Tag Archives: Concord Music Group

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

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Undiscovered Ray Charles Masters are Released by Concord Records

24 Sep

Concord Records is celebrating the 80th birthday of the legendary Ray Charles with a special gift for his legions of fans: Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters. This treasure trove of newly discovered recordings, highlighted by a duet with fellow icon Johnny Cash, will become available on October 26th, 2010.

Culled from four decades worth of demos and other previously unreleased material, Rare Genius showcases the remarkable artistic vision, stylistic range and emotionally rich vocals that crafted Charles enduring legacy. Listening to the ten gems from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that comprise this CD, fans will have no trouble envisioning the late singer rocking back and forth at the piano as he effortlessly segues between R&B/soul, pop, country and gospel. “Ray would always get inside the meaning of a lyric and make the listener believe every word,” says Concord Music Group Chief Creative Officer, John Burk. “His vocals carried incredible emotion and intensity, even on demo tapes. What we have here with Rare Genius is on par with some of his greatest works.”

And that’s crystal clear right from the album’s sparkling opener, “Love’s Gonna Bite You Back.” The March 1980 session track features an upbeat horn arrangement behind what Rare Genius liner notes author Bill Dahl calls “a Charles vocal that’s a signature mixture of sandpaper grit and heavenly goodness.” Up next is the stunning ballad “It Hurts to Be in Love,” which underscores the album’s main thematic focus and one of Charles’ favorite subjects: the ups and down of romance. Another compelling standout is the gospel-stirred Charles and Cash duet on Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me, Lord?” Discovered in the Sony vaults, the song was produced by Billy Sherrill in Nashville and recorded in 1981 for an anticipated release on a CBS album. For unknown reasons, that didn’t come to pass. What’s more important, however, is the emotional charge you get listening to these two powerful voices come together in this spirited and inspired pairing.

Except for “Lord,” the nine other Rare Genius tracks including the soul-drenched “I Don’t Want No One But You,” a blues-infused cover of songwriter Hank Cochran’s country classic “A Little Bitty Tear” and the joyous “I’m Gonna Keep on Singin'” were found in the vault at Charles’ R.P.M. International Studios in Los Angeles. Adding a little sweetening to some of the sparse, stripped-down tracks was a team of top-notch musicians and artists: guitarists Keb’ Mo’ and George Doering, organist Bobby Sparks, trumpeter Gray Grant, trombonist Alan Kaplan, bassists Trey Henry and Chuck Berghofer, drummers Gregg Field and Ray Brinker and background vocalist Eric Benet.

As with its Concord predecessor, 2004’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year Genius Loves Company, Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters is another fitting tribute to Charles, who would have turned 80 on September 23, 2010. It’s a fresh, vibrant reaffirmation of the music icon’s unparalleled artistry and legacy.

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Rare-Genius-The-Undiscovered-Masters/

Cropper and Cavaliere re-unite for 2nd Concord Release

10 Apr

STEVE CROPPER (BOOKER T. & THE MGs) AND FELIX CAVALIERE (THE RASCALS)

‘Midnight Flyer’, Due In Stores June 15, Showcases Two Titans Of Blue-Eyed Soul’s Golden Age

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T. and the MGs and one of the primary architects of the unmistakable Stax sound of the 1960s, and vocalist/keyboardist Felix Cavaliere, the voice of the Rascals and the pivotal figure in the blue-eyed soul movement of that same era, have reconvened for their second collaborative recording. Sparks fly at the crossroads of Memphis soul and East Coast R&B when Stax Records releases Midnight Flyer on June 15, 2010.

Midnight Flyer, recorded in Nashville and mixed by the legendary David Z, is the followup to Nudge It Up a Notch, the 2008 maiden voyage by Cropper and Cavaliere that scored critical acclaim from the music and mainstream press. The San Francisco Chronicle called Nudge It Up a Notch “an unexpected delight,” while Blues Wax heralded the project as “one of the great surprises of 2008, and further evidence of Concord’s genuine commitment to the revamped Stax imprint.”

