Record Label Spotlight 

January / February 2002



BLUE NOTE RECORDS - Take a trip to New Orleans with the latest from Gumbo rock legend Dr. John entitled Creole Moon. The Doctor’s new Blue Note release, Creole Moon follows last years funked-up Duke Ellington tribute entitled Duke Elegant. The great keyboardist/songwriting great Mac Rebennack receives ace support from a range of players including The Local 9-11 featuring guitarist Rene Poche. 

CMH RECORDS - California-based CMH Records are renowned for their numerous, well recorded instrumental Bluegrass tribute albums honoring the biggest names in contemporary pop and rock. The Allman Brothers, The Beatles, Neil Young, Carlos Santana and Simon & Garfunkel are just some of the big acts already given the bluegrass music tribute by CMH. The label continues to issue classy product and high on the list, and one we missed from last year, is Only The Lonely - An Instrumental Country Tribute To Roy Orbison. The great Roy Orbison, although deceased for a number of years, continues to be a major influence on rock and roll fans of all persuasions. Featuring a dozen instrumental covers of hits like "Crying", "Blue Bayou" and "You Got It", Only The Lonely features a number of top musicians including guitarists Bryan Sutton, Mark Thornton and Andy Reiss and drummer Larry Larue. Also on hand is renowned steel guitar player Robby Turner. Topped off by incredible artwork, Only The Lonely is worth it for all Orbison fans. Also recently released on CMH is Moonshadow - The Bluegrass Tribute To Cat Stevens. Featuring guitarist David West and pedal steel ace Jay Dee Maness, the 13 track CD features a number of Cat classics including his early hit "The First Cut Is The Deepest". David West and guitarist Albert Lee also head up the list of players on the CMH instrumental bluegrass tribute to the late great Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia entitled Pickin’ On Jerry Garcia, which features Garcia & Grateful Dead classics like "The Wheel" and "Sugaree". More recent on CMH are Pickin’ On U2 - A Bluegrass Tribute and Pickin’ On Peter Frampton - The Bluegrass Tribute. Like most of the other CMH titles, both the Frampton and U2 tributes spotlight a sublime mixture of guitars, upright bass and pedal steel work layered with the down home country music feel of 5-string banjo, mandolin, fiddle and dobro. CMH are constantly putting out so many fabulous bluegrass-inspired cover albums that it’s hard to keep up with all their releases. For more info go to their website: 

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE - The rediscovery of so many pop nuggets from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s has been one of the greatest things about the entire CD revolution of the past 15 years. One label still on the front line of the reissue movement is Collector’s Choice Music. The latest, and one of the greatest compilations yet from CC is the 2001 release Buried Treasure - Lost Gems From Deep In the ‘60s Vaults. Pop mavens who think they’ve heard it all will be amazed at the wealth of musical rediscoveries on Buried Treasure. Compiled and annotated by Bob Hyde, Buried Treasure might not be chock full of the huge names that dominated the ‘60s pop charts, but there’s still plenty of vintage, great sounding pop gems scattered throughout the 40 track double CD set. Just a few highpoints include tracks by singer Shelby Flint (a vocal of "Cast Your Fate To The Wind"), The Neon Philharmonic ("Good Morning Girl"), Tiny Tim (his classic "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"), two tracks from The Association, Crabby Appleton (with "Go Back") and a true to life cover of The Beatles’ "Lady Madonna" by the great Fats Domino. 40 fabulous, almost long forgotten gems from the heyday of ‘60s pop, rock and R&B (even novelties like "77 Sunset Strip" by Don Ralke) provide good reasons to check out Buried Treasure, which also features quite detailed liner notes. 

