Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Pretenders - Alone

The title track on Alone could be Chrissie Hynde’s response to anyone who questions why this qualifies as a Pretenders album rather than her second solo effort. The answer being because she says so. “Nobody tells me I can’t/Nobody tells me I shan’t,” Hynde boasts to a swaggering classic rock arrangement. Working with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and The Arcs (he also produced) throughout Alone, Hynde retains her status as one of rock’s premier vocalists, even if some of the material is a little soft at times.

“Alone” features Hynde successfully experimenting with a talky, almost spoken word approach; making it not only defiant but also hip and funny. She’s not as powerful on “I Hate Myself,” which at first listen—even after a few listens—feels like the most annoying thing she’s ever done. But Hynde works some soul-searching ideas between the choruses and it turns out to be an intriguing piece. The songwriting on Alone, mostly done by Hynde and occasionally with Auerbach and others, always either packs a punch or displays a deep understanding of human emotions.

On “Chord Lord,” she portrays a would-be groupie aced out by the competition. “Thought I’d nothing to prove,” Hynde laments. “Then the bouncer made me move/And that little piece of fluff/Moved in and ran with the groove.” The bluesy “Roadie Man” describes the wife of roadie as she waits for her husband to return from his frequent tours, fully knowing he hasn’t been faithful. “Whatever happens, happens—has to be/But don’t rely on domesticity.” The hard-edged “Gotta Wait” is less introspective but it’s the closest thing to vintage Pretenders on Alone, and thus a lot of fun.

The second half of the album is almost exclusively slow stuff, but as always, Hynde’s vocals are gorgeous, and the writing is imaginative. Particularly on the meditative “Blue Eyed Sky,” which seems to be about a mystical lover. It’s impossible not to wish for more rocking songs, but as Hynde asks in her taunting voice on the title track, “What are you gonna do about it? Hmmm?”

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Champagne Toast

Best wishes to all for a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.

It’s never too soon to plan for Tomorrow. Sons Of The Silent Age, the Chicago-based David Bowie tribute band, will be performing Bowie’s Low album and other songs on January 15 at Metro. The event is part of the 2017 Tomorrow Never Knows festival. I’ve seen Sons Of The Silent Age at Taste Of Chicago and on a few other occasions, and they do an astounding job of covering The Thin White Duke.

Happy Birthday to Patti Smith. After celebrating that milestone tonight, she’ll be at at Park West tomorrow with her band to bring in the New Year.

Other contenders for the countdown include the critically acclaimed, Ohio-based alt rock/roots rock band Over The Rhine at The Old Town School Of Folk Music; the eclectic and eternally unpredictable EXPO ’76 and guest vocalist Kelly Hogan from The Flat Five at FitzGerald’s; and Nice Motor, Lucky Boys Confusion, and Mark Rose from Spitalfield at the Double Door.

That’s what post-Christmas entertainment is all about, Charlie Brown. Emerald City Theatre is presenting A Charlie Brown Christmas through January 8 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

In a little over two weeks, the Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir Of ‘60s and Beyond will take place at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on Chicago’s north side. I’ve seen Asher do this type of show at Old Town School Of Folk Music before, as well as at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago; He and his backup band are entertaining and informative. In addition to being half of Peter and Gordon, Asher has had a successful career as a producer for James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and other well-known artists.

I still plan to do my annual Big Ideas post, in which I solicit contributions and come up with my own suggestions for what creative types hope to or should accomplish in the coming year. Anyone who’d like to participate can send me a short message with your plan via brokenheartedly@gmail.com. Since I’m so late in starting this, I’ll be accepting contributions through the end of January.

It’s not about Bikini Kill, L7, Babes In Toyland, or Sleater-Kinney, but the new Riot Grrrls exhibition at Chicago’s Museum Of Contemporary Art does celebrate the work female painters like Joyce Pensato, Ellen Berkenblit, and Jackie Saccoccio. It runs through June 4, 2017; suggested admission is $12.

When the Milwaukee-based band Trolley released its masterful Caught In The Darkness earlier this year, I praised songs like “Thursday Girl,” “We All Fall Down,” and “The Kids All Sing” as straight up power pop gems in my February 1 review. The album is now available on vinyl on the Sugarbush Records label.

Tickets went on sale today for The Bodeans’ show at The Arcada Theatre on March 11. Other shows coming up at The Arcada include Micky Dolenz on February 11; The Buckinghams, The Ides Of March, The New Colony Six, The Cryan Shames, and The Shadows of Knight on February 14; Greg Kihn on March 10; George Thorogood And The Destroyers on March 22; and Dave Davies from The Kinks on April 8.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Friends And Frenemies: An Artist Compilation From Mystery Lawn Music

Friends and Frenemies is the first compilation from Mystery Lawn Music, an indie label that was founded by singer-songwriter Allen Clapp back in 2009 as a means for his band The Orange Peels to release its own albums. As Clapp recorded more and more fellow northern California acts over the years, he established an impressive client list. Friends and Frenemies, which came out late last month, brings several of them together for an 18-track mix of exclusive world premieres and previously released material.

Clapp shows up as a solo artist on the soulful “Friend Collector” and with The Orange Peels on the shimmering “Square Turns To Circle.” Agony Aunts deliver some eccentric and catchy pop with their mid-tempo “Leland Manor,” and The Variable Stars bring high energy and a vivid sense of imagination to the sci-fi love song “The Lights Above Los Gatos.” “Can’t Make It Without You” by the Jim Ruiz Set grooves to a bossa nova beat, while Alison Faith Levy taps into a 1970s hippie vibe reminiscent of The Fifth Dimension on “Rainbow Tunnel.”

There’s an entertaining variety throughout Friends and Frenemies; including Anton Barbeau’s acoustic guitar and synth number “Broken In Two,” Marshall Holland’s British Invasion inspired “Oh Please,” and The Incredible Vickers Brothers’ hard-edged power pop lament “Faded Away.” Fans of groups like The Sundays or Ivy would likely enjoy the breezy techno pop of “Can’t Breathe” by Arts And Leisure and “Take Care Of You” by Little Hum. The Corner Laughers’ spritely “Sophie In The Streets Of Stockholm” has an instant appeal with its galloping beat and cosmopolitan lyrics.

Friends and Frenemies is available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon, as well as in a limited CD release.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Few More Presents Under The Tree

Happy Holidays!

First, a reminder that Richard Milne’s 25th Anniversary Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular will be rebroadcast tonight on WXRT 8:00 p.m. The concept of inviting Chicago area musicians to send a brief song or comedy bit to hype their band, Milne’s show, and the holiday season has yielded many entertaining and frequently hilarious results over the years.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the imaginative and quirky indie rock songs Dawn Landes created on her Fireproof album, I was intrigued by the idea of her recording Christmas songs as part of trio called The Bandana Splits. The 10 tracks on their Happy Holidays album bring a harmonic Andrews Sisters approach to yuletide favorites like “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Winter Wonderland.”

Australian multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri performs as The JAC in addition to his work with The Britannicas, The Jangle Band, and The Outryders, and gives the world a new Christmas song each year. 2017’s “Christmas Without Maria” features Algeri on lead vocals and 12-string Rickenbacker, along with his wife Erika and daughter Lydia on backing vocals. There’s also a Christmas Crew comprising bassist Herb Eimerman, drummer Stefan Johansson, keyboards player Lars Brussell, guitarist Andy J. Prinkkila and guitarist Paul Colombini. This this catchy, 1960s-flavored look at heartbreak during the holiday is available as a free download on Algeri’s Bandcamp page.

Even though veteran musician/producer Anton Barbeau’s 2010 “Xmas Song” was inspired by a wintry trip to Nevada City, he filmed the video that same year on the snowy streets Cambridge in England. He reposted the clip earlier today on his Facebook page, and the fun, catchy song can also be viewed on YouTube.

