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Holiday Gift Guide Review: A Real Gone Christmas With Andy Williams, Patti Page and The New Christy Minstrels

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Andy Williams - Complete ChristmasWhen Andy Williams passed away on September 25, 2012 at the age of 84, the loss was keenly felt by anyone who had ever played the “red album” and the “green album” during the holiday season.  The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963) and Merry Christmas (1965) were the best-selling Columbia LPs that led Williams to embody the title of “Mr. Christmas.”  His rich, warm and resonant tenor was ideally suited to holiday music of both the secular and spiritual traditions, and his association with the holiday lasted for his entire life, through albums, television appearances and stage performances.  Real Gone has just delivered the ultimate celebration of Williams’ Christmas perennials with the 2-CD set The Complete Christmas Recordings (RGM-0197).

This collection includes the entirety of those two aforementioned albums plus 1974’s long out-of-print  Christmas Present LP and a clutch of five rare bonus tracks (two of which are making their first ever appearance here).  The Andy Williams Christmas Album (the “red album”), produced and arranged by Robert Mersey, was divided into a secular side and a religious side, but the treatments of the songs were surprisingly adventurous.  On the former side, Williams’ association with the legendary arranger and nightclub singer Kay Thompson led to the inclusion of her own version of “Jingle Bells” plus a swingin’ medley of Thompson’s “The Holiday Season” with Irving Berlin’s “Happy Holiday.”  The familiar “Twelve Days of Christmas” was also turned on its ear as “A Song and a Christmas Tree.”  On the latter side, Williams’ pure, crystalline tone was at its most pristine on “Silent Night” and “The First Noel.”  But The Andy Williams Christmas Album’s most lasting contribution to pop culture was the introduction of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the Edward Pola/George Wyle song that may still today be the single most exuberant track ever to celebrate the holiday season.  It also became a theme song for Williams perhaps second only to Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River.”

Naturally, a follow-up album was planned.  1965’s Merry Christmas followed the template of its predecessor, with Williams and Mersey applying their combined talents to another group of songs from across the holiday spectrum.  The same “Side One – Tin Pan Alley, Side Two – Church” format was also adhered to, except Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ “Silver Bells” crept onto the second side!  No matter, though.  “Silver Bells” was just one of the beautifully-sung songs here.  A moody arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” made for one of the song’s finest recordings; the exciting treatment of “Sleigh Ride” featured Williams deftly navigating a staggering number of key changes.  Williams and arranger Bob Florence (subbing for Mersey on just one track) made magic from “Christmas Holiday,” Craig Smith’s otherwise-unknown seasonal tune with an adventurous melody and jubilant lyrics.  Christmas Album and Merry Christmas are included in their entirety here, but both albums have been wholly resequenced for this compilation.

Following Merry Christmas, Williams didn’t return to the holiday songbook at Columbia until 1975.  That was the year he issued Christmas Present, the most atypical of his three Christmas sets for the label.  It also may be Williams’ most personal.  The opening title track, a pleasant slice of mid-seventies MOR, cedes to a frequently-solemn, ravishingly-sung collection of hymns and spiritual music including “Joy to the World,” “What Child is This?,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and both the Schubert and Gounod settings of “Ave Maria.”  Williams’ voice never sounded more natural or more direct in its power, even if the joyous, celebratory feel of the previous two albums was altogether absent.  Christmas Present is a passionate set worth a second look, and Real Gone’s Complete Christmas Recordings marks its return to CD after roughly two decades.   It’s presented in its original running order.

After the jump: more on Andy, plus Patti Page and The New Christy Minstrels! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 10, 2013 at 14:45

Release Round-Up: Week of October 29

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Bananarama EdselBananarama, Deep Sea Skiving Bananarama True Confessions Wow! Pop Life Please Yourself: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

The pop trio’s London discography gets the royal treatment with these 2CD/1DVD expanded editions featuring loads of rare and unreleased bonus tracks.

