perhaps best-known for his Hitchcock-inspired 1973 thriller Sisters (with a score by no less than Bernard Herrmann!), and films like Carrie (1976) and Scarface (1983) still to come.

Phantom took clear inspiration from early Hollywood horror and most notably the film adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, much as De Palma had channeled Hitchcock in past efforts.  The film follows Winslow Leach (William Finley), whose rock treatment of the Faust legend catches the attention of the demonic producer known as Swan, portrayed by songwriter Paul Williams.  After getting his head caught in a vinyl press (!), Leach is transformed into the scarred Phantom.  But rather than the Paris Opera House, Winslow’s Phantom haunts The Paradise, Swan’s hot new concert palace.   In the words of critic Robert Horton, “the movie seems to predict the Studio 54 scene, MTV, and punk rock–the last, especially, in the figure of Beef, a screeching singer played by the unhinged Gerrit Graham.  [Williams’] performance is a reminder of his peculiar, self-spoofing presence… Comedy, musical, horror film, ’70s artifact–this movie isn’t quite definable, and that’s what’s wonderful about it.”  The original 10-track soundtrack album, released on Williams’ then-home of A&M, preserves his freewheeling score which draws on both pop and glam sounds, with some tracks recalling Alice Cooper’s theatrical horror-rock sound.  Williams performs three of the songs himself.  The only drawback to Culture Factory’s reissue is that it wasn’t out in time for Halloween!

Hit the jump for information on the Robert Palmer reissue series, plus track listings and discographical information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 23, 2011 at 10:22