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Holiday Gift Guide Review: “Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection”

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Here's EdieIn one of the many testimonials that enhance the booklet to the first-ever DVD release of Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection, Carl Reiner may have put it best and most succinctly: “Edie Adams…a combination of beauty, brains and talent…what else do you need?”  Based on the evidence in this thoroughly delightful 4-DVD, 12-hour, 21-episode set now available from MVD Visual (MVD 59200), you don’t need anything else.  Adams just about had it all, and showed it off for the 1962-1964 television variety show.  Here’s Edie aired on Thursday nights, alternating weeks with Sid Caesar’s program on ABC.  It was good company, indeed.

“Variety” was the emphasis of Adams’ sophisticated, unorthodox program.  Though entertainment was the primary objective, the trailblazing Adams also hoped that Here’s Edie would inform its audience.  Nobody stood in her way, not even from the network.  Rare for a female at the time who wasn’t Lucille Ball, Adams was given creative control of her show.  She produced it, owned it, and even designed her own wardrobe!  Jazz, classical and opera artists all got equal time alongside the expected pop stars.  A cursory glance at the guest stars featured on these DVDs reveals appearances by the illustrious likes of Duke Ellington, Andre Previn, Stan Getz, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd, Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, and Lauritz Melchior, plus Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis and John Raitt.

The singer-actress-comedienne was as much at home on television as she was on stage and on film.  She had appeared with her husband Ernie Kovacs on a variety of programs since the early days of television, and when Kovacs tragically perished in a car accident in 1962, Adams had no choice but to press forward.  Kovacs’ series Take a Good Look and ABC specials had been sponsored by Dutch Masters cigars; the brand’s parent, Consolidated Cigar, turned to Edie to become the spokeswoman for their Muriel brand.  Muriel sponsored Here’s Edie (renamed The Edie Adams Show in fall 1963) and the star’s association with Muriel would, remarkably, last till the 1990s.  The entertaining, musical Muriel spots are among the highlights of these discs.

We’ll look further after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2013 at 11:21

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Various Artists, “‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah”

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'Twas the Night Before HanukkahThe story behind The Idelsohn Society for Music Preservation’s fascinating new 2-CD set ‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah is a simple one.  The label, dedicated to telling Jewish history through music, set out to chronicle the music of Hanukkah before discovering that the most famous Christmas songs – “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “The Christmas Song,” just to name three – were all written by members of the Jewish faith!  So the Hanukkah compilation doubled in size, and gained the cheeky subtitle The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.  Those celebrating either holiday will find plenty of cheer and a bit of food for thought on these two discs.  One is dedicated to Hanukkah and another to Christmas, with plenty of cross-pollination between the two.  This set makes a worthy companion to the Idelsohn Society’s previous Black Sabbath, a look at another relationship in song: in that case, between African-Americans and Jews.

Disc One, or Happy Hanukkah, takes in songs referring to the holiday (Gerald Marks’ “Hanukah,” Woody Guthrie’s “Hanukkah Dance,” The Klezmatics’ “Hanukah Tree”) and songs central to it (Cantor David Putterman’s “Rock of Ages”).  Other songs here celebrate aspects of Jewish culture that make them seasonally appropriate, like Debbie Friedman’s “The Latke Song” or a number of odes to the dreidel.  In the latter category comes Ella Jenkins’ rendition of the 1920 folk standard known to children everywhere, “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” plus “Grandma’s Dreidel” from comedian (and father of Joel Grey) Mickey Katz and “Dreidel,” from folk-rock troubadour Don McLean in which the singer compares turbulent modern life to the spinning of the dreidel.  There are more light-hearted tracks here, too, including the collection’s title song, Stanley Adams and Sid Wayne’s “’Twas The Night Before Chanukah.”  (You’ll note the multiple spellings of the holiday; it’s noted in the booklet that there are at least sixteen acceptable ways to spell the holiday that only has five letters in its original Hebrew!)  Perhaps ironically, Mickey Katz’s contribution is one of his more “straight” recordings, with Katz earnestly singing and playing clarinet.  As collections of Hanukkah songs are far and few between, this disc makes an entertaining and valuable release in its own right. Alas, Tom Lehrer’s “(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica” didn’t make the cut!  Neither did Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” as the compilers explained in the notes that it was too “well-trodden.”  Ah, well, maybe next time!  There’s always the recording of Sandler’s song by Neil Diamond, one of the most famous Jewish purveyors of holiday music to be absent from these proceedings!

Hit the jump for much more, including the complete track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 17, 2012 at 10:27

Review: “The Very Best of The Rat Pack”

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What do we know about The Rat Pack, that famed group of celebrity rogues and rapscallions that defined American cool in the early ’60s? You might not know that only a third of the classic members of the group were initially included; The Rat Pack was initially made up of actor friends of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, including Frank Sinatra but not Dean Martin or Sammy Davis, Jr.

But after Bogart’s death and the subsequent release of Ocean’s 11 in 1960, the classic image of The Rat Pack – Sinatra, Martin, Davis and actors Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop – crystallized in the eyes of the American public. On the musical side, Frank, Sammy and Dean were the darlings of the Las Vegas strip, often dropping in on each other’s scheduled performances to the glee of patrons. Though the trio never performed together after a short-lived tour in 1987 and would be gone within the next decade or so, they left behind an image of group-related cool that’s been emulated for years, whether the pack be brat or frat-oriented.

Rhino’s new compilation, The Very Best of The Rat Pack (Reprise/Rhino R2 526241), is amazingly only one of a very select few compilations compiling the best of these three men in one place. (Capitol released Eee-O 11: The Very Best of The Rat Pack in 2001, and a Christmas compilation followed on the same label some years later.) Though each man had careers on many different labels – all three were signed to Sinatra’s self-created label Reprise, Frank and Dean had stints on Capitol and Davis started out on Decca – it’s not really the licensing that proves difficult, so much as it is capturing the feeling of the group dynamic on disc.

