The world leader in music-based entertainment, the Universal Music Group has a top-tier presence within recorded music, music publishing, merchandising and audiovisual content in more than 60 countries. Its comprehensive catalog of recordings includes classic recordings by The Beatles, ABBA, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, The Beastie Boys, The Eagles, Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Coldplay, James Brown, U2, Eminem and Robbie Williams.
In turn, as one of the United States’ remaining 3 “major labels,” UMG can regularly be counted on for top-tier re-issues featuring interesting archival material. Just in time for the 2018 holiday season, below is a look at 5 recent vinyl re-issues from Universal.
01. The Beatles – The White Album
– In November 1968, millions of double LPs were shipped to record stores worldwide ahead of that tumultuous year’s most anticipated music event: the November 22nd release of The BEATLES (soon to be better known as “The White Album”). In turn, with their ninth studio album, The Beatles took the world on a whole new trip.
On November 9th, The Beatles released a suite of lavishly-presented White Album packages. The album’s tracks were newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, as joined by 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most of which are previously-unreleased in any form. Simply put, this is the first time the White Album has been remixed and presented with additional demos and session recordings; Martin’s new mix is guided by the album’s original stereo mix produced by his father George Martin.
Giles Martin opens up about The White Album.
02. The Bee Gees – Timeless: The All-Time Greatest Hits
– Having recorded 22 studio albums and for numerous soundtracks, The Bee Gees infused popular culture with dozens of worldwide hit singles that featured their singular and highly influential three-part harmonies. They achieved 9 #1 singles and 23 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Night Fever,” and “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever, and graced charts around the world with many other classics, including “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” “I Started A Joke,” “Lonely Days,” “Words,” and “You Win Again.”
On October 26th, UMG released the Bee Gees’ Timeless: The All-Time Greatest Hits in a 2LP vinyl edition. Already available on CD and digitally, the career-spanning collection of hits by one of music’s most legendary and acclaimed groups features 21 tracks personally selected by Bee Gees co-founder Barry Gibb. Sequenced in chronological order, Timeless spans decades of Bee Gees smash hits.
A trailer for Timeless by The Bee Gees.
03. Alvin & The Chipmunks – Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2
– One of the most successful animated franchises in history, Alvin & The Chipmunks have also become the most successful children’s artists of all time. Among the act’s successes are 2 #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, 5 GRAMMY® Awards, 4 Top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, and 3 platinum albums. Meanwhile, the song “The Chipmunk Song” is one of best-selling singles of all time with 5 million copies sold.
Christmas with The Chipmunks Vol. 2 was released in 1963 as the follow-up to the Chipmunks’ first Christmas album, released the previous year. Reissued on limited-edition white vinyl, this album features 11 traditional holiday songs and one original composition by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. Personally, I hope that Chipmunk Punk — as released on June 15, 1980 — is also slated for a vinyl re-release in the near-future.
A Christmas music video compilation featuring Alvin & The Chipmunks.
04. James Brown – Black Caesar
– Multiple generations of music fans known James Brown as “The Godfather Of Soul.” But Brown did have plenty of deep cuts in his catalog, and his original soundtrack albums for the early 1970s blaxploitation films Black Caesar and Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off fall into that category. Both of those titles were reissued last month on 150-gram vinyl LPs by UMG with tip-on jackets and faithfully replicated artwork.
Originally released in February 1973, Black Caesar is a gangster drama set in Harlem, written and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Fred Williamson, Gloria Hendry, D’Urville Martin, and Julius Harris. The film’s script was originally commissioned by Sammy Davis Jr., who was ultimately unavailable to participate in the production, and its original score was James Brown’s first foray into writing music for the screen. Pieces of Brown’s soundtrack, which also features the J.B.’s and Lyn Collins, have since been notably sampled in tracks by top rap artists, including “The Boss,” sampled by Ice-T in “You Played Yourself,” by Trick Daddy in “Take It To Da House,” and by Nas in “Get Down,” among others.
Originally released in August 1973, Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off is the sequel to 1972’s Slaughter. Set in Los Angeles, the Gordon Douglas-directed mob drama stars Jim Brown, Ed McMahon, Don Stroud, Brock Peters, Gloria Hendry, and Dick Anthony. James Brown’s original soundtrack includes score pieces, plus “Brother Rapp,” Brown’s previously released single which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B chart and at No. 32 on the Pop chart, as well as “Sexy, Sexy, Sexy,” Brown’s sped-up rework of his 1966 hit, “Money Won’t Change You,” with different lyrics. That track was released as a single from the Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off soundtrack, peaking at No. 6 on Billboard’s R&B chart and at No. 50 on the Pop chart. The soundtrack’s “Happy For The Poor” is a Latin-styled version of the 1971 J.B.’s single, “Gimme Some More.”
In addition to these two vinyl soundtrack reissues, seven sought-after, James Brown-produced albums from members of his revue are now available for the first time for streaming and download purchase. From Bobby Byrd, Brown’s longtime right-hand man, is his debut album I Need Help, featuring a slate of hit singles and sampled favorites, including the title song and “You Got To Have A Job (If You Don’t Work You Can’t Eat).” From Brown’s backing band led by Fred Wesley — credited to “Fred & The New J.B.’s” — is the 1974 album Breakin’ Bread, highlighted by the title song and “Rockin’ Funky Watergate,” and Maceo Parker’s solo debut album, Us, led by the hit “Soul Power ’74.” In addition, there is Marva Whitney‘s It’s My Thing, as originally released late 1969, Lyn Collins with two albums, 1972’s Think (About It) and 1975’s Check Me Out If You Don’t Know Me By Now, and “Sweet” Charles Sherrell‘s For Sweet People From Sweet Charles from 1974.
Director Larry Cohen talks Black Caesar.
05. Frank Sinatra – Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely
– Frank Sinatra’s intimate 1958 opus, Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely, was newly mixed in stereo for an expanded 60th Anniversary Edition, as released last month. In turn, Only The Lonely (60th Anniversary Edition) was released in a Deluxe 2CD package, in 180-gram 2LP vinyl, a 1CD configuration, and in two digital album versions.
The Only The Lonely (60th Anniversary Edition)’s 2CD Deluxe package pairs the album’s remastered original 1958 mono mix with a new 2018 stereo mix by Larry Walsh. 4 bonus tracks from the mono session recordings are also featured, including studio takes making their release debuts. The album’s original mono mix makes its digital release debut in an expanded digital collection pairing the remastered album mix with the four bonus session recordings, while the 1CD, 2LP vinyl, and standard digital album configurations feature the album’s 2018 stereo mix. The new edition’s audio was mastered by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios.
Only The Lonely itself was recorded as both a mono and stereo presentation. The mono was the focus as that was the chief format of the day. The stereo was recorded with two microphones suspended high over the studio orchestra. Frank Sinatra’s voice was recorded onto a third track. With the stereo recording being mid-side decoded, the depth of the studio is revealed. Only The Lonely reached #1 on Billboard’s albums chart and remained on the charts for 120 weeks. At 1959’s inaugural GRAMMY® Awards ceremony, the album won the award for “Best Recording Package.”
A “Mini-Mix” of Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely.