Welcome to The Weekend Stream, a relaxing review of notable digital-only catalogue titles. There may be no CD or vinyl, but there's plenty of great new/old music to float you into the weekend. This week, we're changing things up with a triplicate of great new songs out digitally, from favorite bands, up and comers and living legends alike - plus the latest digital catalogue and Joe's tribute to a Broadway original.
Next Friday, Disney releases Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny, the fifth and final film starring Harrison Ford as the iconic adventurer brought to life in four movies from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (both of whom serve as executive producers this time around). For what may yet be his final film score - he's not retiring but has nothing on the schedule outside of some concerts after this - Jones' composer John Williams is whipping us into a frenzy with a unique arrangement of a new theme for Indy's fellow explorer Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). It's a sultry number performed here (and, perhaps, on the soon-to-be released soundtrack album, but not in the film) by Williams' recent collaborator, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, with full orchestral backing.
Founded in Brooklyn at the dawn of the millennium, The Damnwells' deeply felt alternative rock has buoyed the spirits of a small but loyal fan base; in a more just world, they'd have stuck around the roster of Epic Records instead of the schlockier bands that hung on in that "license a song to Grey's Anatomy" era. Frontman and songwriter Alex Dezen has traveled many roads in the decade since the group's last studio album, but he's come home again with a moving new tune, reuniting the band's original line-up in the process. I have no idea if there's more from them after this, but Dezen's candor in song and even promoting this work reminds me how his music came into my life during a really painful time and stuck around as the tide lifted my emotional boats. It's called "Without a Heart," but nothing could be further from the truth.
Another terrific New York-born indie band worth knowing about, Charly Bliss mix sugary power-pop melodies with the resonant, unique voice (verbally and tonally) of frontwoman Eva Hendricks. On the precipice of a presumed follow-up to their sophomore album, 2019's Young Enough - my personal favorite of that year - this single chases away any darkness with a confidence that can only come from the unlikeliest of places. (For Hendricks, it was Australia - she visited her soon-to-be-partner there and ended up becoming a resident thanks to the COVID pandemic.)
Billy Joel, Live in Rome (Columbia/Legacy) (iTunes)
Perhaps the most unexpected digital reissue of the day, this video-only feature showcases the Piano Man at the start of his mid-'00s live comeback in 2006, shortly after breaking a record with a mini-run at Madison Square Garden chronicled in the album 12 Gardens Live. In addition to his hits in front of the Coliseum, there's a guest appearance from none other than Bryan Adams, too!
The late rapper continued his unique musical evolution with his sophomore album, a Top 5 smash and gold record in 2013. Mac's Movies is extended with not only three tracks from a previous deluxe edition but an unreleased demo of opening track "The Star Room" with a guest appearance by Earl Sweatshirt.
The 21st century pop icon blended effortless hooks with a surprising alt-rock edge on her debut album back in 2008, which spawned the chart-topping "I Kissed a GIrl" and the Top 10s "Hot N Cold" and "Waking Up in Vegas." (Next album Teenage Dream would fare even better, tying Michael Jackson's Bad-era record with five No. 1 singles from one album.) Perry's first three albums are being put into a vinyl box later this year, and the two pieces of bonus audio are new mixes of tracks from various versions of Boys, included on this digital edition.
Formed from the ashes of U.K. post-punk group Pigbag, Instinct recently had their intended debut single for ZTT released digitally for the first time as part of the label's ongoing 40th anniversary series. Now, a second virtual 12", including unheard remixes of "Sleepwalking," is available, too.
Rushed into production following the success of Sid & Marty Krofft's H.R. Pufnstuf on television, Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel's song score includes performances from the film's cast including Jack Wild (a British child actor who earned an Oscar nod for Oliver!), Billie Hayes as Witchiepoo and her rival Witch Hazel, played by Mama Cass Elliot (who delivers the anthemic and uplifting ode to being "Different").
Start spreading the news. New York, New York - the big, splashy musical currently packing houses on Broadway at the St. James Theatre - is filled with wall-to-wall music from curtain up to curtain down, and not just any music: it's all composed by John Kander, 96 years young and still turning out melodies that stubbornly refuse to dislodge themselves from your brain. Now, those delectable melodies have been released on a double-disc cast recording, currently streaming and coming soon to CD and vinyl (dates TBA).
New York, New York, loosely based on the MGM film starring Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro, features a score by Kander and the late Fred Ebb (drawing from various sources including the movie, the scores to The Rink, Flora, The Red Menace, Funny Lady, and the unproduced Golden Gate; and other trunk songs) as well as all-new material from Kander and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It's all performed by a cast led by Anna Uzele and Colton Ryan (standing in for Liza and Bob but making the roles their own) and a two-dozen strong orchestra (with additional strings having been added for the recording). The vivacity of director-choreographer Susan Stroman's production shines through on the cast recording which blends Kander's trademark showbiz sound with jazz, Latin, and classical flourishes throughout. The big and brassy cast recording adds three original Kander and Ebb demos as well as one by Kander and Miranda plus an instrumental, sing-along track for the title song. A deluxe digital booklet available with the download version has a note from Kander, a synopsis of David Thompson and Sharon Washington's book, full lyrics, and plenty of photos that will transport you to the city that never sleeps.
In memory of Sheldon Harnick (1924-2023)
American song and the musical stage lost one of its leading lights yesterday with the passing of lyricist Sheldon Harnick at the age of 99. Harnick, with composer Jerry Bock, was one of the crop of young talents - along with Kander and Ebb, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerry Herman - who defined the sound of Broadway's new golden age in the 1960s. Bock and Harnick's second Broadway show together, the 1959 musical Fiorello!, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for its sharp and incisive look at the famous New York mayor. The duo would stay in a New York state of mind for their follow-up, Tenderloin, set in the Red Light District of 1890s Manhattan but would just as persuasively travel to 1930s Budapest for the setting of 1963's She Loves Me, arguably one of the most perfect - and perfectly charming - musicals ever written.
Bock and Harnick's crowning achievement, though, would be the following year's Fiddler on the Roof. With librettist Joseph Stein adapting Sholom Aleichem's Tevye stories, Fiddler earned nine Tony Awards and became Broadway's longest-running musical for nearly a decade. Today, the oft-revived show remains one of the most powerful - and universal - musicals in the canon. Harnick went on to worthy future collaborations with Bock as well as other distinguished composers including Joe Raposo and Michel Legrand, but his lyrical gifts of wit, elegance, humanity, authenticity, insight, joy, and drama were never better displayed than in Fiddler on the Roof and its plethora of now-standard songs: "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and "Sunrise, Sunset" among them. The words of Sheldon Harnick have become part of many a "Tradition" around the world; they will forever continue to enrich us. - JM