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Archive for the ‘The Three Degrees’ Category

Release Round-Up: Week of May 6

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Steeltown DeluxeBig Country, Steeltown: Deluxe Edition (Mercury/UMC)

The second, criminally underrated album by the Scottish rockers behind “In a Big Country” is remastered and expanded with a bonus disc of single sides and outtakes. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.UPDATE: This one’s been pushed back to September, folks!

Philadelphia International BoxPhiladelphia International: The Collection – 2o Original Albums / The Very Best of Teddy PendergrassLou RawlsThe Three DegreesThe IntrudersThe O’JaysBilly Paul and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (Sony Music U.K.)

Sony Music recently announced their acquisition of all post-1975 Philadelphia International Records masters (previously they were only licensed by Sony), so we can expect some more celebrating of all things Gamble, Huff and so on – starting with a 20-disc box set of some the best albums on the label and some new U.K.-exclusive compilations for PIR’s biggest artists.

Philadelphia International: The Collection (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
Amazon U.K.: The IntrudersHarold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, Billy PaulTeddy PendergrassLou RawlsThe Three Degrees

Gloria GaynorGene Chandler, Get Down / Gloria Gaynor, Gloria Gaynor (Big Break Records)

BBR’s remastered/expanded release slate this week includes some interesting finds: “Duke of Earl” Gene Chandler’s first disco-oriented album for Chi Sound Records in 1978 and Gloria Gaynor’s tenth album (and only one for Atlantic), released in 1982 and featuring a cover of The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love.”

Gene Chandler: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Gloria Gaynor: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Message from the MagicBlue Magic, Message from the Magic (Funkytowngrooves)

The Philadelphia R&B group’s fifth and final album for ATCO Records is remastered and released on CD for the first time ever! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Cherry Red, RPM Are “Looking Good” On New Girl Group Box

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Looking Good boxWhat is “femme mod soul,” you might ask?  Cherry Red’s RPM imprint has the answer with a new 3-CD box set, Looking Good: 75 Femme Mod Soul Nuggets.  This set aims to chronicle the girl group sound “from and for the underground.”  As Lois Wilson points out in an introductory essay, the box doesn’t paint a full picture of the girl group era.  Not only have there been countless compilations on the theme, but Rhino’s four-CD box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found remains the definitive, Grammy-nominated gold standard.  Indeed, Wilson doffs her hat to that delicious 2005 collection which was presented in a hat box!  Looking Good serves as a complement to that comprehensive set, placing “the girl group sound in a club soul setting.  It’s aimed at the hand-clappin’, finger-poppin’ mamas and foot-stompin’, finger-clicking daddies.”  The box, loaded with rare and hard-to-find treats in an uptempo Northern Soul vein, is designed in the style of RPM’s previous Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat and Swinging London Nuggets.

Despite the emphasis on hidden gems, the box still features numerous familiar names and even some hit records from labels including Columbia, Warner Bros., ABC-Paramount, United Artists, Cameo, Scepter and Wand.  The Three Degrees brought sweet soul to “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” in the seventies; Looking Back opens with “Do What You’re Supposed to Do,” the B-side of their 1964 Swan debut single.  Before Sheila Ferguson joined the Three Degrees, she recorded with The Kittens as well as solo.  From her solo discography comes 1965’s “And in Return,” written by Norman “General” Johnson of the Chairmen of the Board.  Among the other well-known artists here are The Toys of “A Lover’s Concerto” fame, heard with the 1968 flipside “I’ve Got My Heart Set on You”; Candy and the Kisses with their infectious 1964 hit dance record “The 81”; Reparata and the Delrons with their immortal “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” as well as “Panic”; Barbara “Hello, Stranger” Lewis with her No. 11 hit “Make Me Your Baby” from 1965; and Skeeter “The End of the World” Davis with 1964’s “Let Me Get Close to You.”  The Blossoms – Darlene Love, Fanita James, Gloria Jones, and sisters Annette and Nanette Williams – were recognized for their lengthy C.V. as background vocalists in the 2013 documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.  Two of their solo singles have been selected, both from the Challenge label: 1961’s “Write Me a Letter” and “I Gotta Tell It,” unreleased until 1995.