COLLECTABLES RECORDS - Back in the ‘60s the teenyboppers controlled the U.S. pop charts. With The Beatles leading the hit parade, it wasn’t hard to find an enormous amount of vinyl goodies to satisfy the most ardent bopper. Case in point were the Florida-based band, The Royal Guardsmen, who hit the big time with their chart-topping hit "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron". Inspired by the Peanuts cartoon hero dog Snoopy, the song hit the number 2 spot on Billboard going on to sell over 3 million copies back in 1966. The Royal Guardsmen, featuring singer Barry Winslow, tried to capitalize on their initial success with follow-ups like "The Return Of The Red Baron" and "Snoopy For President", but by the close of the ‘60s the group was history, leaving behind a nifty legacy of teenybopper album classics. Featuring original album art and new and original liner notes, the entire output of The Royal Guardsmen was recently reissued on CD by PA.-based Collectables. Released on a pair of two-fer CDs are Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron / Snoopy And His Friends and The Return Of The Red Baron / Snoopy For President. In addition to a bunch of group originals, both Royal Guardsmen CDs find the group covering some of the greatest Top 40 hits of the ‘60s (like "Li’l Red Riding Hood", "Bonnie & Clyde" and others) and should provide a wealth of memories for those who lived through the golden days of Top 40 radio. Also recent on Collectables are a pair of two-fer CDs from the noted ‘60s U.K. pop group Manfred Mann. The two CDs, Pretty Flamingo / The Five Faces Of Manfred Mann and The Manfred Mann Album / My Little Red Book comprise a number of Top 40 hits that the group brought over to the U.S. during the heyday of The British Invasion. Nowhere is the Manfred Mann pop touch more skillful than on their incredible 1966 chart-topper "Pretty Flamingo" - an infectious ditty that combines the best qualities of pop, skiffle and folk-jazz into a two and a half minute flash of pop elegance. Also on the most wanted list of Collectables releases is the recent two-fer CD from Merseybeat legends Gerry And The Pacemakers entitled Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying / Second Album. Perhaps second only to The Beatles in popularity during the Merseybeat pop craze coming out of Liverpool during the early ‘60s, the group was sadly a short lived phenomenon. All of Gerry And The Pacemakers big hits, "How Do You Do It", "A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues", "Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying" and more are all here on one great 23 track CD. Like usual all these well done Collectables CDs feature original album art and new liner notes. 

FAVORED NATIONS - New on Steve Vai’s jazz-rock label are bass guitar ace and former David Lee Roth sideman Billy Sheehan entitled Compression and New Age and jazz acoustic guitarist Pierre Bensusan entitled Institute. 

FUEL 2000 - Devotion is surely one of the albums that ushered in the coming of instrumental jazz-rock fusion at the dawn of the ‘70s. Inspired by the fabled 1969 renaissance of progressive rock, the album introduced listeners to the guitar talents of John McLaughlin. Already known in jazz circles through his work with Miles Davis, McLaughlin was ready for prime time with Devotion. Obvious on first listen is McLaughlin’s unique rapport with support players Buddy Miles (drums), Larry Young (organ) and Billy Rich (bass). Just like many artists of that fabled ‘69-70 period, McLaughlin was never able to completely recapture the raw urgency of his first electric rock album, yet during the early ‘70s he took the seeds of Devotion to new heights with his many Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. This unique CD reissue of Devotion on Fuel 2000 is topped off by good liner notes and splendid cover art inspired by the original release on Douglas Records. 

G RECORDS - His guitar work is featured on a number of albums including recent titles from S.F. bay area pedal steel guitarist Joe Goldmark and now guitar fans can enjoy the first solo album by Garth Webber. A rocked out, ass-kickin’ record that dives head first into the blues, Man On A Mission is a mostly vocal effort that finds Webber’s guitar work rounded out by an array of talented side musicians and vocalists including an appearance by guitarist Robben Ford. Not only does Webber knock you out with his veteran guitar work, but as the album quickly proves, he’s also quite an effective composer and vocalist. For a sound reference, a quick comparison might be to some of the early albums from The Allman Brothers, yet the colorful sound also reveals a number of influences and musical styles. Released on the guitarist’s own G Records, Man On A Mission also features a couple of rousing instrumental tracks further allowing Webber to really flex his formidable guitar muscles. email: 

GOLLY GEE RECORDS - California-based Golly Gee Records have been making waves in both the Rockabilly and Surf Music genres. According to label honcho Mel Spinella, "I wanted to release great rockabilly and surf music - music that has outlived all the trends and fads. I felt that East Coast bands, NYC/Long Island/New Jersey in particular, were not properly represented with label releases." On the guitar instrumental front the label have signed two of the best groups around - Ralph Rebel and NYC’s best surf guitar group The Supertones. Described as a mixture of Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore and the great Dick Dale, Ralph Rebel takes no prisoners on his new totally instrumental Golly Gee CD Surfin’ & Rockin’. Assisted by Jug Head (drums) and Strong Arm Crugnale (Fender Bass), Ralph Rebel cuts loose and nearly sets the place on fire with some stunning guitar pyrotechnics on his 1962 Guild Starfire 3 and 1962 Fender Jazzmaster guitars. In addition to a number of RR originals, Surfin’ & Rockin spotlights Ralph Rebel covers of surf classics like "Perfidia", "Rumble" and "Ghost Riders". Golly Gee can also lay claim to having one of the greatest American guitar instrumental groups, The Supertones, on their roster. The label plans to upgrade the entire Supertones back catalog and first on the list and already out are the group’s 1991 album The Big Wet Twang and The Supertones’ 2000 CD Surf Fever 2000. Featuring the twin guitar sound of Tim Sullivan and Ted Lawrence, The Supertones are certainly the best guitar group to ever come out of NYC. The Tones’ 20 track Surf Fever 2000 finds the quartet romping through standards like "Exodus", "The Lonely Bull", "Baja", "A Hard Day’s Night". Golly Gee also have quite a stake in the Rockabilly music sound and right up there on the list of recent Golly Gee Rockabilly CDs are smokin’ CDs from The Long Island Hornets - Road Kill and Peter And The Wolves - Trouble With Girls. For the lowdown on these and other fine Golly Gee titles go to their web site. 

