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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

Release Round-Up: Week of August 28

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Frank Zappa, Official Reissues #15-26 (Zappa Records/UMe)

FZ’s 1972-1979 discography, almost entirely sourced from original analog masters. (Joe breaks it all down for you here!)

Various Artists, A&M 50: The Anniversary Collection (A&M/UMe)

Three discs of hits and favorites from a most eclectic of major labels.

Elvis Presley, A Boy from Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings (Follow That Dream)

The King’s complete Sun tenure, with single masters, alternates, live takes and more – not to mention an enormous book of liner notes spanning over 500 pages.

Art Garfunkel, The Singer (Columbia/Legacy)

You know the voice; now, take a dive into Art Garfunkel’s career with this double-disc overview, curated by the man himself and featuring Simon & Garfunkel tracks, solo recordings and two brand-new tunes.

Johnny Mathis, Tender is the Night/The Wonderful World of Make-Believe Love is Everything/Broadway (Real Gone)

The first of a series of two-fers bringing Mathis’ Mercury discography back into print, including an unreleased LP of Broadway standards!

David Cassidy, Cassidy Live / Gettin’ It in the Street / Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Complete Liberty Singles / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Volume 28 (Real Gone)

The rest of Real Gone’s monthly lineup includes two David Cassidy discs on CD for the first time ever.

The Brecker Brothers, The Complete Arista Albums Collection / Etta James, The Complete Private Music Blues, Rock ‘n’ Soul Albums Collection / Sarah Vaughan, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Legacy)

The latest PopMarket boxes include a Brecker Brothers box entirely full of discs making their CD debuts.

Andrew W.K., I Get Wet: Deluxe Edition (Century Media)

2001’s ultimate party soundtrack, with a bonus disc of live and alternate material.

From “Sassy” to “The Matriarch of the Blues” and Beyond: PopMarket Offers New Complete Box Sets in August

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Though it may be summer vacation for many of us, the folks at Sony’s PopMarket have been too busy to take much of a rest!  They’ll be releasing three more Complete Albums boxes from a triumvirate of artists who blurred the lines between jazz, R&B, pop and rock.  Box sets for The Brecker Brothers, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan will arrive at general retail as well as at PopMarket.com on August 28.

Though most genres have been benefitted from the comprehensive Complete Albums series, jazz fans have been particularly lucky.  These three latest titles follow up the first 19 box sets in the series, and a cursory glance at that list reveals some of the most enduring names not only in jazz but in popular music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis (2009), George Duke, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Return To Forever, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter, Grover Washington Jr., Weather Report 1971-1975 and Weather Report 1976-1982 (all on Columbia/Legacy); and Paul Desmond and Nina Simone (on RCA/Legacy).

For those not familiar with the Complete Albums series, the compact boxes contain every album released during a particular period of an artist’s career.  Each CD is packaged in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original album’s front and back artwork, and many of the albums include bonus tracks.  Bonus discs have also been included in a number of the sets.  Booklets always contain discographical annotation and often contain new essays penned specifically for these sets.

The Brecker Brothers’ Complete Arista Albums Collection offers eight albums released between 1975 and 1981 from the duo of Randy Brecker (trumpet, b. 1945) and Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone, 1949-2007) on Clive Davis’ legendary label.  None of the albums in this set have ever appeared on CD in the U.S. before, making its release a particularly monumental one.  The Brecker Brothers have made their mark both individually and collectively with countless appearances on some of the best records of the day, from artists including Blood, Sweat and Tears, Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Rupert Holmes, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa.

But they’re still much-loved for their Arista output as headline artists, during which time they crossed genre lines from jazz to funk to rock and back again.  At Arista, Michael and Randy were joined by an array of familiar musicians with equally-impressive credentials including guitarists Bob Mann, Steve Khan, Barry Finnerty, David Spinozza, and Hiram Bullock; bassists Will Lee, Neil Jason, Marcus Miller, and Tony Levin; keyboardist Don Grolnick; and drummers Harvey Mason, Chris Parker, Steve Gadd, and Steve Jordan.  George Duke and Luther Vandross also made vital contributions.  These albums showcase the Brothers’ winning combination of pop melodies, pure jazz improvisation and memorable compositions, as well as a mastery of the musical forms of the day likely honed during their time as ace session men.  Though the Brecker Brothers broke up in 1982, they reunited in the early part of the next decade as both touring and recording artists.  Randy Brecker contributes new liner notes to the box set.

We explore the sets for Etta James and Sarah Vaughan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 13, 2012 at 13:38