20/20, Clover, Charles Bukowski Reissues Coming in July
Steve Allen and Ron Flynt followed the power pop path blazed by fellow Tulsa natives Phil Seymour and Dwight Twilley when they moved in 1977 to Los Angeles, where they formed (with Mike Gallo) what has universally become one of the most highly regarded power pop/new wave outfits of the era, 20/20. How highly regarded? The long out-of-print CD reissue of their two albums (20/20 and Look Out!) on the Portrait label sells for over $50 — and that's for a used copy. Real Gone Music has gone two better with the addition of a pair of non-LP single sides, "Child's Play" and "People in Your Life," which have never been on CD. So in effect, this twofer presents 20/20's complete Portrait recordings. New liner notes featuring interviews with the band members, photos and a fresh remastering by Maria Triana at Battery Studios add to this collection's 20/20 "vision."
Clover is one of the most famous bands you have never heard of. They were the backing band on Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True and a later incarnation of the group morphed into Huey Lewis & the News. Among the founding members, John McFee became a Doobie Brother, Alex Call wrote hits for Lewis and many other artists (including Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny") and bassist Dr. John Ciambotti played on sessions for everybody from John Prine to Lucinda Williams. Given that pedigree, it's rather astonishing that their first two records (Clover and Fourty Niner), cut for Fantasy in 1970 and '71, respectively, have never been reissued. It's no accident they were on Fantasy, either; not only did Clover hail from the Bay Area (Mill Valley), but they had a rootsy, early alt-country sound not unlike their more famous label-mate, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Alex Call himself supplies the liner notes to this overdue reissue, with added photos.
"This is Charles Bukowski. Well, let me just sit here and drink beer." Thus begins the September 14, 1972 poetry reading from which his 1980 release on John Fahey's Takoma label is drawn. Charles Bukowski Reads His Poetry is quintessential Bukowski, from the rude 'n' crude drawing that adorns the front cover to the belches that punctuate the poems. As for the work itself, it's not really what one might commonly conceive of as poetry, but rather observations and vignettes drawn from life's darker side, focusing on perversions, poverty, drunkenness, gambling, and bodily functions. But Bukowski's bemused air and self-deprecating humor blunt the shock value of the words and emphasize the universality of the themes. "I want you to hate me," he says to the audience, but it's hopeless — he is one of us. Real Gone has rescued this recording from the clinical, digital world of the CD, restoring it to a proper vinyl format. The album contains explicit material.
Is there any song that sums up the late '70s pop radio like Sanford & Townsend's "Smoke From a Distant Fire?" It had that blue-eyed soul, high-gloss L.A. production sound of the Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins and other superstars of the era, with the kind of hook only genuine pros could create. For, as is often the case with so-called "overnight sensations," Ed Sanford and John Townsend had spent years in the music business before hitting it big with "Smoke." Indeed, the sound of the Smoke From a Distant Fire album was no accident: the duo had worked with both Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins (who repays the favor with a great vocal on "Oriental Gate") before cutting this 1977 release, whose sound also benefited from the nonpareil production skills of the great Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett. Real Gone has paired it with their 1979 album Nail Me to the Wall, which was released under the name Sanford & Townsend Band and makes its CD debut here; their final release, it didn't enjoy the same chart success as its predecessor but does offer the same studio-perfect, West Coast '70s pop. The Smoke From a Distant Fire/Nail Me to the Wall twofer CD features liner notes by Gene Sculatti containing an interview with John Townsend.
Bread fans might know him better as James Griffin, but back in 1963 Jimmy Griffin was one of the up-and-comers on the artist roster of Frank Sinatra's Reprise label. So up-and-coming, in fact, that the label's newly hired head of A&R, Jimmy Bowen, elected to produce his debut record himself and bring in Jack Nitzsche to arrange. The result was one of those great, early-'60s productions that was a little bit pop, a little bit country and a little bit rock, with backing by the vaunted Wrecking Crew of Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell et al. (Campbell contributes a couple of tunes to the album). Summer Holiday makes its CD debut here, augmented by all of Jimmy's non-LP Reprise singles, with notes by musician friend Brian Gari and photos. The result is classic pop from the future Bread singing/songwriting stalwart.
Probably the most popular, iconic mood music album ever made, Jackie Gleason's Music for Lovers Only set the stage for untold imitators to come with its evocative album artwork and lush, sweeping soundscapes. Released as a 10" LP in 1952, it set the record — which still stands — for most weeks in the Top 10 Album charts at 153, and hit the charts yet again in 1955 when it was released as a 12" LP. But here is where the history of Music for Lovers Only becomes, like most romances, complicated. The original 10" included only eight tracks, but Capitol's first 12" issue of the album added eight more for a total of 16; subsequently, however, the album was reissued on LP with 12 tracks, and the out-of-print sole CD release of Music for Lovers Only featured just the eight tracks from the original 10" release. Now, for the first time ever on CD, Real Gone Music is restoring this classic album to its full 16-track length, with its glorious, original artwork intact — another first — and in its original mono. As for those wondering what musical contribution Mr. Gleason made to the album, some say he conceived of melodies in his head and described them vocally to his assistants. But when Bobby Hackett, whose wistful trumpet lines were the focal point of the Gleason sound and of this album, was asked what Jackie contributed to the recordings, he replied: "He brought the checks." Either way, Music for Lovers Only stands as The Great One's greatest musical achievement.