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’ve introduced 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!
The Jacksons, Triumph / Victory / 2300 Jackson Street: Expanded Editions (Epic/Legacy)
While we posted about these separately, it’s worth pointing out that, even though these expanded editions of The Jacksons’ ’80s albums (along with 1978’s Destiny, crucial to understanding the rise of Michael Jackson from R&B hitmaker to world-conquering pop force) are digital-only, they’re done with all the care that a treatment on disc would offer. The vaults have been excavated for all the relevant single versions (dig the super-rare, ex-U.S. remix of Victory‘s “Wait,” featuring a killer slap bass in place of the album’s synths), and they all sound better than even previous appearances on disc. (The short single version of “This Place Hotel,” as heard on a 2009 reissue of Triumph, suffered from some jarring tape lag that is gone here.) 2300 Jackson Street – the most expanded of the bunch – still has its share of chaff among wheat, and no one would highlight the new remixes of “Can You Feel It” as a patch on the originals. But if these aren’t gonna be done physically – and trust us, Second Disc HQ wants discs of these as bad as any fan out there – they’re at least put together extremely well.
After last week’s surprise drop of “Cool for Cats” from a live set included with some copies of Squeeze’s re-recorded masters collection Spot the Difference (2010), the entire album has been redelivered to some digital partners in an unusual deluxe edition that combines the new versions of tunes like “Tempted,” “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” with live versions of deeper cuts like “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Some Fantastic Place,” “If It’s Love” and others. What’s particularly odd is the sequencing; while the original Spot the Difference was legendarily tired in its programming (all the songs were alphabetical), this is almost algorithmic, combining studio and live sequences at random. (The live set, recorded at The Fillmore West in 2012, was on vinyl and features more songs than are present here – although the live version of “Some Fantastic Place” is new to digital services.) Strangeness of the title aside (made stranger by not being available on iTunes), this might’ve been a title even the most loyal Squeeze fans overlooked, and this is certainly an interesting way to do it.
While George Benson effortlessly became a soul singer and pop star in the late ’70s and early ’80s, his true love was always the guitar. 2011 saw the release of Guitar Man, an expressive album featuring decades of pop covers (from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “My Cherie Amour” to “Danny Boy,” “Tequila” and Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”) in his signature six-string style. A decade later, three bonus tracks available on Best Buy-exclusive copies – the Duke Ellington standard “Sophisticated Lady,” “Maria” from West Side Story and the Sondheim chestnut “Send in the Clowns” – have been added to the album.
One of the more unexpected digital surprises of the week is this Elvis Presley cover by the late British blue-eyed soul man. It was a non-LP B-side to “Happiness,” a single from 1990’s Don’t Explain album. Strangely, it seems to be streaming-only.
Historically, when major labels license titles out to third parties, there’s often a waiting period before that master – as available on disc – ends up available for digital purchase. (Many of our Second Disc Records titles are this way. It wasn’t until after Johnny Mathis’ I Love My Lady was available on its own from Second Disc/Real Gone that Sony Music made it available to stream or download – with, we humbly note, the terrific cover art from our release!) So it’s a pleasant surprise to see this collection of sunshine pop from Harpers Bizarre – only released in February by Cherry Red’s El imprint – get a streaming-only release so soon. If you’ve been on the fence about adding the discs to your collection, consider this a “try before you buy” of sorts!