Tuesday, 28 August 2012

“360 Degrees Of Billy Paul” by BILLY PAUL (2012 Big Break Records (BBR) 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster With Three Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exception CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"...Got A Thing Going On..."

As a voracious collector of old-skool Soul and Funk (and reviewer of the same) - I've been singing the praises of England's BIG BREAK RECORDS for some time now. I recently reviewed their beautifully remastered reissue of Bill Wither's 1971 debut LP "Just As I Am" with "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" on it - and I thought it couldn't get any better. Well blow me down with a front-cover triple-image of a porkpie hat - but they've done it again...

This August 2012 UK CD reissue (September 2012 in the USA) on Big Break Records CDBBR 0175 (Barcode 5013929047532) remasters Billy Paul's 1972 Philly nugget "360 Degrees Of Billy Paul" and adds on 3 relevant bonus cuts. Here are the Jones (60:49 minutes):

1. Brown Baby
2. I'm Just A Prisoner
3. It's Too Late
4. Me And Mrs. Jones
5. Am I Black Enough For You?
6. Let's Stay Together
7. Your Song
8. I'm Gonna Make It This Time
The vinyl LP of "360 Degrees Of Billy Paul" was originally released in November 1972 in the USA on Philadelphia International KZ 31793 and Epic Records EPC 65351 in the UK (later re-issued on Philadelphia International S PIR 65930).

9. Me And Mrs. Jones (Live)
10. Am I Black Enough For You (Single Version)
11. Me And Mrs. Jones (Single Version)

This CD will allow fans to sequence the following 7" singles that were issued around the LP:
1. Me And Mrs. Jones [11] b/w Your Song [7] - issued October 1972 in the USA on Philadelphia International ZS7 3521 and January 1973 in the UK on Epic EPC 1055
2. Am I Black Enough For You [10] b/w I'm Gonna Make It This Time [8] - issued March 1973 in the USA on Philadelphia International ZS7 3526 (no UK release)
3. Brown Baby b/w It's Too Late [3] - issued April 1973 in the UK on Epic Records S EPC 1313
[Note: the UK single of "Brown Baby" was a 3:19 minute edit (the album cut is 4:36 minutes) and unfortunately isn't included on here]

Remastered by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London with additional work done by Big Break's own WAYNE A. DICKSON - the sound quality is GORGEOUS - full, warm and just a joy to listen too after years of bad budget compilations. The 12-page booklet features knowledgeable liner notes by ANDY KELLMAN with many contributions from Billy Paul himself - along with photos of those American and UK 45 singles - the album's artwork etc. It's a typically classy job by BBR...

The Music - written by the dynamic duo Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff "Me And Mrs. Jones" was a monster hit (lyrics above) and put Billy Paul on the number one spot in droves of countries around the world (including the single and album Soul charts in his own USA). But how nice it is to hear the FULL ALBUM VERSION at 4:46 minutes as opposed to the more commonly used 7" single edit of 3:41 minutes. And it sounds amazing too.

The on-the-money commentary of "Brown Baby" is a very strong socially aware opener but it's trumped by the magnificent 8-minutes of "I'm Just A Prisoner". Billy Paul's stepfather had done 5 years in prison but emerged to work his way up in business and then mentor the young hopeful in his musical ambitions. Paul never forgot this - so even though label stalwarts Kenneth Gamble, Bunny Sigler and Phillip Hurtt wrote the song - it contains some of Paul's most personal lyrics. The song feels like Marvin Gaye's "Right On" from his 1971 "What's Going On" masterpiece in its hypnotic groove and features brilliantly arranged strings by organist and orchestration maestro Lenny Pakula. There are touches of Donny Hathaway, Herbie Hancock and The Isley Brothers all in there too - and for me it's one of the highlights of this reissue...

There are three cleverly reworked cover versions - a jazzed-up take on Carole King's "It's Too Late" from her magisterial "Tapestry" album, a completely re-worked fast and funky go at Elton John's "Your Song" (which Elton loved) and a very slowed down love-song angle on Al Green's slinky classic "Let's Stay Together" with lovely Norman Harris arrangements. The album ends of what he admits should have been the follow up to "Jones" - "I'm Gonna Make It This Time" (written by Bunny Sigler and Jean Lang). It's as romantic-Philly as the label gets - all plinking piano, strings and heartache vocals. Even the live version of "Me And Mrs. Jones" which is clearly in front of a British audience is excellent and I can see why it was included.

