Friday, March 29, 2013

Slumgullion


Bowe Knows Rock. Kevin Bowe, a Minneapolis-based singer-guitarist who’s bound to make a lot of people think of The Replacements with his new release, Natchez Trace, has a gig tomorrow night at Wise Fools Pub on Chicago’s north side. Fess and The Dirty Creeps are also on the bill. Bowe is currently on a tour that recently included a performance ar SXSW. He and his band, The Okemah Prophets, had some impressive guests helping out on Natchez Trace, including Nels Cline from Wilco, Scarlett Rivera, and Meat Puppets members Chris and Curt Kirkwood. Paul Westerberg from The Replacements co-wrote the energetic song, "Everybody Lies."

Easter Bunny Blues. SOPRO will be presenting its 26th Annual Easter Parade Chicago All Star Blues Revue tomorrow night at Sullivans Irish Pub and Eatery in Midlothian, IL. The critically acclaimed jazz combo, The Chicago Horns, are once again taking part, with guest guitarist, Ray “The Flame” Sucash. Other acts scheduled to perform are vocalists Deb Seitz and Peaches Staten; guitarist-vocalists Joey Drada, Billy King, and Frank Anastos; bassist John Falstrom; drummer Scott Bonshire; keyboards player Greg Wolfman; and harmonica player-vocalist Doug Lee. In addition to the blues music, which starts at 9:00 PM, there will be prize giveaways.

Peabody In The Wayback Machine. Congratulations to Doctor Who on being named a 2013 Peabody Award winner. The Peabody website describes Doctor Who as “The ever-evolving, ever-clever BBC science fiction series now entering its second half century.” The new season kicks off tomorrow night, as The Doctor welcomes a new companion.

I Can Dig It, You Can Dig It  . . . Fans of power pop, punk, garage rock, and even some spooky hard rock might want to spend the cash for a trip to Australia. Dig It Up! AKA The Hoodoo Gurus Invitational has a smashing roster of The Hoodoo Gurus, Peter Case, Flamin’ Groovies, Blue Oyster Cult, and The Buzzcocks hitting Brisbane on April 18th, Sydney on April 21st, Melbourne on April 25th, and Perth on April 28th. Several popular local acts, like The Stems, are also on the bill. 

A Cheap Imitation. Critically acclaimed tribute band Tributosaurus will be performing the music of Rockford’s finest when they become Cheap Trick at Martyrs’ on April 17th.

Heart Support. Soundgarden/Audioslave vocalist-guitarist Chris Cornell will do the honors when Heart is inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on April 18th. Heart will be performing at the ceremony, along with guest musicians Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains. Cornell, McCready, and Cantrell are from the same neck of the woods as Ann & Nancy Wilson, and it’s great to see them taking part. In their book, Kicking And Dreaming, the sisters mentioned how much it meant to discover that they had inspired a younger generation of Seattle musicians.

Steal This Enthusiasm. As someone who performed at the first 20 of the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festivals at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre on Chicago’s north side, I’m truly excited about the 25th Anniversary celebration coming in August. Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky, who has hosted every Abbie Fest in the persona of Hoffman, recently sent out an email announcing a change of venue for this year’s bash.

Instead of the Mary-Arrchie’s home base on Sheridan Road, the 25th Anniversary Abbie Fest will be held at The Den Theater on Milwaukee Avenue. This will allow a much greater number of theatre companies, comedy groups, and solo performers to take part, as the action unfolds on three different stages. Several acts make Abbie Fest an annual event, and Cotovsky is hoping to reconnect with some participants who’ve been away for awhile. He’s also hoping to attract some high-profile theatre groups who haven’t been involved before. I’ve never missed an Abbie Fest, and I surely won’t miss this one.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

CD Review: The Hollies - Evolution


The title of this 1967 LP was no doubt intended to herald The Hollies’ transformation from a band that recorded Top 40 hits written by other people into a creative force on the pop music scene. It continued the adventurous spirit of its predecessor, For Certain Because, and showcased a mature songwriting approach by band members Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, and Tony Hicks. Evolution was the second installment of a trilogy of albums in which The Hollies reinvented themselves without losing the qualities that had made them special.

The variety ranged from “Then The Heartaches Begin,” an emotionally charged song that bordered on hard rock, to the soothing if electronically altered “Lullaby To Tim.” A number of tracks had orchestral accompaniment directed by Mike Vickers. “Heading For A Fall,” one of several songs on the album that dealt with troubled relationships, featured bagpipes, while “Leave Me” (which came later in America, on the Dear Eloise/King Midas In Reverse album) found The Hollies in full garage rock mode.

