Posts Tagged ‘Capitol’

Merle Haggard: The Complete ‘60s Capitol Singles

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

MerleHaggard_TheComplete60sCapitolSinglesHaggard’s original 1960s Capitol singles – A’s and B’s

As with their collections of singles on Wanda Jackson and George Jones, Ominvore’s anthology of twenty-eight Merle Haggard sides – fourteen A’s and their respective B’s – shows off a perspective not covered by greatest hits collections or original album reissues. In addition to Haggard’s thirteen charting 1960s Capitol A-sides (eight of which topped the charts), the set includes the non-charting “Shade Tree Fix-it-Man.” Haggard wrote all but one of the A-sides (“The Fugitive,” penned by Liz Anderson), and most of the flips, but his first Capitol single was backed by a lush-stringed arrangement of Ralph Mooney’s “Falling for You,” and he later covered Anderson’s sorrowful “This Town’s Not Big Enough.”

Haggard’s B-sides are far from the filler many producers used to force DJ’s onto the plug side; the productions were carefully crafted, and the instrumental backings are often highlighted by Ralph Mooney’s piercing steel and Roy Nichols’ sharply picked electric and resophonic guitars. It’s hard to imagine how DJs kept themselves from flipping “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” to play the equally attractive “I Started Loving You Again.” There are a few lighter sides, like “The Girl Turned Ripe,” but the lyrics are most often of afflicted love – relationships bound to end, ending, or receding too slowly in the rear view mirror. Haggard’s jazzier inclinations come out on Hank Cochran’s “Loneliness is Eating Me Alive” and the original “Good Times,” and his love of Jimmie Rodgers is heard in a cover of “California Blues.”

The collection includes singles that are among Haggard’s best and most loved recordings, commencing (with “Swinging Doors”) a run of top-charting singles that ran for nearly twenty-five years. All twenty-eight sides are remastered from the original singles mixes, and in mono for everything but 1969’s “Okie From Muskogee” and it’s flip “If I Had Left it Up to You.” The sound is crisp and leaps from the speakers, and the sixteen-page booklet includes session and release data, photos, ephemera and new liner notes by ace guitarist Deke Dickerson. Those looking for a broader recitation of Haggard’s career should seek out the 4-CD Down Every Road, Bear Family’s box sets [1 2 3 4], or the numerous reissues of his original album (including many two-fers of his Capitol work); but for a great listen to his initial run as a hit-maker, this set is a first-class ticket. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Merle Haggard’s Home Page

Wanda Jackson: The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013


Recent collections of singles from Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles and others have shed new light on much-loved performers. In addition to well-known hits, these anthologies highlight the valiant misses and B-sides that faded from an artist’s repertoire as their catalog was reduced to greatest hits collections. Wanda Jackson’s rockabilly and country recordings have been well-served in reissue, with both original albums and anthologies in print, but Omnivore’s 29-track collection provides an expanded view of her career as a singles artist. In addition to her well-loved A-sides “Hot Dog! That Made Him Made,” “Cool Love,” “Fujiyama Mama,” “Honey Bop,” “Mean Mean Man,” “Rock Your Baby,” “Let’s Have a Party,” “Riot in Cell Block Number Nine,” “Right or Wrong,” and “In the Middle of a Heartache,” the set is stocked with ace chart-misses and B-sides.

As early as 1956 Jackson was backing up her incendiary rockabilly singles with country flips that included “Half a Good a Girl” and the maiden recording of Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds’ “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” She added a rockabilly croon to the Cadillacs’ bluesy doo-wop B-side “Let Me Explain” and shined brightly on Boudleaux Bryant’s calypso novelty “Don’a Wan’a.” Her ballads were often backed by Jordanaires-styled male harmonies and hard-twanging guitars (courtesy of A-list players Joe Maphis and Buck Owens) that keep her rock ‘n’ roll roots simmering. Even more straightforward country weepers like “No Wedding Bells for Joe” and “Sinful Heart” have downbeats that are more insistent than their Nashville contemporaries.

Jackson’s original “Little Charm Bracelet” didn’t make the charts, but it’s a cleverly written story of a relationship’s hopeful start and interrupted ending. Fans may be surprised to find that the favorite “Funnel of Love” was actually a B-side (to the country hit “Right or Wrong”), as the release signaled the beginnings of Jackson’s transition to the country charts. Still, even as the A-sides turned country, the B-sides held onto their sass with originals “I’d Be Ashamed” and “You Bug Me Bad,” and a bouncy version of Bobby Bare’s “Sympathy.” The productions are split between Los Angeles (tracks 1-17) and Nashville (tracks 18-29), and while the latter show countrypolitan touches, several of Jackson’s hottest rock ‘n’ roll records were recorded with Roy Clark and other Music City luminaries.

