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Pop the Champagne (02/26/99) Write to CD Shakedown
Blue Collar BandBlue Collar Band, Champagne (1998) - Coming to you from the Quad Cities is the Blue Collar Band. With a steady blues rock sound, Champagne is an all-night rocker.

BCB was formed in 1976, and consists of Jim Van Acker (drummer and founding member), Tony Hoepner (keyboards, lead vocals, and founding member), Buddy Olson (lead guitars), and Steve Svec (bass player). New members include female lead vocalist Carol Ann Chouteau and guitarist Mike Wallace.

With songs like "Come on Down From Your Ladder" and "Change," BCB shows influences of Subdudes and Big Head Todd. (The band also reminds me of my favorite Midwest rockers, the Lamont Cranston Band.)

Blue Collar BandThe album also includes a CD multi-media section, which features video performances of three songs: ("Working Man Blues," "Champagne," and "Whole Lot Worse"), together with interviews of the band members, and the history of the song "Rebel Blues" (about a Confederate soldier who was killed while trying to escape from the Rock Island Arsenal).

Champagne has a classic bar-blues sound, with smooth jams and rollicking keyboards. A well-made recording by experienced musicians, Champagne won't let you down.

For more information, contact:

Blue Collar Band
1115 - 10th Street
Moline, IL 61265
Phone 309.764.2639

Various Artists, Hempilation 2 (Capricorn 1998) - Hempilation 2 (subtitled "Free the Weed") is the second collection to benefit NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). With 20 tracks totaling 75 minutes, the new set is based on "alternative country," although it also includes funk, hip hop, and reggae.

Dar WilliamsWhat's good? Let's start with "Play the Greed" by folkie Dar Williams. Accompanied by the Scud Mountain Boys, Williams demonstrates why she is widely acclaimed in the alterna/folk field.

Vic Chesnutt delivers a subtle, "Weed to the Rescue." Chesnutt was paralyzed in a car accident more than a decade ago, and strongly supports the medical use of marijuana. (Adds Chesnutt, "I use it sometimes if I have writer's block. That's medicinal, too.")

Mike WattAlso look for
Mike Watt's "Sidemousin' the Bong," with Eastern-influenced violins and vocals by Petra Haden. George Clinton delivers a pop/funk number in "U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog," while Willie Nelson performs a live version of "Me and Paul" (recorded live in Amsterdam, appropriately).

Other tracks include a remake of
Charlie Daniels' 1974 hit, "Long-haired Country Boy" by From Good Homes, "30 Days in the Hole," a remake of the 1972 Humble Pie hit performed by the country power trio of Gov't Mule, and "Under Me Sensi," a reggae-influenced number performed by the Long Beach Dub All Stars (featuring former members of Sublime).

Hempilation 2 wears its political message firmly on its sleeve [although it does so with occasional humor: explains Wayne Kramer (formerly of the MC5), "Look, no one ever stuck up a 7-11 because they needed to buy the money to buy more reefer. Okay, maybe they wanted the double chocolate chip cookies."] With solid songs, Hempilation 2 deserves your support.

Tony Orlando
Tony Orlando & Dawn, The Definitive Collection (Arista 1998) - Though critics may have given them short shrift, Tony Orlando & Dawn enjoyed big success during the early 70's, including three number one singles and a variety show that ran for two years on CBS television. The Definitive Collection is an 18-song overview that showcases the trio's best attributes: engaging performances, strong arrangements, and good songs.

Tony Orlando was born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassivitis in 1944 in New York City. Starting in 1960, he became a demo singer for the famed Brill Building stable of songwriters.

Tony Orlando and DawnA decade later, his pairing with singers Joyce Vincent and Telma Hopkins lead to his biggest success. With radio-friendly songs, balanced by Vegas chintz and vaudeville showmanship, the trio found themselves at the top of the charts with songs like "Candida," "Knock Three Times," and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree."

The Definitive Collection has been digitally remastered using 20 bit technology and sounds clean and fresh. Thus, songs like "I Play and Sing" and "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?" still sound fresh and clean.

Dis him if you must, but Tony Orlando sold a ton of records. Approach The Definitive Collection with an open mind and you'll have more fun than you expect.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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