Sex and its consequences figured prominently in the songwriting this time out. On the energetic “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” (later covered quite well by The Searchers) Allan Clarke sang, “Don’t come back tomorrow and say what we did wasn’t right.” The ambitiously arranged “Rain On The Window” depicted a chance encounter between a man and woman on a stormy day that spins a platonic friendship into a bout of lovemaking that leaves both parties feeling guilty and awkward afterward. Even the risque fun of the catchy pop tune “Games We Play” ended on a cautionary note.

Given all this, it was tempting to think there was some sort of inuendo lurking behind the ornate “Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe,” but it probably was just an innocent tale of a lad buying candy. The British version of Evolution didn’t include the hit single, “Carrie Anne,” which was reportgedly inspired by Marianne Faithful. Whatever, its origins, it was a fun tale of lost innocence that mixed The Hollies’ fabulous vocals with Caribbean rhythms. 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CD Review: The Pralines - A Beautiful View


A Beautiful View is a belated follow-up to this co-ed Chicago-based band’s 2004 debut, Song Of The Day Cafe, but retains that effort’s amiable folk rock approach. The Pralines’ chief songwriter, lead vocalist-rhythm guitarist Pamela Richardson, displays a knack for strong melodies as well as an inclination toward shading her lyrics with intrigue. Her ambitious approach, along with her band mates’ adept playing, enables The Pralines to add some welcome surprises to A Beautiful View.

“Il Commence À Pleuvoir,” featuring Eddie Torrez on accordion and Richardson singing what surely are heartfelt lyrics in French, is an authentic visit to a Parisian cabaret. The title track is augmented by Ric Salazar’s intricate guitar strumming while Danny McClain’s percussion gives “Shelter Cove” a nautical feel. “Escape Artist,” the tale of a woman helping her lover escape danger, is set to a catchy mid-tempo arrangemen, and the romantic “Brave Red Rose” mixes acoustic and electric guitars.

“Better Now” and “Tin Cup And Glamour” find The Pralines effectively rocking out, and a spirited cover of former Byrds member Gene Clark’s ringing “Silver Raven” serves as another highlight. The Pralines will be returning to International Pop Overthrow - Chicago again this year, with an afternoon gig at Red Line Tap on Saturday, April  27th.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CD Review: The Electric Stars - Sonic Candy Soul


It’s not uncommon for current bands to mine the 1960s for inspiration, but on Sonic Candy Soul, it’s like The Electric Stars have unearthed a full-blown musical from that era. In addition to catchy pop and glam rock tunes, there’s some blues, a gospel choir, and things get totally theatrical toward the end. It’s billed as Beautiful Music For Beautiful People, and at least 20 additional musicians or singers joined the five band members in creating it.

Some listeners are likely to find Sonic Candy Soul somewhat overblown and dated at times. But The Electric Stars, who hail from Manchester, England, mostly have a way of making 1960s style music fun. They did a fine job of covering “Jennifer Eccles” on the recently released Re-Evolution Hollies tribute album.

“Between The Streets And The Stars” starts with an appealing slinky arrangement before blossoming into a celebration that sparks images of people merrily dancing. “I Want You” has a garage rock authenticity reminiscent of The Lyres, while the energetic “Not Man Enough” has a sprinkling of glam power. Jason Edge’s vocals are impressive on the Broadway style ballads “Old Fashioned Girl,” “Bedtime Stories,” and “Isolation,” but The Electric Stars really shine on energetic songs like “136” and “Who’s Gonna Satisfy Me.” 

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Slumgullion


Dot Dot Dot will most likely be playing their brand new song, “Bring Me To Life” tonight at Double Door in Chicago. It’s a well-crafted alt-rock tune that showcases the co-ed synth rock band’s vocal chops. Fans can hear it on Dot Dot Dot’s Facebook page. 

It was no surprise when Van Go covered Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk” on their 2010 CD, The Long Last Call. Like Costello, the Chicago-based power pop band likes to set clever putdowns to energetic arrangements. Songs like “Your Three Minutes Are Up” and “Invisible Girls” can stick with you after a single listen. Van Go has a gig tomorrow night at Phyllis’ Musical Inn on Division Street in Chicago.  Crackpot is also on the bill.

David Bowie’s first release in 10 years, The Next Day, is racking up sales as well as rave reviews, and now fans in the Los Angeles area can catch an acoustic tribute to the Thin White Duke. Several local acts will gather at Brennan’s in Marina Del Ray on Tuesday, March 26th, and each will perform a 15-minute set. The event is free and scheduled to kick off at 8:00 PM. Brennan’s throws an acoustic tribute for a different artist on the last Tuesday of each month; past shows have honored Elvis Costello and Tom Petty. 

