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By Andy Argyrakis
Jewel Weekend Report: "Jersey Boys," A new Jewel
Friday, October 19, 2007
She may be automatically grouped into the girl with a guitar movement, but after ruling the charts throughout the 1990s, Jewel's branched out considerably in recent years. After a failed dance/pop experiment, the tunesmith's leaned in a much more fitting roots rock/country direction, though her latest concert appearance takes a decidedly elegant approach. For the first time in her decade-plus career, the multi-platinum performer teams with the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra for interpretations of earthy singles (like "Foolish Games," "You Were Meant For Me" and "Standing Still") in symphonic contexts. The one night only event takes place Saturday at the Windy City's Rosemont Theatre with tickets available at www.ticketmaster.com.

Though it's already racked up a series of 2006 Tony Awards (including "Best Musical") from its Big Apple run, a new "Jersey Boys" cast just opened this fall's Broadway In Chicago series. The tale tells the hit making history of Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, which despite wholesome outward appearances throughout the 1960s and 70s, was really riddled with E! True Hollywood Story or VH1 Behind the Music styled backstage drama. Franki ValliBut the script is fully authorized by the group, who was represented on the red carpet by its famed front man and primary songwriter Bob Gaudio. The show simultaneously runs all weekend (and well into next year) at New York's August Wilson Theatre (www.ticketmaster.com) and Chicago's LaSalle Bank Theatre (www.broadwayinchicago.com).

Despite falling into the "unofficial" category, this weekend's couch potatoes can digest an interesting DVD on Queen's rise to fame. The double disc Queen's London (Arts Magic) takes fans on a virtual tour throughout London to the group's famed stomping grounds with several interviews along the way. The film is co-hosted by Jackie Smith (founder of Queen's International Fan Club), Gary Langan (producer of the band's classic albums News of the World and A Day at the Races) and Peter Hughes (close friend of Freddie Mercury, who assisted during his illness and final weeks).
Loretta Lynn Ravina's latest unveiling, Vintage Opry on DVD
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Classic country fans will be crying joyful tears in their beers November 20 when Opry Video Classics hits DVD. The Time Life series complies a slew of archive performances from Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium (home of the Grand Ole Opry for over three decades), many of which were never publicly available prior to this release. The eight part set covers several themes, such as Queens of Country (which includes Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man"), Duets (featuring Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn on "After The Fire Is Gone") and Honky Tonk Heroes (led by George Jones' "The Race Is On"). Additional all-star artists include Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and just about every other old timer who's ever graced the venerable stage.

Chicago's lauded Ravinia Festival www.ravinia.org is also looking back to the past as its builds upon a future presentation. A recent press conference at the Chicago History Museum unveiled the venue's plans to host the world premiere of the tentatively titled "A Good Man" to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial Bill T. Jones(under the banner "Mystic Chords of Memory"). Though the debut won't take place until 2009, Tony Award winning choreographer Bill T. Jones shared his early visions of the ambitious musical undertaking, complete with the underlying message of peace and equality. The announcement was poignantly made in front of former President's very death bed, while the decision to launch the work in the "Land of Lincoln" was also extremely fitting.

In more current contexts, hip-hop infused electro-rockers Northern State signed on to tour with Tegan & Sara this fall, winding throughout America and Canada. The group just released Can I Keep This Pen? (Ipecac Recordings) and has since scored a nod on Rolling Stone's Hot List. The project marks the group's first out of Columbia/Sony's major label clutches and features production from Shitake Monkey's Chuck Brody (Yoko Ono, Wu Tang Clan), plus the Beastie Boys' Adrock.
Lisa Loeb Loeb's indie debut resurfaces, Cash does Christmas
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Just when all the vaults seemed to be clear of rare Johnny Cash material, another trip to the attic recently uncovered The Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1976 and The Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1977, which both hit DVD November 13 on Shout! Factory. The first edition includes appearances from Roy Clark, Merle Travis and Barbara Mandrell, along with several duets between Johnny and June Carter Cash (such as "Old Time Feeling"). The following year features even more star power courtesy of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison (to name a few) who all tag team on "This Train Is Bound For Glory."

