Tag Archives: Memphis TN

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

Classic B.J. Thomas Re-Issues on Collector’s Choice

6 Jan

A grand total of 8 (count ’em … eight!) BJ Thomas LPs have recently been re-issued on CD by the folks at Collector’s Choice. The recordings chronicle Billy Joe’s rise to fame during the 1960s and 1970s. Casual music fans surely remember Thomas as the Texas singer behind the original hits “Hooked on a Feeling” and, most importantly “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” The latter was a certified worldwide smash hit that was featured prominently in the classic film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” However, fans digging a little deeper into BJ’s vault of recordings will be rewarded with several hidden gems. Of the 8 recent re-issues, the first 2 and the last two are perhaps the least inspired. The middle 4 LPs feature timeless pop and some of Thomas’ greatest performances on wax.  

The Sceptor LPs Young and In Love, On My Way, Raindrops, and Everybody’s Out of Town are lifted above the rest thanks to solid songwriting and tasteful instrumental backing. The bulk of the tunes are penned by masters like Burt Bacharach/Hal David and Mark James (writer of Suspicious Minds for Elvis Presley). Other contributors include the legendary Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Webb, and Joe South. Most of these tunes were recorded by producer Chips Moman at American Studios in Memphis — the setting for many famous hit recordings by the likes of Elvis, Neil Diamond, and countless others.  Sceptor LP SPS 582 “Everybody’s Out of Town” is the best of the lot with standout tracks like Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil’s “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” Mark James’ “The Mask,” Wayne Carson’s “Sandman,” and the Bacharach/David title cut. Frankly, there is not a weak track on the entire album. That was a rarity in a decade when LP’s were stuffed with quickly tossed together “filler.” This CD is essential for music buffs with an affinity for great singing & songsmiths at the top of their game.

B.J. Thomas (born Billy Joe Thomas) straddled the line between pop/rock and country, achieving success in both genres in the late ’60s and ’70s. At the beginning of his career, he leaned more heavily on rock & roll, but by the mid-’70s, he had turned to country music, becoming one of the most successful country-pop stars of the decade.

Thomas began singing while he was a child, performing in church. In his teens, he joined the Houston-based band the Triumphs, who released a number of independent singles that failed to gain any attention. For the group’s last single, Thomas and fellow Triumph member Mark Charron wrote “Billy and Sue,” which was another flop. After “Billy and Sue,” Thomas began a solo career, recording a version of Hank Williams’ standard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with producer Huey P. Meaux. Released by Scepter Records in early 1966, the single became an immediate hit, catapulting to number eight on the pop charts. Although he had a series of moderate follow-up hits, including a re-release of “Billy and Sue,” Thomas failed to reenter the Top Ten until 1968, when “Hooked on a Feeling” became a number-five, gold single. The following year, he scored his biggest hit with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” taken from the hit film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was followed by a string of soft rock hits in the next two years, including “Everybody’s Out of Town,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “No Love at All,” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” which featured guitarist Duane Eddy and the vocal group the Blossoms.

After “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” Scepter Records went out of business and B.J. Thomas headed to Paramount Records. At Paramount, Thomas had no hits, prompting the singer to pursue a new country-pop direction at ABC Records. “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” his first single for ABC, became his second number-one record on the pop charts, as well as establishing a country career for the vocalist. For the next decade, he continued to have hits on the country charts, with a couple of songs — most notably “Don’t Worry Baby” — crossing over into the pop charts. During this period, he switched record companies at a rapid pace, but it did nothing to slow the pace of his hits. Thomas hit his country peak in 1983 and 1984, when he had the number-one hits “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” and “New Looks From an Old Lover,” as well as the Top Ten hits “The Whole World’s in Love When You’re Lonely” and “Two Car Garage.” Throughout the ’80s, B.J. Thomas recorded a number of hit gospel records for Myrrh concurrently with his country hits.

At the end of the ’80s, the hits began to dry up for Thomas, but he continued to tour, and put out the occasional country and gospel record in the ’90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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/