Friday, January 29, 2016

Slumgullion

The Zombies are coming to The Arcada in St. Charles.

"The grass has grown much taller now, overrunning everything. Oh, what have I done?"

- "Crusader" by The Hollies.

So another week has gone by with hardly a post here on Broken Hearted Toy, due to my having double-duty proofreading assignments. As I've mentioned before, I'm not complaining (especially after some of the slow periods I've hit in recent years) but it does leave me feeling guilty about not meeting the self-imposed deadlines for this blog. And I sincerely apologize to those who've sent me emails regarding their new albums. I could never keep up with all of those releases and some, despite their merit, just don't fit the BHT format. But I'm hoping to at least start downloading a few for reviews in the near future.

The man who wrote the lyric quoted above (and the exquisite melody that went with it) is coming to Chicago for two days in May. An Evening With Graham Nash, the singer-songwriter's upcoming tour in support of his new This Path Tonight album, will stop in Chicago on May 11 and 12 at City Winery. Tickets go on sale next Wednesday, although fans who've signed up to get Nash's emails can order them on Monday. If you become a City Winery Vinofile, you can purchase Nash tickets on Tuesday. Needless to say, I'll be writing more about these shows in the coming months.

Tickets went on sale yesterday for The Zombies show on May 29 at The Arcada in St. Charles. Founding members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, along with returning members Hugh Grundy and Chris White, will perform classic hits like "Tell Her No," "She's Not There," and "Time Of The Season," along with tracks from the recently released Still Got That Hunger album.

Cheap Trick fans can already start counting their 2016 blessings now that the band has released a digital copy of the song "No Direction Home" as a preview of its upcoming new album. Bang Zoom Crazy...Hello is being released on April 1, just seven days before Cheap Trick receives a long overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The guitar-driven and defiant "No Direction Home," with its catchy arrangement and Robin Zander's distinctive vocals, can be downloaded for free when you follow the link from the Chicagoist website. A big thank you to Chicago power pop musician and Cheap Trick fan Brent Seatter for posting about this on his Facebook page.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre's final production, a staging of David Mamet's American Buffalo, opened yesterday and will run through March 6. Congratulations to Mary-Arrchie's Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky on having the block outside the theatre officially named for him by the city of Chicago. As noted by the Time Out Chicago website, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman was instrumental in securing the honor.

The Sons Of The Silent Age will perform David Bowie's Station To Station album and several of his hits during a special tribute show on March 4 at Metro. The band, which is fronted by Chris Connelly from the Revolting Cocks and Ministry, performed at the Daley Center on the opening day of the David Bowie Is exhibition that ran at The Museum Of Contemporary Art in 2014. Other members include Matt Walker from Smashing Pumpkins and Steve Gerlach from The Bad Examples and Tomorrow The Moon. Longtime Bowie collaborator Ava Cherry will be a special guest at the Metro performance, and part of the proceeds will be donated to the University Of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Care Center.

The Jefferson Starship concert at The Arcada in St. Charles will take place as scheduled tomorrow night, and will include a tribute to Paul Kantner, who recently passed away due to multiple organ failure. Kantner was a founding member of Jefferson Starship and its predecessor, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inducted Jefferson Airplane.

Other upcoming shows at Arcada include The Bodeans on February 12, Creedence Clearwater Revisited on Febrauary 20, and comedian Steven Wright on April 9.

Peter Case, a founding member of the essential bands The Plimsouls and The Nerves, will be performing on February 13 at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Congratulations to Arlington Heights author Kym Brunner on the upcoming publication of her comic YA novel Flip The Bird. It will be her third book. Brunner is the co-leader (with published author Cherie Colyer) of the bi-monthly writers group that I 've been going to for years.

Metric has a gig on February 12 at The House Of Blues. The band is touring in support of its latest release, Pagans In Vegas.

Scraps Vol. 2, the follow-up to Scraps' recent digital collection of songs originally recorded by Chicago band back the late 1970s and early 1980s, is now available on iTunes, Apple Music, and other streaming services. I posted a review of Scraps Vol. 1 on January 13.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Slow Buildings - Weapons Against Me

On its latest release Weapons Against Me, New Jersey-based quartet Slow Buildings continues to explore the darker sentiments that ran through its impressive 2014 EP Poison Condition. Singer-guitarist Jason Legacy once again sets biting lyrics to catchy melodies, and combines with guitarist-vocalist Chris Fuchs on inventive internal harmonies. Initially, the band's approach seems pretty basic, but there are a number of twists and turns within the arrangements.

