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Try And Stop Me
(Bluebird / RCA Victor)

Acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke released Try And Stop Me in 2004 as the follow up CD to his 2002 release with Mike Gordon of Phish entitled Clone. While Clone featured a range of vocal tracks, Try And Stop Me gets Kottke back to doing what he does best which is making hypnotic, rural guitar instrumentals that evoke the spirits of his mentor John Fahey. Recorded near Kottke’s home in Minneapolis, the 11 track CD finds Kottke riffing out a six and 12 string guitar adding in more than a touch of improvisation. Kottke adds, “Over time, the importance of improvisation for me has increased”, adding “Clone raised the level of risk I was willing to accept.” Kottke’s strength as a guitar instrumentalist over the years was always his unique ability to blend folk, pop, jazz and classical guitar styles as his own and in typical fashion, Kottke rounds out Try And Stop Me with an instrumental version of the Patti Page ‘50s pop standard “Mockingbird Hill.” The CD’s lone vocal finds Kottke reinterpreting a folk classic with Kottke adding, “It was folk singing legend Pete Seeger’s recording of ‘The Banks Of Marble’ that first got me excited about the 12-string guitar many years ago.” Over the years, Kottke has earned the respect of guitar contemporaries such as John Fahey, Paco de Lucia, John Williams and Joe Pass to which the guitarist adds, “My music is maybe hard to categorize. It doesn’t fit conveniently into the bins at record stores. I don’t rise and fall with trends. It’s been great that way.” While classic Kottke albums—from Chewing Pine in 1975 to his 1999 album One Guitar, No Vocals—are considered classics, his 1969 breakthrough album on Takoma Records, Six And 12 String Guitar is also highly regarded. Long time Kottke watchers will want to check out a 2004 hybrid stereo / SACD version of the album on Takoma / Fantasy. /



The Muse Awakens
(Inside Out)

A band long considered by aficionados as the American equivalent of progressive U.K. trendsetters like Gentle Giant or Camel, Happy The Man sadly broke up in 1979 after two successful albums on Arista Records. 20 years after their breakup, HTM co-founders Stanley Whitaker (guitars) and Frank Wyatt (sax, woodwinds) began sewing the seeds for a reunion of the band and the fruits of their efforts finally appears on the 2004 Inside Out Music CD release of The Muse Awakens. Despite the various reasons to celebrate this first Happy The Man studio album in ages, the one problem here is the non-appearance of HTM mentor Kit Watkins, who unfortunately opted out of the comeback album in lieu of the band’s decision to tour. One of the most gifted keyboardist / composers of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Watkins is sorely missed by long time progressive rock fans. Yet taken on it’s own, The Muse Awakens is quite a noble effort in it’s own right. Featuring Whitaker and Wyatt in fine form alongside keyboardist and long time HTM devotee David Rosenthal, Rick Kennell (bass) and drumming ace (and fine recording artist in his own right)Joe Bergamini, The Muse Awakens draws from the adventurous prog-rock spirit of the original Happy The Man sound while taking advantage of the advances in recording studio technology. In the words of Frank Wyatt, “Just sitting in the room playing with Stan again, I felt like a kid again. I felt like we were right there where we left off. It just literally poured right out of us. This music sort of writes itself.” Anyone familiar with those classic HTM albums, the many fine Kit Watkins instrumental albums or the progressive jazz and rock sounds coming from the Inside Out label these past few years will thoroughly enjoy the amazing sounds on The Muse Awakens.



"33 1/3"

It’s no coincidence that guitar great Les Paul keeps Frank Vignola on second guitar right beside him when he performs live every Monday night at the Iridium. He can play. Kicking off the CD with a jazzy up tempo bossa nova instrumental cover of “Begin The Beguine”, Frank and percussionist Joe Ascione proceed to cook up quite a delectable musical treat with the 13 track 33 1/3. A few vocalists grace the duo’s mostly instrumental jazz guitar spectacular including a great Mary Ford-inspired “Don’t Fence Me In” from Manhattan Transfer’s Janet Siegal to say nothing of the great Dr. John on his rousing vocal of “Sheik Of Araby”. A Long Island native, Vignola is simply dazzling on lead, rhythm and all other guitars and overall, the album is a fine forum for his wide ranging guitar influences—from Django and Les to Hendrix and Van Halen. Describing the album concept, producer Joel Dorn adds, “The title alludes to a time when albums were magnificent two act plays that had a beginning, a middle and an end”, with Vignola echoing, “Whether we sell a thousand records or a million, we know we’ve made the best possible record we were capable of doing at this point in time and as an artist that’s all you can ask for.”


