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Baby, It’s Burt: “The Warner Sound” and “The Atlantic Sound” Compile Rare Bacharach Tracks

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Warner Sound of BacharachIn his 85th year, Burt Bacharach has kept a pace that would wear out many a younger man.  In addition to performing a number of concert engagements, the Oscar, Grammy and Gershwin Prize-winning composer has released a memoir, continued work on three musical theatre projects, co-written songs with Bernie Taupin and J.D. Souther, and even penned a melody for Japanese singer Ringo Sheena.  Though Bacharach keeps moving forward, numerous releases this year have looked back on his illustrious catalogue.  Universal issued The Art of the Songwriter in 6-CD and 2-CD iterations to coincide with the publication of his memoir, Real Gone Music rescued his three sublime “lost” 1974 productions for Dionne Warwick from obscurity, and Warner Music Japan reissued the near-entirety of Warwick’s Scepter and Warner Bros. tenures under the umbrella of Burt Bacharach 85th Birth Anniversary/Dionne Warwick Debut 50th Anniversary.  Two more titles have recently been added to that Japanese reissue series: The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach and The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach.  These 2-CD anthologies are both packed with rarities and familiar songs alike for a comprehensive overview of the Maestro’s recordings on the Warner family of labels.

The Warner Sound of Burt Bacharach is the more wide-ranging compilation of the two, drawing on recordings made not just for Warner Bros. Records but for Valiant, Festival, Elektra, Reprise, Scepter, and foreign labels like Italy’s CDG and Sweden’s Metronome.  This 2-CD set is arranged chronologically, with the first CD covering 1962 (Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over,” her only appearance on the set) to 1978 (Nicolette Larson’s “Mexican Divorce”), and the second taking in 1981 (Christopher Cross’ Oscar-winning chart-topper “Arthur’s Theme”) to 2004 (Tamia and Gerald Levert’s “Close to You”).

On the Elektra label, Love scored a hit with “My Little Red Book,” presented here in its mono single version.  The composer didn’t care for the band’s melodic liberties, but the Sunset Strip rockers’ version is today better known than the Manfred Mann original.  From the Reprise catalogue, you’ll hear the great arranger Marty Paich with a swinging instrumental version of “Promise Her Anything,” a genuine Bacharach and David rocker originally recorded by Tom Jones.  Trini Lopez’s groovy “Made in Paris” is also heard in its mono single version.  Morgana King is sultry on a Don Costa arrangement of “Walk On By.”  Buddy Greco delivers a hip “What the World Needs Now,” and Tiny Tim makes the same song his own.  Ella Fitzgerald puts her stamp on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” produced like Tiny Tim’s “World” by Richard Perry.  Another production great, Wall of Sound architect Jack Nitzsche, brings a touch of class to the Paris Sisters’ dreamy “Long After Tonight is All Over.”

Numerous tracks on the first CD come from the worldwide Warner vaults.  The two stars of the original Italian production of Promises, Promises – Catherine Spaak and Johnny Dorelli – are heard in their beautiful, low-key performance of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” as released on the CDG label.  The Sweden Metronome label yields Svante Thuresson’s “This Guy’s In Love with You,” Siw Malmkvist’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” and one of the strangest songs in Bacharach and David’s entire catalogue, “Cross Town Bus” as sung by the Gals and Pals in English.  Australia’s Festival label – the original home of the Bee Gees – has been tapped for Noeleen Batley’s “Forgive Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time)” and Jeff Phillips’ “Baby It’s You.”  The treasures on the Warner Bros. label proper are just as eclectic, from Liberace’s gentle “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” to The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s torrid “I Wake Up Crying.”  Harpers Bizarre’s “Me Japanese Boy (I Love You),” with an atmospheric Nick DeCaro arrangement, is another highlight.  The Everly Brothers truncated Bacharach’s melody to “Trains and Boats and Planes” but their harmony blend is at its peak in a 1967 recording.

The second disc of The Warner Sound emphasizes latter-day R&B as Bacharach branched out with a variety of lyricists.  Chaka Khan is heard on “Stronger Than Before” by Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager;  Earth Wind and Fire on “Two Hearts” co-written with Philip Bailey and Maurice White; Tevin Campbell on “Don’t Say Goodbye Girl” co-written with Narada Michael Walden and Sally Jo Dakota; and Randy Crawford on “Tell It To Your Heart” from Bacharach and Tonio K.  Mari Ijima’s original version of “Is There Anybody Out There” – penned by Bacharach, John Bettis, James Ingram and Puff Johnson – is a welcome surprise; the song was recorded in 2012 by Dionne Warwick on her Now album.  Ingram is also heard with “Sing for the Children.”  On the 1993 track, co-producer/arranger Thom Bell channeled Bacharach’s classic flugelhorn sound to great effect.  Old favorites are also revisited and reinterpreted on this disc via Everything But the Girl’s “Alfie,” The Pretenders’ “The Windows of the World,” Linda Ronstadt’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” Anita Baker’s “The Look of Love,” guitarist Earl Klugh’s “Any Old Time of Day” and frequent Bacharach collaborator Elvis Costello’s “Please Stay.”  With big hits (“Arthur’s Theme”) alongside rarely-anthologized gems (the George Duke-produced “Let Me Be the One” performed by Marilyn Scott), there’s something for everybody here.

After the jump: check out The Atlantic Sound of Burt Bacharach!  Plus: track listings with discography and order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

From Manhattan to Memphis: Ace, Kent Collect Classic Soulful Sides on Three New Releases

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Though they’re located across the pond, the team at Ace Records literally has the entire map of the U.S. covered when it comes to celebrating classic soul sounds.  Among the numerous titles recently issued by the Ace family are three geographically-attuned sets sure to pique your ears and interest.  Ace’s journey begins in the American northeast, and specifically in New York City, with a second volume of Manhattan Soul.  Like the first volume in the series, it’s drawn from the considerable archives of Scepter, Wand and Musicor Records, and it brings together songs from cherished vocalists like Tommy Hunt, Jimmy Radcliffe and Big Maybelle, along with a whole slew of artists who may not have achieved notoriety, but sure did wax some great music.  Next, the Ace team heads down to Alabama, where The Charmels and Jeanne and the Darlings might have shouted, “We’re the Soul Girls!”  This 29-track anthology collects the complete recordings of two of Stax Records’ criminally-underrated girl groups, with many tracks appearing on CD for the very first time.  Finally, Ace basks in the glow of the heartland with Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul, exploring the crossroads of those two distinct genres.

Both volumes of Manhattan Soul conjure up the urbane R&B sound that came out of the 1960s in that storied borough of New York City.  Florence Greenberg’s Scepter and Wand labels (home to Maxine Brown, Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles and B.J. Thomas) and Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor (home to Gene Pitney, George Jones and the Platters) boasted diverse rosters, but both had a keen interest in soul music, frequently swathing it in strings and lush orchestrations.  It’s no surprise that one maestro of sophisticated soul, Burt Bacharach, had his biggest successes on Scepter, and also provided hits for Musicor.  There were many other ties; Luther Dixon departed the Greenberg empire for Musicor, while Van McCoy, Bert Keyes, and Bert DeCoteaux all arranged platters for both labels.  Each of those names is represented on Manhattan Soul, Volume 2.

This is uptown soul, for sure, with further contributions from producers such as Teddy Randazzo (Porgy and the Monarchs’ “That Girl”), Chips Moman (The Masqueraders’ “I Don’t Want Nobody to Lead Me On,” recorded in Memphis but released in Manhattan on Wand), and songwriters like the young Kenny Gamble (Nella Dodds’ “I Just Gotta Have You”) and Curtis Mayfield (Something New’s “You Babe”).  Fetching big beat ballads proliferate on this 24-track CD, such as Ed Bruce’s “I’m Gonna Have a Party.”  The track was written by Bruce arranged by Florence Greenberg’s son Stan Green (nee Greenberg) on Wand, and is almost a sideways rewrite of Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” a sizeable Wand hit by Chuck Jackson.  Though the second volume of Manhattan Soul doesn’t feature as many high-profile artists as the first (which had The Shirelles, Johnny Maestro, The Platters and Maxine Brown all represented), it’s just as rewarding, if not more so.  These songs meld sophisticated, sometimes Latin-flavored arrangements with deep soul, plenty of booming baritones and swelling strings.  There are even four interesting unreleased tracks, including Jimmy Radcliffe’s beguiling “Deep in the Heart of Harlem” and “No Jealous Lover,” by Lois Lane, a.k.a. Louise Williams, a U.S. Congresswoman since 1988!  Ady Croasdell annotates, and even teases us with a liner note about a song that wasn’t included: Sylvia Jenkins’ “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin which was rejected for its “excruciating passages!”  Bring on Volume Three.

After the jump: to Alabama and beyond, plus track listings and pre-order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2012 at 10:04

Rhino to Get Warm and Tender for Percy Sledge in New Box Set (UPDATED 11/26)

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Rhino Handmade’s next big title is a box set devoted to Percy Sledge’s tenure with Atlantic Records.

Before he was the “King of Country Soul,” Sledge was an Alabama-born former hospital worker, playing with a soul combo on weekends. In 1966 he signed to Atlantic, and, following a break-up with a longtime girlfriend, recorded a simple, heartfelt single, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” The impassioned, off-the-cuff delivery (an entirely honest one – Sledge improvised the lyrics on the spot) helped propel the song to No. 1 around the world. Sledge enjoyed other Top 40 hits for the rest of his Atlantic tenure, but it’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” that he’ll forever be associated with.

But Rhino Handmade will offer fans the opportunity to learn more about the music of Percy Sledge. The Atlantic Recordings is a four-disc set compiling Sledge’s four albums, scores of single sides and material released in limited quantities in other parts of the world and unreleased tracks. It will be presented roughly in the order in which each track was recorded, spanning from 1966 to 1974. Highlights include all the hard-to-find non-LP B-sides and single versions, a live show from Johannesburg, South Africa in 1970, a rare Christmas single and two versions of the track that made him an immortal.

You can order it here and read the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 26, 2010 at 10:50