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! A few interesting titles coming your way this week, but first, some thoughts on streaming and catalogue inspired by this week's headlines...
Usually, doing The Weekend Stream is pretty simple: check which catalogue titles have been added to digital music services, write some blurbs and drop in some links. This week, it took on some slight gravity thanks to one of the music business' top stories: Neil Young successfully requested that his catalogue be removed from Spotify, in protest over the platform's acceptance of actor/podcaster/COVID-19 vaccine skeptic Joe Rogan. "They can have Rogan or Young," the folk-rock legend wrote in a since-deleted post on his website. "Not both."
Spotify, having paid north of $100 million to be the exclusive home of Rogan's popular show, made their choice, and reactions were numerous. As we were assembling this post on Friday, fellow Canadian folk legend (and Warner Music Group catalogue artist) Joni Mitchell announced her intention to follow suit. Lloyd Cole did too, while Peter Frampton voiced his support for Young as well. (An unsourced story on Friday claimed that Barry Manilow was also doing the same, which he ended up denying on social media.)
For catalogue fans, the discussion then went down multiple paths. Spotify's platforming of an orator who some say spreads a considerable amount of misinformation is emblematic of the biggest problem of our modern age. Other music/tech platforms can easily and accurately be accused of doing the same (have you seen some of the videos YouTube tries to suggest people sometimes) - so what is the moral step to take if you want to stream? Adding to the stickiness is the well-known poor rates of pay per stream; most are negligible, but Spotify's rates regularly make the news, and in England, have even been the subject of parliamentary hearings.
The question might then become "where best to stream" but "should you even bother." We've all seen this drum beaten before. Most of our readers are doubtlessly here for physical music - CDs and vinyl - and might dismiss news of digital catalogue initiatives wholesale. But the island of physical media is a small one. The slight uptick in physical sales in 2021 that led some to ponder the idea of a CD "revival" are easily attributable to blockbuster releases by Taylor Swift and Adele - meaning if they'd not put out new music this year, that uptick wouldn't have happened at all. And even so, the market is roughly divided 80-20 in terms of digital-to-physical market share. The fact is, we're a minority - a vocal one, but there's probably no "revival" happening soon.
But that's not enough reason to discount one or the other. The Second Disc believes a truly healthy music ecosystem offers opportunities for catalogue discovery (and no fear of "old music" killing off new music) in multiple forms. Business is business, but there should be equal opportunity to enjoy music in the formats people prefer. The Beatles' exhilarating rooftop concert should probably not be only for people who stream. Whatever the reasons are that there aren't big box sets of, say, Janet Jackson albums, it's nice that a few clicks can get you all the remixes from the Rhythm Nation 1814 era. We have to keep moving with technological advances and working with the disadvantages that come with time, be it supply chain, environmental concerns or proper remuneration for the art one makes. The music has, is, and always will be what matters - not what or how you're listening, but that you're listening.
With that out of our systems, let's look at the new digital titles out this week.
Although tagged as a 2003 release, this collection of 20 of Holly's classic singles (including "That'll Be the Day," "Oh Boy!" and "Not Fade Away") doesn't seem to have a physical equivalent prior to this - at least, not with this title and cover art.
As one half of U.K. pop hitmakers Dollar with David Van Day, Canadian-born Teresa Bazar worked hard to make a name for herself as a soloist. But the Arif Mardin-produced The Big Kiss missed the mark with British record buyers thanks to record company woes. Bazar was able to reclaim some of her pride in making the album when Cherry Red released the album for the first time on CD in 2019, adding 19 bonus tracks including single and dance remixes, the non-LP single "Gotcha!" (from the 1985 film of the same name) and even a few demos. Now, it's available to check out digitally.
Matt Monro, For the Present / The Other Side of the Stars (Parlophone)
Two of British crooner Matt Monro's final albums have made their way to digital! 1973's For the Present boasted production from the one and only George Martin and boasted renditions of classics from pop ("Bridge Over Troubled Water," The Beatles' "Michelle") to soundtracks ("Singin' in the Rain," "Speak Softly, Love"). 1975's The Other Side of the Stars, meanwhile, is heavier on standards: "What a Wonderful World," "Over the Rainbow," "When You Wish Upon a Star," and more - all in that golden voice of his.
A Grammy-nominated 1972 album from the legendary country guitarist, this is one of those classic collections of interpretations of popular singles that you'd find from the likes of the Living Strings - but of course, from Atkins' fingers, it's all Nashville class. Songs include Don McLean's "Vincent," two Neil Diamond classics ("Sweet Caroline," "Song Sung Blue"), Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," and more.
A unique collection from 1962 (originally released in a slick, briefcase-style package - complete with handle!), the four themed sides offer instrumental standards for sippin' ("I Can't Get Started," "The Touch of Your Hand"), listenin' ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "I Cover the Waterfront") and dancin' ("I Could Have Danced All Night," "Love is Here to Stay") - plus a final side of Gleason-penned originals for lovin'. How sweet it is.
Originally compiled for Reader's Digest in 1996, this 3CD set features 57 cuts from across Burl Ives' Decca masters, including country, folk, and children's favorites and even a few live cuts, too.