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Archive for the ‘The Critters’ Category

Review: The Critters, “Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings”

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In those heady, pre-American Idol days, the route to success had many paths.  For New Jersey’s Critters, the path was local, with the band making a name for itself in the tree-lined suburbs of Westfield, Scotch Plains and Princeton, gigging at high schools, colleges, and Knights of Columbus halls.  Though they were proficient at covering the days’ hits, The Critters also boasted some formidable songwriters at a time when recording one’s own songs was becoming  de rigeur.  Before long, The Critters were opening gigs for The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, and Jay and the Americans, and had a contract with Musicor Records, home of Gene Pitney and The Platters.  Though the tenure at Musicor was short, The Critters made enough noise to be signed by Artie Ripp to Kama-Sutra Productions, and solidified their reputation with two 1966 hits, “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad.”  Those two singles aren’t the whole story, though.

Now Sounds first anthologized the band in 2011.  Awake in a Dream: The Project 3 Recordings collected the band’s 1968-1969 recordings for Enoch Light’s Project 3 label.  With its latest release, Now Sounds turns the clock back to The Critters’ brief heyday, before personnel changes and questions of musical direction altered the band’s sound irrevocably.  The new Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings (CRNOW 33, 2012) upgrades and improves Taragon’s 1994 CD The Anthology: The Complete Kapp Recordings, by adding six tracks and a customarily excellent design and presentation from reissue producer Steve Stanley.  Alan Brownstein has remastered from the original mono master tapes.

Whereas the Project 3 recordings are more in a soft-psych vein, the Critters’ earlier recordings are an amalgam of the pop styles they’d honed to perfection on the touring circuit.  Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 09:58

Release Round-Up, Week of May 29

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Amen Corner, Round Amen Corner: The Complete Deram Recordings (RPM)

The complete Deram output of Andy Fairweather-Low’s soulful group Amen Corner is collected by RPM Records, including the 1968 album that gives this reissue its title!

The Critters, Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings (Now Sounds)

The first album from New Jersey’s Critters (“Younger Girl,” “Mr. Dieingly Sad”) is reissued along with a plethora of rare singles and bonus songs!

Everything But the Girl, Eden…Plus / Idlewild, Plus… / Baby The Stars Shine Bright…Plus / Love Not Money…Plus (Edsel)

Edsel unveils beautifully-designed reissues of the first four albums from the sophisticated British pop duo!  Each 2-CD set is housed in a hardcover digi-book and bolsters the original album with rare songs and performances that no fan will want to miss.

Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, I’m Not Me / Jerry Reed, The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed / Nashville Underground (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone Music offers the CD debut of  a rare outing from Mick Fleetwood plus two albums on one CD from Nashville’s legendary “guitar man,” Jerry Reed!

Small Faces, Small Faces (Decca) / In the Beginning (Decca/Universal)

The 1966 and 1967 Decca albums from Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan arrive in eagerly-awaited 2-CD expanded editions!

The Supremes, The Supremes at the Copa (Motown/Hip-o Select)

Detroit’s legendary ladies take New York’s swank Copacabana by storm in this 1965 set, now expanded to 2 CDs and jam-packed with unreleased material!

Various Artists, Playlist titles (Legacy Recordings)

Sony’s Legacy Recordings offers a variety of budget-priced Playlist compilations from a diverse array of artists including Harry Belafonte, Jim Brickman, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Ciara, Alice Cooper, Rodney Crowell, Raheem DeVaughn, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, The Fugees, Heather Headley, Kenny Loggins, Prong, Pete Seeger and Tonex!

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 08:45

So Mystifyingly Glad: The Critters’ Project 3 Recordings Are Coming From Now Sounds

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As I type these words, I’m just a couple of miles away from the heart of Westfield, New Jersey, a bucolic suburb with a bustling and vibrant Main Street.  Over the years, Westfield has boasted a number of illustrious residents, among them Charles Addams, Langston Hughes and Paul Robeson.  But it should be no surprise to find that Westfield is also the birthplace of a beloved pop group.  After all, New Jersey’s musical roots run deep, from Sinatra to Springsteen, the Four Seasons to Bon Jovi.  There’s no doubt that some residents today still harbor fond memories of The Critters. 

The band had its genesis when Don Ciccone auditioned for a successful local band called The Vibratones, then seeking a rhythm guitarist, in the nearby town of Plainfield.  Don’s friend Bob Podstawski (who later played saxophone for The Critters) introduced Ciccone to the Vibratones’ leader, Jim Ryan. The newly christened Critters quintet – Ciccone on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Darway on piano, organ and vocals, Jack Decker on drums, Kenny Gorka on bass and vocals, and Jimmy Ryan on lead guitar and vocals – caused a local stir with the release of the 1964 single “Georgianna.”  But if that Musicor single didn’t set the charts on fire, national acclaim arrived in due time, thanks to two 1966 Kama-Sutra/Kapp singles, “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad.” 

After recording an initial album for Kapp and enduring some personnel changes, The Critters signed to Enoch Light’s Project 3 Records, also home to The Free Design.  Their two albums recorded for Project 3, Touch ’n Go with The Critters (1968) and the eponymous Critters (1969), form the heart of Awake in a Dream: The Project 3 Recordings, the latest excavation from the musical archaeologists at Now Sounds!

The road to these soft-psych classics wasn’t an easy one.  Let’s go back to the beginning, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 8, 2011 at 10:24