Friday, August 17, 2012

Inbox Update: Freddie Mercury, Skyline Drive, Velvet Underground

It's Friday, right? Here are some new releases I wanted to post going into the weekend.

There is a little bit of everything today, so enjoy!

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender Is a Fascinating and Touching Tribute to the Iconic Performer

Iconic singer and celebrated showman Freddie Mercury was hugely popular throughout his brilliant music career as the lead singer of Queen and as a solo artist. The world mourned his untimely death in 1991, but he was incredibly prolific and left behind a stunning legacy of groundbreaking recordings.Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender gives fans unprecedented access to one of the world's greatest performers.  

This officially sanctioned book is a loving and intimate tribute to one of rock's most enduring legends. It's an all-access pass to Freddie Mercury's epic life, with cherished childhood pictures from his parents, formative snapshots of his first singing efforts, and revelatory images of his early days with Queen, courtesy of guitarist Brian May. In addition to this treasured private collection of images, the book features myth making live and studio shots by esteemed photographers such as Snowdon, Mick Rock, and Neal Preston. This ambitious portrait, lovingly and painstakingly recounted in pictures and insightful text, celebrates the electric showman through the many stages of his extraordinary life.

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender is a poignant commendation of the mythic entertainer. The book's release also coincides with a reissue of the landmark recording he made with Montserrat Caballé. Packaged with a fascinating one-hour bonus CD of Mercury interviews, this is a must-have keepsake for Queen aficionados and rock buffs alike.

Seán O'Hagan was named British Interviewer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2003 for his work with footballer Roy Keane and the musician Brian Wilson. In 2011, O'Hagan won the J Dudley Johnston award from the Royal Photographic Society for what they described as "major achievement in the field of photographic criticism." Information:

 Derek Thomas’ new project, Skyline Drive weaves a mix California canyon rock and a bit of Southern Soul with the upcoming release Topanga Ranch Motel

Skyline Drive is the moniker used by songsmith, Derek Thomas for his folk-Americana music project based out of Topanga Canyon, CA. Formerly a member of the CA band, 60 Watt Kid (a band that garnered rave reviews including 4 stars from Rolling Stone)--Thomas has moved from psychedelic art rock to more accessible ‘heart on the sleeve’ singer-songwriter numbers that sit side-by-side with lush filled-out ballads on his yet-to-be released record, Topanga Ranch Motel (due out on October 16th, 2012).

The core sound of Skyline Drive is collaboration between Thomas and former Ryan Adams sideman and multi-instrumentalist, Erik Kristiansen (Kristiansen recorded with Adams on the mythical 'SnowKobra' record). Thomas lends himself to lyrics, vocals, guitar and harmonica while Kristiansen focuses on pedal steel. After meeting at a show, the musicians formed a two-piece in 2011 and eventually gathered friends together to record the self-produced, Topanga Ranch Motel in Thomas’ cabin in the canyon.
Derek Thomas’ thoughtful, evocative lyrics and smoky vocals are at the forefront of the music with Kristiansen’s pedal steel weaving in and out of the stories created. The end result is a record that is heartbreakingly melancholic and brimming with soul, prompting the indie zine LA Record to claim, “Derek (Thomas) is making some awfully sad-sounding barroom folk songs that could shake the paint off your Chevy…”

The songs on the record move from introspective solo of “The Switch” to the upbeat good vibe of “Nothing Like You” and another catchy song “Bartering Line” and then to the dusty ballad of “Sam’s Saloon”. Topanga Ranch Motel is rounded out with help from Jerry Zacarias on drums, Mike Derricote (who has a co-producing credit) on bass, Carl Byron on piano Dave Bouillette on stand up bass, Jeff Young on hammond, Michael Guglielmo on drums and percussion and Leslie Stevens helping out with harmonies.

Thomas and Derricote self produced, recorded and mixed most of the album at Thomas's cabin home in Topanga Canyon using only one microphone. Thomas and Derricote self produced, recorded and mixed most of the album at Thomas's cabin home in Topanga Canyon using only one microphone.

Skyline Drive is already creating a buzz winning the title of “Best of-Los Angeles based Americana Music” from the popular blog, Turnstyled Junkpiled while emerging onto the Los Angeles live music scene as a band that must be heard. Topanga Ranch Motel is the vehicle for this gifted singer-songwriter who promises to make his mark not only in California, but also on the music scene as a whole.

