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! Some classic compilations, a Who-related soundtrack and a posthumous Notorious B.I.G. appearance are all part of the experience this week.
Various Artists, The Sound of the R&B Hits (Motown)
As a new wave of British rockers from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and more took the world by storm with their groundbreaking spin on rock and roll, the records that influenced them were in fact originally harder to come by. That changed in 1964, when the Riverside label issued The Sound of the R&B Hits, an album featuring more than a dozen of the songs that these groups were covering - all from the Motown label, from The Miracles to The Marvelettes. In 2020, Ace Records reexamined that collection with a CD that doubled its length, offering 28 tracks including tunes by Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, The Contours and more - and now, both versions are available digitally.
On the occasion of the late rap icon's 50th birthday (today), a new Afrobeat-inspired track includes samples of his Life After Death cut "I Love the Dough." (Life After Death will get the super deluxe vinyl box set treatment for its 25th anniversary next month.)
Kylie Minogue, Can't Get You Out of My Head (Peggy Guo's Midnight Remix) (Parlophone) (iTunes)
A new remix of the club classic (and the U.K. superstar's only hit in America) commissioned for a Magnum ice cream commercial.
When four pop and hip-hop divas (plus co-producer Missy Elliott) joined forces in 2001 to cover Labelle's chart-topping classic for the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge!, "Lady Marmalade" became one of a few legendary tunes to go to No. 1 in America in multiple iterations. This original remix collection includes reworks from house production team Thunderpuss.
The Who's frontman starred in a 1980 film playing infamous British bank robber John McVicar and also recorded its soundtrack. (His bandmates - Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Kenney Jones - all participated too, though none of them wrote the songs, ceding those duties to hired hands like Russ Ballard and Billy Nichols.) The single "Without Your Love" actually made it into the Top 20 in America.
One of the crooner's most ambitious projects was this 1954 collection, which contained two LPs' worth of 51 re-recordings of his earliest hits (complete with spoken interludes and backed by a small group that included pianist Buddy Cole and Perry Botkin on guitar) and another three LPs of previously released recordings. Though a 2005 CD reissue added a lot of additional live and soundtrack material, this digital premiere features the album as originally released more than 60 years ago.
The spirited Black bandleader, who courted a gracious amount of crossover appeal at a time when that certainly wasn't guaranteed, doubtlessly laid the foundation for rock and roll with his sprightly jump blues in the '30s and '40s. In 1956, as the seeds he planted started to bloom in contemporary music, he signed to Mercury and re-recorded some old hits like "Caldonia," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't (My Baby)," all collected on this 1992 compilation.
John Schneider, Quiet Man / If You Believe (RCA)
After a modest hit country record with a crossover pop cover of "It's Now or Never" - no doubt juiced toward the top of the charts thanks to his star turn in The Dukes of Hazzard - John Schneider kept going with two more country LPs for Scotti Brothers. Though neither of them charted, and cover tunes like "Dreamin'" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" were only modest successes, it kept him viable enough as a country singer to earn him a new contract with MCA, where he'd release another nine Top 10 country singles (four of which went to No. 1).
On 1987's Two Hearts, his first album in seven years, British pro Dave Mason adopted a slicker, more synth-heavy sound that made stabs at mainstream rock ("Something in the Heart," featuring synths by former Traffic bandmate Steve Winwood in the middle of his pop hot streak) and adult contemporary ("Dream I Dream," featuring Phoebe Snow as a duet partner). Whether it worked is up to the listener - but it's digitally available for the first time, so now it's easier than ever to make that call.
Before they really hit a hot streak at radio with Top 5s like "Bad Time," "Some Kind of Wonderful" and the chart-toppers "We're An American Band" and "The Loco-Motion," Grand Funk Railroad were nonetheless making strong appearances on the album charts - and this 1972 collection offers the best of their first fistful of studio and live LPs.
Country singer Jody Miller - who'd recently performed a moderately-received song at the Sanremo Festival called "Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)," due to be a hit a year later in Dusty Springfield's English version "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" - crossed into the pop charts in 1965 with "Queen of the House," a humorous "answer" to Roger Miller's smash "King of the Road" with lyrics about being a stay-at-home mom. That set off her career into the '70s, and a year later she'd recorded a full album of tunes by Bakersfield's brightest.