Deep Sea Skiving: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BananaramaAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
True ConfessionsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Wow!Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Pop LifeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Please YourselfAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Humble Pie - PerformanceHumble Pie, Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore – The Complete Recordings (Omnivore)

The landmark 1971 album is expanded into box set form, featuring all four sets at the legendary Fillmore East recorded for the original release. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

JethroTullBenefitcoverart_500Jethro Tull, Benefit: A Collector’s Edition (Chrysalis/Rhino)

Tull’s third album gets newly remixed in stereo and surround by Steven Wilson and newly expanded with rare single and remix material. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

BelfegoreAndy Williams, The Complete Christmas Recordings / Bobby Darin, The 25th Day of December with Bobby Darin / Patti Page, Christmas with Patti Page (Deluxe Edition) / The New Christy Minstrels, The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings / Various Artists, Funky Christmas / Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, Lovin’ Her Was Easier/After All These Years / Belfegore, Belfegore (Deluxe Edition) (Real Gone Music)

Spread some holiday cheer with the latest batch of Real Gone titles, which also includes the incredibly rare sophomore album by German goth/New Wave outfit Belfegore – now expanded with bonus tracks.

Andy Williams: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Bobby Darin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Patti Page: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The New Christy Minstrels: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Funky ChristmasAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Tompall Glaser: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Belfegore: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Essential James TaylorBoz Scaggs / James Taylor / Wu-Tang Clan, The Essential (Legacy)

The latest in the double-disc hits series includes career-spanning treasuries from Scaggs and Taylor (including the Warner and Columbia years in equal measure) and a new collection from hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan.

Boz: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
JT: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Wu-Tang: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

12%22 Disco CollectionVarious Artists, 12″ Disco: The Collection (Rhino U.K.)

Compiled by the fine folks at Big Break Records, this triple disc set features disco hits and rarities in equal measure, including a few tracks bowing onto CD for the first time. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Sayer boxLeo Sayer, Just a Box: The Complete Studio Recordings 1971-2006 (Edsel)

All of the U.K. hitmaker’s (“You Make Me Feel Like Dancing,” “When I Need You”) studio albums, plus two discs of rarities in this exhaustive set curated by Sayer himself on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his first U.K. hit, “The Show Must Go On.” (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Oh Yes We Can LoveVarious Artists, Oh Yes We Can Love: The History of Glam Rock (Universal U.K.)

A quintuple-disc set exhaustively looks at a half-century of the glam rock genre, digging far beyond the usual hits and influential tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ramones Sire YearsRamones, The Sire Years 1976-1981 (Rhino)

The first six Ramones LPs, albeit without any of the bonus tracks included on previous reissues. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

EAGLES_Vinyl_BoxEagles, The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (LP) (Rhino)

A vinyl box featuring the band’s complete Elektra studio albums. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

October Is The Most Wonderful Time of The Year With Real Gone Releases From Andy Williams, Bobby Darin, Patti Page, More

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Andy Williams - Complete ChristmasIt’s not too early to start making that Christmas list!  Just ask Real Gone Music.  On October 29, the label will release five deluxe holiday-themed collections from some of the most beloved vocalists of all time, in addition to two other titles reflecting the label’s usual eclectic tastes.

For those who need a little Christmas right this very minute, now’s the time to peruse Real Gone’s upcoming offerings.  The crown jewel comes from Andy Williams, already announced as the subject of a 2013 compilation from Legacy Recordings.  We couldn’t be more enthused about Real Gone’s unveiling of The Complete Christmas Recordings, containing the entirety of Williams’ three Columbia Records Christmas LPs: The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963), Merry Christmas (1965) and Christmas Present (1974).  A handful of bonus tracks round out the 2-CD, 42-song collection: the Columbia single “Ave Maria,” Spanish and Italian language versions of “White Christmas,” and the rare 1955 Cadence Records single “Christmas is a Feeling in Your Heart” b/w “The Wind, The Sand and the Star.”  (Williams fans are directed to The Second Disc’s special Holiday Back Tracks installment dedicated to Andy’s Christmas music, with in-depth looks at all three Columbia albums plus his holiday recordings for the Barnaby, Curb, LaserLight and Unison labels.)