To sum up - great stuff - and such an enjoyable rediscovery. Recommended like a 6:30 meeting with Mrs. Jones in the Lurve Café - you naughty boy...

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed to 2015:
1. Is It Still Good To Ya – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1978)
2. Stay Free – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1979)
3. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
4. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
5. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
6. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
7. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
8. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
9. In The Heart – KOOL & THE GANG (1983)
10. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
11.  I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
12. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
13. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
14. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
15. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
16. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
17. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
18. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
19. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
20. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
21. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
22. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
23. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
24. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
25. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
26. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
27. Live: Stompin’ At The Savoy – RUFUS and CHAKA KHAN (1983)
28. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
29. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
30. Spinners – SPINNERS (1973)
31. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
32. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
33. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
34 Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
35. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971 Debut LP on Sussex/A&M Records)
36. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983)

Monday, 27 August 2012

“Serendipity”. A Review Of The 2001 Peter Chelsom Film Now On A 2012 BLU RAY.

"…Stuck For Eternity With Her Skirt Around Her Shoulders…
...And The Blood Rushing To Her Head..."

It's so hard to get a rom-com right - and when it happens - it tends to eek its way into the hearts of millions of movie fans around the world. "Serendipity" is one of those films. And at last fans can finally get their hands on a High Definition copy of it in 2012 (January in the USA and February in the UK). And I'm glad to say that this Miramax/Lionsgate BLU RAY boasts a gorgeous print and decent extras. And it's cheap too...

Defaulted to 1.78:1 ratio - the beautifully framed picture fills the entire screen with no bars top or bottom and no stretching of the image. And right from the get-go "Serendipity" looks 'so' good - crisp and clean images all the way through - with scene after scene using the wintry New York locations to maximum effect. The soundtrack too has a strong 5.1 surround mix that amps up the great music.

Written by MARC KLEIN and Directed by PETER CHELSOM - its on-the-money casting puts together two really smart, likeable and able actors - JOHN CUSACK and KATE BECKINSALE. They play Jonathan Trager and Sarah Thomas - an American guy and an English girl whose fate is set in motion by a store assistant placing a pair of gloves on the sale rack in Bloomingdales a few weeks before Christmas. They obtain the gloves from another customer through mutual skulduggery and then spend a magical night getting to know each other in snowy New York (he comments that her arm freckles resemble Cassiopeia in the constellations - dialogue above). After hours of talking and a gut feeling that something ‘stellar’ is afoot - they pass on their respective phone numbers to each other - hers on the inside flap of the Gabriel Marquez book "Love In The Time Of Cholera" and his on a five-dollar bill. But of course the winds of fate intervene (literally) and each gets lost. Four years later we find that both Jonathan and Sarah have moved on with their lives and are now engaged to differing but largely unsuitable partners. But of course neither can help but wonder - was that person in New York a million hours back their soul mate - their "Godfather" original and not Part 2 the sequel? And should they ditch what they've settled for now and go searching for what they really want? And on the story goes in a hugely enjoyable way...

In their manic searching and journey back to each other - they are ably assisted by a superb set of supporting roles - Jeremy Piven as Dean Kansky, Jonathan's loyal and witty friend, Molly Shannon as Sarah's scatterbrained pal Eve, John Corbett as a flute-playing egotistical musician trying to marry Sarah as long as it fits in with his European Tour and Eugene Levy as the eccentric and monthly-target-driven Bloomingdale's sales clerk. Both Piven and Levy have become huge since but can justifiably trace the public noticing them to this 2001 outing.

The use of music in the film also deserves a special mention. A lot of the time - the typical rom-com is populated with lazy and obvious choices - not here. Not only do the songs suit the scene and the mood conveyed - they're tunes you probably done know but would want to. Bap Kennedy was the lead singer with a short-lived Northern Ireland band called Energy Orchard who then put out a lovely solo album called "Lonely Street" in 2000. The track lifted off it is called "Moonlight Kiss". When Jonathan and Sarah are trying to get to each other in the last portion of the movie, Chelsom uses the stunning "Rose Rouge" by St. Germain (on their "Tourist" album - itself due for a DELUXE EDITION double in 2012) which features a sample of Marlena Shaw chanting "I want you to get together..." over an incessant drum beat. There's the ethereally beautiful "Northern Sky" by England's Nick Drake on the ice rink ("I've never felt magic crazy as this...") and Annie Lennox's cleverly re-arranged cover of Bob Marley's "Waiting In Vain". There are also nice contributions by John Mayer, Shawn Colvin and Heather Nova. But the unsung gem here is an acoustic instrumental that's used as link-music throughout the entire film. It's by England's David Gray and is called "January Rain" - it turned up on his lesser-heard "Lost Songs 95-98" CD along with the equally moving "Flame Turns Blue" (which I hope to use in a screenplay one day).