Jackson’s still recording vital new works today, including a 2012 release produced by Justin Townes Earle. There have also been anthologies of her rockabilly sides, best-ofs [1 2], album reissues [1 2 3 4], and box sets that tell the complete story from 1954 through 1973 [1 2]. Every one of these sets has something to offer, as does Omnivore’s look at Jackson’s singles from her rockabilly and initial country years. This isn’t a complete retelling, as its missing non-LP singles and leaves the last decade of her run on Capitol unexplored, but what’s here, all in superbly crafted mono, is terrific. The A-sides are well-known but not worn-out, the B-sides rare treasures, and the 16-page booklet includes fresh liner notes from Daniel Cooper, session and release data, photos and ephemera. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Wanda Jackson’s Home Page

Heart: Strange Euphoria

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Career-spanning 3-CD/1-DVD box set with many previously unreleased treats

There has been no shortage of hits packages for Heart, starting with 1980’s Heart’s Greatest Hits: Live, which at the time seemed to sum up a fading band’s run of commercial success. But with the release of 1985’s Heart, the Wilson sisters sparked a major comeback with their band, and by 1995, set off nearly annual production of anthologies and album reissues. In addition to single- and double-disc sets (including 1998’s Greatest Hits and 2002’s Essential), the band released a live run-through of their debut album on both CD and DVD. But as the band’s career stretched into the twenty-first century with Jupiters Darling and Red Velvet Car, and the Wilson sisters recorded solo and with their side-project, The Lovemongers, existing anthologies have fallen out of date.

Epic/Legacy cures this problem with a 3-CD, 1-DVD set that expands across Heart’s entire recorded legacy, including hits, album sides, live performances, demos and rarities. And rounding out the Wilsons’ legacy are solo selections and a pair by the Lovemongers. All together, twenty of the CDs’ fifty-one tracks are previously unreleased, and the DVD serves up a fifty-five minute live performance recorded in 1976 at Washington State University’s television station, KWSU. The opening instrumental of this vintage performance, as well as a scorching version of “Sing Child Sing,” shows the group’s progressive colors, but as they kick into “Heartless,” it’s clear that Heart was ready to rock. Hard. With the band’s debut album just released, they had the goods, but not yet the fame the album’s hits would bring. The video’s lighting, camera work and mono sound are good, and the picture (including some primitive special effects) holds up well for something no one probably thought would become historically important.

The CD set begins the Wilsons’ very first single, “Through Eyes and Glass” recorded as Ann Wilson & The Daybreaks in 1968, and released locally on the Topaz label. Key elements of Heart can be heard in the elder Wilson’s voice and flute, though the brooding mood is more connected to 1960s ballrooms than 1970s arenas. Skipping ahead to mid-70s demos, it feels as if the gauze of ‘60s acid culture has been lifted. Even in this early form, “Magic Man,” crackles with passion in both the rhythm and vocals. There’s a healthy dose of neo-psych in the guitar solo, but the song is undeniably powerful and anthemic. Other demos, such as “How Deep it Goes” and “Crazy on You,” are closer to final form, with Heart’s signature blend of electric and hard-strummed acoustic in place on the latter. Ann Wilson had yet to unleash her full vocal power in these demos, but you can hear how the songs will push her to great heights.

Though the box set covers songs from all thirteen Heart studio albums, they’re presented in a mix of studio, live and demo versions. The disputed Magazine album is represented by demos of “Here Song” and “Heartless,” the first of which actually sounds more polished than its album release, and a live version of “Devil Delight” that appears on the DVD. 1990’s Brigade offers up a demo of “Under the Sky” that is truly compelling in its lack of big studio gloss. Other demos, like the acoustic-guitar accompanied “Dog & Butterfly” show off the Wilsons’ songwriting, rather than Heart’s instrumental and production talents. Although the band’s commercial fortunes began to decline after 1980’s Bebe le Strange, they returned to commercial dominance in 1985 with five singles from Heart. Chief among the successes, and indicative of the band’s changes, was “These Dreams.” Written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page, and sung by Nancy Wilson, the sound traded in the band’s guitar rock for synth-dominated modern pop, and navigated the commercial winds for the band’s first chart topper.