Black Forest Theatre Company is presenting the Sex, Drugs, R&R Show next Saturday at Curt’s Cafe in Evanston. The Facebook event description promises, “Performers doing covers from any genre and era celebrating the good life and debauchery!” Some of the debauchers include Mr. Mo, The Rut, whitewolfsonicprincess, and The Telepaths. Songs being covered include “Sex, Drugs Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” by The Rolling Stones, and “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters.

Record Store Day, the annual celebration of rare vinyl platters and the small businesses that sell them, is less than a month off. A comprehensive list of this year’s titles can be found on the official website,  and I’m already making plans to be standing outside Reckless Records at the crack of dawn on Saturday, April 20th. Most likely, wearing the Fruits de Mer guitar-emblazoned t-shirt I just bought from the UK all-vinyl label.

The treasures will include two 10” 45RPM records by British Invasion standouts, The Animals, with classics like  “We’ve Got To Get Out Of This Place,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “House Of The Rising Sun” and “I’m Crying.” Big Star’s Nothing Can Hurt Me [Special Pressing] will be on two 12” colored vinyl records, with 20 previously unreleased versions of songs like “September Gurls.” It’s the soundtrack to an upcoming documentary.

David Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight) from his new CD, will be available on 7” white vinyl, and The dB’s will  have four new tracks on the orange vinyl 12” record, Revolution Of The Mind. Pink Floyd’s 1960s psychedelic gem, “See Emily Play,” is being packaged with a booklet/poster, and The Rolling Stones will offer the 5 X 5 EP, with “If You Need Me,” “Empty Heart,” 2120 Michigan Avenue,” and “Around And Around.” There will be numerous special editions of oldies, jazz, blues, indie, and hard rock categories. Happy hunting. 

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Album Review: The Hollies - For Certain Because


When For Certain Because (released as Stop Stop Stop in America) came out in 1966, most pop bands were determined to create music that went deeper than traditional songs about true love and heartache. This development struck a chord with The Hollies, and For Certain Because became the first of three albums that found them at their most innovative and inspiring. Band members Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, and Tony Hicks became adept at composing songs that retained The Hollies’ trademark harmonies and effervescent melodies, but placed them in new surroundings. Like Evolution and Butterfly, which followed shortly after, it was pretty much flawless.

Even “Stop Stop Stop,” the Top 40 hit from For Certain Because, was an exotic mix of banjo, Middle Eastern rhythms, and plain old lust. The LP's second single, “Pay You Back With Interest,” was more low key, and dealt with the conflicted emotions of a globe-trotting musician who realizes he has a responsibility to his loved one at home. Nash's exquisite “Tell Me To My Face” was sheer pop perfection, and should have been a huge hit. A few other artists, including the single-named Keith, recorded their own versions of it.

“Clown” and “Crusader,” also featured Nash on lead vocals, and were ambitious tales steeped in troubling emotions. “High Classed” mirrored Paul McCartney's fascination with vaudeville and music halls, and might have been dismissed by John Lennon as “granny music.” But it was still fun. “What Went Wrong,” with its rolling drums, was also fully orchestrated, but had a hip and high energy Swing vibe. “Peculiar Situation” and “It's You” sounded more like The Hollies fans were used to, but still explored complex relationships.

The stinging lyrics of “Suspicious Look In Your Eyes,” along with Clarke's vocal inflections, seemed to show a definite Bob Dylan influence. Clark, Nash and Hicks sweetened the barbed sentiments with some angelic harmonies. The catchy “Don't Even Think About Changing” also had a hint of Dylan. “What's Wrong With The Way I Live” found Hicks once again flexing his newfound banjo skills while Clarke projected a defiant attitude. On For Certain Because, The Hollies had definitely started doing things their own way.    

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

EP Review: Mooner - Unpronounceable Name

Judging from Mooner's  new EP, Unpronounceable Name, the music could get pretty adventurous tomorrow night when the former Portland, Oregon-based band takes the stage at Quenchers Saloon. Mooner moved to Chicago in 2011. The show starts at 8:30 PM; Arctic Sleep and Sparrows are also on the bill. Admission is $5.00.

Unpronounceable Name is a hard release to pin a label on since it veers from short and catchy to longer and more elaborate within the space the space of single EP. The discrepancy arises from Mooner’s two songwriters; Lee Ketch is more into power pop while his brother David prefers to delve into free-form indie rock. The band does well with both styles.

