Category Archives: CDs

The musical secret among people like us? Think “The Us Generation: The Making Of the 1982 Us Festival” 

And the beat goes on . . .

The Us Generation: The Making Of the 1982 Us Festival
 is an in-depth look at one of the most influential music festivals of all time. The Us Generation is from award-winning filmmaker and rockumentarian Glenn Aveni, who is also the film’s director. Co-directed by Jay Cederholm and Produced by Bruce Gibb and Rich Schmig, the film blends rare concert footage and insightful interviews with both organizers and performers.

The film tells the story of the groundbreaking 1982 Us Festival, an epic three-day event featuring an eclectic and unprecedented lineup boasting some of the biggest names in music, performing live in front of over one million people at Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, California. The Us Festival was the brainchild of Apple visionary Steve Wozniak, who wanted to create something that was a true celebration of Americana, cultivating positive vibes and building a deep sense of community through the power of technology and music.
Highlights include performances by chart-topping superstars, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, alt-rock trio The Police, blues rock heroes Fleetwood Mac, guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana, retro-chic favorites The B-52s, and new wave icons The Cars; as well as archived appearances by Johnny & Joey Ramone, Carlos Santana, Sting, Ric Ocasek, Danny Elfman, and Fred Schneider; plus exclusive sit-downs with festival founder Steve Wozniak, Mick Fleetwood, Eddie Money, Marky Ramone, Kate Pierson, Stewart Copeland and Mickey Hart.

Just one listen, and you’ll know why Audra McDonald will “Sing Happy”

There’s a reason Audra McDonald’s new CD is titled Sing Happy (Decca Gold), the live performance of the New York Philharmonic’s 2018 Spring Gala starring the Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winner, conducted by Andy Einhorn. Recorded live on May 1 at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, the recording represents McDonald’s first collaboration with Decca Gold–as well as her first solo recording with full orchestra.

Sing Happy

Sing Happy features many songs that are either new to McDonald’s repertoire or have never before been recorded by her–such as “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles,Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me, and “Children Will Listen” from Into The Woods–and offers a sneak peek at the repertoire she’s performing on her upcoming North American concert tour.

Acclaimed by The New York Times as a “one-of-a-kind musical super-talent,” Audra McDonald has won a record-breaking six Tony Awards, making her the most decorated performer in American theater. The singer and actress was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015 and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts—America’s highest honor for achievement in the arts—from President Barack Obama. McDonald is currently starring in the CBS All Access drama The Good Fight and has a series of concert dates throughout North America on which she’s presenting many of the songs from Sing Happy. In addition to her work on stage and screen, McDonald is noted as a passionate advocate for equal rights, LGBTQ causes, and underprivileged youth.

 

Renee Fleming’s new CD, “Broadway”, reminds everyone why she is a goddess

She is a goddess. Really.
Currently wowing audiences with her Tony-nominated performance in Carousel, Grammy-winning soprano Renée Fleming has released Broadway (Decca Classics), a CD celebrating musical theatre. The album features a diverse array of  songs for the stage by composers including Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pasek & Paul, and Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as a special guest duet with the Hamilton, television and film star, Leslie Odom, Jr.

Says Fleming, “The great, classic Broadway musicals were central to my childhood. I sang Eliza Doolittle twice before I was even out of high school. This repertoire is so rich, and the sheer quality of the music is so high, that it’s been a joy to record these songs. And along with the growth of popular music, the sound of musical theater has evolved over time. Composers like Jeanine Tesori, and Pasek and Paul, and even popular music icons like Sting, have enriched the genre. It’s a living art form, enjoying a real boom right now, and it was a thrill for me to be able to include phenomenal songs that are absolutely current.”

The new recording features a wide range of Broadway hits from the ’20s to the present, in sumptuous orchestrations, many commissioned specially for this album.

Among the songs are “The Sound of Music”, “The Glamorous Life” from A Little Night Music; “Tell Me on A Sunday” from Song and Dance; “Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific; “Fable” from The Light in the Piazza; and “So Big So Small” from Dear Evan Hansen. Fleming’s collaborators include Rob Fisher as music supervisor and conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, as well as the incomparable bassist and jazz great Christian McBride, rising star pianist Dan Tepfer and Grammy-winning producer David Frost.

