THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 2.

THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 2.

DAMON- SON OF A GYPSY.

For any collector of psychedelia, if they’re lucky enough to find a copy of Damon’s Son Of A Gypsy, it becomes one of their most prized possessions. Finding a copy is another thing. Copies are rarer than hen’s teeth and are changing hands for large sums of money. Recently, copies have changed hands for thousands of dollars. Son Of A Gypsy, which was recently released on Now Again, you’ll realize is no ordinary album.

Son Of A Gypsy was a lost psychedelic classic. With copies changing hands for several thousand dollars, very few people were able to hear Son Of A Gypsy. Even previous rereleases on CD were rarities. So, when Now Again Records decided to rerelease Son Of A Gypsy, it was a welcome rerelease. Best described as a lovingly compiled and lavish rereleased, Now Again’s rerelease of Son Of A Gypsy, is like a mini hardback book. Featuring in-depth sleeve-notes, including an interview with Damon, it’s one of the most lavish rereleases of 2013. As for the sound quality, it’s exquisite. Time has been taken and money spent on getting the sound on Son Of A Gypsy, as Damon originally intended. This is a fitting makeover for Son Of A Gypsy.

After all, Son Of A Gypsy is an innovative, genre-melting, boundary pushing album. For anyone whose interested in psychedelia, then Son Of A Gypsy is a must-have album. Everything from blues, folk, funk, psychedelia, rock and soul can be heard on Son Of A Gypsy. With its lysergic, ethereal and dreamy sound Son Of A Gypsy is now within the budget of music lovers everywhere, who now can hear this lost psychedelic classic in all its glory for the first time.

DISCO RECHARGE: FESTIVAL-EVITA SPECIAL EDITION & BORIS MIDNEY-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

By 1979, Boris Midney had established himself as one of the most prolific and pioneering producers of the Euro Disco era. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to call Boris Midney one of the founding fathers of Euro Disco. Having defected from Russia, Boris became a member of the Russian Jazz Quartet. Soon, Boris had established a career in the music industry. This is no surprise, given he was  multitalented musician, a true multi-instrumentalist who could read and write music. By 1976, at just as disco was becoming the most popular musical genre, Boris launch his career as a producer.

Two years later, in 1978, Boris released two albums by studio bands he’d created. These were  USA-European Connection’s Come Into My Heart and Beautiful Blend’s Make That Feeling Come Again. A year later, in 1979, Boris released three further albums. This included USA-European Connection’s sophomore album USA-European Connection, Masquerade’s Pinocchio and his debut album as Boris Midney, Caress. By then, Boris Minded had established a reputation as a prolific, innovative producers, who pioneered 48-track recording. For Boris’ next album, it wouldn’t be new material, but songs composed by others, which he’d reinterpret.

In 1979, Boris met Robert Stigwood, who in 1977, had produced Saturday Night Fever. He was also the owner of RSO Records and manager of The Bee Gees. Robert had a proposal for Boris. His idea was that Boris would reinterpret the work of other composers. This wasn’t a new idea. The Salsoul Orchestra had been doing this for several years, reinterpreting The Wiz, Fiddler On the Roof and West SIde Story. However, Robert’s idea was that Boris reinterpret songs from the musical Evita, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. With Evita about to be launched as a musical in America, this would help promote the show. Boris accepted the commission. Released in 1979, by another Boris Midney studio band, Festival, Evita resulted in his most commercially successful album.

After the success of Evita, Robert commissioned Boris to do the same with The Empire Strikes Back’s soundtrack. It was released by Boris Midney in 1980, but didn’t replicate the success of Evita. Since then, both Festival’s Evita and Boris Midney’s The Empire Strikes Back have become innovative ad groundbreaking disco classics. Now over thirty years later, Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint rereleased both albums, complete with bonus track. They were rereleased as Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back in April 2013.

DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-ONE STEP HIGHER.

By 1982, Voyage had established themselves as one of Euro Disco’s most innovative groups. Since 1978, Voyage had released a trio of critically acclaimed, cutting-edge albums. Their debut was 1978s Voyage, with 1979s Fly Away and Voyage 3 following in 1980. Now two years after the release of Voyage 3, Voyage would release One Step Higher.  This would prove to be Voyage’s final album. Just like Voyage’s three previous albums, musical genres and influences would be seamlessly fused. The man behind Voyage’s musical journey was guitarist Slim Pezin. 

