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Judy Collins' Elektra albums to be reissued on Collectors' Choice

Collectors’ Choice Music will reissue nine albums by Judy Collins, one of the great interpretive folksingers of our time, representing a good portion of her Elektra Records years from 1966-97. Collins’ clear soprano, unerring taste and uncommon sensitivity to her material has enriched songs by everybody from Bob Dylan to Jacques Brel to Stephen Sondheim, and while she began her career by interpreting the work of others, she would become an acclaimed songwriter as well. Her fearless approach to trying new arrangements, instrumentation and repertoire has made her albums among the most absorbing and fulfilling of any singer-songwriter releases.

On July 27, 2010, Collectors’ Choice will issue digitally remastered CDs of nine of Collins’ Elektra titles: Fifth Album (1965), In My Life (1966), Whales & Nightingales (1970), True Stories & Other Dreams (1973), Bread & Roses (1976), Running for My Life (1980), Times of Our Lives (1982), Home Again (1984) and Christmas at the Biltmore (1997). The albums contain newly commissioned liner notes by Ritchie Unterberger that include interviews with Collins.

According to Collectors’ Choice Senior Vice President Gordon Anderson, “Judy Collins is one of those artists we always dreamed of reissuing, but never dreamed we would get the chance. We are thrilled to release these legendary albums on Collectors’ Choice with the love and respect they deserve.”

Fifth Album: This 1965 release, which charted #69 on the Billboard album chart, cemented Collins’ status as the foremost interpreter of the best 1960s songwriters to emerge from the folk revival. In addition to songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton, John Phillips and Richard Fariña, the album contains three Bob Dylan compositions, two of which (“Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” “Daddy You’ve Been on My Mind”) he didn’t release on his own records in the ’60s. The Mark Abramson-produced recording featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Danny Kalb and Eric Weissberg on guitars, and Fariña on dulcimer.

• In My Life: Collins’ 1966 album In My Life saw her make a bold leap from the folk-grounded arrangements and material of her previous work into a hybrid of folk, classical and pop that was dubbed “baroque folk.” Joshua Rifkin, fresh from the Baroque Beatles Book, arranged and conducted. In addition to the first appearances of Leonard Cohen songs on any release, this album, which reached #65 on the charts, includes compositions by Bob Dylan, Donovan, the Beatles, Richard Fariña, Jacues Brel (to whom she was turned on to by Elektra founder Jac Holzman) and a then-unknown Randy Newman.

• Whales & Nightingales: For Collins’ 1970 album Whales & Nightingales, producer Abramson left the confines of the studio to record at such locations as Carnegie Hall, the Manhattan Center and St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University. Holzman recalls in his book Follow the Music: “We decided to pick locations that matched the emotional ambience of the songs we were recording.” The album includes unusual treatments of traditional folk songs (the haunting “Farewell to Tarwathie” includes recordings of whales), as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Jacques Brel. Collins’ hit version of “Amazing Grace,” featuring her then-boyfriend Stacy Keach, is on this release.

True Stories & Other Dreams:
Having exquisitely interpreted virtually every songwriter of note from the ’60s, Collins began including a few of her own songs on her albums (beginning with 1967’s Wildflowers). She brought her own songwriting to the fore on this 1973 release, contributing over half the material. In addition to five Collins originals, the album contains the Top 40 hit “Cook With Honey,” penned by Valerie Carter. Also featured is Tom Paxton’s “The Hostage,” written in the wake of the Attica prison riots and a 7 1/12-minute song titled “Che” about revolutionary Che Guevara. The album rose to #17 on the album chart.

• Bread & Roses: For the title track of this Top 30 1976 LP, Collins’ friend Mimi Fariña set to music the poem after which she’d named her humanitarian organization Bread & Roses. The album also features an eclectic group of composers including Leonard Cohen, Elton John, Duke Ellington and Chilean singer-songwriter-activist Victor Jara, with production by Arif Mardin and engineering by Phil Ramone. Players included Hugh McCracken, guitar; David Sanborn, sax; and Tony Levin, bass.

Running for My Life: This 1980 album marked the first occasion on which Judy Collins claimed sole production credit for one of her LPs. It was also notable for her spot-on performances of two songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (she was no stranger to Sondheim’s work, having had a hit with “Send in the Clowns” in the mid-’70s). Songs also include a Jacques Brel composition (“Marieke,” which Collins had recorded previously but wanted to revisit), and one by Larry Gatlin (“I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today”).