GUITARCHIVES - Randy Bachman is well known for his great guitar work with The Guess Who, but he also has his own record label up in Canada. New on Guitarchives is a reissue CD by the late, great jazz guitarist Lenny Breau entitled Pickin’ Cotten. Recorded in Nashville back in 1977, Pickin’ Cotten pairs Breau with guitarist Richard Cotten and was culled from live performances over two nights at the Blue Bird Cafe. According to Bachman, "The music on this CD is genius. Two friends and colleagues, making the most beautiful, exciting and innovative guitar music." In the CD liner notes Bachman relates the story of how these tapes came to him. 

HIP-O - A cult favorite pop group from a few years back returns with a convincing new disc. Released on Hip-O / Universal, Gift is the latest from Curve, featuring songstress Toni Halliday and guitarist/studio wiz Dean Garcia. Somewhere in spirit between Blondie and R.E.M., the electronic and menacing sonic barrage of Gift is also underscored by a playful, rhythmic and throbbing beat. Halliday purrs and growls her way throughout the 10 track set while Garcia’s uncanny guitar, bass and programming pose the perfect match for Halliday. Known to their listeners as one of the top cutting edge alternative rock groups since their ‘92 classic Doppelganger, Curve come full circle on what might be their best album yet. Produced by Curve and Ben Grosse, Gift also features a number guest players who add to the sonic surroundings. 

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT - Chatsworth, CA. - based Image Entertainment continues as one of the leading American companies when it comes to DVDs. Among the most significant of the recent Image titles is the new DVD from Electric Light Orchestra entitled Zoom Tour Live. ELO were slated to take their great 2001 album Zoom out on the road during the Summer of 2001, but it was never to be. Falling smack into the middle of the horror show of September 11th, the tour was (miraculously?) postponed, long before the fact, with long time ELO fans still awaiting news of any rescheduling. As a prelude to the Zoom tour, ELO recorded a 22 track live studio concert and that show has just been issued on DVD by Image Entertainment. All the big ELO hits are there ("Telephone Line", "10538 Overture", "One Summer Dream") although the highlights for long time fans will be the inclusion of the new songs from 2001’s Zoom CD. ELO founder and mentor Jeff Lynne seems like he’s enjoying himself, while the latest incarnation of ELO, including vocalist Rosie Vela, guitar/keyboard wiz Marc Mann, and long time ELO keyboard great Richard Tandy, provides fertile ground for the new ELO sound. Featuring just about the same cover art as the Zoom CD, the new DVD of Zoom is just the thing for long time fans to overcome the shock of the 2001 ELO tour that just didn’t happen.

Another sure-fire winner from Image is the first ever concert DVD of An All-Star Tribute To Brian Wilson. Filmed and recorded live on March 29, 2001 at Radio City Music Hall in NYC, the tribute CD brings together some of the biggest names in modern pop music. Kicking off with a version of "Our Prayer" by The Boys Choir Of Harlem, the 26 track, 96 minute DVD features special appearances from Ricky Martin ("California Girls", "Help Me Rhonda"), Vince Gill ("The Warmth Of The Sun"), Paul Simon ("Surfer Girl"), Billy Joel ("Don’t Worry Baby") and a stirring cover of what some consider Wilson’s greatest composition ever, "Surf’s Up" performed here by David Crosby and Jimmy Webb with Vince Gill. Spliced in between the musical performances are some eloquent spoken words from Sir George Martin and host Chaz Palminteri. For the most part, the DVD captures all the glory and excitement of the Radio City concert. Assisted by his fine backing band consisting of The Wondermints and guitarist Jeff Foskett, Brian appears towards the end of the DVD performing the Beach Boys’ classics "Heroes And Villains" and "Wouldn’t It Be Nice" with Elton John. The entire All Star Ensemble (including Wilson-Phillips, Heart, Evan And Jaron, Matthew Sweet and Michael Penn & Aimee Mann) joins forces with Brian for the set-closers "Barbara Ann" and "Fun, Fun, Fun". All in all, An All-Star Tribute To Brian Wilson stands as one of the best filmed and recorded tribute concerts of all time. 

