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Tony Bennett's 'Best of the Improv Recordings' coming on Concord

In the decade between the end of World War II and the advent of rock ’n’ roll, Tony Bennett emerged as one of the premier pop singers of his generation — the heir apparent to figures like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and other iconic balladeers whose versatile and engaging vocal styles had already translated to huge successes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Despite his popularity in the postwar era, though, Bennett had grown restless by the 1970s. The time had come for him to explore something new, preferably on his own terms, and in an environment of his own making. After more than 15 years on Columbia and a short stint at MGM Records, Bennett struck out on his own and launched Improv Records, a label that lasted only a couple years but generated several fine recordings during the mid-1970s.

Concord Records gathers 16 tracks from his brief period on Improv into a single collection, Tony Bennett: The Best of the Improv Recordings. The compilation, which is culled from the four-CD boxed set, Tony Bennett: The Complete Improv Recordings, is set for release on July 12, just three weeks prior to Bennett’s 85th birthday.

“These tracks capture the moment in Tony Bennett’s career when he had complete artistic freedom,” says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R at Concord Music Group. “As the head of his own label, he was the person who was calling all the shots and running the show. He was free to record what he wanted to record — music that was really important to him and resonated with him . . . I think the results are nothing short of stellar.”

Will Friedwald, who wrote the liner notes for the collection, admits that Improv was short-lived and not a commercial success, releasing about ten albums before shutting its doors after only two years. However, the period was an artistic high mark in Bennett’s overall career.

“Tony Bennett’s own recordings for his label would fall roughly into three categories,” says Friedwald. “Orchestral sessions with his regular musical director at the time, Torrie Zito; quartet sessions with the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet; and most famously, duet sessions with pianist Bill Evans.” Each of these categories is well represented in this collection.

Despite the label’s less than stellar commercial performance during its short existence, says Friedwald, “the Improv sessions would result in some of the most amazing music of Bennett’s career.”

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TRACK LIST:

This Can’t Be Love
Make Someone Happy
Isn’t It Romantic?
Life Is Beautiful
Blue Moon
Thou Swell
You Don’t Know What Love Is
My Romance
The Lady Is a Tramp
You Must Believe in Spring
Reflections
I Could Write a Book
Maybe September
As Time Goes By
While We’re Young [live]
I Left My Heart in San Francisco [live]

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.

Dr. Michael White's "Adventures in New Orleans Jazz, Part 1" Out 6/21

Basin Street Records is pleased to announce the June 21, 2011 release of Dr. Michael White’s Adventures in New Orleans Jazz, Part 1 (Part 2 will be released in early 2012).  This is the fifth release of Dr. Michael White’s on the Basin Street Records label following A Song for George Lewis, Jazz from the Soul of New Orleans, Dancing in the Sky, and Blue Crescent.

Adventures in New Orleans Jazz is an exciting journey of sound which blends traditional jazz with influences and songs from diverse sources, like Africa, the Caribbean and popular music from the 1960s and 70s.  This idea of converting tunes from other genres into the New Orleans jazz language goes back to early pioneers like Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong – who all contributed their own unique variations of the style.

White has recorded 10 projects under his own name and has participated on over 40 recordings including the latest projects of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, and Marianne Faithful.

Dr. Michael White is a leading figure in traditional New Orleans Jazz and one of only a few to creatively carry on the rich clarinet sound and style of that city.  He is a descendant of several first generation jazz musicians, including clarinetist Willie Joseph and reedman Earl Fouche.  He studied clarinet with noted band director Edwin Hampton and was a member of the esteemed St. Augustine High School Marching 100 and Symphonic Band.  In line with New Orleans tradition, White began his jazz career by playing for several years in local brass bands for social club parades and jazz funerals.

Among the numerous awards and honors White has received are the French Chevalier of Arts and Letters and the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Award. In 2010 he was named Louisiana Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and he also won the Offbeat Magazine Best of the Beat Award as Clarinetist of the Year, and Gambit Magazine’s Big Easy Entertainment Award for Traditional Jazz Artist of the Year.

