Friday, December 31, 2010

Slumgullion # 43

Poster from The Cocktail Slippers Facebook page.

I’d like to wish everyone a safe, entertaining, and Happy New Year’s Eve.

Commercial-Free Party Zone. WXRT is aiming to be part of a lot of people’s New Year’s Eve festivities by offering five hours of nonstop party music from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM. That means no commercial interruptions, which would be great since radio commercials seem to be reaching an all-time nadir for creativity these days. People out of the Chicago area can stream WXRT via its website.

Have Yourself A Mary-Arrchie New Year's. The Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s annual New Years Eve party should attract a fair amount of thespians and other creative types. Kicking off at 9:00 PM, this BYOB bash is free and could involve dancing to music on the radio. Bring your own party hats and noisemakers. Trying to squeeze in an audition for the current season would probably be a social faux pas, but it never hurts to network. The Mary-Arrchie Theatre is located at 735 W. Sheridan Road. Check out their Facebook page for details.

Moe Moe Moe, How Do You Like It? How Do You Like It? I’m a Marx Brothers man myself, but for people looking to nyuk nyuk nyuk in the new year, ME TV (WCIU) is having a 12-hour Stooge-A-Palooza that started at noon today. And they’re not talking about Iggy Pop.

Screamin' In The New Year. Screamin’ Rachael, a longtime player on the Chicago scene who was dubbed The Queen of House Music by Billboard magazine, will be hosting the TRAX VIP New Year’s Eve party tonight at Excalibur. Starting at 7:00 PM, at 632 N. Dearborn.

“I Wuv You, I Wuv You,” Said The Little Blue Man. Enclave, the trendy Chicago club, is promising a surreal 2010-ending experience with its Pandora New Years Eve event. The idea is to create an Avatar ambience within the 15,000 square foot venue, with friendly Na’vi guides, lush plants and flowers, and a whole lot of blue lighting. Maybe they’ll even play that 1950s hit single, “Little Blue Man.” Probably not. Tickets include a 9:00 PM to 1:30 AM super premium open bar, champagne all night and an appetizer buffet.

Ol’ McDonald Had A (Expletive Deleted) Farm. Looks like some children found inappropriate tunes under the Christmas tree this year. Wal-Mart is recalling copies of the Kids Favorites CD after customers complained of hearing cuss words amidst the happy sing-alongs.

Back In Black (With Sugar). Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff, an Internet show that brews up an entertaining blend of original comedy bits, vintage TV and movie clips, and the host’s sly observations, returns this Sunday, January 2nd for its third season. My wife Pam and I created 20 episodes of Manchester Gallery for Jeff last year, and now that the Gallery is closed we’ve been exploring new concepts. We should have one or two of our bits on Jeff’s show this Sunday.

Sonic Princess And The Pretty Mama Sisters. Indie/avant garde rockers WhiteWolfSonicPrincess will be part of a five band showcase at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Ave. next Saturday, January 8th. Other acts on the bill include August Son, St. Bagu. Moirai Band, and Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters.

Double Door Garage. Grape Juice is presenting its Third Annual Windy City Winter Ball on February 5th at the Double Door on north Milwaukee Avenue. Bands scheduled to perform include Detroit Cobras, Hollows, and Rambos. Tickets go on sale News Year’s Day and are $10 -$12.

And They Couldn’t Prevent Jacks From Being Happy. Don’t forget Cliff Johnson & The Happy Jacks, with guest acts Thin Grin and Shake Hands With Danger will be performing at The Abbey Pub tomorrow (January 1st) night. Doors open at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $12.

The School Of Rock The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is looking for donations to help fund its educational and community programs.

Friggin Stupid Slippers. Former Friggs member Palmyra Delran has a short tour of Norway and Sweden coming up toward the end of February. The bands Stupidity and Cocktail Slippers are also on the bill. All three acts have the Little Steven seal of approval.

Paste This In Your Calendar. Paste, one of the better rock magazines in the U.S., is promising some exciting news for its subscribers and fans in early 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Shout Outs Part II

Photo from Warpaint's Facebook page.