How well does Rhino’s set succeed? Find out after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 26, 2011 at 15:34

Release Round-Up: Week of January 25

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Thin Lizzy, Jailbreak / Johnny the Fox / Live and Dangerous: Deluxe Editions (Universal)

A trio of long-awaited deluxe editions from the U.K., featuring bonus tracks, non-LP sides and (in the case of Live and Dangerous) a DVD. (Amazon U.K.)

Santana, The Swing of Delight / Zebop! / Shango: 30th Anniversary Editions (Friday Music)

Though only one of them is truly a 30th anniversary edition (each album dates back from 1980, 1981 and 1982, respectively), these remasters are more than welcome for fans of classic Santana. (Friday Music)

Various Artists, The Very Best of The Rat Pack (Reprise/Rhino)

Frank, Sammy and Dino’s greatest hits on one disc, along with a previously unreleased outtake by the Chairman of the Board. (Rhino)

Bing Crosby, Bing Sings the Sinatra Songbook / Bing & Rosie: The Crosby-Clooney Radio Sessions / A Southern Memoir (Collector’s Choice)

Three new archive titles for Bing from Collector’s Choice, including some choice materials from the vault. (Official site)

Edwin Starr, Clean: Expanded Edition / Marlena Shaw, Sweet Beginnings: Expanded Edition / Tom Browne, Love Approach: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records)

As detailed in yesterday’s post, three of a dozen or so expanded soul reissues from the U.K.-based label. (BBR)

Various Artists, Playlist (Sony/Legacy)

A huge chunk of Playlist titles for a number of Sony artists, easy on the wallet and a few of them packing some rarities. Consult here for more info. (Legacy)

Written by Mike Duquette

January 25, 2011 at 08:13

Reissue Theory: Sammy Davis, Jr., Compiled: “Sammy in the Seventies”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, here we reflect on well-known albums of the past and the reissues they could someday see. Today, we look at a beloved American icon and one of the least anthologized periods of his lengthy career.

There may be no figure in American popular culture more maligned in death than Sammy Davis, Jr. The image of the diminutive entertainer, clad in open shirts and bell-bottoms, wearing beads and gold chains, and with an ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth has superseded that of the incendiary talent, a triple-threat actor, singer and dancer who could hold his own opposite Frank Sinatra (and best him in the dancing department, natch). Davis was also a best-selling author, an impressionist par excellence, a civil rights crusader who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and not a bad drummer, either. Luckily for his fans as well as for those first introducing themselves to this once-in-a-lifetime talent, the best of Sammy Davis, Jr. was preserved for posterity on disc.

One era of Davis’ recording history, however, is mostly nonexistent on CD, and that is the 1970s. Between 1970 and 1979, Davis recorded primarily for the Motown, MGM and 20th Century labels, with a handful of solo tracks also recorded for Warner Bros. and some live material released on RCA Victor and Warner Bros. (MGM also recorded a live LP in September 1971 from the Sands in Las Vegas which remains unreleased.) None of his 1970s LPs have been reissued, and while this period is full of contradictions – it yielded Davis’ biggest ever hit, “The Candy Man,” as well as renditions of television themes and the Alka-Seltzer jingle, perhaps the nadir of his singing career  – there is a wealth of wonderful material waiting to be rediscovered. Even deep in the throes of substance abuse and addiction, Davis was capable of turning out quality work, and it’s a strange irony that of the CD collections compiling this period, most feature only its lesser achievements.

As Davis’ recordings for Motown, MGM and 20th Century now reside in the Universal vaults, a compilation of his 1970s studio oeuvre is within the realm of possibility, and so today’s Reissue Theory imagines a four-disc compilation, Sammy in the Seventies: The Studio Recordings. The core LPs include Something for Everyone (1970), Now (1972), Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr. (1972), Sammy Davis Jr. and Count Basie (1973), That’s Entertainment (1974), The Song and Dance Man (1976) and Sings the Great TV Tunes (1978), basically a repackage of The Song and Dance Man. (We have omitted 1974’s Sammy: The Original Television Soundtrack and 1978’s original cast recording of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s Stop the World, I Want to Get Off as they both fall out of the purview of this collection.  That said, both are fine candidates for reissue.)

Hit the jump as we explore Sammy’s discography and see what a near-complete Sammy in the Seventies: The Studio Recordings would look like, with full discographical details! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 19, 2011 at 13:33

Ain’t That a Kick in the Head? Rat Pack Comp to Feature Unreleased Sinatra Track

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The three core members of the superstar collective known as “The Rat Pack” – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. – have had their share of catalogue reissues and box sets, more than all the riches in Las Vegas. But together, there have only been a few compilations, thanks to the necessary wrangling between labels (Sinatra’s Rat Pack era material was captured between Capitol and his own Reprise label; both of which saw releases from Martin and Davis). The last such release was probably Eee-O 11: The Best of The Rat Pack (2001), which came from EMI.

Now, Rhino will be throwing their effort into the ring – apparently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vegas-era Rat Pack (which is close enough; Ocean’s 11 was released 50 years ago in 2010) – with the forthcoming The Very Best of The Rat Pack. It’s a simple volume that compiles the most notable hits of each man, from “Come Fly with Me” in 1958 to Martin’s “Volare” in 1965. Their greatest tunes are all here – “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “Witchcraft,” “Birth of the Blues,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Luck Be a Lady” and many, many more. There’s also one new track from the vaults: an alternate take of Sinatra singing “I’m Gonna Live Until I Die.”

Look for The Very Best of The Rat Pack on January 25. Order it here and check the track listing after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 7, 2011 at 09:25