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. Our latest round-up may be on April Fool's Day, but it's no joke: remixes by Madonna, rarities by Burt Bacharach and Peggy Lee, a White Stripes live set and the first major Barry White production are all here. Happy streaming!
Madonna closed the Ray of Light album cycle with this downtempo track, combining lyrical introspection with bursts of noise from co-producer Marius de Vries. It barely nicked the Billboard Hot 100 after three straight Top 20 hits, but became one of her 50 chart-toppers on the magazine's dance chart, thanks in part to the octet of remixes available on this digital EP.
Elephant, the fourth White Stripes album, marked something of a breakthrough for Detroit duo Jack and Meg White. Recorded entirely on analog equipment, the LP was their first to reach the Top 10 and go platinum, thanks to modern classics like "The Hardest Button to Button" and the unlikely sports arena anthem "Seven Nation Army." For its 20th anniversary (happening exactly today), it's been paired with an unreleased set recorded at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago that summer.
The remarkable musical legacy of the late Burt Bacharach was celebrated by Hip-o Select in 2005 on the comprehensive 5CD box set appropriately entitled Something Big. Limited to just 5,000 copies and now fetching top dollar on the secondary market, Something Big included every one of Bacharach's solo albums for the Kapp and A&M labels as well as the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid soundtrack and numerous singles and rarities. Now, that historic set is making its digital debut with some minor nips and tucks. All of the licensed songs have been eliminated, meaning that you'll no longer hear B.J. Thomas' vocal tracks from Butch Cassidy, a pair of tracks from the score to After the Fox, and one cut each from Bacharach's Night Shift, Arthur, and Arthur II: On the Rocks soundtracks. Still, the set is tough to beat, with eight complete albums including the never-released-in-the-U.S. In Concert LP and some of the composer's most adventurous work from his late A&M period (Futures, Woman). With guest vocalists including Cissy Houston, Libby Titus, Carly Simon, Joel Grey, Tony Middleton, Sally Stevens, Peter Yarrow, and Joshie Jo Armstead, this set boasts some of the greatest pop music ever recorded in Bacharach's own interpretations. It doesn't get much better than this.
Peggy Lee's 1963 Grammy-nominated Capitol long-player I'm a Woman turns 60 this year, and UMe has marked the occasion with a new (for now, digital-only) expanded edition. A little jazz, a little blues, a little rock-and-roll, and a lot of vocal excellence: I'm a Woman showcased all sides of the marvelous Miss Lee, from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's fiery title track to the smoky milieu of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and the beguiling bossa nova of "One Note Samba" and a reimagined "Mack the Knife." The new digital release adds a generous eight bonus tracks to the original dozen songs. Five of these are previously unreleased, including the outtake "Close Your Eyes" (in its earlier version from the I'm a Woman session) and alternate takes of the album's "I'm a Woman," "A Taste of Honey," and "I'm Walkin'" plus the Bobby Darin track "Jealous" (which remained unissued in solo form until 1999 and is heard here with a bit of fun chatter at the top of the track and Peggy on background vocals). It adds up to a swingin' and sensational tribute to one of pop's great ladies - make that women...W-O-M-E-N. Say it again!
Ashanti Douglas' killer mix of soul and hip-hop styles was at one point so formidable that The New York Times infamously forecasted the artistic and commercial prospects of Beyoncé to hers. It makes sense, thinking back to her self-titled debut from 2002, featuring the chart-topper "Foolish" (which lorded over the charts while "What's Luv," a track she guested on by rapper Ja Rule, sat at No. 2). This new deluxe edition includes a handful of rare remixes as well as instrumentals of the album's key tracks.
A surprise new compilation from Lil Wayne highlights some of the bigger hits of the rapper's career ("Lollipop," "A Milli," "Right Above It," "6 Foot 7 Foot") while also showcasing how the breadth of his output hasn't always yielded bangers. (Some critics have been humorously baffled by the selections - what do you think?)
The first album by the celebrated female R&B trio was originally titled From a Girl's Point of View We Give to You...Love Unlimited. But there's something to be said for the album's producer, arranger and writer or cowriter of six of the album's nine tracks, too. Barry White rehearsed with the group for more than a year, utilizing them as key members of his own live act. They in turn made "Walking in the Rain with the One I Love" White's first of many Top 40 hits as a writer/producer; he would soon hit the top with The Love Unlimited Orchestra's sumptuous "Love's Theme," and a career of soulful excellence (and love, thanks to a marriage to Love Unlimited member Glodean James) would commence for decades to come.
Chart success proved elusive for the one-of-a-kind singer Stephanie Mills, despite a Tony-nominated turn as Dorothy in The Wiz. That all changed with 1979's What Cha Gonna Do with My Lovin' and the single of the same name, which both reached the Top 40 of the pop album and single charts and marked Mills' first collaborations with the phenomenal writing/production team of James Mtume and Reggie Lucas.
The Nat "King" Cole Trio, King Cole At the Piano / Nat "King" Cole Nat King Cole's 8 Top Pops (Capitol)
Nat "King" Cole's popularity was assured by the start of the '50s - "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," "Nature Boy" and "Mona Lisa" were all pop chart-toppers by the end of 1950 - but these two releases are notable in lightly anticipating where music distribution was going. King Cole At the Piano, featuring renditions of "How High the Moon" and "These Foolish Things," was his first 10" album for Capitol, and Top Pops would be his fifth such release; by the middle of the decade, he too was releasing 12" albums like the biggest stars.
Petula Clark, Here for You / Various Artists, The Burt Bacharach Album / Rupert Holmes, Widescreen: Collector's Edition / Deborah Gibson, Colored Lights: The Broadway Album (Concord Theatricals)
Concord Theatricals has just released its third wave of digital premieres from the catalogue of the Fynsworth Alley label (many of which were first issued on Varese Sarabande). Twenty-seven titles are new to digital platforms, a full list of which can be found here. We're spotlighting four of our favorites here. Petula Clark's Here for You is the legendary vocalist's 1998 album, produced by Bruce Kimmel. Pet, concentrating here on the rich Broadway songbook, brings her distinctive touch to songs by Sondheim ("Not a Day Goes By," "Children Will Listen," "I Never Do Anything Twice, "Losing My Mind"), Jonathan Larson ("Seasons of Love"), and Cole Porter ("I Concentrate on You"), and even Pete Townshend ("Pinball Wizard"). Another pop songstress, Debbie Gibson, sees her 2003 release Colored Lights: The Broadway Album return, committing to records some of the songs she'd performed onstage - including "Let Me Entertain You" from Gypsy and "I'm the Greatest Star" and "Who Are You Now" from Funny Girl - and more. Widescreen, the extraordinary debut album by Rupert Holmes, author of the brand-new New York Times Best Seller Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide, returns in its 2001 deluxe edition adding a whopping eleven bonus cuts. Finally, the Kimmel-helmed The Burt Bacharach Album is back, with top-notch renditions of the late Maestro's classic songs by a host of Broadway stars including Jane Krakowski ("The Look of Love"), Susan Egan ("Whoever You Are, I Love You"), LaChanze ("Anyone Who Had a Heart"), and the late Michelle Nicastro ("Alfie").