WILSON’S RED HOT — In keeping with a promise made to the legendary artist/author and original and founding member of the Supremes, Mary Wilson, Motown/UMe has announced announce the release of Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition, available April 16. In time for what would have been Mary Wilson’s 77th Birthday, March 6, we celebrate her birthday and honor her history and legacy with the first of her album projects.
Wilson, who retained ownership of her solo recordings, wanted to make the album – and much more – available to her many fans around the world. Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition is a newly compiled version of her solo album, originally released by Motown in 1979, that will now be available on all digital platforms for the first time.
Added to the album are eight incredible bonus tracks, four of them unreleased, including the legendary tracks recorded as a follow-up to the album produced by Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, et al). Featured as the lead single is a brand-new song, “Why Can’t We All Get Along,” produced by Richard Davis and co-written with Angelo Bond, who previously had great success as a co-writer with General Johnson and Greg Perry for “Bring The Boys Home.”
Wilson, who had many fond memories around recording her solo debut, was so excited about the release of this album that, after finalizing details with UMe, she created an impromptu “teaser,” posting what was to be her final YouTube video. “I finally decided how to work with Universal, and they are going to release new Mary Wilson recordings,” she said. “Yes! At last! At last,” adding that the expanded version of the album, known by her and to fans as Red Hot, referring to its lead single, will include the Dudgeon productions – and something new. “It was four wonderful songs that were never released… and I also have some other songs, some surprising new songs… Thank you Universal for chiming in with me and helping this come true. Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6th… I’ve got my fingers crossed.”
Sadly, the world mourned the sudden passing of Mary Wilson on February 8th, which also marked the 56th anniversary of The Supremes’ #1 hit, “Stop! In the Name Of Love.” Wilson was a world-renowned singer, best-selling author, a humanitarian, artist rights advocate, philanthropist, cultural ambassador for the U.S. appointed by Colin Powell, but she was best known as a “Supreme.” She was the co-founder of the original Supremes, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, which signed to Motown in January 1961, making this year their 60th anniversary. The group broke down barriers by becoming the world’s most popular female singing trio, with an unprecedented string of 12 number one hits, 33 top 40 singles, a record breaking 5 consecutive number ones, and the first number one album for a female group. Mary Wilson is the only member with the group from their signing in 1961 to their disbanding in 1977. Their legendary history is the foundation for dozens of books, movies, and even three Broadway musicals.
But the often-overlooked history is of the solo careers of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Ballard had previously released an album on ABC Records while, upon leaving the Supremes, Mary Wilson released her self-titled solo album debut on Motown, her label for the previous 18 years. Mary Wilson had the potential of becoming a dance classic. Famed Motown Producer Hal Davis, known for #1 hits on the Jackson 5, Thelma Houston and Diana Ross crafted a lush disco album for Wilson, with six dance tracks and a mid-tempo ballad. Wilson recorded the album while pregnant with her youngest son, Raphael, and for the album’s cover shoot she was wrapped in a jacket to hide the pregnancy.
“Red Hot” was the obvious lead single. But just prior to the release of the album the infamous Disco Demolition Night took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979. The “Disco Sucks” movement impacted the release of Mary Wilson, and the single reached #85 on the dance chart and #95 on the R&B chart. This new collection retrieves for history the song’s rare 12″ and 7″ mixes, which were unique from the album’s version. Despite being loved by fans, and the release of a second single, “Pick Up the Pieces” in the U.K., the Mary Wilson album did not get the recognition it deserved.
In 1980, Wilson headed to Europe to record with Elton John’s producer, Gus Dudgeon. The late Dudgeon, who started as Decca Records’ in-house recording engineer, became a key creative collaborator with Elton John, producing seven No. 1 albums, in addition to creating masterworks with David Bowie, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, and many more.
Wilson wrote in her second autobiography, Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together, “I was very excited about these four songs. It wasn’t the formula disco of my first album. Two of the songs were big ballads. The other two were rock and roll in the style of Tina Turner’s mid-eighties hits; I was certainly ahead of the time.” Three of the four songs were never released. The fourth song, “You Dance My Heart Around the Stars,” first made available in 2015 on a collection of the co-writer’s, Steve Kalinich, a frequent collaborator of the Beach Boys, is considered one of Wilson’s finest performances.
In 1986 Mary Wilson wrote her best-selling autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, followed by two more books, Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together, and Supreme Glamour (with Mark Bego). Although Mary continued to record and release music through the rest of her career, fans have continually requested to hear this music. These songs remain among the most requested items in the Motown catalog.
While recording more music over the last 10 years, Mary Wilson reconnected with Richard Davis, executive of Gold Forever Music, a publishing company established by Eddie Holland after leaving Motown. In the early days of Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland was the songwriting team responsible for The Supremes’ string of hit records.
While Mary continued to record, she kept a journal with her most personal thoughts, perspective, outlook, and philosophy on life, beliefs based on her experiences and topics of the day. Richard Davis discussed this song with Wilson. Mary told Davis and Bond that their lyrics were able to capture and articulate her feelings into song and help her tell her story. As she was watching and writing about her feelings about the political unrest and the division in the country, Mary felt strongly about releasing “Why Can’t We All Get Along,” now in the hopes of spreading a positive message through music.
