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January/February 2002

 

     
 


YES


PAUL McCARTNEY

KEN STRINGFELLOW

JENNIFER PAIGE

HARVEY MANDEL

THE JOHN ENTWISTLE BAND
 
     
  YES
Magnification
(Beyond)

These days itís not often that Yes rewards their fans with an album of new material, but when they do itís always something to talk about. The last two Yes studio albums, The Ladder and Open Your Eyes were both brilliantly conceived and delivered the goods in the eyes and ears of many long time fans. While the Ď99 release of The Ladder, produced by the late great Bruce Fairbairn, incorporated contributions from former Yes band members Billy Sherwood and Igor Khoroshev, the groupís 2001 album Magnification returns to the core Yes nucleus of Jon Anderson, Alan White, Steve Howe and Chris Squire. The band may be one keyboard player short of what some like to call the Ďclassicí Yes lineup, but the sound spectrum of Magnification is more than filled out with the addition of orchestral music arranged by Larry Groupe. The sound of Yes performing with a full blown symphonic backdrop is not an unusual occurrence - that concept was first so successfully mapped out on the bandís now classic 1970 album Time & A Word. Simply put, Magnification is so well conceived and has so many peak moments that prodigious keyboard monikers like Wakeman and Moraz arenít even missed. Steve Howeís outstanding guitar work and Alan Whiteís legendary drumming are still as good as it gets while the songs, bearing the long time Anderson/Squire Yes seal of approval, are among their finest to date. The title track, "Magnification", the stunning "Dreamtime" and the four part "In The Presence Of" will enchant long time fans, while "Give Love Each Day" and "Can You Imagine" are melodic works of symphonic rock worthy of inclusion on any future Yes best-of collection. Topping off the proceedings is the lushly layered CD closer "Time Is Time", a song which hearkens back in spirit to Time And A Word and also to early Yes songs like "We Have Heaven" and "A Venture". Produced by Yes and Tim Weidner, Magnification combines experience with elegance and succeeds as a blessed offering from the all time masters of progressive rock and roll. www.nfte.org 


 
  PAUL McCARTNEY
Driving Rain
(Capitol)
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Coming Up
Listen To What The Man Said!
(Oglio)

Produced by David Kahne (whose credits include The Bangles and Tony Bennett) and featuring a new all-American band, Driving Rain is the first studio album of all new material in four years from Beatles legend Paul McCartney. Surely among the great albums from Sir Paul, Driving Rain is loaded with one catchy, fab pop song after another and in essence hearkens back to the way Macca worked with The Beatles back in the Ď60s. "Iíd been talking about the old way we used to record with The Beatles around the time of the early albums. Doing those interviews reminded me that John and I would come into the studio on the Monday morning with a song and show it to the guys. I thought thatís kind of amazing that even George and Ringo didnít know what we were going to do until the Monday morning. So we did it the same way with this new album, following the same technique. We came in on Monday morning, Iíd show them a song and weíd start doing it." Such an admission of spontaneity only further accentuates the good vibes running through Driving Rain. By now, most have heard the albumís single, the eloquent "From A Lover To A Friend", which sits neatly alongside future McCartney classics like the bouncy CD opener "Lonely Road", the hook-filled "Tiny Bubble", the mostly instrumental tribute to his lady friend "Heather" and the Indian-flavored Raga-rocker "Riding Into Jaipur". Clearly an album to visit and revisit with, as many songs reveal new delights upon repeat spins, the 15 track Driving Rain is topped off by a bonus track of the spirited song "Freedom", which was debuted at the now historic Concert For New York on October 20th, 2001. Recorded and mixed in L.A. over two sessions during February and June 2001, Driving Rain also benefits from a compelling performance from Paulís new band featuring Rusty Anderson (guitars), Gabe Dixon (bass) and Abe Loboriel Jr. (drums). www.paulmccartney.com 

Paul McCartney fans will also want to check out a pair of recent tribute CDs issued by L.A.-based Oglio Records. Produced by Kirk Waldrop and others for Tribute LLC, both Listen To What The Man Said! and Coming Up spotlight a number of top bands covering some of the many classic songs Paul wrote after leaving The Beatles. Dedicated to the spirit of the late, great Linda McCartney, both CDs will donate a portion of net sales to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. From a musical standpoint it would be hard to find a more devoted bunch of contemporary artists and groups to cover these prominent McCartney tunes. Of the two discs, the 16 track Listen To What The Man Said! features the better known artists including Owsley ("Band On The Run"), Robin Hitchcock ("Let Me Roll It"), Matthew Sweet ("Every Night") and They Might Be Giants ("Ram On") while the 15 track Coming Up features other choice Macca covers from pop maven and Permanent Press Records founder Ray Paul ("Oh Woman, Oh Why"), Cockeyed Ghost ("Back On My Feet") and guitar great Phil Keaggy ("Somedays"). Complete with sterling cover art (both portray McCartneyís Hofner bass) and outstanding liner notes, Listen To What The Man Said! and the companion CD Coming Up are vital pop tributes and both are essential for McCartney and Beatle fans. www.oglio.com  / www.tributellc.com 


