A surprise release on Thursday for the 40th anniversary of Prince's Controversy (1981), the Prince Estate has issued a demo recording of "Do Me, Baby," recorded during the studio sessions for Prince's self-titled sophomore album in 1979. (As such, it sounds less like a demo and more like a studio version in league with that album.) It's a fascinating recording that again highlights The Purple One's genius - and it's also available physically through The Artist's official store, on a one-sided, etched purple 7"; it had also been available on a now sold-out replica of the cassette on which a rough mix (recreated for this release from the multitracks) was found in The Vault; that format was limited to 1,981 copies.
After the 1983 superlative debut She's So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper avoided the sophomore slump with this eclectic album in 1986, featuring everyone from The Bangles and Billy Joel to Adrian Belew. The big hit was the title track, a Billy Steinberg-Tom Kelly co-write that sailed to the top of the pop charts and later became a LGBTQ+ anthem, but fan favorites include "Change of Heart," the emotional "Boy Blue" (written about a friend who'd died of AIDS) and an unusual cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Bonus tracks on this new expansion of the album include non-LP B-side "Headed for the Moon" (never before available digitally) and a remix of "True Colours" by Junior Vasquez. (Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield had a great chat with Cyndi about the album, too.)
Jimmy Webb's 1996 album Ten Easy Pieces delivered intimate, moving renditions of some of the singer-songwriter's finest and most famous songs, among them "MacArthur Park," "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and "Wichita Lineman." While the album's original label, Guardian Records, folded before the '90s were out, Ten Easy Pieces has endured - first in a 2010 expansion from DRG featuring additional live tracks, and then in a different 2018 expansion from Friday Music which added demos. Now, it's arrived in the digital realm in a third unique version: this time with all ten songs' gorgeous instrumental tracks anchored by Webb's flowing piano. With or without words, these melodies are a marvel to be savored anew.
Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, Oh, My God! / The World's Greatest Entertainer / Play (unionstateWorks/Beatroot LLC)
Wow! Available on streaming services are expanded editions of three original albums by legendary rapper/beatboxer Doug E. Fresh. (Breakthrough songs "The Show" and "La Di Da Di," heard on debut album Oh, My God!, make for one of the genre's greatest 12" singles ever.) An incredible find for hip-hop heads.
The man born Stokely Carmichael (later named Kwame Ture) was one of the boldest young Black activists of his time - he succeeded John Lewis as the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was pegged by the FBI as a likely successor to Malcolm X. While Ture exiled himself from the United States and broke with the Black Panthers before the '70s dawned, he did record this album for Motown's Black Forum imprint speaking out against the imprisonment of the party's co-founder Huey P. Newton, then accused of shooting a police officer. (After a second hung jury later that year, Newton walked free.)
Available digitally for the first time, the Jersey Shore sound came to Manhattan on this blistering, promo-only live set from 1976 (recorded 45 years ago this weekend!). Johnny and The Jukes are in fine form, playing two then-unrecorded Bruce Springsteen songs ("The Fever" and "You Mean So Much to Me") alongside covers of soul favorites like "Got to Get You Off My Mind" and "Havin' a Party."
Celebrate two decades of Ozzy's eighth studio album (featuring a unique band that included longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo and Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin) with this new expansion that includes three bonus tracks: Japanese bonus track "No Place for Angels," an acoustic version of "Dreamer" and a single cut of "Gets Me Through."
Paula Abdul, (It's Just) The Way That You Love Me / Straight Up (Virgin/UMe)
Another double shot of Paula Abdul remixes from the Forever Your Girl era! All that remains to deliver is mixes for the bestselling album's title track - was there a deluxe edition meant to happen at some point? Either way, these versions of the underrated "The Way That You Love Me" (initially a stiff, but a Top 5 hit after it was reissued in 1989) and the chart-topping "Straight Up" are more than welcome.
Indigo Girls, Touch Me Fall / Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee / Shed Your Skin (Epic)
Edits, acoustic versions and more from three more Indigo Girls singles issues between 1994 and 1997. The "Shed Your Skin" EP is most packed, with a remix of the title track by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and five live tracks, including several recorded at Lillith Fair in 1997.
Loretta Lynn, When the Tingle Becomes a Chill / Out of My Head and Back in My Bed (MCA Nashville/UMe)
After the rollout of many long-out-of-print '70s albums from country legend Loretta Lynn in previous weeks, two more make their digital debuts: 1976's When the Tingle Becomes a Chill (featuring the No. 2 title track and a rendition "Rhinestone Cowboy" (a dual country and pop No. 1 for Glen Campbell that year) and 1978's Out of My Head and Back in My Bed, anchored by a title track that hit No. 1 on the country charts.
Aztec Camera, Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings 1984-1995 (Warner Music/X5) (Spotify)
Released as a 9CD set packing nearly the entire discography of the Scottish pop group (only 1983 debut High Land, Hard Rain, issued by Rough Trade, is omitted), Backwards and Forwards includes expansions of five studio albums plus two unreleased live albums. And now it's available digitally!
Available physically through Cherry Red, this remix-packed version of Debbie's breakthrough 1987 debut (featuring the hits "Only in My Dreams," "Shake Your Love" and "Foolish Beat") is also yours to stream or download, if you didn't need the physical set's DVD content or just want to check it out before you get your copy.
British model turned pop heartthrob Nick Kamen died earlier this year after a battle with cancer; this algorithmic collection features his biggest U.K. hits released in the '80s and early '90s, including "Each Time You Break My Heart" (co-written and co-produced by Madonna, who sings backing vocals), "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever" and "I Promised Myself." There's also some remixes included, too. It's a fine distillation of Kamen's career, recently chronicled in a box set by Cherry Red.
Here's a delightful surprise: Capitol Records' 1949 album (originally issued on four 7" singles or one 10" disc) of the then-new songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's latest Broadway sensation. Capitol's album featured three of the label's brightest stars - Peggy Lee, Margaret Whiting, and Gordon MacRae - interpreting the rich songs in their own styles. The concept for the set was far from uncommon; Decca delivered its own South Pacific with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Ella Fitzgerald, and Evelyn Knight, while Mercury enlisted Kitty Kallen and the much less well-known trio of Anne Vincent, John Laurenz, and Donald Richards. (Columbia, of course, had the original cast album.) The Capitol record, issued on CD by DRG in 2008, remains a treat from three of America's finest vocalists.
UMe continues rolling out treasures from the vast library of The Ed Sullivan Show including this classic sketch from the late, great comedy duo Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. It may not be Christmas yet, but it's never too early to tickle your funny bone with one of their most beloved routines.
Finally, from friend of The Second Disc and New York* piano-popsmith extraordinaire comes this EP of covers initially included with special bundles of his crowdfunded 2020 album Please Don't Make Me Play Piano Man, a musical without a musical about being a struggling musician in the big city. Velard's signature baritone richly fills out classics like Neil Diamond's "I Am...I Said," Odyssey's "Native New Yorker" and "Cheer Up Charlie" from the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
* Velard moved to Los Angeles! What is this world coming to!