Heart remained commercially vital throughout the ‘80s, with Bad Animals and Brigade selling multi-platinum and spinning off multiple charting singles, but artistically, their demos, such as the terrific “Unconditional Love” and “Under the Sky” often showed more earthiness and soul than their heavily-produced albums. The first-half of the set’s third-disc is devoted to non-Heart material from the Lovemongers, solo performances, and live and demo tracks that were never remade in the studio. With the big hair ‘90s receding in the rear view mirror, the Wilsons returned to the more organic rock and blues roots with which they started the ‘70s, and the demos show that they still had ideas other people couldn’t fathom as Heart material. The disc closes out with songs from the band’s last three albums, plus “Little Problems, Little Lies,” from Ann Wilson’s solo release.

Curated by Ann and Nancy Wilson, with notes that detail how songs and performances came into being, this is an artist’s view of their career, and one that may not completely agree with a fan’s perspective. The demos and live tracks provide new angles on well-known songs, and the video gives latter-day fans a peek at what they missed seeing and hearing live in the mid-70s. Someone looking for a recitation of the biggest hits in their original form is better off with a single-disc collection or a couple of original albums; with nearly two-dozen charting singles (including a handful of Top 10s) missing from the track lineup, this box is more of a supplement to a Heart fan’s existing collection than a place to start one anew. At over an hour each, the CDs are well stocked, and the live video is an unparalleled treat. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Heart’s Home Page

Durocs: Durocs

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Clever late-70s studio rock finally rescued from obscurity

The Durocs 1979 debut (and, as it turns out, album swansong) was a singular combination of collaborators and the times in which they collaborated. The two principals, Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews, had already been working together for a few years when they signed a deal with Capitol in the late ‘70s. Nagle had co-founded San Francisco’s Mystery Trend in 1965, playing key venues and releasing a single on Verve. He went on to record a Jack Nitzsche-produced solo album, Bad Rice, in 1970, but garnered his primary renown as a ceramicist and university art professor. Mathews was a songwriter and producer whose multi-instrumental talents made him something of a child prodigy. The pair wrote songs for other artists and produced audio for film soundtracks, leading them, via their connection to Nitasche, to Capitol.

Nagle and Mathews produced the album with Elliot Mazur, in their own San Franciscostudio, overdubbing most of the instruments and vocals, and adding selected guests, such as sax player Steve Douglas. Their thick production sound brings to mind Todd Rundgren (both as an artist and producer), the Tubes (for whom Nagle co-wrote the signature “Don’t Touch Me There”), and Phil Spector’s later work on the Ramones’ 1981 End of the Century. Nagle explains in the liner notes, “restraint just wasn’t our forte at the time,” which explains both their over-the-top production and the enthusiasms of their lyrics. They’re equally unbridled confessing the shame of a cuckold as they are reveling in the connections of a successful relationship. They excoriate the excesses of ‘70s self-empowerment as easily as they offer reassurance to a partner in need.

The album gained fans inEuropeand on college radio, but failed commercially, despite two inventive promotional videos. The Durocs slipped through Capitol during a brief moment of major label adventurousness, and the band’s inventiveness is finally rewarded by this reissue, thirty-three years after the fact. Real Gone adds eight bonus tracks that fit stylistically with the original album, highlighted by a cross of Mitch Ryder, Mink DeVille and a modern rock guitar on “No Big Deal,” the baritone-guitar country twang “Drinkin’ One Day at a Time,” and Ernie K-Doe’s bizarre autobiographical monolog on “Nawgahide.” The two-panel slip-sleeve has a microscopic reproduction of the lyrics, and an eight-page booklet includes liner notes by Gene Sculatti. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Rick Springfield: Beginnings

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The early ‘70s singer-songwriter roots of Rick Springfield

By the time that Rick Springfield hit it big as a pop star, with 1981’s “Jessie’s Girl,” his fame as an actor all but obscured his very real roots as a musician. But a decade before topping the U.S. charts, Springfield was a working musician in the rock band Zoot (on whose heavy cover of “Eleanor Rigby” a young Springfield can be seen playing guitar) and a solo artist with a Top 10 hit in Australia. A reworked version of that hit single, “Speak to the Sky,” reached the Billboard Top 20, and took this debut album into the Top 40. The 1981 view of a dilettante actor dabbling in music is wiped away by this record of his earlier work, for which Springfield wrote ten original tunes, sang and played guitar, keyboards and banjo.

Springfield’s songs and the production sound are heavily indebted to late ‘60s and early ‘70s rock, particularly the bass, drums and piano sounds of the Beatles, Badfinger and Big Star. The album mixes deeper numbers with bubblegum, showing Springfield’s voice to work well in both heavy and light arrangements. “The Unhappy Ending” anticipates the histrionics of Queen (and presages the opening of “Killer Queen”), while the happy-go-lucky (but war-tinged) “Hooky Jo” sports hooks worthy of Kasnetz-Katz and Graham Gouldman. Springfield’s infatuation with Paul McCartney is evidenced by the album’s chugging beats, but there are notes of soul, country-rock and pop.

