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New Releases




Also due on June 26 are the Tokens, New Christy Minstrels and Rita Pavone. 

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — With its June 26, 2012 releases, Real Gone Music will offer music fans too much to dream. Featured will be three definitive packages — the Electric Prunes’ The Complete Reprise Singles, Timi Yuro’s The Complete Liberty Singles and the New Christy Minstrels’ A Retrospective: 1962-1970 — as well as the Tokens’ It’s a Happening World and Rita Pavone’s The International Teen-Age Sensation, each with bonus tracks.

Though the Electric Prunes were responsible for some of the boldest and most experimental pop of the late ’60s, they always were, more than just about any band of their ilk, a singles-oriented act, at least in their earliest incarnation. In fact, according to vocalist James Lowe, the engineers at American Recording, where many of their early singles were recorded, used to transmit the single mixes to a radio in a car parked outside the studio to make sure the songs sounded good in the medium through which most people would hear them. As a result, the Prunes singles (including the 1967 smash hit “Too Much to Dream [Last Night]”) were punchier than their album counterparts, and were, above all, mono. Yet to date, no legitimate collection has ever compiled these singles, which span several band line-ups and several legendary producers (Dave Hassinger, David Axelrod) with very different visions, yet remain of remarkably consistent high quality. The Complete Reprise Singles features all 23 of their single sides, with notes by Richie Unterberger that include track commentary from the band and shots of the original singles themselves plus photos provided by lead singer James Lowe.

Before Amy Winehouse, before Adele, there was the Little Girl with the Big Voice, Timi Yuro, the greatest white soul singer of the ’60s, male or female. Previous Timi collections have featured after-the-fact stereo remixes or album tracks — no collection has concentrated on the actual recordings that made her famous, the singles that took her to the charts in the ’60s. Now, Real Gone Music’s The Complete Liberty Singles double-CD collection includes for the first time the A- and B-sides of all of the U.S. singles Timi released on Liberty Records during her two stints with the label, featuring the original mono single mixes, all fittingly remastered for CD release at Capitol Studios. Among the highlights are, of course, her recording of “Hurt” (also here in an Italian version in homage to Timi’s heritage), a performance so deeply emotional and mature that viewers of her first television performances were shocked to discover that she was (a) white, (b) a female (c) barely five feet tall and (d) a 20-year-old from Chicago; the Phil Spector production of “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” in which his studio bombast met its match in Timi’s booming vocal, and the legendary Northern Soul single “It’ll Never Be Over for Me/As Long as There Is You,” which in its original 7” vinyl form trades for princely sums. Co-Producer Ed Osborne pens notes that trace Timi’s journey from Chicago to the charts along with a singles discography and photos. Listeners can find out why everybody from Elvis to Morrissey counted Timi among their favorite singers.

There has been a few New Christy Minstrels hits collections before, but none like The New Christy Minstrels: A Retrospective 1962-1970.  Here, at last, is a comprehensive (75 minutes-plus), single-CD chronicle of the evolution of the folk group, beginning with their earliest recordings with founder Randy Sparks in 1962 through the turbulent ’60s and ending with a sampling of their first recordings in the next decade. Sequenced in chronological order, the 25 tracks have been carefully chosen to include their biggest hits (“Green Green,” “Today,” and “Saturday Night”), standout album tracks (“This Land Is Your Land,” “Preacher and the Bear,” “Julianne” and “Blacksmith of Brandywine”), as well as recordings that represent their best efforts to adapt to changing times (“The Girl From Ipanema,” “Highflyin’ Bird”). Featured are the voices of the key players who defined the early sound — Randy Sparks, Barry McGuire, Nick Woods, Art Podell and Karen Gunderson — as well as rare tracks by Bob Buchanan (later a member of the International Submarine Band with Gram Parsons) and a young fellow from Texas by the name of Kenny Rogers.  The set also includes four Christy tracks making their CD debut and contains rare photos and behind-the-scenes liner notes by Christy historian Tom Pickles.

One has only to hear The Tokens’ remake of their 1961 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (here entitled “Wimoweh 5½ Years Later”) that leads off the album It’s a Happening World to appreciate how far this vocal group and pop music in general had come by 1967. A loping bass line, Beatle-esque horn choruses and a jazzy baritone sax accompany the trademark yodeling melody lines, and that same happy marriage of flawless vocal arrangements with studio experimentation permeates this entire album, which sounds at times like such baroque pop favorites as the Merry-Go-Round, the Left Banke and Pet Sounds. But it wasn’t just the heady times that gave the album its flavor — legendary engineer Brooks Arthur was behind the board for this one, and the arrangements were by Jimmy Wisner of Kokomo fame. An added bonus is the Tokens’ non-LP Warner Brothers singles, which at times range even farther afield than the album — “Animal” in particular could have come fit right into a Flo & Eddie album. Original Token Phil Margo makes sense of it all in Richie Unterberger’s liner notes.

Record labels have never been accused of going easy on the hype, but with the title of the 1964 album The International Teen-Age Sensation, RCA was simply stating a fact: Rita Pavone was an international teen-age sensation. After winning a talent contest in 1962 at the age of 16, her first singles shot to the top of the charts in Germany, Argentina, Spain and in her native Italy, where her recording of “Cuore (Heart)” was #1 for nine full weeks. She then was brought to the biggest market of all, the United States, to record this album with producer Joe Rene in 1964, an album which, while it didn’t duplicate her success abroad, did reach #60 on the charts and spawn a #26 hit, the bitter break-up song “Remember Me.” But that hit — which is, we kid you not, almost punk-rock as Pavone spits out the lyrics in her accented English over a spare electric guitar figure — is not the only reason why early rock ’n’ roll aficionados have been craving the reissue of this album for decades. Rita’s version of Chip Taylor’s “Don’t Tell Me Not to Love You” is definitive, and “Too Many” and “I Can’t Hold Back the Tears” are just plain classic girl-group anthems. Added is a bonus track, her 1964 English-language version of “Heart,” along with liner notes by Bill Dahl and period photos, to complete the first Stateside reissue of Rita Pavone (who, by the way, is still a big star on the Euro continent). 

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