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By Andy Argyrakis
Waylon JenningsLong Weekend Report: Warm up with classic country
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Considering the fact that this weekend is amongst the most insane shopping periods of the entire year, why bother waiting in long lines, painstaking parking lots and dealing with annoying bargain hunters? Those looking for an alternate dose of entertainment can thankfully turn to the Opry Video Classics (Time Life) box set, a one stop shopping spree for anyone with a classic country fan in their life or a rental packed with 120 performances to span the entire long weekend. The 8 DVD package released Tuesday after tremendous anticipation, not only for the vintage footage of Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn (amongst many more), but also because the footage was previously unavailable to commercial audiences.

Rather than a week by week summary of the classic 1950s-1970s performances, the set breaks down each disc with a specific theme, starting with Songs That Topped the Charts.Tammy Wynette That opening segment digs way back into the Opry annals to dust off a series of number one singles (and their subsequent performances) by Sonny James, Ernest Ashworth, Del Reeves and Skeeter Davis (to name a few). Yet the second installment Duets is perhaps the project's most coveted, pitting together highly emotional tag teams such as Johnny & June Carter Cash on "Jackson," Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn during "After the Fire Is Gone," plus George Jones & Tammy Wynette come "We're Gonna Hold On." The subsequent Hall of Fame edition follows a close second, culling together a solo Cash picking through "Big River," Patsy Cline crooning her way around "Imagine That" and Willie Nelson blasting out "Mr. Record Man."

The back half of the box set gets even more specific, starting with a compilation of Honky-Tonk Heroes. Performers such as Ernest Tubb, Ray Price and Bobby Bare put today's commercial country class to shame, while a stirring medley by Waylon Jennings (including "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line") is almost worth the entire price of admission.George Jones The star power continues on Legends again recalling the likes of Price, Cline, Nelson, Cash and Lynn, anchored by that latter act's timeless "Coal Miner's Daughter." The sappiest segment comes during Love Songs featuring several of the same stars performing mostly ballads about developing and disastrous romances, though Parton's "I Will Always Love You" gleans with a particularly earthy charm.

However, the marathon viewing hits a stride once again with Pioneers, featuring Roy Acuff, The Carter Family, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, The Louvin Brothers and many other southern fried forerunners. The collection closes with Queens of Country. led by all the usual diva suspects and their signature songs- from Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" to Parton's "Jolene." That last high octane fan favorite provides a fitting conclusion to a remarkably comprehensive collection that's sure to beat this weekend's consumer blues, while also serving as this season's paramount stocking stuffer for any twang-laced old school appreciator.
Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBlack Rebel b-sides, Bettens is back
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
In 2005, moody alt-rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released the brooding Howl, followed by the b-sides collection Howl Sessions. That trend continues this year with the traditional studio project Baby 81 and now the December 4 release American X: Baby 81 Sessions. Expect a mixture of new tunes from the cutting room floor (including the concert favorites "Vision" and "The Show's About to Begin"), plus a 9 minute film clip for the fan favorite "American X." But rather going the corporate retail route with this release, faithful will have to flock to the album's exclusive outlet

After finding fame with alternative rockers K's Choice (including international acclaim and several European festival headlining slots), front women Sarah Bettens went the solo route.Sarah Bettens Her 2006 disc Scream scored the tunesmith that same year's European Border Breakers Award for "Best New Artist," paving the way for this year's sophomore release Shine. The project features production from Brad Wood (Sunny Day Real Estate, Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins), plus a social and politically charged focus. "I can't write about things that don't affect me emotionally," she says. "With having found some inner peace, I was able to look outside my own little world a little and write about more worldly or political issuesŠI never want to pretend I have clear-cut solutions for gun control or the war. I just like to offer stories that will hopefully spark conversation."

Chicago may be synonymous with the blues, but Buddy Guy is taking the association one step further by narrating a podcast tour of the Windy City. The famed bluesman is the voice behind the city's current tourism campaign, which has thus far been downloaded 97,000 times and is averaging over 1,000 downloads per day. The 50-minute excursion is complexly free, taking visitors throughout countless cultural landmarks and venues (from Maxwell Street to Chess Records), complete with a map for the directionally challenge
U2Street Date: U2 remastered, Clapton's Crossroads
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Twenty years ago, U2's landmark album The Joshua Tree first hit stores, branding the band as the biggest in the world thanks to singles such as "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "With or Without You" and "Bullet the Blue Sky." Two decades later, the foursome arguably holds that same title, and for those that may be skeptical, Bono and the boys are unfurling three key pieces of evidence. The first is a remastered edition of the CD in a simple, single disc format, boasting all of the aforementioned, plus fan favorites like "Running To Stand Still" and "Trip Through Your Wires." A double disc version features the original album, along with bonus b-sides, such as "Silver And Gold," "Spanish Eyes" and "Sweetest Thing." For the uber fan, a box set is packed with those two projects, plus a DVD of the band live in Paris on July 4 1987.

On the concert DVD front, Eric Clapton drops Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 (Rhino), documenting this summer's all-star jam session in Chicago. The bill includes B.B. King, Willie Nelson, John McLaughlin, Robert Cray Band, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Vince Gill, Los Lobos,Eric Clapton Sheryl Crow, Jeff Beck and John Mayer (to name a few). Yet the true treat is Clapton's reunion with Blind Faith member Steve Winwood, plus Buddy Guy's grand finale of "Sweet Home Chicago" (backed by several members of the above cast).

Trent Reznor may be without a record label home at the moment, but Interscope still has one more project to push via the tongue twister of a title Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D. Long story short, the double disc project features remixes of 2007's Year Zero, plus a DVD-ROM for listeners to remix the tunes themselves. For the less than creatively conscious, the traditional CD still boasts intriguing variations by Stephen Morris (Joy Division/New Order), the Kronos Quartet, Sam Fogarino (Interpol) and The Faint.
Regina SpektorRegina resumes, Brown's advisors under fire
Monday, November 19, 2007
Singer/songwriter/pianist Regina Spektor fell ill last week during a sound check at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium and was eventually diagnosed with an inner ear infection, plus a subsequent spell of vertigo. That show was canceled, along with a gig in Atlanta at the Tabernacle the following night, though her tour officially picked backed up in Norfolk on November 16. From then until now, promoters scrambled to find make-up dates, finally resulting in a December 5 show in Atlanta and December 6 in Nashville (with original tickets being honored or full refunds available for those who can't make the new dates).

James Brown may have been surrounded by a constant stream of controversy while he was alive, but the fire looms around the late great entertainer, whose estate is pointing the finger at a formal financial advisor. After a close inspection of the books for James Brown Enterprises, it appears as though several million dollars are missing.James Brown One time aid David Cannon has his lips sealed (he pleaded the Fifth according to the August Chronicle), but the courts are sure to keep calling even though it's a year after the Godfather of Soul's untimely passing.

Fellow soul men the Jackson Five may be back in action as early as next year, and yes, that would likely include Michael Jackson (fresh off several legal nightmares of his own). According to concert promoter Leonard Rowe (who worked with the gloved one throughout the late 1970s and early 80s), he's been in talks with the boys about a full-fledged reunion. "In April of this year, I flew out to Las Vegas and met with them all and he told me, 'let's look at 08," Rowe told Access Atlanta. "We wanted to go this year, but [Michael] said it would take a lot of preparation. He didn't say no."

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