Record Label and Music Spotlight 

April 2003



on Goofin'

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BLUE NOTE RECORDS - One of the great American 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar legends, Georgia-native Leo Kottke is further honored with two all-instrumental CDs released in early 2003 on Blue Note Records. Leo Kottke Instrumentals: The Best Of The Capitol Years features 18 tracks taken from six albums Kottke recorded on Capitol Records between 1970-1975. Discovered and signed in 1969 to Takoma Records by John Fahey, Kottke’s early genius at combining country, bluegrass, ragtime, blues, Celtic, classical and flamenco guitar music is quite apparent on The Best Of The Capitol Years. In 1976, Kottke became the first American artist to sign with U.K.-based Chrysalis Records, debuting that year with a self-titled release. Kottke went on to record five albums for Chrysalis, the best of which provides the contents of Leo Kottke Instrumentals: The Best Of The Chrysalis Years. The eighteen track Chrysalis Years compilation—also compiled by long time Kottke aficionado Jerry Roche—features a number of Kottke’s late ‘70s favorites, including tracks from 1983's T-Bone Burnett-produced Time Step, several unreleased tracks from the 1977 Montreux International Jazz Festival and a Kottke rendition of Duane Allman's "Little Martha" from the Time Step sessions. During the late ‘80s Kottke went on to record a number of albums on the now-defunct Private label, yet as Roche points out in his liner notes, Kottke’s true legacy as an acoustic guitar master still lives in the grooves of his early recordings for Capitol and Chrysalis. Blue Note has done a great job on both their Capitol and Chrysalis Best-of CDs, both of which are vital reminders of Kottke’s amazing guitar skills.

- A legend from the ‘70s, Finnish guitarist Nono Söderberg released an excellent guitar album in 2002. Twisting Standards finds the jazz-rock ace in a playful mood serving up a number guitar standards in a new surf-jazz style. Twangy flavored instro raveups of classics like “Flamingo”, “Stranger In Paradise”, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and even “Sweet Georgia Brown” spring to life with Söderberg’s right on instrumental guitar sounds. In the spirit of ‘60s guitar heroes like Hank Marvin and Nokie Edwards, and jazz icons like Barney Kessell as well as Spanish classical masters like Segovia, Twisting Standards serves up a fresh new take on the legendary ‘60s guitar instrumental sound.

- You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Meshugga Beach Party. Subtitled Sixteen Songs Of The Chosen Surfers, the basic premise here is mixing the catchiest, time-honored songs of the Jews with rockin’ surf guitar music. The idea in itself is decades old and hundreds of guitar group’s over the past 40 years have covered favorites like “Hava Nagila”. Featuring guitarist Mel Waldorf, the CD takes the concept to it’s logical conclusion and beyond, retrofitting certified Kosher classics like “Shalom Alechem” and “Hatikvah” (what, no “Adon Olam”?) A great idea taken to completion by guitarist Waldorf and his meshugga beach buddies, the album is a done deal with a cover art straight out of Mad magazine!

- Having recorded 25 albums over the past 35 years, Brazilian guitar great Carlos Barbosa-Lima released Natalia in 2003. The follow up to Mambo No. 5, his first album on Khaeon World Music, Natalia features a fine cross section of 20th Century Guitar music from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and even the U.K. Several fine players assist, but overall the album is primarily centered around Barbosa-Lima’s near flawless approach to nylon string guitar performance which combines a contemporary twist of classical, Brazilian and jazz based guitar idioms. A protege of Andres Segovia who resided and taught for many years in NYC, Barbosa-Lima currently resides in Puerto Rico.

- Major league guitar shredder Michael Harris released his fifth solo instrumental CD, Hurricane X at the end of 2002 on the Georgia-based Leviathan Records. With the drum and bass chores filled out by Mike Haid and David T. Chastain respectively, the album is a high octane masterpiece of hard rock guitar riffing. Harris once again proves himself a master of the heavy metal guitar attack. Anyone who spins the guitar heavy sounds of Trower, Page, Blackmore, Roth, Schenker and more will dig where Harris & Co. are coming from on Hurricane X. Also recent on Chastain’s Leviathan imprint is the second album from Southern Gentlemen entitled Double Your Pleasure. The powerful combination of Chastain and drummer Haid is intact here with the other addition being Kevin Kekes on bass. With Chastain on lead vocals and guitars, Double Your Pleasure keeps the Southern blues rock tradition alive.

NARADA RECORDS - One of the pioneering groups of the Gypsy flamenco guitar sound so popular today, Willie And Lobo released Mañana in early 2003. Described as “a travelscape for the imagination”, Mañana finds the duo of Willie Royal (violin) and Wolfgang “Lobo” Fink performing a variety of tunes flavored with a wealth of indigenous musics from Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Hawaii, Mexico and the Southern U.S. Assisted by a number of fine players (including lap steel guitarist Jeff Pevar), the duo’s elegant and pleasurable mixture of Gypsy violin and acoustic flamenco guitar hits a new peak making Mañana one of the best Willie & Lobo albums yet.