Basin Street Records is a New Orleans based label that is currently the only label with 3 projects on the Billboard Jazz Chart (printing 5/21/11 #10-Rebirth Brass Band’s Rebirth of New Orleans, #11 Irvin Mayfield’s A Love Letter to New Orleans & #16 Kermit Ruffins’ Happy Talk.

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Download “West African Strut” HERE

Pop sensation Nadine Coyle makes her move on America

Nadine Coyle is most famously known for being the lead singer of the Guinness World Records acclaimed pop group, Girls Aloud. Together the group achieved a string of twenty consecutive top ten singles (including four number ones) and two number one albums in the United Kingdom. All of their albums have been certified platinum, with their albums The Sound of Girls Aloud, and Out of Control both selling over one million copies. They have been nominated for five BRIT Awards, winning the 2009 Best Single for "The Promise."

In 2010, Nadine released her debut solo album Insatiable and its title track through Black Pen Records in the United Kingdom. The lead single caught fans' attention and in early 2011 was voted as a "Best Single" behind Kylie Minogue's "All the Lovers," Lady Gaga & Beyonce's collaboration "Telephone," and Robbie Williams + Gary Barlow's "Shame" at The Virgin Media Music Awards.

Click here to listen to Insatiable now!

For the latest news, follow Nadine on Twitter and Facebook!

Nashville teenage psych wonders The Paperhead announce Nationwide tour dates

Three 18 year olds from Nashville turning out tracks that play like lost nuggets from 1968, The Paperhead announce national tour dates accompanied by "spiritual advisor" Jeffrey Novak on farfisa bringing the vintage sounds of their Trouble In Mind-released self-titled LP to life.
Kicking off these dates, Trouble In Mind will be hosting a truly unique pressing/listening party at United Record Pressing in Nashville on June 16 for the limited vinyl only reissue of The Paperhead's debut cassette, Focus In On...The Looking Glass on TIM Records.
Pressed before your very eyes and immediately spun for the first time, this event celebrates both the earliest psychedlic experiments of the band and the vinyl process so integral to the label.
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The Paperhead Tour Dates:
June 15 - Nashville, TN  w/ The Strange Boys
June 16 - United Record Pressing Listening Party - Nashville, TN
June 17 - Poplar Lounge - Memphis, TN    
June 18 - Siberia - New Orleans, LA    
June 19 - The Mink - Houston, TX
June 20 - The Mohawk - Austin, TX w/ Rayon Beach
June 21 - Trainyard - Las Cruces, NM w/ Far Corners
June 23 - Til Two - San Diego, CA    
June 24 - Permanent Records Instore @ 5pm - LA, CA
June 24 - HM157 - Los Angeles, CA    
June 25 - Fuzzplex - Oakland, CA    
June 26 - Thee Parkside - San Francisco, CA w/ Wax Idols, Wrong Words
June 28 - Slabtown - Portland, OR w/ Night Beats 
July 14 - Black Sparrow - Lafayette, LA    
July 15 - Bitchpork - Chicago, IL    
July 16 - Cactus Club - Milwaukee, WI    
July 18 - Now That's Class - Cleveland, OH    
July 19 - Columbus, OH w/ Andrew Graham & Lpps
July 20 - The Shop - Pittsburgh, PA
July 22 - WFMU Live Session @ 1pm - NY, NY
July 22 - Bruar Falls - NY, NY    
July 23 - Cafe Nine - New Haven, CT w/ Estrogen Highs
July 25 - Golden West - Baltimore, MD
July 26 - Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC

Luke Temple To Release New Solo Record

Before the success of his group Here We Go Magic, Luke Temple worked full-time as a plasterer.  At nights after work, he spent his hours crafting what would become Here We Go Magic's self-titled debut.  During the days he wrote a completely different set of songs in his head.  The resulting record Don't Act Like You Don't Care shines with clarity and daylight, in contrast to Here We Go Magic's hazy aquatic debut.

