Thursday, September 30, 2010

CD Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS - Be Yourself - A Tribute To Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners

Note: This review originally ran in the Illinois Entertainer.


The concept of various indie rock artists covering Graham Nash’s 1971 solo debut Songs For Beginners isn’t that much of a stretch considering the genre’s current obsession with introspective songs and pedal steel guitar. It would have been fun to hear someone infuse one of Nash’s hippie reflections with mega watts of punk intensity, but there’s none of that going on here. For the most part, the various artists on Be Yourself establish their own identify without straying too far from the original material.


Nash’s daughter Nile put the CD together and contributes a stark version of “Wounded Bird.” Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes offer enjoyable acoustic takes on “Better Days” and “Be Yourself” respectively, while the San Francisco based band Vetiver captures the angst of the elaborate “I Used To Be A King.” Bonnie “Prince” Billy translates “Simple Man” into Spanish and tinkers with the melody but the result is a bit of a siesta. Sleepy Sun gives “Chicago” a harder edged, theatrical feel reminiscent of Hair, and Nile Nash returns for the spirited “We Can Change The World (Reprise).” Be Yourself exudes a community spirit that’s well suited to Graham Nash’s peace and love image.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let The Sunshine In

The 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees have been announced and the list covers a wide range of musical styles. They include Alice Cooper, The Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits, and Chuck Willis. Only five will actually be inducted.


I’m sure the artists chosen have already sparked a debate across Facebook and Twitter as to who is worthy of the honor and who is not. I have to confess I’m not super excited about any of them, at least not to the degree that I was last year when The Hollies got the nod. Over 40 years of liking a band that has never seemed to get the respect it richly deserved will do that to a fan. Still, since I never watch American Idol (even the very funny Ellen DeGeneres couldn’t rope me in) I feel like I should pick nominee in particular to root for.


Tom Waits would be an interesting choice, for the way he mixed humor, pathos and jazz. Plus, I’d love to hear his acceptance speech. “I’d rather have an award in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” Darlene Love and Neil Diamond bring back fond memories of the 1960s. But, when it comes down to it, Donovan is going to be my Lee DeWyze.


Donovan, of course, scored with “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow,” but he also had some cool lesser known singles like “Epistle To Dippy,” “There Is A Mountain,” “Jennifer Juniper,” and “Catch The Wind.” The dreamy melody and lyrics of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” captured the very essence of flower power. So, congratulations, Mr. Leitch, and best of luck!

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

45 RPM Memories: Immune System - “Ambivalence & Spark Plugs”

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.


It’s a safe bet that there was only one song in the history of rock with the name “Ambivalence & Spark Plugs,” and it was recorded by the Chicago quintet Immune System in 1979. I’m pretty sure I bought this record after hearing it on WXRT, and I have a vague memory of a disk jockey referring to vocalist Ro Goldberg as cute.


Goldberg wrote this energetic swipe at trendy types with guitarist George Siede, and her conversational approach to singing is reminiscent to Deborah Harry. She refers to someone as “a passing bug,” and sums up her own appearance with the line, “I’m pretty, but I’m in a rut.” Other band members chime in on a chorus of “Ooh yeah yeah ooh yeah yeah,” showing that punk rockers could be silly as well as confrontational.


The fast and catchy “Ambivalence & Spark Plugs” brings back memories of when it felt cool to go into a trendy record store and buy the latest 45 by a cutting edge Chicago band like Immune System, Bohemia, B.B. Spin, or Gary Jones. I can’t claim to have been one of the trendsetters slam dancing at O’Banions or Exit; usually the only time I went to those clubs was with the publishers of Metro Calendar, to pick up ad money. Luckily, several bands in the area still uphold the tradition, even to the point of releasing their material on vinyl.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #16

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.


I remember buying Record magazine on a regular basis back in the 1980s, and a quick scan through the pages reveals why. A visually appealing monthly magazine put out by Straight Arrow Publishers, Record covered alternative acts as well as the mainstream.


This issue, from May 1984, featured the latest lineup for The Pretenders on the front cover, and Chrissie Hynde’s band also nabbed the top slot on Record’s Top 100 albums chart with Learning To Crawl. Other LPs on the list were Synchronicity by The Police at number 4, Under a Blood Red Sky by U2 at number 20, and Speaking In Tongues by Talking Heads at number 40. There were also feature articles on Cyndi Lauper, Thomas Dolby, Don Felder, and Pete Townshend’s little bro, Simon.


A music video column described the ZZ Top’s clips as “comic and spectral,” and also gave a nod to Aldo Nova and The Kinks. Apparently, UB40’s video for “Labour Of Love” tapped into the violence and frustration within modern England and was banned by shows like Top Of The Pops. Record reviews included Milk And Honey by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1984 by Van Halen, and 99 Luftballons by German ein-hit wunder, Nena.


The Pretenders article, by Wayne King, covered how motherhood had changed Hynde; introduced new members Malcolm Foster and Robbie McIntosh; and offered a Pretenders Almanac that traced the band’s history back to Hynde’s arrival in London in 1973.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Slumgullion #34

I’ve started writing for a new online publication called Chicago DIY Film, which is dedicated to promoting local digital film makers and film festivals. They’re currently running my piece on the Fractured Lens Festival, a celebration of short clips, which will be held on November 11th at the Portage Theater on Chicago’s northwest side. Hopefully, I’ll have some more articles coming up in the next few weeks. If anyone in the Chicago area has a film maker they feel should be featured on Chicago DIY Film, let me know at the Broken Hearted Toy gmail address.


Congratulations to Chicago’s own Dusty Groove, Laurie’s Planet Of Sound, and Dave’s Records for being included on Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Record Stores In America list. Most of the shops chosen look really cool, and bring back memories of some of my favorite haunts over the years, like Wax Trax on Lincoln Avenue, the Rock Records' downtown location, and the Kroozin’ Music stores on the southwest side. Anytime I travel, one of the top things on my to-do list is check out the local record stores. It’s especially exciting when you find a whole street filled with record stores, like when Pam and I visited Edinburgh.


Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen, the husband and wife team that leads the alt rock/country band Dolly Varden with their singing and guitar strumming, will be part of an upcoming free concert when Steve Dawson with Funeral Bonsai Wedding perform at Simon’s Tavern. Other musicians involved with this oddly named collective include Frank Rosaly on drums, Jason Roebke on bass, and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. The show starts at 9:00PM on Sunday, October 3rd. Simon’s is located at 5210 N. Clark Street in Chicago. Dolly Varden will also be part of the Jay Bennett Benefit tomorrow night at Subterranean on North Avenue. Proceeds will go to Jay Bennett Foundation, an organization that honors the late Wilco musician by helping to fund music education.


Ellen Rosner will be part of Like A Hole In The Head, a benefit for Rich Lynch, a longtime supporter of the Chicago music scene, at Martyr’s on Monday, November 1st. Lynch has been diagnosed with cancer, and several local artists, like Suzy Brack & The New Jack Lords, Ripley Caine, Ulele, and Jade Maze are offering their support. Rosner’s looking for people to donate items for a silent auction. There will also be a raffle, and so far the prizes and auction include a piece by artist Tony Fitzpatrick, a dinner at Uncommon Ground, and tickets to a WXRT Studio X live taping.


This Is This, a melodic rock trio that has been playing gigs around Chicago for about nine years, will be performing at the Arlington Heights Farmers Market from 10:00 AM to noon tomorrow. This Is This has released a couple of well-crafted CDs. See for info on upcoming shows.


Piano player-comedy writer David Drazin, a silent film photoplay pianist who has been described by Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips as “one of the premier practitioners of his kind,” will provide music for a restored version of Gloria Swanson's Sadie Thompson at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago on October 23rd.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

CD Review: The Peelers - THEGETDOWSYNDROME

Here’s a shout out to a Chicago band that released an adrenaline-pumping first effort a few years back. This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 2004.


The Peelers are so adept at recreating the atmosphere of a packed rock club on this impressive debut it’s almost possible to feel the sweat spraying off the musicians and smell another round of beer on the way. Producer Tim Kerr, who previously worked with neo garage rockers The Mooney Suzuki, obviously strived for a similar approach on THEGETDOWSYNDROME, and this Chicago quintet came through for him. The 10 loud and fast songs offered here don’t add up to much more than a half hour, but it’s a fun half hour.


The high speed “Peel It Down” serves as The Peelers’ unofficial theme song, with Chris and Adam (no last names are given) wielding their guitars while lead vocalist Neil cuts loose with a raucous delivery. Like many of the CD’s tracks, “Peel It Down” features an instrumental break with the band members talking in the background. It’s a unique idea that complements the party ambience. Drummer Cory, a former member of The Gaza Strippers, kick starts the hard-hitting first track, “Junkie,” as well as “Rockin’ On Your Dime,” a punchy garage rock number that will resonate with anyone who recalls The Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road.”


“Take A Ride” is a road song with a shouted chorus, and there’s a spirited cover of The Joneses’ “Pill Box,” which describes a guy who discovers how he can survive without his ex-girlfriend. THEGETDOWSYNDROME exudes a coarse sensuality, especially on the catchy rocker, “Want Some.” The same swaggering attitude is found on the more mid-tempo tunes, “Into The Sun” and “The Way I Feel.” The Peelers uncork undiluted punk with “The Motion,” and the final track, “That’s Why I’m Leaving,” which appropriately ends this freewheeling debut with a guitar solo.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CD Review: - The Get Quick - How The Story Goes

Here’s a review I did for the Illinois Entertainer a few years back.


Eleven tracks delivered in 30 minutes on How The Story Goes firmly establishes The Get Quick as masters of short, guitar-driven songs. The Philadelphia-based band works primarily in a power pop vein, but continually adds twists and turns while lead vocalist-guitarist Erik Evol spikes his songs with a wry sense of humor. On the melodic “Live Without It,” he sounds like David Bowie while singing, “Your face looks like a snowflake I tracked inside.” “New Plimsoles” combines surf guitar, guest musician David Fishkin’s saxophone, and glam rock vocals.


“I Heard About You” shifts easily through slow and fast tempos, creating an intricate pop gem with help from guests violinist Maura Hallowell and organist Dr. Phil Watson. “Here She Comes” is a dreamy, mid-tempo look at unrequited love, while the political satire of “Lose It All” sounds like a party song set to a pounding drumbeat. Bass player Jamie Mahon adds to the selection of well-crafted pop songs on How The Story Goes with his energetic “Talk About You Today.”

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost Tracks - Good Tunes From Overlooked Albums

Back when I reviewed Once Blue’s self-titled debut for the Illinois Entertainer in 1995, I was impressed with the duo’s easy-going folk rock songs. The CD also had a cool cover photo that made singer Rebecca Martin and guitarist-vocalist Jesse Harris look like a hip couple who’d be fun to hang out with.


“Now That I’ve Disappeared” in particular jumped out at me. It’s a haunting acoustic based number about a dream, that comes across like a dream itself. It was written by Harris and features his artful strumming as well as Kenny Wollesen’s shuffling drumbeat. Martin’s vocals have a sensual, laid back feel as she floats above the exquisite melody.


“I know my dream but I can’t explain,” Martin sings. She goes on to describe rising slowly until she’s “Up where they know me./Now that I’ve disappeared.” The image of dying is even stronger in the final verse, with the lines, “The light comes through the blinds/And moves me/From this glowing sheet stained with tears.”


As far as I can tell. Once Blue only recorded one CD after this promising debut before Harris and Martin went their separate ways. Both are still active; with Harris releasing The Secret Sun, and Martin releasing When I Was Long Ago this year.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

A Peek Under The Covers

The 2001 Parasol Records release Shoe Fetish - A Tribute To Shoes brought together 22 artists to honor the Zion, Illinois power pop band. The participants included Matthew Sweet, Bobby Sutliff, Sparkle* Jets UK, The Spongetones, The Shazam, and Big Hello.


One of the CD’s best tracks was a cover of “Never Had It Better” by the California-based outfit The Tearaways, and their guest vocalist Scott McCarl. It was a brilliant adaptation that pumped up the Beatles influence that had inspired the original until it sounded like it could have come from Rubber Soul or Revolver. The tempo is faster than the one used by Shoes when they recorded “Never Had It Better” for their Stolen Wishes album, with ringing guitars and great harmonies.


McCarl, who also worked in a later version of The Raspberries, and recorded the solo Play On in 1998, unleashed some authentic John Lennon wailing as The Tearaways raced to the finish line, and the song ends with a recreation of Lennon saying The Beatles could have just as easily called themselves Shoes. The Tearaways released Beat Yer Own Mersey in 2006 and continue to perform live.


