Posts Tagged ‘Brill Building’

Barry Mann: On Broadway

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Legendary songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil appeared in San Francisco for a conversation with the creative team of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Mann wowed the audience with a solo piano rendition of “On Broadway,” the 1963 hit he and Weil had with the Drifters, and again in 1978 with George Benson.

The Coasters: Coast Along with the Coasters

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Coasters_CoastAlongWithThe Coasters return to what they do best in 1962

Much like their self-titled 1958 debut, this 1962 long-player collects a number of A- and B-sides and adds a few album-only tracks. After their diversion into standards with 1960’s One by One, the group returned to Leiber & Stoller’s songbook and a driving R&B production style for the sides collected here. The hits are “What About Us” and “Little Egypt,” but there’s a lot more to recommend this album. The nursery rhyme “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me” opens the album with a luscious stereo production that spreads out the quartet’s vocals, and their early version of “Girls Girls Girls” is more laid-back than Elvis’ take, with a limbo bass line and vocal punctuations that mimic a train whistle. The album-only tracks include the mismatched lovers of Pomus & Shuman’s “The Snake and the Bookworm” and a swinging cover of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe.” Most imaginative of all is the retribution of Leiber & Stoller’s beer-drinking, poker-playing monkey in “Run Red Run.” Everything here is in true stereo except for “Wait a Minute,” which is mono. The jokiness of the earlier Coasters records is lessened, but the interplay of their vocals will always make you smile. To get a broader look at their hits, try The Very Best of the Coasters; to go deep check out Rhino Handmade’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On: The Coasters on Atco. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Coasters: The Coasters

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Coasters_CoastersThe Coasters’ 1958 debut LP

The Coasters first full-length LP is more an anthology than a purpose-built album, collecting half its fourteen songs from the pre-Coasters lineup of the Robins, and adding seven more by the first lineup to record under the Coasters name. Though the group changed more than half its members between the Robins and Coasters, the songs and production of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller provide a through line that gives the album an impressive consistency. The song list includes the group’s first four hit singles, “Down in Mexico,” “One Kiss Led to Another,” “Young Blood,” and “Searchin’,” alongside favorites “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “Framed,” and terrific, lesser-known sides “Wrap it Up” and the energetic “I Must Be Dreamin’.” The Coasters deftly combined deep R&B roots with a comedic approach that made their songs fun without turning them into novelties. You’ll smile every time you hear the Coasters, but you’ll never think of them as anything less than a consummate vocal group. To get a broader look at their hits, try The Very Best of the Coasters; to go deep check out Rhino Handmade’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On: The Coasters on Atco. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Drifters: Rock

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Drifters_RockThe early and upbeat sides of the Drifters

The Drifters have one of the most complicated family trees a group has ever assembled under a single name. Over the six decades since their inception the group’s lineup has been completely replaced, cycled through nearly four dozen members and spun off several splinter groups and solo careers. Most notable among the latter is the post-Drifter success of former lead singers Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King, each of whom were also inducted with their respective editions of the group into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The details of the group’s discography is as complicated as their membership, with big hits led by Clyde McPhatter, Johnny Moore, Bill Pinkney, Ben E. King, Johnny Lee Williams, Rudy Lewis and Charlie Thomas over a decade that stretched from 1953’s “Money Honey” through their last Top 10 R&B, 1965’s “At the Club.”

Like many bands of the early rock ‘n’ roll era, their catalog has been compressed by oldies radio, film soundtracks and greatest hits CDs to a handful singles that had the fortune to spring from the Brill Building and cross over to the pop charts. Starting with 1959’s “There Goes My Baby,” and continuing through early ’60s with “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway” and “Under the Boardwalk,” the Drifters carved what would become their most long-lasting image These hits represent the tenures of Ben E. King and Rudy Lewis, and the return of Johnny Moore after his hitch in the Army; wthey don’t tell are the upbeat R&B sides that the group waxed throughout their career, and especially in their early years with Clyde McPhatter out front.

