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By Andy Argyrakis
Green Day Long Weekend Report: Wreck the Halls
Friday, December 21, 2007
With Christmas just around the corner, radio stations across the globe are undoubtedly pumping the heck out of all things holiday. Even though it's great to hear "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at least a couple times each season, the overkill parade of schmaltzy pop stars singing about chestnuts roasting on open fires is at an all time high, making the hard rock minded loose their sanity (as if shopping wasn't stressful enough!) While Christmas Rock Records might not be the ultimate musical savior, its new line of Yuletide releases should at least help ease a little of the pain this week, while also potentially serving as one of this year's most bizarre stocking stuffers.

Long story short, the label took (and twisted) best selling songs from the Green Day, AC/DC and Metallica and funneled them through entirely seasonal arrangements. Sound a little confusing? Well, at face value the concept might not jump off the stereo with the same ease as Johnny Mathis singing AC/DC"Sleigh Bells," but each disc basically revolves around instrumental interpretations of the aforementioned acts (possibly under several servings of alcohol-spiked eggnog).

It may sound like a lark at first, but in this obvious season of bell ringing, consider Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" to be an aggressive substitute (taken from the appropriately titled tribute And Christmas for All). The sounds of AC/DC continue that theme come Hell's Bells of Christmas (thanks to the title track and the even more naughty "Mistress for Christmas"). The Green Days of Christmas rounds out the release cycle, boasting bubbly songs such as "Holiday" and "Jesus of Suburbia" - a stretch perhaps, but definitely something different during the winter doldrums.
Cassettes Won't Listen Cassettes Won't Listen freebies, New Blind Boys
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Prior to dropping an official debut disc in March 2008, indie rocker Jason Drake (better known as Cassettes Won't Listen) turns in the free EP of covers One Alternative. The exclusive set of downloads can be found at, featuring a slew of the one man band's most lauded influences, plus some of his favorite songs in general. Expect to catch Pavement's "Cut Your Hair" and Sebadoh's "The Freed Pig," plus cuts from Blind Melon, Liz Phair and Butter 08.

The Blind Boys of Alabama continue its consistent streak in the studio as of late, switching from Peter Gabriel's Real World label for a tag team with Time Life. Down In New Orleans releases January 29, paying tribute to gospel great Mahalia Jackson, plus a slew of lesser known Crescent City musicians. "This particular flavor is new for us," says founding member Jimmy Carter. The Blind Boys of Alabama"New Orleans musicians have a different feel to their rhythm. They play with syncopation, a push and pull. We had to make some adjustments to get used to that beat. But it wasn't hard." Aside from the Blind Boys' bluesy harmonies, except an all-star backing cast that includes Allen Toussaint, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Hot 8 Brass Band.

Besides boasting an astounding string of 40 number one hits, classic country star Ronnie Milsap can now also add a Music City Legend Award to his resume. The recent Nashville ceremony took place at Rocketown, a concert club that strives to provide a positive alternative from the streets for teens and young adults. The singer/songwriter's enduring "What a Difference You've Made In My Life" served as theme song for the venue's fundraising event that coincided with the presentation.
Queen New Queen single, The other Missy returns
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Between rock n' roll tributes, a full-blown musical and constant sea of concert products, it seems like the Queen camp is literally trying to bring Freddie Mercury back from the dead. But given the likelihood that the vaults are likely running low, the remaining members have teamed with Paul Rodgers for a brand new benefit track. "Say Its Not True" was originally issued December 1 to commemorate World AIDS Day, but is going commercial as a CD single December 31 (benefiting Nelson Mandela's 46664 HIV AIDS organization.) And like this partnership's recent live CD and DVD, the band's moniker will again be retooled as Queen + Paul Rodgers. In the U.S., the hip-hop star with Elliott for a last name may be the supreme Missy, but in Australia, a singer/songwriter by the same moniker reigns supreme.

