I was excited to see a new CD from Rhino covering the too-short career of the '90s alternative rock band Belly this month, though the title of the new collection may be a bit misleading. Sweet Ride — The Best of Belly includes seven B-sides, a live track, a couple of remixes and a previously unreleased song ("Lilith"), among its 18 tracks. That means more than half of this disc never appeared on any Belly albums and, thus, if this represents the "best," that the quality of Belly's non-album sides was better overall than its album material! The Best and the B-Sides of Belly might have been a more apt moniker for this release. Anyway, title quibbles aside, this is a gold mine set for Belly fans, though it comes belated — leader Tanya Donelly disbanded the group after its second album, 1995's King, to launch a solo career (her second album was released earlier this year). For those who didn't collect all of Belly's singles to get the B-sides, this CD puts many of them in one place, though it misses a crucial one — Belly's cover of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" from its Moon EP. Sweet Ride does include the cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" from Moon (which also appeared on the Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix collection), as well as "Dream on Me" from the "Feed the Tree" single.
Progressive rocker Yes has been out on the road this summer with the classic lineup of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White and Rick Wakeman. If you missed its Chicago Theatre show last weekend, you can pick up a career-spanning box set of its material from Elektra/Rhino Records. In A Word: Yes (1969- ) is a five-CD package featuring album versions of classics like "Roundabout, ""Long Distance Runaround, "I've Seen All Good People," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "It Can Happen," "Leave It," and more. It also includes six previously unreleased tracks and a couple of alternate takes of previously released material.
Columbia's Legacy arm has pulled together a 39-track, two-CD collection covering Tony Bennett's long crooning career. The Essential Tony Bennett commemorates the 40th anniversary of the chart debut of Bennett's signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco, and includes classics like "Blue Velvet," "Stranger in Paradise," "Put on a Happy Face," "Fly Me to the Moon," "I Wanna Be Around," "My Favorite Things" and many more.
You Are Here
Graduating with honors from the moderate rock school, including Train, Crowded House, Stir, Zoppi and The Rembrandts, comes Dropline, a new quartet featuring singer/guitarist Steve Sulikowski and guitarist and Evanston native Jonathan Berry.
Its debut disc offers a dozen glowing samples of radio-ready rock songcraft, from its current single "Fly Away From Here (Graduation Day)" to medium tempo anthems "No Time at All," "Maybe I'm the One" and "Best Thing." With big, buzzing harmonies and chiming, catchy melodies, nearly every track on You Are Here forces you to nod or sing along to it.
When it moves into slower material (the jammy "I Feel Lonely" or vaguely '70s-ish dreamy strumming of "Beautiful"), the attention factor starts to fade. But when it sticks to punchy arena rock choruses, Dropline is hard to beat.
Lyrically, Dropline deals mostly with the vagaries and insecurities of love, but with some smart twists. In "Weight of the World," Sulikowski sings of the unrecognized burdens a lover often shoulders without complaint ("sometimes, she puts the weight of the world on me/and she don't notice") and in the melancholy Crowded House-esque "Even I Don't Know," he sings with a Zoppi-like falsetto above strumming guitars and mournful strings about the changing effects commitment can have on a relationship:
"The minute we changed into something different
the moment our words became something written
we're losing ourselves while we build this image
that doesn't look quite like me."
This is a warm, engaging and promising debut.