Oldies Again:

Chicago - The Very Best OfChicago, a band that hasn't lived in the city it took its name from throughout the bulk of its career, owned the FM airwaves in the '70s with its horn-punctuated hits. "Make Me Smile," "25 or 6 to 4," "Beginnings," "Colour My World" and "Saturday in the Park" started a new musical movement when they were released in the early '70s, and the band went on to score at least a dozen more smashes (like "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Wishing You Were Here," "("I've Been) Searchin' So Long," "If You Leave Me Now," "Baby What a Big Surprise" and ""Hard to Say I'm Sorry") before its career began to wind down with its last few big ballad hits ("If She Would Have Been Faithful," "Look Away" and "What Kind of Man Would I Be?"). Now those hits and more have been collected on a two-CD set from Rhino Records. The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning includes 29 tracks, from the band's early progressive horn-rock work to its early '80s adult contemporary smashes like "You're the Inspiration" and "Hard Habit to Break," to its 1995 collaboration with the Gipsy Kings, "Sing Sing Sing."


The The - Soul MiningAvant Band:

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the release of a singles CD collection from THE '80s avant band The The. Now, Epic's Legacy label has reissued four of The The's best albums with new cover art (featuring various poses of leader Matt Johnson's face) and digitally re-mastered songs (the original cover art is also reproduced inside the CD booklets). There are no "bonus" tracks, as often accompanies reissue albums, because Johnson views each album as a self-contained unit.

The reissues include the band's breakthrough album, 1983's Soul Mining (including "This Is the Day" and "Uncertain Smile"), its most popular release, 1986's Infected (including "Infected" and "Heartland"), 1989's Mind Bomb (featuring former Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr and the songs "The Violence of Truth" and "The Beat(en) Generation") and 1993's Dusk (including "Dogs of Lust").


Smorgasboard of Cool Sound:

For a solid sampler demonstrating the inventiveness of downstate college town rock, check out Parasol Records' Parasol's Sweet Sixteen Volume Four and Volume Five ( ½).

The discs include a wide range of sounds from great inventive alternative rock and pop acts like White Town, Witch Hazel Sound, Angie Heaton, Jeff Kelly, Absinthe Blind (which has played a couple of recent shows at Chicago's Metro), Neilson Hubbard, Adam Schmitt, Club 8, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Duraluxe, Sukilove, Doleful Lions, Vitesse and many more. Many of these artists have full albums out on Parasol or one of its subsidiary labels. I've been consistently amazed at the quality of Parasol's releases over the past few years – and its samplers are a great way to get acquainted with a flurry of new, usually local talent. For more information, check the label's Web site at www.parasol.com.


Hard Rock Corner:

New Found Glory - Sticks & StonesThe Full Nine have graduated with honors from the northwest school of harmonic stomp-rock (fellow graduates include The Posies and Stone Temple Pilots), and their self-titled release on Mammoth ( ½) is required listening for fans of solid hooks and monster riffs. The full-throttle "Lingo Man" sounds lifted off STP's last disc, and the band betrays influences from The Posies in the smooth vocals and harmonies present on crunch rock tracks like "Fourteen" and "Flower" (which features psychedelic lyrics like "she's kaleidescoping me/she's decided who I'll be"). Recommended.

Craving Theo has done its own study of Stone Temple Pilots among other reptilian heavy metal acts, and their selt-titled release on Columbia ( ) opens with the full-throttle guitar attack (appropriately titled) "Stomp" before leading into the slalom crunch guitar of "Hold Me Down" and pounding Live-esque drama of "Sky." Singer Calvin Baty growls heavier than kindred hard rockers Creed or Saliva on songs like "Lie" but on "What Do You Want" he proves he can croon a bit on the verses before cracking into a Black Crowes-ish grind. Except for the clumsy phrasing in the "death by addiction" ode "Alone," Craving Theo offers a solid blast of stomp rock from start to finish.New Found Glory - Sticks & Stones

Fast, furious rock 'n' roll sounds best in the summer, and Florida band New Found Glory offers a dozen punk-pop tracks on its new MCA release Sticks & Stones ( ). These guys would have sounded completely at home as an opening act on the Green Day/Blink 182 "Pop Disaster Tour" that recently hit The World Music Theatre. Sticks & Stones is punctuated with higher-pitched droney vocals, fast-strummed, distortion happy guitars and Gen X and Y youthful themes like fear of relationship commitment. My favorite track is the pathetic but pounding anthem "My Friends Over You" where they sing "you were everything I wanted/but I can't finish what I started…though you swear that you are true/I'd still pick my friends over you." They'll grow up, probably, but until then, they'll probably make some decent head-snapping punk-pop.