reissues

Grateful Dead's Shakedown Street and Blues for Allah Get Deluxe 180-Gram Pure Virgin Vinyl Treatment

In a move sure to delight audiophiles and collectors of classic pop music albums, the Audio Fidelity label will reissue of two classic Grateful Dead albums on 180-gram pure virgin vinyl, in limited numbered edition gatefold packages on June 7th, according to label president Marshall Blonstein.The band's 1975 BLUES FOR ALLAH and 1978's SHAKEDOWN STREET will be available from both online and brick-and-mortar retail outlets as the latest offerings in Audio Fidelity's continuing program of audiophile reissues.

Audio Fidelity, which Blonstein founded in 2002 after leaving the pioneering DCC Compact Classics label that he started in 1986, has become synonymous with high-quality album reissues geared toward the audiophile market. Since 2009, Audio Fidelity has reissued some of the best-known and most significant pop and rock titles in both 24Karat Gold CD and 180-gram virgin vinyl editions.Continuing the policy Blonstein established at DCC, all Audio Fidelity titles are produced from original sources and feature the original artwork. Among the imprint's growing catalog are key recordings by Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, the Doors, Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.

The two Grateful Dead reissues occupy special places in the fabled San Francisco band's history. BLUES FOR ALLAH, originally released in September of 1975, was the third of only four albums issued on the group's Grateful Dead Records imprint. While the LP's best remembered cuts, "Franklin's Tower" and "The Music Never Stopped," remained in the band's concert set list for some 20 years, the title track-the first part of an ambitious suite-was performed only a few times in 1975 before being retired from the band's repertoire. BLUES FOR ALLAH reached No. 12 on Billboard's album chart; from the LP, "The Music Never Stopped" was the Dead's highest charting single since "Uncle John's Band."

First issued in November 1978 on Arista Records, SHAKEDOWN STREET was the Dead's tenth album, its eighth to go Gold. Produced by Little Feat founder Lowell George, it was an eclectic collection that featured updated versions of venerable live Dead favorites ("Good Lovin,'" "All New Minglewood Blues") and also introduced songs that would become staples of the band's concerts for years to come, most notably "I Need a Miracle" and "Fire on the Mountain." The lighthearted SHAKEDOWN STREET cover illustration was done by renowned underground-comics artist Gilbert Shelton, famous for The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Wonder Wart-hog strips. The album remained on the Billboard chart for close to six months, peaking at No. 41.

The Grateful Dead vinyl reissues represent Audio Fidelity's expanded vinyl release schedule, which has recently included titles such as Cheap Trick's IN COLOR, Laura Nyro's FIRST SONGS, Harry Nilsson's A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILSSON IN THE NIGHT and Kate Bush's HOUNDS OF LOVE. While the label often issues a title in both Gold-CD and virgin-vinyl formats, Blonstein admits some of the impetus for producing the latter comes from the renewed interest in vinyl LP's. According to the R.I.A.A., vinyl sales surged 26% in 2010 over the previous year.

Blonstein is bullish on the public's appetite for audiophile reissues of classic albums, and Audio Fidelity's capacity to satisfy it. "The traditional music retail stores as we once knew them are gone," he continues. "At the same time, there's a strong traditional 'unique' retail base of retailers that has found a way to do more than survive; they're thriving. When CDs first came out, they were unique. It was a new format. Vinyl and cassettes starting declining rapidly in sales. The uniqueness and the improved sound quality made the CD an almost instant success, but it lacked the emotional connection consumers experienced with vinyl. The resurgence of vinyl shows us that connection is being made again ... the consumer likes to hold a vinyl LP, to study the artwork. It's now become a very hip format again, and when you see consumers shopping for vinyl at stores, you see them spending more time looking to buy music in general. It's obvious that there is an audience for top-quality remastered CD and vinyl pressings."

Marshall Blonstein's professional career comprises a virtual history of the modern music and entertainment business. The Los Angeles native started in the business in 1965 as a promotion executive at Epic and ABC Records. As a principal of Ode Records, he helped make Carole King's Tapestry one of the best-selling albums of all time and built two of the longest running cult-film franchises in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke. Blonstein subsequently served as president of Island Records, working with artists such as Bob Marley and Steve Winwood, and, in 1986, founded DCC Compact Classics to take advantage of the technical advances offered in the digital medium. DCC quickly grew into the premiere audiophile imprint, issuing sets by Elvis Presley, the Eagles, the Doors, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Upon leaving DCC in 2002, Blonstein created Audio Fidelity, which has assumed a similarly prestigious perch among imprints serving the audiophile and music-collecting communities. In addition to its audiophile catalog, Audio Fidelity, based in Camarillo, California, also releases compilation CDs, a variety of reissues and DVDs, such as Soupy Sales, Elvis Presley, Tim Allen and Hugh Hefner's legendary series Playboy After Dark.

