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. Today, Joe and Mike are sharing the latest from the Stream: new posthumous singles from Burt Bacharach and Olivia Newton-John, a new song from Ben Folds, a demo from Sting and more - plus a way you can voice your support for members of the LGBTQ+ community who need it.
Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello, "You Can Have Her" (UMe) (iTunes / Amazon)
"Did she ever slap your face when nobody was looking? And did she brush your cheek and say it was a joke? Were you willing? Were you weak? Were her eyes like smoke or full of killing?" Those arresting lyrics open "You Can Have Her," the first track off Elvis Costello and the late Burt Bacharach's Taken from Life, the second disc of their upcoming The Songs of Bacharach and Costello box set. Taken from Life presents an array of songs written for the duo's abandoned Painted from Memory musical which would have featured a book by Tony Award winner Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) and television mastermind Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men). "You Can Have Her" is a stunning coda to the original Painted from Memory, written for a specific character and situation (a wealthy businesswoman who's been jilted) but viscerally universal. The protagonist is attempting to disguise a deep hurt with a defiant admonition - but does she (personified not by a female singer but by Costello, digging deep into the relationship between passion and obsession) believe what she's singing? The music beautifully reveals the truth, both contrasting and supporting the lyric, from the grand opening vamp to the emotionally shifting melody lines. "You Can Have Her" doesn't quite resemble the original Painted album; Vince Mendoza, a longtime collaborator of both Bacharach and Costello, has orchestrated and conducted rather than Bacharach himself. But Mendoza, under the watchful eye of co-writer/co-producer Bacharach, captures the song's majestic sweep as well as its inherent intimacy. It leaves you wanting more...and thankfully the wait until March 3 isn't all that long. - JM
Olivia Newton-John & Dolly Parton, "Jolene" (Green Hill/Primary Wave) (iTunes / Amazon)
Another late legend has graced us with a new single. From one of Olivia Newton-John's final recording sessions comes a lustrous new recording of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," with Parton lending her voice in support of her friend Olivia. The vibrant track previews Newton-John's posthumous compilation, Just the Two of Us: The Duets Collection, Volume One, due May 5. Other duet partners on the set reportedly include Michael McDonald, John Travolta, Barry Gibb, Mariah Carey, Jon Secada, and Newton-John's daughter Chloe Lattanzi. -JM
Ben Folds, "Winslow Gardens" (New West) (iTunes / Amazon)
The solo career of singer/songwriter/pianist Ben Folds has not always been easy to pin down. After splitting celebrated alt-pop trio Ben Folds Five in 2000, he made a splashy debut with the ambitious Rockin' the Suburbs, on which he was responsible nearly every sound on the album. From there, he's followed his muse in bizarre directions: he's judged a cappella reality shows, made animated soundtracks, appeared on cult TV shows, published a memoir, started a podcast, and collaborated with everyone from writer Nick Hornby to youthful orchestral collective yMusic, and even a terrific reunion record with the Five. This June, he'll release What Matters Most, his first album in eight years - and it feels like the surreal nature of modern life, the characters that emerge from it, and his own idiosyncratic narrative songwriting have all caught back up to each other. "Winslow Gardens" may be his strongest single in years - a colorful tale of a couple aging (and perhaps escaping from some sort of tragedy or hardship) set to a pretty, piano-driven melody. -MD
Sting, "If It's Love" (Demo Version) (A&M) (Amazon)
The British pop/rock icon will receive an Academy Fellow award at the Ivors - the highest honor from the songwriting award ceremony - in May. Amazon is also the newest sponsor for the Ivors; put those two together and you have an Amazon-exclusive track from Sting: an unreleased demo of "If It's Love," the lead single from his latest album The Bridge (2021). -MD
2Pac, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (Expanded Edition) (Interscope/UMe) (iTunes / Amazon)
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Tupac Shakur's sophomore album, it's been digitally reissued with six bonus tracks, including remixes of singles "Holler If Ya Hear Me" and "Keep Ya Head Up." -MD
The Gap Band, The Gap Band III (Mercury) (iTunes / Amazon)
Already proven R&B hitmakers when The Gap Band III was released in 1980, it was this album that took them to new heights, becoming a Top 20 pop album and their first platinum record, thanks in part to their first No. 1 R&B hit, "Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)." (Unusually, this is The Gap Band's fifth album; while they started self-titling their albums with Roman numerals when signing to Mercury in 1979, they recorded two for other labels before that - including a second album that, like their third album, was titled The Gap Band.) -MD
Rolfe Kent, Election (Music from the Motion Picture) (Paramount Music) (iTunes / Amazon)
1999's arch film adaptation of Tom Perrotta's high school-set political satire (co-written and directed by Alexander Payne) made a star out of Reese Witherspoon as her ambitious Tracy Flick squared off against Matthew Broderick's scheming high school teacher during a student body presidential campaign. (Payne and Witherspoon are reuniting on a sequel following Flick for Paramount+.) For the first time, the film's complete score by Payne's longtime collaborator Rolfe Kent is available, featuring several alternate and unused cues. -MD
Various Artists, An Evening with Windham Hill Live (Windham Hill) (iTunes / Amazon)
Formed in 1976, the Windham Hill label showcased acoustic instrumental, New Age and ambient works (most famously George Winston's solo piano pop crossover December). This 1983 live album showcased three of the first artists on the roster, all acoustic guitarists, in concert at Boston's Berklee College of Music: founder Will Ackerman, his cousin Alex De Grassi (a versatile fingerstylist) and the late Michael Hedges. -MD
Finally: sign the New York Times letter. This week, a collective of current and former New York Times writers published an open letter criticizing the paper's treatment of stories about issues faced by transgender and non-binary people. The undersigned expanded to anyone who supported the cause, with thousands of people voicing their support. (The paper's response was not terrific, nor was the op-ed published the next day defending Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, whose stance on these issues has caused tremendous controversy, to say the least.) The Second Disc believes that everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is entitled to feel safe, comfortable and thriving - but anti-trans sentiment is gaining ground around the world, from awful legislature to outright murder. If you, like us, believe these actions are wrong, this is your chance to make your voice heard.
Nice to have the Windham Hill Live album streaming again, though it doesn't include the original closing track, "Reflection/Lotus Feet" by George Winston.