Incidentally, when I interviewed Jeff Murphy, John Murphy, and Gary Klebe of Shoes for the Illinois Entertainer prior to the release of Stolen Wishes in 1990, they told me they hadn’t even been aware of Lennon’s remark until they heard it on the ABC TV special Heroes Of Rock in 1979.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Slumgullion # 33

Photo taken from Aimee Mann's Facebook page.


Just Don’t Smile At Her. Aimee Mann has a gig tonight at the Prairie Center For The Arts, an intimate concert venue in Schaumburg, Illinois that’s perfectly suited to her introspective material. Mann will be performing songs from her critically acclaimed solo releases, including her latest, @#%&*! Smilers. Hopefully, she’ll tap into some Til Tuesday material as well. I believe that’s what she did when I had the pleasure of seeing her perform at the Park West several years ago. Tonight’s concert starts at 8:00PM.


I Love A Band In Reunion Form. Gang Of Four, the politically minded alt rock band that released its debut Entertainment in 1979, is back with Content, its first album in 16 years. Founding members vocalist-melodica player Jon King and guitarist-vocalist Andy Gill will be joined by newcomers Thomas McNiece on bass and Mark Heaney on drums. Content is set to be released in CD and vinyl format on January 25th, 2011. There’s also going to be an Ultimate Content Can version, which is said include the CD, a book featuring original art by King and Gill, lyrics, and various oddities like vials of blood that make me suspect Gang Of Four is pulling our legs on some of this.


Vienna Jammin'. Todd Wright, the singer-songwriter who devoted 40 weeks of his recording career to helping find a career for Juvenile Diabetes, will be performing a “stripped down” acoustic show at one of his favorite Vienna, VA haunts, Jammin’ Java, on October 6th. Wright’s song, “Unlucky Stars” will be heard on the season premiere of the Fox TV show Bones on September 23rd.


Making It Real. Eric Wilson, whose CD The Twenties helped him nab Singer/Songwriter of the Year honors at the 8th Independent Music Awards, will have his songs “Smokescreen” and “Now” used on the MTV shows The Real World and The Hills.


This One Goes Out To The Horse I Love. Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows have worked together in the garage band The Minus Five, and now they’ve teamed up with Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody and Belle & Sebastian drummer Richard Colburn in a new group called Tired Pony. Lightbody’s reported desire to delve into more Country & Western flavored music is evident on “Point Me At Lost Islands,” but the energetic “Dead American Writers” is sure to please rock fans as well. The band’s first effort, The Place We Ran From, which also features She & Him members actress Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, is now available.


Helplessly Hoping They’ll Hurry Up. WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert recently mentioned that Crosby, Stills, and Nash are inching closer to the finish line on that Rick Rubin-produced collection of 1960s cover tunes they’ve been working on for over a year. According to Hemmert, the trio has already recorded their takes on The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday,” The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” Jackson Browne’s “Lives In The Balance,” and a few others. Looks like the CD will be released in 2011.


They're Rocking (But So Is Brenda Lee.) Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, who’s always enjoyable whether he’s performing original tunes or covering one of his favorite (usually British) bands, will be opening for power pop veteran Marshall Crenshaw at SPACE in Evanston on October 27th. Crenshaw's latest release Jagged Land is now available. Tickets are already on sale.


It's No Dream. The melodic “Either Side Of The World” raises hopes that Crowded House will have more impressive tunes like that on Intriguer, its first release since 2007’s Time On Earth. The band was recently in Chicago for a performance at The House of Blues.


What I Like About Nostalgia. Fans of 1980s rock can get their money’s worth at the all-day event Hello Yesterday ....An 80’s Festival, which is being staged tomorrow at LaSalle Park in Buffalo, NY. The lineup includes A Flock Of Seagulls, The Romantics, Dramarama, When In Rome, Gene Loves Jezebel, and Animotion. Other festivities include a silent auction, a karaoke contest, and a kids play area.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

45 RPM Memories: The Tom Tom Club - "The Man With The 4-Way Hips"

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.