To sum up - like George Clooney's "One Fine Day", Pierce Brosnan's "Laws Of Attraction" and Richard Gere's "Shall We Dance" - "Serendipity" is an underrated but properly lovely watch - and this BLU RAY finally does full justice to its multiple charms.

Get all metaphysical on yo ass people - and buy it.

BLU RAY Specifications:
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Surround 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (Full Screen)
Language: English
Subtitles: English and English for the Hard-Of-Hearing.

Bonus Features:
1. Feature-length Commentary
2. Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentary
3. Behind The Scenes Documentary - "On The Set"
4. Production Diary
5. Theatrical Trailer
6. Storyboard Comparison

PS: check out other great films by Director Peter Chelsom:
"Hear My Song" (1991), "Funny Bones" (1995), "The Mighty" (1998), "Town And Country" (2001) and "Shall We Dance" (2004) [see BLU RAY REVIEW].

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

“Delicacy” (aka "La Delicatesse"). A Review Of The 2011 David And Stephane Foenkinos Film Now on BLU RAY Starring Audrey Tautou And Francois Damiens.

"Delicacy" isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination - but nowadays is that rarest of digital beasts - a 'kind' film - a gently unfolding love story about two polar opposites who need to give each other a chance...

But therein lies some of this French movie's problems with critics and audiences alike (never mind the English subtitles). We're essentially being asked to believe what some would say is absurd - after the loss of her ludicrously handsome and beloved husband Francois (Pio Marmai) - the swanlike beauty Nathalie Kerr (Audrey Tautou) then falls in love with the office klutz - the balding cardigan-wearing Swedish clerk Markus Lundl (Francois Damiens). And of course in the real world - no such thing would happen. But I'd argue that David and Stephane Foenkinos' movie is better than that...

"La Delicatesse" (the original French title) isn't a rom-com or even a comedy as the trailer rather clumsily tries to portray - it's rather more serious than that. It's a journey from heartbreak back to hope - and it's done with class and a deliberately languid pace. It comes with the usual office dynamics - the already-married boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini) consumed with the widowed prize he can't have - the gossiping secretary Chloe (a shockingly gorgeous Melanie Bernier) and outside of work - friends and their nosey partners who don't rate the social status of Nathalie's new male acquisition (and he's not even that pretty either).

Speaking of physical beauty and its grip on our world in 2011 - the script has a go at these social hypocrisies and often succeeds. But I was more impressed with other sublime and touching moments... When Nathalie returns after the funeral to her apartment and the blurry emptiness just hits her - when she picks up a friend's child in a playground and smiles for the first time in a long while - when she later gets an inexpensive but thoughtful gift from Markus that changes her perspective of him so completely. And their year-after-year relationship is allowed to grow slowly - talks on the office roof (dialogue above) - when Markus sees Nathalie's elegant neckline as they exit a restaurant - when Nathalie's elderly aunt greets them in the rain at her country cottage and remarks that he is "a good man"...

The BLU RAY picture is good - beautiful in places - but hardly exceptional it has to be said. Defaulted to 1.85:1 aspect ratio it does at least fill the entire screen and the English subtitles are never unreadable. There are 15 deleted scenes (some quite substantial) and the 21 blooper reels where the cast has a giggle are a welcome blast (even having a light-hearted poke at "The Artist" on the last one).

The camera adores every second of Audrey Tautou - and sometimes her extraordinary beauty works against her - yet she imbibes her Nathalie with a hurt and longing that is wholly believable. When she sobs or delights - you feel both with an equal wallop. Francois Damiens does even better - never overplaying the ordinariness of his Markus - just letting it flow out slowly - but also allowing him those dizzy moments of seize-the-day or love will elude you. Very touching stuff...