"I'm a million miles from a victory," Legacy sings on "Invisible Kid," a song about feeling alienated in your own town, and on "Dirt On A Dog," there's a bratty element to his vocal delivery. The acoustic-based "I Just Can't Trust You" captures the heartache of ending a relationship due to a manipulative partner, while the energetic "Weapons Against Me (Remix)" concerns a guy who yearns for a woman who's already taken. "Teasing Rae," a melodic tale of a femme fatale, finds Slow Buildings adding new wave style keyboards to the garage rock mix. Like the other tracks on Weapons Against Me, it turns feelings of betrayal into engaging music.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Slumgullion

They said Ciao! but they're back now. It's been 20 years since Lush released an album, but original members Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, and Philip King have reunited for a series of concert dates in America, England, and Europe. Tickets went on sale today for their September 18 show at The Vic in Chicago; other gigs are scheduled for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and London. Lush released a five-disc box set in December featuring all their album tracks, along with B-sides, radio sessions, and previously unreleased material.

The McCartney Years, a three-hour, 40-song Paul McCartney tribute involving several musicians and vocalists, comes to the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights tomorrow night. The concept is to faithfully create a live performance exactly the way Sir Paul would have done it in the mid-1970s. Tickets are $35, $40 for stage tables. The show starts at 7:00 PM.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise And Fall Of Tower Records will be shown this Sunday, January 24 at 3:00 PM and Tuesday, January 26 at 6:00 PM at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago. It's director Colin Hanks' documentary on the once successful record store chain, as well as the music industry in general.

There's a double bill of Go Time! with Paul Coady and The Edsel Brothers tomorrow night at the Uptown Lounge.

There will be a special tribute to Gary Loizzo and The American Breed when local PBS station WTTW presents the Cornerstones Of Rock: American Garage on May 17 at the North Shore Center in Skokie. Loizzo, who sang lead on "Bend Me, Shape Me" before moving on to a successful career as a producer, passed away earlier this week. Performers at Cornerstones include The Ides Of March featuring Jim Peterik; The Buckinghams featuring Carl Giammerese and Nick Foruna with special guest Dennis Tufano; The Cryan Shames; The New Colony Six featuring Ray Graffia, Jr. and Bruce Mattey with special guest Ronnie Rice; and The Shadows Of Knight featuring Jimy Sohns.Tickets are still available through Onesti Entertainment Arcada.

American Buffalo, Mary-Arrchie's final production, opens next Thursday, January 28 at the its Angel Island home base on Sheridan Road. This is a prime opportunity to experience the critically acclaimed storefront theatre in all its in-your-face glory, with founding member/Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky in a major role. Mary-Arrchie is honoring Cotovsky by offering a limited edition Rich Cotovsky Died For Our Sins t-shirt (it's based on the company's annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival) with all proceeds going to the final season budget.

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra with special guest Jay O'Rourke will be performing next Friday, January 29 at SPACE in Evanston.

Los Lobos may not have been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but they've created an impressive body of songs like, "Will The Wolf Survive," "Shakin', Shakin', Shakes," and "Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)." They'll be performing with special guests Ballet Folklorico Mexicano on Sunday, February 21 at the McAnnich Arts Center at College of DuPage.

Tony Award nominee Mary Bridget Davies will be in the lead role when A Night With Janis Joplin comes to The Chicago Theatre on March 6. The show is being described as "a musical journey celebrating Janis Joplin and her biggest musical influences."

Tickets go on sale this coming Tuesday for the July 19 Rock And Roll Three For All concert featuring Heart, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick at First Merit Bank Pavilion on Chicago's lakefront. As the name suggests, all three acts are Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees.

The Hits just keep on coming. I received a message from Pat Deane, the lead vocalist for the late 1970s/early 1980s Chicago band Scraps regarding my review of the Scraps Vol. 1 digital album that's now available on iTunes. The song the band contributed to Loop compilation album was "New Robots," and yes, there will a Vol. 2 will become available in the near future.

A rock music-infused version of Twelfth Night, created in the UK by Filter Theatre in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, will be at the Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier theater from March 1 through March 13.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Music News

Photo from Kevin Junior's Facebook page.

On a day when rock and roll has lost two more of its esteemed members in Glenn Frey of The Eagles and drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin of Mott The Hoople, the Chicago music scene has also been hit hard. Kevin Junior, who fronted the lush pop group Chamber Strings, and Gary Loizzo, who started as a member of The American Breed before moving on to a career of producing albums for bands like The Kind and Styx, have passed away. I saw Kevin Junior perform at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago one year, on a night when musicians were sitting in on each other's sets. Junior, who had the look and charisma of a classic rock star, performed with at least two different lineups. A few years ago he was faced with a number of medical bills, and as often happen in these circumstances, Chicago area musicians organized a benefit to help cover the costs. There are numerous posts mourning the loss of Junior and Loizzo on Facebook today, but at least we can take comfort in knowing that through good and bad, there is a great deal of strength and compassion in our music community.

The Posies plan to release their next album Solid States this spring in partnership with the soon to be launched MyMusicEmpire. The company hopes to help musicians form a more long-lasting and interactive bond with fans in the process of creating and promoting music. Posies founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow offer a description of the company's goals on the MyMusicEmpire site.

The McCartney Years, a three-hour, 40-song Paul McCartney tribute involving several musicians and vocalists, comes to the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights this Saturday, January 23. The concept is to faithfully create a live performance exactly the way Sir Paul would have done it in the mid-1970s. Tickets are $35, $40 for stage tables. The show starts at 7:00 PM.