Best wishes to everyone in this Christmas and Hanukkah season, and thank you for checking out Broken Hearted Toy!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Punch

It’s Christmas Eve Eve. Hopefully, everyone has finished their gift buying, party planning, and grocery shopping for all the festive get-togethers taking place this weekend. My family is celebrating on Monday, which gives me extra time to catch up my seasonal DVD and VHS watching. I still have to somehow fit in A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (original version), Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, The Snowman (Oscar-nominated animated short), A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim version), and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Sad to say, neither of my top choices for the 2017 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction—The Cars and The Zombies—made the final cut. Zombies frontman and genuine class act Colin Blunstone posted a gracious comment on Facebook saying, “I really hope no one is feeling too despondent about The Zombies not being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!” I had the honor of doing a telephone interview with Colin for the Illinois Entertainer a few years back, and I can just hear him saying the above quote in his elegant, soft spoken manner. His FB post went on to say, “I’m really thrilled that we were nominated in the first place and that so many wonderful people took the time to support us in the public vote.” The Zombies will be touring in support of their 50th Anniversary Tour of their landmark Odessey & Oracle album.

Congratulations to English indie label Fruits de Mer on reaching the 100 vinyl releases mark with the new Ascending Scales LP by The Honey Pot. Band regulars Icarus Peel, Crystal Jacqueline, Wayne Fraquet, Simon Fear, and John Wyatt have over 20 special guests on board to help celebrate, including Anton Barbeau, The Luck Of Eden Hall’s Gregory Curvey, Mordecai Smyth, James Lowe from the Electric Prunes, Jack Ellister, Dick Taylor from Pretty Things, Ade Shaw from The Bevis Frond, and Judy Dyble from Airport Convention.

If you can’t believe New Year’s Eve is already coming up next weekend, here are some suggestions for places to ring in 2017: Critically acclaimed, Ohio-based alt rock/roots rock band Over The Rhine will be at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. Punk priestess Patti Smith and her band will be at Park West; EXPO ’76, one of the most fun and eclectic cover bands you could hope to see, and guest vocalist Kelly Hogan from The Flat Five will be at FitzGerald’s; and Nice Motor, Lucky Boys Confusion, and Mark Rose from Spitalfield will be at the Double Door.

There will be a Phil Angotti and Friends Holiday Party on Wednesday, December 28 at Simon’s Tap on Chicago’s north side. Angotti will be making merry with Rachel Drew, Tommi Zender, Alton Smith, Tom Ryan and special guest Casey McDonough. There will be an opening set by Hrundi V Bakshi.

Casey McDonough, Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, and Alex Hall continue to collect accolades as members of The Flat Five. The band’s debut full-length effort It’s A World Of Love and Hope earned them a full page profile in Magnet magazine. Writer J. Poet states, “Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Harry Nilsson and The Everly Brothers.”

The Hemmingbirds will be doing a farewell show on Thursday, (not Tuesday as I posted here earlier) December 29 at Lincoln Hall. They’ll be joined by Mutts, Archie Powell And The Exports, and Jesse W. Johnson.

Nate Azark’s Rock On Paper exhibit continues its run at the Chicago 2112 gallery. Azark creates concert tour posters for indie rock bands like Florence + The Machine and The Orwells. Chicago 2112 is located at 4245 N. Knox Avenue; the exhibit runs through the end of this month and admission is free.

All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me. Emerald City Theatre is presenting A Charlie Brown Christmas through January 8 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

In the holiday spirit of giving, local publisher Curbside Splendor is continuing its six-week charity campaign by donating half of all the proceeds from its online store this week to anti-poverty organization Heartland Alliance.

My wife Pam and I saw The Second City production of Twist Your Dickens this afternoon at the Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago. It’s a rowdy and consistently funny mix of anachronisms, pop culture references, improv, and imaginative costumes used to poke fun at Charles Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol. Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, and directed by Ron West, Twist Your Dickens runs through December 30.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

(Very) Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

A double LP from The Honey Pot is one of the latest releases from Fruits de Mer.

A few suggestions for the music and pop culture fans on your list. Or if you’ve finished your gift shopping, pick out a few rewards for yourself.

By the way, WXRT is airing its annual Christmas Club special tonight at 9:00 p.m. Host Marty Lennartz will once again invite Christmastologists Andy Cirzan and Jonny Soss opens their Santa’s bags and share the rare and fun records they’ve unearthed in record stores around the country. It will run to 11:00 p.m.

The English indie label Fruits de Mer specializes in limited-edition vinyl-only releases by psych, prog, and garage rock artists. The year-end bonus FdM offers those who join the Members Club include perks like David Bowie and Syd Barrett tribute albums.

Pop Geek Heaven bills itself as “The Ultimate Power Pop Community and Resource” and carries a number of books CDs related to the genre.

Pick up t-shirts, posters, and other rock-related items at Hot Rags in LaGrange, Chicago Ridge, Bolingbrook, and other suburbs. Their selection leans toward classic and hard rock, particularly The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. They also specialize in cult movies and TV shows.

Rock America at the Gurnee Mills and Old Orchard shopping malls carries a line of guitars replicas of the ones used by famous musicians. The emphasis is on classic rock and heavy metal, but I did find Rick Nielsen’s cartoon character guitar there. Rock America has other items as well.

Box Lunch in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg has one of the most eclectic selections of pop culture artifacts of any of these types of stores, whether it’s rock bands or TV shows. They have tons of trinkets that would be perfect as stocking stuffers.

Half Price Books is mostly known for selling used books, vinyl, and CDs, but they also have lots of pop culture items. This is the only place I’ve ever seen a Sex Pistols coffee mug, and they also have Doctor Who, Once Upon A Time, and Walking Dead collectors items. I bought a coffee mug with The Who on it at the Schaumburg location.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Allyson Seconds - Little World

Little World finds Allyson Seconds once again working with the noted and quite distinctive psychedelic musician/composer Anton Barbeau. He also wrote and produced the Sacramento, CA based singer’s 2009 debut Bag Of Kittens. Seconds seems to take to Barbeau’s compositions naturally, bringing his adventurous tales to life and portraying a variety of interesting characters. In addition to Barbeau, other well-known musicians playing on Little World include Colin Moulding of XTC; Kimberley Rew from The Soft Boys and Katrina And The Waves; Bevis Frond; and the late Scott Miller from Game Theory and The Loud Family.

Barbeau’s tendency to conjure eccentric sentiments shows up throughout the album, particularly on the engaging love song “Dust Beneath My Wings,” on which Seconds sings, “You took off my hat and told my head what it is lacking.” The irresistible power pop tune “Little World,” which features Moulding on harmony vocals, seems to be about a loved one rather than a particular place. The imagery is more cryptic on “Summer Of Gold,” “Great Blue Heron,” and “Ono Waltz,” where hypnotic, multi-layered arrangements create the atmosphere of a sacred ceremony. The sexy ballad “Eye Kinda” somehow surfaces amidst all this exotic fare, as Seconds sighs and giggles through a song about watching someone stepping out of the shower.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rocking Around On XRT For The Christmas Hop Music

WXRT radio personality Richard Milne will mark 25 years of doing his Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular tomorrow night with an hour-long special beginning at 8:00 p.m. The concept of inviting Chicago area musicians to send a brief song or comedy bit to hype their band, Milne’s show, and the holiday season has yielded many entertaining and frequently hilarious results over the years. It’s also a kick to hear so many well-known acts participating. The only drawback of this year’s greatest hits package is that no new entries were accepted.

In an earlier post on WXRT’s website, Milne explained his decision to eliminate new stuff from the mix: “Let me get cracking on listening back to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and, holy crap, do I have more than a thousand of these damn things, er, precious historical artifacts from Holiday Spectaculars from Christmases past to listen to?” The 25th Anniversary Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular will be rebroadcast on Christmas Day at 8:00 p.m. Congratulations to Milne on his many years of casting a spotlight on the Chicago music scene via his Sunday night Local Anesthetic radio show.

Earlier on December 25, WXRT personality Terri Hemmert will be doing a special holiday version of her weekly Breakfast With The Beatles program. Being a life-long fan has enabled Hemmert to collect a number of rare Beatles-related audio treasures that she’s willing to share with her listeners. And yes, that usually includes those exclusive off-the-wall holiday messages John, Paul, George, and Ringo sent to their fans back in the 1960s.

Little Steven Van Zandt’s syndicated Underground Garage radio show, which can be heard Sunday nights at 9:00 on WXRT, also gets pretty festive at this time of year. Van Zandt has released some of the more rare tunes from his massive collection on the Christmas A Go Go CD. (See December 17 and 18, 2011 in the BHT archives for my two-part review.) I’m not sure if the Underground Garage holiday special will be tomorrow night, Christmas night, or both. But it’s always fun to check out what gifts Van Zandt is ready to put under our musical Christmas trees.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Slumgullion

Photo of Hicks and Elliott from the Facebook page Tony Hicks . . . The Music, The Memories, The Man. 

