Digital Roundup: 7/29/14
New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Theodore Bikel, An Actor's Holiday / Folk Songs Of Israel / Jewish Folk Songs / Songs Of A Russian Gypsy / Folk Songs From Just About Everywhere / Bravo Bikel! - Theodore Bikel Town Hall Concert / Songs Of Russia Old And New / From Bondage To Freedom / A Harvest Of Israeli Folksongs / The Best Of Bikel / Theodore Bikel On Tour / Young Man and a Maid: Goodness gracious, we’re tired just from typing all of those album titles, but if you’re a fan of Theodore Bikel’s substantial discography, we can only imagine how thrilled you are to see a dozen – that’s twelve, count ‘em, twelve – of his albums being added to our digital catalog. For many of you, Bikel may be best known as an actor, so this is certainly a wonderful time to dig in and explore some of the material he’s recorded over the years. Granted, if this is your first exposure to his work, it’s only inevitable that the best starting point is The Best of Bikel, but from a historical standpoint, consider how daring it was for Bikel to record Songs of a Russian Gypsy in 1958, when Americans were still in full “Better Dead than Red” mode. As album titles go, if there’s one that most exemplifies truth in advertising – not just for the record’s contents but, indeed, for Bikel’s entire career – it’s Folk Songs from Just About Everywhere: any one of these albums will provide you not only with a musical education but with a cultural one as well…or, in other words, start listening!
Paul Butterfield's Better Days, Live At Winterland Ballroom: You probably remember The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but do you remember Paul Butterfield’s Better Days? Formed in the wake of the Blues Band’s breakup, Better Days recorded two studio albums – a self-titled debut in ’72 and a sophomore effort entitled It All Comes Back in ’73 – but this live album didn’t find its way into official release until 1999. There’s a heavy emphasis on material from Better Days’ first record, but you do get “Small Town Talk” from It All Comes Back, along with non-album inclusions “Countryside” and “He’s Got All the Whiskey.”
Jerry Goldsmith, Forever Young OST / Dennis the Menace OST: You’ve got to give Jerry Goldsmith credit: he had the chops to put together a solid score for the 1992 Mel Gibson romantic melodrama and then turn around and write something just as tonally appropriate for the 1993 big-screen adaption of the classic Hal Ketcham comic strip. Bonus: Forever Young wraps up with Billie Holiday’s classic rendition of “The Very Thought of You.”
Mott the Hoople, Mott the Hoople: It took Mott the Hoople until their third album to find significant chart success – thank you kindly, Mr. Bowie – but the dirty little secret about the band’s back catalog is that they were doing great stuff on their own from the very beginning, as evidenced by this, their self-titled debut from 1969. They were tackling other artists’ material from the very beginning, too, mind you, including the instrumental cover of “You Really Got Me” that leads off the album, but originals like “Backsliding Fearlessly” and “Rock and Roll Queen” handily announced the band’s ability to compose cracking good tunes from the start.
Randy Newman, The Paper OST: First of all, let’s momentarily reflect on how quaint this 1994 Ron Howard film about the newspaper industry looks now that we’re in an age where some kids have literally never even held a newspaper. From there, let’s be honest: when you see the name “Randy Newman” attached to a soundtrack, you have a pretty good idea of what sort of sound you’re going to get, and while his score for The Paper isn’t necessarily the most memorable of his efforts, it does feature one of the many Oscar-nominated songs on his résumé: “Make Up Your Mind,” a duet with Alex Brown.
Various Artists, Curly Sue OST: When it comes to composers of film scores, Georges Delerue’s name may not have the same sort of mainstream recognition level as John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith – probably because a great deal of his work was for films produced outside of the U.S. – but anyone who was once called “the Mozart of cinema” (by the French newspaper Le Figaro) is clearly someone with whom you should be familiar, and his score for Curly Sue is a perfect example as to why. We certainly never thought we’d find ourselves saying that the soundtrack to a lightweight Jim Belushi comedy from 1991 is a must-hear, but here we are saying it and absolutely meaning it. Those who prefer their soundtracks to feature pop songs can enjoy Ringo Starr’s “You Never Know” and the two contributions from 2YZ, “Innocent Believer” and “Git Down,” but Delerue delivers some very lovely material here that deserves to be rediscovered and appreciated.
Various Artists, Radio Flyer OST: Richard Donner’s 1992 film was sweet, sad, and ultimately uplifting – maybe literally, maybe not, depending on how you interpret the ending – and Hans Zimmer’s score matches the onscreen emotions note for note. Plus, you also get Shirley Ellis’s “The Name Game,” which is never a bad thing.
Various Artists, The "Selma" Album: A Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. OST: It’s more than a little surprising that this 1976 musical by Tommy Butler – with tunes arranged by famed Motown alumnus Paul Riser, no less – hasn’t grown larger in stature over the years: not only does it tell the story of one of the most important marches in civil rights history, but it often does so in a seriously funky fashion. (The most obvious example of this comes via the track “Flashback Nigger Woman,” which was clearly appreciated by Method Man, who sampled it for his song “Uh Huh.”) There are moments which come across as slightly dated, but there’s little question that Selma is worthy of reappraisal.