Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at Matt Bianco’s highest-charting album, Steve Levine’s remixes of Millie Jackson and a Hoyt Axton box set…
Indigo (Cherry Pop WCRPOPT 189)
Having previously released 2 CD deluxe editions of Matt Bianco’s first two albums – 1984’s Whose Side Are You On (WCRPOPT 171) and 1986’s Matt Bianco (WCRPOPD 188) - Cherry Pop make even more of a fuss of the band’s third and highest-charting album, Indigo, from 1988, which balloons from 10 tracks to 47, spread across three CDs. Many of the tracks are previously unavailable on CD or previously unreleased at all, including a plethora of edits, mixes and alternate versions. Sophisticated and eclectic – their sound included pop, jazz and Latin elements – Matt Bianco lifted no fewer than five singles from Indigo, of which the first and most successful was Don’t Blame It On That Girl, which contained the usual Hispanic influences underpinning a smart, uptempo pop track with a memorable chorus and a strong bass presence that typified the work of PWL producer Phil Harding. The more rhythmic and less tuneful Wap Bam Boogie – initially wasted as the flip of Don’t Blame It On That Girl – eventually emerged as a chart contender in its own right, and was a major club hit to boot. The relentlessly cheerful but slightly less commercial Good Times and Nervous were more minor hits, but also hold up pretty well. The album, whose release marks the album’s 30thbirthday, is accompanied by an informative 28-page booklet.
Exposed (Southbound/Ace CDSEWD 164)
Perhaps best remembered as the producer of Culture Club’s hits, Steve Levine is also a big fan of Millie Jackson, and was commissioned to remix a dozen of her Spring sides to give them the kind of fresh and new feel that can only be achieved by taking advantage of modern digital technology. Levine – who has an impressive CV even without Culture Club – has made a good job of his task, exploring and tweaking the multi-track archive of Jackson’s sessions to enhance and enrich their original sound without compromising their integrity. The tracks range in vintage from 1971 to 1978, during which time Jackson was a regular visitor to Billboard’s US black singles chart, and an occasional visitor to its Hot 100 list but scored only one UK hit, reaching a modest No.50 with My Man, A Sweet Man. The only track on this set that she helped to write, it had an uplifting message of support for her beau – she usually trash talks her men – and its easy, uptempo style made it a major and enduring Northern soul hit. Jackson’s gravelly vocals worked well with Isaac Hayes and it’s great to hear their spatially expanded collaboration Sweet Music, Soft Lights And You on this collection, though I would have preferred the superb Do You Wanna Make Love. Other highlights include a gripping version of Homer Banks’ If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right) and an effective cover of Exile’s hit Kiss You All Over. With much space turned over to Levine’s thoughts on the project, and the illustrations limited to tape boxes and two pictures of Jackson, it is not as detailed a booklet as it might have been – but, then again, it is the 23rd Jackson album to enter the Ace catalogue, so they have probably already done her justice.
The Jeremiah Records Collection (Edsel EDSL 0023)
Eventually as famous for his roles in films like Gremlins as for his long and distinguished songwriting and recording career, Hoyt Axton died in 1999 at the age of 61, and this new clamshell box set returns to availability all five of his Jeremiah label albums (as originally released between 1979 and 1990) in facsimile sleeves, alongside a splendid 32-page booklet. Jeremiah was Axton’s own label – named after the opening ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog’ line from Three Dog Night’s enormous hit Joy To The World, which he wrote – and its inception coincided with his return to form as a recording artist. His warm, smooth, rich tones were ideally suited to his storyteller songs, and his first Jeremiah album, Rusty Old Halo, was full of them, including Della & The Dealer, a song much loved by Terry Wogan, and the only UK hit of Axton’s career. Where Did The Money Go had flashes of brilliance but was less impressive than Rusty Old Halo. It may be that its cooler reception made Axton question his writing abilities, as his next album, Pistol Packin’ Mama, comprised largely of re-treads of other people’s songs, albeit nicely turned. The last studio album here – the other CD is of 1981’s serviceable concert set, Live - Spin Of The Wheel, is more focused on original material again. Much of it fairly lightweight but pleasing country fare, although there is a notable cover of Heartbreak Hotel, which its co-writer describes as ‘better than Elvis’ – but she might have been biased, as she was Hoyt’s mother, songwriter Mae Boren Axton.