• This Tuesday brings the two-DVD version of The Concert for New York City, recorded October 20 with more than five hours of footage capturing all the night's performances and special presenters not found in the recently issued CD version.

• Raise a cocktail to the sky and nod in sad salute to the passing of Juan Garcia Esquivel, the "mood music" composer and visionary of lounge electronica. As mono LPs went stereo, Esquivel made bold musical explorations to excite the emerging hi-fi culture.

• I've got to share the good word on a terrific new release this coming Tuesday: Jon Dee Graham's Hooray for the Moon on the New West label. This is the third solo album from this former member of True Believer and a senior statesman of alternative-country royalty, recently honored as the 2000 Songwriter of the Year at SXSW's Austin Music Awards.

Variety is the order of the day on the local music scene. Two new releases by local bands are now available, and fans of electronic music and straight-ahead heavy metal should have a good time with both albums. Also, we finally caught up with a recent recording by a local singer that should please people who like soft ballads and light country.

As the year wraps itself into a nice little bow, here's my "best of 2001" to perhaps tickle your ear and set you in search of these under-the-radar favorites. Yes, none of these found a home among the Lolitas, pretty boys, and thuggish bravado that continues to dominate the charts, but you, dear reader, are one of the enlightened ones, eh? In no particular order, here are the albums that made my heart soar, stretched the space between my ears, and totally captured my attention.

As the record industry cools down the factory boiler for the holidays, let me share with you my picks for the best of 2001. Favorite Single: Sugarcult, "Stuck In America" (Ultimatum Music). An energetic power-pop anthem that mixes up 1970s punk and 1980s power-chord pep spiked up with new-millennium swagger.

• It's time for holiday music to get the mood - or the party - started right. No muzak or Mitch Miller here, mates. So allow me to share my highlights of this season's funkiest new Christmas CDs. Cut right to the chase of the bitchin'-est of the bunch: the power rawk girl-power duo of Evil Beaver and its Smells Like Christmas Spirit on the Johann's Face record label.

Undoubtedly Dvorak’s Cello Concerto is the most famous piece of its type ever written. In fact, composers such as Brahms – upon hearing Dvorak’s piece – lamented that they hadn’t written a cello concerto themselves.

It was a great idea by the Blackthorn Pub & Eatery. Host local bands on four consecutive Sundays in late summer, record their sets, compile the best performances on CD, and sell it as a benefit for two charities, Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities and the Mississippi Valley Blues Society’s BlueSKool program.

• My favorite new CD of the moment goes to Rick Altizer and his power -pop masterpiece All Tie Zer. Bearing the imprint of the Not Lame Recordings, a Colorado label serving up the best in indie pop, this new album is candy for the ears with its "Dear God"-era XTC meets Tom Petty cleverness and melancholy melodies.

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