Graham Parker and Brinsley Schwarz, two of England's most influential musicians, will be sharing the stage together on April 22 at SPACE in Evanston. Tickets went on sale this past Saturday. Also at SPACE, the veteran Chicago area tribute band Androgynous Mustache will present A Night of Warren Zevon Songs this coming Thursday, January 21st.

It was nice to see a post from WXRT mid-morning air personality Terri Hemmert on her Facebook page this past Saturday saying her recent cancer surgery went well. She noted that she's waiting to hear if she needs further treatment but is keeping a positive attitude. Best wishes to Terri for a full recovery. In the meantime, fans can hear one-hour versions of her weekly Breakfast With The Beatles show that she recorded before her operation. They'll be running over the next few weeks until she feels well enough to go back to the full, two-hour show.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Slumgullion

The Rock And Roll Hall Three For All tour featuring Heart, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick comes to Chicago this summer with and outdoor gig on July 19 at First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. That's six days before my birthday, but a good reason to start celebrating early. Other cities on the tour include Cincinnati. Kansas City,  Phoenix, and Dallas.

There's a double bill of Go Time! with Paul Coady and The Edsel Brothers coming up on January 23 at the Uptown Lounge.

The Handcuffs will perform their first gig of the year on February 5 when they share a triple bill with Razorhouse and the self-described power trombone trio Les Vikq at the Township bar on Chicago's north side.

The latest cold snap in Chicago won't keep Cubs fans from celebrating with their team this weekend. Particularly since the annual Cubs Convention is being held indoors at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. The event is sold out, but you can still get a taste of the festivities when WXRT air personalities Lin Brehmer and Marty Lennartz join Chicago Cubs announcer Len Kasper for a live broadcast that will air on the station tomorrow from noon to 3:00 PM. Special guests will include Ryne Sandburg and Kris Bryant.

Also at XRT, this week's Sunday night concert will be a 1990 David Bowie performance recorded in Tokyo. If you don't live in Chicago, you can stream it on the station's website, starting at 8:00 PM.

Congratulations to Mary-Arrchie Theatre Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky on coming in at number 11 on New City's 50 People Who Really Perform For Chicago list. The issue also honors playwright Tracy Letts, Black Ensemble Theatre founder Jackie Taylor, and stage/film actor Mike Shannon.

There's also an interview with Cotovsky conducted by writer David Witter in this week's issue. Cotovsky will be performing in Mary-Arrchie's very last offering; a production of David Mamet's American Buffalo directed by long-time Mary-Arrchie member Carlo Lorenzo Garcia.

The Signal Ensemble Theatre has also decided to close down. Its last production, Heidi Schrek's The Consultant is directed by the company's driving force Ronan Marra, and runs from January 22 through February 20. 

All Things Must Pass: The Rise And Fall Of Tower Records will be shown on Sunday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 26 at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago. It's director Colin Hanks' documentary on the once successful record store chain, as well as the music industry in general.

Singer-guitarist Christopher David from the Magatha Trysty band will be showcasing songs from his solo debut The Houdini Tapes at a February 27 show at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Scraps - Vol. 1

You'd have a hard time finding vinyl recordings by Scraps, a band that thrived on Chicago's club scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The only records I know of (and still own) are the "Strike 3"/"Gossip Gossip" seven-inch single and the "Hits!!!"/"Temporary Love" 12-inch single. Scraps also had a track on a various artists compilation put out by The Loop radio station. At least now there's Scraps Vol. 1, a digital only, 19-track album with previously unreleased studio songs and live performances. It became available late last year and grabbed a spot on my 2015 Favorite Releases list.

After all these years, I can't honestly say I remember everything on Vol. 1, although it's great to finally have a copy of "Twilight Zone," one of my favorites from back in the day. "Strike 3" and "Gossip Gossip" showcased Scraps at their best, as the quintet's energetic playing fell somewhere between punk and power pop. The fact that the harder-edged but melodic "Hits!!!" and "Temporary Love" aren't included hopefully means Scraps intend to release a Vol. 2.

A few of these songs use pretty much the same arrangement, but hearing lead singer Patrick Deane's powerful vocals and the irresistible melodies on gems like "Modern Girl," "A Boys," and "Halfway There" is like discovering a new band. "Mrs. Deane," possibly a reflection on the lead singer's own childhood, and the snide "Football Star" also show Scraps had a sense of humor. Vol. 1 is sure to bring back fond memories for those us who were always eager to catch a Scraps gig at our local clubs.

P.S. If you search for this on iTunes, be sure to use Scraps Vol. 1.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Javier Escovedo - Kicked Out Of Eden

Kicked Out Of Eden is singer-guitarist Javier Escovedo's second solo effort but his musical history goes back long before his solo debut City Lights came out in 2012. He fronted the The Zeros, one of the most influential bands from California's late 1970s punk scene, and later joined his brother Alejandro (of Rank and File fame) in the critically acclaimed Austin, TX-based True Believers. Escovedo brings loads of energy to this latest effort, and he's backed by a first-rate band.