After recording two critically acclaimed solo records for Mill Pond (2005, 2007) Temple's work still hadn't garnered much attention from the record-buying public.  Frustrated, but not defeated, he focused his creative energy into the writing of two amazing, but completely different records.  Initially referred to as "The Country Record," Don't Act Like You Don't Care was shelved due to the success of Here We Go Magic's self-titled debut.  Now, three years later, we're finally able to offer this incredible collection of folk-pop songs.

Unlike the Here We Go Magic record, Don't Act Like You Don't Care focuses on Temple's songwriting and evocative tenor.  From heartbreaking ballads like "So Long, So Long" and "Ballad for Dick George" to jaunty pop gems like "Ophelia" and "In The Open" you'll become fast friends with these songs that continue to satisfy after hundreds of listens.

Inspired by Rudy Vangelder's early Blue Note recordings, Temple and friends recorded the songs in two 4-hour sessions using just three microphones and a 4-track recorder.  Temple is fortunate to have some amazingly talented friends with Eliot Krimsky ( shines with clarity and daylight, in contrast to Here We Go Magic's hazy aquatic debut. Glass Ghost) on synths, Tyler Wood on piano, Parker Kindred (Antony and the Johnsons, Jeff Buckley) on drums, Michael Bloch (Here We Go Magic) on guitar, and Adam Chilenski on bass.

STS9 @ Hangout Festival 2011

STS9 kicks off a summer of massive touring, performing at a dozen festivals, including Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores Alabama, amphitheatres and more in support of their upcoming summer EP release on 1320 Records.

Since forming in Atlanta over a decade ago, instrumental electronic rock band STS9 has experienced a meteoric rise to the forefront of the electronic-rock music scene. Recently ranked #25 among Pollstar’s list of top-grossing touring acts for Summer 2010, STS9 averaged more than 4,200 tickets sold per city on a 25 city tour that boasted opening acts such as Ghostland Observatory, Thievery Corporation and Big Boi of Outkast. The band’s tour culminated with two sold out performances at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, with 18,000 fans on-hand to experience the audio-visual force that is STS9.

STS9 truly does it all; from headlining stages at festivals such as Austin City Limits Festival, Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival, to selling out shows around the country in opera houses and amphitheatres alike, to performing with Jay-Z in arenas, to running their own record label, 1320 Records, to using their voice as a platform for change and raising significant amounts of money towards funding for their activism efforts (including $150,000 this past year to The Make it Right Foundation, paving the way to rebuild a house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans). Pushing boundaries is all in a day’s work for STS9.

In addition to the release of their latest studio album, Ad Explorata (the tenth in their full discography), and in keeping with XLR8R Magazine’s notion that STS9 is "one of the country's most intriguing, innovative outfits around,” June 2010 brought the release of Axe the Cables (1320 Records), a live album featuring STS9’s first ever acoustic performance recorded in late 2009 at the Gates Opera House in Denver, Colorado. These electronic virtuosos got back to their roots, performing on all acoustic instruments to absolutely rave reviews, and inspired additional “unplugged” events at various noteworthy stops across the country during their summer tour – including sold out performances at the Gramercy Theatre in New York, Atlanta’s Tabernacle and the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

STS9’s self-owned record label, 1320 Records was founded on the principles of collaboration, cooperation, and community. The goal is clear: bring the music to the people in the most conscious, unique innovative and savvy ways possible. By doing so, the distance lessens between artists and fans, putting the power back in the hands of those that make music and those that live for it.

