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 deep cut jazz, country and soul, plus some remixes of an '80s classic and a new, surprise comedic pop track by one of Hollywood's favorite funnymen.
Kitty Wells, Kitty Wells' Country Hit Parade / Lonely Street / After Dark / Dust on the Bible (Decca/MCA Nashville/UMG)
Four crucial LPs from country pioneer Kitty Wells make their digital debuts! Wells was the first woman of the genre to release an album: 1956's Country Hit Parade, featuring singles like No. 1 country hit "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," "Release Me," and "Making Believe." After Winner of Your Heart, her first proper "studio" album, three more followed in the '50s - all available now.
British-based junior reggae band Musical Youth hit it big with "Pass the Dutchie," a No. 1 U.K. and Top 10 U.S. hit in 1983. (It deftly adapted a few Jamaican cuts, including Mighty Diamonds' "Pass the Koutchie"; this kid-friendly version removed lyrics about smoking herb and instead sang about a cooking pot.) In 1994, these mixes by Italian DJ Maurizio Motella were issued in Europe.
Call it an official digital release of an "unofficial" live album. Traffic's Dave Mason had played a series of well-received dates at The Troubadour in 1971 and wanted to issue a double album featuring some of those recordings with new studio cuts. Being the most successful artist on his label, Blue Thumb, he felt the time was right to renegotiate his contract; when talks broke down, he took the tapes with him. But the label put out Headkeeper - a 1972 collection of studio cuts (sourced from two-track safety masters) and a few Troubadour tracks - to Mason's chagrin. A year later, Alive included two of those tracks from Headkeeper (including a version of Traffic's "Feelin' Alright") and five others from those dates.
The Nite-Liters, Instrumental Directions / Different Strokes (RCA)
Soul legends Harvey Fuqua and Vernon Bullock conceived this sumptuous instrumental funk group after leaving the fold at Motown. The group would rapidly expand into a more soul-based ensemble called New Birth through the decade, but these two Nite-Liters albums showcase what they were originally about. Instrumental Directions and Different Strokes feature a mix of covers and originals, including "Theme from Shaft," "Wichita Lineman" and others.
A most interesting country-folk jam from three men not household names on their own, but with incredible chops behind them all. Guitarist Joel Scott Hill briefly replaced the late Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson in Canned Heat after his passing; John Barbata had drummed for The Turtles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Chris Ethridge played bass in The International Submarine Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers alongside Gram Parsons. L.A. Getaway, their sole team-up, featured a bluesy mix of originals and covers including Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land."
Canadian band Skylark scored their only hit with 1973's "Wildflower," but it was a big one. It hit the Top 10 in America and topped the charts at home, and has remained a potent source for covers and samples. (Their keyboardist at the time, David Foster, would become a defining presence in soft rock and pop over the next few decades.) This digital edition features two sides of a non-LP single released shortly thereafter.
Buddy DeFranco, Autumn Leaves / The Buddy DeFranco Quintet, Sweet and Lovely / Cooking the Blues / The Buddy DeFranco Quartet, Jazz Tones / In a Mellow Mood (Verve)
A clarinetist who successfully adapted from big band to bebop, Buddy DeFranco's small group work is celebrated with five records issued on the Verve and Norgran labels through the mid-to-late '50s. They feature some consistent sidemen like Eugene Wright on bass, pianist Sonny Clark and drummer Bobby White (although Jazz Tones features rhythm from Art Blakey).
Gigi on the Beach, Gigi on the Beach / Friday Night in the U.S.A. - Remix EP (Scotti Brothers/RCA)
A dance/freestyle obscurity from the late '80s - assembled by brothers Ed and John Palermo and featuring a trio of female vocalists - Gigi on the Beach had the unfortunate luck of being released by Scotti Brothers as their distribution deal with CBS was coming to a close. But fans of the anything-goes style of this era's dance music will find a lot to love on both the album (featuring a hear-it-to-believe-it cover of The Beatles' "Please Please Me") and the mixes to single "Friday Night in the U.S.A."
Mary's Danish, There Goes the Wondertruck... / Experience: Live + Foxey Lady (Chameleon)
This L.A.-based alt-rock outfit earned acclaim at the end of the '80s for catchy songs like "Don't Crash the Car Tonight." Their debut and a follow-up live album are now available to stream.
A onetime member of Brownstone, a female R&B trio signed to Michael Jackson's MJJ label in the late '90s, Kina Cosper released this soulful album featuring the moderately successful dance hit "Girl from the Gutter." This new digital reissue features a hard-to-find Japanese bonus track.
Country singer Greenwood's deathless patriotic anthem "God Bless the USA" has defined his career so bluntly that you might never have known there was a pretty decent non-LP B-side on the flip of the single. "This Old Bed" has now gotten a makeover in the form of a new mix from the original multi-tracks by engineer John Morales.
Finally, fans of Steve Martin's music and comedy output have a surprise reason to celebrate. As the co-creator and star of the droll Hulu crime comedy Only Murders in the Building (alongside longtime friend Martin Short and pop star-turned-actress Selena Gomez), Martin shines as Charles-Haden Savage, a onetime star of a corny detective drama who starts a true crime podcast to uncover mysteries in the New York apartment building he lives in. This week's latest episode featured "Angel in Flip-Flops," a cheesy pop pastiche that Savage sang during his acting heyday. (It went to No. 83 in Germany, and might've continued its rise had the Berlin Wall not fallen.) Martin co-wrote and sang the funny little number, with Paul Shaffer serving as producer.