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Missing In Action 3 : Classic ’80s & ’90s Compilations That Should Be Streaming (But Aren’t!)

Mark Smotroff hopes some 80s and 90s music isn’t lost forever…

AR-MIAthree450.jpgThis is the third in my series exploring (and revealing, to some of you) albums that have gone missing from the streaming universe.  If you missed my first two segments on this topic over the last couple of months, please click here and here to read them.

I appreciate the convenience of streaming because it opens up a lot of music to people, putting vast quantities of the stuff at your fingertips. It is, however, kinda like when you buy that big flat of Strawberries on sale at Costco which you know you won’t be able to eat in time before they start to go off, but you load up your cart with them anyhow. I get it. 


But I still have some problems with the sound quality on some of the services, the overall lack of  liner notes and an unsatisfactory interactive experience which can leave listeners emotionally disconnected from the music. For me, using streaming music services is akin to flipping channels on your old cable TV box. I also have problems with the terrible royalties for artists on streaming — they aren’t making money there folks, the service providers are — but that is another story entirely.

On the surface, streaming services seem to offer an endless river of music. But they are far from complete. I have been noticing in particular that there are a lot of great tribute and compilation albums from the 80s and 90s which are not present on many services. Here are some more once very popular albums which I found conspicuous in their absence from Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz.

Songs By Richard Thompson: Beat The Retreat

AR-MIAthreeBeatTheRetreat450.jpgThis fine tribute celebrates the great guitarist, singer and songwriter Richard Thompson, a founding member of Fairport Convention and revered guitar wizard. Quite popular back in the day when it was released in no small part due to the who’s who list of alternative- and indie-rock royalty of the times, the collection includes performances by X, Syd Straw & Evan Dando, R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., David Byrne, Graham Parker and Bob Mould. But it is also the soaring covers by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, June Tabor, Maddy Prior and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama which round out this album into a compelling cross-generational listening experience in its own right. You can find the CDs of Beat The Retreat pretty easily these days, but vinyl copies seem somewhat scarce.

Out Of This World by Carmen Sandiego

AR-MIAthreeCarmenSandiego450.jpgIn a way I am not surprised this album isn’t on the streaming services and that the original CD is collectible on places like Amazon and Discogs. The main reason I bought it back in the day was due to the presence of a fantastic track by one of my favorite bands — XTC — called “Cherry In Your Tree.” This song was originally slated for an album of Bubblegum rock homages, in keeping with the band’s now legendary Dukes of Stratosphear collections. You will also find songs by They Might Be Giants and Rockapella on this collection. But if you ever were a fan of pop hits by the likes of The Ohio Express, The 1910 Fruitgum Company and even The Monkees, you owe it to yourself to find this track somewhere. 

Nobody’s Child – Romanian Angel Appeal

AR-MIAthreeNobodysChild450.jpgThis fundraising compilation, while surprisingly absent from the high resolution streaming services, is also not especially expensive to find on places like Amazon and Discogs. Originally home to a then otherwise unreleased track by The Traveling Wilburys (now included on the Traveling Wilburys’ boxed set),  the collection includes songs from no less than The Bee Gees, Van Morrison, Billy Idol, Eric Clapton, Duane Eddy, and many others.  The version of “Homeward Bound” by Paul Simon and George Harrison, taken from a classic early episode of Saturday Night Live. makes this release kind of essential for the Beatle fan. Ringo Starr and his All Starr band close out the collection with a sweet cover of his signature Sgt. Pepper tune “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

The Bridge – A Tribute To Neil Young


This fine tribute collection magically appeared in sync with Neil’s late 80s / early 90s commercial resurgence via the hit albums Freedom and Ragged Glory. Here, some of the cream of the alternative music universe cover Neil’s music, often to great effect. I was initially drawn to this collection as a fan of The Pixies’ version of “Winterlong” (a great non-album Neil Young track which appeared on the Decade retrospective collection). Coming back to The Bridge with fresh eyes and ears I was thrilled to “discover” The Flaming Lips — a group I’ve become a huge fan of in the intervening years — covering “After The Goldrush.” Having artists like Henry Kaiser, Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and Dinosaur Jr. on board doesn’t hurt either. Happily the CD is pretty easy to find reasonably priced; LP versions are out there as well but they tend to cost a bit more due to relative scarcity.  

Tame YourselfA Benefit for Peta (People For Ethical Treatment of Animals)


I first bought this compilation for the k.d.lang track (“Damned Old Dog”) but stayed for The B-52’s (a live version of “Quiche Lorraine”) as well as The Indigo Girl’s & R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe “I’ll Give You My Skin.” You’ll hear tracks from X’s Exene Cervenka, The Go Gos’ Jane Weidlen and Belinda Carlilse, Erasure, Lene Lovich and even Nina Hagen.  Very commonly available on CD, the vinyl versions command some coin these days.

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