Folds brings piano magic to Chicago

Rock pianoman Ben Folds is hanging out in Chicago this week. Tonight he performs at a free "After Five Live" show sponsored by "The Mix" WTMX-FM at the House of Blues. And on Saturday he'll bring his first solo tour to The Vic Theatre. Folds is touring in support of Rockin' The Suburbs, his first disc since leaving the critically acclaimed trio Ben Folds Five. Folds scored a Top 40 hit with the ballad "Brick" with his last combo, and he's currently enjoying solo success with "Still Fighting It." If you've never seen Folds perform, buy tickets. His wry wit, prodigious piano chops and savvy way with a pop hook make him one of the most enjoyable songwriters to listen to today, and Rockin' The Suburbs made the Pop Stops' Top 5 Albums list for 2001 (it was released last fall).


Collections, Reissues & Hits

Elvis Costello - Brutal YouthRhino Records and Warner Bros. continue their vault-mining collaboration in re-releasing Elvis Costello's catalogue with a twist. Each album reissue contains a second CD with another full album's worth of material from the recording sessions that resulted in the final album. Many of these are songs that were never before released, or songs that were stripped and reused in pieces in other songs. The latest Costello classics to receive this treatment are1986's Blood & Chocolate, the last album recorded with The Attractions before their breakup, and Brutal Youth, the 1994 album that reunited The Attractions for the first time in eight years for one of Costello's catchiest latter day albums. While no real hits materialized from Blood & Chocolate, Brutal Youth spawned a number of FM favorites, from "13 Steps Lead Down," to "Pony St." to "Kinder Murder." The labels have also reissued the 1st album from Costello and the Attractions (Costello's 2nd album), 1978's This Year's Model. It includes some of The Attractions best-known hits, "Pump It Up," "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," "No Action" and "Radio, Radio." All three packages include a second CD with enough bonus tracks and alternate takes to form a complete other album, as well as Costello's well-written descriptions of what the conditions were surrounding the recordings of these songs, from Attractions' formation to the circus atmosphere of the Attractions' last tour to his grudging re-formation of the band eight years later to realize his sonic vision. These reissues are a must for fans.

BoDeans - The Best OfWhen I listen to a "greatest hits" album, I want to hear the actual hits as they were originally recorded and played on the radio. So The BoDeans latest disc on London/Slash/Rhino The Best of BoDeans: Slash and Burn commits the cardinal sin for me. Six of its 17 crucial BoDeans tracks are taken from the Milwaukee band's live album, Joe Dirt Car, instead of being presented in their original recorded forms. "Still the Night," "Say About Love," "Paradise," "Idaho," "Naked" and "Feed the Fire" all appear here as live recordings. Now, The BoDeans put on great concerts crackling with energy, but if I wanted a live album, I'd buy their double live CD Joe Dirt Car, which is where these versions are taken from. But enough griping. The BoDeans were and are a great band (they're recording a new album right now) merging Everly Brothers harmony sensibilities with a rootsy, gritty "hillbilly" twang to create classic throwback songs that attacked '80s synthpop radio like "She's a Runaway" and "Fade Away." They also scored some major pop radio points with the smoother rock sound of "Good Things" and the classic Americana folk rock of "Closer to Free." These songs and more appear on The Best of BoDeans, a retrospective that only reminds you of how great this little band from the cheese fields of Wisconsin was in its prime. Hopefully the version that hits stores will correct another little anomaly of this release, but if not, take this clue the liner notes paint a good thumbnail history of the band and its albums, but in my version of the CD, you have to skip from page 1 to page 7 to page 5 to read the story in sequence.

Johnny Cash - EssentialThis week (February 26) marks Johnny Cash's 70th birthday, and Columbia/Legacy is celebrating by releasing The Essential Johnny Cash, a two-disc set of 36 songs including his classic recordings of "I Walk the Line, "I Still Miss Someone," "Ring of Fire," "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)," "It Ain't Me Babe," "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue (live)," "Daddy Sang Bass," "If I Were A Carpenter" and more, including his recording with U2 of "The Wanderer."

Songs were shorter then, but it's still amazing that in their five-year recording career, The Turtles laid down enough music that Rhino Records could create a two-disc Turtles collection of hits, favorites and rarities with 51 songs. Solid Zinc: The Turtles Anthology includes the vocal group's big hits, from their first, a cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe," to their trademark hit "Happy Together" to other radio favorites "Let Me Be," "You Baby," "She'd Rather Be With Me," "Elenore," and "You Showed Me" as well as two previously unreleased demo versions of "Marmendy Hill" and "How You Loved Me."

Rhino's also released a 51-song, two-disc collection covering the career of The Association, another '60s harmony-rock band. Just The Right Sound, The Association Anthology includes their 1966 breakthrough hits "Along Comes Mary," and "Cherish," as well as their 1967 No. 1 hit, "Windy."