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Pop icon Seiko Matsuda’s first jazz project goes into high gear

With over 40 music awards, a record of 24 consecutive No. 1 single hits on Japan’s Oricon charts and several hits on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart, Seiko Matsuda has been active internationally since 1980. Now, after six years of planning, Matsuda finally unveils her first jazz album Seiko Jazz (available via Verve).
Known as the “Eternal Idol” in Japan due to her long standing career as a pop culture icon, Matsuda has historically collaborated with jazz greats in the past while leaving a visible footprint within its scene. In 2011, famed producer Quincy Jones invited her to take part in his iconic, career spanning “Quincy Jones and the Global Gumbo All-Stars” concert at Los Angeles’ legendary Hollywood Bowl. The following year, Matsuda was a featured artist on the contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay’s album Esprit de Four. Upon celebrating the 35th anniversary of her debut in 2015, she won the Japanese equivalent of a Grammy Award when she received Best Vocal Performance at the Japan Record Awards.
Seiko Jazz marks the critically acclaimed singer’s debut jazz album, produced by Shigeyuki Kawashima (the first Japanese jazz producer to receive a Grammy® Award) and arranged by Grammy Award-winning bandleader David Matthews. Matsuda is joined by Matthews’ Manhattan Jazz Orchestra to present standards such as “Smile” and “The Way We Were,” as well as the Bossa Nova staple “The Girl From Ipanema” in a way that showcases the cornerstones in the history of jazz.
“I am not only overjoyed to be able to release my album with Verve, but I also feel I have turned over a new leaf after 37 years,” Matsuda says via news release. “Holding this special appreciation to all of the people who have supported me throughout the my career, I only hope to become a better version of myself by constantly learning and taking on new challenges.”

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Nina Simone’s years celebrated with vinyl album remasters

ninaFrom 1964 to 1967, the extraordinary Nina Simone released seven albums on Philips Records, further establishing her peerless artistic expression and singular voice. During this exceptional purple patch, she recorded some of her best and most important work of her career, much of it fuelled by the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil of 1960s America. In conjunction with their 60th anniversary this year, Verve will celebrate the genius of Simone, the supernaturally gifted singer, pianist and prolific songwriter, and her incredible mid-’60s run with the release of her entire Philips catalog on vinyl.
Released earlier this summer as a box set titled The Philips Years, the seven LPs — Nina Simone in Concert (’64), Broadway-Blues-Ballads (’64), I Put a Spell on You (’65), Pastel Blues (’65), Let It All Out (’66), Wild Is the Wind (’66) and High Priestess of Soul (’67) — will be available individually on Friday, Sept. 30 on heavyweight 180 gram vinyl in facsimiles of the original sleeve art. The vinyl masters for the long-out-of-print titles were cut at Abbey Road using high-resolution audio transfers direct from the analog master tapes and are all in stereo. This marks the first time that Broadway-Blues-Ballads and Let It All Out have been made available on vinyl since their original release. A celebration of Simone’s remarkable talents, these albums contain many of the songs that Simone’s legacy is built upon not only such well-known cuts as “I Put a Spell on You” and “Feeling Good,” but also “Wild Is the Wind,” a song that David Bowie would memorably cover, and Simone’s version of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”
Since her death in 2003, Simone’s influence, significance and cultural relevance has only grown, especially most recently as issues of race, police brutality and civil rights are once again at the forefront of the cultural conversation. The Netflix feature documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? — which just won the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Documentary this month — has helped shine a new light on Simone’s immense talents and fearless activism, resulting in a new generation discovering her timeless music and indelible impact. Of her Philips years, NPR drew parallels to the present: “In a time when issues of race and gender are reverberating with a newfound volatility reminiscent of the 1960s — the decade in which Simone forged her reputation as a politically provocative entertainer — Nina’s concerts and recordings feel like urgent bulletins from a brooding heart and a troubled land.”
In 1964, Simone embarked on a new stage of her career. Her rejection by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music; time spent as a pianist in an Atlantic City nightclub; her jazz, gospel, pop and classical influences — all these had fused to make her one of the most complex, fascinating and talented artists of the decade. Simone released her debut album in 1958, but when she signed to Philips in 1964 at the age of 31, her creative output was about to dovetail with the Civil Rights movement — notably coinciding with the Civil Rights Act Of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, gender, religious affiliation or nationality. It’s fitting, then, that the first album she released on Philips, 1964’s Nina Simone in Concert, captured some of Simone’s most committed Civil Rights-era material, including her explosive rendition of “Mississippi Goddam.” But this three-year period also saw her satisfy her relentlessly questing muse, with collections that focused on Broadway showtunes (Broadway-Blues-Ballads), pop material (I Put A Spell on You) and more, showing the full range of Simone’s talents.

Simple Minds’ Once Upon a Time CD release available Dec. 4

Simple MindsOriginally released in October 1985, Once Upon a Time became Simple Minds’ most successful album to date, selling two million copies in two months, hitting the top spot in the UK and making the top 10 in the U.S. It spawned four top 20 singles and launched a  15 month-long world tour that kept Simple Minds’ name in the music weeklies for most of 1986. With Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain providing a production dream team, and Anton Corbijn contributing to its instantly recognizable artwork, then Once Upon a Time had all the attributes of a classic 1980s album.

“Alive And Kicking” was the obvious first choice of single and its release preceded Once Upon a Time by a month.  The new sound, artwork and video indicated what was to come and whilst the single reached the same chart position as its predecessor in the UK, it just slipped short of the top spot in the U.S., stalling at No. 3. But Once Upon a Time easily eclipsed Sparkle in the Rain when released in October 1985, shifting two million copies in two months.

In support of the album, Simple Minds undertook their longest and biggest tour yet, beginning in the USA in October 1985 (kicking off at Poughkeepsie on the 31st) and visiting mainland Europe, the UK, the U.S. again (now with The Call as support), Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This included a series of massive outdoor summer concerts at Ibrox, Milton Keynes Bowl and Torhout-Werchter. Their first three top 10 singles from the album were signposts detailing the progression of the tour, and the fourth, Ghost Dancing, was released as the tour wound up, all profits being donated to Amnesty International. As Simple Minds took a well earned rest, after years of relentless writing, recording and touring, Virgin released the lavishly packaged Live in the City of Light, a massive live souvenir of Once Upon a Time recorded over several nights at Le Zenith in Paris, which earned them their third successive UK No. 1.

“When I think of our most complete albums,” said Kerr. “I would say New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) is definitely a complete album – it just feels very complete to me from start to finish; and I don’t think I’d change anything on Once Upon a Time and I wouldn’t change anything on Big Music. They, for me, are the most complete albums.  Someone might say ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ should’ve been included; and when you think about it, leaving it off is rather eccentric thing to do – you wouldn’t get away with that now. It would’ve sold double the amount of copies though! But it’s very complete: the artwork, everything about it, it is bang on.”

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of its release, Simple Mind’s classic album Once Upon a Time will be released on Dec. 4 as a standard CD and a two CD Deluxe Edition.  The remastered standard edition contains the full original remastered album, including the singles “Sanctify Yourself,” “All The Things She Said” and the timeless “Alive and Kicking.”  The two CD Deluxe edition features the full original remastered album, as well as 13 single mixes, B-Sides and alternate versions, four of which have been previously unreleased.