Super Deluxe six-CD collection features previously unreleased recordings from Factory rehearsals, Scepter Studios acetate, live performances

“Modern music begins with The Velvets.” --Lester Bangs

When The Velvet Underground & Nico album was released in March 1967 on Verve Records, with its Andy Warhol-designed, peel-off banana cover, it was far from a chart-topper. In fact, as the famed quote attributed to Brian Eno famously put it, the album may not have sold many copies, “but everyone who bought it formed a band.” And its reputation as a groundbreaker has only increased over the four-and-a-half decades since its original release.

Universal Music / Polydor  will celebrate the now-iconic album’s 45th anniversary on October 30, 2012, with a multi-format, worldwide release October 29th and 30th that includes stereo and mono versions remastered from the original tapes, as well as previously unreleased recordings of the band’s rehearsals in Warhol’s Factory and the subsequent rare April 1966 Scepter Studios recordings captured on acetate featuring early, alternate versions of songs later issued on The Velvet Underground & Nico.

A limited-edition, Super Deluxe six-CD box set will also feature a previously unavailable November ’66 live concert performed by the Velvets’ original, five-person lineup—Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker and Nico—at the Valleydale Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio, and Nico’s Chelsea Girl, an album released in October 1967 (seven months after the Velvets’ disc) which included all the members of the band as well as a teenage folksinger named Jackson Browne. It also includes an 88-page booklet featuring a new essay by band biographer Richie Unterberger. All remastering, tape transfers and digital assembly at the prestigious Sterling Sound Studios in New York were overseen by veteran A&R producer Bill Levenson, who has been involved for more than 30 years in previous Velvet Underground reissues like VU and Another VU in the ’80s, the banana-covered box set in the ’90s and UMG’s first expanded, deluxe edition of The Velvet Underground & Nico in 2002.

The six-CD set captures the Velvets in a crucial period in their development, starting with the band’s Factory rehearsals in January ’66, covering the original Scepter recording sessions that April, then a live show in November, leading up to the March ’67 release, almost a year after the album was finished. Nico’s Chelsea Girl, which came out in October seven months later, completes the set’s almost two-year arc, chronicling the band both before and directly after its historic debut. 

The Super Deluxe set allows fans to compare the mono and stereo versions of the album. Longtime Velvets aficionados have touted the mono mix because of its lo-fi quality, with the music coming off even tougher as a result of its compression.

The Velvet Underground & Nico album has achieved many honours since its release;. The Observer placed it number 1 in 50 Albums that Changed the World Uncut placed it a number 1 of 100 Greatest Debut Albums and was placed in the top 10 of Mojo’s 100 Greatest albums Ever Made and it continues to consistently top UK polls.

The Velvet Underground and Nico is considered the holy grail around the world. The release earned the original band a slot in the Rock and Roll Hall of FameRolling Stone placed it No. 13 on the list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in November 2003, dubbing it “the most prophetic rock album ever made.” Spin magazine placed it atop its list of the “Top 15 Most Influential Albums of All Time” that same year and the album is one of 225 recordings in the prestigious Library of Congress National Recording Registry..  In Czechoslovakia, the band gave its name to the Velvet Revolution, which overthrew the Communist regime in that country. Globally, the album is seen just like Sgt. Pepper’s and Pet Sounds, as a seminal, influential high-water mark in rock music history.

Universal will release the album worldwide simultaneously in six different physical and digital versions. Aside from the Super Deluxe edition, The Velvet Underground & Nico will be available in a brand-new two-CD Deluxe Edition which includes a stereo version of the album along with a separate disc of the Factory rehearsals and Scepter Studios sessions. There will also be a digital exclusive and a one-CD original stereo album remaster in both physical and digital form. Alongside a re-mastered vinyl edition

The deluxe edition and digital reissue of The Velvet Underground & Nico is not only for hard-core fans, but for anyone who wishes to trace the two-year development of a world-class band in the process of creating one of the greatest rock albums in history through rare and previously unreleased recordings.

John Cale's new album Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is scheduled for release on October 2nd on Domino imprint Double Six and will be available on gatefold heavyweight vinyl, CD and digital formats.

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