Although not as well known as The Tom Tom Club’s major hit, “Genius Of Love,” “The Man With The 4-Way Hips” was probably popular on the club scene back when it was released in 1983. If it wasn’t, then it definitely should have been. Featuring metallic vocals set to a driving synth arrangement with bursts of percussion and sound bytes, “The Man With The 4-Way Hips” was another new wave classic from this Talking Heads offshoot. It provided plenty of energetic options for folks on the dance floor, maybe even inspiring an entire crowd to do ‘The Robot.’


The lyrics never explained how the title character came to acquire his unique physical condition, but it served him well in a utopian society where just about everyone came together to groove to the music. “Black people, white people too/Hanging out with the latest hair dos/The sons and the daughters of people on earth/Hippin’ and hoppin’ and getting to work.” The song also captures the sensual ambience of looking for love on the club scene, with lines like, “Hiding his feelings he sees what you got/He wants you more when the music is hot.”


The B-side offered an instrumental, dub version of “The Man With The 4-Way Hips.” It was slower and more spooky than the original, but still a lot of fun.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #15

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.


I recently came across three issues RockBill in my collection of vintage magazines, and I honestly have no idea where they came from. There’s one from 1984, one from 1987, and the one pictured above with The Smithereens on the cover is from 1988. Each issue has 30 pages, which must set some sort of record for consistency.


The 1984 issue, which had Laurie Anderson on the cover, is marked as Volume 3, Number 1, so it must have been around for a few years before that. For all I know, it could still be in production, but I haven’t seen any issues in quite a while. The name and size is similar to the theatrical publication Stagebill, but as far as I can tell, RockBill was not from the same publisher. The bulk of the Smithereens issue is content, with only a few vice ads, like for cigarettes or liquor. There was a full page ad for MTV, which wasn't as worthless then as it is now, and a two page spread for a sassy new cologne spray from Avon called Rio. It could be purchased along with a bonus cassette that featured Tina Turner, The Jets, Jody Watley, and Kim Wilde.


In editor Mike Hammer’s interview with The Smithereens, conducted just after the release of Green Thoughts, guitarist Jim Babjak and bassist Mike Mesaros dismissed heavy metal music as too slick and boring, while vocalist Pat DiNizio discussed the art of songwriting. There were also feature stories on Little Richard, future Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame honoree Jimmy Cliff, Todd Rundgren, and Love And Rockets. The Street Corner Talkin’ and Cuts pages served up shorter profiles on Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Ice House, and EIEIO.


A column called Lip Service, written by Lou O’Neill Jr., Jesse Nash, and Lisa Goodman, offered news bits on a reconciliation between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; the first American release by The Sugarcubes; Joe Jackson’s live album; Carlos Santana marking 20 years of performing; and rumors of a Jefferson Airplane reunion.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Demo-Listen Derby

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.


Joe Swank & The Zen Pirates play rollicking Country & Western music for honkytonks on their third CD, Hank Williams Died For My Sins. It’s a consistently fun effort, particularly when the band cuts loose on “Just Tell Her I Loved Her” and “Tomorrow’s Just A Train-Wreck Away.” Swank also connects on “Better Than Bein’ Alone,” a sad tale of a wife who’s afraid to ditch her loser husband, while the jagged title track has an almost theatrical ambience.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Single Paragraph Potpourri

Here’s a new feature that will serve as sort of step-sibling to That Was A Long Time Ago, Dearie, with randomly chosen paragraphs from reviews I’ve done in the near or distant past. All of this copy originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.


The Pretenders - Last Of The Independents

When the infectious energy of “Night In My Veins” first hit the airwaves, it marked the return of one most unique voices in modern rock. As lead singer of The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde has always possessed the ability to alternate between punk aggression and motherly concern. She juggles both expertly again on Last Of The Independents, the band’s first release in four years.


The Godfathers - More Songs About Love & Hate

The band’s third U.S. album continues to pump out the venom, though like Birth, School, Work, Death, there are plenty of melodies to go around as well. The Godfathers have realized they can’t build a career on slogans alone, and have developed into accomplished songwriters. “Those Days Are Over,” “This Is Your Life,” and “I’m Lost And Then I’m Found” are prime examples of The Godfathers’ ability to provide muscular music for their messages.