Listen closely: Listen and you will understand why she is a goddess.

 

Sony Classical releases important Oscar Levant Box Set

At the height of his popularity, Oscar Levant was the highest-paid concert artist in America. He outdrew Horowitz and Rubinstein, with whom he shared the distinction–rare among classical pianists–of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He performed under conductors including Arturo Toscanini, Sir Thomas Beecham, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Fritz Reiner and Eugene Ormandy, and was the definitive interpreter of his friend George Gershwin.

Levant’s 1945 recording of Rhapsody in Blue with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra topped the Billboard classical chart and remained one of Columbia Records’ best-selling albums for a decade. That classic interpretation and all his other recordings for the label, spanning the years 1941 to 1958, have now been collected in a new Sony Classical eight-disc box set.

The vast majority of them are appearing for the first time ever on CD, in a 10″ x 10″ fully illustrated 124-page hardcover book. The book contains previously unseen photographs and images of facsimile documents and covers. The edition sees the first ever release of Levant’s own composition Blue Plate Special, which only exists in his 1947 recording and would otherwise have been lost forever. It reflects his compositional style and musical eccentricity at its best. The other world premiere is Levant’s recording of Bach’s Partita No. 1, the only example of him playing Bach. According to his daughter Lorna, the Partita was a piece Levant loved and played often at home.

Levant’s Columbia recordings, on which his fame as a pianist has always been based, began with Gershwin, as they do in this new Sony complete collection. From 1942 there are the Concerto in F with André Kostelanetz conducting the New York Philharmonic along with the Three Preludes. That applies as well to the 1945 Rhapsody in Blue with Ormandy, which is also here, of course, together with the famous 1949 recordings of theSecond Rhapsody and “I Got Rhythm” Variations with Morton Gould and his Orchestra.

Among the other CD premieres are Levant’s 1949 recording of Honegger’s charming Concertino with Reiner conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra as well as many solo performances from the 1940s and 50s of pieces by Beethoven (including the “Moonlight” Sonata), Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Copland (selections from the ballet Billy the Kid, arranged for piano by Lukas Foss). There is also a track of Levant playing his own music, a jazzy, almost manic little piece called Blue Plate Special, recorded in 1947.

Another rarity is taken from Warners’ 1946 movie Humoresque, one of the few films centered around classical music. Franz Waxman received an Oscar nomination for his original score and arrangements. The young violinist hero is portrayed by John Garfield, his wealthy older lover by Joan Crawford, his confidant and pianist by Oscar Levant, and his violin playing by Isaac Stern. The movie climaxes with one of the glories of 40s cinematic kitsch. As she listens to the strains of Wagner’s Liebestod being played by the Garfield character on the radio, the distraught Crawford character drowns herself in the Pacific. On the soundtrack, it is Stern and Levant who are revelling in Waxman’s irresistibly schmaltzy Wagner arrangement for violin, piano and orchestra. No Oscar Levant set would be complete without it.

“In some situations I was difficult, in odd moments impossible, in rare moments loathsome, but at my best unapproachably great.” Music lovers now have an unprecedented opportunity to judge Oscar Levant’s self-adulating, self-abasing appraisal for themselves.

Four words George Carlin would have proudly uttered: “George Carlin Commemorative Collection”

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

So said George Carlin, one of thousands of memorable one-liners.

OK, we’ll share one more: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Carlin devotees will relish the George Carlin Commemorative Collection (MPI Home Video and the George Carlin Estate), a 10-disc must-have DVD, CD and Blu-ray boxed set which features more than five hours of previously unreleased bonus material including rare performance footage from Carlin’s personal archive. The uncensored celebration hits shelves June 12.

George Carlin Commemorative Collection

“While digging around in dad’s stuff, we found a few gems that we just couldn’t keep for ourselves,” says George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, who helped compile material for the set commented. “ It’s amazing to think that ten years after his death, we keep finding stuff I’d never seen before!”

