For audio samples you'll 
need the RealPlayer

January/February 2002

 

     
 


THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA


BILLY NICHOLLS

GEORGE MARTIN

STEVE HACKETT
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER

CAT STEVENS

JAN AKKERMAN
 
     
  THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
First Light
(EMI)

EMI Records in the U.K. celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the very first self-titled 1971 album from The Electric Light Orchestra with First Light, a new double disc reissue that sheds new light on one of the most remarkable and influential rock albums of all time. It was almost too good to last and in fact after their first and only album together as ELO, Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan tragically parted company. In many ways, the original vision of ELO was that of Roy Wood, the gifted English multi-instrumentalist who formed Ď60s pop wonders The Move with drummer Bev Bevan. The incredible team of Lynne, Wood and Bevan formed the nucleus of ELO at the dawn of the Ď70s. A vision of Beatles-inspired strings and strangeness mixed with just the right touches of neoclassical rock, ELOís first album was a splendid introduction to a band that, under the guidance of Jeff Lynne, would eventually conquer the world. The only thing many early fans still regret is that Wood wasnít in the band long enough to realize the greatness and significance of his early vision. Living up to all the hype surrounding this groundbreaking release, EMI pulls out all the stops on their 30th anniversary double disc set of First Light. Centered around the definitive sounding version of the first ELO album, First Light benefits from first rate remastering, but thatís only the beginning. All of the original Lp artwork, lyrics and photos galore are accompanied by a second disc worth of rare bonus tracks including an amazing sounding Take 1 version of the first ELO song, "10538 Overture", Quadrophonic sound mixes of various tracks and BBC session tracks, some featuring the original lineup with Wood with Lynne and Bevan. To further set the record straight, two extensive CD booklets expound on the intensity of the original group and even features mutually praiseworthy 2001 liner notes from both Wood and Lynne. For computer buffs, thereís an eye-opening enhanced CD section boasting more info and a live video of the first line-up performing "10538 Overture". 30 years ago ELO took the music world by surprise with their astounding album debut and a completely unique sound that no one had ever quite heard before. Newcomers and long time fans alike will find all the reasons why and much more on the immensely collectible First Light. www.ftmusic.com 


 
  BILLY NICHOLLS
Under One Banner
(Southwest)

Back at the dawn of the Ď90s, U.K. singer-songwriter Billy Nicholls released what some still claim to be his best album ever. Under One Banner was a star-studded musical extravaganza highlighted by some of Nichollsí finest songs ever as well as stellar guest appearances from top players like guitar ace Phil Manzanera (who also co-wrote several tracks with Billy), Simon Phillips (drums), The Whoís keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick along with Billyís brother Mike Nicholls on guitars, bass and synths. Produced and mixed by Billy and Keith Bessey at Pete Townshendís Eel Pie Studios, the new reissue of Under One Banner is newly remastered by Jon Astley, making a great sounding album even better. Itís so good, that comparisons to Who albums like Who Are You? wouldnít be out of line here. Kicking off with the passionate "I Wonít Be The One", the album just gets better with each revealing spin culminating with the heroic set-closing title track, surely an appropriate song for these times. Itís impossible not to be moved by Nichollsí expressive singing and heart-wrenching lyrics. Thatís not to say there arenít plenty of upbeat and exciting moments here too. A mix of rockers that groove and torch song ballads that will leave you misty-eyed, Under One Banner is simply one of the best pop albums ever made. www.nicholls.co.uk 


 
  GEORGE MARTIN
50 Years In Recording
(EMI)