Cinema Surf
(Golly Gee)

In 2004, The Supertones—Tim Sullivan, Mike Mandina, Simon Chardiet and Presley Acuna—have recorded their own unique ‘60s tribute CD entitled Cinema Surf. On it you’ll find definitive ‘60s instro covers of favorites like “The Munsters Theme”, “Music To Watch Girls By” and “Star Trek” played alongside chart-topping U.K. classics like “Wonderful Land” and “Atlantis”. Also spotlighted here is the ‘Tones unique ability to reinterpret vocal pop as instrumental fare, most evident on Cinema Surf covers of “And I Love Her”, “Paint It Black” and that bastion of paisley-pop, The Lemon Pipers ‘68 classic “Green Tambourine”. Tim Sullivan’s fondness for big screen spaghetti western madness, ‘60s soundtracks and spy-fi movies also comes into focus on new Supertones renditions of “The Magnificent Seven”, “Never On Sunday” and “Our Man Flint”. With so much nostalgia and musical history in play, ‘60s aficionados and guitar instro fans alike will dig Cinema Surf. Coinciding with the the 2004 CD release of Cinema Surf, California-based Golly Gee Records have also issued a fine Supertones companion CD entitled Original Music 1989-2003.



On his 2004 CD for Nonesuch, Unspeakable, guitarist Bill Frisell adopts a groove and soul based jazz mode. Backed up by Tony Scherr (bass), Kenny Wollesen (drums), Steven Bernstein (horn arrangements) and others, Frisell and legendary producer Hal Willner pepper the Unspeakable tracks with kooky orchestral / soundtrack sounds taken from vintage vinyl records—mostly sampled ideas or moods scoured from NBC’s well-stocked record library. According to the guitarist, “Making this record with Hal was the fulfillment of a 20-plus year dream for me”, with Willner echoing, “We wanted to make a beautiful, fun record that still was a Bill Frisell record. I think we succeeded.” Willner gave Frisell his first recording opportunity back in 1981 on a multi-artist tribute to Nino Rota, and various session work—the 1988 Disney music tribute (Stay Awake) and a 1992 tribute to Charles Mingus entitled Weird Nightmare—has seasoned them well for the roomy, mood enhancing sound of Unspeakable.


Poetry Of Appliance

It sounds like a perfect fit. Avant gard folk-jazz guitarist Richard Leo Johnson forms new minimalist classical folk-Americana music trio with a CD release on Cuneiform Records—among the most adventurous modern music labels in the U.S. In recent years, Johnson released a couple CDs on Blue Note and his 2004 Cuneiform release, Poetry Of Appliance furthers his reputation as the modern heir to the greatest acoustic guitar instrumentalists such as late greats John Fahey and Michael Hedges. Johnson grew up on classic progressive instrumental guitar heroes like John McLaughlin and Leo Kottke and he strikes gold on his own on another album of adventurous instrumentals, assisted here by Ricardo Ochoa (electric violin) and Andrew Ripley (keyboards). Part of what sets Johnson apart is his sheer technique and audacious approach to acoustic music, which he structures more like electric chamber music than either bluegrass or jazz could ever imagine. Performing on acoustic 12 string, acoustic double neck 6 and 12 string and electric 6 string, Johnson’s ethereal acoustic/electric forays are greatly enhanced by some quirky keyboard electronica courtesy of Andrew Ripley and strategic theremin injections by Ochoa. Challenging the instrumental acoustic genre, Richard Leo Johnson takes the guitar into a brave new world. /

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in and 20th Century Guitar. Send to P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249