Brad Rice serves as Escovedo's guitar-slinging partner in crime, particularly on the sexy tracks "Beaujolais"and "Good And Bad," while Matt Hubbard's honky-tonk piano playing adds to the party atmosphere of "Downtown." Kicked Out Of Eden also has its quieter moments, like when vocalist Chrissy Flatt joins Escovedo on "Driving Around," an appealing song reminiscent of some of Feist's guest shots with Wilco. The catchy "This Side Of Nowhere," with Flatt once again helping out on vocals, is a compelling look at a crumbled relationship. The hard-rocking and imaginative "Gypsy Son"could easily serve as Escovedo's theme song.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Hey, Man! Thanks For All The Great Music!

My first experiences on the Chicago rock club scene took place in the mid-1970s. Most of the cutting-edge bands included a few David Bowie tunes in their sets when they played places like Mother's or Rush-Up in the Rush Street area, or Harlow’s on the city’s southwest side. Bowie’s presence could be felt everywhere as an exciting new movement rattled the world of local entertainment. Bowie himself would continue to set trends a few years later when punk and new wave became popular, and he remained an innovator throughout the rest of his career.

On the day the world learned that Bowie had left us, a review of his latest album ran in the Chicago Tribune. Critic Greg Kot, who couldn’t have foreseen the irony of this situation, praised Blackstar as “one of Bowie's best post-1980 albums” and concluded, “at age 69, Bowie remains focused on the future and all its uncertainty.” On WXRT this morning, Lin Brehmer and Mary Dixon noted that only in retrospect, are people discovering a certain theme running through Blackstar. As George Harrison had done, Bowie’s last recording was a reflection on his own death.

I never had the opportunity to see Bowie in concert, so my strongest memory of him is the David Bowie Is exhibition that ran at Chicago’s Museum Of Contemporary Art in 2014. The following is a reprint of a review I posted on September 29, 2014.


As of tomorrow, the David Bowie Is exhibition will have been at the Museum Of Contemporary Art - Chicago, its only stop in the United States, for a week. Hundreds of people—a fair amount from around the country—have already checked out this multimedia celebration of one of rock’s most distinctive stars. Having gone on this past Saturday, I can join the chorus of those singing the praises of David Bowie Is.

It’s easy to come away from this show feeling that Bowie made good on his goal of being, “an instigator of new ideas.” (I wanted to make more of that particular quote, but a Google search revealed that other writers, including the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson, had already beat me to it. David Bowie Is seems likely to have two other effects on those who experience it. One: A hunger to delve into Bowie’s music and films. Local radio station WXRT tapped into that desire by airing a vintage Bowie concert this past Sunday night. Two: An appreciation of one’s own artistic endeavors and a renewed urgency to explore them further. It would probably help to already be creatively inclined to have that second reaction, but who knows? Maybe some absolute beginners will spring from having visited this exhibition.

An introductory message on the audio portion of David Bowie Is, delivered via GPS-equipped headphones, suggests it will take about 90 minutes to complete the show. It could easily take longer for those intent on savoring every item, depending how much of a crowd is present at the time. The collection includes samples of Bowie’s early art work; toys he played with when he was a boy; stage bills from local theatre productions he performed in; and handwritten lyrics (at least one with a stick figure doodle) from the songs he recorded. There was also a promotional poster showing Bowie as a second-tier act for a concert featuring T. Rex and Roy Harper.

All of this is attractively staged and augmented with colorful and imaginative special effects; such as a large neon sign stating, “David Bowie Is Crossing The Border.” The most striking aspect of the exhibition is the pairing of groundbreaking rock videos like “Blue Jean,” “Ashes To Ashes,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Life On Mars” with the actual outfits Bowie wore for the them. Elsewhere, a separate room served as an intimate movie theatre showing clips from the films Absolute Beginners; The Man Who Fell To Earth; Labyrinth; Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; and Prestige; as well as from the stage production of The Elephant Man.

The rock videos and film/theatre clips offer the most compelling evidence of Bowie’s versatility and charisma as a performer. Every facial expression, vocal inflection, pause, and mannerism seems devoted to embodying the role he has taken on. At this point, there’s no indication Bowie will come to Chicago to visit this exhibition. Reportedly, he’s busy working on songs for another new album. Further proof that Bowie is always creating.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Papers

A Beatles photo to cheer up Terri Hemmert.

I wish I could say the complete absence of posts here on Broken Hearted Toy during the past week was due to my vacationing in Hawaii or taking meetings with literary agents in New York. But the truth is I was working day and night on two separate freelance proofreading assignments. Which isn't a bad thing since it helps pay the bills.

With a little help from her friends. Best wishes for a full recovery to Terri Hemmert. The longtime WXRT radio personality informed her listeners this week that she'll be undergoing cancer surgery on Monday, and will need at least a month off to recover. Although Hemmert will be taking a break from her daily shift, she has already recorded some one-hour versions of her Sunday morning Breakfast With The Beatles program (which is normally two hours long) to air over the next few weeks.