“Let Me Get Close to You” came from the pen of Gerry Goffin and Carole King; the work of numerous other top-tier songwriters are heard here.  The Brill Building scene also yielded Jeff Barry’s song “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” for Reparata and the Delrons and Barry and Ellie Greenwich’s “That Boy  is Messing Up My Mind,” recorded by The Orchids.  Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector’s “Baby Baby You,” originally known as “You Baby” for The Ronettes, is heard here in a version by The Lovenotes.  Gary Geld and Peter Udell, known both for pop hits like “Hurting Each Other” and the Broadway musicals Purlie and Shenandoah, wrote “Here’s to Our Love,” recorded by Cathy Carroll.  And Al Kooper teamed with onetime writing partner Irwin Levine (“This Diamond Ring”) for “Bobby’s Come a Long, Long Way” by the oddly-named Eight Feet.  Even singer-songwriter Bob Lind of “Elusive Butterfly” fame got into the girl group act with Ronnie and Robyn’s “Blow Out the Candle.”

After the jump: more details on what you’ll find in Looking Good, plus the full track listing with discographical annotation and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 29, 2013 at 10:26

T.S.O.P., The Early Years: BBR Collects The Three Degrees on Roulette

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Big Break Records, an imprint of the U.K.’s Cherry Red Group, doesn’t have an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  But it might as well.  Much of the remarkable music that emanated from ZIP Code 19107 has been revisited of late by BBR, and the latest title is one of the most fully loaded in the label’s catalogue.  The Three Degrees’ Maybe actually combines two early albums from that “When Will I See You Again” trio, both from the catalogue of Roulette Records: 1970’s Maybe and 1975’s So Much Love.  The original 20 tracks from these two albums of The Three Degrees’ pre-Philadelphia International recordings have been augmented by 23 more songs in a whopping deluxe edition.

The first iteration of The Three Degrees formed in Philadelphia in 1963, though only Fayette Pinkney was still in the group by the time of its signing to New York-based Roulette in 1970.  This line-up of the group, with Pinkney, Sheila Ferguson and Valerie Holiday, would prove the most enduring.  Behind the scenes throughout the group’s rise to fame in the 1960s was one Richard Barrett, a successful writer and songwriter behind hits for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and another girl group, The Chantels.  Barrett was in charge of The Three Degrees’ debut single in 1965, and was still behind the controls for 1970’s Maybe, the first of the two albums included in BBR’s new package.

Barrett drew from a variety of songwriters for Maybe.  Not every group could pull off songs by Sly Stone, Joe Walsh and Hoagy Carmichael on one album, but The Three Degrees did…not to mention the tracks by Jimmy Webb, Tommy James and Joe South!  The girls alternated lead vocal duties, and their overall blend could convincingly be coquettish or sassy, making the off-the-wall song choices sound natural.   The arrangements from Steve Swanson and Sammy Lowe veered from supper-club showbiz to driving soul music.  And so there’s a funked-up version of South’s “Rose Garden” (popularized by country singer Lynn Anderson) and a big, bold, brassy reinvention of Webb’s “MacArthur Park” replete with rain effects.  Carmichael and Mitchell Parrish’s “Stardust” was hardly a typical selection for an R&B group in 1970, but The Three Degrees pulled off the standard (said to be one of the most recorded songs ever) with aplomb.  Best of all, though, was the epic transformation of a song first recorded by Barrett with The Chantels and then with the Degrees in 1966: his own “Maybe.”  Holiday wrote and recorded a lengthy spoken-word rap to introduce the song, and the group infused it with a gospel fervor only hinted at in the Chantels’ original version.  The Three Degrees brought similar spirit to the Motown stomp of “Lonely Town,” perhaps better-known in renditions by Barbara McNair, Tammi Terrell and Martha and the Vandellas.

“Maybe” is reprised in its mono version among the bonus material, one of ten mono single bonus tracks on Disc One of the new set.  Some of the singles would be included on follow-up album So Much Love.  One previously unreleased track, the long version of “Yours,” has been included.  (The edited track was the B-side to “There’s So Much Love All Around Me.”)  The A-side of “The Grass Will Sing for You,” “Melting Pot,” was the work of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, previously recorded by Cook’s group Blue Mink.  Though well intentioned, it’s one of the more dated tracks here but a fascinating time capsule nonetheless: “What we need is a great big melting pot…and turn out coffee colored people by the score,” the song goes.