Happy birthday to Tony Hicks, who started playing lead guitar for The Hollies back in the early 1960s and has been with them ever since. The band’s current lineup, which also includes original drummer Bobby Elliott (a belated December 8 birthday wish to him) tours extensively throughout Europe but hasn’t been stateside since 2002. Hicks and Elliott are two of the most underrated musicians from the original British Invasion, but they’re highly respected among their peers, and are often praised for their expertise by Little Steven Van Zandt on his Underground Garage syndicated radio program.

There’s still time to vote for Little Steven’s Underground Garage Coolest Song In The World 2016. Fans can choose from a number of tunes hand-selected by Mr. Van Zandt, including ones by Cheap Trick, The Shelters, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, The Weeklings, Kurt Baker Combo, The Anderson Council, and Jeff Beck.

Depending on when you see this, there might still be time to catch the Big Hair Big Trouble Holiday! bash at Carly’s Lounge at 2251 W. Devon on Chicago’s north side. Singer Ary Jeebie and vocalist-guitarist-keyboards player Ellis Clark are performing ‘60s and ‘70s “Groovy Country Weirdness.” There is no cover charge.

Tickets went on sale today for the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with Chris Stapleton concert at Wrigley Field next June 29. The date is part of the band’s 40th Anniversary Tour. 

Tellin’ Tales Theatre wraps up its run of Six Stories Up In A Snowstorm - A Winter Mystery at the Athenaeum Theatre this weekend. It’s a 90-minute original musical created and performed by “adult mentors and middle school apprentices with and without disabilities.”

Chicago’s long-running free paper The Reader is presenting the Made In Chicago Market this Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Chicago Plumbers Hall on Washington, just west of downtown. Admission is free.

Fans of The Move will be able to hear the grass grow on a new deluxe CD/DVD collection titled Magnetic Waves Of Sound: The Best Of The Move that’s due out on January 27. The 21-track CD features remastered hit singles and album tracks; while the DVD offers an hour’s worth of Carl Wayne and company performing on UK and German TV shows. Magnetic Waves Of Sound is already available for pre-order from Cherry Red Records

It will be an evening of Chicago-based power pop and indie rock when The Lilacs perform at Metro on March 4, along with Material Reissue and Bad Examples.

The Hemmingbirds will be doing a farewell show on Tuesday, December 29 at Lincoln Hall. They’ll be joined by Mutts, Archie Powell And The Exports, and Jesse W. Johnson.

As I mentioned here this past Tuesday, Carla Hayden and James Moeller, from the Black Forest theatre group and whitewolfsonicprincess indie rock band, are looking for “bands, solo acts, comics, poets, jugglers, contortionists, pie-tin spinners, dancers, sword-swallowers, [and] kazoo players”for a new live performance series called The R and R Circus at Red Line Tap. Anyone interested in taking part should contact Hayden and Moeller via their recently restructured whitewolfsonicprincess website.

There was an extensive article by Jessi Roti in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune about artist Nate Azark’s Rock On Paper exhibit at the Chicago 2112 gallery. Azark creates concert tour posters for indie rock bands like Florence + The Machine and The Orwells. Chicago 2112 is located at 4245 N. Knox Avenue; the exhibit runs through the end of this month and admission is free.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Carrying On The Abbie Fest Spirit

Carla Hayden and James Moeller have a new performance art series in mind.

The closing ceremony at the final Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival staged by Mary-Arrchie Theatre this past August included a call-to-action from Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky in his role as the rebellious Yippie. As the annual performing arts festival drew its last breath after 28 years, Cotovsky/Hoffman implored the participants and audience members to never let the Abbie Fest spirit die. Black Forest, one of the theatre groups in attendance that night, are probably in the best position to carry out that goal.

Founded by Carla Hayden and James Moeller, Black Forest appeared at several Abbie Fests. Most of their shows mixed clever wordplay, provocative ideas, and humor. Even if you didn’t always know what Hayden and Moeller were reaching for, their performances had an off-kilter charm. In more recent years, they’ve fronted whitewolfsonicprincess, an indie rock/avant garde band that has now fully established its own identity.

whitewolfsonicprincess (they prefer all lowercase letters) have released two albums, including this year’s beguiling Shadow Of The Marigold. A lot of their shows have been multi-act affairs at the Red Line Tap, and they’ve organized at least one production that included standup comedy and performance art. Hayden and Moeller have a new idea for 2017, called The R and R Circus.

According to Moeller’s Facebook post, it will be a once in a while Sunday afternoon event, and they’re looking for “bands, solo acts, comics, poets, jugglers, contortionists, pie-tin spinners, dancers, sword-swallowers, [and] kazoo players.” If you’re any of the above and want to join in the fun, contact Hayden and Moeller via their recently restructured whitewolfsonicprincess website. 

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Post Of Christmas Past

I saw a Facebook thread recently with glowing comments about the Yuletunes holiday compilation put together by Shoes on their own Black Vinyl label back in 1991. It felt like a good time to revisit that album as well some of my other holiday favorites. The following list originally ran on Christmas Day, 2015, but I had given each of these treasures more extensive coverage in previous years. Check out December listings on Broken Hearted Toy over the years for even more holiday music related posts.

In 2007, The Smithereens brought their power pop approach to a mix of originals and cover versions on Christmas With The Smithereens. “Waking Up On Christmas Morning,” which can also be found on the Hi-Fi Christmas Party and Ho Ho Spice collections, is a catchy tune penned by guitarist Jim Babjak. The fast-paced “Christmas Time All Over The World,” written by Babjak, singer Pat DiNizio, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros, celebrates hugging and kissing under the mistletoe, and compares the holiday to a big rock show.

Released in 2002, Hi-Fi Christmas Party was put together by vocalist-bassist Dan Pavelich to help fund research for Von Willibrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder that had stricken his daughter. This easy-going holiday compilation included contributions from several local and national power pop acts. Pavelich led his band The Bradburys through the romantic and highly energetic “I Love It When It Snows!” Other artists involved with this worthy effort included Don Dixon, The Jellybricks, Andrea Perry, The Ted Ansani Trio, Lisa Mychols, and The Spongetones.

On Hi-Fi Christmas Party Volume 2, Pavelich kept the focus on original 1960s-style power pop, although The Elvis Brothers traveled back a little further on their very fun “Rock-A-Billy Christmas.” Lisa Mychols joined The Wondermints on the Leslie Gore-influenced “Lost Winter’s Dream,” and Husky Team, which included Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, delightfully mixed “Auld Lang Syne” with “Green Onions.” Volume 2 also featured The Grip Weeds, Jeremy, The Bradburys, Rob Paravonian, Joey Molland and The Echo Boys, The Spongetones, and The Brothers Figaro Orchestra.

Hi-Fi Christmas Party Volume Three followed in the amiable tradition of its two predecessors, with another selection of mostly original material. Sketch Middle’s “Very Very, Merry Merry” had an energetic power pop buzz, and The Jigsaw Seen’s “What About Christmas?” was another highlight. The Click Beetles, a Pavelich side project with drummer Ed James; The Yule Logs; The Sun Kings; Jamie and Steve from The Spongetones; and Jim Babjak of The Smithereens also contributed catchy holiday tunes.

Yuletunes, an ambitious collection of original Christmas songs created by various power pop artists, came out in 1991 on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label. In addition to the shimmering “This Christmas” by Shoes, the classic collection included Matthew Sweet's reverent “Baby Jesus,” Material Issue’s powerful “Merry Christmas Will Do,” The Idea’s wistful “It’s About That Time,” and the more introspective “A God Of My Own” by 92 Degrees. Leroy offered the comedic “Santa Stole My Baby,” Kelly Ryan captured the heartache of missing someone on the holiday with “It’s Not Christmas,” and Herb Eimerman celebrated family traditions with “You Gave Me.”