The Stax legacy – and Concord’s commitment to it – are very much alive in Midnight Flyer, an album that once again showcases the songwriting prowess of two towering figures from one of the most seminal periods in the history of American pop music. Assisting with the songwriting throughout most of the album’s 12 tracks is drummer/percussionist/vocalist Tom Hambridge, who also lent a hand with the crafting of the previous album.

“Felix and I come from pretty much the same musical school – but from different geographical locations,” says Cropper. “He’s a Jersey boy at heart, and I grew up in Memphis, but when soul meets soul, what can you say? There are no borders. There are no boundaries.”

Felix tells the story of the classic Rascals song, “Groovin'”

But geography does play a role in the making of great songs, says Cavaliere. “Steve has that Southern vernacular, which is something I really like,” he says. “It’s almost like another language to those of us from the East Coast. It has a certain folky quality to it. Some of those idioms are part of the hit songs that Steve has written and recorded over the years, and they’re part of this record as well.”

The impact of both of these musicians and songwriters on pop music is nearly impossible to quantify. As part of Booker T. & the MGs – the house band for the Stax label in its original incarnation during the 1960s – Cropper co-wrote and produced classics by artists like Eddie Floyd (“Knock On Wood”), Wilson Pickett (“In the Midnight Hour”) and Otis Redding (“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”). In subsequent decades, he lent his instrumental and production skills to a range of artists including Jeff Beck, the Blues Brothers, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and many others.

Cavaliere came to prominence in the mid-’60s as vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter for the Rascals (initially known as the Young Rascals). Cavaliere wrote and/or sang several of the band’s biggest hits, including “Good Lovin'” (1966), “Groovin'” (1967), “It’s a Beautiful Morning” (1968) and “People Got To Be Free” (1968). The phrase “blue-eyed soul” was coined during the Rascals’ heyday, due in large part to the group’s highly successful forays into R&B and soul – styles that had been developed and previously dominated by African-American artists.

Co-produced by Cropper, Cavaliere and Hambridge, Midnight Flyer captures the synergy and brilliance that can only emerge when two powerful forces of nature come together. The result is a range of styles and shades, from heartfelt ballads like “When You’re With Me” to the soul-charged “I Can’t Stand It,” a churning vocal duet featuring Cavaliere and his daughter Aria. “Sexy Lady” harkens back to the soul stylings of the ’70s, while the funky instrumental “Do It Like This” digs into a tight groove and makes plenty of room for Cropper’s tasty riff work to close out the set.

Some of Cropper’s tasty fret work with Booker T and MGs

“The main thing we both take away from this record is how much fun we had making it,” says Cavaliere. “We may have used a lot of new technology that didn’t even exist when Steve and I were recording back in the day, but the songs themselves are still the most important part of the process, and we just had a blast writing and recording them. I think that spirit comes through on the record.”

Cropper notes a timelessness about Cavaliere that serves as a metaphor for the music itself. “Felix is ageless,” he says. “Sure, you can look at him and see that he’s gotten older since those early days, just like we all have. But if you close your eyes, he sounds as young and energetic as he did when he was making records back in the ’60s . . . Working together on records like this reminds us of the kinds of things that go into the making of a good song. We’re still doing that, and we’re still having fun doing it.”

Big Star Shines On Thanks to Concord Release

14 Jun

Big Star

All the bales of hyperbole hitched to the Big Star bandwagon through the decades honestly does not do true justice to the band’s massive influence over the countless shaggy headed, jangly guitar slinging kids who soon followed in their wake. Their sound was so far ahead of it’s time. Even today – some 3 decades later – the Big Star sound remains fresh and vital.

If you don’t have this CD, well, shame on you! Pick it up today, crank it up loud, and let it sink in until further notification. In the meantime, I promise not to tell anyone how uncool you are. Or should I say “were.”   

