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. And we're ringing in the new year with new music from Peter Gabriel, old music from Madonna and a call to help out an old soul hero!
Our first digital item of 2023 isn't catalogue, but it's certainly of interest to fans of classic pop and rock. Peter Gabriel has been planning an album called i/o since not long after the release of his last album of original material, 2002's Up. A lot has happened since then, but it looks like this year is going to be the one that finally sees the album's release. (His planned tour for the year even bears the album's name.) "Panopticom" is the album's first de facto single, featuring contributions from longtime bandmates David Rhodes on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Manu Katché on drums as well as synth and electronic contributions from Brian Eno. Gabriel has planned to release more songs around the time of each full moon, so keep an eye to the sky (and this column) when more happens.
Let's next kick off our first column of the year with a brief catch-up on some surprise releases from over the Christmas break. Madonna fans are bracing themselves for what will hopefully be a banner year in 2023 (with rumors of a 40th anniversary tour gearing up and more catalogue projects from Warner Music believed to be in the works). This surprise release "single" is actually a demo, written with Pharrell Williams for potential inclusion on 2015's Rebel Heart. A different recording surfaced on a deluxe version Madonna's last album, 2019's Madame X - but fan demand has resulted in the original version being officially available for the first time.
Another out-of-nowhere release came from U.K. pop group Sugababes - a release 10 years in the making. The original line-up of the trio (Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy) reunited in 2011 but for legal reasons recorded under the name "Mutya Keisha Siobhan"; only one single was released by that moniker, the Dev Hynes-produced "Flatline." Now, off the back of a successful U.K. tour - and with the band name back in their control - the trio surprised fans with 13 tracks from that same era (with another three added a week later, including a cover of Sia's "Breathe Me").
Alternately known as "Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G.," these sides find Ellington and his orchestra having a blast on Grieg's 19th century masterwork (including the iconic "In the Hall of the Mountain King") as well as an original piece co-created with Billy Strayhorn and based on the John Steinbeck novel of the same name.
Patti Page, The Waltz Queen / On Camera...Patti Page...Favorites from TV / Indiscretion (Mercury)
One of the bona fide hitmakers of the pre-rock era, Patti Page's pop/country hybrid sound led to some 22 Top 10s throughout the '50s, including four No. 1s. While her hold on the charts was starting to slip by the end of the decade, regular appearances on television (as alluded to on one of the albums) kept her star bright with adult audiences.
One of the rarer releases from the Memphis hip-hop group - at the time, consisting only of two of its founding members, DJ Paul and Juicy J - 2005's Choices II: The Setup was released alongside a straight-to-DVD film of the same name.
The second of the late, legendary jazz pianist's albums for Columbia is packed with killer covers ("Betcha By Golly, Wow," "Nights in White Satin") along with a few cratedigger classics that were sampled by others ("Dreams" formed the basis of A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation," while this version of "If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)" was utilized in the Fugees' "Fu-Gee-La").
Finally: help a soul legend out!
Lovers of deep Detroit and Northern soul might recognize the name of Melvin Davis. While he never had a big crossover hit, his work (including some time alongside Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland, David Ruffin and others) is impressive in its longevity. Drew Schultz, a Detroit-based drummer/educator and dear friend of The Second Disc, is organizing a GoFundMe for Davis, who's incurred some daunting medical bills stemming from battles with COVID-related pneumonia as well as leukemia. If you can find it in your heart to help a fine musician out, you'll be returning the favor to an artist who's touched so many through his art.