Most of the bands on A Kool Kat Kristmas Volume Two took a cheerful approach to the holiday, even when it comes under unusual circumstances. As with Volume One, a portion of the proceeds for each sale went to the Susan Giblin Foundation For Animal Wellness and Welfare. “Christmas Is Coming Again” by The Pencils (who reunited for this effort) and “Snowbirds” by The Honeymoon Stallions celebrated holiday traditions, using lush harmony vocals and ringing guitars. The Connection used playful, old time music on “Poor Boy” while proclaiming that you don’t needs loads of money to enjoy Christmas as long as you’ve got rock and roll. Shake Some Action and The Tor Guides adroitly employed mid-1960s jangle for songs about observing the Yuletide in non-freezing weather and getting cool records as gifts on “Christmas In The Sun” and “Beatles Vinyl,” respectively. Other acts on board included Split Second, Dan Kibler, The Bottle Kids, and The Genuine Fakes.

Back in 1993, Christmas Time with Chris Stamey And Friends had the feel of an old-fashioned variety show. Chris Stamey, a founding member of The dB’s, played host, and kicked things off with the catchy “Christmas Time.” Stamey also teamed up with vocalist-guitarist Wes Lachot for the wistful “Christmas Is The Only Time (I Think Of You)” and joined vocalist-keyboards player Cathy Harrington on the high-charged romance of “You’re What I Want For Christmas.” Big Star checked in with an original rocking hymn called “Jesus Christ,” and founder Alex Chilton offered a positively cozy acoustic version of “The Christmas Song.” Vocalist-guitarist Peter Holsapple of The dB’s served up a simple but beautiful “O Holy Night.” Brent and Kristen Lambert, Syd Straw, The dB’s, Don Dixon, and Marshall Crenshaw also took part in the this rock and roll Christmas classic, which has been expanded a few times over the years.

Guitarist/actor/radio show host Little Steven Van Zandt morphed into a crazed Santa for the ambitious 2008 holiday compilation Christmas A Go Go. He threw in some genuine rarities, like a surf rock reinvention of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” delivered by 1950s kids show host, Soupy Sales and actor Joe Pesci's wiseguy treatment of Gene Autry’s “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas.” The Boss Martians gave Charles Dickens a spin with their high speed rock song, “3 Ghosts (A Modern X-mas Carol),” and The Electric Prunes created a psychedelic and slightly unsettling version of “Jingle Bells.” Other highlights included The Kinks’ funny but ultimately goodhearted “Father Christmas” and Keith Richards romping through Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run.” Darlene Love’s “All Alone On Christmas” (written by Van Zandt and featuring him and The E Street Band), and Tina Sugandh’s “White Christmas,” with its gorgeous vocals and exotic sitars and tablas arrangement, were also standout tracks.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday Slumgullion

Power pop bands Van Go, 92 Degrees, Right Tidys, Valley Downs and The Artist Formerly Known as Moulton will be performing at the Jangle Ball Rock event tonight at Phyllis’ Musical Inn on Division. Most of these acts are veterans of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago.

For those who haven’t made their New Year’s Eve plans yet, here are some suggestions: Over The Rhine at The Old Town School Of Folk Music; Patti Smith and her band at Park West; EXPO ’76 with guest Kelly Hogan at FitzGerald’s; and Nice Motor, Lucky Boys Confusion, and Mark Rose from Spitalfield at the Double Door.

Graham Nash has created an official video for “Mississippi Burning,” one of the bonus tracks on his This Path Tonight solo album. Disturbing (and unfortunately real) images match the stark arrangement as Nash takes on the role of a murdered civil rights worker speaking from an unmarked grave. “Lynch the truth, it will not die,” he sings. “It just comes back to haunt us.”

The Goodman Theatre is offering its 39th annual production of A Christmas Carol, and according to Chicago Tribune critic Kerry Reid, this year’s version is more female-oriented. The Henry Wishcamper-directed production swaps Scrooge’s nephew Fred or an niece named Frida. Reid also noted the positive influence of the miser’s one-time fiancee Belle and his ultra-supportive sister Fan.

Chicago Sun-Times dance/theater critic Hedy Weiss had a piece in yesterday’s Agenda section describing how the setting for The Joffrey Ballet’s 2016 production of The Nutcracker has been changed to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair Columbian Exposition.

Happy Events: Congratulations to Jack Kivel of Prior Lake, MN on becoming the Mall Of America’s first black Santa Claus. As reported by Tracy Swartz in the Chicago Tribune, OK Go, who are about to receive a Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for their “Upside Down And Inside Out” video, took time recently to jam with students of the Juarez Guitar Club at Benito Juarez Community Academy in the Pilsen neighborhood. The Red Eye newspaper reported that Lady Gaga dropped by the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth with these words of advice: “Do one kind act before the end of the year. The act itself, it’s free—and it’s priceless.”

Chicago’s long-running free paper The Reader is presenting the Made In Chicago Market this Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Chicago Plumbers Hall on Washington, just west of downtown. Admission is free.

The last Randolph Street Market of 2016 is being held this weekend, and it’s bound to have loads of holiday-related crafts and merchandise for sale. O

Over 40 artists will be offering work for sale at The Chicago Art Girls Pop-Up Store this weekend at Bell Elementary at 3730 N. Oakley in Chicago.

If you missed The Handcuffs’ show at the Liar’s Club last night, you might not see them performing live for a while. According to a Facebook post from drummer Brad Elvis, the band will be concentrating up their next album. It will be their fifth, and probably every bit as impressive as their first four efforts.

Other local recording news: Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti is wrapping up a solo acoustic album titled Such Stories. His two previous solo efforts, People And Places and Life And Rhymes, were introspective and consistently engaging efforts. Christopher David, singer-guitarist for Magatha Trysty, has a new solo effort, titled Stereopsis, available on his Bandcamp page. Go Time! has just released an 18-song effort titled VI that continues the quartet’s hard-hitting brand of power pop.

Bass player Annette Zilinskas joined her former mates The Bangles on “Mary Street” from the band’s self-titled 1982 EP at The Whiskey A Go-Go earlier this week. The Pandoras, including Kim Shattuck (The Muffs, The Breeders) were the other half of this impressive double bill. Legendary disk jockey Rodney Bingenheimer was also on hand.

If you’re one of the people who looked forward to the critically acclaimed PBS series Soundbreaking but still managed to miss it, there’s hope for you (us). It’s now available on DVD, with special bonus features.

Best wishes to musician Laura Good for her continued recovery from recent brain surgery. Laura is being looked after by her twin sister and fellow Twigs member Linda, and has been responding to well wishers on Facebook.

Rob Clarke and The Wooltones have matched vintage wintry footage with wistful sentiments on the video for their new holiday song “New Year New Day.” 

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Slumgullion

The Telepaths and whitewolfsonicprincess are hosting their annual Toys For Tots benefit tonight at the Red Line Tap on Chicago’s far north side. The music starts at 7:00 p.m. and will feature KC Chronis; John Dalton; The Telepaths (with special guest Frank Carr); Steven Gilpin; The Darkroom Men; The Remember Knots; whitewolfsonicprincess (with special guest Tina Teske); Highway; Natalie Gaza; Noel (with Desiree Burcum); and 357s. Admission is an unwrapped toy (no stuffed toys or toy weapons) or $5 at the door.

H-o-l-i-d-ay. The Shadows Of Knight, led by founding membere Jimy Sohns, will be throwing a Holiday Party at Bar 145 in Mount Prospect tonight. Kevin Lee And The Kings, who have been particularly active on the club scene lately, will be opening the show. Festivities start at 9:30 p.m. The cover charge for all this merriment is only $5.

A Half Century of Monkee Business. The New Candy Store Prophets (Phil Angotti, Tim Fowler, Anthony Illarde, Cathy Norden, John San Juan, and Jason Walker) will be declaring Hey Hey, We're The Monkees when they celebrate the Prefab Four’s 50th Anniversary with a tribute show at the Township venue tonight. The cover charge is $7. Angotti was part of Great Moments In Vinyl’s performance of Exile On Main Street last night at Martyrs' on Lincoln Avenue.

Musician Steve Dawson and journalist (Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times) Mark Caro launching their Take It To The Bridge tomorrow night at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. Subtitled Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You, the collaboration is aimed at explaining the art of songwriting in an informative and entertaining fashion. Dolly Varden, the critically acclaimed alt-rock/Americana band Dawson leads with his wife Diane Christiansen, will be performing, along with Rachel Drew, Chris Corsale, Alton Smith, Christine Malcom, Ross Freedman, Melanie Budd, John Kuczaj, and Kevin Davey.