Joining Slim in Voyage, were three more of France’s top session musicians. Together, keyboardist Marc Chantereau, bassist Sauveur Malia, drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim were Voyage. These four musicians, were at the heart of the French Euro Disco scene. Previously, members of Voyage had played on albums by Don Ray, Cerrone and Alec R. Constandinos. Quite simply, Voyage were a group with rich musical heritage. So it’s no wonder that Voyage had established a reputation as one of Euro Disco’s most pioneering groups. When Voyage reconvened to record One Step Higher, this would prove to be Voyage’s final album. Since then, One Step Higher has never been rereleased. That’s until Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint released One Step Higher as Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher. 

One Step Higher was Voyage’s final album. In many ways, this was a fitting finale to their recording career. Like their three previous albums, One Step Higher was an innovative, genre-sprawling fusion. During the seven tracks on One Step Higher, Voyage fuse everything from Euro Disco, funk, soul, rock, electronica and poppy hooks. There’s even a hint of reggae, Latin and Caribbean music. Listen carefully and layers of music will unfold, revealing the influence of classic disco, eighties electronic, Chic, Talking Heads and Philly Soul. It’s all there, mixed together by the four members of Voyage. Unlike so many albums released during the early eighties, Voyage’s One Step Higher hasn’t just stood the test of time, but matured like a fine wine. Thirty-one years after its release One Step Higher, sounds just as good, if not better, than it did in 1982. It was almost fitting that an album as good as One Step Higher closed Voyage’s career. Since then, Voyage have been remembered as one of the pioneers, innovators and finest purveyors of Euro Disco.

DISCO RECHARGE-TANTRA-THE COLLECTION.

The name Celso Valli means different things to different people. No wonder. In just six years, seamlessly, his musical career was transformed. Having joined Italian prog rock band Ping Pong, in 1971, the transformation of Celso Valli began in 1977 when he released Pasta and Fagioli. This was one of the first Italo Disco singles. After that, Celso worked as a songwriter, arranger, conductor and producer. Soon,Celso Valli’s name was synonymous with Italo Disco. So much so, that Celso was crowned King of Italo Disco. However, for disco lovers, Celso Valli’s name is synonymous with Tantra, the studio band that released a trio of albums between 1979 and 1982. 

Tantra’s debut album was 1979s Hills Of Katmandu. It was released with little fanfare. Initially, only a small number of Hills Of Katmandu were pressed. They were snapped up, and soon word spread about Celso Valli’s latest musical creation. The same happened when 1980s Mother Africa was released. With Tantra’s reputation growing, Tantra’s first two albums were released as The Double Album on the Importe/12” label. Two years later, Tantra released their final album Tantra II. This was the post-disco era. Music had changed, changed almost beyond recognition. Celso realized this, Refusing to stand still and forever the innovator, Tantra II was another album of cutting-edge, influential music. Tantra II was a fitting farewell from one of Celso Valli’s most successful projects. Since then, Tantra is regarded as one of Celso Valli’s finest projects. Innovative and influential, Tantra’s three albums were rereleased by Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint as Disco Recharge-Tantra-The Collection in July 2013.

DONNY HATHAWAY-EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING.

Sometimes, when people discuss the great soul singers, they forget about Donny Hathaway, whose career was tragically cut short. During his career, Donny Hathaway only released three studio albums, one soundtrack album and two albums with Roberta Flacks. Donny Hathaway’s debut album was 1970s Everything Is Everything, which was rereleased by 1970. Everything Is Everything is regarded by critics as his greatest album.

For anyone yet to discover the music of Donny Hathaway, then the perfect place to start is his debut album Everything Is Everything, which was rereleased by WEA Japan in March 2013. Of the three albums Donny Hathaway recorded, Everything Is Everything is his best album. Critically acclaimed upon its release, considering Everything Is Everything was a debut album, it’s an accomplished and mature album.  Everything Is Everything is a fusion of soul, funk, jazz and gospel, where Donny Hathaway breathes new life, meaning and energy into new and old songs.

Whether it’s songs about love, hurt and heartache or songs filled with social comment or spiritual, Donny’s delivery is equally potent and powerful. That’s why Everything Is Everything is one of the best soul albums you could ever hope to hear. It features some of the best tracks Donny Hathaway ever recorded. Here, Donny’s voice is at its best. He’s backed by some hugely talented musicians and the production is almost perfect. That’s why Everything Is Everything is the best album Donny ever released and belongs in every record collection.