The Posies - Frosting On The Beater

The second full-length album from The Posies finds the Seattle band forsaking its amazing ability to mimic The Beatles and The Hollies in order to establish a stronger identity of its own. Credit singers and guitarists Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow with having the courage to move on. “Dream All Day,” the first track on Frosting On The Beater, establishes the new direction by adding a harder edge to the band’s usual melodic approach.


The Chills - Submarine Bells

It’s not every band that records songs with titles like, “Effloresce And Deliquesce” or “Part Past Part Fiction,” but lead vocalist Martin Phillipps keeps things from getting too eggheaded by supporting his intellectual lyrics with hummable melodies. Like Squeeze and XTC, The Chills are masters of clever wordplay.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Slumgullion #32

Black Forest Theatre has been busy lining up talent for the October 9th John Lennon Birthday Bash at its space in Evanston. WhiteWolfSonicPrincess, the alt rock band formed by BFT founders James Moeller and Carla Hayden, are slated to perform “I Found Out,” “Working Class Hero,” “Come Together,” and “God.” Carlo Lorenzo Garcia, an actor/director at Mary-Arrchie Theatre, will play “Jealous Guy,” and Heather Svoboda from The Fling improv group, will read poems written by and about Lennon. Garage rock band The Telepaths will cover “She Said, She Said,” “Nobody Told Me,” and “Not A Second Time.” Frank Carr and Desiree Burcum from the Famous In The Future comedy group will do a duet on “Day Tripper,” and their fellow FIF cast member Tina Teske will perform “Imagine.” The John Lennon Birthday Bash will run from 8:00PM to 10:30PM. Black Forest Theatre is located at 512 Kedzie in Evanston. Contact James Moeller at jamesblackforest@yahoo.com for more information.


Beyond the Coyote kicks off its weekend festival tonight with an opening reception at 6:00PM at the Flat Iron Building on North Milwaukee Avenue in the Wicker Park ‘hood. The event features paintings, photography, musicians, and a variety of other performers.


The Next Wave Art Salon, which aims to encourage artists to exchange ideas and encourage each other’s creativity, will hold its latest event tomorrow night at 166 Symphony Way in Elgin. Organizer Carl Brahms states in the online invitation, “With the salon, we’re building a community of creative-minded folk to share ideas on a local level.” In addition to food, drink, and hopefully lots of inspiring conversation, there will be three $1,000 cash prizes given out at the end of the evening.


Go Time will be performing at Phyllis’s Musical Inn in Chicago on September 25th, along with Paul Coady and the Edsel Brothers, Creekmur, Kearney, Kierans, and Martellotta. Doors open at 9:00PM.


The Wells Street Fall Festival has over 20 bands lined up for its bash this weekend, including Cowboy Mouth, 7th Heaven, American English, Dan & The Humidors, Lounge Puppets, Modern Day Romeos, and Kashmir. On Saturday, American Idol finalist Gina Glocksen precedes synth rockers Dot Dot Dot. Once upon a time, Glocksen and Dot Dot Dot members Little Lisa and Rose were part of the four-woman cover band Catfight. Also on Saturday, the Modfathers, a covers band that includes Ellis Clark from The Handcuffs and Phil Angotti, will be playing classic songs from the 1960s, starting at 2:00PM. Now in its eighth year, the Wells Street Fall Festival will also feature food vendors, a midway with games, plus the work of 60 artists.


Local comedy group 4 Days Late will perform their satiric production Americans In Peril at the multi-faceted performance space Studio BE on Sheffield Avenue in Chicago every Friday from September 24th through November 12th. Showtime is 10:00PM and admission is $12.


Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn will offer an impressive power pop double bill tomorrow night when The Romeros open for Cliff Johnson & The Happy Jacks. The Romeros, who recently released the Cooler Than Your Boyfriend EP, were very impressive at International Pop Overthrow in Chicago earlier this year, and Cliff Johnson of Off Broadway fame is sure to come up with some exciting new material with his new band, The Happy Jacks. The Romeros have announced that all profits made from the sale of their merchandise tomorrow night will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door.