Bear Family’s 32-track lineup samples tracks from 1953’s unreleased-at-the-time “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll” through 1959’s “Hey Senorita” and “Baltimore” (the latter pair featuring the distinctive sax of King Curtis), and a pair of stereo recordings from the 62/63, “I Feel Good All Over” and “If You Don’t Come Back.” Also included are spin-offs from Bill Pinkey’s Flyers (“On Bended Knee”) and Turks (“After the Hop” and “Sally’s Got a Sister”), and alternate takes of “Bip Bam,” “Such a Night” and “Drop Drop.” None of this is likely to be new to Drifters afficionados, but those who only know the early ’60s crossover ballads will be bowled over by the incendiary power this group sustained over the half-dozen lead vocalists (and countless studio musicians) featured here.

Eleven early sides showcase how Clyde McPhatter brought his gospel fire to secular sides, starting with the group’s very first session in June, 1953. The initial lineup pulled in a quartet of singers from McPhatter’s church group, and though his lead on “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll” pays off on the promise which lead to his signing, the Mount Lebanon Singers are just a touch too smooth to really bust loose. Atlantic prevailed upon McPhatter to develop a new lineup, and the reformed quintet hit the top of the R&B chart with their very first single, “Money Honey.” The same August, 1953 session found the lineup re-recording “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll,” and the differences — a slightly faster tempo, a bigger push from the piano, harder swinging sax and a more emphatic lead vocal — add up to something big.

The core of the new lineup — McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Andrew Thrasher and Gerhart Thrasher — defined the group’s first golden era, laying down mid-tempo tunes with Latin accents, bluesy doo-wop, upbeat R&B and proto-rock ‘n’ roll. McPhatter’s high tenor leads were filled with excitement, and the backing harmonies of his fellow Drifters were equally sophisticated and highly-charged. McPhatter’s draft notice and the lure of a solo career led to Bill Pinkney’s cool lead on 1955’s “No Sweet Lovin’,” and subsequently to a number of singles featuring Johnny Moore, including “Ruby Baby” (eight years before Dion’s bigger hit with the same title), “I Gotta Get Myself a Woman” and a bouncy cover of Terry Noland’s “Hypnotized” that actually beat the writer’s rockabilly version to market. The group’s financial structure (which rewarded their manager more than the singers) led to numerous defections, several of which resulted in singles from splinter groups such as the Flyers’ catchy “On Bended Knee,” and the Turks’ slapback-tinged sides from Sun’s Memphis studio.

After Moore was drafted, the spotlight fell to Bobby Hendricks, who helped gain the Drifters notice on the pop charts with a superb recording of Lieber & Stoller’s “Drop Drop,” offered here in its released single version and a stereo alternate take. Hendricks also sang lead on the rock ‘n’ roll “Itchy Twitchy Feeling,” borrowing members of the Coasters to fill out the vocal lineup. The group’s second golden age began with the arrival of Ben E. King and his fellow Five Crowns, and though this lineup’s crossover success was based primarily on uptown BrillBuilding ballads, King also sang grittier R&B material like “Hey Senorita” and “Baltimore.” King’s departure led to Rudy Lewis’ arrival, and continued success on the pop charts. Johnny Moore returned to the Drifters after his discharge from the services, scoring several more hits, waxing soulful sides like “If You Don’t Come Back” and leading the group through the mid-70s.

