Welcome to The Weekend Stream, a relaxing weekly review of notable digital-only catalogue titles. There may be no CD or vinyl, but there's plenty of great new/old music to discover! Despite the Thanksgiving holiday (and recovery period from Record Store Day Black Friday) there are some surprises for lovers of rock, soul and soundtrack obscurities - check it out below!
If you can believe it, there's almost no official representation of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in their early prime on stage. The exception: this 10-track set previously released alongside a "33 1/3 Anniversary Edition" of I Love Rock 'N Roll. Featuring versions of "I Love Rock 'N Roll" and "Crimson and Clover," this club set is one to look out for.
Some fine folks at Warner Music pointed us toward this psychedelic track by U.K. band Tyres, noting some interesting history behind the band. They were fixtures of the local club scene in the late '60s, at one point sharing a bill at London's The Roundhouse with a band that had recently changed their name from The New Yardbirds to Led Zeppelin and would release a pretty well-known debut album months after said show. Tyres recorded this track at Abbey Road Studios with the intention to release on Harvest Records in 1969, but internal politics and other misfortunes meant the band fell apart before it could become a reality. Then, on a whim, the band's songwriter Rafael de Svarte reached out to inquire about the track and discovered it was still in pristine condition in the studio's vault. And now, you can listen to it and experience a lost nugget of the British rock scene!
Released physically in the U.K. as a 3CD/DVD set by Cherry Pop this week (and available in the States a week later), fans of Debbie Gibson's shiny late '80s bubblegum pop will have a field day with this one. In addition to the chart-topping "Lost in Your Eyes" and the Top 20 hit title track, this set is packed with dozens of remixes and rarities, including two tracks Gibson recorded for the soundtrack to the hit dramedy The Wonder Years.
A British songwriter whose name sure sounds like a band, "Some People" singer Belouis Some had a track tucked away on the second side of the soundtrack to John Hughes' teen classic Pretty in Pink, "Round, Round." As is the case with so many various-artist collections like that album, the vagaries of label ownership often makes such albums incomplete on Spotify; but now, it's a little close to fuller now that the song has been digitally cleared. (Still MIA on that original album, at least on Spotify in America: Danny Hutton's cover of Nik Kershaw's "Wouldn't It Be Good," New Order rarity "Shellshock" and The Psychedelic Furs' de-facto title track, a re-recording of the song they first released in 1981.)
The ups and downs of The Drifters would fell a lesser group. When We Gotta Sing! The Soul Years picks up with the acclaimed vocal group, they'd already weathered the departures of lead singers Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King; then-current singer Rudy Lewis, who sang the hits "Up on the Roof" and "On Broadway," would drop dead the night before cutting another future smash, "Under the Boardwalk" (by which point Johnny Moore took over lead duties). This 3CD-equivalent set (released physically by Cherry Red) includes all the great tracks the band cut for Atlantic during this era, including a few rare and unreleased cuts and hard-to-find live versions.
Melanie Safka's "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" became her breakthrough single in 1970 - a folk-pop ballad featuring vocals from the Edwin Hawkins Singers and deep, reflective lyrics on Safka's time performing at Woodstock the year before. (Years later, Melanie would top the charts with the decidedly un-reflective sex metaphor "Brand New Key.") The album from which "Candles" came - also featuring covers of The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind" - is now digitally available.
Jim Nabors' rich baritone certainly turned a lot of heads even in the easy-listening crowd; that voice came out of Gomer Pyle? Hearing is believing on his great gospel LPs, like this 1971 release. Among its key tracks are a lovely version of "Ave Maria" that closed Second Disc Records/Real Gone Music's Christmas collection devoted to the singer back in 2015.
Brenda Lee, You're in the Doghouse Now / Darlene Love, Mr. Fix It (Warner Music/X5)
Warner's X5 division has a fun habit of servicing out digital singles of songs that ended up on unusual compilations that never found a home in the digital age. This month, they've done two from one most strange collection: a various-artists album inspired by Warren Beatty's 1990 big-budget adaptation of the detective comic strip Dick Tracy. (It's one of three albums tied to that movie, counting Danny Elfman's Batman-esque score and I'm Breathless, a full album of material from and inspired by the movie as performed by its co-star Madonna.) Both women are known for their holiday standards, but Brenda Lee and Darlene Love acquitted themselves well on these throwback originals, which shared disc space with the likes of Ice-T, Erasure and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Known for an uncanny impersonation of John F. Kennedy, Vaughn Meader's The First Family comedy album was a blockbuster after its release in 1962; it topped the Billboard charts, sold more than seven million copies, won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year and was reportedly gifted to family and friends by the president himself. Meader's fortunes shifted considerably and tragically after Kennedy was assassinated less than a year later. (Legend has it that Lenny Bruce performed a set on that fateful night in November 1963, starting his set with a lengthy pause and then, "Boy, is Vaughn Meader fucked.") In 1971, he attempted another satirical comeback album, The Second Coming, depicting if Jesus Christ were to show up in the present day. Despite (or perhaps because of) its biting content, it went nowhere, and Meader wouldn't be heard on record until Rich Little welcomed him on a spiritual First Family sequel featuring the Reagans in the early '80s.
La-La Land Records and Universal Studios' Back Lot Music let score fans open one present early before their now-iconic Black Friday year-end release announcements: the premiere release of Craig Armstrong's score to romantic holiday perennial Love Actually. This 2003 British classic features all the instrumental cues as well as some tunes from one of the film's leads: Bill Nighy as rocker Billy Mack, and his hilarious holiday hit version of The Troggs' "Love is All Around" (re-sung as, of course, "Christmas is All Around" - and bizarrely not on the original American soundtrack album.) The physical CD will be available next week - keep it here for the scoop on all of LLL's year-end announcements!