More CD releases from 2010 that struck my fancy.

Warpaint - The Fool L.A.-based four woman band wove shimmering guitars and Stella Mozgawa’s dramatic percussion within bare-bones arrangements. Vocalist-guitarist Emily Kokal’s irresistible siren call mingled with harmonies/incantations from guitarist-vocalist Theresa Wayman and bassist-vocalist Jenny Lee Linberg.

Puerto Muerto - Drumming For Pistols Vocalist-percussionist Christa Meyer and vocalist-guitarist Tim Kelley played emotionally raw indie rock with a theatrical flair on what turned out be their final CD.

The Bradburys - Don’t Pump The Swingset Clever lyrics brought these tales of unrequited love to life, and having all four band members sing resulted in some sophisticated harmonies.

Vulture Whale - Bamboo You The Alabama natives decided to mimic 1980s era U.K. punk bands, working class accents and all, and came across as thoroughly authentic and fun.

The Greenwoods Solid State Dag and Gregg Juhlin, founders of The Slugs, provided plenty of guitar firepower on these melodic tracks while Jim Bashaw’s drum playing evoked Keith Moon.

You Say Party We Say Die - XXXX Brought us back to the original punk and new wave era with another CD filled with impossibly catchy guitar and keyboard driven arrangements.

Roxie Swain The Spell Of Youth Roxie Swain is the name of a band as well as its lead vocalist, who belted out Bangles style power pop tunes crafted by guitarists Tom Valenzano and Matt Walters.

Various Artists Be Yourself - A Tribute To Graham Nash Current indie artists brought together by Nash’s daughter Nile held their own identity without straying too far from the original material.

Archie Powell & The Exports - Skip Work Singer-guitarist Archie Powell used the Fountains Of Wayne recipe for mixing power pop with social satire, and added a heavy dose of slacker angst.

Sgt. Wesman’s Logan Square Friends Band - Sticky Whiskers Collective of local musicians led by Wesley Torres created tripped-out psychedelic rock on songs like “Going Nowhere,” and opted for a coed new wave approach on the catchy fun of “In The Kitchen.”

The Morning Benders - Big Echo Ornate arrangements with an inventive mix of guitars, percussion, and keyboards; augmented by singer-guitarist Christopher Chu’s evocative vocals.

The Salteens - Grey Eyes Elaborately orchestrated pop songs, mostly composed by vocalist-piano player Scott Walker, exuded the anticipation of a musical theater troupe preparing for opening night.

Secret Colors - Self-titled Staked out their territory somewhere in the stratosphere on this self-titled debut, with ethereal arrangements led by singer-guitarist Tommy Evans’s echoed vocals.

Welcome To Ashley - Beyond the Pale The catchy melodies on their full-length debut were infused with a raw energy fueled by some inventive guitar playing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End Of The Year Shout Outs

Photo of Kevin Lee from his Facebook page.

In no particular order, here are some more CD releases that impressed me this year. I’ll have another batch tomorrow.

The Britannicas - Self-titled Ringing guitars and tight harmonies abound on this international trio’s collection of melodic 1960s styled power pop.

Darker My Love - Alive As You Are L.A. band follows R.E.M.’s method for reinventing The Byrds, while guitarist-vocalist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato create perfect harmonies.

Hollus - Part One The first of two planned EPs finds the hard-rocking Hollus using more sophisticated arrangements, while still exuding an adventurous spirit.

Kevin Lee & The Kings - Dusk Till Dawn A worthy follow-up to Lee’s 2006 full-length effort, Flip The Switch, it furthers his long-standing reputation as an engaging power pop singer-guitarist.

Braam - Living Room Latest effort from the band of brothers impresses with an intricate, acoustic-based approach on melodic, well-crafted songs.

Matt Ryd - Looking For A Home Ten easy-going love songs that showcase Ryd’s knack for catchy melodies.

