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. ZTT rarities, dream pop from down under, two Michael Jackson connections, great '70s songwriters - this latest Stream has everything, plus a call to support one of our favorite music services as they take on a big challenge.
Act, Snobbery and Decay (Showtime) / Leilani, Precious Treasure (ZTT)
Although they've not publicized it on label socials - British journalist Ian Peel has done a good job of discussing them on Twitter - the influential ZTT label will be releasing 40 digital titles as part of their "Definition Series," commemorating 40 years of Zang Tumb Tuum. The first was the remix-packed debut single by short-lived synthpop group Act, and the second is an LP by pop singer Leilani San, who cut three singles for ZTT in 1999-2000 including the U.K. Top 20 "Madness Thing." This never-before-released album was to be the culmination of that work.
Australian singer Harriette Pilbeam's second album, issued last year, was a terrific continuation of her shoegaze and dreampop-inspired music, venturing into sounds inspired by what you'd hear on a dancefloor in the '90s. Now, it's received a digital deluxe edition with new singles "Nosedive" and "Rooftops" plus two other tracks and a remix.
Mac and Jack's 1983 chart-topper - part of Michael's impressive run in the wake of Thriller - gets remixed by Norwegian DJ Kygo, who scored an unlikely club hit in 2019 with a remix of Whitney Houston's rare cover of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love." Who's to "say" if this will enjoy the same success...?
Speaking of Jackson, one of the highlights from the mostly-underwhelming Thriller 40 was a demo (co-written by Terry Britten of "What's Love Got to Do with It" fame) Michael recorded that was ultimately passed along to "Pass the Dutchie" hitmakers Musical Youth. This digital EP includes the rare 12" of that track and its B-side "Tell Jack."
In 1987, a few years after The Pointer SIsters became one of the decade's premier soul/pop acts with hits from the Break Out album and Beverly Hills Cop, Anita Pointer (who sang lead on hits like "Fire," "Slow Hand" and "I'm So Excited") recorded one solo album with producer Preston Glass. While singles "Overnight Success" and "More Than a Memory" didn't burn up the charts, they're immortalized here as five bonus tracks to this album, reissued by Big Break Records in 2014. (It's also worth pointing out "The Pledge," a duet with the soon-to-be-reissued Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire!)
Sheree Brown, Straight Ahead / The Music (Capitol)
A friend and collaborator to Patrice Rushen (who sings back-up throughout), Sheree Brown cut two albums in the early '80s for Capitol with some of the best session musicians on call at the time. These two albums feature some nice originals like "It's a Pleasure" and "You'll Be Dancing All Night."
Before this California power-pop outfit had a rock chart hit with "A Million Miles Away," heard in the cult classic Valley Girl, they cut one album for Richard Perry's Planet label in 1981, which dented the lower reaches of the Billboard 200. Now, it's back to stream and download, with three B-sides from this era (released on CD in 1992 as part of a more expanded edition licensed by Rhino that included material predating this record).
This sweet Texas country singer with a unique (but real!) name cut her first of two albums for RCA in 1976. "Storms Never Last" and "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose" just missed the country Top 10, but the de facto title track, "The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)" would become a country chart-topper (and pop Top 10) for Juice Newton some years later. (Another soon-to-be big name is also nestled in these credits: album cut "If I Only Had the Words (to Tell You)" was written by Billy Joel, who recorded it some years prior on the Piano Man album.) This expanded edition adds four non-album songs, including single "Love is a Two Way Street."
With hip-hop coming into its own as a new decade dawned, Motown saw fit to get in on the action and added a female emcee to their roster. MC Trouble (born LaTasha Rogers) scored a Top 20 hit on Billboard's nascent rap chart with "(I Wanna) Make You Mine," but tragically didn't get to really come into her own as an artist, dying of a seizure at only 20 years old, less than a year after her sole album, 1990's Gotta Get a Grip, was released. UMe honors a talent that was gone far too soon with this expanded edition, featuring seven bonus tracks.
Two years on from co-writing one of John Denver's most enduring songs, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," the married duo of Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were trying to make things happen for their own career as musicians. After cutting a few records as Fat City (who were listed as guest artists on some copies of "Take Me Home"), they reverted to their real first names for their first of two albums on RCA. While none of them took, the duo would have their own chart success again in 1976, when, as the Starland Vocal Band, the coy "Afternoon Delight" topped the charts and earned them an unlikely Grammy Award for - wait for it! - Best New Artist.
Here's one from another songwriter-turned-singer: Mac Davis wrote or co-wrote some of Elvis Presley's best late-period works ("Memories," "In the Ghetto," "Don't Cry Daddy," "A Little Less Conversation") before enjoying a hit of his own with the No. 1 single "Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me." A year after that song, in 1973, came this album, featuring a Top 40 country hit, "Your Side of the Bed."
Various Artists, Melodies for You: Universal Soft Rock Collection Vol. 1 / Morning Glory Daze: Universal Soft Rock Vol. 2 (UMe)
Finally, UMe has brought two groovy collections to streaming today, both of which were originally released in Japan in 1997. The two Universal Soft Rock Collection volumes cover a wide swath of soft pop and rock sounds from the late '60s and early '70s including many tracks that were, at that time, otherwise unable to obtain on CD. So you'll hear key cuts from Cass Elliot (Mann and Weil's joyful "It's Getting Better"), P.F. Sloan ("I Found a Girl"), the Modern Folk Quartet ("Night Time Girl," written by Al Kooper and Irwin Levine and produced by Jack Nitzsche), Tommy Roe (the dreamy Curt Boettcher-arranged "It's Now Winter's Day," "Sweet Sounds, and "Cry On, Crying Eyes"), and The Critters ("Mr. Dieingly Sad," "Younger GIrl") on the first volume. The second offers more psychedelic and sunshine pop treats from Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Incense and Peppermints," "Sit with the Guru," "Tomorrow," "Barefoot in Baltimore"), The Peppermint Rainbow (the infectious "Will You Be Staying After Sunday" and "You're the Sound of Love"), and The American Breed ("Bend Me, Shape Me," Goffin and King's "Don't Forget About Me," and Paul Williams and Roger Nichols' delicious "To Put Up with You") plus early tracks helmed by David Gates (The Pleasure Fair's "Morning Glory Days") and Rupert Holmes (The Cuff Links' "When Julie Comes Around"). These shimmering collections of ornate pop were originally co-compiled and annotated by Dawn Eden; though her liner notes are much-missed, these sets remain a delight more than 25 years after they were first issued.
Finally: support Bandcamp United! If you followed The Second Disc during peak COVID times, you know highlighting acts on Bandcamp was part of our coverage. And we're still supportive of the Bandcamp Friday initiative, one of the best things for artist payouts in the 21st century. Bandcamp was recently purchased by Epic Games for some reason, and a coalition of staff recently announced a union. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Epic-owned Bandcamp has not been thrilled about this development, not recognizing the union efforts and even taking gross steps to get labels not to support it, either. The Second Disc will always support music unions! Find out ways you can show your support here, and also check out this call to action to petition Bandcamp against attempting union busting activity.