While The Second Disc prides itself on connecting people to reissues and box sets they can keep on their shelves, it's no secret that listening audiences are also digital - catalogue music lovers, too - and our passion is connecting people to music from the past that they might adore. So we're introducing a new Saturday feature: The Weekend Stream, which focuses on hidden gems that recently made it to digital channels that might make your playlists a little brighter!
Thirty-two years ago this week, Madonna released what may be her greatest single - the title track to 1989's Like a Prayer. A supernova of pop, rock and funk at its purest, resplendent in the Catholic imagery she grew up with and found herself fascinated enough to manipulate in a way few dared to - it's just so good. It spent a month on top of the Billboard 200 and ensured her position as one of the most important artists of both the '80s and '90s.
As a teen, one of the best finds at a record store was the Japanese Remixed Prayers EP, which offered extended mixes of "Like a Prayer" and "Express Yourself." Thanks to some wild UPC error at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, it scanned at a penny - an unbelievable steal. But there were some versions that didn't make that disc - namely a handful of dub-oriented works on a 12" promo and the original single mix. Some of those mixes, including the 12" extended version and the "Dub Beats" mix, feature extra, thrashing guitar from a player whose tones sound suspiciously like Prince's - a fact all but confirmed when one considers the sample of the unreleased Black Album on the latter track.
Now, a 10-track bundle has appeared digitally to celebrate the odd (or, one supposes, even) anniversary of the tune, featuring every known mix and version of the song and even original B-side "Act of Contrition," which also features that howling guitar (albeit backwards). It makes for a perfect playlist filler and a divine reminder of the power of classic Madonna at the height of her powers.
What about some new stuff? I'm sure most people don't visit The Second Disc for our takes on newer music (although I hope that people are enjoying the Bandcamp Friday picks as much as we are). That said, a few recent singles spread a little joy around Second Disc HQ, and we felt it right to pass on the good feelings at a time when we could all certainly need them.
To that end, we tip our hats to "Leave the Door Open" by Silk Sonic and Nick Jonas' "This is Heaven." Silk Sonic, the new project by pop behemoth Bruno Mars and alt-hip-hop winner Anderson .Paak, is a smooth, effortless recreation of '70s AM-radio soul. (No surprise, given Mars' proficiency in bringing the sounds of the past to the present.) If we're lucky to have enough vaccines administered in the summer, this could be the soundtrack of rejoined friends.
As for Jonas, the Jersey contingent of Second Disc HQ claims pride in The Jonas Brothers' Disneyfied brand of alt-rock - our founder Mike Duquette in fact went to high school with one of their backing band members - and their interest in making music that doesn't wholly pander to popular tropes is admirable. "This is Heaven," the second single from Nick's upcoming album Spaceman, is another summer radio-ready anthem, a surprise on last week's telecast of Saturday Night Live not only for its strong hook but sonic fidelity on what is normally a muddy-sounding studio for live music. (We felt similarly about Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" in 2013.) None of us are getting younger, so the opportunity to still feel free and easy with modern pop music is something we appreciate.