The Severed Limb - Woo Eee Ha Ha! Fun EP from London-based skiffle band whose stripped-down arrangements and energetic harmonies exude the excitement a live performance.

The Valley Downs Self-titled The band’s follow-up to their Behemoth EP features singer Marianne Shimkus and bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini on songs that evoke The Bangles and The Beatles.

Aaron Fox and The Reliables - Late Too Soon Solid debut offers a melodic blend of acoustic and electric instruments on songs that tap into the Midwestern power pop tradition.

Johnny L Friend This veteran of Chicago punk bands like The Slugs breezes through a collection of short, eccentric pop tunes on his second solo effort.

Matt Dodge & The Lobsters - Lobsters! Dodge is too young to have been around when the classic songs of the 1960s were being released, but he sure sounds like he’s been influenced by them.

Magatha Trysty - Be Safe Vocalist-keyboards player Catherine Bevard and vocalist-guitarist Christopher Bevard anchor a sound that falls somewhere between power pop and indie rock.

Maple Mars - Galaxyland An imaginative mix of power pop and psychedelic rock, with most of the tracks composed and produced by vocalist/guitarist Rick Hromadka.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Favorite CDs Of 2010

Here are my 10 favorite CDs from 2010.

The Posies Blood/Candy Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were at the top of their game on this effort, which also showed them expanding their repertoire. There are plenty of tunes done in the band’s classic power pop style, as well as more adventurous material. It’s a safe assumption that Auer and Stringfellow approached this project without any preconceived notions of what Posies music should sound like, and the results are impressive.

The Like - Release Me Founding members vocalist-guitarist Z Berg and drummer-vocalist Tennessee Thomas ditched their previous alt-rock approach, picked up bassist Laena Geronimo and organist Annie Monroe. and reinvented themselves as a neo British Invasion quartet. While the emphasis is on the 1960s, The Like successfully explore new wave as well. Berg is a gifted songwriter who matches clever and caustic lyrics to irresistible melodies.

Paul Collins - King Of Power Pop Collins set the standard for this genre back in 1979 with a self-titled debut from The Beat that included memorable gems like “Rock N Roll Girl” and “Work-A-Day World.” He approached this comeback effort with a sense of humor and a treasure chest of catchy melodies. The 13 songs are a lot of fun, and should help Collins on his mission to promote power pop across America under the banner of his recently launched marketing campaign, The Beat Army.

The Hoodoo Gurus - Purity Of Essence Dave Faulkner, the lead vocalist and chief songwriter for this Aussie party band, comes across as though he believes the entire world is out to get him. Somehow, this results in a lot of fun on Purity Of Essence, which like its eight predecessors, is packed with irresistible melodies, clever wordplay, and rampaging guitars.

Cliff Johnson - Razors And Rose Petals (Redux)

A 29-track effort that covers most of the former Off Broadway frontman’s career, with alternative or live versions of some of his best tunes as well as some previously unreleased gems. Even the oddball stuff like “Hello Aloha” and “Battle Of The Bands” sounds good, and there are a few interesting covers. Razors and Rose Petals (Redux) serves as a testament to this distinctive singer’s abilities as a songwriter and as an interpreter of other artists’ material. Available for download at iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.

Various Artists - ONXRT Live From The Archives Vol. 12 As usual, the sound quality on these live recordings, all of which aired on WXRT at some point, is very good. This is one of the better collections in the station’s long-running series, with performances from David Byrne, Vampire Weekend, The English Beat, Franz Ferdinand, and Spoon. Plus, it benefits The Gulf Restoration Network and Rock For Kids.

The Undertones - The Undertones Ireland’s melodic punk rockers were at their best on the early, adrenaline-pumping classics like “Teenage Kicks,” “(She’s A) Runaround,” and “Get Over You.” As lead vocalist Feargal Sharkey observed on “More Songs About Chocolate & Girls,” “It’s never too late to enjoy dumb entertainment.” This digital four-CD compilation proves The Undertones could create more nuanced, soul and new wave music as well.