Carlin was not only one of America’s greatest comedians whose albums topped the charts, he was a pioneer of cable TV’s concert format that has become a benchmark of success for all humorists ever since.

And now, all of Carlin’s pointed, often controversial but always hilarious specials originally shown on HBO have been gathered for the first time in the George Carlin Commemorative Collection. Encompassing over five decades of his groundbreaking career, all 14 of the legendary funnyman’s Emmy nominated HBO specials are now available in one package–a remarkable set that also contains a previously unreleased HBO special entitled 40 Years of Comedy hosted by Jon Stewart plus Carlin’s posthumous audio release, I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die.

One of the key bonus pieces of material is Carlin’s first stand-up special from 1973, The Real George Carlin which has not been seen since it first aired. Additional bonus material includes APT 2C (a never-aired HBO pilot from the ’80s) plus two one-hour stand-up comedy club performances that features material performed by Carlin for the first time.  There is also never-before-released material from the 1960s–when Carlin was a clean-cut, suit-wearing guest on the variety shows such as Talent Scouts, The Jackie Gleason Show and Hollywood Palace. 

The box set features also includes both DVD and Blu-ray discs of the HBO specials Life Is Worth Losing and It’s Bad for Ya plus liner notes written by comedian Patton Oswalt.

Carlin, a fearless commentator on society and a champion of free speech, now finally gets the boxed set he and fans of great, enduring comedy deserve and the set represents the most complete collection of Carlin performances to date.

Bravo!

It’s not tough picturing the Beatles, but for the record, “Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band” deconstructs the fab Four album by album 

Beatles fans will twist and shout when they get a gander at th beautifully designed and endlessly fascinating, Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band (Dey Street Books, $26.99). It’s  quite nifty to flip through; the illustrations and graphics are colorful and highly informative and entertaining. The data and infographics present a fresh and innovative new way of understanding Paul and John and George and Ringo.

y648.jpg (505×648)We realized why the magical history tour of the career of the Fab Four, explored album-by-album,  has that addictive “feel good” look: The authors, John Pring and Rob Thomas, are professional graphic designers with a slew of top tier corporate clients. Do you want to know a secret?  Having a successful Kickstarter fund for this book didn’t hurt.

“As designers, we wondered what it would look like to visualize The Beatles and chart their story—the evolution of their music, style and characters—through a series of graphics,” write Pring and Thomas in the introduction. “What might presenting the information in a totally different way, never done before on this scale, tell us that we hadn’t noticed or appreciated previously?”

Copyright 2018, from the book

Organized by album from Please Please Me to Let It Be, this stunning book deconstructs:

  • Song lyrics
  • Which Beatle carried how much of the songwriting load
  • Instruments used
  • Style evolution of their active years
  • Album designs
  • Track length
  • Who took lead vocals when
  • Success of singles across the world
  • Tour dates
  • Hairstyles . . .
  • And let is be said  lots more!

THE SOUNDTRACK TO “CHARLOTTE’S WEB” COMES TO LIFE ON Varèse Sarabande

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” 
― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
Every time we read the book or watch the animated film (yes, the book is much better;  no wonder it won the Newbery Medal from the American Library Association), we think of White’s genius and the web of life lessons he has woven.
CharlotteWeb.png
Varèse Sarabande has just released the first-ever CD of the film’s soundtrack. The album features original songs and lyrics by the legendary duo of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, with performances by the film’s stars Debbie Reynolds, Agnes Moorehead and Paul Lynde. GayS relish this trio: Paul was a major queen, and rumors still exist that Debbie and Agnes were long-time lovers.
The film was released in 1973. Young farm pig Wilbur (voiced by Henry Gibson) attempts to avoid a dire fate. Of all the barnyard creatures, Wilbur’s staunchest ally is Charlotte (voiced by Reynolds), a thoughtful spider who devises an intriguing plan to keep the gentle little swine out of the slaughterhouse. Although Charlotte’s efforts, which involve words written in her delicate web, seem far-fetched, they may just work.