Reissues from Ben Vaughn, Jim Carroll & Wednesday Week

Jim Carroll''s ''Praying Mantis''- for the Grateful Web

Noble Rot, the label subsidiary of Collectors' Choice devoted to preserving great early indie-rock albums of the '80s and '90s, will release three new reissues on January 29: Praying Mantis bv Jim Carroll, Beautiful Thing by Ben Vaughn and What We Had by Wednesday Week. Keeping in Noble Rot's tradition, the reissues will be packaged in cardboard Digi-Paks with liner notes.

Previous Noble Rot reissues have included Robyn Hitchcock, Grant Lee Buffalo, Hunters & Collectors, The Surf Punks, Martini Ranch, Rodney Crowell's side project Cicadas, and more.
 
Wednesday Week – What We Had. Wednesday Week is a long-running Los Angeles-based band anchored by sisters Kristi and Kelly Callan, with members who have included Heidi Rodewald (later in the Negro Problem), David Nolte (The Last, Wondermints, Maria McKee, Davie Allen & the Arrows and David Gray), Dave Provost (The Droogs, Dream Syndicate), and Ilene Markell (7 Deadly 5). The Noble Rot reissue contains not only the band's 1987 complete Don Dixon-produced album What We Had (originally on Enigma), but TEN bonus tracks including the complete 1983 EP Betsy's House on WarFrat Records, plus five more songs from the band's archives. These include an alternate version of "You Wanted Me to Hang Around"; the previously unreleased "All So Clear," from an obscure Midnight Records holiday compilation; the fan club single "Leopard"; and the title track of 1990's No Going Back album on the Swedish Spins label. Liner notes are by Los Angeles Times TV critic and Wednesday Week fan/friend Robert Lloyd.
 
Ben Vaughn – Beautiful Thing. Vaughn is a rock 'n 'roll renaissance man — a artist and songwriter, producer (Arthur Alexander's acclaimed Lonely Just Like Me, Charlie Feathers), and prolific TV score-smith ( Third Rock from the Sun, That '70s Show and Grounded for Life.) The Jersey/Philly boy put himself on the map with the 1986 album The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn and followed up with this 1987 album, Beautiful Thing, cut in a New Jersey garage and originally issued on Restless Records. The album contains such tracks as "She's a Real Scream" (with the infamous line "Her end justifies the means"), the Gary Usher-like surf sound of "Desert Boots," "Jerry Lewis in France, " Clothes Don't Make The Man," "Beautiful Thing, "The North Wind Blew," "Shingaling with Me" and "Gimme Gimme Gimme.". A nearly forgotten classic, reissued with liner notes by pop scholar Gene Sculatti and quotes from Vaughn himself.
 
Jim Carroll – Praying Mantis. Those familiar only with the hit "People Who Died" may not realize that Jim Carroll, like Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine, first started performing as a poet in the Lower East Side scene. This 1991 album, originally issued on Giant, takes us to the heart of that scene, St. Mark's Church on the Bowery, for a series of poems and semi-improvised comic monologues taken from Carroll's collections. Included are pieces from several collections: "Living at the Movies" (1973), "The Book of Nods" (1986) and "Forced Entries" (1987) as well as a 14-minute improvised rant titled "The Loss of American Innocence." In other words, something of a greatest hits poetry collection. Liner note writer Kim Cooper, a pop culture writer and blogger, describes his performance as "requiring intense attention that rewards with humor and flashes of subtle, elegant observation." The album, she notes, "struck a confident note of a nimble artist reinventing himself."

COLLECTORS' CHOICE REISSUES THE MUGWUMPS' ONLY ALBUM

- for the Grateful Web

The Mugwumps are best known as the band immortalized in autobiographical song by the Mamas & the Papas. Many know of them, but few have heard their one 1967 album for Warner Bros. Records. Until now, that is, as Collectors' Choice Music prepares its June 5 reissue of The Mugwumps' self-titled album.

"This was the first folk-rock group ever," Cass Elliot boasted to Johnny Carson about The Mugwumps. In a sense it's true. Born of the late Greenwich Village folk scene just as many of its proponents prepared to colonize Laurel Canyon, the band consisted of Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty (later of the Mamas & the Papas), Zalman Yanovsky (future guitarist for the Lovin' Spoonful) and Jim Hendricks. A small amount of cross-pollination occurred in the group's formation: Cass and her erstwhile husband Jim had been in Cass Elliot & the Big Three, a progressive folk outfit. Canadians Denny and Zal hailed from The Haliax Three, a more traditional folk trio. In early '64, Zal and Denny launched a rock alter ego called The Noise. Also in '64, Cass introduced Zal to John Sebastian by claiming Ringo Starr was with her. A historic connection was made as Zal and John went off to form the Lovin' Spoonful, while Cass and Denny joined John & Michelle Phillips to form the Mamas & the Papas, who pioneered rock's "California Dreamin'" era.