Split Single, the Chicago-based power pop outfit fronted by guitarist-singer Jason Narducy, just released its second album, Metal Frames. Long-time Chicago Tribune rock critic gave it a very positive review earlier this week.

WXRT’s ONXRT Live From The Archives Vol. 18 is now available at Chicago area Target stores. Listeners who enjoy the FM station’s frequently played roster of current alt rock artists will likely be pleased, since Vol. 18 includes live performances from Leon Bridges, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, The Arcs, Andrew Bird, Avett Brothers, X Ambassadors, and The Record Company. Silverspun Pickups. Twin Peaks and Los Lobos are also featured. Keep in mind these annual CDs from WXRT sell out quickly, so if you’re thinking of picking up some as stocking stuffers, act now. This edition of Live From The Archives is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield with proceeds benefitting Horizons for Youth—Scholarship Mentoring Community and Welcoming Center—Lutheran Social Services Of Illinois.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rob Clarke And The Wooltones – Are You Wooltoned?

Are You Wooltoned? is being promoted as an introduction to Rob Clarke And The Wooltones but they’ve have already built a loyal following via an EP and several singles. The new 13-track album, available from Kool Kat Musik, gathers those previous releases together in one mind-altering package. Chances are, it will extend the Liverpool-based trio’s popularity to psych-rock and 1960s music fans around the globe.

Singer-guitarist Clarke has a gift for creating enticing melodies, whether it’s on the beguiling tale “Ambrosine” or the silly garage rock of “Monkey Mind.” A quick scan of Wooltoned’s tracks reveals that Clarke definitely leans toward the eccentric and mysterious. “Pancake Cupcake” is reminiscent of John Lennon’s solo work; “Iron Eyes Cody” opens with a Keith Moon style drum flourish; and “Mind The Gap, Henry Beck” sports all kinds of space-age effects. There’s even a mostly instrumental track simply called “Butter.”

The layered vocals of “End Of The End” recall The Byrds and “Are You Wooltoned?” throws “Eight Miles High,” vintage Neil Young, and fuzzy guitar playing in the same blender. The echo-laden “Peas” is a fun romp while “Colours (Of The Sun)” feels like participating in a sacred ritual. The seductive “Our Business” is a treat for anyone who fondly remembers Norman Greenbaum, and The Wooltones add a dash of glam rock to it for good measure.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide – Part One

Photo montage from The Fest For Beatles Fans Facebook page.

I didn’t have time to create the annual Broken Hearted Toy Holiday Shopping Guide on Thanksgiving, but I’m still hoping to scatter some gift-giving suggestions throughout the season. As in the past, the emphasis will be on entertainment-related items.

You can purchase t-shirts, buttons, magnets, holiday songs, tour books, or other items from the websites of many recording artists. The official Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame website has assorted treasures based on artists who have been inducted, as well as exhibitions that have been held there. Sadly, the inductee t-shirt series seems to have sputtered to a stop. I was hoping to see a new batch of five or six every year.

The Fest For Beatles Fans annual holiday catalog has 32 pages of Fab Four-inspired memorabilia, that includes t-shirts, cufflinks, bottle openers, lamps, socks, pens, dice, dart boards, jigsaw puzzles, plush dolls, lunch boxes, pajamas, watches, and umbrellas. Plus CDs, wall decor, and loads of books. If you’re not on the mailing list for the catalog, you can check out the Fest For Beatles Fans official website. In a perfect world, every band and solo artist would be able to offer such a wide range of swag to its fans.

Concert tickets are always a nice surprise as a holiday gift, but don’t neglect the local clubs. Here in Chicago, we have an especially active music community that encompasses rock, jazz, blues, hip hop, house, soul, country, and classical. Just about every group has a website where you can buy its music in various formats. Support your local bands. The same goes for Chicago’s theatre scene, which ranges from Broadway-bound productions to the in-your-face work of storefront venues.

This holiday season, give thoughtfully, and give creatively.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

A Few Notes

Musician Steve Dawson and journalist (Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times) Mark Caro plan to launch their Take It To The Bridge book in a big way at The Old Town School of Folk Music this Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Subtitled Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You, this collaboration is aimed at explaining the art of songwriting in an informative and entertaining fashion. Dolly Varden, the critically acclaimed alt-rock/Americana band Dawson leads with his wife Diane Christiansen, will be performing, along with Rachel Drew, Chris Corsale, Alton Smith, Christine Malcom, Ross Freedman, Melanie Budd, John Kuczaj, and Kevin Davey. Tickets are already available.

Best wishes to Laura Good for a full recovery after her recent brain surgery. Laura and her sister Linda have performed together and as solo acts over the years, and recently reunited as The Twigs on some recording projects.

Judging from photos I’m seeing posted on Facebook, Bruce Springsteen met his share of Midwestern musicians while signing copies of his new Born To Run bio at Books A Million in downtown Chicago today. Congrats to Christopher David from Magatha Trysty, Mike Vanderbilt from The Romeros, and Terry Hackbarth from Trolley on being able to pose with The Boss.





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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Slumgullion

Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Friday Record Store Day takes place tomorrow, so be sure to hit your favorite record store early for one-of-a-kind vinyl treasures in seven, ten and twelve inch formats. Pretty much all genres will be available, including mainstream rock, punk, country, jazz, soul, classical, blues, heavy metal, rap, soundtracks, holiday, and techno. My personal wish list includes releases by The Bangles, The Ramones, The Monkees, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Cars.

CAUDOG recording artist and Chicago music scene veteran Ellis Clark will be hosting a free Black Friday Record Store Day event at Val’s Halla Records in Oak Park tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. He’ll be joined by his band The Big Parade and special guest vocalist Ary Jeebie from the The Amazing Heebie Jeebies. Other guests scheduled include Country Doctors, featuring Doug Corcoran; Phoenix; Aethereal; Big Hair Trouble!, Ary Jeebie’s tribute to 1960s and ‘70s country; Phil Angotti; Rachel Drew And The Bitter Roots; Daniel Connolly; Charlie Crane; and The Dyes. Val's Halla Records will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Dave Davies from The Kinks will be bringing his first-rate backing band to The Arcada in St. Charles on April 8. I caught a Dave Davies show at Taste Of Lincoln Avenue a few years back and it was amazing. The Greg Kihn Band will be at that same venue on March 10.

The Chicago Pop Culture Show And Sale takes place tomorrow and Saturday, November 25 and 26, at the Pheasant Run Mega Center in St. Charles. There will lots of comics, toys, games, and memorabilia for holiday gift shopping, as well as special guests and cosplay. The event will also serves as a publishers and artists convention.

Tired But Not Dead Yet! After an exhausting day of shopping, Chicago area music fans can celebrate their Black Friday bargain-hunting savvy by seeing The Bad Examples at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

Last Friday, my wife Pam and I saw the Music On Stage production of A Christmas Story - The Musical at Cutting Hall in Palatine. It’s a fun show with talented singers and dancers, including several kids. The final shows will be staged this weekend.

I can’t remember the last time The Handcuffs had club dates two weeks in a row, but they’ll be following last Saturday’s gig at Quenchers by performing with The Demerits and The Artist Formally Known As Vince this Saturday at Township. It will be a birthday celebration for Vince. As most Handcuffs fans know, drummer Brad Elvis is also a member of The Romantics. Mike Skill from that band will be a special guest at Saturday’s show.

Damn right, I got the drumstick. Sopro Music’s 34th Annual Chicago All Star Thanksgiving Blues Revue will be held this Saturday, November 26 at Sullivan’s Night Club and Fine Dining Restaurant in Midlothian. The Chicago Horns will once again be on hand, along with special guest guitarist-vocalist Chainsaw Dupont. Other acts include Joey Drada, John Falstrom, Scott Bonshire, Frank Anastos, Wolfman, Doug Lee, Marty Binder, Billy King, Ed Neese, and Deb Seitz. The music starts at 9:00 p.m.

Two impressive local bands will join forces for a good cause when Dream Version and Bloom perform at the Protect Our Winters event being sponsored by New Belgium Brewing and Ben and Jerry’s on Wednesday, November 30 at Lincoln Hall. POW, a group working to raise awareness of the dangers of global warming, will have representatives on hand to explain their mission. There is a suggested $5.00 donation.