Ursa Minor Announces New Release & Show

Fronted and founded by New York singer/writer Michelle Casillas, Ursa Minor has become a mainstay in NYC’s indie rock scene. The band delivers a timeless mix of vocal driven pop-rock with a primal rhythmic undercurrent; sharp and urban, broad and free.
Ursa Minor’s debut LP Silent Moving Picture was released by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, on Smells Like Records. It was a deep and darker picture, slow bumps in the night and big spaces, featuring Casillas’ swampy electric piano and shuddering vocals. Ursa Minor is a band of improvisers, grown from downtown roots. Over many years of live performances and writing, they have pursued their artistic bent without compromise, and coincidentally become a source of naturally catching melodies and themes of a broader life.
From Beaconpass: “This Spring will see the arrival of Ursa Minor’s follow up, SHOWFACE.  The sound is often bigger, louder, more pugnacious: this is the sound of a band playing whatever turns them on. Live, Ursa Minor has been known to take the Violent Femmes' sweet ballad "Please Do Not Go" and turn it into a smoldering reggae slow jam, somewhere between Blondie's version of "The Tide is High" and Patti Smith's "Birdland."  Singer Michelle Casillas and her band can wring every drop of feeling out of a song, whether it's loud or lowdown, sweet or seething.” Many of their peers, some of New York’s most celebrated innovators, are often spotted at their shows, including Norah Jones, Marc Ribot, Joan As Police Woman, and Bill Frisell.
SHOWFACE (Anthemusa Records) was produced by Tony Scherr (Bill Frisell, SexMob, Norah Jones, Lounge Lizards, Feist), who is also featured on guitar. Bass whiz Rob Jost (Imogen Heap, Bjork) and NY heavy hitter Robert DiPietro (Norah Jones, Josh Rouse) equally create the sound, contribute songs of great depth and strength, and sing harmony. Special guests include Chris Brown (Joan As Police Woman, Barenaked Ladies, Abrams Brothers) on organ, and Jim Campilongo (Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson) and Teddy Kumpel (Rickie Lee Jones) on guitars.
Ursa Minor kicks off their new release, SHOWFACE, at NYC’s Joe's Pub, Tuesday, May 24th at 7:30pm!

Soulive's Al Evans Unearths Crushed Velvet

Royal Family Records has announced the May 24 release of the long lost 1970s' motion picture soundtrack The Big One by Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers. This never-before-issued soul music gem was recently unearthed by Soulive drummer Alan Evans when a family friend in Buffalo, NY put him in touch with the movie's director Cleo McBride. A 1974 Shaft-meets-007 Blaxploitation production, The Big One never made it to the big screen as the film was reported to have been destroyed in a fire soon after completion. The soundtrack recordings remained dormant until Evans was recruited to mix the original sessions and release it through Soulive's record company Royal Family Records. The Brooklyn-based label will release the soundtrack as both a free mp3 album download and on limited edition vinyl.

The track listing is:

1. The Big One (Main Theme)
2. Thunderbird
3. Felecia's Love Theme
4. Detroit Slim
5. The Lay Down
6. Memphis Stomp
7. London Black (pts. 1,2,3)
8. Big Chase
9. The Big One (End Theme)

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More about Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers

In the late 60s and early 70s, Buffalo, NY was a well-known hotspot for funk and soul music. One of the stand-outs on the scene was a guitarist and vocalist who went by the name Crushed Velvet. He backed many of Buffalo's finest musicians and was the first call most national hit-makers would make when needing to assemble a local band for Buffalo dates. Inspired to start his own band, he assembled Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers. They hit the scene hard bringing a tight new sound to “The Queen City." The response was so overwhelming that it quickly became clear the next logical step was to set their sites on New York City. As plans were being made for a move to the Big Apple, Crushed Velvet got a call from an old band-mate turned filmmaker Cleo McBride. Cleo had recently been given his first big break to direct a film called The Big One. This was not going to be a run of the mill Blaxploitation movie, but a film to turn the industry on its head. The main character was to be the first African-American spy hero, chasing down "the man" across the world.  Crushed Velvet believed this could be the band's ticket to the top, so plans for NYC were shelved. Instead, they began recording the album of their lives.  After nearly a year of writing and recording, the soundtrack was near completion. It was around this time that Crushed Velvet received the devastating news that would shatter those dreams. On March 23, 1974, the home of Cleo McBride was burned to the ground along with all of the master film reels for The Big One.

