Alan Cross weekly music picks: Oldies and classics for the win

David Bowie performs during a concert in Hartford, Conn., on Sept. 14, 1995.
David Bowie performs during a concert in Hartford, Conn., on Sept. 14, 1995. AP Photo/Bob Child/File

It’s one of those weeks when the most interesting new releases all seem to come from older, established acts. Interesting, since it coincides with the sole Canadian Rolling Stones show taking place Saturday at Burl’s Creek in Oro-Medonte, Ont.

Might any one of these float your long weekend boat?

1. David Bowie, The Mercury Demos (Vinyl box set)

Between 1963 and the summer of 1969, David Bowie was a lost soul, unable to find the right musical identity. Veering between earnest folk singer and weirdo showman (The Laughing Gnome, anyone?), it was obvious that Bowie had talent but still hadn’t figured out how to channel it. Before everything came together with the release of Space Oddity just before the Apollo 11 moon landing — and before it became the BBC’s de facto theme for its news coverage — Bowie flogged some demos to Mercury Records. Of the 10 songs included here, nine have never been released. And unless you have the Sound + Vision box set, you’ll have never heard this version of Space Oddity, either.

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2. Generation Axe, The Guitars That Destroyed the World (live album)

In April 2017, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society/ Ozzy Osbourne), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Tosin Abasi (Animals As Leaders) toured the world, showcasing the talents of five leading metal and hard rock guitarists. When things got to China in April 2017, it was decided that a live album was in order. This collection features the best riffing, shredding and soloing from those shows.

3. The Alarm, Sigma (studio album)

Yes, The Alarm that gave us 68 Guns and Rain in the Summertime is still with us. Back in the day, The Alarm was one of the most passionate bands you could ever hope to see in a live setting. First established in Wales as a punk band known as The Toilets, The Alarm emerged in 1981 and peeled off a series of records that prompted comparisons to U2. Sigma (that’s the official spelling of the title) should be regarded as a sequel to 2018’s EQUALS. Oh, and Billy Duffy of The Cult makes a guest appearance.

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4. The Doobie Brothers, Live from the Beacon Theatre (live album)

Last November, the band performed both their Toulouse Street (released 47 years ago Monday) and The Captain and Me (March 1973) albums in their entirety at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Many of the band’s Tom Johnston-era hits are here, including China Grove, Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin’ and Take Me in Your Arms. A nice shot of nostalgia.

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Various Artists, Echo in the Canyon (soundtrack)

Speaking of nostalgia, fans of the early California sound that developed in L.A. beginning in the middle ’60s will sink into this film and soundtrack, which chronicles what went on in Laurel Canyon between 1965 and 1967. Along with material from The Byrds and The Mamas and the Papas, the film also features tribute music from Jakob Dylan and appearances by original canyonites Neil Young and Stephen Stills along with Beck, Fiona Apple and Norah Jones.

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Bonus Tracks!

London calling: Africa Express, Johannesburg

Damon Albarn of Blur is the chief organizers of this massive U.K.-based collective of South African musicians that also includes Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Exotic and mesmerizing yet very accessible. Try the full album, EGOLI.

Undiscovered gem: The Meringues, Cold Nights

A new boy-girl outfit (Are they a couple? Are they not? They won’t say.) from Kingston that has opened for everyone from D.O.A. to Monowhales. Interesting modern post-punk.

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Throwback track: The Primitives, Crash

Led by the effervescent Tracy Tracy (yep, that was her name), The Primitives came out of Coventry, England, in 1984 and were part of the same class of British indie rock that also brought us Primal Scream, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Crash, their biggest hit, was released in 1988 but sounds like it could have been released yesterday.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107 and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play.