Category Archives: Music

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.

Any Major Dude Will Tell You Not to Miss Barney Hoskyns’ anthology of all things Steely Dan

Hear that? Those are the notes that music journalist Barney Hoskyns is hitting in his unprecedented new anthology of all things Steely Dan:  Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Companion (The Overlook Press, $27.95).

Published within a year of founding member Walter Becker’s passing, this is a first of its kind book about Steely Dan—an anthology of the most essential critical dispatches about the band—rants and raves alike, alongside a selection of highly informative profiles and interviews from the ’70s through the ’00s.

In the vein of Hoskyns’s previous book JoniI: The AnthologyMajor Dudes serves simultaneously as an accessible critical introduction to the group, a treasure trove of little-known facts (did you know that a pre-fame Becker and Fagen once recorded a B-movie soundtrack, or ghostwrote for Barbra Streisand?), and an invaluable collection of primary source documents, many of which Hoskyns has rescued from the archives of now-defunct magazines and newspapers.

Any major dude will tell you not to miss it.

“Saving Faith” is warm and inspirational, and boy! What great gospel music!

Mark your calendar now. It’s important to save the date of September 18, not because it’s a day after my birthday (cards and gifts still accepted), but that’s the day the inspirational and heartwarming gospel drama, Saving Faith, arrives on DVD, Digital, and On Demand.

When the historic Ritz Theater is on the brink of foreclosure, the theater’s owner Faith Scott (played by Jenn Gotzon) and her Uncle Donny (Donny Richmond) decide to host a Christmas themed show, in June, to help save the building.  Even against all odds, Faith and Donny turn to their faith and friends to help pull off the impossible.
And when a local developer decides to sabotage the concert, it’ll take a miracle to make the show go on. Approved by the Dove Foundation for all ages, Saving Faith is a, “film that is balanced for family filmgoers” (The Dove Foundation).

Let us not forget the great music by Donny Richmond and Sunday Drive and appearances by Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Phil Vassar and members of the

“The Faith of Dolly Parton” works nine to five. May we hear an amen?

As I reminded everyone, over and over and over, that Dolly Parton are I are bosom buddies. And she likes to say, “breast friends”.

So when I see yet another book about her, a book she has not authorized or sanctioned, I get a teeny bit concerned. More about her silicone? Her love for drag queens? More news about the horrendous amount of plastic surgery she continues to have?

Not here. In The Faith of Dolly Parton (Zondervan , $22.99), Dudley Delffs spotlights 10 lessons he has drawn from Dolly’s life, music and attitude. His reflections are personal, practical and profound as Dolly’s example reminds us all to trust God during hard times, stay grounded during good times, and always keep our sense of humor.

But what drives Dolly to be so giving and loving towards others? Delffs examines the depth of Dolly’s faith and how it influences her life. Readers will identify with him as he recalls a simpler place and time when his own life-long love of Dolly began. In a way, Delffs and Parton have walked a faith journey together.

Delffs starts the book simply with “I love Dolly.” He continues, “Like the University of Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains, biscuits and gravy, the works of Flannery O’Connor, and the lonesome sound of the night train echoing from beyond the pasture on the farm where I grew up, Dolly Parton is woven into the fabric of my life.”

Readers can take away their own life lessons through each chapter’s Divine Doses of Dolly, where they can apply faith lessons from Dolly’s life to their own particular situations via questions and exercises, a relevant theme song from Dolly’s discography, and a short prayer they can use in their own time of “talkin’ with God.”  The Faith of Dolly Parton is the perfect gift for anyone who loves Dolly and her music, those looking for inspiration, and music fans in general.

“Pink Floyd: Album By Album” will rock and roll fans

Pink Floyd fans will fly to the dark side of the moon with Pink Floyd: Album By Album (Voyageur Press, $30),  a stunning and unique look back at their discography. Author Martin Popoff’s work features in-depth, frank and entertaining conversations about all the band’s studio albums, including their soundtrack efforts and the instrumental/ambient The Endless River. He moderates discussions on each album with rock journalists and musicians, including legendary Genesis and solo guitarist Steve Hackett, original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, and Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery, all offering insights, opinions, and anecdotes about every release.

Together, the conversations comprise a unique historical overview of the band, covering everything from early albums with the iconic Syd Barrett to the songwriting tandem of Roger Waters and David Gilmour; the impeccable talents of drummer Nick Mason and multi-instrumentalist Richard Wright; those mega tours undertaken in support of the albums; the monster success of breakthrough LP Dark Side of the Moon; interpersonal conflict; the band following Waters’ 1985 departure; and much more.

Popoff also includes sidebars that provide complete track listings, album personnel, and studios and dates. Every page is illustrated with thoughtfully curated performance and offstage photography, as well as rare memorabilia.  Pink Floyd fans will discover so much about the legendary band it’s likely they won’t look at–or listen to–Pink Floyd the same way after reading this book.

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!

Keegan Allen shows the mythical magic and dark dreams of “Hollywood”

Marilyn Monroe said it best: “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”

Keegan Allen shows it best with his lavish tome Hollywood: Photos and Stories from Foreverland (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99). Allen, an actor; photographer; bestselling author and musician best-known from the No. 1 hit show on Freeform, Pretty Little Liars; reveals the Hollywood we see—and the one we don’t—with a photography narrative featuring more than 250 emotionally charged color and black and white photos. No wonder his first book, life.love.beauty, was a national bestseller.Image result for keegan allen

The Hollywood native grew up in a world that millions
visit and many more imagine. In his new book he turns his eye and camera to the place he knows best. Hollywood captures the beauty
and glamour of the place itself—with unusual angles of the famous sign, the Chateau Marmont at twilight, secret local hideaways, red carpets and more—but also the darker side of dreams unrealized in the faces, hands, eyes and footsteps of those who live on the fringe of celebrity. His photos are enhanced by revealing, intimate captions, lyrics, and other writing, as well as exciting parodies, and iconic emulations.

A book that will engage and surprise Keegan’s legions of fans and followers, Hollywood is an essential gift for anyone who has visited or imagined this storied place

The four-disc “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” Blu-ray/DVD is a must-have for every music lover

“Watch out for the music. It should come with a health warning:
It can and should make you think the world can be a better place.”
— Peter Gabriel
Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors rock music’s pioneering figures during a prestigious, black-tie ceremony. As the Hall of Fame enters its third decade, it’s these singular induction ceremonies- featuring the biggest names in classic rock from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s–that have become nearly as iconic as the artists they celebrate. On April 24, Time Life and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame give home audiences front row seats to the four most recent incredible induction ceremonies with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert.
 
Never before available at retail on any format, these four memorable live concert events are filled with the kind of collaborations and jam sessions that have made Rock Hall concerts legendary. With egos set aside–in many cases original band lineups perform together for the first time in years–inductees and friends take the stage to deliver once-in-a-lifetime performances, often with a truly mind-blowing combination of talent.
“From the first induction ceremony in 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has sought to honor the top names in all genres of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Joel Peresman, President of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “These ceremonies have provided unique once-in-a-lifetime moments as the inductees and presenters come together to celebrate the legacy of these artists and it’s a privilege to produce this important part of music history and to share it with you!”
This four-disc set –a must-have for every music lover–features poignant reunions, moving and often hilarious induction speeches, and 53 iconic performances.
Image result for photo cat stevens barclay center
Cat Stevens (Yusuf) at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 10, 2014 in New York City.(
Among the unforgettable highlights on the DVD and Blu-ray sets:
  • Bruce Springsteen joining inductees E Street Band for the deep cut classic “E Street Shuffle” from the Boss’s second album, from 1973.
  • Legendary grunge-rock group Pearl Jam delivering thundering performances of “Alive,” “Given to Fly” and “Better Man.”
  • The two surviving members of Nirvana joined on stage by Lorde, Annie Clark, Kim Gordon and Joan Jett for emotional renderings of the group’s biggest hits.
  • Cat Stevens performing a spine-tingling version of “Father & Son” that turned the massive Barclay Center quiet as a church.
  • Journey performs three classics: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
  • Ringo Starr being welcomed into the Rock Hall with a little help from Paul McCartney.
  • Original Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos joining the band for the first time in 6 years tearing through their early hits including “Surrender” and “Dream Police.”
  • Five of the original members of Chicago performing on stage for the first time in 25 years.
  • Features complete Hall of Fame Induction speeches including Coldplay’s Chris Martin inducting Peter Gabriel and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducting Deep Purple. 
Proof that music remains the soundtrack to all lives.

“Grease” is still the word, 40 years after Sandy and Danny become hopelessly devoted

Grease is the word. Still, 40 years after bubbly musical was released. It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning and it’s still a cultural phenomenon 40 years after its original release.  The iconic celebration of high school life in the ’50s, Grease is the way you’ll be feeling with a new 40th Anniversary Edition on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital April 24 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Featuring an explosion of song and dance, as well as star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease made an indelible impact on popular culture.  40 years later, the film remains an enduring favorite as legions of new fans discover the memorable moments, sensational soundtrack and classic love story.  Boasting unforgettable songs including “Greased Lightnin,” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Beauty School Drop Out” and, of course, “Grease,” the film is a timeless feel-good celebration.

Paramount worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore the film to its original vibrancy with the highest quality sound, picture resolution and color.  The original negative was scanned and received extensive clean up and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range technology.  In addition, the audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity.  The resulting picture and sound create an exceptional home viewing experience.
Image result for grease 40 cover

The Grease 40th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include the fully restored version of the film plus an all-new, in-depth exploration of the little-known origins of what would become a Broadway play and then a feature film and worldwide phenomenon.  “Grease: A Chicago Story” features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show.  In addition, the discs include the original song the title sequence was animated to and an alternate ending salvaged from the original black & white 16mm work print discovered by director Randal Kleiser.

 

Both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs also feature more than an hour of previously released bonus material, including a sing-along, vintage interviews with the cast, deleted scenes and more.  Plus, the Blu-ray Combo comes in collectible packaging with 16 pages of images laid out like a high school yearbook.  In addition, a Grease Collection will be available in a Steelbook Locker, which includes the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray of Grease, as well as Grease 2 and Grease: Live! on Blu-ray for the first time.

“Up in Smoke” is 40! The film “started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time” says Cheech

Fire up the home entertainment system and call your buds because the ultimate stoner comedy is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  The high-larious cannabis cultural epic  breakthrough Up in Smoke will “grab you by the poo poo” all over again when it arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD April 10 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  A special Deluxe Collector’s Edition, pairing the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl LP in deluxe packaging, will arrive the following week from Rhino, featuring a newly recorded 2018 version of the title song “Up In Smoke.”

In 1978, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made their feature film debut in Up in Smoke, the outrageously funny classic inspired by their now legendary comedy routines of the early ’70s.  Following massive success with more than 10 million comedy albums sold, four Grammy nominations and a win for Best Comedy Recording for Los Cochinos, Cheech and Chong took Hollywood by storm when Up in Smoke became a smash hit, establishing the pair as the reigning comedy duo of a new generation.  Today, the film still has viewers rolling in the aisles and maintains surprising cultural relevance four decades after its original release.

“The greatest thrill is making your first movie and this one has been seen and been influential all over the world for over forty years,” says Richard “Cheech” Marin.   “Up in Smoke started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time.”

Adds Thomas Chong: “Where did the time go? Fortyyears ago we made low budget movies that grossed over 100 million and are still being watched all over the world. And it also helped legalize an important medicine.  I am so proud that a movie bearing a title of a simple song I wrote would be so influential for so many years.”

Cheech and Chong play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to L.A.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary entitled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. Capturing a complex and fascinating pop culture odyssey, the documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack is also loaded with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

The Deluxe Collector’s Edition is presented in a 12 x 12 package, limited to 5,000 copies.

The set pairs the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl, as well as a 7-inch picture disc, oversized “Up In Smoke” rolling papers, a film poster and booklet with new essays by both Cheech and  Chong, along with rare and unseen photos. In addition to the new version of “Up In Smoke,” the CD also features another previously unreleased version of the song from 1978 with an additional Spanish verse by Cheech.