Compilations from Nirvana, Ben Folds

Nirvana There are lots of new collections and reissues out on the shelves this month, just in time for Christmas shopping season!

One of the key collections for hard rock fans will be the new self-titled hits collection from Nirvana on DGC. The disc opens with the last song Nirvana recorded before Kurt Cobain's suicide. Previously unreleased, the bass-throbbing, building angst of "You Know You're Right" was first debuted live on Oct, 23, 1993, at Chicago's own Aragon Ballroom and features some of Cobain's most tortured, emotional vocals. The collection also includes "About a Girl," "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are," "Lithium," "In Bloom," "Heart-Shaped Box," "Dumb" and the band's live cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World." ( )

  Ben Folds LiveAnother new disc with a Chicago tie-in comes from Ben Folds. Ben Folds Live, on Epic, includes 17 tracks from the singer-songwriter's "Ben Folds and a Piano" solo tour last spring, including a novelty song ("Rock This Bitch") taped at Chicago's Vic Theatre last March 2. The disc features most of Folds' fan favorites, from the piano-pounding "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," "Philosophy," "Army," and "Best Imitation of Myself" to his moving love ballad "The Luckiest" and his melancholy radio hit with Ben Folds Five, "Brick." Oddly enough, it omits his most recent radio single, "Annie Waits." Folds' tours enjoy an amazing degree of audience vocal participation (at his Vic shows this year, the audience seemed to sing every word of every song) and that's well-demonstrated on "Not The Same," which closes with the audience performing a capella background vocals. The disc also offers songs that haven't appeared yet on Folds studio albums, including the mellow "Silver Street" and the middle-finger-to-the-record industry "One Down," which, despite its biting attack on executives looking for instant hit songs instead of art, comes off as one of Folds' catchier efforts. For those who pick the disc up quick, there's a special bonus the first 100,000 copies of include a seven-song DVD, with two more tracks recorded in Chicago and arguably the highlight performances from his tour. Those who were in the front rows of that June 28 Vic show might catch a glimpse of themselves in crowd shots Folds fans should beware when make sure it has a parental advisory sticker, or else you may be getting a "bleeped" and "edited" version. Folds loves Chicago's Vic Theatre he'll be back for his third show this year, Nov. 27. ( )

  Carlos Santana is currently enjoying another hit, thanks to a collaboration with Michelle Branch, but if you're interested in what made San Francisco's premier classic rock guitarist a star in the first place, you can now pick up The Essential Santana, a two-disc set on Columbia. The album includes his '60s and '70s hits "Evil Ways," "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," "She's Not There," and more, including his 1989 duet with John Lee Hooker, "The Healer." It doesn't include anything from the '90s or his last hit, "Smooth." ( )

AwareNearly 10 years ago, a twenty-something accountant who loved music put together his first CD of unknown acts and called it Aware: The Compilation. It sold OK, and the next year, he put together Aware 2, which included songs from Hootie and the Blowfish, Edwin McCain, Better Than Ezra, The Verve Pipe and Vertical Horizon. To celebrate a decade of savvy scouting, a 14-song disc called Aware Greatest Hits is now available, featuring that original Tabitha's Secret recording, as well as Better Than Ezra's hit "Good. ( )

If you want a compilation that's a little more wide-ranging and upbeat, Warner Bros. has just unveiled the latest in its Totally Hits series. Totally Hits 2002 More Platinum Hits includes a range of artists and styles, from The Hives ("Hate To Say I Told You So"), Pink ("Don't Let Me Get Me"), and Michelle Branch ("All You Wanted") to P Diddy ("I Need A Girl"), P.O.D. ("Satellite") and Goo Goo Dolls ("Here Is Gone") as well as tracks from Brandy, Angie Martinez, BBMAK, The Calling, Boyz II Men and more. ( ½)