JAMIE/GUYDEN - The original home of guitar hero Duane Eddy, Jamie-Guyden has a number of fine Duane Eddy CDs to their credit including the 2001 reissue of Eddy’s 1960 album The "Twangs" The "Thang". Like the label’s other Eddy CDs, the sound quality is tops and the informative CD booklet says it all. The "Twangs" The "Thang" is a must for long time Eddy fans. Another Jamie CD that delves even further into the vaults is a various artists compilation called Twang Gang. Duane Eddy’s ‘twangy’ guitar sound is all over a number of fine tracks here including late ‘50s sessions featuring singers such as Lee Hazlewood, Sanford Clark and Donny Owens. Remixed from the original tapes, the 18 track CD features rare photos and liner notes by John Dixon. 

LION MUSIC - A pair of recent releases from the Finland-based heavy metal and hard rock instrumental Lion Music label are Cyril Achard’s Morbid Feeling entitled In Constantia Constans and Hypnotica, the album debut from melodic hard rock group Empire. 

MCA RECORDS - Papa John Phillips may be gone, but his spirit lives on through the many great songs he wrote and recorded with ‘60s pop legends The Mamas & The Papas. So many great songs, starting with the ‘66 evergreen "California Dreamin’" to their ‘68 classic "Twelve Thirty" are all compiled here on the recent double disc set from The Mamas & The Papas entitled All The Leaves Are Brown - The Golden Era Collection on MCA Records. Considering all the great songs they recorded, it’s hard to believe that Phillips, Denny Doherty, Mama Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips only recorded four albums as a band during their three short years together. Rounded out by detailed liner notes from group author Matt Greenwald, All The Leaves Are Brown features 52 tracks including all the band’s album cuts, a 16 page CD booklet with cool color photos and a cross section of mono single versions. 

MUSE SICKLE PRODUCTIONS - Singer-songwriter and guitar ace Doug Powell made quite a few people happy with his performance on the superstar SWAG (Yep Roc) album last year and following some health setbacks he’s rockin’ out again with a new 4 song e.p. from Japan called Venus DeMilo’s Arms. The CD booklet includes the lyrics. Four new tracks from the power pop hero are a windfall for fans and serves as a good introduction to Powell’s compelling pop songwriting craft. The e.p. features Powell along with a number of fine musicians including drummer/bassist Steve Allen. Keep an ear out for Powell’s double disc superstar production of the Jeff Lynne tribute CD coming soon on  / 

NOW RECORDINGS - Sounding inspired by the New Age music scene of the mid to late ‘80s, the 2001 solo album from U.K. acoustic guitarist Rob Jackson on Now Recordings is tinged with a futuristic edge that often goes beyond it’s rustic roots. A studio set that features various music Jackson often performs live back in his native England, Wire, Wood & Magnets is a highly atmospheric set of instrumental guitar tracks, ranging from atmospheric celtic-tinged acoustic melodies to a more sweeping New Age electric guitar sound. One thing that separates Wire, Wood & Magnets from so many other acoustic guitar albums is the playful, dreamlike way Jackson approaches his sound. There’s a definite English-sounding approach at work here and at times Jackon’s guitar sound echoes the work of guitar icon Mark Knoppfler. Recommended to anyone who thought well crafted acoustic guitar albums were a thing of the past. 

PARASOL - The catalog of Illinois-based pop conglomerate Parasol is ever increasing, adding in an abundance of mouth watering pop releases from near and far. Among the latest additions to the Parasol family of pop groups are three CD titles from the Swedish band The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. Sweden, of course, takes credit for Abba and a number of other great pop bands from the 70’s and 80’s. Recent albums from TSOOL just added to the Parasol catalog include Welcome To The Infant Freebase (1996), Extended Revelation (1998) and the group’s 2001 CD release Behind The Music. Fans of vintage pop sounds of groups like Led Zeppelin, Love and The Stooges should check out the high-flying CDs from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. 

PERMANENT PRESS - When it comes to releasing cool pop albums, few labels have it as together as California-based Permanent Press. Among the label’s latest and greatest releases to date is the self-titled 2001 debut CD from L.A.-based Maple Mars entitled Welcome To Maple Mars. Spotlighting the talented singer-songwriter and guitarist Rick Hromadka, Maple Mars cuts loose with a set of high octane cutting edge paisley-pop that recalls the best spirit of bands like The Raspberries, Klaatu, Jellyfish and Cheap Trick. Hromadka handles much of the guitar chores with super backing from Matt McKenna (guitars), Mike Fletcher (drums) and others. Featuring twelve vital tracks, many bursting with catchy melodies that dance around your head, Welcome To Maple Mars signals the arrival of an exciting new group while providing mucho sonic support for power pop devotees. 

