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! This week's got plenty of remixes, from New Wave to soul - plus some novelty hip-hop that'll offer a much-needed laugh or two.
A new, modern dance mix of War's debut single and Top 5 hit, for those of you who wore out their last greatest hits release.
Released on LP in 1965, two years after the smash success of "Be My Baby," these 11 tracks actually constitute sessions pre-dating Ronnie Spector's breakout work, recorded through 1961. They might not pack the punch of that Wall of Sound, but they're a fascinating glimpse into the first use of the voice that captured our hearts and wouldn't let go.
Such was Madonna's power in the '90s that, while making a bold appearance in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita, she took a remix of the showstopper "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" to the top of Billboard's dance chart. While fans eagerly await the promise of more catalogue activity in 2022 from the Queen of Pop, yet another backlog of vintage remixes made digital is an enticing offering.
Jodeci, Forever My Lady (Expanded Edition) / Diary of a Mad Band (Expanded Edition) (Geffen/UMe)
Mixing elements of R&B and hip-hop, Charlotte, NC quartet Jodeci (comprised of two pairs of brothers: DeVante Swing & Mr. Dalvin and K-Ci & JoJo) occupied the upper reaches of Billboard's R&B charts with hits like "Forever My Lady," "Stay," "Come and Talk to Me," "Cry for You" and "Feenin'." These greatly expanded editions of their first two albums feature between them a total of 40 bonus tracks and remixes.
L.A. Guns, Live! Vampires / Vicious Circle (Republic)
Sunset Strip rockers L.A. Guns remain infamous for what they weren't - founding guitarist Tracii Guns also formed the subgenre's biggest band, Guns N' Roses, but split before they took off - but remained a mainstay of late '80s/early '90s West Coast rock. Today's deliveries begin with Live! Vampires, a live album recorded in support of third album Hollywood Vampires (1991) and released only in Japan, and Vicious Circle, a 1994 studio effort from a fractious time when Guns was nearly ejected from the band. (He now runs one of two versions of the group.)
The biggest hit from the beloved Minneapolis funk/soul band, Mint Condition's 1991 ballad comes back with a host of vintage, new-to-digital remixes.
An easygoing slice of West Coast hip-hop, "Back to the Hotel" was the biggest hit by late-era Profile artists N2Deep - and now the debut album from which the title track came is now streaming, 30 years on.
Party Posse, Steppin' in Doo Doo! (Jive) / Ron and The D.C. Crew, Ronnies Rap (Profile/Arista)
Listen. Listen. It's been a rotten few weeks. COVID, the precipice of foreign wars, presidential approval ratings in the toilet. Do you really need a reason - other than just pure mirth - to check out not only a single from late '80s hip-hop trio Party Posse called "Steppin' in Doo Doo!" (that album art!!!) but also a novelty single that sounds like the 40th president of the United States? Don't take our word for it - listen for yourself.
Even six years after Holly's tragic passing, there was a demand for anything of his that may have lain in vaults or similar obscurity. This album veered toward the latter: a handful of pre-Crickets material recorded in the mid-'50s with friend and future country producer Bob Montgomery. (As was typical then, it was augmented with overdubs.)
Hoyt Axton, Less Than the Song (A&M) / Snowblind Friend (MCA/Geffen)
The easygoing folk songwriter behind Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" and "Never Been to Spain" (also known to many as an actor in flicks like The Black Stallion and Gremlins) was an occasional presence on the country charts throughout the '70s. Less Than the Song was a fine platter of originals in 1972 that kicked off a brief run of albums for the A&M label; 1977's Snowblind Friend, which featured a version of "Spain," was one of a few releases by Axton for the MCA label.
Earlier this week, we lost radiant actress Sally Kellerman at the age of 84. Best known for her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in director Robert Altman's original movie version of M*A*S*H, Kellerman's storied career encompassed many memorable roles on film (Brewster McCloud, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Player) and television (The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Bonanza, and even an Emmy-nominated turn on The Young and the Restless). Music was another love of Kellerman's, though, and she got to put those talents to good use on a couple of albums and in one bona fide big-screen cult classic: producer Ross Hunter's 1973 musical version of Lost Horizon. Kellerman shone on Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Reflections" (which she also recorded on a rare Bell single produced by Barry Manilow and Ron Dante; on the other side was their production of David Crosby's "Triad"!) and the showstopping "The Things I Will Not Miss."
The spirited "Reflections" was one of five Lost Horizon songs surveyed by big-voiced baritone Ed Ames on his 1972 RCA album Songs from "Lost Horizon" and Other Movie Themes, out this week digitally from Legacy Recordings. Ames gave all his considerable voice and charm to this preview of the film's score (Lost Horizon wouldn't arrive in theatres until March 1973) and his relaxed "Reflections" is quite different than Kellerman's brisk original. The Other Movie Themes are worth revisiting, too, including "Butterflies Are Free" from future Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked) and Michel Legrand and the Bergmans' "The Summer Knows." Farewell to one of the most luminous presences to light up the silver screen, Miss Sally Kellerman.
Joni James died this week at the age of 91. James was one of the leading lights of pre-Beatles vocal pop, notching such hit singles as the chart-topping "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (1952), "Have You Heard?," "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "My Love, My Love" (all 1953), "You Are My Love" (1955), and "Little Things Mean a Lot" (1959). Though she largely retired from music in 1964, she leaves behind a legacy of highly romantic and always elegant pop that's more than stood the test of time. James was the rare artist of the era to own her masters, and between 1995 and 2002, she oversaw definitive CD reissues of her classic MGM catalogue as well as her first new music in decades. Though most of James' recordings are officially unavailable on digital platforms, one legitimate release appears to be streaming (via Universal): the 40-song anthology Presenting Joni James. It offers a sample of the magic that Joni James brought to each of her beloved recordings.