Somewhere out there is a genius songwriter. Her name is Cynthia Weil, now starting a new chapter of her life

On our list of favorite female songwriters: Cynthia Weil. We have never lost that lovin’ feeling for her. And we are not kidding. Somewhere out there are other good female songwriters, but Weil, a Grammy award-winning and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is a genius. Make that Genius. 

Weil, still as stunning as special
Collaborating with her husband, Barry Mann, she has written countless standards.  Our all-time favorite is “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”, a song that was a huge hit for Eydie Gorme, a friend we so sorely miss.

Weil has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (only the third woman to receive this honor in the non-performing category). She has been honored with multiple Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards for “Somewhere Out There,” which won the awards for “Motion Picture Song of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” Weil is so important in the history of pop music that she is featured as a real-life character in the Tony Award-winning musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Weil. Such a novel woman. It’s only fitting, then, that her new children’s book, 806: A Novel (Tanglewood Publishing, $16.99), has a teen songwriter as its main character.  The book hits shelves on March 13.

806: A Novel806: A Novel takes readers on a life-changing road trip with more than a few twists and turns. Taking on the thought-provoking topic of sperm donor kids seeking their father while facing challenges and disappointments along the way, the story is balanced by its humor, newfound familial relationships, and heartfelt moments. Teens will connect with KT, Jesse, and Gabe for different reasons during their journey as they race through the book to discover how everything turns out.

We told you she was a genius. By the way: Is it any wonder that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, is the most played song of the 20th century? I pray she will continue making her own kind of music.

Be ready for the release of “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan”

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Marking the 15th anniversary of the Grammy-nominated Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan, MVD Entertainment Group will reissue the film of the same title. Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan features an intense 1980 Bob Dylan performance of “When He Returns,” as well as powerful performances and interviews with Aaron Neville, Shirley Caesar, Fairfield Four, Mighty Clouds of Joy and Dottie Peoples, reflecting on their faith and connections to Dylan’s Christian music.

“It was an honor to have made an impression on the great artist himself with these recordings,” says the film’s producer Jeffrey Gaskill. From 2009 to 2011, Bob Dylan opened 40 concerts around the world with “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” (his Grammy-nominated new version re-written and recorded for Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan) in concert halls in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Adelaide and this performance in Tel Aviv (watch it HERE).

Just a month after his recording with Mavis Staples, Dylan kicked off a new tour in Stockholm, Sweden and performed “Solid Rock” (what many consider the theme song to his gospel era concerts) for the first time in more than 20 years. Dylan would continue to perform this rousing song as well as other gospel era songs at numerous concerts across Europe and beyond.

“This gospel music was Bob Dylan’s ultimate rebellion, and it took much more courage than strapping on an electric guitar,” recalls Gaskill. The film offers historical insights into this Bob Dylan era provided by Jim Keltner, Fred Tackett, Spooner Oldham and Regina McCrary, all of whom performed and recorded with Dylan at the time.

Bob Dylan once called Chuck Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” Take a listen to this VIP vinyl box set

In the heavens of rock ‘n’ roll’s first-generation creators, no artist looms larger than Chuck Berry. Bob Dylan once called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” John Lennon stated, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'” Keith Richards: “Chuck Berry is the gentleman who started it all.”

In a consistently innovative recording career that spanned more than 60 years, the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist, who passed away on March 18, 2017, laid much of the groundwork for modern rock ‘n roll, while creating some of rock’s most distinctive and enduring anthems, from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” to “Reelin and Rockin’,”.

Geffen/UMe pays tribute to the immortal spirit of Berry with the ultimate vinyl version of his landmark greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight, as it celebrates its 35th anniversary, with The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition. The album will be released as a limited edition five-disc box set on Chess Blue vinyl, limited to only 500 copies worldwide and available exclusively via UDiscoverMusic.com. A wide release standard black vinyl edition will be available next year on January 26, 2018.