Still, the melodic and guitar-driven “Shapeshifter” is the obvious choice for the first single. “You are a lonely little firefly,” Lee Ketch sings in his quirky but appealing style. “You think you could be my guiding light.” It’s a fun song that has a few more wacky metaphors like that up its sleeve. The EP’s other power pop track, “Overrated,” is laced with satiric lines like, “It’s only exciting when you watch it on TV.”

The meandering “White Lines” is reminiscent of the way The dB’s dabbled in Country & Western, and some critics have seen a direct connection to the 1970s cult band Television. “Never Alone” glides easily through instrumental passages, with only a short, jarring bit of electric guitar. A full-length effort is even more likely find Mooner throwing curve balls our way. 

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CD Review: Stephen Lawrenson - OBSCURiOSiTY


There’s a philosophical bent to Stephen Lawrenson’s latest release, OBSCURiOSiTY, as well as a do-it-yourself attitude. Lawrenson plays all the instruments on 10 melodic songs that deal with finding one’s place in the world, as well as struggling to express love in its truest form. His appealing voice (frequently layered to a lush effect) evokes Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and is well-suited to these power pop arrangements. 

The catchy title track has an exotic feel as Lawrenson wonders, “Have I lost control, or did I ever have it?” The hard-hitting “Your Karma” depicts a selfish person who creates a trail of disaster, while the lilting and seemingly autobiographical “Small White House” celebrates the simple joys a family finds together over the years. On “Words To Say,” Lawrenson taps into 1960s folk rock to express the frustration of wanting to comfort someone but not knowing how, while “Thank You” is an energetic expression of gratitude to a loved one.

The faster cuts on OBSCURiOSiTY immediately draw attention, but Lawrenson also succeeds with the acoustic beauty of “Edge Of The World,” as well as the orchestral finale, “Pale Yellow,” which features Maggie Lawrenson’s massively over-dubbed vocals in a heavenly choir.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Slumgullion


Let me go crazy on balloons. Photo from Heart’s Facebook page.

I ran out of energy about 11:30 last night before I could finish this week’s Slumgullion. So here are a few more items.

First of all, best wishes to Nancy Wilson on her birthday. Heart’s well-deserved induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame takes place on April 18th.

It’s been very encouraging to see the quality of musicians coming to the new Mac’s on Slade restaurant/club in Palatine. I caught local trio This Is This on my first visit about a month ago, and The Johnsons, a band comprised of seasoned local scene and concert tour veterans, were at the venue last night. J.B Ritchie will be performing tonight, and it’s rumored that folk singer/author/master car model maker Dean Milano has a gig coming up in April.

Vocalist-bassist Herb Eimerman has worked on a number of musical projects throughout his career, including the international power pop trio, The Britannicas. He recently posted on Facebook that his cover of the song “Strange Side Of Love” will be on the long-awaited 20/20 tribute album, Remember The Lightning. Other artists involved include former child actor Robbie Rist, Wednesday Week, Popdudes, and Jeremy.

Later this August when Mary-Arrchie Theatre celebrates the 25th Anniversary of its Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival, the comedy group Famous In The Future will mark its own 25th anniversary by taking part in the freewheeling celebration of theatre, comedy, performance art, and music. In the meantime, Famous In The Future has a show titled Naughty Bits coming up on March 27th at The Public House at 3914 N. Clark Street.

I was in this comedy group for 20 years, and we used to often joke that we had more alumni than Notre Dame. But founding member Frank Carr, along with Desiree Burcum, Michael Hora, and Tina Teske, have coalesced into a veteran performing unit. Judging from the new group photo, it looks like actor-journalist-musician Pat Über-Critic McDonald, who performed so well with FIF at last year’s Abbie Fest, will be back for this gig. Admission is $10.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Slumgullion


Practice portrait by artist Dan Willow for tomorrow’s Super Hero Portrait Slam.
 Picture from Project Onward’s Facebook page.

The St. Patrick’s weekend celebration kicked off tonight with a rare performance by Celtic rock band The Drovers at The Abbey Pub. The group still has plenty of fans despite an extended absence from recording or performing, so a packed house it pretty much guaranteed. There’s no telling if this show is a one-time treat, but let’s welcome back The Drovers while we can.

Phil Angotti’s probably not an Irishman, but his CD release show for Life And Rhymes at Martyrs tonight will feature a number of special guests who’ll help him introduce this latest effort. The show starts at 10:00 PM. Angotti will also be doing a joint show with Ellis Clark at Redline Tap on April 20th as part of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago.