Since the end of the Drifter’s chart action, they’ve become more a catalog than a group — much like the charts of famous big bands. You can still find heritage groups touring under the Drifters and Original Drifters names, and thinly related or completely counterfeit lineups plying their trade at county fairs and in small clubs. The group’s recorded catalog has been anthologized in greatest hits discs that emphasize their crossover material of King and Moore, but their earlier material can be found on sets like Rhino’s out-of-print Rockin’ & Driftin’, a two-fer from Collectibles and Jasmine’s singles collection. Bear Family is the first to focus so sharply on the group’s lesser-heard upbeat sides, homing in on their early R&B work, sprinkling in some important splinter singles, and adding a few alternates takes. The set comes packed in a tri-fold digipack with a removable 49-page (!) booklet stuffed with pictures, lengthy liner notes by Bill Dahl and discographical detail. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Drifters’ Home Page
The Original Drifters’ Home Page

The Ad Libs: The Complete Blue Cat Recordings

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Astonishing stereo re-masters and demos of Brill-era vocal group

Blue Cat was a subsidiary of the Red Bird label started in 1964 by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The parent label cashed in on the girl group craze with the Dixie Cups and Shangri-Las, but Blue Cat also cracked the Top 10 with the label’s second single, “The Boy from New York City.” Written by saxophonist John T. Taylor, the song had a jazzy swing that gave the then-recently rechristened Ad Libs a distinct sound. The New Jersey quintet featured Mary Ann Thomas singing lead and a smooth male quartet providing backing vocals. A second single, “He Ain’t No Angel,” was penned by Red Bird’s house team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (and previously waxed by the Lovejoys for Tiger), but label turmoil stalled the single on the bottom rungs of the Top 100. Two more singles, “On the Corner” and “I’m Just a Down Home Girl,” fared even worse and led to the group’s departure from Blue Cat.

Judging solely by the charts, the Ad Libs were a four-single, one-hit wonder; but as this twenty-three track collection shows, there was a lot more to their catalog than found broad public acclaim. In addition to the group’s four A’s and B’s, Real Gone’s gathered a clutch of unreleased tracks, alternate versions and a cappella demos that give full testimony to the group’s vocal talent and their production team’s ability to craft memorable melodic and instrumental hooks. The B-sides are anything but throwaways, with “Kicked Around” sporting an incredible jazz bass line, sly organ bed and maddeningly memorable triangle figure behind Thomas’ thirsty flower vocal. “Ask Anybody” is a dance tune touched by doo-wop, blues and gospel, and the male leads on “Oo-Wee Oh Me Oh My” and “Johnny My Boy” show the group had more than one vocalist capable of holding the spotlight.

The finished track “The Slime” went unreleased, and, sadly, was deprived of the opportunity to ignite a worldwide dance craze based on melting like butter down in the gutter. The set’s other unreleased master, “You’ll Always Be in Style,” adds a touch of Latin soul. The set’s most arresting find, however, are seven mono a cappella demos that starkly highlight the group’s melding of doo-wop and vocal jazz. In addition to demos of singles sides (including a take on “The Boy from New York City” that shows the hit single’s more relaxed tempo to have been the right choice), four additional titles are featured, including the holiday-themed “Santa’s on His Way.” The five alternate takes include a version of “The Boy from New York City” with a distractingly present trumpet riff, and the disc is filled out with seven tracking sessions that provide a rare peak inside the studio.

Reissue producer Ron Furmanek has re-mastered many of these tracks (1-4, 6-9, 18-30) in stereo from the original 3- and 4-track master session tapes. At times, particularly on the singles, the separation and clarity of the vocals and instruments is disconcerting to ears trained by original mono singles heard through AM radio. That said, even with handclaps and backing vocals panned hard left and right, the soundstage still hangs together reasonably well, even when individual elements (such as the honking saxophone on “He Ain’t No Angel”) stand a bit forward. The tracking sessions are interesting, but fresh re-masters of the original mono singles would have been a more long-lasting treat. Real Gone’s four-panel slipcase includes a 12-page booklet with lengthy liner notes and an introduction by the Manhattan Transfer’s Tim Hauser. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Carole King: The Legendary Demos

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

CaroleKing_TheLegendaryDemosA too-brief set of ‘60s and ‘70s Carole King demos

Demos are an industry currency that fans don’t often get to hear. They’re an audio notebook in which songwriters sketch their vision, either for themselves, or more intriguingly, for those to whom they wish to sell songs. In the case of a singer-songwriter like Carole King, there are both kinds of entries in her notebooks – writer’s demos that were inclined towards the sound and style of a potential client and initial renderings of songs that King would sing herself, including five tunes written for her 1971 breakthrough, Tapestry, and another, “Like Little Children,” written in the mid-60s but recorded 30 years later for the film Crazy in Alabama.