POLYDOR / UMG - Right after he left Cream, rock legend Jack Bruce released his first two brilliant solo albums. Both Songs For A Tailor and Harmony Row set the standard for excellence at the dawn of the ‘70s. Never one to be content with preserving the status quo in rock, Bruce has secured a loyal fan base who must hear just about anything he records. His new album on Sanctuary Records - Shadows In The Air features a reunion with Cream guitar god Eric Clapton. Clapton, too busy becoming a superstar artist with Derek & The Dominoes really missed out on the incredible music Bruce was recording back then. Recently reissued on Polydor/UMG Records, Willpower features six tracks from Jack’s first two solo albums and mixes things up with assorted Bruce classics from ‘68-88. Perfect examples of Cream’s incipient progressive rock element are explored on a pair of tracks from Wheels Of Fire. An array of superstars elevate the proceedings including Clapton (in Cream and on the 1987 title track), George Harrison (!), the late great Felix Pappalardi, drummer Jim Gordon and of course there’s also those great freaked out lyrics of long time Bruce collaborator and rock poet Pete Brown. Polydor’s 17 track Best Of CD (no liner notes but good track data) was actually first issued 12 years ago, so that’s that for anyone who already owns the first pressing, however it does make a compelling argument for newly remastered expanded editions of Harmony Row and Songs For A Tailor.  / 

POPTONES - U.K.-based Poptones is tops when it comes to issuing and reissuing vintage American and British works of pop art. In the past, Poptones have scored high marks with pop fans with their reissue CDs from ‘60s California pop trendsetters like Sagittarius, The Millennium, the late, great pop icon Curt Boetcher, and more. In addition to those CD reissues, Poptones have also been keeping a watchful eye on the current state of Anglo-American pop-rock with new CDs from The Cosmic Rough Riders, including recent releases of the group’s 2000 album Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine and their latest e.p. Revolution (In The Summertime?), and a great 2000 CD from Oranger (the group’s 2000 album The Quiet Vibration Land). Poptones have also licensed and released a U.K. CD release of the new album from Posies front man Stringfellow entitled Touched. Other 2001 Poptones titles include Bahama from U.K. pop-rockers Arnold. Much like the dreamy CD cover art, Arnold sound influenced by Pink Floyd style spaciness (circa Meddle) and pop outfits like Squeeze and XTC. Fans of vintage ‘60s West Coast pop as well as anyone looking to find out about some of today’s best new British and American pop bands owe it to themselves to check out the entire Poptones back catalog. 

PURE MUSIC - When it comes to jazz guitar albums with a convincing groove it doesn’t get much better than the new Reunion Of Souls. Featuring guitarists Sheryl Bailey and Chris Bergson, joined by the rhythm section of Ashley Turner (bass) and Sunny Jain (drums), Reunion Of Souls finds Bailey & company stepping out with a batch of new original tunes filled out with covers of Charlie Parker ("Segment") and Rogers & Hart ("There’s A Small Hotel"). The liner notes state that the album is "a reflection on swing, blues, influences, group improvisation and friendship". A grad of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Bailey earned her flawless reputation working with a variety of modern jazz players such as Paul Bollenback and Dennis Chambers. The CD liner notes also points out how strong the influence of guitar master Jim Hall was in the musical development of both Bailey and Bergson. A celebration of the positive powers of guitar jazz performance, Reunion Of Souls is an upbeat, solid and swinging instrumental album made by four passionate jazz guitar lovers. 

RCA RECORDS - With the addition of Adam Schlesinger as group producer, The Verve Pipe recently returned with their great new album Underneath. With two indy albums and two other albums on RCA to their credit, the album is arguably their best to date. Filled with the catchy, upbeat songs of Brian Vander Ark (guitarist/singer) and Donny Brown (drums), ably assisted by Doug Corella (keyboards) and A.J. Dunning (guitars), Underneath is a real treat for modern pop enthusiasts as well those who have given up hope for a mainstream revival of thoughtful, mature pop. According to singer Vander Ark, "The intention always was to raise the bar, melodically and lyrically." An album of hard-hitting rock, with just the right amount of melodic pop edges, Underneath packs a solid pop wallop from start to finish. 