After the fire, all that remained was the shock and allegations of an entire community.  Cleo McBride was the first to claim that the government was at fault for the destruction of his work because of its positive and powerful depiction of a "black man as a strong, worldly hero."  With no film to accompany the music and an overall paranoia associated with anything having to do with The Big One, the soundtrack was shelved. Crushed Velvet broke up the band and disappeared from the Buffalo music scene.

In 2010, Soulive drummer Alan Evans was contacted by a family friend who'd been in touch with Cleo McBride. Aware that Evans, a Buffalo-native, had achieved a great deal of success in the music industry and was also operating his own recording studio PlayonBrother, they shared the story of The Big One and Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers, hoping he'd listen to the tapes. Intrigued by the story, Evans agreed and what he found was pure soul music gold. He took to the task of mixing the recordings and preparing them for worldwide release through Soulive's label Royal Family Records.

THE BIG ONE, the original motion picture soundtrack by CRUSHED VELVET & THE VELVETEERS is available May 24 as a free mp3 album download and on limited edition vinyl through Royal Family Records.

Watch video with Al Evans explaining history of The Big One

Download a free mp3 of "The Big One (Main Theme)"

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Celebrates First Gold Digital Certification

Over two decades after its release, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s (NGDB) No. 1 hit single “Fishin’ in the Dark” is still setting records.  The classic song has been certified GOLD by the RIAA for digital sales of over 500,000 copies.  “Fishin’ in the Dark” was a monster hit for NGDB dominating the No. 1 spot on the country charts in both the US and Canada in 1987.  It was first released digitally in 2009.

“’Fishin’ in the Dark’ seems to have a life of its own and has certainly become a signature song for us over the years,” said band member Jeff Hanna. “We love that this song has become a summer anthem and continues to appeal to new audiences year after year.”

Often cited as a catalyst for an entire movement in Country Rock and American Roots Music, NGDB continues to add to their already legendary status.  With multi-platinum and gold records, a string of top ten hits, multiple Grammy, CMA, ACM and IBMA Awards and nominations, and now a GOLD Digital Certification, the band's accolades continue to accumulate. Showing no signs of slowing down, NGDB is currently on an extensive North American Tour.  The band is celebrating another HUGE milestone this year, over four decades of touring and making music!

NGDB is currently on the road in support of their most recent release, the critically acclaimed album Speed of Life (2009, Sugar Hill Records). For a full list of tour dates, visit www.nittygritty.com.

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Tour Dates:

05/07/2011 - Fort Yates, ND - Prairie Knights Casino & Resort
06/03/2011 - Scottown, OH - Appalachian Uprising Bluegrass

06/04/2011 - Kent, OH - The Kent Stage

06/16/2011 - Kettering, OH - Fraze Pavilion for the Performing Arts

06/17/2011 - Louisville, KY - Kentucky Country Day School Theater
06/18/2011 - Springfield, MO - Show Me Music Festival
06/19/2011 - Littleton, CO - Hudson Gardens and Event Center
06/24/2011 - Manhattan, KS - The Country Stampede Tuttle Creek State Park

06/25/2011 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
06/26/2011 - Laytonville, CA - Kate Wolf Memorial Music

07/03/2011 - Mountain View, AR - Ozark Folk Center

07/08/2011 - Huntley, MT - Huntley Homesteader Days Festival

07/09/2011 - Libby, MT - CARD Summer Concert

07/24/2011 - Twin Lakes, WI - Country Thunder USA

07/27/2011 - Minot, ND - North Dakota State Fair

07/30/2011 - Sweet Home, OR - Oregon Jamboree