The first of those shows ran this morning, with Hemmert exuding the same upbeat attitude she expressed in her posts on the WXRT website and her Facebook page. She proclaimed that she was lucky to be in the care of expert medical people asked listeners to send out good thoughts and keep her in their prayers. A number of local musicians, including Phil Angotti and Pamela Richardson, have expressed their support for Hemmert on recent Facebook posts.

One of the reasons for Hemmert's popularity, and also a factor in her induction into the National Radio Hall Of Fame, is how deeply she connects with the community. On today's Breakfast show, Hemmert plugged the upcoming Rockin' For The Homeless fundraiser being presented by Daybreak Mission next Saturday night at the St. Scholastica Church in Woodbridge, IL. The popular 1950s/'60s cover band The Neverly Brothers will be performing. Tickets are $25 and include snacks and a cash bar. Showtime is 7:30 PM. The Neverly Brothers will likely have copies of their new double CD on sale at this event.

David Bowie released Blackstar, an experimental new album comprising long-form songs like "Lazurus" and the nearly ten-minute title track, on this past Friday.

Vinyl, a new Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger produced drama, kicks off at 9:00 PM, February 14 on HBO. The show is set in the 1970s, and concerns a new band trying to make it big with the help of a down-on-his-luck record company executive. The trailers on the official website look promising.

I can't wait to see the imaginary golf club. A number of props, costumes, and assorted other items used by Johnny Carson during his 30-year run on The Tonight Show will be on display when Here's Johnny: The Making Of The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson opens January 12 at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago. The exhibit runs through October 15th. In related news, episodes of the original Tonight Show with Carson are now being shown on the Antenna channel in Chicago each evening at 9:00 PM.

The Romantics have a June 4 gig at the MotorCity Casino Hotel as part of the annual Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Other headliners for the event will be announced in the near future.

We gotta get into this place. Eric Burdon and The Animals have shows coming on February 15 and 16 at City Winery Chicago.

Chicago area fans of the TV show Arrow should mark March 12 and 13 on their calendars since that's when The Heroes And Villains Fan Fest takes place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. At least eight cast members will be on hand, including Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, and Katrina Law. Other fantasy-related shows, like The Flash, Gotham, and Once Upon A Time, will also be represented. The official website says other guests will be announced soon, and I'm hoping that Karen Gillan and John Barrowman from Doctor Who will be among them. Gillan and Barrowman will be at the New York Heroes And Villains Fan Fest, which takes place January 23 and 24 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey.

David Drazin, the talented musician who was a founding member of the Famous In The Future comedy group, will be playing piano while people march with their dogs on Tuesday, March 1 at the Barking Lot dog care center in Deerfield, IL. He'll providing accompaniment for silent films on March 4 at the North Carolina Museum Of Art and on February 20 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum Of Art in Evanston.

Best wishes to Boston-based singer-songwriter Corin Ashley, who suffered a stroke last Tuesday night. In a piece written by Michael Marotta for the Vanyaland website, Ashley offers his own account of the incident and says he's been told by his doctors that he should be back to himself after about four to six weeks of physical therapy.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Big Ideas 2016

When The Elvis Brothers sang, “I got big ideas on my mind” they could have been talking the start of a new year, when many people vow to put dreams or plans in action. The annual Broken Hearted Toy Big Ideas column offers a mix of upcoming events regarding entertainers, and in some cases, a suggestion for them. Once again, a few enterprising people responded to my request for submissions by sending me their own ideas. Their entries are in blue copy.

Graham Nash: The singer-songwriter will release This Path Tonight, his first solo effort in 14 years, in mid-April. It's already available for pre-order on Amazon in CD, CD/DVD, vinyl, and digital formats. Nash will embark on a U.S. tour that starts on January 27 in Ponte Vedra, FL, with additional stops in Atlanta, Nashville, Philadelphia, New York, Vienna, VA, and Austin. Chicago isn't on the list yet, but there might be additional dates. Suggestion: In noted rock critic Ken Sharp's Play On! Power Pop Heroes Vol. 1 book, Nash is quoted as saying, "About three years ago someone sent me a CD with 60 tracks of The Hollies recorded at the BBC. - - - I'm gonna work on an old Hollies album with [Hollies vocalist] Allan Clarke and I want to do a greatest hits of The Hollies from mine and Allan's point of view." It would be great to see that idea come to fruition in a boxed set.

The Hollies: The British Invasion band has carried on long after the departure of Nash and Clarke. The current lineup, led by original members guitarist-vocalist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott, continues to tour and has 2016 dates throughout Europe. Suggestion: Add the United States to this tour, and Chicago in particular. Also, everyone involved with the band over the decades, including Terry Sylvester, Bernie Calvert, and Eric Haydock, should set aside their differences and do at least one all-encompassing reunion show.

