The reissues and collections keep on coming, as record companies stock the shelves with "gift-giving" material for the holidays.
Capitol Records has issued a remastered, expanded edition of John Lennon's classic 1975 album of cover songs, Rock 'n' Roll. Lennon's last studio album before his fabled five-year retirement from the music business was produced by Phil Spector and includes his popular cover of "Stand By Me," as well as some of his other favorite oldies such as "Be Bop a Lula," "Ain't That a Shame" and "Peggy Sue." Three of the four bonus tracks are alternate or un-remixed versions of songs that appeared on the posthumous Menlove Avenue album (which was, in itself, a collection of outtakes from the Walls & Bridges (1974) recording sessions with Spector).
Capitol also has released a new collection of Lennon acoustic recordings compiled by Yoko Ono. Acoustic is an uneven listen, since the songs range from professionally recorded material to live recordings to home tape recordings. It includes previously unreleased versions of "Well Well Well," "God," "My Mummy's Dead," "Cold Turkey," "What You Got," "Dear Yoko" and "Real Love," as well as previously issued versions of "Working Class Hero," "Love," and an acoustic guitar-backed "Imagine," as well as proof that love can be deaf as well as blind: a reading of "The Luck of the Irish" on which Lennon trades off singing verses with Ono.
The hip Fox-TV series "The O.C." now offers Music From the O.C. Mix 2 on Warner Bros. The disc includes Jem's stirring cover of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" and Nada Surf's pensive guitar adaptation of OMD's "If You Leave," as well as tracks by Eels, Super Furry Animals, Interpol, Keane, Death Cab for Cutie and more.
If it seems a little odd for a TV show to be issuing soundtracks, how about a video game? The new Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game has its own two-CD soundtrack featuring rap, funk and hard rock from 2 Pac, Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill, Rick James, and Public Enemy, as well as pop and rock from Ohio Players, Heart, Bell Biv DeVoe and Willie Nelson.
The CD set also includes a cover of NIN's "Head Like a Hole" recorded specifically for the soundtrack by California punkers AFI. The official soundtrack comes with a bonus DVD featuring a "movie" prologue of the events leading up to the game featuring its animated characters.
Phil Collins fans can pick up a new two-CD collection of his mellower material in Love Songs, from Atlantic/Rhino. The disc includes "Do You Remember?" "One More Night," "Against All Odds," "Groovy Kind of Love," "You'll Be in My Heart," "Can't Stop Loving You" and a rehearsal version of "True Colours," as well as live versions of "Separate Lives," "My Girl" and "The Way You Look Tonight."
And Pete Yorn fans can snag a double live concert CD from the singer-songwriter courtesy of Columbia Records. Live From New Jersey was taped last fall and includes "Strange Condition" as well as covers of "Do You Wanna Dance" and Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City."
For those who have a fascination with forgotten Chicago musical history, the Numero Group has put together Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label, a compilation of oldies from the South Side's Bandit Records, an imprint that put out a scattering of soul and R&B vinyl sides from the late '60s and the '70s.
Run by Arrow Brown, an entrepreneur with a shady past, the label issued tracks by the Majestic Arrows, the Arrows, Johnny Davis and a couple others, many of which are dusted off and included (albeit sometimes a bit scratchily) here. The label never really took off, though Davis had the makings of a star before his brutal murder in the early '70s.
The only artist to emerge from the recordings with a "career" was Benjamin Wright, who immigrated to the West Coast to arrange strings for Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Outkast, Justin Timerlake and Destiny's Child.
Elisabeth Sharp's Ill Ease project falls somewhere between the loose garage bash approach of The Breeders and the swirling kaleidoscopic fuzztones of My Bloody Valentine.
A bizarre mix of dyslexic beats and chiming crunching guitars, the Exorcist often sounds like a one-off series of apartment demos as Sharp's vocals wander, creep and break over the shambling mix of guitar, bass, drums and occasional lo-fi keyboards.
But the raw recording is insidious — there's something about Sharp's unhinged slaloming vocals that will bring you back to listen again and again, especially when you realize she's singing oddball lyrics such as "Crusty old men and college girls on crank/I think your best friend's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's sister went upstairs with the skank" (from "The Skank").
For more information, check the band's Web site or catch her playing live this Monday at Chicago's Abbey Pub.
A couple of years ago, Canadian twins Tegan and Sara's Sanctuary release, If It Was You, spent a lot of time in my CD player, thanks to its rough-and-ready production mix of great harmonies with strumming, garage-y guitars. Their follow-up, So Jealous, is now out and is equally worth tracking down.
While the edginess of their last disc was part of its charm, the duo has refined its sound a bit, coming off as slightly more polished on So Jealous.
Still, their distinctively quirky, chimey harmonies are still intact, and songs such as "You Wouldn't Like Me," "Take Me Anywhere," and "Where Does the Good Go" remain simple, pure and catchy-as-heck. And the tight, staccato drums and acoustic guitar of "Walking With a Ghost" are hypnotic.
For more information, check out the duo's Web site at or catch them live tonight at Chicago's Double Door.