Perhaps it's just me - but I can't help but feel that we've been so emotionally bludgeoned over the years by bad movies, violence and cruelty-as-cool - that something as genuinely lovely as "Delicacy" finds itself being poo-pooed and dismissed in certain quarters. I'd say take a chance on this one - it will reward you...

...And if Audrey Tautou or Melanie Bernier need a dish on their arms for a premier or a red carpet or two - once the female queue outside my hall door has died down and the football's over - I'm available (for a very reasonable fee).

BLU RAY Specifications:
Video: 1.85:1 - Full Screen Aspect Ratio
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Stereo LPCM
Subtitles: A French Film with English Subtitles Onscreen
1. Deleted Scenes (15)
2. Bloopers (21)
3. Trailer

Saturday, 11 August 2012

“Out Of Africa Collector’s Series” on BLU RAY. A Review Of The 1985 Film Now Fully Restored And Reissued In A ‘Limited Edition BLU RAY Book Pack’ As Part Of Universal’s 100th Anniversary Celebrations in 2012.

"…He Began Our Friendship With A Gift…"


In April 2012 Universal Studios was 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary they had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. 1985's "Out Of Africa" is one of them and like the other titles in this series so far - the print quality of this beloved film is extraordinary and the presentation classy (a full list of titles in the 100th Anniversary BLU RAY Series is in the attached 'comment' section - including DVD releases).

Issued in the US 6 March 2012 (later given a UK release) - "Out Of Africa Collector's Series" comes in a gorgeous limited edition 44-page hardback 'Book Pack' (use Barcode 025192127793 on the Amazon search bar to get the right issue). It's a 2-disc set with the BLU RAY to the front and the Anamorphic Widescreen DVD to the rear. There's also a foldout insert included that has a code for a Digital Copy via download from Universal's website valid until 31 December 2013.

But the really great news for film fans everywhere is a stupendously good print and a REGION FREE release - so it will play on ALL BLU RAY machines and PlayStation 3 Consoles too (there was a preceding version on BLU RAY that received bad reviews re print - this version is not that one). 
Also note: there is a cheaper standard packaging version due 4 September 2012 in the USA with slightly altered front artwork - again it has a BLU RAY, DVD and Download - so check you're using the Barcode provided above to get the 'best' version).

Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results have already received huge praise on web sites dedicated to the format. This overhauled 2012 "Out Of Africa" print is a full 1080p High Definition release with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. What that means is the picture fills your entire screen without stretching - and combined with the gorgeous transfer - the effect is truly cinematic. For example the movie opens with a sunrise on the African Plains - all yellows and gold and browns. With the natural heat haze the land would produce and the semi-lighting conditions - this is a very difficult moment to get right - yet it is fantastically clear and clean. But even this is aced a few moments later when a bi-plane flies over the open plains during the daytime and it's little short of gobsmacking (dialogue from it titles this review). There then follows a scene in Denmark in snowy fields at a shooting party where I swear it looks like Dr. Zhivago (it's that good). In fact it's in these outdoor scenes (of which there are many) that the beautiful 'look' of "Out Of Africa" really excels - and it does so right through to the very end when Karen (Streep) bids farewell to her trusty steward Farah (played by Michael Bowens) at the train station.

It should be stressed however that it isn't perfect at all times by any means - there is some shocking fuzziness and grain on indoor shots - sequences at night around campfires and tents with Redford. There's a scene where Michael Kitchen as the dapper Englishman Berkeley Cole is talking to Meryl Streep at dinner in her home - the camera cuts to Streep and the print is perfect - but it then flicks back to Kitchen and the shot is suddenly covered in speckles of grain. They were either filmed apart or on two cameras - but the cleaned up print has only made the discrepancy more apparent and not less so.

But for the most part this is a joy to look at and at last gives full reign to David Watkin's sumptuous cinematography and Milena Canonero's crafted outfits (aristocratic European fashions alongside the colourful garments of African tribesmen). Throw in John Barry's most magisterial score ever - and as you can imagine - the impact is properly beautiful. A good example of all three occurs when the credits role - a steam train trundles across the wide-open expanses of 1913 Kenya in East Africa as we see the Danish Baroness standing at the back of her carriage in her immaculate outfit - then John Barry's score just nails it as the title of the film goes up onscreen. It's both fabulous to look at and moving too...a rare combination indeed.

