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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2011-03-30

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British songstress Adele raises the bar for her contemporaries with the outstanding, timeless sophomore album, 21. Her Unplugged performance on VH-1 proves she can stand her own, even with only a piano and guitar accompanying her mighty voice.

The CD kicks off with White Stripes-worthy drums on "Rolling in the Deep," which paints the mood for the set. The chorus on "Rumor Has It" is just retro enough that it could be used in a new production of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The album also has ballads like "Turning Tables," "Don't You Remember" and "Take It All" to serve as successors to her stateside hit "Chasing Pavements" from her debut, 19. Other standouts are "Someone Like You" and "One and Only." The latter easily could be a lost Dusty Springfield track. A stripped down reworking of "Lovesong" makes the favorite by The Cure lounge-ready.

Adele's material is mature and will age well, especially when comparing it to output from others in her age group, like Ke$ha and Lady Gaga. Expect 21 to earn a number of Grammy Awards next year.

Summer gets kicked off properly, as Adele has a sold-out show on Tuesday, May 24, at The Riviera, 4746 N. Racine.

New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Matt Duke recently performed at WXPN's Free at Noon with Adele. His latest, One Day Die, is now out, via Ryko.

Here, his strongest moments are on the slower paced numbers, like the otherworldly "Lay." "Love You Anymore" is a bittersweet love song with Cara Salamando. The closer, "Abandoned," is beautiful and stripped down. Duke has two concerts lined up at The Space, 1245 Chicago, Evanston. On Friday, April 1, he will be at the venue's private three-year anniversary show and then he will have a concert with Will Hoge on Saturday, April 2.

I fondly remember seeing the teaser for the film Sucker Punch. Schoolgirls get turned into warriors on a mission, while "Crablouse" by Lords of Acid adds to the frenzy. The soundtrack to Sucker Punch features a strong dose of girl power, but in an edgier fashion than the music from last year's Alice in Wonderland.

There are TKOs here, as the film's star Emily Browning remakes "Sweet Dreams ( Are Made of This ) " and Skunk Anansie joins Bjork on a new version of "Army of Me," which oddly originally appeared in the comic-book flick Tank Girl. Expect Emiliana Torrini's cover of "White Rabbit" to coincide with the initial trip to the new dimension in Sucker Punch. Alison Mosshart of The Kills teams with Carla Azar for a rocking, epic spin on "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles. Sucker Punch's soundtrack is out now.

It is report-card time, and Billie Ray Martin earns another A+. The forward-thinking artist has issued a string of magnificent singles like "Undisco Me," "Just Fascination" and "The Crackdown," while her loyal fan base waits in anticipation of her next move. Her latest, "Sweet Suburban Disco," does not disappoint as she tells the story of a woman finding solace on the dance floor. Erasure's Vince Clarke offers a tremendous remix, giving the track more body and depth.

Later this year, expect a full-length album from The Opiates with Martin's signature soulful vocals and a pairing with Hard Ton. "Sweet Suburban Disco" is out now digitally.

Maybe the Tchaikovsky-sampling "All over the World" from 2009's Yes is a precursor that British duo Pet Shop Boys would score a ballet. The Most Incredible Thing finds the electronic pioneers working with conductor Dominic Wheeler, Wroclaw Score Orchestra, choreographer Javier De Frutos and dancers from Sadler's Wells. The ballet's storyline stems from Hans Christian Anderson's tale of the same name.

By no means is this a traditional ballet score. Electronic beats and even occasionally Neil Tennant's unmistakable vocals are coupled with the orchestra.

The ballet premiered in London, with a 2012 tour to follow. The score to The Most Incredible Thing is available now via Astralwerks.

The Flesh Hungry Dog Show has a "Party out of Bounds" theme for its six-year anniversary show at Jackhammer, 6406 N. Clark, on Friday, April 8. Chicago-based The Joans will headline with over-the-top rock meets new wave favorites like "Mad at the Dirt" and "Joan Crawford Goes to Hell." Also hailing from the Windy City, The Patty Elvis Band will reinterpret The King's catalog, as well as other hits from the '70s. Rounding out the bill are the B-52s cover band Planet Claire and the sibling act The Puterbaugh Sisters. For tickets and more information, please visit www.fleshungrydog.com .

This year, Miles Davis would have turned 85. The legendary trumpeter is being saluted with a series of live shows throughout Chicago, including a 40th-anniversary celebration of the groundbreaking Bitches Brew at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln, on Thursday, March 31. For more information, please visit www.milesdavisfest.org . Davis' Bitches Brew has been reissued in multiple formats, including a box set; a live recording; and a Legacy edition with two bonus discs and a DVD of a 1969 performance in Copenhagen.

During a tribute to Chaka Khan at a recent United Negro College Fund fundraiser, a clip was shown of Davis and Khan at the 1989 Montreux Jazz Festival collaborating on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." The Chicago-born vocalist flirtatiously used her ad-lib scatting to go tit for tat with Davis's horn-playing.


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