An earlier, unauthorized, volume of King’s demos and early solo recordings, Brill Buliding Legends: The Right Girl, gave a glimpse into her years as a Brill Building songwriter. But that volume fell short of its full promise, by including demos for songs that were never commercially recorded or never broke on the charts. Though interesting in their own right, these lesser works said more about the hard work that goes into getting a hit single than they did about the development of King’s best-known titles. Not so with this authorized volume of King demos, which not only offers up a few key Brill Building-era demos, but extends into her solo work as a successful performer.

The three major Brill-era hits included here in demo form are the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby” and the Everly Brothers’ “Crying in the Rain.” The first is surprisingly different from the hit single, with King’s folk-rock demo more wistful and forgiving than the skeptical and mocking tone of the Monkees take. The second, on the other hand, seems to anticipate Bobby Vee’s style, and though the single is more fully orchestrated, the mood and hooks were all there in the demo. Others, such as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” reveal their foundations – in this case, the gospel chords of King’s piano and the freedom of her vocals – even more clearly in these stripped down versions.

As with The Right Girl, this volume is only a small taste of the demos that led to King’s catalog of hits and terrific album tracks. The Monkees’ obscure “So Goes Love” (recorded for, but not released on, their first album) is no substitute for “Take a Giant Step,” “Sometime in the Morning,” “Star Collector” or “The Porpoise Song,” and demos for hits by Gene Pitney, the Cookies, Little Eva, Steve Lawrence, Freddie Scott, the Chiffons, the Drifters, Maxine Brown and many others, not to mention most of King’s terrific solo work, are still to be heard. Rumors have swirled as to the song publishers blocking release of King’s demos, but with this peek inside the vault now public, it’s time for whatever else that can be found to see the digital light of day. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Carole King’s Home Page

Various Artists: The Essential Phil Spector

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Spector’s genius before, during and after Philles

After decades of uneven reissues – dribs and drabs in the U.S. and abroad – Phil Spector’s catalog is finally being cross-licensed for reissue. The first break came with the catalog’s owner, ABKCO, issuing the Back to Mono set in 1991; but the larger breakthrough has been the licensing to Universal and Sony/Legacy that’s resulted in the Phil Spector Collection and a set of artist compilations on the Crystals, Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans issued earlier this year. That licensing is now paying additional dividends with the release of Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection and this new 34-track Phil Spector collection. Note that this 2-CD set is a Phil Spector volume rather than one dedicated solely to his years with Philles.

The set opens with pre-Philles sides from the Teddy Bears (Spector’s first #1), Ray Peterson, Ben E. King, Curtis Lee, Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters. The tour through his hits at Philles includes The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Darlene Love, the Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, and Ike and Tina Turner. Outside of Philles is a cover of the Beatles’ “Hold Me Tight” that mixes ‘50s doo-wop singing with Spector’s evolving production style, and Spector’s brilliant original “Black Pearl,” by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates. The latter suggested a continuing run as a dominant auteur in the ‘70s, but it didn’t go that way. Legacy’s done a fine job of cross-licensing material from K-Tel, Universal, Warner, EMI and others to pull together a compelling picture of Spector’s hit singles.