If you’re downtown tomorrow for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, you could fly over to the Chicago Cultural Center and become the next Superman or Sue Storm from the Fantastic Four. Project Onward, a studio created to help artists with mental and developmental disabilities, is holding a Super Hero Portrait Slam tomorrow from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The charge for a single portrait is $20, and you can reserve a sitting in advance by calling 312-744-8032 or sending an email to info@projectforward.org. Samples can be viewed on the studio’s Facebook page.  

The Chicago Rovers will be stirring up some some St. Patrick’s style fun tomorrow night at Reggies on  State Street, starting at 9:30 PM.. The $10 admission price includes an Irish buffet. The band has a 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM gig at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN on Sunday.

Fountains Of Wayne have an acoustic show coming up at The Old Town School of Folk Music on April 20th.

Some of the artists who contributed to the Fruits de Mer label's vinyl Re-Evolution Hollies tribute have posted a link to my review on their Facebook pages. A big note of thanks to them. Reportedly, sales are going well. Keith from FdM informed me that Re-Evolution, which comes packaged as an LP with a bonus 45, can be ordered from the following sites:  Shiny Beast;  Those Old Records; Vod Music; and Norman Records.

Comedy fans around the globe were crushed last weekend when Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff host/producer postponed the season finale of his weekly internet show. Hopefully, it will all set for this Sunday, and include the two bits I filmed with Kelley. One is a reprisal of the crabby old man Fritz Willoughby character I did on Old Days, and the other is sort of a cameo, since I was a regular contributor to Coffee for a few years, and hope to do more bits in the future.

Mike Braam, a Chicago-based musician who suffered a stroke a while back, has been making steady progress through intense physical and speech therapy, according to a recent Facebook post by his brother and band mate, Scott. The Braam Brothers, which also includes Tom Braam, have put out a number of indie rock CDs. Scott noted that his family is grateful for the outpouring of support from Chicago's music community, and asks for continued best wishes and prayers for Mike.

Also, best wishes to singer-guitarist Thom Sebastian for a full recovery. In addition to his solo work, Sebastian has recorded with Phil Seymour, and contributed a cover of "Mumbo Jumbo" for the Squeeze tribute album, If I ...3x on Burning Sky Records.  He's actively working on various projects.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Good Times With Rhymes


Chicago-based singer-songwriter Phil Angotti has a release show for his latest CD, Life and Rhymes this Friday at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue. The show starts at 10:00 PM. A clever promo video done in the persona of Paul McCartney (one of Angotti’s bigger influences) promises guest musicians like Brad Elvis from The Handcuffs.

The gig will no doubt be a big draw for local musicians, if not the real Sir Paul, since Angotti recruited some of them to help out in the recording studio. Vocalist Chloe F. Orwell (also from The Handcuffs), guitarist-vocalist Tommi Zender, piano player-vocalist Carolyn Engelmann, bassist Charlie Short, and former Handcuff and now solo artist, bassist-keyboards player Ellis Clark, will up on stage with Angotti.

Life And Rhymes follows Angotti’s 2010 release, People And Places, which found the long-time power pop artist matching introspective lyrics about life and friendship to well-crafted arrangements. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with this time. Angotti also occasionally does tribute shows, the most recent being for Badfinger, but they may be on hold while he promotes the new CD. 

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CD Review: Red Clover Ghost - Self-Titled


Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

Even at a time when countless indie rock bands are working with the same building blocks of acoustic instruments and lush harmonies, the Virginia-based Red Clover Ghost still stands out. Twins Clint and Gibb Cockrum give these 11 songs a variety of intriguing emotions and arrangements. There's a late 1960's/early 70's vibe in the way the Cockrum brothers weave their vocals together, as well as a persistent air of mystery.

On “If I Could Only Have The Last Time,” Red Clover Ghost takes the chilling ambience of Crosby, Stills & Nash's “Guinnevere,” adds some lilting piano playing, and then pumps up the energy. “Nobody Knows” and “The Prophet” deal with spiritual imagery and the sting of being betrayed by a trusted mentor. “When The Whiskey's Gone” uses an exhilarating hoedown to spin the tale of a man’s encounter with an beguiling woman who dances with him for hours, only to disappear at daybreak. “Bear Hill,” the most rock-oriented track on this impressive debut, finds Red Clover Ghost sounding like vintage R.E.M.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

CD Reviews: Frosting And Vapor Eyes


First, a quick mention that avant-garde/alt rock band, Whitewolfsonicprincess has a gig tonight at Uncommon Ground on Devon. The Slowbots are also on the bill. The music starts at 8:00 PM'; admission is $5.00.

Note: These reviews originally appeared in the “Around Hears” section of the Illinois Entertainer.