Also coming up at Lincoln Hall, Chicago music scene veterans The Hemmingbirds will be doing a farewell show on Tuesday, December 29. They’ll be joined by Mutts, Archie Powell And The Exports, and Jesse W. Johnson.

The Telepaths and whitewolfsonicprincess are hosting their annual Toys For Tots benefit at Red Line Tap on Sunday, December 3. The music starts at 7:00 p.m. and will feature KC Chronis; John Dalton; The Telepaths (with special guest Frank Carr); Steven Gilpin; The Darkroom Men; The Remember Knots; whitewolfsonicprincess (with special guest Tina Teske); Highway; Natalie Gaza; Noel (with Desiree Burcum); and 357s.

WXRT’s ONXRT Live From The Archives Vol. 18 will be available at Chicago area Target stores and at Target online starting next Friday, December 2. Listeners who enjoy the FM station’s frequently played roster of current artists will likely be pleased, since Vol. 18 includes efforts from Leon Bridges, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, The Arcs, Avett Brothers, X Ambassadors, and The Record Company. Silverspun Pickups, Andrew Bird, Twin Peaks, and Los Lobos are also featured. It’s disappointing that all the tracks were recorded within the past two years, since I’d like to see some genuine WXRT archive stuff from much earlier concerts. This edition of Live From The Archives is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield with proceeds benefitting Horizons for Youth—Scholarship Mentoring Community and Welcoming Center—Lutheran Social Services Of Illinois.

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The Monos! - Live ’78

Live ‘’78 is a low-fi trip back to the dawn of the punk and power pop genres. Available from the Kool Kat Musik label, it features the UK band The Monos! performing at the North East London Polytechnic club a few weeks before The Pretenders made their debut there. The Monos! released a few singles but broke up before they could record an entire album. This show was captured on a cassette recorder, but it’s worth enduring the primitive sound quality to experience catchy and hard-edged songs that otherwise would have been lost to obscurity. Note: there is currently an English band called The Monos that is unrelated to the late 1970s version.

The driving beat and biting observations of “New York Girls” is reminiscent of Joe Jackson while “Pop Heart” and “Melt Away” have a classic power feel. “Ericafire,” introduced by the band as “a bit of reggae song,” is the only number that feels less than genuine. The Monos! masterfully blend social satire with great hooks on “Cathy’s Got A Girlfriend” and “Guitar Hero,” while “Shot Dead,” apparently a tale of a woman’s unsuccessful attempt to get past the Berlin Wall, has a more punk style intensity.

“Difficult World” deals with navigating the perils of everyday life, and is described by the band as, “the one NME [New Musical Express] would like if they ever came to see us.” The musicians’ between-songs banter adds to the live club ambience and makes Live ’78 even more fun. Still, it would be great if someone could unearth those early singles so we could hear how The Monos! sounded in the studio.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tomorrow Night

Just a reminder about some fun things taking place on Thanksgiving Eve.

The Safes, a band that has adroitly mixed hard-edged melodies and harmony vocals with punk exuberance on a series of releases, will hold their annual pre-Thanksgiving bash Friendsgiving 
tomorrow night at Chop Shop on North Avenue. They’ll be joined by critically acclaimed siblings White Mystery. Flesh Panthers, who switched from their usual manic punk rock to a more atmospheric approach on their new Willows Weep album, will also be on the bill. Comedian Bill Bullock opens the show. The Safes will be performing live early tomorrow on Fox Morning News.

Also tomorrow night, Phil Angotti And Friends will be performing Paul McCartney’s Ram album at Reggie’s Chicago on State Street. Angotti has done his Ram tribute before, and has gained a good deal of expertise in honoring worthy artists in shows around Chicago. Mr. Blotto is also on the bill tomorrow night.

And moving on to a post-Thanksgiving event, you can wrap up your Black Friday adventures by dropping by FitzGerald’s in Berwyn and singing along with “Not Dead Yet!” when The Bad Examples are performing that night.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Papers

Musician/artist Graham Elvis will be showcasing his latest artwork today at the Pearls, Paintings And Prosecco Open House at Bourdage Pearls on Ravenswood Avenue.

The Second Disc website recently had a post about Upon The Rocks, the fifth and final entry in Glenn Tilbrook’s series of Squeeze-related demos albums. This one concentrates on the band’s 1982 release Sweets From A Stranger, as well as the 1984 Difford And Tilbrook side project.

The Second Disc also had news this week about the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week; a super deluxe, 5-CD box set of The Who’s My Generation album; and the various formats for R.E.M.’s 25th Anniversary Edition of Out Of Time.

The Safes, a band that has adroitly mixed hard-edged melodies and harmony vocals with punk exuberance on a series of releases, will hold their annual pre-Thanksgiving bash Friendsgiving on Wednesday at Chop Shop on North Avenue. They’ll be joined by critically acclaimed siblings White Mystery. Flesh Panthers, who switched from their usual punk rock to a more atmospheric approach on their new Willows Weep album, will also be on the bill. Comedian Bill Bullock opens the show. The Safes will be performing live earlier that day on Fox Morning News.

More pre- and post-Thanksgiving treats: Phil Angotti And Friends will be performing the entire Paul McCartney album Ram on Wednesday at Reggie’s Chicago on State Street. Mr. Blotto is also on the bill that night. You can wrap up your Black Friday shopping and then drop by FitzGerald’s in Berwyn to proclaim, “Not Dead Yet!” while The Bad Examples are performing that night.

Walk Like A Humanitarian. The Bangles headlined the multi-act Music On A Mission benefit this past Thursday at the Casa Escobar venue in Malibu, CA. The event helped raise funds for Mending Kids, which brings life-saving surgical care to children around the world.

Dream Version has just created a fun, Devo-style video for “Romance,” a track from its 2015 album Beginners. The catchy melody evokes Buddy Holly and the Chicago-based band adds energetic guitar strumming and harmony vocals. Dream Version and the indie rock/power pop trio Bloom will be performing at the Protect Our Winters event being sponsored by New Belgium Brewing and Ben and Jerry’s on Wednesday, November 30 at Lincoln Hall. POW, a group working to raise awareness of the dangers of global warming, will have representatives on hand to explain their mission. There is a suggested $5.00 donation.

Also coming up at Lincoln Hall, Chicago music scene veterans The Hemmingbirds will be doing a farewell show on December 29. They’ll be joined by Mutts, Archie Powell And The Exports, and Jesse W. Johnson.

The Jigsaw Seen will be playing songs from their cold weather concept albums Winterland and Gifted at the Divebar in Las Vegas on December 9th. The band also has four California gigs coming up next month: Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles on the 10th, Continental Room in Fullerton on the 12th, Whistle Stop in San Diego on the 15th, and Hotel Utah in San Francisco on the 17th.

The Telepaths and whitewolfsonicprincess are hosting their annual Toys For Tots benefit at Red Line Tap on Sunday, December 3. The music starts at 7:00 p.m. and will feature KC Chronis; John Dalton; The Telepaths (with special guest Frank Carr); Steven Gilpin; The Darkroom Men; The Remember Knots; whitewolfsonicprincess (with special guest Tina Teske); Highway; Natalie Gaza; Noel (with Desiree Burcum); and 357s.

Tickets go on sale this Monday for Sting’s March 3 show at the Aragon Ballroom.

A boomerang dream. Australian power pop outfit The Jangle Band has just released an extended version of the Edge Of A Dream album I reviewed favorably here on May 25 of this year. This one has five earlier bonus demo mixes that feature the writer of each as lead vocalist. Some are quite different from the versions used on the album. I’m hoping to post more about this in the near future.

The Chicago Pop Culture Show And Sale takes place next Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26, at the Pheasant Run Mega Center in St. Charles. There will lots of comics, toys, games, and memorabilia for holiday gift shopping, as well as special guests and cosplay. The event will also serve as a publishers and artists convention.

Wilco will bring its Winterlude 2017 concert series to The Chicago Theatre on February 22, 23, and 25. Tickets went on sale this past Friday.

Maybe he’ll be autographing coconuts. John Cleese will on hand when The Chicago Theatre offers a special screening of Monty Python And The Holy Grail on January 22. Tickets are going quickly.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Slumgullion

Just a short edition of Slumgullion this week because my wife Pam and I went to see the Music On Stage production of A Christmas Story - The Musical at Cutting Hall in Palatine last night. It’s a fun show with talented singers and dancers, including several kids. There’s a show tonight and then A Christmas Story - The Musical will wrap up its run next weekend.