The publicity build-up Springfield received with the album’s success leaned to teen idoldom, and though a few of his songs offered the romance expected by readers of Tiger Beat, he also wrote of faith, regret, marital traps and suicide. The disconnect between his publicity and music, coupled with a disastrous rumor that Capitol was inflating sales numbers, doomed Springfield’s initial into the U.S. market. Three more albums failed to right those wrongs until 1981’s Working Class Dog, bolstered by his role on General Hospital, earned him pop stardom. In addition to being a lost gem of early ‘70s pop, this debut shows Springfield’s success as a musician was honest, hard-won, and only by lucky timing the by-product of his acting fame. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Rick Springfield’s Home Page

Carole King: Pearls – Songs of Goffin and King

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Legendary singer-songwriter revisits her catalog

Originally released in 1980, the last of four long-players King recorded for Capitol, this album is a hit-and-miss affair touched in several places by the slick studio sound of its era. The idea of having King revisit pearls in her songwriting catalog was a good one, but unlike Tapestry’s emotional reclaiming of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” few of these renditions vastly improve on the earlier, better-known hits or provide revelatory insight into Goffin & King’s intentions. The album’s greatest commercial distinction was its single, a cover of the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day,” which gave King her last Top 40 hit, but the earthy power of her voice is compromised in several spots by smooth keyboards, studio-tuned tom-toms and bar band blues arrangements. Still, King gives emotionally fulfilling performances of Freddie Scott’s “Hey Girl,” Maxine Brown’s “Oh No, Not My Baby” and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Hi-De-Ho,” and thrives in a version of “Snow Queen” that weds The City’s original jazz groove to the Association’s vocal thickness. The closing cover of the Byrds’ “Goin’ Back” is truly superb, and shows just how easily King could reclaim her songs, as she’d done in bits and pieces on earlier records (e.g., “I Wasn’t Born to Follow” from Now That Everything’s Been Said, “Up on the Roof” from Writer and “Some Kind of Wonderful” from Music). Her first attempt to do so at album length pays some dividends, but isn’t the artistic triumph one might have hoped for. Rockingale Records (the label King founded in 2006) has returned this album to print in 2012 sans bonus tracks, and added an eight-page booklet that includes song lyrics and album artwork. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Carole King: Touch the Sky

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Carole King recovers from the death of her third husband

King’s third album for Capitol was originally released in 1978, and is now being reissued on her own Rockingdale imprint with the original track list and an eight-page booklet that includes liner notes, lyrics, photos and album art. Unlike her other Capitol albums, this was recorded in Austin, Texas, with a soulful group of musicians who were then backing Jerry Jeff Walker. The country-tinged sound is a great deal earthier than the slick studio work on Simple Things and Welcome Home, and King is more contemplative in voice and melancholy in lyrical mood, no doubt due to the death of her third husband, Rick Evers, earlier in the year.

That said, King remained, as she had been on her two previous Capitol albums, generally optimistic. There’s genuine pain in “Dreamlike I Wander,” but she realizes you can both remember and move forward, providing herself the opportunity to heal on “Walk With Me” and emotional advice and pep talks with “Move Lightly,” “Passing of the Days” and “Eagle.” Leo LeBlanc’s pedal steel and Mark Hallman’s mandolin fit nicely behind King’s more emotional vocals, and though she only plays piano on three tracks, Reese Wymans adds expressive keyboards throughout the rest of the album.

The socially conscious themes heard on Welcome Home continue here with the environmentalism of “Seeing Red” and “Time Gone By,” the latter inspired in part by Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, and the back-to-the-land hippies-and-rednecks idealism of “Good Mountain People.” King digs deeper for this album than she’d done for the previous two, and the country-rock backings are both a welcome change and an excellent fit. The borrowed band is sensitive and soulful, providing delicate musical annotations for King’s lyrics and playing out several songs with deep instrumental grooves. After two pedestrian albums, this (and the next, Pearls) found King back on track. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Carol King: Welcome Home

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

A middling Carole King album with a few moments of inspiration

Carole King’s second album for Capitol was originally released in 1978, and is now being reissued on her own Rockingale imprint with its original track list and an eight-page booklet that includes liner notes, lyrics, photos and album art. The songwriting continued her work with then-third-husband Rick Evers, who co-wrote two of the titles, and also continued King’s weakening commercial success. The album scratched just below the Hot 100, and a lone single (“Morning Sun”) just missed the A/C Top 40. As on her Capitol debut, Simple Things, King’s songs are incredibly optimistic, perhaps sparked by the communal living she and Evers had set up. Evers died, reportedly of a heroin overdose, a few months after the album was recorded, so the album’s sunny vibe was thrown into shadow by the songwriter’s loss.