RHINO RECORDS - Rock music icon Pete Townshend first hooked up with keyboard virtuoso Raphael Rudd during the late ‘70s recording sessions for the Quadrophenia film soundtrack, which Rudd helped to arrange and conduct. A mutual affinity for the teachings of spiritual master Meher Baba only helped bring the two closer in their thinking. In 1979 and 1980, Townshend and Rudd recorded two invitation only concerts at the Meher Baba Oceanic Center in London. The spiritual nature of the mostly acoustic concerts is well represented on The Oceanic Concerts, just released by Rhino. Rudd performs several acoustic piano and harp-based tunes, while Townshend opens up his songbook of Who classics serving up rousing acoustic revivals of favorites like "The Seeker", "Bargain", "Tattoo" and an incredible, set-closing cover of "O’Parvardigar" originally from his early ‘70s Baba-based solo debut Who Came First. An intriguing musical revelation for Townshend and Who fans alike, the 18 track Oceanic Concerts is packed with information, period piece photos and new liner notes by Raphael Rudd.  / 

ROCKADILLO RECORDS - The latest from Finland-based Rockadillo is the new one from New Age techno space group RinneRadio entitled Nao. Led by sax master Tapani Rinne, the mostly instrumental Nao is best described as jazzy, spacy and mesmerizing music uniting the sax work of Rinne with percussionists and various mixers. Nao serves up union of ambient music, hip-hop and futuristic sounds that just won’t quit. 

SONY LEGACY - After turning the rock world upside down with the first three Santana studio albums, guitar icon Carlos Santana plunged head first into the world of cosmic instrumental fusion. A sign of things to come in both the New Age and World Music scenes, Santana’s innovative new sound spotlighted guitar god Mahavishnu John McLaughlin on the 1971 album Love Devotion Surrender later evolving with John Coltrane’s widow keyboardist Alice Coltrane on the 1973 album Illuminations. Both albums were clearly influenced by the early Santana sound, yet the spiritual nature of the instrumental music was clearly more in tune with the burgeoning jazz-rock sound of the mid ‘70s. Both LDS and Illuminations featured the greatest names in jazz-rock fusion including McLaughlin, Alice Coltrane Jan Hammer, Jack DeJohnette, Larry Young and various others. For the Columbia Legacy release of Divine Light, Downtown NYC re-mixmaster/producer Bill Laswell has reconstructed tracks from both albums and the net result is a fascinating fresh look at two pioneering recordings from the dawn of the ‘70s fusion movement. The follow-up remix album to Laswell’s work on Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974, Divine Light is tastefully packaged with radiant artwork, written words by John Coltrane and the Dalai Lama along with track data about both original albums. 

Back in the ‘60s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel could do no wrong. Hit after hit, album after album, Simon & Garfunkel changed the way we listened to music back during the heyday of pop, folk-rock and The Beatles. More than that, the duo reinforced the belief that artists and singers should perform and record their own songs, under their own names. It’s all been said before, and quite rightly so, but the five studio albums S&G recorded between ‘64-70 are among the all time classics of 20th Century pop music. The original label home for Simon & Garfunkel was Columbia Records, so it’s only fitting that Columbia oversee the recently released five disc Simon & Garfunkel box set, The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970. Consisting of all five Simon & Garfunkel studio albums, The Columbia Studio Recordings features new remastering, a 75 page CD booklet complete with new liner notes by Bud Scoppa, complete lyrics, track data along with original album artwork with each CD topped off by assorted bonus tracks, including a priceless demo of their all time classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water" on the last S&G album. The five discs enclosed are Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. (released 10/64), Sound Of Silence (1/66), Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (10/66), Bookends (4/68) and Bridge Over Troubled Water (1/70). In addition to the 2001 box set, which highlights mini album style reproductions of each album, all of Columbia’s Simon & Garfunkel CDs are also available separately as single edition expanded releases. With all the political turmoil in the air, as it was back in the ‘60s, revisiting these Simon & Garfunkel masterpieces is like revisiting the past with old friends. 

VIRTUE RECORDS - Recorded using cheap, pawnshop style guitars, House Of Guitars is the seventh album from guitar master Ed Gerhard. Regarding the use of these nearly forgotten, throw-away guitars, Gerhard adds, "I always felt that it’s the player’s job to make guitar sound good, not necessarily the other way around." Gerhard further states, "None of the guitars on this album cost more than $200. None were modified. I didn’t even change the strings even though some are decades old. There is history there. There are stories inside each of these instruments." Featuring 11 instrumentals, House Of Guitars is an intriguing musical reflection of a gifted guitarist who clearly values the substance of a well crafted song. While House Of Guitars does reflect Gerhard’s two main influences - classical guitarist Andres Segovia and Delta bluesman Mississippi John Hurt - the album is also filled with memorable and accessible pop melodies including covers of Paul McCartney’s "Junk" and Macca’s Beatles’ tune "I Will". The recording may be somewhat sparse and in Gerhard’s words "Zen like", but there’s no shortage of melody or emotion here. Each cut has something to offer guitar fans, especially the gorgeous "Because Of You, This" on which Gerhard is joined by electric guitarist Randy Roos and drummer Ray Brunelle. Released on Virtue Records, House Of Guitars features liner notes by Gerhard along with a track by track lineup of the many nearly forgotten guitars featured throughout the album. 