DONNY HATHAWAY-DONNY HATHAWAY.

April 1971 saw Donny’s second album Donny Hathaway released. With songs by Van McCoy, Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Mac Davis on the album, plus one song co-written by Donny with Nadine McKinnor, the album was well received by critics. On its release, it reached number six in the US R&B Charts and number eighty-nine in the US Billboard 200. Sales of Donny Hathaway surpassed Everything Is Everything, which is Donny’s finest album. Donny Hathaway comes close though.

Donny Hathaway’s eponymous second album, Donny Hathaway is one of these rare albums, that doesn’t have a bad song on it. This is unusual, as usually, there’s a song that lets an album down. Not here. There are neither any bad songs, nor any filler, just quality music. These tracks demonstrate how hugely talented a singer and musician Donny Hathaway was. From the opening bars of Donny Hathaway until the final notes, you’re enthralled, taken on a stunning and magical musical journey that encompasses soul and gospel music, with Donny as your guide. You find yourself transfixed, awaiting the next song with anticipation, listening to every subtlety and nuance. When the album ends, you can’t help but listen again, just in case you missed anything the last time. What happens is that each time you listen to the album, the more you grow to love it. Donny Hathaway quickly becomes like a trusted friend, and you’re drawn to it time and time again. Quite simply, Donny Hathaway some of the most healing, spiritual and uplifting music that you’ll ever be privileged to hear.

DORIS DUKE-I’M A LOSER.

Mention Doris Duke’s 1970 album I’m A Loser and many lovers of soul music will nod approvingly. Since its release, I’m A Loser has become regarded as one of the greatest deep soul albums ever released. However, five years earlier, Doris Duke was just a session singer. Five years later,  Doris Duke went from session singer to Deep Soul diva and released her Magnus Opus I’m A Loser which was rereleased by Alive Records.

I’m A Loser is a concept album. Not just any concept album though. It’s a hugely emotive concept album that brings to life the complicated subjects of relationships. During the album, there’s twelve dramatic stories of love, betrayal and broken promises unfold. On each of these tracks, Doris is transformed into a master storyteller, as she throws herself headlong into each story. Her portrayal of each story makes you forget that this is only “make believe.” She  delivers the lyrics so realistically that you think that Doris has lived each track. Not many singers have the ability and talent to do that. Doris Duke did. 

Doris brought the lyrics to life. It was as if she’d lived and experienced what she was singing about. That makes a huge difference. Other singers, good as they were just sung the lyrics, but gave nothing of themselves. It was as if they were scared to give something of themselves. Not Doris. She lay bare her soul for all to see and hear. Sadly, for all her efforts and impassioned delivery, I’m A Loser proved a prophetic title.

That I’m A Loser wasn’t a huge success was a mixture of bad luck and possibly not being on a major label. If Swamp Dogg had signed Doris to Atlantic Records, his old label, maybe she would’ve been a huge star? Instead, he signed her to the ill-fated Canyon label, not knowing its perilous state. Sadly, although the album was well received by critics, commercially it wasn’t a success. Since then, I’m A Loser has became a deep soul classic which features one of the best voices in soul music…Doris Duke.

EBO TAYLOR-EBO TAYLOR.

In the history of Ghanian music, Ebo Taylor is a pivotal figure. Best described as an innovator, Ebo Taylor’s music would influence the further generations of Ghanian musicians. However, Ebo was much more than a musician. He was also a songwriter, arranger, producer and bandleader. Ebo Taylor has done it all, including releasing his debut album Ebo Taylor in 1977.

Ebo Taylor is one of these albums where countless musical genres and influences play their part in the album’s sound and success. Afrobeat, highlife and other types of Western African music are joined by jazz, funk, soul and Latin music. Dense rhythms, a proliferation of percussion, waves of Hammond organ and Ebo’s jazz-tinged guitar are joined by growling horns. Together, they provide the backdrop for the vocals on Ebo Taylor, Ebo’s debut album, which was released by Mr. Bongo Records.

Best described as an innovative, genre-melting album, Ebo Taylor may have been released in 1977, but Ebo’s career had been building up to the release of his debut album. Twenty years experience went into the making of Ebo Taylor. This fusion of African and Western music may not have been unique, but it was a potent and irresistible combination. One minute it’s heartfelt and heartbreaking, the next minute Ebo Taylor is infectiously catchy, joyous and uplifting. Ebo Taylor, this genre-melting album, has certainly stood the test of time, and thirty-six years after its release in 1977, is a musical reminder of one of Ghana’s greatest musicians at the peak of his powers.