The 44-page booklet inside the hardback outer is pure eye candy as you can imagine. It opens with a 2-page appreciation by film-critic and historian Leonard Maltin, has reproductions of several script pages, US, Polish and East German advert posters, a Cast of Characters, a piece on the political makeup of Kenya at the time - the British to the North and the Germans to the South and essays on the principal leads Streep, Redford, the Composer John Barry and Director Sydney Pollock. There's interesting trivia items dotted throughout the text - for instance Redford initially played the Englishman Denys Hatton with an English accent - but Pollock felt no-one would accept Redford as a Brit so he had him re-record all of the parts in American. Or that during the tender hair-washing scene wild Hippos were in the river nearby and they kill more people than lions if they feel their territory is threatened - so Streep was more scared of them than bullwhipping lions. The quality of the colour photos is top-notch too.

Clocking in a whopping 1 hour and 12 minutes Charles Kiselayk's "A Song Of Africa" is a substantial bonus feature that has charming, insightful and witty contributions from Streep, Redford and Pollock - intermixed with archive footage of the young, older and near-death Karen Blixen. It fills out a lot of the gaps as to what happened before and after the films' parameters where she left Africa in 1931 after 17 years - 46-years old, childless, penniless, divorced and broken-hearted. She then wrote over 10 books under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen between 1935 and 1996 and suffered from Syphilis all her life. This extra is also in standard 480p definition - so when you see the washed-out widescreen stock footage - you begin to realize just how astounding the cleaned-up 1080p fullscreen print really is. The only mild irritant is the overly wordy narration where the speaker wants to prove he's Kahlil Gibran every few moments, as he waxes lyrical about the lady's journey. The 15 or so Deleted Scenes (Widescreen and in Standard Definition) come fast and furious – they’re very short and although one or two with the Farah character are interesting - you can see why most were cut...

With 18 Oscar nominations and 3 wins to her name - you can't imagine any other actress ballsy enough to take on such a difficult, willful and frustrated woman. Yet Streep chews it up. Her accented Karen Blixen is wholly believable - vulnerable, proud, literate, deep, religiously repressed yet wanting to be sensually liberated - and reaching for it with the man she grew to adore and love - the English and debonair African hunter Denys Hatton. This is a big and romantic canvas - and both principals have affection for each other and respect for their various skills - their on-screen chemistry being a lovely thing to see. The scene where Denys takes her up in the bi-plane and flies across the landscape of mountains, rivers, waterfalls, zebras, giraffes and a lake full of birds to show her the real beauty of Africa - is breathtaking and even a little spiritual. Pollock's use of the indigenous tribes is superbly done too. Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Gough, Leslie Phillips, Shane Rimmer and the sorely missed Irish actor Donal McCann as her Doctor - all wonderful. Blink and you'll miss IMAN - David Bowie's wife - nursing the Michael Kitchen character whose contracted black water fever...

To sum up - clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes - "Out Of Africa" may seem a tad indulgent by today's standards of chop-em-out-fast-and-leave-em-panting blockbusters - but it works precisely because its epic. It was a mammoth undertaking at the time made by maverick people (Pollock worked on the script with Kurt Luedtke for over a year - Pollock sadly passed away in 2008) and this BLU RAY reissue does it proud.

And as with the other titles in this series - it's also heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of their movie legacy and be proud about doing so too. I'm collecting the whole series and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.

BLU RAY and DVD Specifications:
1. Deleted Scenes - over 15 short segments (about 15 minutes)
2. A Song Of Africa - An Original Full-Length Documentary On The Making Of The Film and Karen Blixen's Life by Charles Kiselayk (72 minutes)
3. Theatrical Trailer
4. Feature Length Commentary With Director Sydney Pollack
5. My Scenes
6. BLU RAY Exclusive: Pocket BLU - For Tablets and Smartphones - take the content on the go
7. BLU RAY Exclusive: BD Live - Internet-Connected Feature

VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1
BLU RAY AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 5.1 DTS Surround
DVD AUDIO: English Dolby Digital 4.1 and French Dolby Digital 2.0

SUBTITLES BLU RAY: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing), Spanish and French SUBTITLES DVD: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing)


PS: The 13 Restored Titles in this Limited Edition Book Pack 'Collector's Series' are:

1. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)
Released 13 Feb 2012 in the UK. Restored, Remastered and comes in a beautiful 40-page Book Pack. SEE DETAILED REVIEW.