Submitted by Dan Pavelich: The Bradburys have signed a deal for a vinyl single with Frodis Records, out of Houston, TX. They are a new reissue/archival label, and will be putting out two of our vintage tracks, "Marilyn" b/w "Hello Hello." I'd also like to reissue a couple of Lucille Ball Christmas radio shows, from her "My Favorite Husband" show on my own label, Vandalay Records.

Saturday Morning Flashback on WXRT: Each week, host Wendy Rice (or occasionally Johnny Mars or Marty Lennartz) focuses on a different year with a selection of songs, observations, and special reports from other XRT staff members. Suggestion: Extend the amount of years that Flashback covers forward to at least to 2005, and backward to 1966. As noted by author John Savage in his book 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded, this was one of the most important years in rock and roll history. The January issue of the UK rock mag Shindig is devoted to 1966, and the year is also featured in the The History Of Rock magazine series published by the people at NME and Melody Maker.

Submitted by Greg Curvey: The Luck of Eden Hall's 2016 agenda so far... The Acceleration of Time double LP and limited edition pop-up CD, 7" single with original cover art by Neil Gaiman on Headspin Records. TLoEH Live in Cromlech (Wales) LP, [and] 7" single with members of Sendelica on Fruits de Mer Records. Curvey's composing the soundtrack for a film titled Traveling Without Moving starring Steve Guttenberg.

The Smithereens: Later this month, the veteran New Jersey band will release of ESP3CIALLY F0R You, a 30th Anniversary celebration of the album that gave the world classic power pop songs like “Blood And Roses,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” and “Strangers When We Meet.” The 47 tracks will be available as a two-CD set or as a download, and will include demos, acoustic versions, and live performances. This precedes a 2016 tour in which The Smithereens will perform the original Especially For You in its entirety, and the release of a brand new album of original tunes that’s coming out next Halloween.

Submitted by Dana Jones: The focus for Dana Jones Art [located near Tulsa, OK] is shifting from a retail gallery venue to a full-fledged art studio. This effort begins with the purchase of a new etching press and equipment to get back to printmaking as a medium. I'm also putting my art out for more public scrutiny by entering juried exhibitions. To this effort, I already have a new series underway that mingles watercolor and weaving. In addition to this, I'm investigating ways to make my art more accessible through reproduction. And I have a children's book in the works. My goal is to self-publish it by Christmas 2016. I wrote the story and will be illustrating and designing it myself.

Cheap Trick: The legendary Chicago band has a new album titled Bang Zoom Crazy . . . Hello coming out on April 1, just seven days before it will receive a long overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. So far, the official website only lists one live date, which takes place on March 5 in Plant City, Florida.

Submitted by 'Boris': Continued growth and worldwide exposure for 'Music That Deserves To Be Heard' on the Secret Weapon Radio Show. I'm amazed at all the countries that tune in regularly. Thanks for your support as well!

Justin Fielding: The Boston-based filmmaker's documentary The Power Pop Movie is scheduled to be released this year. International Pop Overthrow Founder/CFO David Bash and Bruce Bodeen (Pop Geek Heaven, Not Lame Recording Company) are on board as Executive Producers, and Fielding continues to film interviews with some of the genre's best known musicians across the country.

The Valley Downs: Led by bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini from the longtime power pop band 92 Degrees and his wife vocalist Marianne Shimkus, this Chicago-based group has a new single called "The Prettiest Girl In Salem." Hopefully, it's from a brand new album that will be released in the near future.

The Plastiscines: LP1, the 2007 debut from this Parisian quartet of teenage girls was full of authentic garage rock tunes. They've swapped out a few members and dabbled in tech music on a few releases since then. Vocalist Katty and drummer Ana's new side project Arizona Twins finds them exploring a harder, guitar-driven sound, if the short video snippets on Facebook are any indication.

Northwest Illinois Chapter of SCBWI:  Since joining this Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators group, I've finished three novels that I’m currently shopping to agents, and I'm well on my way on a fourth book. Members Kym Brunner, Cherie Colyer, Susan Kaye Quinn, Mike Kelley, Marian Manseau, Terri Murphy, and Katie Sparks have had books published, and Veronica Rundell is in serious talks with agents about her YA novel. Each of these writers are also highly skilled at offering advice. Look for more successes coming from this group in 2016.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre: The critically acclaimed storefront theatre company is wrapping up its final season (after 30 years of giving Chicago cutting-edge productions) the way it began, with a production of a David Mamet play. This time, it will be American Buffalo, with founding member and Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky, along with Rudy Galvan and Stephen Walker. Carlo Lorenzo Garcia is directing this production, which runs from January 28 through March 6.

Trolley: The Milwaukee-based power pop masters will release their next CD Caught In The Darkness on January 12th.

Whitewolfsonicprincess: The alt-rock band just wrapped up a funding campaign for its upcoming release The Shadow Of The Marigold. Founding members Carla Hayden and James Moeller also perform with the Black Forest theatre group, and frequently draw from that experience to create inventive textures in their music.

Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, John San Juan, Holly Senchak and Metropolly, The Webstirs, and Androgynous Moustache: Each year, these Chicago area musicians pay tribute to famous rock and roll acts for the Halloweekend event. Individually, (Angotti and Androgynous Moustache in particular) they perform tribute shows throughout the year. Suggestion: Follow fellow Chicago tribute band EXPO '76's lead in expanding to the northwest suburbs. Of course, this is a two-way street that will require suburban club owners to be more adventurous as well.

Stephanie Kuehnert: The author's novel I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone has been optioned by producers who plan to turn it into a movie. This backstage look at a young woman who emerges as a counter culture rock star while battling substance abuse and family issues is bound to fascinating fon the big screen.

Jeff Kelley: The writer and host of the monthly Coffee With Jeff internet show (a new episode just appeared today) and weekly podcast has also collaborated with artist David Metzger on an original sitcom called Zombie Grandma for Elgin’s annual Nightmare On Chicago Street Halloween festival. I’ve worked with Kelley on the Coffee and the Nightmare projects, and hope to continue to create a new series with him.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Rocking The Cradle: Favorite Albums Of 2015

Putting noteworthy releases from the past year in numerical order is a difficult process, but I’ve managed to once again come up with my Top 40 Favorites. This year, the list is even a bit more off kilter because while most of these recordings were reviewed on Broken Hearted Toy in 2015, a few were actually were released in 2014.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to all the artists, press agents, and labels that contacted me in regard to reviewing music, and I sincerely apologize that due to time constraints, I often wasn’t able to respond to your messages.

Favorite Albums of 2015
The top 25 have a bit of description. All 40 include the (date) the review originally appeared on Broken Hearted Toy in 2015.

1. Squeeze - Cradle To The Grave (9/30) The band's first album of new material in 17 years proved founding members Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook are still master songwriters. Cradle offered bittersweet reflections on growing up, discovering sex, finding work, and growing older. The clever lyrics, indelible melodies, and harmony vocals are all classic Squeeze.

2. Motobunny- Motobunny (5/27) This new group, comprised of members from The Wooly Bandits and The Love Me Nots, forged a dozen high-energy songs that tap into garage and glam rock, with Christa Collins and Nicole Laurenne consistently working in tandem on vocals. Possibly the most fun album of 2015.

3. Ex-Norwegian - Pure Gold (11/30) Singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille has endured several breakups of the band he founded in 2008, along with some recent health issues. So it's all the more impressive that he created these energetic songs with Ex-Norwegian's current lineup. Houdaille's vocal interplay with vocalist Michelle Grand calls to mind the exquisite pop of Game Theory and Let's Active.

4. The Webstirs - Now You've Really Done It (7/6) The Chicago-based power pop veterans wrap their clever observations within catchy melodies. This was their fifth and most consistent release.

5. The Weeklings - Monophonic (9/7) Guitarist John Merjave and bassist Glen Burtnik have performed with the Beatles tribute band Liverpool for several years, and they found like-minded collaborators in Bob Burger and Dave Anthony. The British Invasion songs on this debut were evenly divided between Burtnik-Burger compositions and obscure gems The Beatles composed but never officially released.

6. Dot Dash - Earthquakes And Tidal Waves (4/7) This Washington, D.C. quartet tapped into vintage punk when it debuted in 2011, and has recently moved toward a more 1980s-influenced approach reminiscent of Wire Train and Translator. Earthquakes And Tidal Waves found them pushing their boundaries even further.

7. Various Artists - strange fruits (3/4) The English indie label Fruits de Mer once again recruited current bands to pay homage to psychedelic and garage rock classics from previous decades on this mind blowing 18-song collection.

8. Wilco - Star Wars (9/9) A casual 34-minute effort that felt like hanging out with vocalist-guitarist Jeff Tweedy in the studio, but still showcased his knack for crafting infectious melodies and intriguingly cryptic imagery.

9. Brinsley Schwarz - Live Favourites (11/16) A live performance recorded at The Top Rank Club in Cardiff, UK in 1974, with Schwarz, Nick Lowe, Ian Gomm, and other original members. Offered as a limited-edition on 180 gram black vinyl edition, Live Favourites showcased a highly influential band that reportedly felt more comfortable whipping up a party on stage than recording in the studio.

10. Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes (10/15) The first album from the original line-up since 1997's Eight Arms To Hold You found the Chicago-based alt rock band operating at full power. Singer-guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post effectively blended their voices together throughout; from the hushed approach on "Empty Bottle" to the full-on rage of "Triage."  

11. Ex Hex - Rips (3/24) The newly formed Washington D.C. trio brought together alt rock veterans vocalist-guitarist Mary Timony (formerly with Wild Flag), drummer Laura Harris, and bassist Betsy Wright. Their high-energy songs hark back to the dawn of punk and new wave, with hard-edged but irresistibly fun arrangements.

12. The Chemistry Set - The Endless More And More (10/28) The first album in a few years from these veterans of England's psychedelic revival brought adventure, energy, and amusement to their songs, while adding elements of prog and hard rock.