 
  KEN STRINGFELLOW
Touched
(Manifesto)

A masterful singer-songwriter whoís name has long been associated with groups such as The Posies, Big Star and R.E.M., Ken Stringfellow recently released his latest, long awaited solo album. Although he broke up The Posies in 1998 after five albums (he recently reunited them again as a touring band), Stringfellow hasnít lost any of his knack to floor you with a killer pop hook. Featuring Stringfellowís vocals, guitar and keyboards perfectly mixed for maximum impact, Touched is further optimized by a round of fine players and some neat studio wizardry by producer legend and guitar great Mitch Easter. Containing eleven tracks ranging in spirit from power pop to emotional ballads, Touched has something for all purveyors of fine pop music. Highlights include the exceptional "This Oneís On You", which is reminiscent of Matthew Fisher with Procol Harum, and the optimistic set-closer "Hereís To The Future." Incidentally, Touched was also released in the U.K. on the prolific and always on the mark Poptones label imprint. www.manifesto.com 


 
  JENNIFER PAIGE
Positively Somewhere
(Hollywood)

Back in Ď98, Atlanta-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Jennifer Paige hit the big time with her Top 10 pop hit "Crush", a song featured on her self-titled CD debut on Hollywood Records. Paige now returns with another solid pop effort that effortlessly mixes live instrumentation with a high-tech programmed dance beat groove. A convincing jumping off point for the immensely gifted Paige, Positively Somewhere features various talented session players while the CD sound is further enhanced by the technical expertise of talented Ďknob-turnersí like Tom Lord-Alge. According to Paige, "I had a fantastic time making it, working with really talented writer/producers whose work Iíve admired for years." Currently filming her role as a singing waitress in Disneyís upcoming The Country Bears, Paige is set to take her talents on the road adding, "Iíve just finished putting a new band together and canít wait to get out on the road. This record is going to be very exciting for me from a performance standpoint." www.jenniferpaige.com 


 
  HARVEY MANDEL
West Coast Killaz
Lick This
(Electric Snake)

Long time fans of Ď60s blues rock guitar innovators will remember the name Harvey Mandel. Back in the Ď60s, then Chicago-based Mandel performed alongside blues greats like Muddy Waters, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite. Perhaps Mandelís best known gig remains as the lead guitarist with Canned Heat, even playing with the group at their fabled Ď69 gig at Woodstock. According to Mandel, "I learned from the blues players I was jamming with, as far as the technique and the notes, but I always had my own sound in my head." Itís been quite a while since Harvey released his debut solo album Cristo Rendentor back in 1968. "The Snake", as he was dubbed by keyboard great Barry Goldberg, remained more than busy in the ensuing years, recording with John Mayall and The Rolling Stones while also releasing solo album classics such as Baby Batter, The Snake, and Shangrenade back in the Ď70s. Among the guitaristís most recent recording activities was the critically acclaimed album Planetary Warrior, released in September 1997, while Mandelís two recent albums, released on his own Electric Snake Productions, have caused quite a stir among his long time fans. Both Lick This and West Coast Killaz are earmarked with Mandelís inimitable guitar skills filtered through the currently popular fusion of rock, funk, techno and rap/jazz sounds. The mainly instrumental Lick This features several vocals from Sonny Reece and is more guitar centered, while Mandelís 2001 album West Coast Killaz will be a real ear opener for his long time fans. A quick comparison of both Lick This and West Coast Killaz would be to some of Jeff Beckís searing techno/metal albums, while the addition of rap vocals from Harveyís son Eric "The Shotgun" Mandel on West Coast Killaz really shoots the Mandel sound way into the future. West Coast Killaz really falls into the "holy shit, I canít believe what Iím hearing" category, while both albums feature Mandel performing all guitars, bass, drums, rhythms and percussion. Harveyís come a long way since those early years with Canned Heat but youíre still gonna smile when you hear his great guitar playing again. www.harveymandel.com 


 
  THE JOHN ENTWISTLE BAND
Music From Van-Pires
(Pulsar)

They called him the Ox back in the early Ď60s thanks to his thunderous bass lines with The Who, so itís a real treat to hear the latest studio CD from original Who bassist, John Entwistle and his merry band. The JE Band have gotten really tight in the past couple years and thatís reflected in the fine performance on Music From Van-Pires, which also features the rock solid guitar sound of Godfrey Townsend (no relationship to Pete). To his credit, Entwistle takes lead vocals on some of the tracks splitting the chores with the groupís drummer and co-composer Steve Luongo. As soon as you hear the great "Back On The Road", you know your hearing a true master songwriter whose greatness was partially eclipsed by Who mastermind Pete Townshend. Who drummer Keith Moon even makes a cameo performance on a track thanks to some nifty digital editing. The 1999 John Entwistle Band CD, Left For Live, demonstrated the groupís possibilities, though the band achieves full lift-off with Music From Van-Pires. www.johnentwistle.com 


 
 
 
   
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