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 is packed with rare treasures from Willie Nelson, Was (Not Was), Sergio Mendes and more, plus a new Guns N' Roses track and a whole different way to hear the early hits of Chicago.
Released in 1998, Teatro found Willie Nelson, producer Daniel Lanois and a band that included Willie's sister Bobbie on keyboards and longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael putting together an atmospheric release in an old movie house in Oxnard, California, while director Wim Wenders captured the whole thing for a documentary. Just ahead of its 25th anniversary, it's been expanded with seven live session bonus tracks featured on a rare reissue from 2017.
Was (Not Was), Was (Not Was) (Expanded Edition) / Boo! (Expanded Edition) (Island/UMe)
Sometimes digital reissues come out of nowhere! Universal has offered expanded editions of the first and last albums by Detroit-based dance/alt/funk combo Was (Not Was). Founded by childhood friends Don Fagenson and David Weiss (who jokingly adopted the stage name "Was" and took to recording with soul singers Sir Harry Bowens and the late Sweet Pea Atkinson, along with a cast of unbelievable guests over the years. Their self-titled debut, released in 1981, features fan favorites "Out Come the Freaks" (re-recorded for several subsequent albums) and the ballad "Where Did Your Heart Go?" (one of the final songs recorded by WHAM!); the digital expansion offers two bonus 12" mixes. Years after copping out of nowhere pop hits in 1987 with "Spy in the House of Love" and the Top 10 "Walk the Dinosaur," 2008's Boo! found the Was nucleus reuniting on record for the first time in nearly two decades, with the MC5's Wayne Kramer and Kris Kristofferson making guest appearances. Intriguingly, the two bonus tracks here - "Party Party Marty" and "Someone's Dead in New York" - appear to be previously unreleased.
Even more unexpected than Guns N' Roses reuniting part of its classic line-up in 2016 (frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan alongside keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer)? The group has put out three songs since 2021 - their first new material since the long-gestating Chinese Democracy (2008), with all tracks stemming from those infamous sessions. The piano-driven "Perhaps" follows "Absurd" and "Hard Skool"; a fourth track, "The General," will be issued as a physical B-side to "Perhaps."
Madonna turned 65 this week and is ready to reschedule her hits-packed Celebration Tour later this year, but another present is this suite of remixes to the terrific second single from 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor.
Pulp, This is Hardcore EP / A Little Soul EP (Island/UMO)
Two more digital EPs from Pulp's This is Hardcore era, featuring a cadre of B-sides and remixes.
Urge Overkill, Sister Havana / Bottle of Fur / Positive Bleeding (Geffen)
After a successful opening slot on Nirvana's Nevermind tour, Chicago alt-rock trio Urge Overkill got a shot of their own at major label success with fourth effort Saturation in 1993. (Their real, unexpected break came a year later, when a cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" was included in Quentin Tarantino's hit Pulp Fiction.) For the 30th anniversary of Saturation, its three singles - complete with rare live and studio B-sides - have all been released digitally.
Brooklyn-born emcee Edward "Special Ed" Archer gained notoriety on the hip-hop scene for debut album Youngest in Charge (1989), recorded and released when he was indeed only 17. "I Got It Made" was a favorite on New York rap radio, reaching the Top 10 of Billboard's burgeoning genre chart. Just past the big 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Legacy's prepared a new digital expansion with some rare remixes and single-only tunes.
On her fourth album for RCA Nashville, Sara Evans scored one of her most enduring country hits, the chart-topping "Suds in the Bucket," about a girl whose sudden departure for the lights of Las Vegas with her boyfriend sets a whole town to talking. Twenty years later, the album is reissued with a pair of live tracks cut in 2004, versions of both "Suds" and its follow-up "Tonight."
Leo Kottke, My Feet Are Smiling / Chewing Pine (Capitol)
Following the recent delivery of much of guitarist Leo Kottke's Capitol catalog to stream and download last month, the label digitally offers the two missing from that assortment: 1973's live album My Feet Are Smiling, and 1975's Chewing Pine, his last for Capitol.
Issued at the end of 1996, these remixes of Propaganda's beloved '80s single "p:Machinery" were aimed straight for European clubs, and are rediscovered as part of ZTT's ongoing digital reissue series for the label's 40th anniversary. (This is last week's release; the current one, from U.K. dance act Shades of Rhythm, appears to not have been licensed for U.S. audiences.)
Pat Boone, Star Dust (Expanded Edition) / Yes Indeed! (Expanded Edition) (Dot/UMe)
Sergio Mendes' Brasil 66 was one of the groups that defined the sound of soft '60s pop at A&M Records. In 1971, pianist-leader and bossa nova pioneer Mendes launched Brasil 77, again with his wife Gracinha Leporace providing the smooth and sensuous vocals along with Karen Philipp (both of whom had first sung with Brasil 66 in 1968, joining then-lead singer Lani Hall). Two years later, Mendes moved the group from A&M to Bell Records. They debuted at their new label with Love Music, which introduced Bonnie Bowden alongside Leporace, following the departure of Philipp from the lineup. Musically, Mendes kept the sound familiar with songs from A&M mainstays Paul Williams and Roger Nichols ("I Won't Last a Day Without You") and Burt Bacharach and Hal David ("Walk the Way You Talk"). The great Bones Howe provided the production, and the result is an underrated gem that - while not as well known as Mendes' A&M material - is well worth rediscovering.
Finally, a delightful oddity from RCA's budget Camden label, which offered easy-listening "Living Stereo" renditions of pop standards by studio groups throughout the '60s and '70s. This one attempted to gain some of the traction of jazz-rock outfit Chicago (then signed to Columbia at the time) with versions of "Saturday in the Park," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and seven others, as arranged by an avant-garde saxophonist and music educator named Ed Summerlin.