• Times of Our Lives: This album, released in ’82, once again demonstrates that Collins is a singer capable of covering just about any kind of material as she deftly interprets three songs by country hit songwriter Hugh Prestwood (author of Randy Travis’ 1990 #1 hit “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Hearty”), a tune by Anna McGarrigle (“Sun Son”) and five of her own. Featuring musicians Hugh McCracken, Tony Levin and banjoist Bill Keith, Rolling Stone called this album her best since 1973’s True Stories & Other Dreams.

• Home Again: Collins’ final studio album for Elektra, released in 1984, features her own composition “Shoot First,” which benefited the National Alliance Against Violence. It also features a duet with country star T.G. Sheppard on the title track (with lyrics by Gerry Goffin) and a co-write with Elton John, “Sweetheart on Parade,” which John never recorded on his own albums. The album contains the Henry Gross composition “Everyone Works in China.” Producers were the jazz-steeped team of Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

Christmas at the Biltmore: Following albums on such labels as Geffen and Gold Castle, Collins returned to Elektra for the 1997 soundtrack to a holiday special on the A&E cable network. Recorded live in an intimate setting at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, this record proves once again that Collins’ powers of interpretation really know no time or season as she makes these familiar songs her own. Includes “Joy to the World,” “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells” and even a version of “The Night Before Christmas” with new words penned by Collins.

COLLECTORS’ CHOICE TO REISSUE ABKCO’S CAMEO-PARKWAY CLASSICS

On June 22, 2010, Collectors’ Choice Music in conjunction with ABKCO Music & Records will begin a rollout of six reissues and compilations from the legendary Cameo and Parkway Records masters. The initial six CDs, including four twofers, are Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites, Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones/Rydell at the Copa, Chubby Checker’s It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again, The Orlons’ The Wah-Watusi/South Street, Terry Knight And The Pack/Reflections plus the compilation Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1 which features The Lydells, The Dovells, The Tymes, Lee Andrews, Billy And The Essentials and more.

For some time ABKCO had been looking for the right team with whom to delve into its vaults to create an ongoing Cameo Parkway reissue program.  ABKCO found the right mix in Collectors’ Choice Music and have entered into an exclusive arrangement, ensuring that a flow of reissues and compilations will be available over the next few years. All releases will be curated by Teri Landi, ABKCO’s resident engineer and catalog archivist, and annotated by respected music journalists.

Jody Klein, CEO of ABKCO Music & Records commented, “We are delighted to have Collectors’ Choice Music onboard for these releases of great historical relevance. Their expertise in this area will ensure that the music that made Cameo-Parkway such a cultural touchstone will be enjoyed by music fans who have long awaited these collections.”

Much of the material has not been available since its original release on vinyl some 45-50 years ago. Both companies have approached these reissues with careful A&R, annotation, package design and sound engineering. Said Gordon Anderson, Sr. VP of Collectors’ Choice, “The opportunity for our company to release this material represents the culmination of a career-long dream for me, and a fervently-held dream for thousands of our Collectors’ Choice Music customers.”

Founded by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann in December 1956, Philadelphia-based Cameo-Parkway was one of the great American indie labels during the late ’50s and ’60s.  It was home to big pop-rock and R&B stars like Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and The Orlons, as well as to all manner of styles and artists both famous and obscure. It also represents the last great, largely untapped repository of vintage pop music from the rock ’n’ roll era.

It has been argued that popular culture was forever changed by the impact of Cameo-Parkway hits. Cameo-Parkway was one of America’s leading independent labels during the era that preceded the British invasion, offering a breathtaking range of pop, soul, rock, novelty and dance records that have continued to resonate with fans over the past five decades.  The label’s biggest claim to fame is the string of dance craze hits that followed in the wake of “The Twist.”  These included “Mashed Potato Time,” “The Wah-Watusi,” “Bristol Stomp,” “Do the Bird,” “Hully Gully Baby,” “Pony Time,” “The 81,” “Limbo Rock” and, of course, “Let’s Twist Again.”

Beyond the dance songs — most of which originated in Philadelphia — Cameo-Parkway issued garage rock classics from the Midwest including ? And The Mysterians’ “96 Tears” as well as early tracks by Detroit’s Bob Seger, The Rationals and Terry Knight And The Pack. The label even embraced the British invasion, releasing sides by The Kinks and Screaming Lord Sutch. Soul played a significant role with singles by The Tymes, Patti LaBelle And Her Bluebells, Frankie Beverly And The Butlers, The Five Stairsteps, and Bunny Sigler. Beyond those, Cameo was the label home of Bobby Rydell, who transformed from “swingin’ pop idol” to a mature vocalist and was accepted by both teen and adult audiences with such hits as “Wild One,” “Kissin’ Time” and more adult fare such as “Volare” and “Sway.”  