 Mark “Spiv” Grzelak's second outing fronting his band Frosting once again finds him crafting guitar-driven, catchy songs. Much of Frosting II reflects his extensive music biz experience, particularly the biting satire of “Idolatry,” and “Little Puppet.” On “It'll Be Over,” Frosting updates The Byrds' sound in pretty much the same way R.E.M. did. Keyboards player-singer Mary Jane Lee takes over lead vocals on the power pop flavored “Another Summer” and creates spirited harmonies with Grzelak throughout the CD.

Vapor Eyes conjures another inventive collection of mostly instrumental ambient tracks pulsating with synthesizers, echoing percussion, and sound bites, on Golden Beats Volume #1. “Daylight Savings” marches to an infectious groove, while a swirl of synthesizers gives “Glowglobes” an orchestral feel. The press release nails the chill vibe of “Gentle Residential,” when Vapor Eyes says these tracks were recorded, “with my cats by my side as the moon hung low in the sky.” Vapor Eyes recently sold out a show at Schubas in Chicago.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Slumgullion


Rolling Stones fans will have a year to go out of their heads at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Dolly Varden frontman Steve Dawson has a gig with Alton Smith and Colby Maddox tomorrow night at the Old Town School Of Folk Music. Local band The Astronomer is also on the bill.

Jeff Kelley, star, writer, and producer of the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff weekly internet show has some special plans for this season’s finale on March 10th. Regular contributor Willy Deal and artist Dave Metzger, along with my wife Pam and I, are among the people slated to contribute comedy bits. Even our cat Phoebe got involved. Kelley is looking to create short, stand-alone clips to be shown on Blip and YouTube, along with his regular show.

Author/writer/model car maker Dean Milano wants to know if anyone has a photo of The Deep End teen club that rocked in Park Ridge from 1967 - 75. He’s looking to help a friend, who I assume is working on a book. Please feel free to contact me via email if you or someone you know can help out  Dean and his friend. I’ll pass the info on to them.

It’s only The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame but they like it. The Rolling Stones will be honored with a special exhibit at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that will honor the group’s half century of making great music. Rolling Stones: 50 Years Of Satisfaction will open May 24th and run through March, 2014. The exhibit will include a number of rare items never seen by the public before.

Deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of musician/producer Dan Stock, who recently passed away from cancer. Stock performed with the band, Bruiser, and worked at the Uptown Recording studio. One of his last accomplishments was to organize Danstock, a benefit to raise funds to help others cope with the disease.

With all the snow that fell across America in recent weeks, the timing couldn’t be better for the band Vegas With Randolph to release a video for its catchy tune, “Snow Day.”  The clever lyrics take the point of view of a kid anxiously listening to the radio to find out if his school has closed due to inclement weather. The music is matched perfectly with vintage footage of kids having fun with the white stuff.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

LP Review, Part 2: Re-Evolution - FdM Sings The Hollies


The second half of my review of Re-Evolution, the Hollies tribute LP from the UK independent label, Fruits de Mer Records. Note: Promotional clips for a number of these tracks can be viewed on the Fruits de Mer YouTube channel

Listening to Re-Evolution, it’s fun to anticipate what approach the next artist will take. For example, The Re-Stoned rampages through “Then The Heartaches Begin” like a 1970s metal band, while auralcandy offers an enticing blend of pomp and Austin Powers style lounge music on “Heading For A Fall.” The Neutron Drivers  have a ball giving “Water On The Brain” a playful 1960s/vaudeville treatment. Other acts celebrate the sheer pop expertise of The Hollies while adding their own interesting flourishes. The Higher State infuses “Don’t Run And Hide” with power pop and a hint of garage rock, while The Gathering Grey and Langor deliver exquisite takes on “Postcard”  and “Everything Is Sunshine,” respectively.

The Bevis Frond  adroitly mixes acoustic and electric guitars on the tough luck tale, “Hard Hard Year” and Sky Picnic transports “Try It” to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury intersection circa 1969. The Electric Stars lower the saccharine level of “Jennifer Eccles” by imagining how George Harrison might have recorded it during his solo years. And a listener can throw on the headphones and drift away to the psychedelic ambience of “All The World Is Love” by The Seventh Ring Of Saturn and “Elevated Observations” by Jay Tausig.   