13. Party Lights - I See The Lights (12/1) The full-length debut from this Brooklyn-based quartet made good on its sworn allegiance to The Go-Gos via singer-guitarist Anna Blumenthal's effervescent songs and her vocal interplay with bassist-keyboards player Joan Chew.

14. The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club - Rock And Roll Motorcycle Dinosaur (7/13) An adventurous album that found this Chicago band veering off in numerous directions while maintaining an emphasis on irresistible melodies and elaborate vocals. The Cheap Trick influence heard on an earlier single was still very much in evidence here.

15. Various Artists - ON XRT Volume 17 (Not Reviewed) The latest edition in this annual series featured songs by some of WXRT's most popular artists (Hozier, Jack White, Wilco, Elle King, etc) from live performances that aired on the Chicago rock station in the past two years. Considering XRT has been around since the early 1970s, it would have been interesting to have at least a few selections from the more distant past.

16. Kurt Baker Combo - Muy Mola Live! (4/28) Recorded at Salty Peet’s Rock Shack in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this album featured one of power pop's best-known artists charging through an energetic mix of originals and well-chosen cover versions.

17. Scraps - Vol. 1 (not reviewed yet) A recent digital release from a band that thrived at the same time as Cheap Trick and Off Broadway on Chicago's club scene. The songs, including "Strike Three,""Gossip Gossip," and "Twilight Zone" are from the band's prime years.

18. Jack Ellister - Tune Up Your Ministers And Start Transmission From Pool Holes To Class O Hypergiants (11/2) This vocalist/multi-instrumentalist from Holland's psyche scene followed the release of his two EPs with this oddly titled full-length debut. Ellister whips up his own fascinating universe, using synthesizers, guitars, and an ethereal female backing vocalist.

19. The Hangabouts- Illustrated Bird (1/19) Initially, this effort comes across as a collection of easy-going power pop songs, but songwriters guitarist-vocalist John Lowry and vocalist-bassist Gregory Addington embedded complicated emotions beneath the fetching melodies and intricate harmonies.

20. The New Trocaderos Thrills And Chills (9/24) The trio started as a side project for Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer from The Connection, and Kurt Baker of The Kurt Baker Band, but is now its own entity. The ultra catchy songs were written by, or written with the album’s co-producer Michael Chaney (Dean Baltulonis is the other producer) and mostly deal with hard drinking and troubled romances.

21. Jessica Pratt On Your Own Love Again (4/22) A beguiling singer-songwriter who works primarily with her acoustic guitar while spinning tales of complicated relationships.

22. The Seventh Ring Of Saturn - Ormythology (4/16) This psychedelic band from Northampton, MA features lead vocalist-bassist Ted Selke singing mind-bending lyrics like, “Can’t you see she’s burning a hole in my mind?” over melodic dreamscapes.

23. I Think Like Midnight - Warm Seclusion Structure (2/3) A compelling collection of instrumentals fueled by a mix of guitars and keyboards. The music tends toward alt rock, but there are also some appealing acoustic moments and hints of jazz.

24. Herb Eimerman - Five Dimensional Man (9/3) The veteran power pop musician and American third of the international power pop/neo-1960s trio The Britannicas plays just about all the instruments and does all the vocals on this engaging five-song EP.

25. The Fad The Now Sound (6/18) A long-lost effort from 1982 by a trio that dressed in Star Trek-inspired outfits and boldly combined the sound of the original British Invasion with power pop.

26. The Jeanies - The Jeanies (2/18)

27. It Was Romance - It Was Romance (4/30)

28. Shark Tape - Marathon (6/9)

29. ZXt - Don't Drink The Water (7/27)

30. Three Hour Tour - Action And Heroes (11/18)

31. Feral Conservatives - The Feeling Noise Becomes (5/18)

32. The Power Cords - Stray Comets (3/16)

33. Crystal Jacqueline - Rainflower (3/10)

34. All The Wine - Heavy Lights (9/28)

35. Jack Scratch - If Only (9/2)

36. The New Trocaderos - Frenzy In The Hips (4/2)

37. Sounds Of Sputnik - New Born (1/14)

38. The Ravines - Everything's Fine (8/4)

39. The Unswept - The Unswept Today! (5/25)

40. Catholic Girls - Kiss Me One More Time (4/29)


Favorite singles from this year, in no particular order:

The Jangle Band - "Kill The Lovers"/"This Soul Is Not For Sale"

The Outryders -"Over The Scars"/"Look At What You've Done"

The Night Dials - "I've Done More Things"/"I'll Sleep When I Die"

Lannie Flowers - "Best I Can"

The Rhemedies - "Leave Me Alone"/"You'll Never See My Face Again"

Eric Howell - "Zookeepers"/"45"

The Phantoms - "Wasting Time"

The Jigsaw Seen - "Have A Wonderful Day"/"We Women"

FdM Split Single: Ex-Norwegian - "It's A Game" and Permanent Clear Light - "Corneville Skyline"

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