Posts Tagged ‘Varese Sarabande’

OST: Wheeler

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

The real music of a fictional Nashville up-and-comer

The soundtrack to the film Wheeler makes real the fictional Wheeler Bryson. Written and sung by screenwriter, producer and actor Stephen Dorff, the songs are neither workmanlike imitations nor certified hits – laying somewhere in between studied craft and the bottled lightning of stardom. In that sense, they’re perfectly tuned to a story of Nashville aspiration that sits on the precipice of success. Dorff has a bit of rock ‘n’ roll husk in his voice, and it serves both the up-tempo numbers and the ballads. The album’s single, “Pour Me Out of This Town,” was co-written by Dorff’s late Nashville songwriter brother Andrew, and Kris Kristofferson (who appears in the film) adds “New Mister Me” to the soundtrack. If the film struck a chord with you, this thirteen song soundtrack will be a nice souvenir; but even if you’re haven’t seen the film, there’s still something here to catch your ear. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

OST: The Greatest

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

1977 Muhammad Ali biopic soundtrack reissue with bonuses

Muhammad Ali’s 1977 biopic was drawn from his like-titled biography, and though Ali was arguably the greatest boxer of all time, he wasn’t the greatest actor, even when playing himself. Which is strange, because in real life he played the character of Muhammad Ali with incredible creativity, charisma and panache. Perhaps it was a disconnect with the script (courtesy of noted journalist and screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr.) or director, but the physical and intellectual poetry of his real life didn’t come through on the screen. The film’s soundtrack is remembered largely for the song “The Greatest Love of All,” a #2 R&B hit for George Benson, and even more famously taken to the top of the charts by Whitney Houston in 1985. Others may remember the song from Eddie Murphy’s performance in Coming to America.

The original soundtrack album also includes an instrumental version of the hit and two versions of Benson performing “I Always Knew I Had It in Me,” once with a driving rhythm and jazzy guitar, and once as a ballad. The remainder of the soundtrack is filled out with atmospheric instrumentals by Michael Masser that revolve around the riff from “I Always Knew I Had It in Me.” Labeling the last of them “Variation on Theme” is about as on-the-nose as you can get. Varese’s 2017 reissue adds four bonus tracks, highlighted by Cassius Clay’s charming, melody-challenged cover of “Stand By Me” and the original recitation “I Am the Greatest.” The remaining bonuses are the DJ 7” of Benson’s “The Greatest Love of All” and a disco 12” of “Ali Bombaye.” This is a nice upgrade to a period piece. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Muhammad Ali’s Home Page

Gerry Rafferty: The Best Of

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Rare single edits of 1978-1982 hits

When you first pop this disc in the player, you’re braced to hear Raphael Ravenscroft’s iconic late-70s saxophone riff on “Baker Street.” But before you get that, you’re treated to Rafferty’s other Top 10 hit, Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.” Rafferty had actually exited the group by the time the single made its way up the charts, leaving co-founder Joe Egan to mime the video. The song’s breakthrough persuaded Rafferty to return, and the band carried on into 1975 without further commercial gains. More importantly, when the band broke up, amid disagreements, managerial problems and lawsuits, Rafferty was left to ponder his future.

Sidelined by legal issues, and commuting from his native Scotland to London for court dates, Rafferty stayed in a friend’s Baker Street flat, mulling over his stalled career, and, as detailed in the last verse of “Baker Street,” eventually finding resolution and an optimistic return to work. Though he’d released the solo album Can I Have My Money Back? in 1971, his solo career really began with 1978’s City to City, topping the U.S. album chart and garnering a platinum record. The album’s hits included “Baker Street,” as well as “Right Down the Line” and “Home and Dry,” but despite the commercial breakthrough and continued artistic vitality, Rafferty’s success, particularly in the U.S., quickly decayed.

His second album, Night Owl, stalled at #29 and its singles, “Days Gone Down” and “Get it Right Next Time,” grazed the Top 20. His third album, Snakes and Ladders, was the last to crack the U.S. charts, and its sole U.S. charting single, “The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’),” missed the Top 40. His last album for Liberty/UA, Sleepwalking, is represented here by the UK single of the title track. Varese’s 16-track set covers Rafferty’s commercial years of 1978-82, featuring six U.S. and two UK singles in their original edits, along with non-charting singles, B-sides and album tracks. The eight-page booklet includes photos, label and picture sleeve reproductions, and liner notes by Larry R. Watts. This is a good introduction to Rafferty’s hits, and those who’ve already bought the albums will enjoy the rare single edits. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Gerry Rafferty’s Home Page

England Dan & John Ford Coley: The Very Best Of

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Poster boys of smooth ‘70s soft rock

Alongside Seals & Crofts, it’s hard to think of a duo more representative of 1970s adult contemporary soft rock than “England” Dan Seals and John Edward “Ford” Coley. The duo first performed together in a series of high school bands, including Theze Few and Southwest F.O.B., and debuted as a duo in 1971 on A&M. This collection picks up with their 1976 move to the Atlantic subsidiary Big Tree, and their breakthrough pair of Parker McGee-penned tunes “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and “Nights Are Forever Without You.” They continued to mint Top 40 singles throughout the rest of the 1970s, including Todd Rundgren’s “Love is the Answer” and several self-penned hits, and topped the AC chart four times.