Collectors’ Choice’s initial rollout of six CDs includes the following:

• Bobby Rydell — Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones/Rydell at the Copa. These two 1961 albums — presented here in their original stereo mixes — represented an effort by Rydell to move beyond the limitations of his teen idol persona. The title of Rydell’s Cameo LP, Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones, works on two levels.  It is an early tribute to the performers the young singer admired all his life, as indicated by the little caricatures of Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the upper corner of the LP’s cover, and the “great ones” in the title refers to songs from the Great American Songbook such as “Mammy,” “That Old Black Magic” and “All of You.”  By recording a live album at the Copa, Rydell was following a well-trodden trail left by other pop male vocalists like Bobby Darin and Paul Anka.  Jim Ritz contributed liner notes.

• Chubby Checker — It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again: This twofer includes two albums from the height of the Chubby Checker twist phenomenon that he and Cameo-Parkway had spawned, virtually ruling the music charts in 1960 and 1961. The first album’s title track, “Pony Time,” went to #1, his only chart-topper besides “The Twist,” while Let’s Twist Again, his fourth album, hit #11, shortly followed by three Top 10 albums in a row. Also featured here are “We Like Birdland,” “The Watusi,” The Hully Gully,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Let’s Twist Again” and more.  Jim Ritz penned the liner notes.

The Orlons — The Wah-Watusi/South Street. Discovered by high school classmate and future Cameo labelmate Len Barry, The Orlons (Shirley Brickley, Marlena Davis, Rosetta Hightower and Stephen Caldwell) were one of Cameo-Parkway’s most popular vocal groups and certainly the label’s top girl group. This twofer presents their only two charting albums from 1962 and ’63 respectively, and both featuring Top 5 title tracks. Heard here in their original pristine mono with notes by Gene Sculatti that contain quotes from Caldwell (he of the ultra-low “frog” voice), this reissue contains the title hits plus “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Tonight,” “Cement Mixer” and more.

• Terry Knight And The Pack — Terry Knight And The Pack/Reflections. Although Cameo-Parkway was best known for rock ’n’ roll, pop and R&B, these albums (originally released on Cameo’s Lucky Eleven imprint) illustrate the label’s embrace of Midwestern rock. Flint, Michigan’s Knight And The Pack were a garage band with many regional hits that never broke nationally; they might have become stars but for the fact that band members Mark Farner and Don Brewer left to form Grand Funk Railroad, with Knight producing. In his liner notes, Jeff Tamarkin tells the story of their 1966-67 fuzz-laced sounds featured in “Numbers,” “You’re a Better Man Than I,” “The Lovin’ Kind,” “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” “Dimestore Debutante” and others.

Clint Eastwood — Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites: Oscar-winning actor Clint Eastwood has demonstrated a musical streak throughout his acting and directing career, and this 1963 album catches him at the beginning. Fresh from his success on the TV series Rawhide, he croons (and quite convincingly so) a collection of cowboy favorites. The set includes the 1962 single “Rowdy” b/w “Cowboy Wedding Song,” as well as “San Antonio Rose,” Bouquet of Roses,” “Along the Santa Fe Trail,” “The Last Roundup,” “Sierra, Nevada” and more.  Jim Ritz contributed liner notes.

Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1: There are collectors and there are doo-wop collectors, which is why Collectors’ Choice devoted its very first compilation in the series to the vocal groups whose recordings defined Cameo-Parkway during its earliest years. Heard here are The Gainors’ “You Must Be An Angel,” Billy And The Essentials’ “Remember Me Baby,” and never before released tracks by The Dovells and The Tymes, “Short On Bread” and “Did You Ever Get My Letter?,” respectively.  Also featured are rare tracks from The Anglos, The Defenders, The Exceptions, The Expressions, The Gleems, Pookie Hudson And The Spaniels, The Impacs, The Rays, Rick And The Masters, The Sequins, The Skyliners and The Turbans — 24 tracks in all. Annotated by Ed Osborne.

