Title - 'Rarities' [2CD]
Artist - Mariah Carey
For those not in the know, those wonderful people over there at Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings have just released Mariah Carey's quite stunning "new" album, the 2CD (August 19th, 2020).
Featuring previously-unreleased tracks along with many B-sides and even a live concert recording from Tokyo during her Daydream tour, this 32-track package is tremendous musical value for all her devoted fans (although, and sadly, it doesn't include anything from the long out-of-print alt-rock album that Carey secretly made in 1995 under the band name Chick).
So, as we know, a great artist has hits. A truly extraordinary one has those as well as "hidden treasures" that extend to the deepest, darkest recesses of their discography.
And then there’s Mariah Carey! Having had 19 chart-toppers, now has been the most perfect of time to release a barrage of beloved deep cuts on a 2CD set worth of flawless material that was obviously just sitting in a Sony vault somewhere.
Mimi finally dusts those pop relics off and gives them a chance to shine on this excellent new double album, the aptly-named The Rarities.
On a collection that just doesn't have the right to sound as incredible as it truly does (given, for the most part, these are all throwaway tracks), it might not "flow smoothly" for a lot of people listening in (due to the way that Carey's rhythm and tones ebb and flow from song to song), but taken as a whole, this new playlist is honestly as good as it gets.
Take 'Here We Go Around Again,' an outtake from the singer’s blockbuster 1990 self-titled debut, where Carey willfully channels The Jackson 5's sense of youthful pop-soul.
Listening to it now, it does feel dated, a little old school next to songs like 'Cool On You,' but it’s still hard to understand how something this effortlessly charming and catchy didn’t make the final cut of Mariah’s debut album.
Mariah Carey - 'Here We Go Around Again' (Official Audio)
Indeed, for my money, the same applies to 'Can You Hear Me,' a stunning ballad penned for Emotions. Carey co-wrote this schmaltzy, but effective ballad with Barry Mann, the veteran songwriter best known for the run of foundational ’60s pop hits and given that Mimi was well into her ballad era, this is AC-offering could have been a chart-topper, in my humble opinion.
Mariah Carey - 'Can You Hear Me' (Official Audio)
But then again, some of the living legend’s best songs have ended up in strange places. Which takes us to the smattering of B-Sides on The Rarities.
'Do You Think Of Me,' the synth-drenched, mid-tempo ballad that served as the B-Side to 'Dreamlover,' still shines bright, while 'Everything Fades Away' and 'Slipping Away' still come across as legendary musical interludes to my ear.
While much of The Rarities is admittedly ballad-heavy, there are a handful of upbeat, and powerhouse moments. 'All I Live,' probably a Music Box reject, is a winning example of early ’90s R&B-lite with the diva’s pivot into that genre more pronounced on 'One Night,' an urban groove that probably scared the execs at Columbia at the time!
Opening in full-on Church gospel mode, with Carey backed by a small choir that includes Kelly Price, it actually ranks as one of Mariah’s first collaborations with Jermaine Dupri, a creative relationship that would bear a lot of fruit in coming years.
While we’re on the topic of upbeat bops, it would be remiss of me to ignore the original version of the lead single from her star-crossed 2001 movie musical Glitter, 'Loverboy.'
In fact, this ditty gets a special writeup in Mariah’s memoir, partly because it was the genesis of Mimi’s legendary beef with Jennifer Lopez (AKA She Who Is Unknown)!
The story goes that the 19-time chart-topper originally wanted to sample Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1978 hit 'Firecracker' on 'Loverboy,' but Tommy Mottola was allegedly feeling petty and snatched it for J.Lo’s 'I’m Real.'
Strangely, I think it all worked out for the best because, and personally, I prefer the version of 'Loverboy' that samples Cameo’s 'Candy,' while the 'Firecracker'-sampling on 'I’m Real' is an undeniable groove.
Mariah Carey - 'Loverboy (Firecracker - Original Version) (Official Audio)
In any case, it’s fascinating to hear this demo, but of all these rare tracks on this 2CD release, for my money Mariah’s stunning cover of Irene Cara’s 'Out Here On My Own' might be my all-time favorite.
Her vocal on this track is heaven sent and, thematically, it makes complete sense for Mimi. She clearly connects with the lyrics, and sings every line straight from the heart.
Another highlight for me is 'Cool On You,' an upbeat track that probably stems from her E=MC˛ era and finds our heroine in full club mode.
It’s light and feathery fun that gets stuck in your head after the very first listen and that takes us to the final stretch of The Rarities, which is by far the most eclectic.
There’s more Church music brought forth on the ballad 'I Pray,' which Mariah penned for Lina Robins-Tamure (formerly Paul Robbins), 'Mesmerized' a curiously sedate mid-tempo that was supposed to appear in The Paperboy, a live cover of Ella Fitzgerald’s 'Lullaby Of Birdland' (which was recorded during her tour behind 2014’s Me. I Am Mariah The Elusive Chanteuse), and lead single, the '90s-throwback collaboration with Lauryn Hill, 'Save The Day' — which is as timely now as a song that was written in 2011 can be.
Mariah Carey - 'Lullaby of Birdland' (Live - Official Audio)
The real jewel in the crown, however, is Mimi’s superfluous acoustic remake of 'Close My Eyes' from Butterfly. My goodness, few songs capture the power of the superstar’s voice and pen as well as this one, trust me, but if one were to try and topple it, that would be her version of Harry Nilsson's 'Without You.'
Recorded at the Tokyo Dome in 1996, she quite literally, and unreservedly, belts this maudlin ’70s power ballad out the park! Oh, and another track here taken from that live show (which, as a whole, is the complete second disc), 'Anytime You Need a Friend,' is also a showcase for a peak-form Carey - a ballad that slowly gives way to a house remix that blurs the lines between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
In closing, The Rarities is obviously essential listening for fans, but well worth diving into for general music lovers. After all, this is an important piece of pop history, my dear friends. Of that fact, have no doubt.
CD 1: The Rarities
1. 'Here We Go Around Again' (1990)
2. 'Can You Hear Me' (1991)
3. 'Do You Think of Me?' (1993)
4. 'Everything Fades Away' (1993)
5. 'All I Live For' (1993)
6. 'One Night' (1995)
7. 'Slipping Away' (1996)
8. 'Out Here on My Own' (2000)
9. 'Loverboy' (2001 – Firecracker Original Version)
10. 'I Pray' (2005)
11. 'Cool on You' (2007)
12. 'Mesmerized' (2012)
13. 'Lullaby of Birdland' (2014 – Live)
14. 'Save the Day' (2020 – with Lauryn Hill)
15. 'Close My Eyes' (2020 – Acoustic)
CD 2: Live at The Tokyo Dome (1996)
1. 'Daydream Interlude (Fantasy Sweet Dub Mix)' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
2. 'Emotions' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
3. 'Open Arms' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
4. 'Forever' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
5. 'I Don't Wanna Cry' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
6. 'Fantasy' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
7. 'Always Be My Baby' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
8. 'One Sweet Day' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
9. 'Underneath the Stars' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
10. 'Without You' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
11. 'Make It Happen' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
12. 'Just Be Good To Me' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
13. 'Dreamlover' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
14. 'Vision of Love' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
16. 'Hero' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
17. 'Anytime You Need a Friend' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)
18. 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' (Live at the Tokyo Dome)