The Mugwumps' name was given to them by producer Erik Jacobsen, who heard them at the skid row flophouse known as the Hotel Albert in Greenwich Village, where the members made their home. A mugwump is a fence-sitter who can't make up his mind – mug on one side, wump on the other side.

The Washington Post noted the group was "attempting a new sound."  Another review described Cass as a "large young gal dressed in a leopard-skin muu muu."  The description continued of the guys: "One wore his hair combed forward over his brow à la a Beatle. Another looked like you or me except for sideburns which grew at least half way to his chin.  Another looked like Paul of Peter, Paul & Mary fame."  As they played, the critic noted, "the men plucked glistening electric guitars with great vehemence and the one with the Beatle mop moved his head back and forth like a Dupont Circle pigeon spying a crust of bread."

Cited in the reissue's liner notes by Richard Barton Campbell, Denny Doherty was quoted as saying: "Picture this group: Zalman Yanovksy, free lance Jew; me from Halifax, the weird Irishman playing bass; this 300 pound Cass; we've got Art Stokes, black kid on drums; Jim Hendricks on guitar, John Sebastian sometimes sitting on a stool playing harmonica, and we called ourselves The Mugwumps! We went electric a year before Dylan. Everybody went, 'What!? Get out of here!'"

Unfortunately, the Mugwumps era lasted only from July through November 1964, their one album recorded August 13 & 14, 1964, produced by Alan Lorber, who'd gone to see them at the behest of managers Roy Silver and Bob Covello.

In November 1964, they played their swan song performance at the Peppermint Lounge in New York.

Recalled Cass: "We were doing very sophisticated folksy stuff, but obviously 1964 wasn't the year for it. . . It was in a time warp. Just too much before its time."

Perhaps we can better understand the Mugwumps muse 43 years later, in 2007. At any rate, thanks to Collectors' Choice, we'll have the opportunity to try.

STAX REISSUES JOHNNIE TAYLOR'S LIVE ALBUM, ' LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB'

Johnnie Taylor- for the Grateful Web

Johnnie Taylor, one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived, was at the peak of his game on September 23, 1972, when he sang to an effusive crowd at the now-defunct Summit Club in South Los Angeles. The show was captured on tape and will be reissued February 20 by Stax Records as Johnnie Taylor: Live at the Summit Club.

 
The live album, produced by Al Bell, the then-president of Stax Records, was recorded at the time of the historic two-day Wattstax concert at nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  The Wattstax bill was filled, so Stax put many of its artists into nearby clubs where they were taped and filmed.

 
As well as including his biggest hits ("Who's Making Love," "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone"), the album contains six previously unreleased tracks that emphasize the blues side of Taylor's repertoire. Label-mate Rufus Thomas said of Taylor in his introduction: "When you speak of blues, this is a man who knows 'em from the letter A to the letter Z."

 
Taylor recorded eight straight Top 10 R&B hits, though by 1971 he had been eclipsed by Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers as the label's top hitmakers. Eventually he moved from Stax to Columbia, where he enjoyed one more big hit, "Disco Lady," before winding down his recording career at Malaco with steady work on the Chitlin' Circuit.

 
staxWhile this recording found Taylor was at the peak of his faculties, his band unfortunately was not in such top form. The musicians messed up again and again — not so much that the audience really noticed, though Taylor did chastise them from time to time. The flaws and the way Taylor handled them without interrupting the flow make for fascinating — and ultimately satisfying — listening. The Arkansas-born vocalist considered himself "a salesman of songs," and he wasn't about to allow adverse circumstances to prevent him from driving home the messages of six of his biggest hits (including two very different versions of "Steal Away") and extended treatments of the blues songs "Little Bluebird" and "Hello Sundown." Six of the nine performances on the reissue, which was produced by Stuart Kremsky, are entirely new to disc.

 
Concord Music Group, which acquired the legendary Memphis label as part of its purchase of Fantasy Records in 2004, will also honor Stax's 50th year by releasing definitive collections, rare performances, unreleased tracks and more from the Memphis R&B imprint in deluxe new packages. Plans for digital releases, remixes and other projects are also in the works; the anniversary year's releases are slated to include more than 20 CDs and DVDs.

 
In addition, Concord Music Group will reactivate Stax this year as a dynamic new force in contemporary R&B music committed to the continuing the legacy of the original legendary label. The first new Stax signings are Isaac Hayes, Angie Stone and Soulive.