Given the wide availability of nearly everything here, this isn’t going to satisfy Spector collectors, but it’s a concise tour through the highlights of his most productive years. Its look at the Philles catalog isn’t as thorough as the earlier multi-disc sets, but the inclusion of pre- and post-Philles sides, hits by the Righteous Brothers, Ike & Tina’s “River Deep, Mountain High” and Sonny Charles’ “Black Pearl,” paint a picture that tells the tale from Spector’s first hit to his last as a producer who’s name rose above those of his artists. This set fits nicely between the single disc Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector and the two-disc import Phil Spector Collection, and will inform a new generation of listeners for whom the revolutionary producer’s infamy has eclipsed his fame. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Six original Philles albums plus B-side instrumental bonuses

Much like the Cameo-Parkway catalog, Phil Spector’s seminal records of the 1960s are only recently starting to see the reissues they deserve. For years they were reissued in dribs and drabs – greatest hits packages repeating the same chart entries, hard-to-find vinyl albums from the UK leaking out stereo mixes, reissues of the Christmas album, and so on. The 1991 box set Back to Mono and the more recent Phil Spector Collection each dug more deeply into the catalog, but there was still much to be done. With Sony’s Legacy division having obtained reissue rights, 2011 kicked off with anthologies of the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love and Spector’s other hit productions. The reissues now continue with this box set of six original Philles albums, packaged in reproduction mini-LP sleeves.

Among the albums are three by the Crystals (although, as will be seen, they hold little more than one album’s worth of original material), one each by the Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, and a 1963 collection of label hits. Philles, like the pop music industry of its time, was focused on singles, with albums being little more than promotional afterthoughts. These albums were built around existing singles, and filled out with previously released material and album sides. Though some of the album material failed to match the brilliance of the hits, and the productions weren’t always as lavish, neither were the tracks often throwaway filler. The Philles singles pipeline was well-stocked through these years, and otherwise hit-worthy tracks simply couldn’t find room in the release schedule. The set’s designated filler is disc seven’s collection of instrumental B-sides; but even here you get the Wrecking Crew in their prime.

The box kicks off with PHLP-4000, The Crystals Twist Uptown from 1962, which opens with the group’s second hit, Mann & Weil’s thrilling urban love song, “Uptown.” Their first hit, the divine “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” is here too, but it’s the album tracks that are likely to be new to many listeners. Spector’s co-write with Doc Pomus, “Another Country – Another World,” puts a fresh spin on an outcast love by replacing class separation with a cultural divide. Several of the songs, including “Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby” (featuring Patsy Wright on lead vocal) and “What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen,” feel the pull of ‘50s doo-wop and earlier girl groups like the Chantels, but the swirling strings, clacking castanets and underlying baion beats mark these as Spector’s. The album take of “On Broadway” predates the Drifters hit, and the group’s cover of “Gee Whiz” (retitled “Gee Whiz Look at His Eyes (Twist)”) followed Carla Thomas’ original by a year.

The Crystal’s second album, PHLP-4001 He’s a Rebel, was released in 1963 to capitalize on the hit single “He’s a Rebel.” The track list repeats nine selections from the debut, dropping “Please Hurt Me” and “Gee Whiz,” and adding the title single alongside the hit “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and the notorious “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).” The title hit holds two major distinctions: it was Spector’s first chart topper with Philles (he’d scored a #1 with the Teddy Bears in 1958), and it wasn’t actually the Crystals singing – it was Darlene Love (obscurely referenced by her then-married name Darlene Peete in Mick Patrick’s liner notes) and the Blossoms. Accounts vary as to how the Crystals name was bestowed upon Darlene Love, and it’s unclear if the failure of “He Hit Me” (a song whose violent theme is all the more chilling given Spector’s personal history) was a factor, but Spector began recording Love and her backing group in Los Angeles and hit the jackpot with “He’s a Rebel,” as well as “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.”

The group’s third album, PHLP-4003 The Crystals Sing The Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 isn’t entirely a Crystals album. It includes only one new Crystals recording, 1963’s “Da Doo Ron Ron” (featuring Lala Brooks on lead vocal) and fills out the track list with repeats from the group’s first two albums, the leftover “Look in My Eyes”, and four dance-themed titles (three covered from the Cameo-Parkway catalog: “The Wah Watusi,” “Mashed Potato Time” and “The Twist”) sung by the Ronettes. The latter had yet to release anything on Philles, and these covers weren’t repeated on Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. Still, with the Crystal’s second album having mostly repeated their first, and their third cherry-picking from the first two, Spector showed his allegiance to the single as his ultimate format, as well as his savvy in picking the pockets of unsuspecting record buyers.