The Handcuffs, the Chicago-based band led by the wife and husband team of vocalist-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis, will be introducing brand new guitarist Jeffrey Kmieciak when they perform as part of a triple bill tonight at Quenchers. This looks like a particularly fun evening. Sadie And The Stark—a “femme-rock, fantasy band for your soul, majoring in sci fi,” and El Gato Roboto, —“Bowie meets Nico, with songs about nostalgia, space and cats”—are the other acts performing.

Lloyd Cole will be at The Old Town School Of Folk Music this Sunday night for a gig titled The Classic Lloyd Cole Songbook 1983 – 1996. Hopefully, that means he’ll be performing the exquisite  “Jennifer She Said,” as well as film noir-infused material like “Perfect Skin” and “Rattles Snakes.”

Congratulations to Dan Pavelich on the publication of his first book; a collection of strips from the first year of his Just Say Uncle comic that ran on the Universal Press Syndicate’s GoComics website. Pavelich is also a journalist and he performs with the power pop band The Bradburys. The book is available for pre-order on Pavlelich’s Indiegogo page. 

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

When Black Friday Comes

The Black Friday version of Record Store Day has yet to achieve the success of the original that comes in April each year. But Val's Halla Records in Oak Park, IL is once again going all out to commemorate day-after-Thanksgiving record hunting. CAUDOG recording artist and Chicago music scene veteran Ellis Clark will be hosting a free event at the store from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with his band The Big Parade and special guest vocalist Ary Jeebie from the The Amazing Heebie Jeebies.

In addition to his solo career, Clark has performed with Epicycle, Social Act, and The Handcuffs. Other guests scheduled for the Val’s Halla bash include Country Doctors, featuring Doug Cocoran; Phoenix; Aethereal; Big Hair Trouble!, Ary Jeebie’s tribute to 1960s and ‘70s country; Phil Angotti; Rachel Drew And The Bitter Roots; Daniel Connolly; Charlie Crane; and The Dyes. Val's Halla Records will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 26. Other stores in the Chicago area will be taking part in Black Friday Record Store Day, so you might want to check in with your favorite one to see if there's anything special going on.

As for Black Friday Record Store Day itself, there is once again an amazing variety of genres involved, including classic and mainstream rock, punk, country, jazz, soul, classical, blues, heavy metal, rap, soundtracks, holiday, and techno. Here's a look at some of the records that caught my eye.

The Bangles - Ladies And Gentlemen . . . The Bangles red vinyl edition of rarities previously released in digital and CD format; The Beach Boys - Becoming The Beach Boys 19-track LP of songs from 1961–1963 on red, blue, and yellow vinyl; The Cars -seven-inch “Just What I Needed”/“I’m In Touch With Your World” picture disc; The Kinks - Sleepwalker LP on black and white swirled vinyl and three separate seven-inch EPs; The Monkees - Good Times! Plus! ten-inch EP with four tracks that weren’t on the band’s critically acclaimed CD.

The Raconteurs - “Steady As She Goes”/Store Bought Bones” on green vinyl; The Ramones - 16-track Live At The Roxy 8/12/76 LP; Rolling Stones - “Ride ‘Em On Down” on ten-inch blue vinyl; The Turtles - mono version of Golden Hits LP on colored vinyl; The Yardbirds - vinyl edition of 2003 studio album Birdland with a bonus live version of “Dream Within A Dream.”

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ex Norwegian - Glazer Hazerr

About a year ago, Ex Norwegian released Pure Gold, a masterpiece jumble of originals and cover versions that tapped into power pop, psychedelia, and indie rock. The Miami-based band’s latest effort Glazer/Hazerr isn’t quite as brilliant as its predecessor, but does succeed using a similarly eclectic blueprint. Singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille sets his unique observations to infectious melodies, and once again crafts some of rock’s most dynamic coed vocals with singer Michelle Grand.

“Father Goose” is a silly fable about birds flying without wings, and “Ice,” another one of Houdaille and Grand’s enticing duets, is a basic but effective garage rock love song. “Life,” which offers some timely advice about overcoming obstacles and disappointments, sports a harder-edged arrangement. “Pocket Dancing” sounds like a show tune, while “Aruba Moon” has a slow, majestic feel reminiscent of 1970s classic rock.

“Modern Art Brigade” delivers social satire in a very Kinks “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” way and is backed by a fun, loping rhythm section. “Quite Contrary” follows a similar path but is more overtly psychedelic. There seems to be a definite Rubber Soul era Beatles influence on “Reverse,” a tale of unrequited love, particularly on the psychedelic guitar playing. On “Song Of Many,” Ex Norwegian creates a pure power gem, using a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, intertwined vocals, and an engaging melody.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Slumgullion

Renowned drummer Brad Elvis, who often tours as a member of The Romantics, has a gig next Saturday night at Quenchers Saloon with The Handcuffs, the Chicago-based band he leads with his wife Chloe F. Orwell. It’s a triple bill with Sadie And The Stark, billed as a “femme-rock, fantasy band for your soul, majoring in sci fi,” and El Gato Roboto, who describe themselves as “Bowie meets Nico, with songs about nostalgia, space and cats.” The Handcuffs have recorded three albums of catchy and inventive indie rock, and have had a number of their songs used on TV shows.

Beer and The Beatles. Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week (I posted a review this past Monday) continues its tour of Chicago area venues. It will be screened as part of The Vic’s Brew And View series, starting this Sunday night, and running through next Thursday.

Tickets went on sale today for Peter Asher’s January 15 concert at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. In addition to being half of the British Invasion duo Peter And Gordon, Asher is a sought-after producer who has worked with artists like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. I’ve seen him perform a few times in recent years, and he spins fascinating anecdotes in between performing songs with a first-rate backing band.

The Hollies are giving fans a chance to purchase a Fender Aerodyne that has been used by current member Steve Lauri on tour. Anyone interested can contact the band via its Official Facebook page.

Lloyd Cole is also coming to The Old Town School Of Folk Music, for a gig titled The Classic Lloyd Cole Songbook 1983 – 1996 on Sunday, November 20. Hopefully, that means he’ll be performing the exquisite pop tune “Jennifer She Said” and the film noir-infused “Perfect Skin,” and “Rattlesnakes.”

Tickets also went on sale today for a Houndmouth show at Thalia Hall on December 30.

Music On Stage is presenting its production of A Christmas Story The Musical at Cutting Hall in Palatine, starting this weekend. Patrons will be able to watch those dancing lamp legs through November 27.

The Fifth Annual Chicago Book Expo takes place this Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Columbia College in the south end of downtown Chicago. Expo events include a tribute to the late Roger Ebert, and a panel on Chicago music and books moderated by rock critic/radio show host Jim DeRogatis and featuring musician/comic artist Steve Krakow, Sally Timms of The Mekons.

Congratulations to Mary-Arrchie Theatre on its production of American Buffalo being nominated in four categories for the 2016 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards. All three performers—Richard Cotovsky, Rudy Galvan, and Stephen Walker—are up for Best Actor in a Play (Resident NonEquity); and Carlo Lorenzo Garcia is in the running for Best Direction of a Play (Resident NonEquity). Mary-Arrchie was also nominated for Best Ensemble (Resident) and Best Revival of a Play (Resident NonEquity). Cotovsky is currently performing in Raven Theatre’s staging of Betrayal; and Rudy Galvan is in the Gift Threatre Company’s production of A Life Extra Ordinary.

Here he comes. Barry Sutton, who performed with the short-lived but never forgotten U.K. band The La’s, will be at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue this coming Monday night. Chicago’s own mischievous Penthouse Sweets, veterans of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago, along with some friends will also be on the bill.

Later in the week at Martyrs’, there’s a triple bill of Nice Motor—who have a pair of two cool new tracks in “Devils Handcuffs” and “Duck And Cover”— along with Even Thieves, and Blood People.

I already ran this last week, but I’m including it again because it seems like a good time to promote solidarity between men and women. Bono of U2 has been chosen as one of Glamour magazine’s Women Of The Year. An Associated Press piece quotes the publication’s editor Cindi Leive’s reasoning as, “There are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days. Some men get it, and Bono is one of those guys.”