(Special thanks to Andy Skurow for his assistance with the above item)
GAGE & TOLLNER RETURNS — One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2020 was without a doubt, Gage & Tollner. That is, until COVID-19 struck NYC during its planned opening week.
One of Brooklyn’s most legendary restaurants, Gage & Tollner, originally opened in 1879, and went through various owners and concepts over the next 12 decades. But after years of decline and struggle on Fulton Street since the late 90’s, it eventually closed in 2004. In the years that followed, the gorgeous Victorian-era space would (somewhat egregiously) house both a T.G.I. Friday’s and an Arby’s. But in the last few years or so, rumors of a possible revival of G&T began to surface. In 2016, the landlord announced he was looking for a new tenant.
In 2018, veteran restaurateurs Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider (the husband-and-wife duo behind The Good Fork and Insa), and St. John Frizell(Fort Defiance) launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to revive the restaurant, which was followed by a two-year buildout in preparation for a March 2020 grand opening. Just upon its planned opening week, COVID-19 hit and a shutdown ensued, forcing a 13-month delay. New Yorkers were first able to preview the restaurant’s offerings through meal kits that launched in February.
But starting this week, Gage & Tollner is welcoming diners into their landmark dining room at 50% capacity for bookings up to 28 days in advance.
Located at 372 Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the restaurant is known for its gorgeous Gilded Age dining room with signature gas-lit lamps, wall panels, brass chandeliers, and Victorian hat hooks. Gage & Tollner’s interior helped designate the restaurant as a NYC landmark in 1974, making it, after the New York Public Library and Grant’s Tomb, the third spot in the city to achieve such a status.
Led by Schneider, the restaurant’s interior restoration preserved much of the space’s historic design elements while adding modernized touches. With new silk embroideries for the walls and plush red velvet banquettes to replace the former marble-topped bar, the original revolving door from 1919 was also refurbished, in addition to restoring the chandeliers and adding a coating of Venetian plaster to the ceiling.
With the kitchen helmed by Kim and executive chef Adam Shepard, the menu pays homage to the restaurant’s original roots as a chop house and destination for oysters. An extensive raw bar menu includes both oysters and decadent seafood platters, house-made breads, steaks and chops a la carte, and desserts from pastry chef Caroline Schiff with classics like takes on both Baked Alaska and coconut cake. Drink options include wine and classic cocktails like a Sazerac or Whiskey Smash.
A secondary concept, to be located on the second floor of the building called Sunken Harbor Club, will also be opening at some point in 2021.
I live close by and that whole Fulton Street area is a dicey one for sure. Retail establishments like a Gap Outlet, TJ Maxx and H&M surround the area amid a series of boutique style hotels. I’ve been to the restaurant once, years ago and once inside, I loved it. I’m going to try it again for sure.
SHORT TAKES — Check out Keith Girard’s The NY Independent for a tremendous interview with The Inescapable Consequence’s J.D. Belcher. Here you go: https://www.thenyindependent.com/art/110492/j-d-belcher-dives-into-the-paranormal-in-new-book/ … (via Music Business Worldwide) Austin’s South By Southwest (SXSW) has long held a stellar reputation for delivering in this regard. And today (April 19) we learn of some big news for SXSW – and the world of B2B/B2C conferences in general. P-MRC, the owner of Rolling Stone, The HollywoodReporter, Variety, Billboard and Deadline (and, an investor in Music Business Worldwide) has announced that it has made a strategic investment in SXSW – the annual music/film/tech conference and festival based out of Texas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, P-MRChas acquired a 50% stake in SXSW LLC, making it the biggest single shareholder in the events company. A media release says P-MRC (which is itself majority-owned by Penske Media) will “bring media expertise and new avenues for discovery to SXSW’s iconic event”, as well as “expanding SXSW’s potential for new events and business models”. The SXSW 2020 event was scrapped by Austin officials due to the coronavirus outbreak – a cancellation SXSW said wasn’t covered by its insurance policy. The firm subsequently laid off around a third of its full-time staff. Don’t know about you, but Penske Media seems like it’s buying up strategic sectors in the entertainment business; monopoly? Don’t know. Like Steve Bing and Ron Burkle before him, I think it’s best to keep an eye on this one. Buyer beware for sure. Following a virtual-only event in 2021, SXSW is due to return as an in-person conference and festival in 2022, from March 11 through March 20 …
Robert Miller’s podcast (Follow Your Dreams) with celeb-author Mark Bego is out and pretty sensational. Check it out here: https://www.followyourdreampodcast.com/episodes/mark-bego-worlds-leading-rock-and-roll-biographer?fbclid=IwAR3tSry7a1J2yhJX7zhxUccSHqpcmeZAWZK8lw7VW_qmsaw8Q7pAY6QdtJs …
And, promo-man extraordinaire Bobby Shaw sent us this classic photo of Gino Soccio; PR-pasha David Salidor and Bobby visiting a radio station in New Jersey. Soccio’s “Dancer” was a massive club and radio hit in 1979. We miss him! Check “Dancer” out here:
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Andy Skurow; Mark Strickland; Ken Levy; Roy Trakin; Thomas Silverman; Cory Robbins; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Keith Girard; Samantha Ryan; Steve Paul; Victor Kastel; Randy Alexander; Adam Schlesinger; Lush Ice; Jerry Church; Samantha Ryan; and, CHIP!