The Beatlemark Concert Series will honor musician Mark Eskin with Markapalooza tomorrow night at the Morton Grove Civic Center in Morton Grove. Eskin was a familiar face to those of us who attended Fest For Beatles Fans, and he worked with various bands in the area. The New Colony Six will headline the event, and other acts involved include BYTE, The StingRays, The Chauffers, and Instant Karma. In addition to this Saturday’s tribute, donations can be made at the online Mark Eskin Memorial Fund.


The sonic screwdriver has been a part of Doctor Who lore from at least the Tom Baker days, and coming this October, fans will be able to use a sonic screwdriver remote co-designed by the BBC and a company called Blue Ocean on Wii and DS. The Doctor Who: Return To Earth game will be released on Wii next winter, around the same time Doctor Who: Evavuation will come out on DS.


Singer-guitarist Rick Hromadka from the L.A.-based power pop band Maple Mars will be on the Alan K. Lohr Show this Saturday from 8-9 Pacific Standard Time. Hromadka will be interviewed by radio veteran Lohr (AKA BuddhaMan) and perform songs from the Maple Mars CD Galaxyland. Fans can catch the program at www.errorfm.com Channel 1 Error FM Live.


It was nice to see the article by Hedy Weiss in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times about the Black Ensemble Theater breaking ground for its move to a larger venue on north Clark Street. I had the privilege of interviewing BET founder Jackie Taylor back in the days when the Illinois Entertainer did its annual theater issue. She’s a dynamic director whose dedication has resulted in several commercially successful and critically acclaimed productions that honor famous black musicians. The theater’s latest hit is Those Sensational Soulful 60’s, which can be seen at the theater’s current venue at 4520 N. Beacon in Chicago.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

DVD Review: The Hollies - The Dutch Collection

Released by EMI in 2007, The Hollies - The Dutch Collection is a CD/DVD import from Holland. The audio half of this set is the usual collection of hits, from “Here I Go Again” to “The Air That I Breathe,” plus (for some unfathomable reason) the band’s shameful attempt at disco, “Wiggle That Wotsit.” It’s the other disc that serves up something Hollies fans have been praying for years: An official visual documentation of the band’s career, including live performances, TV appearances, interviews, and what amount to rock videos years before the dawn of MTV.


When I talked to Hollies guitarist-vocalist Terry Sylvester at the Fest For Beatles Fans in Chicago a few years back, I mentioned The Dutch Collection and he agreed it was great that this material was finally being made available. Unfortunately, the DVD is in the PAL format, so it’s not compatible with many players in the U.S. I have a portable model by Insignia that does accept PAL, but I’d love to see The Dutch Collection on a big screen.


Surprisingly, The Hollies were making promotional films for their songs as early as 1965, as evidenced by the clip for “I Can’t Let Go,” which shows the musicians lip-synching on a dock that presumably overlooks The Thames. “Stop Stop Stop” gives the lads a chance to engage in some Beatlesque silliness as they hang out in a local pub, tossing darts and downing pints. The best part is guitarist Tony Hicks winding up the key on top of a limo shortly before the band is driven away. The antics are reminiscent of The Monkees, but it’s quite possible this clip pre-dates that TV show.


I remember seeing a clip for “Carrie Anne” on a local UHF TV show hosted by WLS DJ Art Roberts back in 1967, and I had been trying to find a copy of it for years. It’s on The Dutch Collection, and it’s just as wacky as I remembered. Graham Nash frolics in an open field wearing a kaftan, bassist Bernie Calvert wakes up by a pool surrounded by beautiful women, and lead vocalist Allan Clarke dresses up as cowboy and shoots his doppelganger in a duel. The clip for “Dear Eloise,” which was filmed outdoors around a gazebo, is more straight forward. When I interviewed Nash for the Illinois Entertainer (see Archives, December 2009) he acknowledged that it was unusual for bands back then to create rock videos. He explained that The Hollies had no real say in the creative aspect of these clips; they pretty much did as they were told.


Two of the clips, “On A Carousel,” and the much later “Magic Woman Touch,” featuring Clarke’s short-term replacement Mikael Rikfors, offer an interesting peek at The Hollies at work in the recording studio. By far, the worst clip is the one for “Blowin’ In The Wind,” which mixes footage of the band lip-synching the Dylan tune with footage of a what looks like a guy and his girlfriend making an amateur porn film. Nothing explicit, but very cheesy in way that would have been funny as a Monty Python’s Flying Circus bit. In fact, Monty Python did do something quite similar.