The eclectic and entertaining Robyn Hitchcock will be at City Winery Chicago next Thursday night, with Emma Swift as his opening act.

I was sad to hear the news that Robert Vaughn has passed away. I vividly remember a time when he and David McCallum, as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin respectively, seemed like the coolest guys in the world to me because of their lead roles on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Vulgar Boatmen - You And Your Sister - 25th Anniversary Edition



The remastered 25th Anniversary Edition of You And Your Sister celebrates an album that never found mainstream success but is highly regarded by indie rock critics and fans. Originally released by The Vulgar Boatmen in 1989, it’s a showcase for Robert Ray and Dale Lawrence, a songwriting duo that lived miles apart and collaborated by mailing cassettes to each other. On this impressive debut, the Indiana and Florida-based band switches back and forth between ballads and rock songs, while spinning one gorgeous melody after another.

Ray and Lawrence’s descriptive lyrics set tales of romantic entanglements in picturesque backgrounds. The hard-edged “Change The World All Around” begins with the line, “Last night, I was standing in the driveway calling your name,” and the heartfelt “Decision By The Airport” has a spare but effective acoustic arrangement. The classic road song “Drive Somewhere,” which gave The Vulgar Boatmen a loyal following via extensive airplay on Chicago FM station WXRT, offers over five minutes of irresistible roots rock.

The guitar-driven “Drink More Coffee,” which was written by founding member Walter Salas Humara and vocalist Carey Crane, concerns a guy dying to meet a woman he sees while waiting in a bus station. “Margaret Says” is another interesting tale set to a catchy rock arrangement, while the ballad “Katie” features impressive harmonies. The three bonus tracks include a cover of The Monkees song “The Kind Of Girl I Could Love.”

The Vulgar Boatmen have a show coming up at Schubas in Chicago on January 7.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

I’ve Got A Feeling

Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles - Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years is being screened each night at The Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago through Thursday, November 10, and it’s also being shown at The Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove. Packed with rare, vintage footage, it follows John, Paul, George, and Ringo through their early days of performing. The concerts, recording sessions, press conferences, backstage maneuvering, and hotel room banter vividly recapture what it must have felt like to be on one of the greatest thrill rides in recent history.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr offer touching and informative commentary in recently filmed bits, while older clips of John Lennon and George Harrison provide their reflections on Beatlemania. Reporter Larry Kane, who reported on The Beatles while traveling on tour with them, adds a unique perspective, and Howard also taps Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, and others to share their memories. Eight Days A Week touches on the John F. Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War, while showing how The Beatles were affected by society, as well as how they changed it.

Gradually, The Beatles grew less astonished by their worldwide popularity, and felt more imprisoned within it. By they time they performed at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966, all four of them wanted to skip the screaming audiences and concentrate on exploring new musical territory in the studio. At the Gene Siskel Film Center, Eight Days A Week is also being shown with the 30-minute documentary The Beatles Live At Shea Stadium. Seeing Howard’s documentary helps bring a deeper understanding of The Beatles’s 1965 show in New York. While their songs burst with guitar-driven energy and harmony vocals on this vividly restored footage, it’s now easier to connect to the very human emotions behind the superstars personas.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Slumgullion

The Red Plastic Buddha will rock Red Line Tap tomorrow night.

One of Chicago’s best psychedelic bands, The Red Plastic Buddha, will be bending minds at The Red Line Tap tomorrow. Dark Fog and Led Pig are also on the bill; the music starts at 9:00 p.m.

The scariest thing going on around Chicago last Halloween weekend was the Cubs losing games three and four to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Meanwhile, entertainment venues probably had far less business than usual for the holiday, and a pall fell across the parties being held in people’s homes. All is forgiven now, as the Cubs went on to win the next three games and earn their first championship since 1608. Okay, 1908. To understand why this is so momentous, consider how many Cubs fans had not only gone their entire lives without seeing their team in a World Series, but had also watched what seemed like cruel twists of fate destroy Cubs teams during playoff games in previous years. Congratulations, Chicago Cubs. We can’t thank you enough.

Foundation Of Music’s 28th Annual Rock For Kids Auction takes place tonight at Park West in Chicago. WXRT morning drive air personality Lin Brehmer will once again serve as emcee, and former XRT Program Director Norm Winer will receive the Foundation Of Music’s Crystal Brick In The Wall award from MTV VJ Alan Hunter. Attendees will also have an opportunity to bid on rare items donated by musicians, sports figures, and other celebrities.

As noted by Adam Lukach in his Chicago Tribune column DO IT NOW, Pet Shop Boys will be performing at the Civic Opera House tomorrow night. Lukach also noted that Pet Shop Boys dropped a new album earlier this year.

HoZac10, a celebration of the Chicago-based HoZac Record label’s ten years of offering cutting-edge indie rock, takes place tomorrow night at The Double Door on Milwaukee Avenue. Ten bands, along with a pair of DJs, will be performing on two stages, starting at 8:00 p.m. WXRT air personality Richard Milne offered a fascinating preview of this event on his Local Anesthetic radio program. In addition to The Gories, Heavy Times, Mike’s Rep, The Sueves, The Yolks, DJs Erin and Jessie, Julian Leal Band, COZY, The Jeanies, 1-800-Band, and beastii, there may be special guests.

Congratulations to Bono of U2 on being chosen as one of Glamour magazine’s Women Of The Year. An Associated Press piece quotes the publication’s editor Cindi Leive’s reasoning as, “There are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days. Some men get it, and Bono is one of those guys.” No joke here. I just thinks that’s really cool.

Van Go and Red Wigglers will be sharing the bill tomorrow night at Gallery Cabaret on Oakley Avenue in Chicago.

Tom Lounges Entertainment, LLC is presenting Rockin’ For Critters, an evening of 1950s and '60s music tomorrow night at the Memorial Opera House to help homeless animals in northwest Indiana. Lounges, a longtime Chicago area journalist, publisher, and radio personality, with co-host the event with 1960s TV and film actress Charlie Smith. The Meet The Beetles tribute band and 1950s singing group The Spaniels Forever will perform, and there will be a silent auction. Tickets are $15 and $18, with a $2 service fee for each ticket. The Memorial Opera House is located at 104 E. Indiana Avenue in Valparaiso, IN. The doors open at 5:00 p.m.

Former R.E.M. bassist-vocalist Mike Mills will be performing his own “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra” with violinist Robert McDuffie at the Harris Theatre in Millennium Park this Monday night.

Tickets went on sale today for the 93XRT Goose Island Big Holiday Concert with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats at Chicago Theatre on December 7.

Also on sale today: Del Fuegos member Dan Zanes at City Winery on December 11; Regina Spektor at Chicago Theatre on March 24; and The Zombies at Thalia Hall on April 13.

Vulgar Boatmen will be at Schubas on January 7. I’m way behind in covering albums, but I will be posting a review of the Vulgar Boatmen’s Remastered 25th Anniversary of their You And Your Sister album in the near future. The release includes three bonus tracks.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival will be holding a fundraiser  at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night at Smith Street Station (next to Durty Nellie’s) in Palatine. Blue Whiskey, which holds an ambitious international film festival each July in the northwest suburbs, promises the fundraiser will have drinks, appetizers, raffles, a photo booth, candy bar, and a photo booth. Admission is $20.

The Beatles - Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary opened a week-long run at the Gene Siskel Film Center today with a pair of screenings. It will be at the Gene Siskel Center through Thursday, November 10. The film will be paired with 30-minute documentary The Beatles Live At Shea Stadium.

The Jigsaw Seen is enticing its most loyal fans with new compilation CD titled The Jigsaw Seen For The Discriminating Completist (Rarities And Singles 1989 – 2015). In addition to 12 tracks that have never been offered on one of the band’s albums before, the packaging includes a wallet-size photo in a resealable sleeve and a “Back To monocle” button.

The Smithereens will be performing a benefit for the Path Crisis Center at The Castle Theatre in Bloomington, IL on December 3, along with the band 7 West and comedian Marc Price. Price played Skippy on the Family Ties sitcom. You have to like the tagline for this event: They came from Jersey . . . And Now They’re Near Normal! (Illinois)

Finally, if you have Chicago friends on Facebook, check to see if they’re sharing any highlights from the World Series finale or the celebratory parade that was held downtown today. There are some amazing videos going around.

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