2. The Birds (1963)
Release date to be advised...
NOTE: the UK 23 April 2012 'DVD' with Universal 100th Anniversary packaging does NOT contain a restored print - it will be in the BLU RAY book pack later in the year.

3. (Abbott And Costello in) Buck Privates (1941)
Released 17 April 2012 in the USA. A 2-disc Book Pack with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. It's fully restored and digitally remastered.
This BLU RAY has no UK release date as yet - but its a non-region coded disc so will play on ALL machines.

4. Dracula (1931)
Book Pack release date to be advised. Will contain both the English and Spanish versions. The restored print on BLU RAY is due in the USA and UK in Oct 2012 as part of the 8-film Box Set "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection".
NOTE: the UK 23 April 2012 'DVD' with Universal 100th Anniversary packaging does NOT contain a restored print.

5. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
USA release date Oct 2012 - November 2012 in the UK.

6. Frankenstein (1931)
Book Pack release date to be advised. The restored print on BLU RAY is due in the USA and UK in Oct 2012 as part of the 8-film Box Set "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection"

7. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
Book Pack release date to be advised. The restored print on BLU RAY is due in the USA and UK in Oct 2012 as part of the 8-film Box Set "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection"

8. Jaws (1975)
Released August 2012 in the USA/September 2012 in the UK. BLU RAY Book Pack. Fully restored print with Steven Spielberg's involvement - new extras.

9. Out Of Africa (1985)
Released 6 March 2012 in the USA-Only. A 2-disc set containing a BLU RAY, DVD and means to a Digital Download via Universal's Website (a REGION FREE release so will play on all machines). There is a 'standard packaging' 2-disc version due 4 September 2012. See DETAILED REVIEW... 

10. Pillow Talk (1959)
7 May 2012 UK release. BLU RAY in a 44-page hardback Book Pack. Fully restored print and remastered sound. SEE DETAILED REVIEW.

11. Schindler's List  (1993)
Release date to be advised...late 2012 (DVD released in Jan 2012).

12. The Sting (1973)
Released 11 June 2012 in the UK. Restored and remastered and in Book Pack.
NOTE: There's also a 'card-wrap' version of this BLU RAY in the USA - so check which issue you're buying.
The Amazon code for the card wrap version is B007N31ZLA - the 'Book Pack Collector's Series' is B007UOWM6E. SEE DETAILED REVIEW.

13.  To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Released 10 January 2012. BLU RAY with 44-page Book Pack. SEE DETAILED REVIEW...

Friday, 10 August 2012

“Gimme Shelter” by MERRY CLAYTON (2010 Repertoire CD Reissue and Remaster of Her 1970 LP On Ode 70 and A&M Records) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exception CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"…Don't Know Just What You're After…Do Know What You Need…" 

Talk about an unknown that shouldn't be. In order to understand the genuine class act you're dealing with here - a potted-history of Merry Clayton's past vocal glories will set the scene. She contributed to Neil Young's "The Old Laughing Lady" and "I've Loved Her So Long" on his self-titled debut album in 1968, sings on Joe Cocker's "Feelin' Alright" from his "With A Little Help From My Friends" debut album from 1969 and is on Allen Toussaint's magical "From A Whisper To A Scream" (1970). Just as impressively Merry sings on "Way Over Yonder", "Where You Lead" and "Smackwater Jack" on Carole King's magisterial "Tapestry" album (1971). Then there are sessions for B.B. King, Jesse Davis, Neil Diamond, Charles Wright, Jimmy Witherspoon, Billy Preston, Lee Michaels, Linda Ronstadt, Leon Russell, Ruth Copeland, Chi Coltrane, David T. Walker, Etta James, Rare Earth, The Who and even Ringo Starr.

But her most famous outing has to be her duet vocals with Mick Jagger on "Gimme Shelter" - one of the standout album tracks from "Let It Bleed" - the Rolling Stones masterpiece from 1969 (it was the first album produced by Jimmy Miller who suggested Merry for the vocals). She even turns up on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" in 1974 and "Cornflake Girl" by Tori Amos in 1994…and is prominently featured in the award-winning 2013 movie about backing singers “20 Feet From Stardom”.