YEP ROC - They may be known for their incredible guitar instrumental albums, but that doesn’t mean Los Straitjackets can’t enjoy a good time roots-rock rave up once in a while. The follow up to their last all instrumental outing, the live concert CD Damas y Caballeros!, Sing Along With Los Straitjackets finds the still masked instro giants joined by thirteen guest vocalists including Ron Malo (on the ‘60s pop nugget "Black Is Black"), the great Mark Lindsey (from Paul Revere & The Raiders on the Roy Head classic "Treat Her Right"), The Reverend Horton Heat (on the Roy Orbison classic "Down The Line") and Leigh Nash (on "The End Of The World"). With the addition of these guest vocalists, Los Straitjackets pull out all the stops and sound fired up by the twin guitar work of veteran axe-greats Danny Amis and Eddie Angel who get mucho backup support from the ace rhythm section of Pete Curry (bass) and Jimmy Lester (drums). Released by North Carolina-based Yep Roc Records, the pleasantly playful rock and roll trip of Sing Along With...will do nicely until the next Los Straitjackets instro studio adventure. 

SURF MUSIC NEWS - Finland’s great surf-rock instrumental band The Lunatics recently released their latest CD. Entitled Beware The Lunatics, the 11 track half hour CD features high energy versions of classics like "James Bond Theme" and "The Twilight Zone" along with several group originals. Beware is a superbly recorded, fresh spin from a way talented guitar instro group. "Let’s Get Loonie!", indeed. 

Another vital new happening on the guitar instrumental front is That’s New Pussycat! - Surf Tribute To Burt Bacharach. Burt Bacharach is still considered one of the greatest pop songwriters of the ‘60s and this mostly instrumental guitar-based tribute CD goes a long way towards reviving his hipness. Produced by Robert Ruggeri and released on the Italian-based Omom Music, this stylish looking tribute CD features an array of today’s best guitar instro groups including Pollo Del Mar, Susan & The Surftones, Fifty Foot Combo, Seks Bomba, Cosmonauti along with a slew of other high-octane instro groups. The 24 track disc is elegantly packaged and features detailed liner notes and info on each group along with praiseworthy notes from the producer. No matter how many times you’ve heard Bacharach’s great melodies, you’ve never heard it played with this much drive and enthusiasm. 

S.F. Bay area surf-rock comers Planet Seven recently issued their latest full length CD, the ironically titled The Tomorrow That Never Was on Default Records. Described by the band as a mix of surf music, Motorhead and Milwaukee Power Tools, Planet Seven burst through the stratosphere with an innovative hard-hitting instrumental guitar rock sound. To show you more of where they’re coming from there’s also an atmospheric instro of The Yardbirds’ classic "Heart Full Of Soul". The five piece are fronted by the twin guitar attack of Eric Keppeler and Steve Perrone. Borrowing from past masters like Link Wray and producer wiz Joe Meek, Planet Seven take the guitar instrumental sound a step further with their new 2001 album. 

The influence of early guitar instrumental groups like The Shadows and The Ventures spread near and far during the ‘60s. In the South Asian country of Thailand the spirit of The Shadows was carried forward thanks to Thai guitarist Chai Komlertkul. Somewhat of a guitar hero in Thailand, Komlertkul is responsible for starting up a Shadows community web site called Thaitwang. Chai and his Shadows copy band called The Young Once regularly play their instrumental guitar set throughout Thailand. Komlertkul recently released an impressive four CD set, detailing his extensive repertoire of guitar instrumental recordings, called Chai >> Time Out. The package, featuring a number of fine Thai musicians, includes disc one - Time To Play, disc 2 - Time To Begin, disc 3 - Time To Grow and disc 4 - Time Out. These all original instrumental tracks won’t be instantly familiar to Western ears, but the style and content reflects Komlertkul’s 40 year history as a trend-setting electric guitarist and instrumental music composer.  email: 

Last but not least, surf guitar mavens should check out the 2001 CD from California-based Voodoo Court entitled Nuclear Vacation. Released on the group’s own Aggravated Marshmallow label, Nuclear Vacation glows thanks to some way cool guitar work from Mark Kuhn, assisted here by his four rockin’ band mates. With song titles like "California Meltdown", "Heavy Water", "Holocost 2012" and "On The Beach" you just know you’re in for one sonic sound explosion. 