FAIRPORT CONVENTION-RISING FOR THE MOON.

Rising For The Moon, which was Fairport Convention’s tenth studio album, proved to be a landmark album for a number of reason. Most importantly, it was the last album to feature the ethereal beauty of Sandy Denny’s vocal. This was Sandy’s swan-song. Another change was that Jon Wood, Fairport Convention’s regular producer, was replaced by Glyn Johns. Then there was the fact that Rising For The Moon featured no traditional material. Many people thought this change of direction would lead to a commercial breakthrough for Fairport Convention.

Sadly, Rising For The Moon wasn’t Fairport Convention’s breakthrough album. Instead, following the release of Rising For The Moon, Fairport Convention fragmented, becoming a mere shadow of their former self. Rising For The Moon which was recently rereleased by Island Records, was Fairport Convention’s last album to chart until 1988s Red and Gold. It reached just number seventy-four in the UK charts and failed to match Rising For The Moon, which marked the end of an era for Fairport Convention.

Fairport Convention will forever be remembered as a band who could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights. What stopped them from doing so, were the constant changes in lineup. If Fairport Convention’s lineup had remained the same, who knows what commercial success and critical acclaim might have come their way? Maybe then, Fairport Convention might have enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim their talent warranted? Despite the constant changes in lineup, Fairport Convention enjoyed some commercial success, but not the commercial success they should’ve enjoyed. Rising For The Moon, one of Fairport Convention’s most underrated albums, marked an end of another era for Fairport Convention. Following Rising For The Moon, Fairport Convention lineup changed yet again. What should’ve been their belated breakthrough album Rising For The Moon, marked an end of era for Fairport Convention. At least that era ended on a high, with the underrated Rising For The Moon showcasing Fairport Convention’s unique brand of folk rock.

GATO BARBIERI-FENIX.

When Bob Thiele founded Flying Dutchman Records, he was a man with a vision. His vision was for his nascent label to release music that was cutting-edge, innovative and pushed musical boundaries. To do that, he signed some of the most progressive artists. He was looking for leaders, rather than followers. Bob wanted musicians that started trends, rather than blindly followed them. That’s what he got. 

For the next few years, Flying Dutchman Records was home to musical visionaries like Gil-Scott Heron, Leon Thomas, Big Joe Turner, Teresa Brewer and Ornette Coleman. Another artist who called Flying Dutchman Records home, was Argentine tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri. His Flying Dutchman Records’ debut was his 1971 album Fenix, which showcased the rhythmic delights of the Argentinian showman Gato Barbieri.

Thirty-nine minutes long and featuring just six tracks, Fenix was Gato Barbieri’s breakthrough album. Suddenly, he arrived. No longer was he just a contender. From sideman, he comfortably assumed the role of bandleader on Fenix. He did what a good bandleader does, and inspire those around him. He drove them on to greater heights. Gato was an inspirational leader, one who could command the respect of his band members. These weren’t just any musicians. No. They were some of the best jazz musicians. This included one of jazz’s best rhythm sections and some of the most talented percussionists. Being able to inspire and command their respect wouldn’t be easy. To do that, took a musician that was inventive, innovative and influential.That describes Gato Barbieri.

Throughout Fenix, Gato combined the energy of free jazz and his Latin heritage. The rhythm delights of Latin music was like ying to the yang of free jazz’s ferocity and energy. It was an unlikely, but successful, melodic and rhythmic success. Fenix was critically acclaimed. Gato Barbieri and his all-star band had won friends and influenced critics on Fenix, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records. Fenix showcased one free jazz’s mavericks at the height of his creative powers. 

Indeed, on Fenix Gato Barbieri rewrote the rulebook. His playing style was unique, fierce, blazing and dramatic. Gone is the image of the stereotypical saxophonist. Gato Barbieri is more like a gunslinger than traditional jazz saxophonist. He’s like jazz music’s answer to James Dean. Playing with his inimitable style, this musical maverick and rebel got results. Fenix proves that. Gato Barbieri musical maverick and gunslinger comes alive during Fenix, playing as if his very life depended upon it. Playing with power, passion and emotion, Gato Barbieri rewrote the musical rulebook on Fenix, a rhythmic free jazz opus that launched his career.

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