King reaches back to the Brill Building for the cruisin’ themed “Main Street Saturday Night,” but it doesn’t crackle with the authenticity of her earlier work, and Evers’ new-agey lyrics for “Sun Bird” must have seemed deep at the time, but don’t hold a candle to the expressiveness of even King’s lesser works. Even stranger is the catchy “Venusian Diamond,” which combines late-60s Beatleisms with the too-clean studio sounds that marked many productions of the era. Even that’s explainable compared to the bandwagon “Disco Tech,” though even here you get the sense that King has a deeper sense of music’s primordial hold on the soul than many of the hacks writing disco at the time.

A more conventional pop expression of her love is heard in “Ride the Music,” and the following “Everybody’s Got the Spirit” continues the community theme which closed her previous album in “One.” The album’s most emotionally satisfying lyric is in its closing title song, offering the warmth of the California canyon music she wrote nearly a decade earlier. It too has its hippie moments, but closes a pleasant, but ultimately pedestrian Carole King album on a strong and memorable note. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Carol King’s Home Page

Carole King: Simple Things

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Carole King’s 1977 Capitol debut

Previously reissued on CD in Japan, King’s 1977 Capitol debut is now being reissued domestically on her own Rockingale imprint with its original ten tracks and an eight-page booklet that includes lyrics and album art. Simple Things was King’s last album to reach the Top 20 and be certified Gold, breaking a string of Top 10’s that stretched back to 1971’s Tapestry. This set also includes her first collaborations with future-third-husband Rick Evans, who co-wrote three songs. Like all four of her Capitol releases, Simple Things showcases King’s songwriting craft, soulful voice and keyboard playing, but failed to make a serious dent in the charts. Even her fellow singer-songwriters – Carly Simon and James Taylor – were then having hits with other people’s material.

The peppy “Hard Rock Café” (which sounds to be a celebration of hometown gathering places, rather than an advertisement for the then-yet-to-franchise London restaurant) climbed into the Top 40, and the album’s optimistic title track found success on the A/C chart. Fans will find many fine album tracks, all of which are relentlessly optimistic. Even the song of separation, “You’re the One Who Knows,” leans on the lasting value of what was, rather than dwelling on what’s no more, and the closing “One” speaks to King’s growing social conscience. The backing band is professional but didn’t add anything particularly memorable to an album that’s basically a journeyman among the better entries in King’s catalog. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Carol King’s Home Page

Glen Campbell: Live in Japan

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Glen Campbell lights up the Tokyo stage in 1975

Originally released only in Japan, this 54-minute set found Campbell entertaining with a tightly-paced set at Tokyo’s Kosei Nenkin Hall in May 1975. The chart-topping run Campbell had started with 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind” was slipping ever so slightly lower by the early ‘70s, as his television program ended in 1972. Campbell’s albums started to edge out of the Top 10 and his singles out of the Top 20, but three days before this show, he released “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and rode it  to the top of the country, pop and adult contemporary charts. Oddly, the single had yet to ingratiate itself into a starring spot in Campbell’s live set, and is not included here.

Given the depth of Campbell’s catalog of hits, his live set only highlighted a few in full, and added five more in medley form. The set opens with a horn-and-tympani intro to a slick, stirring cover of Mac Davis’ “I Believe in Music.” Campbell is in terrific voice, opening “Galveston” with a few riveting a cappella notes and investing himself fully in the drama of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” The set holds several surprises, including the southern soul of bassist Bill C. Graham’s album track, “Lovelight,” touching covers of Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” and John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” and the Japanese single “Coming Home (to Meet My Brother),” which had originally been popularized as a Coca-Cola jingle.

The arrangements stick mostly to orchestrated, MOR ballads (including “My Way” and a medley of “Try to Remember” and “The Way We Were”), but the pickers heat things up on Carl Jackson’s banjo-led “Song for Y’All” and Campbell sings heartfelt gospel on the closing “Amazing Grace.” The between-song banter is short and good-humored (even when Campbell’s jokes are lost in translation), and the hits, even when reduced to medley form, are sung with deep feeling. Real Gone delivers the disc and eight-page booklet (featuring new liner notes by Mike Ragogna and a reproduction of the original Japanese insert) in a folding cardboard sleeve that includes the front and rear album covers. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Glen Campbell’s Home Page