At the dawn of the 1960ís, as great as he would become a few short years later, pop producer Sir George Martin was still the number two guy at EMI. At the time, top producer honors went to Norrie Paramor, then the head honcho at Abbey Road Studios at the dawn of the Ď60s. Paramorís production and spectacular orchestrations for The Shadows, then EMIís biggest instrumental and vocal rock act, featuring guitarist Hank Marvin & Company, had broken through and achieved a new studio standard for English rock and roll. Paramor would go on to produce hundreds of great songs for The Shadows. Just as The Shads were peaking on the U.K. charts, a Liverpool music impresario named Brian Epstein called on Martinís ear, a serendipitous stroke of luck which in turn would lead to EMI signing the Beatles in 1962. Martinís chance meeting with Epstein was truly the turning point in 20th Century pop music history and more or less resulted with the invention of rock music as we now know and love it. By entering the inner sanctum of The Beatles and actually shaping the productions of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team and The Beatles, Martin would go on to produce other acts of the Epstein stable of Merseybeat wonders including Billy J. Kramer, The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Cilla Black to name a few. Before The Beatles changed everything, Martin was busy trying to come up with the next big thing although he honed his fundamental skills with local U.K. hometown heroes like Dick James and The Vipers Skiffle Group. Martinís other specialties back then included his productions of numerous recordings with the late great Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov. And any true fan of Martin will also recall his many great albums with The George Martin Orchestra (remember his ever brilliant "Theme One") and his innovative orchestral scores on Sgt. Pepperís and the Yellow Submarine movie. Although itís been 32 years since The Fabs and Martin parted ways and left us amazed on Abbey Road, leaving the Beatles provided another door opening for Martinís production skills. After the Beatles split, Martin became the number one in demand producer, going to provide sonic backdrops and studio wizardry for U.K. guitar heroes like John McLaughlin and Jeff Beck as well as English pop favorites like Strackridge (their brilliant Ď74 album The Man In The Bowler Hat), America, Seatrain, Gary Brooker (his Ď79 album No More Fear Of Flying), Neil Sedaka, Beatlesí keyboardist Billy Preston, Jimmy Webb and rockers Cheap Trick. The only thing you can think when you see and then hear Produced By George Martin - 50 Years In Recording is Whew! With 153 tracks and an amazing 35 page booklet featuring everything you ever wanted to know about Sir George, the package contains six CDs worth of classic Martin productions spanning the mid Ď50s to Martinís recent work with Elton John and Celine Dion including Martinís great 1998 album In My Life. Even if youíve never heard his name before, thereís hardly anyone that hasnít (at some point) heard Martinís skillful studio touch. If Martin had only produced The Beatles his reputation would have been sealed, yet the wonderfully packaged Produced By George Martin six disc retrospective stands as an overwhelming testament to rockís greatest studio starmaker and producer ace. A quick and easy way for U.S. fans to obtain this limited edition collectible box set import is through the catalog of Collectorschoicemusic.com


 
  STEVE HACKETT
The Tokyo Tapes
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Pictures At An Exhibition
(MVD)

It came out on CD a couple years back and now The Tokyo Tapes - Live In Japan finally makes itís U.S. DVD debut on the PA-based Music Video Distributors. The question posed on the DVD cover is still, "What would happen if occasional members of Genesis, King Crimson, Asia, Zappa and Weather Report all got together to form a unique team for one night?" With stellar performances from guitar master Steve Hackett, Ian McDonald (King Crimson & Foreigner), John Wetton (bass), Chester Thompson (drums) and Julian Colbeck (keyboards), the answer is to be found on The Tokyo Tapes. The DVD of The Tokyo Tapes mirrors itís CD release, but itís even more astounding to watch, hear and see these legendary prog-rock masters work their way through performances of some of the most celebrated rock classics of the past 33 years. In addition to 17 prog-rock classics including, "Watcher Of The Skies", "The Court Of The Crimson King" and "I Know What I like", the DVD features 18 minutes of rehearsal footage. Expertly filmed and a joy to behold, The Tokyo Tapes is a must see DVD for all prog-rock veterans.