So it's hardly surprising that MERRY CLAYTON singed to Lou Adler's Ode Records in the late Sixties and quickly pushed out two solo albums - "Merry Clayton" in 1971 - and this - "Gimme Shelter" - her debut from August 1970. Here are the glad tidings…

1. Country Road
2. Tell All The People
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water
4. I’ve Got Life
5. Gimme Shelter
6. Here Come Those Heartaches Again [Side 2]
7. Forget It I Got It
8. You’ve Been Acting Strange
9. I Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Away
10. Good Girls
11. Glad Tidings

Released August 1970 on Ode Records SP-77001 in the USA and on A&M Records AMLS 995 in the UK in late 1970 - the original vinyl album featured a world-class session band (Victor Feldman on Vibes, Joe Sample of The Crusaders on keyboards to name but two) and was top-heavy with contemporary cover versions of the time (but in a good way).

It doesn't say who's remastered this 2010 Repertoire reissue CD on REP 5176 (Barcode 4009910517628) but the sticker on the card digipak claims that it's been beautifully done - and they'd be right (38:23 minutes). The sound quality is fantastic - lending the Soul-meets-Gospel feel of the songs a huge sonic punch. Very little hiss - you can hear piano, drums, sweet bass and guitar strings rattling - loads of presence - it's a top job done. The 12-page inlay has affectionate and knowledgeable liner notes by noted UK writer CHRIS WELCH. 

Musically this is uplifting Soul with organs, brass, girly backing singers and impassioned lead vocals - a sort of Atlantic Aretha Franklin one moment then United Artists Tina Turner the next. And right from her opening cover of James Taylor's "Country Road" - the album hits you with one classy tune after another. Number 2 is another upbeat reinterpretation - a great variant of The Doors "Tell All The People". But both are aced by a slowed-down and deeply soulful version of Simon and Garfunkel's beautiful anthem "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".  Written by Galt McCormack "I've Got Life" started out in the "Hair" musical and was made famous by Nina Simone on her 1968 "Nuff 'Said" album. Side 1 ends with her own superb guitar-and-brass take on "Gimme Shelter" with its "just a shot away..." lyrics (it was issued as the 1st of 2 singles off the album in the USA on Ode Records ODE-66003 with "Good Girls" as its flipside).

Side Two opens with pure magic - a cover of the James Cleveland song "Here Comes Those Heartaches Again" done originally by Kim Weston on her 1970 album "Big Brass Four Poster" (on James Brown's People label). It doesn't say who added the strings but the sung suddenly elevates into sublime Jimmy Webb territory - a little like "5:30 Plane" by The Supremes on their 1972 Motown LP "The Supremes Produced And Arranged By Jimmy Webb" (see review for the Hip-O Select Supremes box set "This Is The Story..."). That gorgeous orchestration appears again on the album's lone original "I Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Away" - a blistering Etta James type torch ballad that Merry co-wrote with Billy Preston (lyrics from it title this review). The other superb Preston contribution here is "You've Been Acting Strange" - his own version surfaced on his September 1970 Apple Records album "Encouraging Words" (also reviewed). There's a Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones Producer) and Gary Wright (of Spooky Tooth) song too called "Forget It, I Got It" which is so slinky and very cool. It was used as the B-side to "Country Road" issued as a 45 in the USA on Ode Records ODE-66007 (the 2nd and last single off the album). Things are brassed-up again with Billy Page's "Good Girls" and rounded off with a crowd-in-the studio version of "Glad Tidings" - a Van Morrison cover from his 1970 "Moondance" album that doesn't quite work for me. Others like it though as an upbeat finisher. Concluding - with so few clunkers and so many great song choices - this an absolute gem of an album from back in the day

Born on Christmas Day near New Orleans in 1948 - her parents were so overjoyed at their special arrival - they named her Merry. And you can't help but think that Mr. and Mrs. Clayton were right on the money. She's even been belatedly recognized for her talent and is prominently featured in the superb 2013 movie about backing singers called "20 Feet From Stardom" (fabulous movie/documentary). Get this gorgeous, uplifting and criminally forgotten goody in your life as soon as you can. 

And I'm sure he'd approve - but if this CD were a car - it'd be recommended like a pair of rubber lips on Mick Jagger's gear stick...




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INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order