PSYRECORDS - Anyone who remembers the subliminal power and musical majesty of those classic late ‘70s albums from Brian Eno,—such as Music For Airports and Apollo—should check out the CD from Mr. Soon entitled Places In Arizona. Arizona native Joe Jakob has fashioned a captivating, mesmerizing instrumental album that tastefully mixes chill-out electronica and restrained trance-inducing hip-hop sounds. Described as “an audio road trip through the land that the Hopi Indians regard as the spiritual center of North America”, Places In Arizona takes Eno’s vision of ambient instrumental sounds to the next level. The album has some really interesting textures and according to the album’s executive producer Jim Goetsch, “alot of the atmospheric sounds are electric or acoustic guitar run through some heavy effects processing. So there's plenty of guitar, although it may not be obvious.” In addition, the prominent colorful CD artwork perfectly reflects the CD’s sublime, powerful sound.

THRESHOLD / UMG -What can mere mortals do these days to uphold the magic of the music created some 37 years ago when The Moody Blues released their first music with the fabled ‘Classic 7’ lineup. When group founder and Mellotron master Mike Pinder left the band some 25 years ago, a pivotal piece of the puzzle was taken away from the whole and from this writer’s standpoint it’s never been the same since. Judging from the crowd who were there the night they recorded of A Night At Red Rocks, the Moodies are still one of the truly revered musical institutions from the heyday of the ‘60s. Filmed and recorded in the Summer of ‘92 the CD and DVD of Red Rocks bravely attempts a number of early Pinder-driven classics although without ruffling too many beaks, much better here are the more authentic sounding post-Pinder Moodies tracks mostly written and recorded by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. If anything, the DVD demonstrates the band’s timeless pop appeal that still works so well in concert.

THURSDAY MORNING RECORDS - For their fourth album since 1995, The Dent arrive their 2003 album, Farewell. The anthemic torch songs are really great especially “Lost Alone” but the Connecticut power pop group—produced by bassist D.Rauh and featuring guitarist Jeff Norberg—can really pop out and convinces with their updated pop twist in the spirit of ‘60s greats like The Left Banke, The Cyrkle and Badfinger.

-The field of guitar-based instrumental fusion albums is getting pretty interesting a third into 2003 and high on the list of outstanding new artists is California-based Vince Mendoza, who released his debut CD Highway 154. Performing all the guitars, synths and keyboards—Mendoza is ably assisted by Frank Reina (drums) and Brad Cummings (bass). It’s amazing how expressive an electric guitar can sound in Mendoza’s hands and his compositional edge puts the album over the top. Masterful at combining the right guitar tone and melodic approach, Mendoza doesn’t bowl you over, instead he adroitly lures you in with a sound that’s somewhere between Jan Hammer’s made for TV soundtrack sound and a full-bodied guitar tone somewhere between Jan Akkerman and Steve Morse. Excellent stuff.

- Back in 1969 Vanguard, a label best known for it’s folk-rock catalog of artists like Joan Baez, released one the best solid rock/pop albums of the year. The album, Frost Music, featured several radio friendly tracks such as “Black As Night”, but as quickly as they came, The Frost would disappear after their 1970 album Through The Eyes Of Love. The Frost introduced the talents of singer Dan Hartman and guitar icon Dick Wagner, who went on to work with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper and a host of others. Vanguard’s 2003 CD release of The Best Of Frost is actually a live album recorded in their native Detroit and presents a good snapshot of an unheralded rock legend who were hot live but still better in the studio.

- Taking the Nuevo Flamenco sound to it’s loftiest peak yet, the 2003 release of Canciones del Alma (Songs From The Soul) from New Mexico guitarist Wayne Wesley Johnson is a real revelation for guitar fans. Wayne Wesley Johnson’s played with guitar legends including Les Paul and former Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards and his wealth of guitar experience and influences comes shining through on Canciones del Alma. The Spanish title underscores Johnson’s affinity for uptempo, lushly recorded Latin-flavored instrumental music. The album features a number of skillful players and percussionists, including masterful drumming from K.C. Morris and right at the center of the soundstage is Johnson’s ever inventive guitar work. Legendary guitarist Nokie Edwards appears on a new Latin rhythm version of “Walk Don’t Run” called “Camina No Corras”. Another highlight is a remake of the ‘60s surf-rock classic “Pipeline” again featuring Edwards on electric lead with Johnson carrying that supple ‘Jazzamenco’ rhythm on nylon string flamenco guitar. The skilled fretboard practitioner that he is, Johnson often spices up the sound with rare, exotic instruments like the Chinese pipa, skillfully played by Gao Hong, and Bolivian pan flutes & charango of Mario Reynolds. Topped off by inventive label artwork and superbly detailed CD booklet, Canciones del Alma is a splendid sonic joyride filled with a wealth of dazzling instrumental guitar music.


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