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 features digital debuts from a country legend, a new theme from a galaxy far, far away and some 21st century hip-hop for your consideration.
Roger Miller, A Trip in the Country / Making a Name for Myself / Roger Miller (Capitol Nashville/UMe)
A digital rollout big enough to warrant a press release! A dozen of the country legend's studio albums will debut digitally from now to August in batches of three. The first trio offers 1970's A Trip in the Country, in which Miller revisits early songwriting efforts like the standard "Tall, Tall Trees" (co-written with George Jones, and a No. 1 country hit for Alan Jackson decades later); 1979's Making a Name for Myself, an effort for the 20th Century-Fox label that produced the single "The Hat" (memorably performed on The Muppet Show); and a 1985 self-titled album, the final of his lifetime.
Up-and-coming British composer Natalie Holt (scorer of Marvel's Loki series) got a real treat for her latest assignment, a new Disney+ series following Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in between the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies. She got to work with a brand-new theme written by the series' longtime composer John Williams. ("I just want to write Benny a theme," the 90-year-old legend said of the character.) Most excitingly, Williams returned to a soundstage in Los Angeles to conduct an arrangement of his tune, now available as a single and brilliantly, particularly fitting in with the modality of Williams' prequel work.
You might read "Australian electronic duo remixes Marvin Gaye's chart-topping bedroom jam" and get nervous. But fear not: despite a slightly elevated tempo, this is a respectful revisit of a classic, bobbing and weaving through the original multi-track recordings without any added instrumentation.
For its 20th anniversary, Eminem's blockbuster fourth album (which included hits like "Without Me," "Cleanin' Out My Closet" and "Sing for the Moment") has been greatly expanded. This one's more than the typical clearinghouse of undelivered non-album bonus cuts, though: in additional to instrumentals and live cuts, Em completed a demo from the early '00s called "Jimmy, Brian and Mike" and cleared another unreleased cut, "Bump Heads," which features verses from 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks. (UMe promises physical editions will arrive this year - ostensibly by the time the rapper is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November.)
The cousin of Bay Area legend E-40, B-Legit's smooth flow has served him well on records - both his own and appearances on albums by Sick Wid It posse The Click and 2Pac - for three decades. "Ghetto Smile," from sophomore solo album The Hemp Museum (1996), was based around a wah-wah riff that incorporated parts of the opening lick from Daryl Hall & John Oates' breakthrough "Sara Smile" - and that's Hall himself singing the song's hook. (The pleasures of the rock 'n' soul legend's unmistakable delivery on the line "why don't the homies smile for me" cannot be understated.) This EP features various other cuts from The Hemp Museum along with their instrumentals.
The towering Jordan is best known for deftly combining old-school soul vocals with hip-hop beats on hits like the chart-topping party anthem "This is How We Do It" and "Get It On Tonite." But early single "Daddy's Home," a piano-driven ballad about a father trying to atone for past mistakes, proved that the future pastor's voice was well-suited to deep topics. This EP features the song alongside instrumental and a cappella versions.
Country music's pioneering first female superstar broke through a major milestone in 1956 with Kitty Wells' Golden Hit Parade, her first LP which compiled early hit singles like "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," "Release Me" and "Making Believe." Winner of Your Heart, released a year later, went even further, becoming her first proper studio album. It featured winners like "A Mansion on the Hill" and "She's No Angel."
Famously claimed as one of the lowest-selling albums in Columbia Records history, the sole, sprawling album by Atlanta combo Hampton Grease Band remains a cult classic, calling to mind the experimental sound of Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart - and what it might lack in technical precision, it makes up for in terms of plain weirdness.
Cleveland doo-wop group The Moonglows only had fleeting success with mid-'50s singles like "Sincerely," "Please Send Me Someone to Love" and "Ten Commandments of Love." But the voices of leaders Bobby Lester and Harvey Fuqua (later a key figure at Motown and producer of Sylvester's disco smash "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)") were hard to beat, and in 2000 the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly three decades earlier, in 1972, Fuqua and Lester reunited with old and new members for one of their only LPs, cut with the backing of some up-and-coming Philadelphia session players like Norman Harris, Bobby Eli and Earl Young. The songs were mostly updates of their greatest hits, including a version of "Sincerely" that just missed the R&B Top 40.