The Dutch Collection also offers a few short, vintage interviews conducted in Holland with band members at various point in the 1960s, as well as an appearance by Hicks and Sylvester on a 1970s English TV show. The disc is more interesting early on, with The Hollies appearing on Top Of The Pops and at a New Musical Express sponsored event. Later TV performances of songs like “Hey Willy,” “The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee,” and “Daddy Don’t Mind” only illustrate how lackluster the band’s material could be in the late 1970s.


The reunion of Nash, Clarke, Hicks, drummer Bobby Elliott, and original bassist Eric Haydock singing the hits medley “Holliedaze” on Top Of The Pops in the early 1980s, ends The Dutch Collection on a happy note.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #14

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.


I attended a fun and interesting meeting yesterday morning that involved a group of dynamic people discussing how to promote and support local performing arts using the Internet. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report on that in the near future. In the meantime, here’s a look at how things were done back in September, 1977.


I’m pretty sure I picked up this copy of TRIAD magazine at a store called Triangle Records, which was located on south Pulaski Avenue. Listed on the masthead as Volume Six, Number One, it featured G. Alonzo Oeuf’s feature story on Yes, with photos by Dean Simmon and Dan Kompass. Judging from the “We’re Back!” banner on the front cover, the magazine, which was the in-print companion to TRIAD radio on WXFM 106, must have been away for a while.


Newly appointed Editor Bill Paige (you’ve seen that name on previous Vintage Publication Spotlight posts) was overseeing the new format, and Cary Baker (likewise a VPS regular) was a contributor, along with Robin Cook, Mindy Goldenberg, Mark Guncheon, and Beth Segal. In addition to Simmon and Kompass, Jorie Gracen served as a photographer. TRIAD also used pics from Photo Reserve. Paige had a regular column, and also contributed an article on The Stranglers, in which drummer Jet Black noted, “We have to get the audience with us, jumping about, having a good time, or we can’t play. There’d be no reason for it.”


Bruce Meyer had an interview with Jackson Browne, while Baker devoted his entire Chicago Sha Boom column to Shadows Of Knight frontman Jim Sohns. There was a two-page spread of intriguing art by John Kurtz, plus movie reviews of The Spy Who Loved Me and Fire Sale. Christine Harmon reviewed the “lighthearted farce” Bleacher Bums, which was playing at the Organic Theatre, but didn’t mention any of the actors involved. Guncheon reviewed a Mink DeVille and Blind John Davis double bill at Ivanhoe Theatre, Robin Cook reviewed Gil Scott-Heron, also at The Ivanhoe, and Simon Impleiz covered a concert by Alice Cooper at the Chicago Stadium. The record reviews included Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams; Robert Gordon’s self-titled effort with Link Wray; Utopia’s Oops! Wrong Planet; and Alan Parsons Project’s I Robot.


Goldenberg found quite a few cranky people in her piece on Beatlefest, which was held at the Palmer House in Chicago that year. Attendees griped about the prices at the flea market, the authors who had come to hawk their books, and even the joyous reactions of other fans to The Beatles’ flicks and music. “I enjoyed the films a lot,” some guy named Dave related. “But I’d rather see them without the incessant clapping and singing along by people who can’t sing as well as The Beatles.” Here’s a box of tissues, Dave. Now go wipe all that snot out of your nose. Others despaired of the current music scene. “The 70s has produced no music of note yet and I don’t have much hope that it will,” complained a 21-year old named Beth. Beatlefest, which was created by Mark Lapidos with a little help from his friend John Lennon, would later morph into Fest For Beatles Fans and find a new home in the Chicago area at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont. Lapidos is still at the helm, and WXRT’s Terri Hemmert has been the MC for quite some time. Fortunately, the vibe these days is much more upbeat.


Advertising in this issue of TRIAD included a full page from S&J Records in Hammond, Indiana, saluting the magazine’s return; Swollen Head Records & Tapes in La Grange; a half page ad for The Grand Illusion LP from Styx; and the AmazingGrace venue in Evanston.


In his Radio Notes column, TRIAD radio Program Director Don Bridges proclaimed, “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re back, looking straight up Michigan Avenue and digging on the renewed thrill of spinning records over Chicago.”

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