A couple weeks ago I wrote a column spotlighting box sets from Rhino Records. This week we get The Original Bad Company Anthology 1999. Bad Company had a solid supergroup pedigree right from the beginning in 1973, when it formed with members of Mott The Hoople, Free and King Crimson, and was signed to Led Zeppelin’s new Swan Song label. The band put out an admirable stream of hit bar-ready rock radio singles from 1974-1979, including “Can’t Get Enough,” “Bad Company,” “Movin’ On,” “Shooting Star,” “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad,” “”Feel Like Makin’ Love,” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy.” But with personal exhaustion and the dissolution of the Led Zeppelin camp following John Bonham’s death, Bad Company faded from existence in the early ‘80s. The band reformed and shifted focus from its simplistic blues-rock vibe in 1986 and limped through another decade releasing some solid pop-rock releases with vocalist Brian Howe, but never recaptured the stride the band had in the ‘70s under the leadership of vocalist Paul Rodgers (who left in 1982 to join The Firm). With the loss of another original member Boz Burrell in the late ‘80s and of Howe in 1995, the band seemed to have run out of steam again. Until...reunion time!!! The new two-disc Bad Company anthology comes with a reunited Bad Company on board and focuses only on the original band lineup material from the ‘70s. It includes all those above mentioned hits, as well as never-before-released tracks and four newly recorded songs.

Fans of guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughan have a rare treat on the shelves now thanks to Epic’s Legacy label. A new greatest hits disc, as well as four Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble studio albums have been rereleased by the label. All the discs feature previously unreleased tracks — including interview snippets — and new liner notes to spotlight the work of the blues-rock guitarist who died in a a tragic helicopter crash in August 1990 after leaving the Alpine Valley outdoor theatre in Wisconsin. The albums include Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand The Weather, Soul To Soul and In Step, as well as the new 16-song anthology The Real Deal: Greatest Hits Vol. 2. The hits disc includes “Love Struck Baby” from Texas Flood, Ain’t Gone ‘n’ Give Up On Love” from Soul To Soul and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” from Couldn’t Stand the Weather, among others.

The Motown label has released Very Best Of collections from The Velvelettes, The Contours and The Originals. The Velvelettes’ disc includes all of the girl group’s 11 singles including their two 1964-65 Top 100 charters “Needle in a Haystack” and “He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’.” The Contours only made one album, but scored eight top 100 singles in the early to mid-’60s. Their first and best-known hit, “Do You Love Me” returned to the charts in the ‘80s thanks to the movie Dirty Dancing. That song leads off their best of collection from Motown, which also includes “First Look At The Purse, “ “Can You Do It,” “Just a Little Misunderstanding and “It’s So Hard Being A Loser.” The Originals had a handful of Top 100 hits from 1969 to 1976 and their Best Of CD includes their three biggest, “Baby I’m For Real,” “The Bells,” and “Down To Love Town.”

While we’re on the subject of classic oldies, over the past couple months the Hip-O label has released four discs documenting the history of Excello, an R&B/blues label. The Excello Story discs cover the Nashville label’s history from 1955-1975, and include 80 songs — a wide mix of blues, soul, country, R&B and rockabilly, from artists like Slim Harpo, Louis Brooks & his Pinetoppers, Lazy Lester, Kid King’s Combo, Lightnin’ Slim, The Marigolds and The Peacheroos.


It Came From The Internet

Thanks to the online web site of this column, I frequently receive CDs from independent out-of-state bands to review. While these discs don’t usually sound much better than any local band you’re likely to hear in the Chicago area, every once in a while you find a diamond in the rough (that’s how the record companies find their next hitmakers, after all). I’ve gotten CDs lately from artists that range from high energy/low talent bar bands to rising stars. I’ll run down four of them here, in case you’d like to do your own search for the next big thing: Ten Story Love is a New Hampshire-based band that favors crunch guitar pop. They get some great sounding chimey guitars on their debut self-titled release, but unfortunately, they suffer from the same sin of so many local bands. They’ve relied on vocalists who don’t have the chops to sell the songs. The band sounds good, but the lyric delivery borders on the painfully amateur most of the time. For more information, check out the band’s web site at www.tenstorylove.com.

“Mr. Scientist...you really need to have your test tubes tied,” quips Howie Doyle, on the first track of The Speed of Pain from Houston’s Subterra. You can hear the wide empty spaces of Texas and wicked spikes of the local cacti in the laidback rock of this band; you can also hear a strong love of reverb. It sounds like this disc was recorded in an airport hangar. The echoey production works though; Doyle’s delivery tends to be low and twangy, as do the guitar riffs, setting this one squarely in the Neil Young and Crazy Horse camp (with perhaps a touch of Dylan). For more info try their web site at www.subterra.net.


Blue MilleniumOn the other end of Texas we hear from Austin’s Blue Millennium, a professional sounding 11-piece ensemble that sometimes sounds like The Blues Brothers and at other times like a lounge swing band. Their second CD, Vintage Hi-Fi opens with the horn and organ propelled “Ready For Radio” and continues through 10 more songs to offer an energetic blend of rock, soul, pop and jazz. Led by singer Andrew Boutot, the band features soulful backup singers in Sabrina Cummings and Felicia Dinwiddie and leaves plenty of stretching room for sax, organ and other solos. The band placed in several categories of last year’s Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll and it’s pretty easy to hear why. This sounds like it would be a great act live. And this recording is a lot of “vintage” fun to listen to. For more information try their web site at www.blue2k.com.


From Minneapolis comes the twang-rock of The Cultivators. The initial harmonica and guitar strums of “All Alone” bring to mind Tom Petty, but very quickly you realize that this band shares the same “classic” roots rock vibe as Illinois’ Wilco and also shows the occasional influence of laidback “play-on” rock acts like The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. While leader Dan Israel may seem, at 27, like a newcomer, he’s actually been peddling his songs around the country for years. He started a decade ago playing Chicago coffeehouses and performing with a band called One Town Horse before moving to Austin and forming Potter’s Field. By 1995 he’d recorded a couple of solo efforts and moved to Minneapolis. Mama’s Kitchen is his second release with The Cultivators, and features appearances from players who’ve worked with the Peter Himmelman Band, Semisonic and Gear Daddies and a fiddle player who’s worked with The Jayhawks, Roger McGuinn and Victoria Williams. This is a sharply drawn album of Heartland songs and one of the best independent releases I’ve heard in some time. For more information, check the band’s web site at www.cootner.com/cultivators.