There’s more after the jump, including the full track listing and order link for this release! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 2, 2012 at 09:07

Release Round-Up: Week of May 22

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Chubby Checker, It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again/Durocs, Durocs/Terry Knight and the Pack, Terry Knight and the Pack/Reflections/The Orlons, The Wah Watusi/South Street/Various Artists, Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1 (Real Gone Music)

The latest group from Real Gone Music includes classics from the vaults of Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway label plus power-pop from San Francisco’s Durocs!

Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick, A Man and A Woman/Cissy Houston, Presenting Cissy Houston (Expanded Edition)/Dee Dee Warwick, Foolish Fool (Expanded Edition) (SoulMusic Records)

Dionne Warwick and Isaac Hayes’ long-unavailable 1977 live concert LP makes its CD debut alongside two other titles from members of the Warwick family: Dionne’s aunt Cissy Houston’s 1970 solo collection Presenting Cissy Houston, and sister Dee Dee’s 1969 Mercury LP Foolish Fool!  Watch for reviews later this week!

The Knack, Havin’ a Rave-Up!  Live in Los Angeles, 1978 (Zen/Omnivore)

The New Wave quartet is at its most powerful on this live album drawn from pre-fame performances on the Sunset Strip!  Joe’s review is at the link above!

Dean Martin, The Dean Martin Variety Show Uncut (Time Life)

Time Life releases the first-ever DVD set of complete and uncut episodes of The Dean Martin Show!  Dino’s guests include Cyd Charisse, Joey Heatherton, Barbara McNair, Zero Mostel, Leslie Uggams, Abbe Lane, Buck Owens and The Lettermen!

Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (Hear Music)

It’s finally here!  Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album has been remastered and reissued in a variety of formats with loads of bonus content!  Our review arrives tomorrow!

Neil Sedaka, The Tra-La Days Are Over/Overnight Success (BGO)

Neil Sedaka’s 1973 and 1975 albums are paired by BGO.  The combined collection features guest stars Elton John and 10cc, and includes such favorites as “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “The Hungry Years” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Three Degrees, Standing Up for Love (Funky Town Grooves)

Funky Town Grooves reissues and expands The Three Degrees’ post-Philadelphia International album recorded in 1977 for CBS/Epic!

Various Artists, The Philadelphia International 40th Box Set (Harmless/Demon)

The long-delayed 10-CD box set celebrating Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International label finally arrives in the U.K. courtesy Harmless Records!

Put Your Hands Together: Massive 10-CD Philadelphia International Box Due [UPDATED]

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Philadelphia International Records has turned 40, and you’re invited to the party!

Sony’s Legacy Recordings thrilled fans earlier this year with the archival release of Golden Gate Groove, a Don Cornelius-hosted concert that brought together many of the label’s biggest and brightest stars, from the O’Jays to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass.  The folks across the pond at the Harmless label have already dropped Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits, with 21 tracks on 2 CDs from DJs like Todd Terje (Dee Dee Sharp Gamble’s “Easy Money”) and Tim McAllister (Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ “Be For Real”), and next week sees the 4-CD box Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes.  This treasure trove from the father of the 12-inch mix offers the original seven Moulton tracks from the Philadelphia Classics LP, plus seven rare remixes and sixteen brand-new tracks created by Moulton especially for this set.  But these projects are just the tip of the iceberg where the celebration of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s storied label is concerned.

April 9 May 21 is the current date for the Philadelphia International 40th Anniversary Box Set.  The title may be simple, but the music certainly isn’t.  For this 10-CD box set, compilation producer Ralph Tee has created a non-chronological cross-section of the label’s releases between 1971 and 1995 placing emphasis on both hits and rarities.  Tee, the man behind 1986’s 14-LP Philadelphia International box set, has brought under one package over 13-1/2 hours of music from familiar names like Lou Rawls, The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees and The Jacksons, as well as cuts from Dick Jensen, Bobby Bennett, Robert Upchurch, Derek & Cyndi, Elliot Hoffman and other names not nearly as recognizable.  Also included within the package will be a 60-page full-size booklet containing sleeve notes and track details from Tee, the author of Who’s Who In Soul Music) while David Grimes offers the first-ever comprehensive discography of all U.S. releases from Philadelphia International and its related labels like Gamble and Golden Fleece.

Hit the jump for more details on this tremendous project including a full track listing (as sourced from SpinCDs and numerous other sites) with exhaustive discography and a pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of January 31

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Aretha Franklin, Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of 1980-1998 (Arista/Legacy)

The Queen of Soul’s comeback years, in a new anthology. Check back soon for a review from Joe as well as a Greater Hits from me stacking this set up to other compilations from this part of Aretha’s discography.

