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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