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 usher you into the weekend. This week, a Madonna rarity makes a splashy debut, the daughter of a soul legend sings with her dad on his holiday classic, and Roger Waters emerges from lockdown - plus remixes old and new, and a World Cup throwback you might not believe is real.
As the first part of Rhino's ongoing plan to work with Madonna's classic catalog, 2022 has seen a staggering amount of vintage remixes from the Queen of Pop make their digital debuts. Few are quite as exciting as the exceptionally rare "Gambler," one of two songs the singer contributed to the soundtrack to the 1985 cult classic Vision Quest, in which she briefly appeared. (The other song: the chart-topping ballad "Crazy for You.") "Gambler" was only released as a single outside America, but her popularity took the tune to No. 4 in England and the Top 10 throughout Europe. This digital bundle brings together the original track and its single-only extended and instrumental mixes - a killer find for hardcore Madonna lovers.
It turns out that Waters' re-recording of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" that appeared a few weeks ago was a precursor to a full EP of re-recorded tracks, cut during the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021. In addition to "Numb," there's tracks from Floyd's The Wall ("Mother," "Vera"), The Final Cut ("The Gunner's Dream," "Two Suns in the Sunset") and Waters' solo effort Amused to Death ("The Bravery of Being Out of Range").
Donny Hathaway's beloved holiday perennial was recently given a new spin courtesy of his daughter Lalah, a talented singer in her own right. More than just a posthumous bridge between generations, Lalah worked with an unheard piano demo of her father's, offering a doubly fresh take on a familiar favorite.
New York DJ/remixer Mike Maurro is well-loved among throwback dance lovers for crafting 21st century extended versions that capture the spirit of the early days of disco. (Check out this collection of his Philadelphia International Records reworks as a primer.) This set goes even deeper into the grooves, offering reworks of more PIR artists (Teddy Pendergrass, Archie Bell & The Drells) as well as soul and dance icons like Earth, Wind & Fire, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Melba Moore and Odyssey.
Frustrating to type but fun to listen to, this group (assembled and produced under the aegis of house icons Robert Clivillés and David Cole of C+C Music Factory fame) only released one song, but it was a killer. "It's Gonna Be a Lovely Day," interpolating (you guessed it) Bill Withers' late-career classic "Lovely Day," was featured on the blockbuster, Whitney Houston-anchored soundtrack to The Bodyguard and hit the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic. It also topped Billboard's dance chart, no doubt helped by any of these 16 remixes are any indication. (Fun trivia: vocalist Michelle Visage, now known as a judge on RuPaul's Drag Race, grew up in the same town as me!)
This landmark 1973 soundtrack, featuring contributions from Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, Toots and The Maytals and more, was crucial in introducing American audiences to the sound of reggae. Just reissued yesterday on vinyl, this digital expansion adds only one track: Cliff's film version of the title track.
Though the Wolfgramm siblings were down by one on their second album (brother Eugene stepped away to form the duo Boys Club), the Minneapolis singing family enjoyed some of their biggest successes on Magic, including the Top 10 hits "Cross My Broken Heart," "Rocket 2 U" and "Make It Real."
No, your giddiness over England's impending quarterfinal World Cup match against France didn't cause you to hallucinate all that text. In 1998, this see-it-to-believe-it supergroup came together to record this official song for England's World Cup campaign. (Echo & The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch co-wrote it with Johnny Marr!)
Known today as one of the most glamorous faces of Hollywood's Golden Age, Marlene Dietrich was also a formidable singer who'd recorded in five decades. This collection of material for Decca was recorded throughout the '30s; six tracks were released in 1940 as a triple 10" shellac set (well before the advent of the long-playing album). Now expanded with a dozen more cuts, it features sterling renditions of "You Go to My Head" and "Falling in Love Again," a song she recorded first.
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, Road to Bali / Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Evelyn Knight, Ella Fitzgerald, Sing the Song Hits from "South Pacific" (Decca/Geffen)
While this season is prime time for Bing Crosby's bestselling holiday fare, two of his many other musical efforts have been freed from the digital vaults. There's an EP's worth of songs from 1952's Road to Bali - the sixth of seven Road pictures Crosby did with Bob Hope, and the only one in color! - as well as a pre-LP collection from 1949 of eight songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's unforgettable World War II musical, featuring not only Crosby, but Danny Kaye, Evelyn Knight and the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.
Fred Katz & Sidney Poitier, Journeys Inside the Mind: The Dialogues of Plato - The Music of Fred Katz (Warner) (iTunes TBD / Amazon)
Jazz meets philosophy in this arresting mid-'60s sonic adventure: against the stylings and conducting of jazz cellist Katz, the late, great acting icon Poitier delivers monologues from the works of the pioneering ancient Greek philosopher - words more than 2,000 years old that still stand the test of time.
If you've never heard of this 1969 album, one look at the credits and you'll wonder why: Pete Anders and Vini Poncia parlayed the success of the single they wrote as part of the group The Trade Winds ("New York is a Lonely Town") into some songwriting credits for Phil Spector's stable of acts. This stab as frontmen featured production by Richard Perry and backing from not only members of The Wrecking Crew (Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knechtel on bass and keys), but the track "Smokey Joe's Cafe" featured bottleneck guitar from an up-and-coming session musician named Ry Cooder. (For the pop/rock geeks out there, Poncia also co-wrote "I Was Made for Lovin' You," KISS' hilarious foray into disco.)
Engelbert Humperdinck sure knows all about love. Now, the "Release Me" and "A Man Without Love" singer has released the latest in his ongoing series of EPs. All About Love features Engelbert's burnished, largely faithful takes on soul-pop classics "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," "You're the First, My Last, My Everything," "Starting All Over Again," and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" as well as songwriter Rudy Perez's "Take Me Back Again." The EP is currently available digitally while a CD is out as part of a holiday gift set directly from the label. It may well be released on CD in the future for general retail or at Engelbert's concert appearances. If you get a chance to see him in concert, don't miss out: he's in great spirits and even greater voice.