A handful of classic rock bands over the past year or two have gone into the studio to cut albums of songs celebrating the music they grew up on. The latest of these cover homages comes from Queensryche. Their Take Cover has just come out on Rhino Records, and opens with its best track, a loyal rendition of Pink Floyd's “Welcome to the Machine.” Geoff Tate's operatic metal vocals play well on a rocked-up cover of “Heaven on their Minds,” from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Less successful are uninspired covers of David Crosby's “Almost Cut My Hair,” and Stephen Stills' “For What It's Worth.” And despite the soaring guitars and vocals of “Innuendo,” somehow Queensryche never quite captures the soaring majesty of the original version by Queen. They fare better on Black Sabbath's “Neon Knights” and The Police's “Synchronicity II.” Renditions of songs by Peter Gabriel and U2 follow, but in the end, I was left thinking, as with most cover albums, that pop songs are best left in the hands of the original artists.

Lurrie Bell has been a force on the Chicago blues scene since the ‘70s, playing with Sons of the Blues and Koko Taylor's band before surfacing as a solo artist. Last month he played a series of record release dates in Chicago for his latest disc, Let's Talk About Love, a strong collection of a dozen tracks that run the gamut from shuffling blues “Feeling Good” to classic B.B. King-esque strutting soulful blues like the title track and “Missing You.” Bell was voted Most Outstanding Guitar Player in the 2007 Living Blues magazine critics poll and will be back in the area after a French tour to play the Clearwater Theater in East Dundee with Johnny Winters on Dec. 29. In the meantime, you can get the new CD and other info at his website at www.lurrie.com.


PipettesThe Pipettes
We Are The Pipettes

I've always been a sucker for bubblegum girl groups, and The Pipettes play right to my weakness. A British all-girl trio with a jones for the Phil Spector wall-of-sound attack, they have finally released “We Are The Pipettes” in the U.S. (an import version sans two songs has been available for awhile).

We Are The Pipettes is a saucy 16-song collection rife with deliciously sweet “la-la-las,” sockhop handclaps, sugary string backups and snare-drum fun, not to mention a touch of lyrical lasciviousness.

On “ABC” they take the Jackson 5 alphabet recitation song model to a new level as they sing about a bookworm who's always reading and working on formulas instead of love: “He knows about ABC, 123, XYZ, but he don't know about XTC.”

That's the kind of lyrical cheekiness that permeates this gimmicky, but oh-so-fun album. It's impossible to listen to the disc without thinking of some of the classic ‘60s songs that it borrows from, like The Shangri-Las' “Leader of the Pack,” The Crystals' “Do Do Run Run” or The Ronettes' “Be My Baby.” But the Pipettes bring a fresh modern energy to the sound, and even venture into some ‘80s-sounding dance pop with songs like “Dance and Boogie.”

For more info check their site at www.thepipettes.com and catch them live at Chicago's Double Door on Nov. 21.


Tegan & SaraTegan & Sara
The Con

After years of touring and recording some phenomenal guitar-vocal pop songs, Canadian twin sisters Tegan & Sara finally sold some records and garnered major attention a couple years ago with their fourth album, So Jealous which was nominated for a Juno Award (Canada's equivalent of a Grammy).

Rather than contentedly knocking out another album in the same vein, for their fifth album, The Con, the girls collaborated with Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie) introducing more keyboard and electronic textures and innovative vocal arrangements to their songs than their previous work. While the result may be initially jarring to longtime T&S fans, in the end, it produces a wide-ranging disc that allows the beauty of their twin vocals to shimmer on every track as they dole out 14 songs that tend to focus on the trials of love gone wrong.

One of the best tracks comes in “Back in Your Head,” a sing-song simple melody bouyed by a one-finger piano hook as the girls opine about finding a way back to the center of a relationship:

“I just want back into your head
I'm not unfaithful but I'll stray
when I get a little scared.”

The titletrack, “The Con” opens with a guitar line reminiscient of classic Head on the Door Cure, before crunching into an arena rock-ready anthem of pounding drums and guitars and Tegan and Sara's plaintively twining vocals.

Later in the disc, they tackle the topic of a troubled teen's need for parental intervention in “Like O, Like S,” which rides a quietly tense guitar background as they sing “SOS to my mother/take the hinges off the door.”

The disc ends with the beautifully melancholic “Call it Off,” a song about missed connections as they sing:

“maybe I would have been something you'd be good at
maybe you would have been something I'd be good at
but now we'll never know.”

The Con is a rich, varied album full of pop hooks and deep emotion – and one of the best albums of the year. Don't miss it.

Tegan & Sara will play a sold out show on November 29 at Chicago's Portage Theater with Northern State (If you can find a ticket - go!)

—John Everson