Big Star released two albums in the early ‘70s, neither of which set sales records. Yet in the 35 years that have ensued, artists like R.E.M., Wilco, The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey, The Bangles and Steve Wynn have enthusiastically acknowledged the band’s influence. On June 16, Ardent/Stax Records through Concord Music Group will reissue Big Star’s #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1974) albums, completely remastered with the never-before-released single mix of “In the Street” and single edit of “O My Soul.”

Additionally, Ardent/Stax has released #1 Record and Radio City on two separate vinyl LPs featuring faithfully reproduced artwork, including the original Ardent Records labels.

Big Star’s legacy has long outlasted its short tenure as a band. Led by ex-Box Tops singer Alex Chilton and including Chris Bell (vocals, guitar), Andy Hummel (bass) and Jody Stephens (drums), the group’s inspired mixture of ‘60s pop, powered interplay and irresistible melody was exciting and special: it was out of step with the mainstream rock sounds of 1972. Though Chilton had come off of a #1 blue-eyed soul hit, the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” Big Star’s music was a glorious mesh of British-influenced pop, Byrds-esque harmonies, taut edginess and studio expertise. Traces of the Beatles, the Kinks and Badfinger pulsate through their repertoire.

Big Star began as Alex Chilton, having left the Box Tops to forge a solo folk career in New York, returned to his hometown of Memphis, encouraged by guitarist and engineer Chris Bell, who led a local trio called Ice Water. Chilton joined the band, which immediately set up camp at the city’s Ardent Studio with aid from the studio’s owners/in-house producers John Fry and Terry Manning. The band’s name was changed to Big Star, after the supermarket chain prevalent in the South.

The band’s debut album, #1 Record, flew in the face of 1972’s abounding folk-rock and progressive-rock sounds. The album’s greatness was not lost on rock critics of the day, but in the end it did not sell particularly well, attributed in part to the piecemeal distribution network of Ardent’s distributor, Stax. Still, songs like “In the Street,” “Don’t Lie to Me, “Feel” and “The Ballad of El Goodo” became cult classics.

Tension began to mount within the band’s ranks as Bell saw his role as leader eclipsed by Chilton’s dominant personality. Bell preferred that Big Star remain a studio entity while Chilton was eager for the band to hit the live circuit. Around Christmas 1972, Bell quit his own band and Big Star soldiered onward as a trio.

In 1974, Ardent released Radio City, the second and (for the moment) final Big Star album. Its best-known song, “September Gurls,” remains one of pop’s classic songs with its mesmerizing chorus and Chilton’s ringing guitar break sounding like the Byrds fused with the venom of the Kinks. “O My Soul,” “Back of a Car” and “Mod Lang” are cut from a similar cloth while “Life Is White” and “Way Out West” show the band’s slower side. And as liner note writer Brian Hogg observed, there are times on this album that the tension within the group is plainly audible: “The ever-present aura of something gradually becoming unhinged, combined with masterly songs, somehow jells to create a remarkable collection and makes Radio City one of rock’s seminal albums,” he writes.

 After Radio City, Hummel quit the band and was replaced by John Lightman on what was to become Big Star 3, shelved for years until the myth surrounding the band grew to titanic proportions. Tragically, Chris Bell died in a car crash in Memphis in December, 1979. Chilton went on to record inspired if sporadic solo albums while producing records by the Cramps and Chris Stamey. Jody Stephens works at Ardent Studio to this day and has been the sparkplug behind Big Star’s reunion tours, during which the band played on both The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman.
As the reissue’s other liner note writer Rick Clark observed, “It has been said that art should create the sense that time has stopped. Big Star transcended normal escapist pop convention by creating music that somehow froze moments that were concurrently vibrant and startlingly brilliant, yet oddly spent. Somehow Big Star could make you feel good in the face of dashed expectations and decay. It’s that realness, in the band’s lyrics and urgently bright sound, which has allowed Big Star’s vision to endure way beyond its brief lifespan.”

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/1-RecordRadio-City-FAN-31457-02/