The world will always associate Lisa Loeb with her trademark black-rimmed glasses and for her emotive single "Stay (I Missed You)" from the Reality Bites soundtrack (a 90s classic also featuring U2, Lenny Kravitz, Dinosaur Jr. and Crowded House). Even though she's often relegated to the one hit wonder bins, the singer/songwriter'sJohnny Cash underground fan base remains, so much so that her indie debut The Purple Tape (Furious Rose Productions) is being reissued January 22. The long lost recording went off the market in 1992 and will return on CD with the ten original tracks, plus a bonus disc with acoustic concert versions of "Stay" and "Snow Day," plus a new interview with Loeb.

Following this summer's stint on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution and serving as red carpet correspondents on MTV's recent Video Music Awards, Madina Lake packed up its instruments for a sold out headlining tour across Europe. Though a break would appear to be in order, the alternative rock foursome just returned to America to co-headline with Mayday Parade on a bill that also includes Powerspace, Meriwether and We The Kings. Aside from fans getting to see the band in intimate club confines, anyone who buys tickets in groups of four scores meet and greet passes with the bands, plus a signed Madina Lake poster (while supplies last). To redeem the offer, log onto http://tixx1.artistarena.com/mlmp type in "madinalake" as username and "maydayparade" as password.
R.E.M. Street Date: Jimmy's return, R.E.M.'s concert stash
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Throughout R.E.M.'s storied career thus far, the band often put fourth VHS and DVD concert projects, but rarely released live cuts on CD. That's all about to change on the extensive double CD and single DVD set simply titled R.E.M. Live (Warner Brothers), focusing on the band's Athens, Georgia beginnings through stadium superstardom. From early chestnuts such as "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" to the relatively recent "Bad Day," the twenty-two track collection (in both formats) has something for fans of every era. However, one has to wonder when Michael Stipe and company will return to the studio, especially considering two of the band's prior three releases were also retrospective in nature.

Jimmy Eat World keeps the fresh content coming on Chase This Light (Interscope) the follow-up to 2004's experimental Futures (Interscope). Rather than leaning towards that disc's more cerebral indie rock direction, the new tunes return to the radio pop craft of 2001's breakthroughJimmy Eat World Bleed American (Dreamworks), wrapped around the production of Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth). The disc's first single "Big Casino" is lighting up iTunes and is loaded with surging choruses, bountiful hooks and the inviting vocals of famed front man Jim Adkins.

Troubadour Neil Young continues his prolific tendencies as of late with Chrome Dreams II (Reprise), which drops thirty years after the original Chrome Dreams was shelved. The new project includes a combination of reworked older tracks and brand new visions exclusively for these sessions. In any case, the collection hearkens back to a more straightforward folk/rock direction, taking a break from the protest overtones of 2006's Living With War (Reprise) and subsequent tour with the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young line-up.
Spoon Spoon ring in the New Year, Red's deluxe re-release
Monday, October 15, 2007
New Year Eve may still seem far away, but promoters are quickly filling up the calendars with headliners for the annual celebration. Chicago's Metro (one of the Midwest's most famed party places on that particular evening) just announced its finale act of 2007 in the form of Austin indie rockers Spoon. Tickets are priced at a steeper than usual price of $76 (www.ticketmaster.com), but special guests are promised and the band never disappoints in concert (especially when performing selections from its latest Merge effort Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga).

Grammy nominated hard rockers Red follow-up its debut disc End of Silence (Essential) with a deluxe edition of the same album packed with bonus material. The November 13 release features DVD footage of the band performing live at a private show in Nashville, plus the music video for the Top 10 Active Rock hit "Breathe Into Me" and several interview segments. The treasure troveRed of extras continues with a behind the scenes look at life on the road alongside Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and Seether, which continues as a package tour through November 14, (peppered with a few one offs, such as tonight's House of Blues Chicago bill with Seether and Beyond Words).

Cake may not be hitting up the singles charts with rapid speed, but the quirky alt-rockers continue going the distance with the forthcoming B-Sides and Rarities (Upbeat Records). The disc collects tunes past, present and future, including a live bonus version of "War Pigs" (with Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips). The collection comes in four different "scratch and sniff" packages (ensuring an alternate purpose as an air freshener if the tunes are throwaways), including fresh cut roses, banana, leather and grape.

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