Heart - Red Velvet Car The band’s first effort in some time shows the Wilson sisters working in a relaxed and confident mood rather than trying to blast their way back into the limelight. “WTF” rocks hard, but most of the songs they’ve come up with are low key and well-crafted.

The Librarians - Present Passed The band’s two lead singers, Ryan Hizer and Trey Curtis, join forces on ethereal harmonies while their guitar playing adds shimmering layers of atmosphere. Most of the 10 tracks have a richly textured, nocturnal feel, even as the Librarians shift back and forth from ballads to dance music.

Steve Dawson - I Will Miss The Trumpets And The Drums The Dolly Varden singer-guitarist’s first solo effort since Sweet Is The Anchor in 2005 offers further proof that Dawson’s a master of the alt-rock/Country & Western hybrid. It’s a labor-intensive project that involves him playing several instruments, with occasional help from guest musicians.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: The Hollies Through The Years

He’s hardly a household name in America, but among professional musicians, Bobby Elliott has been regarded as one of rock and roll’s best drummers for over four decades. Currently, Elliott and guitarist Tony Hicks are the only remaining original members of The Hollies, who continue to tour and record CDs. Along with items like shirts and tour books, the band’s official website offers a book that Elliott assembled from his personal archives, called The Hollies Through The Years.

It’s not a massive, artful effort like Graham Nash’s hardbound Eye To Eye. In fact, it has the same format as the tour books, and pretty much the only words you’ll see are on reproductions of radio surveys or articles about the band. There’s also a copy of a receipt from The Toggery, which apparently was quite the place for trendy musicians to buy clothes in the mid-1960s. Other artifacts include a postcard from Elliott to his parents while he as on tour in California; a flyer for an appearance at the Imperial Ballroom, and a rehearsal schedule for the Hullabaloo TV show, which lists times for The Hollies, Frankie Avalon, Nancy Sinatra, The Ronettes, and The Yardbirds.

Mostly though, Through The Years is a collection of rare photographs of the Hollies, including some of the musicians long before they were in the band. Hicks looks like he could be no more than 13 in a vintage snapshot from when he was with a seven-piece outfit called Les Skifflettes, and there are pics of groups that spawned members of Hollies, like The Guytones, Shane Fenton & The Fentones, and The Dolphins. There’s also a shot of a very young Elliott pounding the skins back in 1958.

There are plenty of visual treasures for fans of the original British Invasion, like stills from The Hollies’ appearances on U.K. shows like Thank Your Lucky Stars, Ready Steady Go! and Top Of The Pops. There aren’t very many other famous 1960s stars included, other than a grainy B&W shot of Dave Clark watching The Hollies from backstage, and a few pictures of band members with the ultimate 1960s dream girl, Marianne Faithful. (“Carrie Anne” was rumored to be about her.) As photographer Henry Diltz pointed out in his book, California Dreaming, The Hollies loved posing for pictures. There are dozens of publicity shots included in Through The Years, as well as photos that show the band working in the recording studio and performing on stage.

The Hollies Through The Years would have been even better with some commentary from Elliott, but his reflections on performing with the band can be found within the liner notes on The Hollies All The Hits & More record.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa’s Grab Bag

Merry Christmas! Here's a random sampling from last year of some of the better Christmas songs around.

“Come Around” - Mindy Smith I first learned of this song in a column by then Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis, who said it sounded like The Bangles. That’s all it took to reel me in. Appearing on Smith’s 2007 My Holiday CD, it offers ringing guitars and layered vocals in a catchy song that calls children, women, and men to celebrate Christmas by worshiping together.

