There have been several times this year that I've mentioned the vibrant music scene of downstate, mainly because of the slew of solid releases from Urbana's Parasol label. Tonight, you can catch a couple of Parasol's best bands at Schubas, in Chicago. Adam Schmitt, who released two albums on Reprise in the early '90s and whose excellent third album Demolition came out a couple of months ago on Parasol, will top the bill. Also playing is The Beauty Shop, a quirky cross of cowpunk and avant rock who put on an excellent show at The Metro over the summer. Parasol bands Tractor Kings and Witch Hazel Sound also will appear.

The holidays are just around the corner, and record store shelves are quickly stocking up with "Greatest Hits" packages from a variety of artists to encourage your gift CD-buying. Over the past couple of weeks, I've noted new hits compilations from Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure, and this week we get a double-CD set from Mariah Carey, among others.

Mariah Carey - Greatest HitsCarey's Greatest Hits, on Columbia, nearly doubles the span of her previous hits set, 1998's #1s. Greatest Hits includes 28 tracks, ranging from those #1 singles "Vision of Love," "Love Takes Time," "Someday," "I Don't Wanna Cry," "Emotions," "I'll Be There," "Dreamlover," "Hero," "Fantasy," "Always Be My Baby," "My All" and "Honey," to her other substantial hits, like "Can't Let Go," "Make It Happen," "Anytime You Need a Friend," "Endless Love" (with Luther Vandross), "Heartbreaker," "Can't Take That Away," and a Christmas bonus track, "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Warner Bros. has put together the first retrospective for Barenaked Ladies. Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001 includes two new tracks, along with hits "Brian Wilson," "One Week," "If I Had $1,000,000," "Pinch Me" and more.

And Columbia Records has issued a two-CD look at Neil Diamond's career. The Essential Neil Diamond includes "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Red, Red Wine," "I'm a Believer," "Sweet Caroline," "Song Sung Blue," "Holly Holy," "I Am I Said," "America," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Forever in Blue Jeans," and more.

Mariah Carey - Greatest HitsOther record companies are mining the top artists of the '80s for career retrospectives. A&M offers Squeeze's Greatest Hits, featuring its late '70s, early '80s singles like "Take Me, I'm Yours," "Goodbye Girl," "Cool for Cats," "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" and "Up The Junction," as well as more pop radio accepted hits like "Black Coffee in Bed," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Hourglass," "Trust Me to Open My Mouth" and its signature hit, "Tempted."

The disc offers 20 songs in all, covering its career from 1978-1989. Mercury offers Shout: The Very Best of Tears For Fears, which presents 17 songs from its 1983-1995 recording career. The liner notes provide a solid history of the band and promise the potential of more Tears for Fears music in the future, as the original duo recently regrouped. Included are "Mad World," "Change," "Pale Shelter," "Shout," "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Head Over Heels," "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Break It Down Again," among others.

MCA has unveiled a couple of more discs in its 20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection series. The 1980s family popsters The Jets receive a 12-song The Best of that includes "Crush on You," "You Got It All," "Cross My Broken Heart" and "Rocket 2 U."

And Joe Jackson gets a sadly short, 12-song Millennium The Best of as well. His disc includes "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," "Beat Crazy," "Jumpin' Jive," "Steppin' Out," "Breaking Us in Two," "Right and Wrong," "Nineteen Forever," and more.


Grateful Dead - The Golden Road The Grateful Dead
The Golden Road (1965-1973)
(Warner Bros. / Rhino)

The Grateful Dead's legend as the ultimate live touring band not to mention the center of an entire subculture grew ever larger through the '80s and '90s until guitarist Jerry Garcia's death. But that reputation was built on a catalogue of key songs that the band recorded in the late '60s and early '70s for Warner Bros. Records. A psychedelic blues/folk/rock act originally formed as The Warlocks in the height of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury drug culture, the Dead released a handful of formative albums before scoring with the masses with its signature FM radio hit, "Truckin'" from perhaps its best album, 1970's American Beauty. Just a few months before that had come Workingman's Dead, the band's most stripped down, singalong-folk oriented album, which spawned a couple of other important Dead standards: "Uncle John's Band" and "Casey Jones." Prior to these two "perfect" Dead albums, the band had recorded more psychedelic, jam-oriented fare on The Grateful Dead, Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa and Live Dead.

After American Beauty, the band released more material recorded live than in the studio, ranging from the self-titled double album Grateful Dead, to the mix of new and old material on the monolithic three-disc Europe '72, which introduced the "second generation" of Dead members in Keith and Donna Godcheaux.

Warner Bros. and Rhino Records have collaborated to reissue all of those albums, plus the odds and sods disc, History of the Grateful Dead Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice), and a new collection of early live and studio recordings in the two-disc Birth of the Dead, in an expansive box set. The Golden Road box includes all of the band's Warner-released material, and every CD but Live Dead includes a handful of live and alternate versions of songs recorded during the period, and liner notes about the history of the album.

There is also an 80-page booklet that gives extensive history on the career of the Dead, and an exhaustive discography of both the band's Warner material and the albums and collections that followed.

This is the ultimate collection of the first and most productive period of the Grateful Dead and a must-have for any fan.