In case you forgot, Madonna originally became known for her music. There was always the image, sure, real and/or cultivated, and she was a fashion trendsetter from the start, but none of that would have mattered had Madonna not also been a hit machine. Yes, once upon a time Madonna made records, and very good ones at that. Her first three releases (and four out of five) stand not only as an impressive seven year run, but also as some of the defining sounds of the 1980's. A quick listing of some of those sounds-- "Borderline," "Lucky Star," "Material Girl," "Like a Virgin," "Into the Groove," "Papa Don't Preach," among many others-- likely gets the internal Walkman cranking a little.
I remember this and in particular I remember her third album True Blue. My ever-hip mother, a youthful 32 in 1986, bought a cassette copy not long after its release and many a mile was passed with it in the car stereo. I wasn't really aware of this at the time, but it represented a more mature sounding Madonna and a look that went along with it. Gone was the edge of her bustier-wearing days, and in its place was the oddly reactionary refrain of "I'm keeping my baby!" (She put Danny Aiello through hell in that video, man). Nevertheless, I knew every word of the poppiest among the album's nine tracks-- "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart," and "True Blue," all charted, not to mention ever-Karaoke-present number "La Isla Bonita." I had a secret soft spot for the album's torch song, "Live to Tell," which if I remember correctly was also on a movie soundtrack that figured heavily in its video.
So why am I ruminating on Madonna today? Toronto's Paper Bag Records has just issued a free tribute of sorts to True Blue, featuring interpretations from nine different acts, including The Rural Alberta Advantage, Young Galaxy, Born Ruffians and more. Find the tracklist and download it all as a handy .zip file here. Or listen first at your leisure below. Only major bummer? No gruff-voiced Elliott Brood take on "Love Makes the World Go 'Round."