A few years ago, some music critics questioned The Hollies’ induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, claiming the band’s success was limited to hit singles. Fortunately, the artists associated with Re-Evolution knew there was a wealth of material to be found on The Hollies’ albums as well.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

LP Review, Part 1: Re-Evolution - FdM Sings The Hollies


Long-time Hollies fans are likely to approach this new tribute album from the UK vinyl-only independent label, Fruits de Mer Records, with a bit of trepidation. Re-Evolution doesn’t seem to be the marriage made in heaven that Eggbert Records achieved in 1995 when it rounded up elite power pop artists like The Posies, The Loud Family, Material Issue, and Mitch Easter to have a go at interpreting classic hits on Sing Hollies In Reverse. By contrast, the most familiar act involved with Re-Evolution is probably The Bevis Frond.

What a pleasant surprise then to find that Re-Evolution, which is packaged as an LP and a 45 RPM single, is a smashing success. Sixteen artists, from England, America, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal, contribute tracks and not a single one misses the mark. This aural tapestry is rich with imaginative choices, and any Hollies fan who listens with an open mind will surely have it blown.

The most bizarre moments come when moonweevil turns “Bus Stop” into a chill instrumental reminiscent of the music by the French duo, Air. It’s radically different from the Graham Gouldman-penned hit single, but sophisticated and cool. Hi-Fiction Science sets the vocals of Maria Charles above a tribal arrangement on “King Midas In Reverse,” while King Penguin crafts an exotic “Dear Eloise” with sitar and tablas.

Most of the other artists on Re-Evolution focus on obscure B-Sides and album tracks from the Graham Nash era; expanding on the originals’ psychedelic elements. Beautify Junkyards begin the trip with an echo-laden and dreamy version of “Butterfly.” It’s the only song that is done twice on Re-Evolution. The duo Us And Them create a hypnotic version featuring Britt Rönnholm’s vocals and a traditional folk arrangement augmented with keyboards.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CD Single Review: The JAC - “Record Store”


First, a note for David Bowie fans in the Chicago area. Sons Of The Silent Age, a band comprised of veteran musicians Chris Connelly, Matt Walker, Steve Gerlach, Robert Byrne, Rich Parenti, Claire Masey, Carolyn Engelmann, and Alan Berliant, will be playing Bowie’s music this Thursday night at Mayne Stage. The show starts at 8:00 PM.

Australian musician and studio wizard Joe Algeri, recording as The JAC, crafts an energetic tribute to a dying breed of retail outlets with his new CD single, “Record Store.” Taken from the soon-to-be-released album, Whether I’m Arthur Or Martha, this would would make a great theme song for Record Store Day. Algeri’s clever lyrics capture the joy of searching bins for vinyl rarities and discovering new bands on the overhead sound system. He also throws in a tale of unrequited love.

“When I walk in I always feel so fine,” Algeri notes, and his visit improves even more when he confers with an attractive employee about bands like Big Star. “I’ve got my Motorhead t-shirt on/Even though I only like three songs,” Algeri sings, adding another band reference. The arrangement is more pure power pop than Algeri’s previous efforts as The JAC, or his work with bassist-vocalist Herb Eimerman and guitarist-vocalist Magnus Karlsson in the 1960s-inspired The Britannicas. Eimerman helps out on “Record Store,” along with musicians Stefan Johansson, Phil Barry, and Jason Cleary. 

“Record Store” ends with a double disappointment for the enamored customer when he arrives to find his favorite clerk has left and the store is having a going out of business sale. Sad, but all too true these days. The CD single comes with three bonus tracks, including The JAC’s interpretation of how “Heart Of Gold” would have sounded if Neil Young had recorded it for his later, more techno-oriented release, Trans.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

CD Review: Kevin Lee And The Kings - Breakout


For The Record: As part of last Saturday’s Slumgullion, I incorrectly described Re-Evolution, the new various artists Hollies tribute on the Fruits de Mer label as a CD and two 45 singles. It’s actually a 12” vinyl LP and two 45 singles. I was confused because the advance copy I received is a disc, and because the 16 psychedelic interpretations altered my mind.

With Breakout, veteran singer-guitarist Kevin Lee once again travels along the harder edges of power pop. The emphasis throughout this latest effort with his band The Kings is on energetic songs about broken relationships, but Lee also takes some interesting side trips along the way. Whatever the approach, he and producer Todd Jones give each track the highly polished arrangement of a potential hit single.

The restless “Burn It Down” and “Breakout” are rock-solid declarations of defiance that still showcase Lee’s knack for alluring melodies. “Can’t Believe You’re Gone” has a lighter, funkier vibe, while the ballad, “Outside Looking In” depicts the anguish of watching your dream girl marrying another man. Still, Breakout works best when it’s muscular and melodic, like on “Tell Me Why” and the rollicking closer, “Too Little Too Late,” which features a guitar-driven instrumental passage.