Collectors' Choice introduces CCM Live label: J. WInter, Hot Tuna, Poco. J. Denver

Collectors’ Choice Music, the label that’s come to be known for compelling and often unexpected CD reissues, has announced the launch of Collectors’ Choice Music Live, a new label devoted to releasing great live performances, most of which have never previously been commercially available.

The series will launch April 20 with the release of four CDs: Johnny Winter And’s Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70; Poco’s Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71; Hot Tuna’s Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969; and John Denver’s Live at Cedar Rapids, 12/10/87.

According to Collectors’ Choice Music GM Gordon Anderson, “After some 15 years of reissuing albums and compiling artists, we’re convinced that some of the biggest remaining veins of gold in the vaults are the live shows that a lot of labels recorded of their artists in their prime, particularly those who made their reputation with improvisational prowess and/or ever-changing set lists. These first four releases on our new Collectors’ Choice Music Live label certainly fit that description.”

Johnny Winter And — Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70: To commemorate the release of his Johnny Winter And album, Texas blues guitarist/singer Johnny Winter played some shows at New York’s Fillmore East, some of which were compiled on 1971’s Live Johnny Winter And, a classic live album of the era to which this release makes a nice bookend. He had just formed a new band consisting of former member of the McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) including Rick Derringer on guitar, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Zehringer. Although the McCoys were none too familiar with Winter’s work, they proved quick studies and entered the studio to make the album Johnny Winter And within three weeks. The New York Times reviewed the Fillmore show, citing “a considerable improvement over Winter’s previous band. Winter and [Derringer] played solos back at each other, simultaneously and in alternation.” The live album contains the Winter hit “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo” and his take on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” alongside  blues classics “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “It’s My Own Fault” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

•Poco —Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, 9/30/71: In the fall of ’71, Poco was arguably the most popular of the first generation country-rock bands. By then, their album Deliverin’ had cracked the Top 30 and Poco thanked its label, Epic Records, with a private showcase at the CBS Records’ Hollywood studio.  “We just set up as we would have for a small club,” recalls frontman Richie Furay, whose bandmates included guitarist/singer Paul Cotton (from the Illinois Speed Press), bassist Tim Schmidt (later of the Eagles), pedal steel player Rusty Young and drummer/vocalist George Grantham. By this time, Poco was evolving from country-rock towards an edgier rock sound. Says Furay, “Though we were innovators of the L.A. ‘country-rock’ sound, we weren’t going top be pigeonholed into being a one-sound band.” The 14 songs they performed for label employees that day were a solid cross-section of tunes that had appeared on its first four albums including the medley “Hard Luck Child/Child’s Claim to Fame/Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” plus “I Guess You Made It,” “A Man Like Me,” “Ol’ Forgiver,” “Heart That Music,” “Hurry Up,” “You Are the One” and more — an hour of music in all.

Hot Tuna: Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969: Hot Tuna was, of course, the blues band-within-a-band side project of Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady that outlasted the parent band and continues to this day. Interestingly, the duo’s first commercial album, which made it to #30 on the Billboard pop album chart, was recorded live at Berkeley’s New Orleans House, but a lot more material was taped than was released. Much of it is issued for the first time on this 68-minute CD, which consists entirely of previously unreleased recordings. Explaining why they recorded their debut album was recorded live, Kaukoken says, “We tend to go places . . . and you lose a bit of that when you work in the studio. And it was cheaper too!” Of the 13 songs on this CD, six — “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “I Know You Rider,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here” and “How Long Blues” — were included on the first Hot Tuna album, though the versions here are selected from different performances than the ones used on that LP.  Other songs include Blind Boy Fuller’s “Keep On Truckin’,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Keep Our Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and “Candy Man,” and Blind Blake’s “That’ll Never Happen No More.”

John Denver: Live at Cedar Rapids, December 10, 1987: What is the sound of an audience eating out of the palm of a performer’s hand? Utter silence. And that’s what was heard during the two-hour-plus Iowa concert that comprises this two-CD set.  By 1987, Denver’s days as a Top 40 hitmaker were a decade in the past, but he remained a solid concert draw as a beloved, thoroughly American artist with a permanent place in the history of pop. It says much about Denver’s songwriting that, with the exception of half a dozen songs on which he’s accompanied by string quartet, he delivers two hours of solo music just his voice and 12-string guitar. The hits are here but so are new songs, some early-repertoire nuggets and a well-chosen cover or two.  Included are “Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning,” ”Take Me Home Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” “Love Is the Master,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Blow Up Your TV (Spanish Pipe Dream),” “Shanghai Breezes,” “Ohio” and more.