Varese’s sixteen-track set collects nearly all of their Big Tree singles, including the Japan-only “Keep Your Smile.” Omitted are “You Can’t Dance,” and the non-charting “If the World Ran Out of Love Tonight” and “Hollywood Heckle & Jive.” Filling out the track list are album- and B-sides, and a pair of tracks from the film Just Tell Me You Love Me, including the duo’s last single “Part of Me Part of You.” This stacks up well against the shorter Essentials, I’d Really Love to See You Tonight & Other Hits and the period Best Of. Superfans may want to indulge in the import The Atlantic Albums+, but for most, this set will hit all the radio high points, and provide just the right amount of smoothly produced, touchingly sung ‘70s pop. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

John Ford Coley’s Home Page

Matt Costa: Music From the Motion Picture Orange Sunshine

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

mattcosta_orangesunshineSuperb evocation of late-60s psychedelic soundtracks

If you were making a documentary on a renegade 1960s LSD collective, Huntington Beach singer-songwriter Matt Costa might not be your first thought for a period-evoking soundtrack. But Costa’s roots in Orange County match those of the Brotherhood at the film’s center, and the seeds of his nostalgic musical constructions can be found in his catalog. The resulting soundtrack for the film Orange Sunshine is the sort of ersatz experience one gained from AIP’s exploitation films – music that is of the era, but doesn’t define it. Costa deftly evokes the ‘60s with fuzzed guitars, hallucinogenic flights, West Coast jazz odysseys, blue funk, folk fingerpicking, ragas and even a touch of strategically placed vinyl surface noise.

The compositions lean to mood-setting instrumentals, but the vocal tracks – particularly the Airplane-styled “Born in My Mind” – are spot-on. What rats this out as homage rather than artifact is the crisp fidelity – something that couldn’t easily be achieved on a shoestring budget in 1968. Most impressive is that Costa wrote, engineered, produced and performed the entire album – especially remarkable on “ensemble” jams like “The Fuzz.” Several of the cuts are under two minutes – often leaving you wanting more – but this works nicely as a standalone album of ‘60s-tinged psych, jazz, soul and rock, and provides a terrific complement to the film. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Matt Costa’s Home Page

Gene Autry: A Melody Ranch Christmas

Monday, December 19th, 2016

geneautry_amelodyranchchristmasA winter harvest of 1940s & 1950s radio performances

Gene Autry was a triple threat with successful careers in film, radio and television. It’s from his weekly Melody Ranch radio program that Varese has assembled twenty-three Christmas related performances. Although most of these songs are now considered standards, several of them – “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snow Man” and “An Old Fashioned Tree” – were introduced by Autry himself. The recordings span 1942 through 1955, and the backings range from the Melody Ranch Hard-Way Six to the orchestras of Carl Cotner and Paul Sell. Autry’s castmates include Johnny Bond, vocal groups the Pinafores and Cass County Boys, comedian Pat Buttram, and a special appearance by Rosemary Clooney. There are several rare performances of songs that Autry never released commercially, including a recitation of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and Pat Buttram’s original “Did You Ever Hafta Sleep at the Foot of the Bed?” Restored from lacquer transcription discs, the sound quality is very good, and the performances superb. This is a terrific complement to Autry’s studio Christmas albums, and a warmly nostalgic addition to your family’s holiday soundtrack. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Gene Autry’s Home Page

