Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Second Time Around

And it is in more ways than one!

The soul music group Shalamar formed in 1976 from three dancers who appeared on the US black music show Soul Train were a passion of mine in the late 70's, early 80's being one of the acts that were the link between the seventies Soul (think Ojays' and solo Smokey Robinson) and the Funk that became prevailed as the main genre of black music in the 80's.
Sufficient I feel to say I bought the 45's usually as imports cos they were cheaper and many of their albums that were very satisfying in themselves having ballads as well as uptempo stompers you can dance to.

Of the albums of these that held and still hold great interest for me they are Big Fun issued fall 1979, Three For Love issued January 1981, Friends Early summer '82 and The Look issued May of 1983 and the last album by the classic original line of Jody Watley, Howard Hewitt and Jeffrey Daniels.
Jeffery pioneered the 'Moonwalk' first shown on BBC UK tv's Top Of The Pops in 1982 and was begged by Michael Jackson no less for the secret of them moves!

The records remain in my collection but like many acts it took a while before anything outside of a compilation got issued in the cd era.
That takes us back to the title of this post because in so far as the UK was concerned for a brief point Friends and The Look were issued around 1983/4 when the label was being handled by Warner (WEA) as straight cd issues - no bonus tracks - but had been out of print for a long while. These issues commend a very high price on the collectors market.

In 1996 Sequel Records part of the big re-issue group Castle Copyrights issued all four of these albums on cd, with Big Fun and Three For Love being issued for the very first time with bonus tracks.

It wasn't long however before this set of re-issues themselves were deleted and following the formation of Sanctuary Records from Castle Copyrights and the issuing of new compilations including the nice various artists Soul Classic Soul and Solar Classic Disco two cd sets in late 1999, attention again was placed on revitalizing the Shalamar catalogue.

In 2002 the entire Shalamar album catalogue was re-issued from 1977's Uptown Festival to 1990's Wake Up with new liner notes featuring interviews with Jeffery and Howard and lots of chart related facts.
It was and is a great idea but this set of issues have some flaws for the serious fan.
The first thing is like many contemporary albums an attempt was made to make everything sound loud so the quiet ballad You Can Count On Me has the same average level as a track like Dead Giveaway on the 2002 The Look cd which it never did on vinyl.
They also seem to attempted to remove any hiss and pops from the original tapes - I'm not sure these tapes are the actual 'master tapes' so much as copies of - and this has left the high notes sounding brittle and liking any sense of space around instruments or vocals.
You can hear a filter on the high notes on the intro of You Can Count On Me being lifted electronically on the louder passages which is distracting.
On the 2 albums on one cd issue of Big Fun and Three for Love I was taken aback to see they had shortened several tracks for 12 seconds or sometimes longer compared with the 1996 cd and original vinyl albums and used much shorter edits of Right In The Socket and Full Of Fire with the first song losing over two minutes!
To give you an idea how this impacts on it if you took the two albums minus any bonus tracks, the 1996 issues would run for 80:56 minutes and the 2002 a mere 74:50
Nowhere in the notes of the 2002 cd does it mention this just proudly informing you of the bonus of The Second Time Around (edit) which was the 45 version (the lp version runs for 7:06)
which how they got it all onto one cd!!! In so far as the frist two albums fo there are more bonus tracks - the edited singles versions - on the 1996 versions too.

Now my original 1996 Three For Love cd got lost in a move several years back and so I ordered up a complete set of the four 1996 cds used and was taken aback by the differences.
Now for The Second Time Around, I'm reunited with the cds that sound really like the vinyl albums I love.
Deja vu!

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