Housed in a textured box, the Super Deluxe Edition will complement the original two-LP, 28-song compilation with an additional LP, More Great Chuck Berry, containing 14 more hits, rarities and B-sides missing from the original, as well as a rare live album, Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit, available on vinyl for the first time. The collection will also include a newly created bonus ten-inch EP Berry Christmas, featuring four holiday-themed classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl, with one song on vinyl for the first time as well. Pre-order The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition now: https://lnk.to/Great28SDE

Berry’s classic recordings for Chicago’s seminal Chess label have been extensively anthologized in the CD era. But for many Berry devotees, the two-LP vinyl collection The Great Twenty-Eight remains both a sentimental favorite and a definitive document of Berry’s musical genius. It’s no wonder that The Great Twenty-Eight was ranked number 21 on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” the highest-ranking hits compilation on that list. For those interested in the original 28-track edition of The Great Twenty-Eight, it is now back in print in its original two-LP format for the first time since its initial release in 1982. Order The Great Twenty-Eight here: https://UMe.lnk.to/Great282LP

The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition also includes a handsome 12″ x 12″ book featuring a special introductory essay by Keith Richards, a new essay by best-selling author and SiriusXM host Alan Light, complementing Michael Lydon’s liner notes from the original version of The Great Twenty-Eight, and reminiscences from DJ Lee Alan, plus complete U.S. single, album and EP discographies. The text is enhanced by reproductions of Berry’s original LP cover art and rarely-seen photographs.

A survey of Berry’s first decade of recording on Chess, the original The Great Twenty-Eight contains 21 singles along with six of their b-sides and one album track from Chuck Berry in London. Of those singles, eleven were top ten hits on the Billboard R&B singles chart and ten were Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. During his Chess years, Berry created a massive—and massively influential—body of work that includes countless beloved classics, from “Maybellene” to “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Johnny B. Goode” to “Memphis, Tennessee” and beyond. Indeed, Berry’s music is so deeply ingrained into our culture that NASA launched “Johnny B. Goode” into outer space on the Voyager spacecraft as a representation of the sounds of the human race for the benefit of our cosmic neighbors. All of these songs are included on The Great Twenty-Eight, which also includes the ubiquitous hits “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “No Particular Place To Go” and many others that have become part of the collective consciousness.

More Great Chuck Berry comprises 14 classic Berry tunes not included on The Great Twenty-Eight, including the sultry, simmering number “Wee Wee Hours,” the original flip side of “Maybellene”; “My Ding-A-Ling,” Berry’s only No. 1 pop single; “Too Pooped To Pop (Casey),” the top 20 R&B A-side of “Let It Rock”; the Top 10 R&B hit “No Money Down”; the celebratory “Promised Land”; and the rollicking “You Never Can Tell,” which earned cinematic immortality as the accompaniment to John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s twist in the film Pulp Fiction.

Oh Yeah!: Live In Detroit is a thrilling, rare concert performance from October 1963, celebrating Berry’s return to the stage after a break from performing. With support from local DJ and TV host Lee Alan, Berry, backed by Motown’s Funk Brothers rhythm section and horn players, recorded the live album during a series of performances at Detroit’s Walled Lake Casino.

Returning to the spotlight after a year-and-a-half brought out an energy and intensity in Berry that can be heard clearly in this historic 12-song set, which launches with “Guitar Boogie”and includes “Let It Rock, “Too Much Monkey Business (available for the first time in the U.S.),” “Johnny B. Goode,” Sweet Little Sixteen” and a lengthy, edge-of-chaos medley, as Berry feeds off an audience that sings along with nearly every track. Throughout the show, Berry tells jokes that slyly address racial tensions. But the record was scrapped at the time and has been previously only available as part of a limited-edition CD set; this marks its first time on vinyl, and as any kind of standalone release.

The bonus EP Berry Christmas collects together four Christmas classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl. The 10-inch disc features Berry’s chestnuts, “Run Rudolph Run” and “Merry Christmas Baby” along with “Christmas” and “Spending Christmas,” the latter making its vinyl debut as it was previously available only in a limited-edition CD box set.

And if those testimonials aren’t convincing enough, one listen to The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition will make the case for Chuck Berry’s singular, timeless rock ‘n’ roll brilliance.