Donna Fargo: That Was Yesterday

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

donnafargo_thatwasyesterdayDonna Fargo’s late-70s return to the charts

Top 40 listeners will remember Donna Fargo for her pair of 1972 crossover hits, “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face,” but country fans will also recall the decade-long tail of her career. After her commercial fortunes began to fade in 1975, Fargo moved from Dot to Warner Brothers, and reignited her chart success with “Mr. Doodles.” That song provides the launching point for this collection of Fargo’s Warner Brothers-era sides, running through 1981’s non-LP “Lonestar Cowboy” and “Jacamo.” There are a few singles missing (1979’s “Walk on By” and a pair of low-charting sides from 1980’s Fargo), but what’s here covers the core of her commercial success at Warner Brothers, including six Top 10 hits, and the chart topping title track “That Was Yesterday.” Unusually for the times, Fargo wrote most her own material, only turning to others for hits (including “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “Shame on Me,” “Do I Love You (Yes in Every Way),” “Ragamuffin Man,” and “Another Goodbye”) in the late ‘70s. For her earlier material on Dot, check out Varese’s Best Of collection, but to fill out the second half of her hit-making years, this is the set to get. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Donna Fargo’s Home Page

The Searchers: The Very Best Of

Friday, October 28th, 2016

searchers_verybestofThe Searchers’ US and UK hits in stereo!

The Searchers had seven U.S. Top 40 singles, highlighted by their covers of Jackie DeShannon’s “Needles and Pins,” the Orlons’ “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” and the Clovers’ “Love Potion #9.” The band had even greater success in their native England, where they topped the singles chart three times, landed a dozen singles in the Top 40 and waxed more than a dozen albums. Their original recordings for Pye have been extensively anthologized [1 2], but for those seeking a hits-focused single disc, Varese’s gathered together all of the group’s UK and US chart entries (except for an early cover of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s”), and sprinkled in a few album cuts. The collection utilizes stereo mixes that were most likely produced by UK Pye for the American Kapp label (at the demand of label head Dave Kapp). These are genuine stereo mixes made from the original 3-track masters, and they’re surprisingly well balanced. That said, they aren’t the mono singles listeners originally heard on AM radio, which themselves can be found on the longer Pye collections. Listeners unaccustomed to mono will enjoy the stereo mixes, but Searchers fans should really own both, as they’re equally authentic artifacts. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Searchers’ Home Page

Linda Ronstadt: Silk Purse

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

lindaronstadt_silkpurseRonstadt’s second solo album returned to print

Originally reissued on CD in 1995, Capitol apparently allowed Linda Ronstadt’s second solo album to go out of print. Varese remedies the situation with this straight-up reissue of the album’s ten tracks, together with an eight-panel booklet that includes new liner note by Jerry McCulley. Upon the album’s original release in 1970, it bubbled under the Billboard Top 100 and launched the single “Long, Long Time” into the Top 40. Recorded in Nashville, Ronstadt mixed pop and country material, including Hank Williams’ take on the Tin Pan Alley standard “Lovesick Blues,” Mel Tillis’ “Mental Revenge,” Goffin & King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (which bubbled under the Top 100) and Dillard & Clark’s “She Darked the Sun.” Ronstadt returned to California for her self-titled third album, but this Southern sojourn was an important way-point in her development from a singer in the Stone Poneys to a full-blown solo star. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Sonny & Cher: Good Times

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

SonnyAndCher_GoodTimesSonny & Cher’s soundtrack outshines their film

The most notable element of Sonny & Cher’s 1967 film Good Times wasn’t the duo’s move into acting, the skit-based humor or even the meta-conceptual plot of a movie about making a movie. The film’s most lasting contribution to the arts was the introduction of William Friedkin as a mainstream director. Friedkin had been directing documentaries, but it was this collaboration with Sonny Bono that launched his feature filmmaking career. The film is an interesting lark, capturing mid-60s mood, design and a bit of artistic ennui, but without the acidic bite of Head. The original eight-song soundtrack gave Bono a chance to stretch out, and added several excellent titles to the Sonny & Cher catalog.

Leading off is a waltz-time instrumental version of the duo’s signature “I Got You Babe,” a title that appears again at the soundtrack’s end in a fetching acoustic arrangement. In between is Sonny’s perfectly self-deprecating “It’s the Little Things” in all its proto-Spectorian grandeur, its B-side Cher showcase “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” the sultry B-side “I’m Gonna Love You” (originally released as a Cher solo on Imperial in 1965), and several songs lifted from the soundtrack with lead-in dialogue. The latter include the stage-hall styled title tune and another of Sonny’s self-deprecating, average-guy love songs, “Just a Name.”

The bonus tracks include the single “Plastic Man” and its B-side edit of “It’s the Little Things.” The latter shortens the album track by dropping the middle stanza of the refrain. Earlier reissues have included only the edited version, so the full album take turns out to be the real bonus. Varese has used the true mono master, unlike One Way’s 1999 reissue, and though quite listenable, the fidelity still isn’t the best that the era offered. Friedkin’s original liners are included alongside new notes by Larry R. Watts, rounding out an obscure entry in Sonny and Cher’s catalog, but one that harbors several top-notch tunes. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Cher’s Home Page