Kevin Lee And The Kings have a CD release show for Breakout coming up on April 26th at the Elbo Room in Chicago.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Slumgullion


Photo from The Hollies Official website.

Hollies Live Hits, a 2-CD set recorded on tour throughout 2012, is now available on the band’s official website. The tracks include Top 40 hits like “I Can’t Let Go,” “Look Through Any Window,” “Bus Stop,” and “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” along with newer material like “Then, Now, Always (Dolphin Days).”

For a different twist on The Hollies, check out Re-Evolution - FDM Sings The Hollies. Released on the indie Fruits de Mer Records label, it’s a 12" LP and two 45 RPM singles collection featuring 16 current indie, psychedelic, or ambient groups. All of them cover songs from the Graham Nash era Hollies, and the results imaginative and entertaining. I should have a review posted some time next week.

One week from tonight, power pop fans in Racine, Wisconsin (as well as those willing to travel there) will be ecstatic when Shoes perform live at McAuliffe’s Pub. The band ended an 18-year recording dry spell by releasing the critically-acclaimed Ignition last fall, and has a date at this year’s SXSW Fest later this month. There are reports that Shoes will be making other live appearances over the spring and summer. The Bradburys are the opening act at McAuliffe’s next week. The club is located at 3700 Meachem Road, 262-554-9695. Admission is $10. 

The schedule for this year’s International Pop Overthrow - Chicago, to be held at the Red Line Tap from April 18th through the 27th, is now available. Each night offers a six-band (sometimes seven-band) showcase, and there are also daytime showcases on Saturdays and Sunday. Here are a few of the highlights: Go Time on Thursday, April 18th; Ralph Covert (of Ralph’s World and The Bad Examples) on Friday, April 19th; The Webstirs and Phil Angotti/Ellis Clark Pop Orchestra on Saturday evening, April 20th; The Unswept and The Abbeys on Sunday afternoon, April 21st; Trolley on Sunday evening, April 21st; Kevin Lee on Monday, April 22nd; The Viaducts on Thursday, April 25th; 92 Degrees on Saturday afternoon, April 27th; and The Valley Downs and The Queue on Saturday evening, April 27th.

Rock critic Greg Kot had a very interesting piece in yesterday’s Tribune about the city of Chicago establishing a two-man office devoted to promoting and supporting local musicians. David Chavez and Dylan Rice are currently working on a Chicago Music Summit, which will take place at the Cultural Center on September 20th. No definite word on what this event will offer, or what other plans the duo is working on, but so far, this seems to be a promising development.

Congratulations to Chicago high school teacher Colby Burnett for winning the recent Jeopardy Tournament of Champions this past Tuesday. This follows Burnett’s earlier win on the syndicated game show’s teachers tournament last fall.

Elgin, IL has already established itself as a city where zombies run loose on Halloween, and now it’s getting into robots. Calling All Robots is a pop up art installation scheduled for April 5th at the Artspace Lofts on the corner of Spring and Fulton. Artists from around the globe will be showcasing their 2D and 3D representations of the mechanical beings, and Elgin’s own robotics club, Got Robot will provide a demonstration. There’s still time for artists to submit material via an online application. And now here’s a clip robot dog K-9 and the beguiling Leela from Doctor Who

Fans of the late Davy Jones might want to consider making a donation to the newly formed Davy Jones Equine Memorial Foundation. The Monkees musician was known for his love of horses, so this could be a fitting way to honor his memory.

Chicago-based filmmaker Michael Smith will present Portuguese director’s Manoel de Oliveira  surrealistic film, The Cannibals, at Facets Multi-Media on April 27th. Smith, the President and CEO of Lost Tree Productions, has created a seven-minute tribute to de Oliveira that can be viewed on YouTube.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Slim Slumgullion


Photo from Dot Dot Dot Facebook page.

Slumgullion will be delayed this week.

A coed synth rock band that blends catchy originals and well-chosen cover tunes into a party atmosphere, Dot Dot Dot  has been playing gigs around the country for a few years now. They return home for a couple of Chicago area concerts this weekend, starting with a 10:30 show at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine tonight. The Personnel is also on the bill, admission is $5.00

Tomorrow night, Dot Dot Dot will be the featured entertainment at the Kiss It Gala/Benefit in Streamwood. The $75 admission fee to this black-tie optional event will help raise funds for Cancer Kiss My Cooley, a not-for-profit organization seeking to raise awareness about pediatric brain cancer. In addition to rocking and dancing to Dot Dot Dot, there will also includes dinner, cocktails, and a live auction. 

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