After debuting Down Under with the best selling CD of 2005, poetic troubadour Missy Higgins drops her second CD On a Clear NightMissy Higgins in the States February 12. The disc was recorded under the direction of Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Crowded House) and includes guest slots from the latter band's Neil Finns, plus band backers who've previously worked with Tori Amos and Fiona Apple.

The seemingly endless road trip continues for Victory Records rockers Bayside in support of this year's breakthrough disc The Walking Wounded. After teaming with Anberlin in the spring, spending summer on the Vans Warped Tour and hitting clubs as fall headliners, the band once again hits the top spot of the bill throughout early 08. Starting January 25 in Providence, Rhode Island and wrapping March 1 in Farmingdale, New York, the alt-rock outfit is joined by Straylight Run and Four Year Strong, with opening duties split between Tokyo Rose and The Status.
Cuomo Street Date: Silverchair's online exclusive, Rivers solo
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Even with Weezer in between albums, fans are sure to flock to stores and online outlets for today's hotly anticipated solo release from front man Rivers Cuomo. Rather than a full-on studio CD with a different backing band, Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (Geffen) is actually a much simpler affair that finds the heroic indie rocker strapping on a guitar and pressing "record" free of major label production flash. The treasure trove of demos, oddities and unreleased tracks spans 1992-2007, including tracks from his unfinished rock n' roll musical "Songs From the Black Hole." But more pertinent to fans of the band is the original demo of "Buddy Holly," in all its catchy, goofy, geek rock glory.

Australia's Silverchair may have surfaced around the same time as Weezer, but leaned a lot closer to the grunge side of the dial. The trio recently abandoned those roots in favor of a more melodic and occasionally orchestral or dance dipped direction on its full-length SilverchairYoung Modern (Eleven Music), a tradition that continues on today's iTunes exclusive The Greatest View EP. The collection includes a new version of the title cut (originally cut in 2003), plus a pair of previously unreleased b-sides and videos. The Presets also turned in a remix edition of the group's recent single "Straight Lines."

The queen of modern day soul Mary J. Blige returns after two years with Growing Pains (Geffen). The project marks the diva's eighth overall disc and is said to be a continuation of 2005's The Breakthrough, known best for her foray into rock via a duet with U2 on the band's "One." This current release includes the breakout single "Just Fine," a retro-tipped groove wrapped around her unmistakably boisterous vocals.
Wilco Wilco's winter residency, Sleeping At Last's homecoming
Monday, December 17, 2007
For those who may have missed Wilco's endless festival run this summer or fall tour in support of Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch), the band is giving faithful an intimate alternative. On February 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20, the group hits Chicago's Riviera Theatre for a residency run through its entire career thus far. Each show promises a completely different set list, and as front man Jeff Tweedy promises, "we will attempt the 'complete Wilco' and try to clear out the dusty corners of the catalog that we haven't attended to in a while."

Fellow Chicago-based indie rockers Sleeping At Last are returning home as well, though fans won't have to wait until 2008. On Thursday, December 20, the ethereal, alt-rock trio sets up shop at House of Blues for its annual string quartet show (with tickets available at Sleeping At The band unloads tracks from its latest self-released disc Keep No Score, plus its Christmas EP Ghosts of Christmas Past. And speaking of Yuletide tunes (and subsequent holiday gifts), the group just recorded "Merry Little Christmas" as a free download:

Ike Turner may now be six feet under, but that hasn't stopped his name from appearing in the press alongside former wife/collaborator Tina Turner. Turns out Ike's widow Jeanette just put out a plea for Tina to forgive the late great entertainer for years of abuse, telling "I know that she was hurt, but there's something called forgiveness and I know Ike really forgave himself, which is really hard to do." As for the girl from Nutbush, Tennessee, she simply offered the following statement: "Tina hasn't had any contact with Ike for more than 35 years. No further comment will be made." Cold perhaps, but as the singer always says, "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

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