Will You Read My Book? - Think you know everything about The Beatles? Well, think again because author Andy Babiuk has assembled and written Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, From Stage To Studio. Far and away the most comprehensive book ever on all the instrumentation The Fab Four used during their tenure as the world’s greatest rock and roll band, Beatles Gear provides key answers on just how The Beatles got their one of a kind sound. Babiuk explains, "I decided to write Beatles Gear when I tried to emulate some of The Beatles’ recorded sounds with my own band, The Chesterfield Kings." A six year project that involved firsthand insights and anecdotes from musicians, instrument and equipment manufacturers, roadies, managers, engineers and producers, the 256 page Beatles Gear incorporates a wealth of richly detailed color and b&w photos of many of the group’s original instruments that are still owned by the surviving Beatles and their families. In addition to the many fine interview excerpts featured throughout the book, there’s also an incisive foreward written by Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn. Just issued by the San Francisco-based book experts at Backbeat Books, Beatles Gear is so well researched and put together that it’s appeal clearly transcends that genre of Beatles fans that just also happen to be musicians. Another outstanding Backbeat book is their recent paperback edition of The Story Of The Fender Stratocaster. Subtitled, A Celebration Of The World’s Greatest Guitar, the 128 page book charts the rise of the Strat from it’s genesis in the mid ‘50s to it’s 2001 status as the world’s preeminent rock and roll guitar. Featuring a wealth of information from former Fender employees and a slew of incredible photos, the book is broken down into seven impressive chapters. Chapter six, entitled The Modern Stratpack, tells it all complete with revealing, history filled interviews from Stratocaster mavens like Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Dick Dale, Nils Lofgren, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower and the first U.K. rocker to use the Strat, Hank B. Marvin. 

Finally, Perpetual Change, written by U.K. author David Watkinson, offers a compelling and richly detailed account of British prog-rock superstars Yes. Recalling the entire story of Yes, including detailed information about the group’s crucial formative years and pre-Yes bands, the 192 page paperback edition is a vital investment for long time fans as well as anyone interested in a comprehensive and vividly illustrative history of the band that many still consider to be the definitive progressive rock group. Charting the progress of Yes founders Jon Anderson and Chris Squire all the way back to the 1950’s, Perpetual Change arranges chronological information about all the Yes players and recordings from the mid ‘60s all the way up until the group’s 2001 masterpiece Magnification. There’s also an impressive foreward by the group’s most famous keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. The noteworthy Perpetual Change will amaze even long time Yes fans with it’s superb attention to detail.  / 

HOLIDAY MUSIC RELEASES - High on the list of the many Christmas music titles too numerous to mention here is Blue Xmas. Released by PA.-based Evidence Records and produced by Carla Olson, the set features 16 Christmas Blues instrumentals performed by blues-rock greats like Otis Rush, Kim Wilson, Barry Goldberg and guitarists Denny Freeman and Tommy Castro. 

Guitar great B.B. King recently issued his new X-mas set entitled A Christmas Celebration Of Hope on MCA Records. Kicking off with "Please Come Home For Christmas", the disc features a number of King composed X-mas tracks along with several pleasant surprises including a set closing instro of "Auld Lang Syne".  / 

It came out a few years back, but one Yuletide goody worth reexploring is Surfin’ Christmas. Credited to The Wave Fenders (featuring guitarist Vinnie Fazzari), the mostly instrumental 12 track set (recorded on 50’s and 60’s guitars and amplifiers as well as the theremin) serves up rockin’ instros of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and "Little Drummer Boy". 

Sanctuary Records have a couple X-mas CDs out including A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night from rockers 38 Special, (covers of "Jingle Bell Rock") and Christmas Time Again from Lynyrd Skynyrd.  / 

The all instrumental Hymns Of Christmas from rock legend Leon Russell is a real treat. Clocking in at just under a half hour, the ten track set offers some sterling symphonic sounding covers of great holiday music. The CD was produced by Leon and his son Teddy Jack and is dedicated to Leon’s mother Hester. 

Finally, a bunch of prog-mavens calling themselves The December People get together to make a new X-mas CD on Magna Carta Records. Sounds Like Christmas features notable vocal performances from Robert Berry (album producer), Steve Walsh, Trent Gardner, John Wetton and Kansas. Seasoned with a classic prog-rock attitude, the 13 track CD features a righteous selection of holiday music, culminating in a very Beatles inspired cover of the John Lennon classic "Merry X-mas (War Is Over)". Thanks for the guitars, Santa!! 



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