Another recent winner from MVD is the first ever video DVD of the fabled live ELP album classic Pictures At An Exhibition. Recorded during the heyday of prog-rock back in 1970, Pictures is finally available as a ĎFlip Discí DVD with one side featuring the film of the Pictures concert and the other half being the CD soundtrack of the original film. The DVD remains a potent example of just how great Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer were as a group and their unique adaptation of the fabled Mussorgksy classic remains a vivid reminder of just how powerful the combination of prog rock and classical is/was. The overall quality of the DVD is spectacular and, while itís nice to have the music on the flip side of the DVD, the complete video of Pictures is the real deal. www.musicvideodistributors.com 


 
  CAT STEVENS
In Search Of The
Center Of The Universe
(A&M / UMG)

High on the list of the many bizarre occurrences of the late Ď70s was the transformation of U.K. singer-songwriter Cat Stevens from folk-rock & pop music innovator into pious Muslim protagonist Yusaf Islam. Despite just how talented and influential he was during the late Ď60s and early Ď70s, by the end of that decade Steveís muse had all but abandoned him and, following a near death experience in L.A., Steven Demetre Georgiou finally gave up his pop starís life and turned to the Islamic faith for sustenance. A look back at all the great music made during his short but influential career, Steveís new four disc box set on his long time label A&M Records takes in all the big hits (from his 14 album classics including Tea For The Tillerman - November Ď70 and Teaser & The Firecat - September Ď71) along with a number of live tracks, b-sides, rarities and unreleased cuts. Tea For The Tillerman may have turned the pop world upside down, but for some itís Steveís fabulous early music from the mid to late Ď60s, recordings made before his near terminal bout with TB and before the A&M years, that still retains the most vivid appeal. Stevens burst onto the U.S. music scene with his evergreen Top 40 smash "Matthew & Son" and loads of incredible tunes like "Here Comes My Wife", "Here Comes My Baby" and "Kitty" (all produced by the great U.K. studio wiz and musician Mike Hurst). Steveís early songs, taken from his first two albums, Matthew & Son (from March Ď67) and New Masters (from December Ď67) are still truly a revelation and figure quite prominently on disc one of the new box set. Anyone fascinated by the many great sounds coming out of England during the Ď60s will surely be moved by Stevensí intrinsic songs, underlined by a career-launching demo of "Back To The Good Old Times" - a spectacular song surely, and for long time fans worth the cost of the entire box set. Spanning 79 tracks recorded between 1965-79, including a 1997 collaboration recorded under his Muslim name, Yusuf Islam, In Search Of The Center Of The Universe is topped off by dazzling box set artwork. A 98 page CD booklet - filled with information including lengthy notes by the man himself - rounds out a most timely look back at one of the real pioneers of 20th Century pop music. www.catstevens.com 


 
  JAN AKKERMAN
Oil In The Family
(Red Bullet)

Guitar great Jan Akkerman has endured as a mainstay on the Dutch jazz-rock music scene since the heyday of his group Focus back in the early Ď70s. Since then Akkerman has recorded a wide array of excellent guitar-based instrumental albums over the years, with and without Focus. One Jan Akkerman solo album that never achieved the recognition it clearly deserves is the guitaristís 1981 album classic Oil In The Family. Inspired by the put-on spoof of a title, Oil In The Family was Akkermanís foray into the world of highly charged Middle-Eastern inspired disco music. A composite of brilliantly implemented synthesized guitar riffs and exotic sounding rhythms and melodies, Oil features Akkerman performing all the synth guitar parts and bass work aided by some nifty percussion assistance from Eddie Conard and AB Tamboer. With clever track titles like "Disc-O-Asis" and "A Family In The Oil", Akkerman hits the nail right on the head on an album clearly deserves to be right up their among his best ever. Topped off with memorable artwork and an added CD bonus track, this first ever CD reissue of Oil In The Family sounds fabulous thanks to some high tech digital remastering. In addition to their new reissue of Oil In The Family, Holland-based Red Bullet have also recently rolled out newly remastered editions of all the great Focus albums from the Ď70s including Moving Waves (with the groupís big U.S. hit "Hocus Pocus"), Focus 3 and Live At The Rainbow. www.redbullet.nl 


 
 
 
   
Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by mwe3.com. Send to: MWE3.com CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249
 e-mail:
info@mwe3.com
   
 
CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home
Email: Info@mwe3.com 

 

Copyright ©2000-2002 MWE3.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved