Tag Archives: Concord Music

Ray Charles’ “Singular Genius” Shines Through on New 5-CD Box

6 Nov
 
This, in my humble opinion, is a long-overdue release. Florida native Ray Charles’ output while with the ABC-Paramount label was pretty extraordinary. And while his earlier Atlantic recordings placed him on our collective radar for the first time, his ABC singles allowed him to stretch out and reach for the stars. Country, soul, pop, R & B … it’s all here. And laid down in a way only Brother Ray could. In fact, I can think of no one else who could have pulled this kind of mix together in such a cohesive, effortless manner. 53 singles, 11 #1 hits. You call yourself a true fan of American Popular Music and Culture? Then you simply must own this historic collection.

 

RAY CHARLES’ SINGULAR GENIUS: THE COMPLETE ABC SINGLES,
AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 15 ON CONCORD RECORDS, COMPILES
HITS AND B-SIDES — MANY NEVER PREVIOUSLY ON ALBUM

106 recordings on five compact discs totaling 53 singles
are housed in handsome linen-textured collectors’ box

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — With the release of Ray Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, on November 15, 2011, Concord Records will make available for the first time the artist’s collection of ABC-Paramount singles during this prolific period (1960-1972).

The digitally remastered deluxe 106-song collection presents the A and B sides of 53 singles, including 11 #1 hits, such Grammy Award winners “Hit the Road Jack,” “Busted,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Crying Time,” “America the Beautiful,” and many more.

 

Twenty-one of the songs are making their digital debut, and 30 have never previously been available on CD. Liner notes were written by R&B recording artist and music historian Billy Vera and rare photographs are included.

According to Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, “This compilation provides an opportunity to hear Ray’s evolution into a full-fledged artist and creative force. The song selection was based upon the interpretation he could bring to the music and not the genre. The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

John Burk, Concord Music Group’s Chief Creative Officer stated, “Ray Charles is one of America’s most iconic and treasured voices. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to present Ray’s historic ABC singles with the reverence and respect they deserve and continue our dynamic partnership and acclaimed reissue program with Valerie Ervin and everyone at the Ray Charles Foundation.”

By the time the singer released his first single for his new label affiliation, ABC-Paramount, in January 1960, he had crossed over into the stardom that show biz insiders had long known was his due. After several years of R&B hits on his previous label, Atlantic Records, he’d finally reached the coveted white teen market with his smash, “What’d I Say,” the simplest, most basic song of his career.

 

Charles’ contract was coming up for renewal and the Atlantic brass expected an easy negotiation. After all, most entertainers took a passive approach to their business, especially when things were going well. However, his agency, Shaw Artists, wanted to bring Charles to a broader audience, which they felt could be better delivered by a major record company.

One such company was ABC-Paramount, a newer major that had found success with teen idols Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian, while crossing Lloyd Price over into pop. ABC’s Larry Newton convinced label president Sam Clark that Ray Charles was the ideal artist to not only make hits but to attract other black acts to the fold. Charles was granted a magnanimous contract that included ownership of his masters after five years. Even Frank Sinatra, as Vera points out, did not have a deal like this.

 

Sid Feller became Charles’ A&R man and producer. Though as Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler once said, “You don’t produce Ray Charles; you just get out of the way and let him do his thing.”

After striking a rich deal, the Ray Charles/ABC relationship had a momentary setback when the first ABC single, “Who You Gonna Love” b/w “My Baby,” sold disappointingly. The second single, “Sticks and Stones,” a “What’d I Say” knockoff, went to #2 R&B and #540 pop. Finally, the third ABC single, “Georgia on My Mind,” culled from the album The Genius Hits the Road, reached #1 on the pop charts. With the overwhelming popularity of “Georgia on My Mind,” Charles was at last a full-fledged mainstream star, right up there with the Nat Coles and Peggy Lees. The company’s strategy was to cater to his new market while still releasing singles to serve his R&B base.

Charles in the meantime launched a publishing arm, Tangerine Music, signing one of the greats of West Coast blues, Percy Mayfield. Mayfield brought with him a song he’d pitched to Specialty Records without success, “Hit the Road, Jack.” Ray’s version rose to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. It was followed by “Unchain My Heart.”

ABC-Paramount celebrated his grand success by giving Charles his own label, Tangerine, which he used to record some of his personal R&B heroes including Mayfield, Louis Jordan, and Little Jimmy Scott. At the same point in time, Charles became enamored of country music and recorded several country sides: “Take These Chains From My heart,” “Busted,” “That Old Lucky Sun,” and from Buck Owens, “Crying Time” and “Together Again.”

 

1966 saw the opening of Ray Charles’ own RPM Studios on Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. The first song he recorded at the facility was “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a Coasters cover penned by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Jo Armistead.

The ABC-Paramount recordings continued into the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1972 Charles cut a version of the New Seekers hit, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma,” but it was the B-side, “America the Beautiful,” that became a runaway hit, Grammy Award winner (one of five on this collection) and to a younger generation unfamiliar with his earlier major works, his signature song.

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Frank Sinatra’s “Best of Vegas” — I’m All In!

31 Jan

A new Sinatra release is always a cause for celebration. That is especially true when you’re talking about LIVE recordings. Better yet if the live material includes performances from the ’50s and ’60s (my favorite era of Frank’s stellar career). The first 9 tracks on this collection fall into that friendly territory. The initial 3 tunes (following the introduction) were recorded at The Sands in 1961 — ring a ding ding! Tracks 5-9 are even better, thanks to the participation of conductor Quincy Jones and the amazing Count Basie Orchestra.

The music swings throughout this 17-track live collection and boasts several 1980′s performances captured at Caesar’s Palace and the Golden Nugget. Nuggets found here include Pennies from Heaven and New York New York. Have the earmuffs ready as Old Blue Eyes employs some salty language during his sometimes lengthy and always engaging between song stage patter. Hey, Frankie had some great pipes … but he wasn’t exactly a choir boy.

In the span of a few years, Las Vegas refueled Frank Sinatra’s career and Sinatra in turn became the lead figure in the city’s ascendance. It was a synergistic relationship that has since become legendary in the annals of 20th century entertainment.

Some of the finest moments in that legendary symbiosis are captured in Frank Sinatra: Best of Vegas, a series of live recordings presented by Concord Records. The 14-song set, under license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), captures Sinatra in concert at the Sands, Caesars Palace and the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas between 1961 and 1987. The collection is a distillation of highlights from Sinatra: Vegas, the five-disc boxed set (4 CD/1 DVD) of live recordings released by Reprise Records in 2006.

 

“From his debut at the Desert Inn in September 1951, no entertainer was ever more synonymous with the city of Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra,” says Charles Pignone, author of The Sinatra Treasures, in his comprehensive liner notes to the Best of Vegas CD. “It has been said that next to legalized gambling, nothing has been more beneficial and profitable to Las Vegas than Frank Sinatra.”

All the Sinatra classics are here, performed live before adoring crowds at some of the most prestigious venues in the history of Vegas. “The Lady Is a Tramp” (The Sands, 1961); “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (The Sands, 1966); “All or Nothing at All” (Caesars Palace, 1982); “Pennies From Heaven” (The Golden Nugget, 1987); and of course, the “Theme From New York, New York” (Caesars Palace, 1982) are just some of the gems in the Best of Vegas collection. 

“If you were in Las Vegas at the same time as Sinatra, there was nothing else that could compare,” says Pignone. “Even when the entertainment in town was changing from headliners to magic and production shows, Sinatra was still the ‘main event.’”

 

Or in the words of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, Sinatra was “the destination’s most enduring icon, an inimitable original who was influential in shaping Las Vegas’ image and entertainment scene.”

Sinatra returned to Vegas in December with the opening of Sinatra Dance With Me, at the Wynn Las Vegas. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp, Sinatra Dance With Me features original recorded masters of Frank Sinatra with a big band and 14 of the world’s finest dancers.

www.sinatrafamily.com

STAX Number Ones is a Good Place to Start

29 Mar

For those seeking a quick intro to classic Southern Soul, I suggest looking no further than the new Stax Number Ones CD. The new disc from Concord Music contains many of the most recognizable tracks laid down in the historic Memphis studio. There are a couple welcome surprises in the form of two somewhat obscure Johnnie Taylor hits:  “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.” Pick up this CD and you’ll soon find yourself on the hunt for the countless other smashes conjured up at 926 East McLemore Avenue.   

Stax Records is where Southern soul became a global force in music. The label, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave rise to a number of stars – many hailing from its Southeast Memphis neighborhood. During the ’60s and into the ’70s, Stax studio was a wellspring of hit records that topped both the R&B and pop charts. On March 30, 2010, Stax Records – now operating within Concord Music Group – will release Stax Number Ones, an compilation of 15 chart-topping hits by Stax’ best-known artists.

Included in Stax Number Ones are Booker T. & the MGs’ “Green Onions,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On! I’m Comin’” and “Soul Man,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Making Love,” “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” Rufus Thomas’ “(Do The) Push & Pull [Part 1],” Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the Dramatics’ “In the Rain,” the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman.”

Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group, has placed more than 175 hit songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop charts as well as a staggering 250 hits on the R&B charts. Stax Number Ones represents all 15 songs that hit #1 on either chart from the label’s golden era. It is a perfect sampling of classic Stax. 

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Stax-Number-Ones/

Concord Re-Issues “Strangers in the Night” CD

29 Jan

Concord Music continues its streak of winning CD re-issues with this classic from “Old Blue Eyes.” This is swinging mid-sixties Frankie at his finest. The first two tracks are gold — the title cut and “The Summer Wind,” which features lyrics by the amazing Savannah, GA native, Johnny Mercer. I am also very fond of Sinatra’s groovy take on Tony Hatch’s timeless “Call Me.” The album’s only clunker is “Downtown.” Yes, the same tune that Petula Clark rode to the top of the pops. It just doesn’t click in Sinatra’s hands and, frankly, he seems a little annoyed during the take.

But why focus on the negative when there is so much winning material here. The bonus live tracks are fun, but it’s the studio cuts that you will come back to time and time again. Nelson Riddle’s arrangement work is spot on and future star Glen Campbell even played rhythm guitar on the title track. Betcha didn’t know that!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “Strangers in the Night” was Frank Sinatra’s best-selling single and — between the single and its namesake album — the recipient of four Grammy Awards including Record of the Year in 1966. But it almost didn’t get to market in time, with Bobby Darin and Jack Jones cutting the song at the same time. Sinatra’s version was the hit, displacing the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to the #2 position in 1966 and proving the biggest hit of his career. The album shot to the top of the charts as well. Even in the rock ’n’ roll era, nine-time Grammy recipient Frank Sinatra was still the Chairman and one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century, selling more than 27 million CDs in the SoundScan era alone.

On January 26, 2010, Concord Records, on license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), will release Strangers in the Night: Deluxe Edition, a digitally remastered reissue of Sinatra’s classic album featuring three bonus tracks and liner notes by Ken Barnes. The deluxe edition contains all ten of the original Reprise Records album’s songs as well as three previously unreleased additions: “Strangers in the Night” and “All or Nothing at All,” both recorded live at Budokan Hall in Tokyo in the ’80s, and an alternate take of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” from the original 1966 album sessions.

The Strangers in the Night album was arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle (with the title track arranged by Ernie Freeman). Sonny Burke was the album’s producer, with the exception of the title track, which was produced by Jimmy Bowen, theretofore known primarily for his work in rock ’n’ roll and country. German composer/arranger Burt Kaempfert, known for his production of the Beatles’ first commercial recordings in the very early ’60s, had supplied theme music for the James Garner film A Man Could Get Killed called “Strangers in the Night.” Within days, Bobby Darin and Jack Jones were both recording it. But Bowen heard it as a hit for Sinatra and instantly set up a session to record just that song (most sessions would produce four songs at a time). Sinatra was not initially crazy about the song, but trusted Bowen’s judgment. It wasn’t long before the trust was justified.

Within hours of final mixing, Bowen sent acetates of the song to key radio stations —by private planes. The extravagance paid off, but not overnight. Two months later, the song broke big in the U.K. and a month later, on July 2, 1966, it hit #1 in the U.S. and in every major territory, becoming the biggest record of Sinatra’s career.

The rest of the Strangers in the Night album was recorded in two May 1966 sessions with longtime producer Burke again at the helm and Riddle arranging. The songs were primarily classic standards with a few of them reflecting the current scene. But as annotator Barnes points out, there was no attempt to appeal to teenage America, other than that some of the songs came from Sinatra’s own teenage years: Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s “My Baby Cares for Me” from 1928, Donaldson’s “You’re Driving Me Crazy” from 1930, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” also by Donaldson and Kahn, from 1925. Also included was Rodgers & Hart’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from the 1935 musical Jumbo. Apart from the album’s title track, the most important song on the album was a German tune with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Summer Wind,” which reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.

Two British songs, both popularized by Petula Clark, “Call Me” and “Downtown,” were a nod to current tastes, as was Alan Jay Lerner’s “On a Clear Day,” one of the better show tunes of its period.

Ken Barnes observes, “Despite a marked stylistic difference between the title song and the rest of the tracks, Strangers in the Night became Sinatra’s most commercially successful album. He had dealt with the new pop age spectacularly — and on his own terms.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/strangers-in-the-night

Concord Re-Issues Albert & Stevie Ray

4 Jul

STX-31423-02

I must admit I missed this one the first time around. Sorry I did because it contains some very tasty licks from Misters King and Vaughn. Albert is obviously in control yet seems willing to share the spotlight with the young upstart. The conversation between tracks is not exactly riveting, but it is revealing. However it’s the inspired guitar work that makes this collection worthwhile.

I have never been a big fan of live recordings. The sound is usually muddy and the playing often uninspired. Neither is the case here. Pick up on this CD and you’ll be rewarded with some first rate blues jams and a slice of musical history to boot. What more can you expect for a mere $13.98? 

In Session is the only known recording of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan performing together. The 2009 remaster presented by Stax Records stands as a fitting tribute to the genius of two of the greatest musicians ever to have played the blues on electric guitar.

- from the liner notes by Lee Hildebrand

Anyone who’s witnessed a much anticipated jam session only to be disappointed–with each participant deferring to the other, the end result being that neither ever got out of first gear–will welcome this pairing of two giants of blues guitar. Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan obviously shared a mutual admiration, but it simply wasn’t in either one’s makeup to: a) be intimidated or b) take a backseat to anyone. Not without kicking up a little dust.

- from the liner notes by Dan Forte

Albert King–electric guitar, vocal
Stevie Ray Vaughan–electric guitar, vocal (on Track 3 only)
Tony Llorens–piano, organ
Gus Thornton–bass
Michael Llorens–drums

Recorded December 6, 1983.

AlbertKing

Albert says “Get Yo Copy Today!” @ http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/In-Session-STX-31423-02/

Concord Reissues Classic Ray Charles LPs

14 Jun

Ray Charles Cover

Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up. The reissue includes both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 on one CD. It includes some of my favorite Charles interpretations including his goosed up take of The Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love” and Don Gibson’s timeless “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” I also love the slow, slinky version of “You Are My Sunshine.” Ray and the girls take that tune to church and the results are indeed soul stirring.

Although it may have shocked some people at the time, Ray Charles’s fascination with country and western music was anything but an overnight development.

As a child in Florida, he listened to the Grand Ole Opry’s radio broadcasts that wafted through Southern skies on Saturday evenings. In his late teens, Charles spent several months in Tampa playing piano with a hillbilly band, the Florida Playboys. At an early Atlantic Records rehearsal, he tried Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” on for size. One of his last hit Atlantic singles in 1959 was a steel guitar–laced cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.”

Thus, his 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its encore Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume 2 represented the culmination of a lifelong love affair rather than a producer’s convenient way to expand Brother Ray’s LP catalog.

“That was strictly his idea, something that he wanted to do,” confirmed his chief tenor saxophone soloist, the late David “Fathead” Newman.

“He knew what he wanted,” said his late A&R director at ABC-Paramount Records, Sid Feller. “The projects were always his own creation.”

Since joining ABC’s roster in late 1959 after permanently altering the rhythm and blues landscape at Atlantic by mixing blues and gospel into a groundbreaking recipe that sired soul, those projects had included albums devoted to songs about destinations (Genius Hits the Road) and names of women (Dedicated to You). Charles had been contemplating an LP of country chestnuts for years, so to him it wasn’t a radical concept. What was earth shattering was the way Ray redefined each song. His sanctified voice would never be mistaken for that of Ernest Tubb or Webb Pierce, and there was a huge difference between traditional country fiddles and the cosmopolitan strings gracing these two albums. When Ray unleashed the roaring horn section from his recently formed big band, those country evergreens swung like never before.

Having made countless new country converts by giving these 24 songs a soul-steeped urban dimension, Charles would continue to dip into the C&W songbook. He covered Johnny Cash’s hit “Busted” to Grammy-winning acclaim in 1963, and his remakes of Buck Owens’s “Crying Time” and “Together Again” hit during the mid-’60s. Then again, Ray’s unique vocal interpretations inevitably made any song from any genre entirely his own.

“He created more things with his voice than any other singer I ever knew in my life, or ever heard of,” said Feller. “To me, creating itself is the genius part.” That genius permeates these two volumes of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Modern-Sounds-in-Country-and-Western-Music-Vols-1-/

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