Concert Alert: There are a couple of worthwhile small shows hitting this weekend in Chicago. Passing through the Windy City tonight is Chris Stamey, who has been a longtime force on the alternative roots-rock scene as songwriter, singer and producer. He founded the dB's in the '80s before going solo and later releasing a critically acclaimed disc with fellow dB Peter Holsapple, who has worked extensively with R.E.M. Word on the street is that the dB's may finally be reuniting this year, after nearly 20 years. In the meantime, Stamey has two current solo albums out and is touring with the Chris Stamey Experience to spotlight tracks from his newest, A Question of Temperature, a mix of power-pop, experimental groove, roots and more (it even includes a retro-pop cover of the Yardbirds' "Shape of Things"). For more information, check out www.chrisstamey.com.
Singer/songwriter and pianist Rachel Sage, will be playing at 10 p.m. Friday at Uncommon Ground, 3800 N. Clark St., Chicago. It's a "pass the hat" show (free), and Sage will be spotlighting tracks from her current CD, Ballads and Burlesque. For more information, check out www.rachelsage.com.
New Collections: If you ever wondered what happened to the Average White Band after its handful of mid-'70s funky-jam hits topped by "Pick Up the Pieces," a second incarnation of the Scottish band has been touring and recording since 1988, and it now has a Greatest & Latest collection of material from the past 15 years issued on Liquid 8 Records (www.liquid8records.com). The disc includes a "NuJazz" mix of the instrumental "Pick Up the Pieces" as well as collaborations with Daryl Hall, Chaka Kahn and others.
The soundtrack to the movie A Lot Like Love is out on Columbia, and features hits such as the Cure's "Mint Car," Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now," Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" and Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight," as well as tracks from Hooverphonic, Travis, Groove Armada, Smash Mouth and new artists Anna Nalick, Butch Walker and Aqualung.
Fans of Brit-band Manic Street Preachers can get the ultimate edition album The Holy Bible. The 10th anniversary edition of the disc offers the original album on one CD plus a handful of live tracks. It also has a CD of the U.S. version of the album, which was mixed differently, along with some demos and a BBC Radio 1 session. And finally, a DVD is included with performance videos of the band. The special release is on Epic Records.
If you want a little lullabye music to sleep to, check out the latest collection from Windham Hill Records. Cinema features Windham Hill artists performing gentle acoustic versions of movie songs, ranging from George Winston's keyboard rich performance of "Theme From 'The Black Stallion'" to Tracy Silverman's delicate violin and viola picking of the "Hedwig Theme" from Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone to Jim Brickman's typically lush piano rendering of "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. Alex de Grassi takes an acoustic guitar out to emote the warm nostalgia of the "Theme From 'The Princess Bride'" and a trilling violin takes the lead in Stephane Grappelli's cover of "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca. This CD is like listening to late night lounge classics played by a tuxedo'ed combo in a high-class jazz bar. Smart, tight and stirring.
Yellow Pills: Prefill
In the '70s and '80s, the airwaves and record bins were filled with bands that favored crunchy, tight guitar riffs and "ooh-oooh" harmonies, not to mention fake Beatles-ish accents and, often, skinny ties. In Chicago, bands such as Off Broadway and Shoes achieved some notoriety, but never got to the national big-time with that faux-British Invasion pop sound. And Rockford's Cheap Trick ultimately became the chief poster-boys for the movement. Along the way, there were a slew of great, catchy songs recorded and released by "power pop" bands that never even made it as big as Off Broadway.
In the '90s, power pop fan Jordan Oakes started a magazine called Yellow Pills and released four CDs on Big Deal Records compiling the singles of "lost" power pop bands. For a while, it seemed like a cultural movement – to rediscover the roller-rink pop that we lost in our youth.
But then the movement waned, and Yellow Pills and Oakes threw in the towel for a few years. Now, the Numero label has persuaded Oakes to take a stroll through his amazing, rare record collection. The result is Yellow Pills: Prefill, a two-CD collection of some of the rarest tracks from some of the best "should have been" bands of the '70s and '80s.
There's a never-before-released track from Zion' Shoes, and songs from Luxury, Tweeds, Colors, Speedies, Bats (Jon Brion's original band), Toms, Finns, Treble Boys and, my personal favorite, the Beach Boys-esque "Good Time Music" from Jack Stack A Track.
Many of the bands can be compared to the Raspberries, the Faces, the Beatles, the Knack, the Beach Boys and even the swoon-pop of Shaun Cassidy and Nick Gilder. If your lips turn up into a nostalgic dreamy smile when you hear Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" on the radio, or the Kings' "Switchin' to Glide," you should track this disc down. It's filled with memories you never had … but will likely enjoy discovering.