Various Artists, Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973 (Philadelphia International/Legacy)

A sublime showcase of some of the best Philly soul in concert.

Various Artists, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology (Arista/Legacy)

One of the most underrated hip-hop labels out there – home to Run-D.M.C. and DJ Rob Base and E-Z Rock – anthologized over two great discs.

The Tymes, So Much in Love (Real Gone)

The first-ever CD release for a ’60s classic, with four bonus tracks, no less!

Bonnie Pointer, Bonnie Pointer: Expanded Edition / Isaac Hayes, Don’t Let Go: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The U.K. soul label’s latest expanded reissues.

Metallica, Beyond Magnetic (Warner Bros.)

A physical release for this EP of outtakes from Metallica’s last album, Death Magnetic.

Various Playlist releases (Legacy)

You know the drill on this one.

Review: “Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia, Live in San Francisco 1973”

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No love, no peace, no shoes on my feet…no home, just a shack where I sleep…

In the fall of 1971, Philadelphia International Records launched its long-playing series with Billy Paul’s Going East, and the title opus in which the velvet-voiced crooner spins a slow-burning yarn of slavery.  It was hardly Top 40 fare (Paul would have to wait till producers/songwriters/label entrepreneurs Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff gifted him “Me and Mrs. Jones” the following year) but signaled the dramatic experimentation with which the label would define TSOP, or “The Sound of Philadelphia.”  Socially conscious, even spiritual lyrics would rest comfortably on a jazz-influenced bed of orchestral splendor, as smooth as it was funky.  With the very next PIR album, the label would start a nearly-unbroken string of music that’s as classic today as it was relevant, then: Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ self-titled debut (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”), The O’Jays’ Back Stabbers (“Back Stabbers,” “Love Train”), 360 Degrees of Billy Paul (“Me and Mrs. Jones”).

Each one of those artists and songs can be heard on a remarkable time capsule that’s newly arrived from Legacy Recordings and Philadelphia International.  Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia, Live in San Francisco 1973 (88691906232, 2012) is somewhat paradoxical, capturing a 1973 night in the City by the Bay introducing the brightest stars from the City of Brotherly Love.  But in any setting, boy, can these Mothers (and Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers) play!  It’s the first (but hopefully not the last) volley from Legacy in the 40th anniversary celebration of Philadelphia International Records.

Recorded on July 27, 1973, the concert was held at CBS Records’ company convention inside the plush environs of the Fairmont Hotel.  Previous performers at the convention included Bruce Springsteen and Engelbert Humperdinck.  Joe Tarsia, the owner of Philly’s hallowed Sigma Sound Studios and the concert’s engineer, recalls in the liner notes that the event was attended by everyone on the CBS roster from Perry Como to Edgar Winter.  (What a sight that must have been!)  And nearly everyone associated with the success of Philadelphia International was up there, on that stage.  Vocalists included Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, and the O’Jays. The MFSB Orchestra that evening counted among its 35 members two-thirds of the city’s “Mighty Three,” Leon Huff and Thom Bell on piano and organ, respectively. Huff and Bell were joined by a duo of Philly’s finest arrangers, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli (guitars), plus Earl Young (drums), Ronnie Baker (bass), Lenny Pakula (piano/keyboards), Jack Faith (saxophone), Vince Montana (vibes) and other notables. Bobby Martin and Richard Rome, two more arrangers with key contributions to the Philadelphia sound, took turns conducting.

Gamble and Huff considered the evening a crucial one to secure ongoing promotion at CBS Records for their fledgling label despite its already-proven hitmaking ability.  That urgency is evident in the performances.  (Thom Bell was the third partner in Gamble and Huff’s publishing company, and a frequent face at the label despite his outside productions for The Stylistics, The Spinners, Ronnie Dyson, New York City, Johnny Mathis and so many others.)  Hit the jump to meet the evening’s emcee, the one and only Mr. Don Cornelius! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 30, 2012 at 12:01

Vintage, Retro Mixes Shine on U.K. Philadelphia International Box Set

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Now’s as good a time as any to get into the sweet sounds and lush arrangements of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s. 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of legendary writer/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s creation of a label that set the groundwork for some of the best soul and R&B sounds of the decade, and this year’s seeing a lot of excellent catalogue projects honoring that legacy.