Philles’ third album, PHLP-4002 Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, was dedicated to Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, a group that had three hit singles. Two of the hits are here, and the third (“Not Too Young to Get Married”) is on disc five of this set, Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits. Bob B. Soxx was vocalist Bobby Sheen, who was supposed to be backed by Darlene Love and her fellow Blossom, Fanita James. But once they began to record, Spector had Love step to the front and provide the lead vocals for everything but “Dear (Here Comes My Baby)” and the bluesy “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right.” The album tracks generally haven’t the energy of the singles, with album filler like “White Cliffs of Dover” trying, but mostly failing to capture the magic of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The one real discovery, aside from Sheen’s two tracks, is the funky Jackie DeShannon tune “I Shook the World.” The album closes with the instrumental B-side “Dr. Kaplan’s Office,” suggesting that Spector lost interest before producing a full album of twelve tracks.

The Ronettes only full-length album, PHLP-4006 Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, was issued in 1964 and collected their five biggest hits, “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” “Do I Love You?” and “Walking in the Rain.” Also included was their earlier recording of “So Young,” credited at that time to Veronica, a pair of non-charting singles (“How Does it Feel?” and “When I Saw You”) and four album tracks (“I Wonder,” “What’d I Say,” “You Baby,” and “Chapel of Love,” the latter written for the group and recorded the year before the Dixie Cups had a hit, but not issued as a single). The album peaked at #96, and though the group would release excellent singles in 1965 and 1966 (and record many that Spector withheld, including “Girls Can Tell” and “Paradise”), their star had peaked. The album, never before officially reissued on CD in its original form, continues to be a collector’s item, and is presented here, like all tracks in this box, in mono.

The fifth disc in this collection, PHLP-4004 Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits, repeats six tracks from the Crystals’, Ronettes’ and Bob. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ albums, but fills in six more Philles hits. Chief among them is the Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” and a pair of favorites by Darlene Love (“Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home” and “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”), but also essential is Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ third hit (“Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts”), Darlene Love’s “Playing for Keeps” and the Alley Cats’ energetic doo-wop “Puddin ‘n’ Tain,” featuring Bobby (“Soxx”) Sheen on high-tenor. The added tracks flesh out the Philles picture, and the repeated tracks provide further evidence of albums being marketing items rather than artistic statements.

The last disc in this collection, credited to The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra, and titled Phil’s Flipsides, presents the rarest material. The seventeen B-sides are instrumental flipsides of Spector hits, duly purposed to be cheap to produce,  and to keep DJs focused on the A-sides. These are a mix of backing tracks and two-minute jams by Spector’s assembled workforce, name-checking Wrecking Crew stars (and Spector’s psychiatrist and first wife) in the song titles. In addition to the pop sounds you’d expect from Spector’s band, there are some fine jazz and blues workouts, with sax, piano and guitar stretching out on lead and Julius Wechter’s vibraphone adding atmosphere. Spector’s instrumental B’s for the short-lived Phil Spector label (“Larry L.” and “Chubby Danny D”) are included, but contemporaneous flips on Annette (including “Beatle Blues”) and Shirley are omitted.

Each of the albums clock in at roughly 30 minutes, suggesting these could have been doubled-up, but it’s hard to fault Legacy’s artistic decision to reissue each in their original form in mini-LP sleeves. Given U.S. royalty laws (which charge per-track, rather than per-album), two-fers wouldn’t necessarily have cost any less anyway. There’s one album missing from Philles initial run, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which has been reissued several times, most recently in 2009. The tail-end of Philles album releases, including three from the Righteous Brothers, one from Lenny Bruce, and the aborted 1966 release of Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep – Mountain High await a second box. The Turner title was issued in 1969 by A&M and reissued earlier this year by Hip-O Select.