Bobby Darin - 25th Day of DecemberWilliams is joined by Bobby Darin for a reissue of 1960’s The 25th Day of December with Bobby Darin.  Amazingly, this classic has never been available on CD in stereo, so Real Gone is rectifying that with a new edition also containing one mono bonus track (“Christmas Auld Lang Syne”).  Darin’s heartfelt set primarily consists of hymns and gospel performances; a blend of spiritually-themed songs and Tin Pan Alley Christmas standards can be found on Real Gone’s new Christmas with Patti Page.  This deluxe CD is the most definitive reissue yet of the original Mercury Christmas album from Patti Page, adding a rare single and bonus tracks licensed directly from Page’s estate.  The New Christy Minstrels’ The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings should also get you into the holiday spirit, containing both of the vocal group’s original Christmas LPs (Merry Christmas and Christmas with the Christies) plus five bonus sides.  Lastly (for Christmas aficionados, at least!), Real Gone revives a rare collection from Cotillion Records.  1976’s Funky Christmas featured holiday offerings from the label’s latest signings, meaning that you’ll hear tracks from John Edwards (of the Spinners), Margie Joseph, The Impressions, Lou Donaldson and Willis Jackson, and most tantalizingly, Luther Vandross’ group Luther.  The two tracks here are the only Luther songs currently available on CD, and they’re worth the price of admission!

Real Gone is also reflecting on the recent passing of Tompall Glaser with a two-for-one release from Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, pairing 1981’s Lovin’ Her Was Easier with 1982’s After All These Years.  Both albums showcase the Glasers’ country-and-western harmonies at their finest.  The final release for October 29 is an expanded reissue of the Elektra debut of hard rock band Belfegore.  The 1984 album, with an added clutch of six bonus tracks drawn from 12-inch singles, should appeal to industrial and goth fans.

After the jump, you’ll find the entirety of Real Gone’s press release – with more details on each of the above releases – plus pre-order links for all seven titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 13, 2013 at 12:10

Reviews: Three From Real Gone – The Electric Prunes, Timi Yuro, The New Christy Minstrels

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It might be tough to find three artists as different as Timi Yuro, The Electric Prunes and The New Christy Minstrels, but all three have been treated with similar care on recent projects from Real Gone Music!

The Electric Prunes, The Complete Reprise Singles (Real Gone Music OPCD-8574, 2012)

In the annals of the One-Hit Wonder, one might stumble upon the name of The Electric Prunes. The group achieved notoriety (and a No. 11 pop hit!) with the original Nugget “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” a fuzz-drenched slab of prime ’67 psychedelia, but never repeated the impact of that garage-rocking explosion of sound.  In actuality, there was another minor hit, and a number of further singles, though not all were actually by The Electric Prunes, despite being credited to the band.  Confused?  Don’t be.  Real Gone Music chronicles the entire far-out singles output of the Los Angeles band, in full-bodied mono, on the Prunes’ new Complete Reprise Singles collection, but the story behind the scenes is as fascinating as the music itself.  Although Reprise viewed the Prunes as a commercial outfit, the group had a determined experimental streak that led to a number of innovative singles but may also have contributed to its downfall.

The quintet promisingly followed up “Too Much to Dream” with (the My Fair Lady-inspired?) “Get Me to the World on Time,” an even more outré track with a Bo Diddley shuffle married to spacey sound effects and freak-out lyrics.  Like “Too Much to Dream,” it was written by Annette Tucker.  The already accomplished songwriter (who also placed songs with Tom Jones, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon and Sonny and Cher) wrote “Dream” with Nancie Mantz, and “World” with Jill Jones.  But the group’s heady brew of kooky garage experimentalism might have reached its nadir with just its fourth single, Tucker and Mantz’s cacophonic “Dr. Do-Good.”  The peculiar lyrics are sung in Looney Tunes voices with producer Dave Hassinger contributing a devilish laugh at the song’s end.  But Hassinger and the band weren’t laughing when the song only hit No. 128 on the charts, and Complete Singles chronicles The Prunes’ attempts to regain their footing, with more dark whimsy (“The Great Banana Hoax”) and even straightforward pop-rock (“Everybody Knows (You’re Not in Love)”).  Singer James Lowe and bassist Mark Tulin came into their own as songwriters with these strong tracks, but it was too late for The Electric Prunes.

