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 sees the surprise remaster of an '80s pop classic, some amusing light pop re-recordings from 1972 and a foundational rock band laying down some tunes that were years ahead of their time.
By far the most exciting - and in some ways frustrating - digital release of the week is the sudden delivery of a remastered edition of the 1987 debut album by the soul/pop star once known as Terence Trent D'Arby; "Wishing Well" and "Sign Your Name" were both hits in America," with the former going all the way to No. 1. (Apple Music has also issued a Dolby Atmos mix, created by original producer Martyn Ware.) As thrilling as it is, we're still waiting to hear from Sony if this is a precursor to any physical or deluxe product. One can only hope!
An amiable singer/songwriter who lit up the adult contemporary charts with singles like "On and On" and "Save It for a Rainy Day" in the late '70s, Stephen Bishop's 1988 compilation equally highlighted his skill on soundtracks. It features cult favorites like "Unfaithfully Yours" as well as two of his signature tunes for the screen: Oscar nominees "It Might Be You" (which he sang for Tootsie) and "Separate Lives" (which Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin sang for White Nights).
Monica Arnold was only a teenager when her blend of smooth R&B and streetwise hip-hop catapulted her to the top of the charts in the back half of the '90s. Her first seven singles were all Top 10s, with the latter three hitting No. 1; this remix EP captures the vibe of that second hit as it was worked for the clubs, including a mix featuring raps from acclaimed duo Mobb Deep.
Con Funk Shun, Con Funk Shun / Fever / Burnin' Love (Mercury)
Another batch of backfilled albums from the California combo, covering each end of their Mercury tenure in 1977 and 1986 plus 1983's Fever, whose "Baby I'm Hooked (Right Into Your Love)" was one of the group's few appearances on the Billboard Hot 100.
The curly haired Canadian was a winner on the U.S. charts in the late '70s and early '80s, and this CD-sized compilation (released in Japan in 1998) does a good job of summing up that work on hits like "I Just Wanna Stop," "People Gotta Move" and more. Worth noting, of course, that since it only covers the A&M years, it misses his other big U.S. hit, "Living Inside Myself," recorded for Arista after his A&M contract was up.
Moving on after the death of a bandleader is no easy task, but The Crickets - left unmoored after Buddy Holly's tragic death - did their best to keep on. In 1960, two years after that plane crash, bassist Joe B. Mauldin and drummer Jerry Allison joined forces with guitarist Sonny Curtis and vocalist Earl Sinks (who'd leave the group before the album was issued) for a record that showed the group paying homage to rockers past ("Great Balls of Fire," "Rockin' Pneumonia and The Boogie-Woogie Flu") while also showcasing Curtis' formidable songwriting strengths. Over the next 20 years, two of the album's songs - "I Fought the Law" and "More Than I Can Say" - would become Top 10 hits for the Bobby Fuller Four and Leo Sayer, respectively. This expanded edition, issued on CD in 1993, includes some non-LP sides, including a few with another short-tenured vocalist named David Box (who tragically lost his life in a plane crash later that decade).
Al Caiola, Music from "The Godfather" (RCA) / The Generation Gap Orchestra, Theme from "Shaft" and Other Hits (RCA)
Re-recordings! We love 'em and they don't make albums quite like 'em anymore. From the RCA vaults in '72 come two really quirky adaptations of well-known pop and soundtrack work. Al Caiola, a journeyman guitarist who played on an unbelievable amount of hits for acts like Ben E. King, Simon & Garfunkel, Solomon Burke, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka and more, had a decade of repertoire under his belt as bandleader for United Artists before turning around this approach to Nino Rota's acclaimed score to the Francis Ford Coppola classic for RCA's budget Camden label. (There's nothing cheap about the recording, though!) Also on Camden was a quirky MOR instrumental album credited to The Generation Gap Orchestra (led by jazz clarinetist Phil Bodner, who'd get right with the times as the piccolo player on Van McCoy's "The Hustle"). Not only will you find Isaac Hayes' legendary Shaft theme, but instrumental versions of tracks by Michael Jackson, Sly & The Family Stone, Bread, Aretha Franklin and more - just a little mellower!