All of the albums have been newly transferred by Kabir Hermon and Steve Rosenthal, and remastered by Vic Anesini, but some collectors will no doubt grouse about the lack of stereo mixes, particularly the well-circulated Ronettes and Christmas cuts. Others will note the repetition within the box, overlap between the box and the group compilations released earlier this year, the lack of rare and unreleased material, etc.; all fair criticisms, but really beside the point. Legacy is scratching an itch felt by many collectors to get reproductions of the original artifacts – the original albums. Is it a good value? That depends on how highly you prize what Legacy’s reproducing, rather than what they’re not. Spector may have dismissed albums as two hits and ten pieces of filler, but his vanity as a producer rarely let him attach his name to junk. The concentration of A-list singing, playing, producing, arranging and writing represented on these discs is nearly unprecedented, making even the instrumental B-sides shine brightly. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Preview: The Philles Album Collection

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Coming on October 18th is a box set that many Phil Spector fans have been waiting for. The seven-disc set will include six original albums from Spector’s Philles label:

  • The Crystals Twist Uptown (The Crystals, 1962)
  • He’s a Rebel (The Crystals, 1963)
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, 1963)
  • The Crystals Sing the Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (The Crystals, 1963)
  • Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits (Various, 1963)
  • Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (The Ronettes, 1964)

and a bonus disc,

  • Phil’s Flipsides (The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra)

This represents six of Philles’ first seven albums (the seventh, A Christmas Gift for You, has been reissued separately and as part of box sets several times), and includes numerous non-hit album tracks that have not been included on standard Spector anthologies. The bonus disc provides sixteen rare B-sides that Spector used to pad his hit singles (and, with no commercial appeal, to ensure jocks stuck to the A-side). On the same day, a two-CD hits collection, The Essential Phil Spector, will be released.

You can pre-order the box set at www.philspector.com and Amazon.com, or find it through standard retail on October 18th. Check back here for a review in October!

Willy DeVille: Come a Little Bit Closer – The Best of Willy DeVille

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Moving collection of live performances drawn from 1977-2005

At first it seemed only a matter of timing that had Willy Deville and his band, Mink DeVille, part of the New York punk rock scene. Though they shared a stage with the Ramones, Patti Smith and Television (and toured with Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello), their music drew more from the Brill Building than CBGB. Signed to Capitol, the band’s first four albums were produced by Phil Spector protégés Jack Nitzsche and Steve Douglas, and each brilliantly melded the Drifters’ romanticism with electric blues, Latin influences and the downtown edginess of the Velvet Underground. What really made DeVille fit among the punk rock scene was his artistic daring; the band’s fine-tuned productions were the polar opposite of punk rock’s DIY aesthetic, but their music was a comrade in the sort of emotional authenticity that challenged the reign of corporate rock.

DeVille provided a visual center point for the act with his bouffant hair and pencil-thin mustache, crooning perfectly crafted originals and well-selected covers. Those who saw them in club dates, or touring concert halls with Lowe and Costello were regularly blown away by DeVille’s showmanship and the resonance of his music. Eagle Records’ seventeen-track set cherry picks live performances from 1977 through 2005, collecting along the way many of DeVille’s best originals, including “Venus of Avenue D,” “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” “Spanish Stroll,” “Just Your Friends,” “Just to Walk That Little Girl Home” (co-written with Doc Pomus) and a moving version of his Oscar-nominated end-title theme for The Princess Bride, “Storybook Love.” Also included are covers of songs he made his own, including Moon Martin’s “Cadillac Walk” and Barry & Greenwich’s “Little Girl.”

Though DeVille issued live albums and DVDs of specific concert dates, this is the first set to draw across his early years with Mink DeVille and his later years as a solo artist. With his passing in 2009, his recorded legacy remains a shining light for fans to revisit and new listeners to discover. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]