We’ve already told you about Legacy’s Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973 (keep an eye out for a review from Joe!), and there are more great titles in store in the coming months as well. One of them is a stellar four-disc box set that combines the great arrangements of Philly soul with the ace mixing techniques of Tom Moulton.

Moulton, the father of the modern-day remix, is about as far from a stranger to Philadelphia International as you can get. In 1977, he mixed classic sides by The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and MFSB for the double album Philadelphia Classics. Over time, he was commissioned for a variety of other projects for the label, some of which never saw the light of day past a few rarer promo records or obscure compilations.

With the release of Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes, Harmless Records – a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Demon Music Group – has compiled all eight cuts from Philadelphia Classics and combined them with not only seven rare or unreleased vintage mixes, but another 15 extended versions commissioned just for this set. The Intruders, The Trammps, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass – those are just a few of the artists ripe for rediscovery on this set. In addition to the four separately packaged discs, the box will also feature 16 pages of newly-written liner notes by acclaimed British music journalist Lloyd Bradley and rare photos of Moulton at work in Sigma Sound Studios, birthplace for countless classics of the label.

The box will be out February 27 in the U.K., and it can be yours to pre-order (for a rather stellar price, given the worth of the music) at Amazon after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 30, 2012 at 10:24

If You Don’t Know Them By Now: Philadelphia International Heads West For “Golden Gate Groove”

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England, Russia, China, Africa, Egypt, Israel…all of the above are stops on the O’Jays’ perennial “Love Train.”  We all know that the train started in Philadelphia, home to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the song’s writer-producers, and Thom Bell, its co-arranger (with Bobby Martin).  But a new release from Philadelphia International Records and Legacy Recordings reveals another pivotal stop: San Francisco.  For one remarkable night, brotherly love washed over the city by the bay.  Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia 1973 is a 14-track live set due in stores on January 31, revisiting a crucial night for a label basking in the glow of its biggest successes yet.

Recorded on July 27, 1973, the concert was held at CBS Records’ company convention, and featured performances from the T.S.O.P. all-stars including Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, and the O’Jays.  But the vocalists weren’t the only stars onstage, as the MFSB (that’s “Mother, Father, Sister, Brother,” unless you prefer your acronyms of the blue variety, in which case you can use your imagination…) Orchestra that evening counted among its 35 members two architects of the Philadelphia sound: Leon Huff and Thom Bell on piano and organ, respectively.  Huff and Bell were joined by a couple of Philly’s finest arrangers, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli (guitars), plus Earl Young (drums), Ronnie Baker (bass), Lenny Pakula (piano/keyboards), Jack Faith (saxophone), Vince Montana (vibes) and other notables.  The group was conducted by another great duo, Bobby Martin and Richard Rome.  In addition to supplying the orchestral bed for the vocalists, MFSB commanded the stage for two instrumental showcases: “Freddie’s Dead” and the familiar “T.S.O.P.” theme adopted by Soul Train.

What did this illustrious group have to prove?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 16, 2012 at 10:14

Upcoming Slate from Big Break Includes Edwin Starr, Patti LaBelle and More

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Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint has been the busiest arm of the U.K. reissue label group’s roster by far. Joe filled you in on the expanded edition of Melba Moore‘s first album for Epic in 1978, but there are 11, count ’em, 11! new reissues on the slate between now and March.

Of the artists covered in the latest batch, Patti LaBelle and Jon Lucien each have the most – two albums each – being reissued. For LaBelle, it’s her first and third solo albums originally released on Epic, 1977’s Patti LaBelle and 1979’s It’s Alright with Me. Each of them are augmented with single edits and instrumental tracks. For Lucien, the underrated jazz vocalist from the Virgin Islands, his first two albums for RCA, I Am Now (1970) and Rashida (1973) (the latter a two-time Grammy nominee), will be released. Bonus single edits will complement these discs as well.

Also on the horizon are releases by Edwin Starr, The Three Degrees, The Brothers Johnson, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Marlena Shaw and more. All of them have bonus tracks, including non-LP B-sides and alternate mixes. They all have different release dates, of course, with dates even varying between the label and Amazon. (The Edwin Starr set, for instance, is listed by BBR as having been released last week, but Amazon’s street date is tomorrow.) You can see BBR’s release dates in the link from the first paragraph, while Amazon pre-order links will be available along with the descriptions of each title after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 24, 2011 at 14:57