“George Bailey” - Carolyn Sills It’s interesting to find how many current holiday songs mention It’s A Wonderful Life. Brooklyn-based singer-bass player Carolyn Sills goes them all one better by devoting an entire song to Frank Capra’s classic flick and its put-upon hero. Set to an inviting arrangement that mixes twangy Country & Western music with a bit of the 1960s girl group sound, “George Bailey” merrily whisks us off to Bedford Falls. Sills notes that the character won her over as a kid, and she makes references to the grubby little town he tried so desperately to escape, as well as some of its better known citizens, like Mr. Gower. “George Bailey, I’ll love you ‘til the day I die,” she sings on the chorus, echoing the words of Mary Hatch. “Every Christmas Eve, you make me cry.” The song is available on iTunes, and there’s also a very clever video for it on YouTube that uses vintage Betty Boop style animation.

The Pretenders - “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Few singers in rock history could match Chrissie Hynde’s ability to kick the snot out of you one minute and give you a warm hug the next. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” which appeared on the charity LP, A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1 in 1987, remains one of the best versions of this popular standard. With its spare but luxurious keyboards and evocative vocals, it serves as the Dr. Jeckyl to the Mr. Hyde of “Tatooed Love Boys” and “Precious.” The Pretenders also created the touching Christmas ballad, “2,000 Miles,” which was released as a single and has appeared on some holiday compilations. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “2,000 Miles”

can now also be found on The Pretenders' Holiday EP, along with “Blue Christmas” “I Saw Mommy Kising Santa Claus.”

“What’s This?” - Soundtrack of Nightmare Before Christmas A musical sleigh ride of quick rhymes and clever imagery, the fully orchestrated “What’s This?” follows Jack Skellington through Christmas Town as he discovers a holiday that’s completely foreign to him. Jack, of course, is more accustomed to the gross and ghoulish trappings of his domain, Halloween. “What’s this?” he continually asks in amazement as he encounters snow, caroling, gifts and elves for the first time. “There are children throwing snowballs here/Instead of throwing heads/They’re busy building toys/And absolutely no one’s dead.” This song is one of the better parts of a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

“Winter Wonderland” - Hello Dave The 1994 CD A Hello Dave Christmas With Friends aimed to raise funds to help children afflicted with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Imagine your car breaking down on a deserted country road while you’re driving to some party on Christmas Eve. You walk to the nearest open venue, which happens to be a rustic bar. Hello Dave is onstage and has the local townsfolk up and dancing to its Country & Western versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Silent Night,” and other classics. “Winter Wonderland” rocks to the loping bass lines played by Willis Potocki and some spirited harmonies from vocalist-guitarist Mike Himebaugh and vocalist Paul Bolger. You call for a tow truck, but while you wait for its arrival, you’re having a great time.

“We Wish You A Merry Christmas” - The Daugherty McPartland Group Several years back, a friend and I dropped by a couple we knew for a holiday visit a few days before Christmas. It was a Sunday night, and they had the WXRT show Jazz Transfusion playing on the radio. Maybe I was just in a festive mood, but those spirited jazz versions of holiday songs really made an impression on me. Acoustic Christmas, released by The Daugherty McPartland Group in 1996, has that same easy going vibe. Tim Daugherty’s fluid piano playing takes center stage throughout the CD, but Dennis McPartland on percussion, Bob Thompson on saxes and flutes, and Jim Munro on bass are also impressive. People who enjoyed Vince Guaraldi’s score for A Charlie Brown Christmas will find a lot to like here, and in fact, “Christmas Time Is Here” is included on Acoustic Christmas. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” is both classy and fun, and like all of Acoustic Christmas, the perfect soundtrack for a friendly, holiday get-together.

“Double-0-Santa” - Seks Bomba The 2002 holiday compilation 50,000,000 Elves Fans Can’t Be Wrong lives up to its title with a variety of fun tracks, and “Double-0-Santa” by the Boston based band Seks Bomba is one the best. This lounge tune mixes the concepts of a Secret Santa and a secret agent, with humorous results. “Mistakes are bad for business, says the man called Father Christmas, AKA Double-0-Santa,” vocalist-guitarist Chris Cote reveals over a slinky guitar and keyboards arrangement. Santa isn’t too cool to accept snacks, but it should be understood that he likes his “egg nog stirred, never shaken.”