There’s more on the Prunes, plus Timi Yuro and The New Christy Minstrels after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 24, 2012 at 12:24

Release Round-Up: Week of June 26

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The Beat, I Just Can’t Stop It Wha’ppen? Special Beat Service: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

The Beat’s discography is expanded in the U.K. by Edsel in fashionable 2 CD/1 DVD editions. (Don’t forget: a similar five-disc box is coming out from Shout! Factory in the U.S. next month.)

The Miracles, Renaissance Do It Baby (Hip-o Select/Motown)

The first two post-Smokey LPs by The Miracles on one CD.

The Electric Prunes, The Complete Reprise Singles / The New Christy Minstrels, A Retrospective 1962-1970 / The Tokens, It’s a Happening World: Deluxe Edition / Timi Yuro, The Complete Liberty Singles / Rita Pavone, The International Teen-Age Sensation (Real Gone)

A veritable ’60s bonanza from our pals at Real Gone, including some international rarities, an expanded Tokens LP and some singles compilations.

Deniece Williams, NiecyI’m So Proud: Expanded Editions / KC and The Sunshine Band, KC and The Sunshine Band: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

U.K. label Big Break’s offerings today: expanded editions of Deniece’s last two pre-Footloose LPs and the disco band’s breakthrough disc.

Teena Marie, Emerald City Naked to the World: Expanded Editions (Soul Music)

Two high points in Lady T’s late-’80s work for Epic, newly expanded from Cherry Red’s Soul Music label.

It’s A Happening World: Real Gone Announces Sixties Bonanza of Electric Prunes, Tokens, Timi Yuro, More

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It will be a sixties flashback on June 26 when Real Gone Music ushers in the summer with five releases from that golden decade of music.  “Complete Singles” collections are due from experimental rockers The Electric Prunes and big-voiced soul queen Timi Yuro, and the label is also anthologizing the legendary folk group The New Christy Minstrels.  Last but certainly not least, two original LPs are being remastered and expanded: an outré pop classic from The Tokens and the debut of “international teen-age sensation” Rita Pavone.

One of the most indelible of the Nuggets compiled by Lenny Kaye for the original 1972 compilation of psychedelic garage-rock “artyfacts” – and indeed, the first cut on the seminal anthology – was The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.”  That No. 11 hit was only the Prunes’ second single, but it announced that the Seattle, Washington-formed band had plenty to say.  The story of the Prunes is a tumultuous one, with dominating producers (Dave Hassinger, David Axelrod) shaping the band’s sound and identity through a variety of changes to both the group sound’s and its line-up.  Yet the remarkably diverse music released under the Electric Prunes name has endured thanks to its consistently high quality.  The Complete Reprise Singles compiles for the very first time all 23 of the band’s Reprise single sides.  The Prunes’ music was described by band members James Lowe and Mark Tulin in 2007 as “Electric, eclectic, sinister, existential, whimsical, [and] innocent,” and all of those qualities are very much in evidence on these singles.  They’re presented in their original mono mixes, and Richie Unterberger supplies sleeve notes including commentary from the band and photos of the original singles.  And as a bonus, you’ll hear the Prunes’ demonstration of the Vox Wah-Wah Pedal!  The Complete Reprise Singles should make the perfect companion to Rhino U.K.’s 2007 compilation Too Much to Dream: Original Group Recordings 1966-1967, which presented the group’s first two LPs in expanded form.

The next artist to receive Real Gone’s “Complete Singles” treatment is Timi Yuro (1940-2004).  The Complete Liberty Singles is described by the label as the first to feature original mono single mixes rather than “after-the-fact stereo remixes or album tracks.”  This 2-CD collection includes for the first time the A- and B-sides of all of the U.S. singles Timi released on Liberty Records during her two stints with the label, , all remastered at Capitol Studios.   Despite her young age, the Chicago-born Yuro’s style was deeply soulful, influenced by R&B and jazz vocal greats.  In addition to her signature 1961 hit “Hurt,” The Complete Liberty Singles features Phil Spector’s uncredited production of “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” the rare single and Northern soul favorite “It’ll Never Be Over for Me/As Long as There Is You” and the early Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “The Love of a Boy,” also arranged by Bacharach.  The set’s co-producer Ed Osborne writes the liner notes and supplies a singles discography along with photos.

Hit the jump to see what’s coming from The Tokens, The New Christy Minstrels and Rita Pavone! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 15, 2012 at 13:31