Friday, July 1, 2011

Vocal CD Reissue of the Month - "Kathy McCord"

Vocal CD Reissue of the Month
Kathy McCord: "Kathy McCord" (CTI/Media Arte) 1970/2011

***** (musical performance)
**** (recording, mixing & remastering)

Original album produced by Creed Taylor
Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder
Cover Photo: Price Givens
Album Design: Tony Lane

Featuring: Kathy McCord (vocals), Harvey Brooks (electric bass), John Hall (acoustic & electric guitars), Paul Harris (piano & organ), Wells Kelly (drums), Ed Shaugnessy (drums & tabla), and Hubert Laws (flute)
Strings & Brass arranged & conducted by Don Sebesky
All tunes composed by Kathy McCord, except "Velvet Smile" (co-written by McCord & Billy Vera) and "I'm Leaving Home" (John Lennon & Paul McCartney)

For decades, Kathy McCord's self-titled debut album for CTI (recorded on five sessions in November and December 1969, and released in March 1970 as the first project that Creed Taylor produced at Van Gelder Studio as the LP that started a new era for CTI as an independent label, after a 3-year association with A&M) remained as one of the most hard-to-find vinyls in the past century.

Then, out of the blue, an unauthorized CD reissue came out in Japan back in 1999. And last year, most exactly on March 2, 2010, the UK-based label Ace-Big Beat Records released in Europe a 2-CD set titled "Kathy McCord: New Jersey to Woodstock," a 28-track collection with the complete CTI album plus a whole CD of previously unissued recordings. But with a completely different cover art.

Now, on June 24, 2011, "Kathy McCord" was once again being reissued on CD in Asia, in a limited edition of 3,000 copies issued by the Seoul-based label Media Arte Korea. Better: in a mini-LP sleeve restoring the original LP cover art (conceived by CTI art director Tony Lane, who also did the cover to Jobim's "Stone Flower" before being replaced by another master, my friend Bob Ciano), with the beautiful pic by photographer Price Givens on the front cover. And there are bonus tracks too; 10 of the 18 songs extra songs added to "New Jersey to Woodstock."

Alain Manuel, a French CTI historian from the CTI Fan Blog (, was the first who alerted me about this new reissue. But I was on my way to Canada, and only some days later, in Montreal, I had the chance to contact Kathy McCord. To my surprise, that's what she told me: "I'm fine...but was not aware of any release in Korea...??? I will have to tell BV (Billy Vera, her brother and unofficial business manager). What label, do you know? I know there was a pirated CD some years ago (the one from the Vivid Label)...didn't know then either, I never saw a dime :( When I find out what the story is I will let you know."

Anyway, here's the tracklist of the Korean CD already on sale:
1. Rainbow Ride
2. I'm Leaving Home (yes, the Beatles hit!)
3. Candle Waxing
4. Baby James
5. The Love Flow
6. New York Good Sugar/Love Lyric #7
7. For You, Child
8. Jennipher
9. Take Away This Pain
10. Velvet Smile
Bonus Tracks:
11. I'll Give My Heart To You
12. I'll Never Be Alone Again
13. New Horizons
14. Acapulco
15. Baby, Come Out Tonight
16. That's A Love That's Real
17. No Need To Wait
18. I'll Be Lovin' You Forever
19. Magnolia
20. Madman

For those who aren't aware, Kathy McCord's lone 1969 for Creed Taylor's CTI Records (arranged by Don Sebesky & engineered by Rudy Van Gelder) has long been a cult folk-psych classic, rated highly by all those who enjoy artists such as Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan and their ilk. Its cult status has been boosted by its incredible scarcity - a true holy grail in collector circles, if ever there was one.

Aside from its original vinyl issue in early 1970, the only other time it's been available in 40 years was via an almost impossible-to-find, limited Japanese CD reissue (released in 1999 by Vivid Sound Corporation) that is, if anything, harder to find than the original album now!

The London-based Ace Records reinstated this precious music to catalog in 2010. Besides the 10 tracks from the CTI LP (recorded at Van Gelder Studios, in New Jersey, on November 18, 19, 20 & 24 and December 2, 1969, featuring Harvey Brooks - the bassist who recorded on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" -, John Hall, Paul Harris, Wells Kelly, Ed Shaugnessy and Hubert Laws, who had just been signed to CTI too), that 2-CD set also included both sides of an even rarest pre-CTI single (recorded in 1968 for the Rainy Day label) and nearly 20 demos that Kathy cut in Woodstock during the 1970s. All were from Kathy's own collection, and none had ever been released commercially prior to that CD."While the legendary Paul Butterfield was always a musical presence in the Woodstock community and offered his advice and commentaries freely, he was not on the sessions," Kathy says. "However Howard "HoJo" Johnson, the Brecker Bros., blues master Kal David, the multi-talented Marty Grebb and many others are, contributing their unique musical talents, for which I am eternally grateful."

The "many others" also include David Sanborn (on whose album "Promise Me the Moon" she would later appear), Amos Garrett, Tommy "T-Bone" Wolk, John Platania, Tom Malone, Lou Marini, Lew Del Gatto, and Levon Helm & Rick Danko (of The Band), along with vocal backing by the Voices of East Harlem.

Assembled with the full cooperation of Kathleen McCord and her brother, the equally-celebrated Billy Vera (both of whom contribute new sleeve notes), "New Jersey To Woodstock" is a musical journey very much worth taking.Here are some images from the original CTI LP cover:New text written by Tony Rounce in 2010:

Had events taken a different turn, Kathy McCord might now be regarded as a 60s pop icon, rather than a cult heroine. It was her early mentor Chip Taylor’s intention that she would record the original of the now-classic ‘Angel Of The Morning’, but his partner Al Gorgoni favoured Evie Sands. Instead Kathy got to record a single for their Rainy Day label in 1968 that fell stillborn from the presses.

A year later, Kathy became the first non-jazz artist to be signed to Creed Taylor’s renowned CTI imprint. Her eponymous album featured musicians of the calibre of John Hall, future founder of Orleans, on guitar and flautist Hubert Laws. Its ethereal beauty failed to reach its intended audience, and it was not until years later – decades, even – that it started to achieve a belated recognition, particularly among those who enjoy the works of such McCord peers as Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan. Copies of the original LP have crept up in price and nowadays fetch a pretty penny when offered for sale. A limited edition Japanese CD from the mid-90s sold out almost before it hit the streets.

In the 21st century, the cult of Kat continues to snowball. When the opportunity arose for Ace to license and re-reissue “Kathy McCord”, we jumped at it. She is, after all, family by relation – her big brother Billy Vera has long been part of the Ace team, as both compiler and annotator. Billy is a thrilled as we are that we’re able to give his little sister the treatment that her small but mighty catalogue deserves. It was Billy who approached her on our behalf to see if she had unissued material lurking in corners or cupboards that we could use to make that catalogue even bigger.

Listening to the repertoire, it’s quite incredible that Kathy never got the kind of breaks that were afforded to considerably less talented contemporaries of hers. She had the look, and the looks. She wrote most of her own material and sung it with supreme confidence and soulfulness. Her lack of success can only be down to a matter of being on the wrong label, or in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But it’s never too late to travel from New Jersey To Woodstock, so buy your ticket and let Kathy McCord make your journey worthwhile.

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