Thanks For Christmas” - XTC Few bands can match the Brit trio XTC when it comes to crafting songs with clever lyrics and indelible melodies. “Thanks For Christmas” stands out on New Wave Xmas, a Rhino various artists compilation that also includes “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders and “Christmas Day” by Squeeze. Introduced with some triumphant horn playing, the catchy “Thanks For Christmas” finds XTC using gorgeous harmonies while creating scenes like Santa’s reindeer resting after a hard-working Christmas Eve, and ecstatic kids decorating trees. “It’s such a shame it’s only once a year,” the song notes. “Three hundred and sixty-four days full of doubt and fear/You’ve been saving your love up/Let it out/‘Cause Christmas is here.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho Ho Ho Spice - Part Two

Jim Babjak likes Christmas and The Beatles. Photo from The Smithereens Official Website.

Merry Christmas to all who visit this site. Here's another repost from 2009.

In addition to being subtitled “a HOSPICE awareness and benefit project,” Ho Ho Ho Spice is described on the front cover as being “an ECLECTIC and FRIENDLY Alternative-ish Christmas Compilation.” I have to admit that even after owning this double CD for five years, I’m completely unfamiliar with some of its 40-plus tracks. In a way, artists contributing to holiday charity CDs are like people giving presents. They mean well, but in the end, they don’t always offer something that’s in my style. Which doesn’t mean the songs are bad. The extensive scope of Ho Ho Ho Spice means there’s something for everyone here.

It’s hard to explain why I like Kelsey Jean’s “Let’s Look Under The Christmas Tree.” After all, it’s a mainstream Country & Western tune from the perspective of a tween girl whose most fervent wish is for “A Kenny Chesney poster just for me.” The only hint of anything less than wholesome is her playful laugh at the end of the lines, “Always on his list for nice, never naughty - - - maybe once or twice.” But Kelsey Jean’s catchy song captures the youthful excitement of believing that any number of wonderful things might happen come Christmas morning.

That’s the spirit Leanne Weiss, another C&W artist, wants to relive on her toe-tapping number, “Christmas Aint Just For Kids Anymore.” Weiss recalls the fun things she did as a child, like going on sleigh rides and putting cookies out for Santa, and decides there’s no reason not to start doing them again. Her appealing vocals as well as the peppy piano arrangement help sell that sentiment.

For a completely different perspective, Ho Ho Ho Spice gives us the rowdy “That Punchbowl Full Of Joy” by Sonny Columbus & His Del Fuegos. The very same Boston-based Del Fuegos with Dan Zane that Julianna Hatfield sang about on “My Sister.” The song, which was originally offered on a rare 12” EP collection called A Boston Rock Christmas, starts off with a spaghetti western intro before segueing into a slinky rock-a-billy romp with more double entendres than Santa has elves.

Jim Babjak, lead guitarist-vocalist for The Smithereens, offers another original Christmas tune (his “Waking Up On Christmas Morning” appears on Hi-Fi Christmas as well as Christmas With The Smithereens) with the mid-1960s flavored “It’s Love On Christmas Day.” With an arrangement that shows once again how much The Smithereens have been influenced by The Who, it declares that the true meaning of the holiday can’t be bought or sold.

The Butties rework the traditional hymn “Joy To The World” by combining it with “Please Please Me” by The Beatles. That’s the same idea The Fab Four Beatles tribute band had on its Hark! CD, although the vocal arrangement here is noticeably different. The Butties have a full-length CD of Beatles style Christmas songs, called 12 Greatest Carols.

As stated earlier, there are other gifts worth unwrapping on Ho Ho Ho Spice, like “Soul Christmas” from Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, or Abney Park’s space age rendition of “The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies,” but I’ll leave that to others. In 2006, Holiday Heart: An Eclectic, An Aural Celebration of Christmas and Chanukah, The Sequel to Ho Ho Ho Spice was released.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Slumgullion # 42

She can travel in time and belt out a Christmas carol. Photo of Karen Gillan from Doctor Who website.

First of all, I’d like to wish all of those who visit this blog a very happy holiday season and a wonderful coming year.

Who Needs Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Present, And Future When You’ve Got A TARDIS?

Doctor Who fans in the States will get a holiday treat when the show’s A Christmas Carol airs on BBC America Christmas night. As the title suggests, the episode offers a sci-fi twist on the Charles Dickens classic, with The Doctor getting into his usual dangerous predicaments. The current cast of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill can be seen in a more jolly situation on a short video that features them vamping through “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

Bangles Coming Back. According to a Bangles podcast that can be accessed through the band’s official website, the gals will soon be releasing a 45 vinyl single as a teaser for their upcoming CD. Matthew Sweet has been helping them out with the recording of the songs.

Why Don't We Do It In The Road? The Red Eye newspaper in Chicago reported today that Britain has officially designated the pedestrian crosswalk by the famous Abbey Road Studios as a site of national importance. Abbey Road was one of the places my wife Pam and I visited on our trip to London a few years back, and I nearly got run over trying to pose in the middle of that intersection.

Matt On The Mend. It was inspiring seeing Colleen Mastony’s piece on musician Matt Leone in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, saying he’s doing a little better these days. Leone, a member of the Chicago band Madina Lake, suffered serious injures when he came to the aid of a woman being beaten by her boyfriend. Mastony’s article describes Leone’s courage as well as the amazing love and support he’s received from his brother and fellow band member, Nathan. Members of the local music community have held benefits to help Leone pay his medical bills. Let’s continue to keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

Himmelman And The Hum. Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman will be coming to the Chicago area for a show at SPACE in Evanston on January 13th. Himmelman is on tour in support of his latest CD, The Mystery And The Hum, which he recently recorded over a two-week period at a Minneapolis studio. The show starts at 8:00 PM.

Lamb Art. Sometimes I wonder if I really need to subscribe to so many email newsletters, but as Forrest Gump once said, you never know what you’re gonna get. For example, a recent post from Thrillist London casts a spotlight on Manchester-based artist Ben Lamb, who does some really cool rock and roll art. His poster for the offbeat and charming singer-songwriter Dawn Landes is a prime example of his compelling work. Lamb’s portraits of other musicians, such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, the Gallagher brothers from Oasis, and various rap stars can be found on his Illustration & Design website. His prints are available through Rough Trade.

Free New Wave Music. Paskey, a Chicago-based musician who creates new wave style tunes based on keyboards and hushed vocals, is offering his latest single, “Be Still Tonight” as a free download. The song, which features Kelli Nicole Hardman on backup vocals, is a preview of his upcoming EP Temperance and Temperatures.

The Trout Tapes. Bassist Gordon Patriarca is a veteran of the Chicago music scene who’s played in a variety of groups, such as the power pop influenced The Hotheads; the new romantics styled Brisance; the rock/blues outfit The Griff Band; and the Cajun-flavored The Remainders. Patriarca recently posted on Facebook that he’s been remastering “a boatload” of live material from his days with the new wave band, The Trouts. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more about that in the near future.

Black Leather Jackets And Warm Woolen Mittens. WXRT air personality Tom Marker noted recently on the station’s blog that The Ramones will be among the Grammy’s 2011 Special Merit Awards recipients and Lifetime Achievement honorees. Julie Andrews is also on the list.

Sharing The Covers. Celebrity Salon will present Honey, Gimmee The Covers!, a multi-act showcase at its hair salon in Evanston on January 22nd, from 6:30PM to 11:00 PM. WhiteWolfSonicPrincess, The Telepaths, Jan King & Medicine Ball, Mr. Mo, and Famous In The Future comedy group member Tina Teske are among those scheduled to perform cover versions of various rock songs. Celebrity Salon is located at 1041 Chicago Avenue, #8 in Evanston.

He’ll Be Home Just After Christmas. Rich Cotovsky returns to his home base at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre on January 3rd, after spending a few months in Washington, D.C. performing in the Tracy Letts play, Superior Donuts.

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