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(Framptone / 33rd St.)

For his first album of new material in nine years, rock legend and guitar great Peter Frampton makes a remarkable return to form in 2003 with Now. Released on his own Framptone / 33rd Street Records, Now is bursting out with that classic Frampton late ‘60s sound but there’s something more at play here. Frampton adds, “This is a very selfish album. It’s me, doing what I want to do, for the first time in nine years.” A reflection of his innovative work on the first four Humble Pie studio albums as well as his '80s guitar work with David Bowie, Now starts off great and just gets better. With so many memorable tracks, album highlights include the powerhouse lead off track “Verge Of A Thing”, Peter's Bowie-inspired dynamic of “Love Stands Alone”, a faithful cover of the George Harrison classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, the album’s solo instrumental, “Greens” and the acoustic splendor of the quietly eloquent “Not Forgotten” and “Mia”. For Now, Frampton enlists the help of his long time associates, keyboardist Bob Mayo, John Regan (bass) and Chad Cromwell (drums). Commenting on just how tight his band sounds in 2003, Frampton adds, “We’re closer than we’ve ever been, to the point that I just can’t imagine not playing with these guys. If one of them is unavailable, we don’t play; it’s that simple. It’s all of us, or none of us.” That trademark guitar sound is as powerful as it’s ever been and the excellent new material on Now proves that Frampton has clearly rekindled the musical magic that brought him so much acclaim all those years ago.


Dream Factor
(Eagle Rock)

Famous for his bolero-inspired bass line opening to Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" as well as his ongoing career as the co-founder of Hot Tuna, Jack Casady is a member of the psychedelic rock elite. On his first ever solo album released on NYC-based Eagle Rock, Dream Factor, Jack is joined by Paul Barrere, Ivan Neville, Jorma Kaukonen, Warren Haynes, Jeff Pehrson and Jim Bruenberg of Box Set, Fee Waybill and Doyle Bramhall II among others. "This was a great opportunity to do a lot of different things and use a lot of different approaches within one album," says Casady. Produced by guitarist Greg Hampton, the album also features Jack’s core band consisting of Steffan Presley (organ), Steve Fister (guitars) and Matt Abts (Gov't Mule) and Steve Gorman (Black Crows - both on drums). Putting it all together with an intriguing mix of vocalists and songs, Casady keeps the spirit of great S.F. jam bands like the Airplane and the Dead quite alive and well on well titled Dream Factor. "I've always wanted to make this album," says Casady "It was wonderful to have the opportunity to mix it up with different musicians and different styles."


Commenting on the new songs on Greendale, rock icon Neil Young states, “I just let them out. I never tried to make things fit together. I just kept on going...continuity wasn’t that important. Then I found out later that the continuity was golden all the way through.” Based upon a family saga that tells the story of a Northern California-based clan called the Green family, Greendale, on CD, is a complex affair filled with that trademark Neil Young sound. Ushering in Young’s new concept album, the lead off track, “Falling From Above”—the most accessible track here—features a sentimental lyric carried along by an unforgettable, childlike melody. For his Greendale epic Young enlists the long time Crazy Horse rhythm section of Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass). There’s also a full length Greendale movie filmed by Young and planned for release during the Fall of 2003. Greendale is a pretty involved storyteller affair; heavy on lyrics and imaginative design, but it still is prime Neil Young. The Summer 2003 double disc release on Reprise Records features the complete ten track CD on disc one with a second disc featuring a DVD of the entire Greendale album performed solo acoustic by Young live in concert early in 2003 in Dublin, Ireland. One of Young’s most enigmatic albums yet, Greendale takes time to get into, but the trip is worth it.

New Masters

Rock and Roll icon Dion DiMucci returned in 2000 with Deja Nu—his first new album in eight years and in 2003 he once again gets his fan base excited with another album of relatively recent new and cover material entitled New Masters. On his 2003 Collectibles CD—recorded in Florida—Dion revisits some of his biggest tunes ever including the all time rock and roll classics “Ruby Baby”, “I Wonder Why” and “Runaround Sue” along with new material like “Come Heal This Land”—a stunning response to the 9/11 terror attacks. A new Dion version of his late ‘60s protest classic “Abraham, Martin and John” and a round of rock and roll standards like “Blue Monday”, “Stand By Me” and “Blue Suede Shoes” are delivered with the usual Dion flair and are overall excellent new additions to Dion’s legendary catalog of pop and oldies classics.


Special One
(Cheap Trick Unlimited / Big 3)

It’s been about six years since Cheap Trick released their last studio album, the self-titled Cheap Trick, in 1997. In a concerted effort to avoid the record label fiasco that followed their ‘97 CD, guitarist Rick Nielsen and company have linked with a new company and they pull out all the stops on what might very well be the greatest Cheap Trick album in a career spanning four different decades. Now in 2003, abetted by Cheap Trick bandmates Robin Zander, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson, Nielsen & Co. once again prove that rock and roll is best left in the hands of the experts. Kicking off with the power-chord dominated rock-radio anthem, “Scent Of A Woman”, Special One starts off great and just gets better from track to track. The title track, “Special One”—co-produced by the esteemed Jack Douglas—”Pop Drone”, “If I Could”, “My Obsession”, and in fact, just about each and every track here stand out among the group’s finest efforts. A rewarding collaboration between four musicians who are more than just on the same wave-length musically, Special One is summed up by Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander who adds, “This time, each of us had songs and bits and pieces of songs, like a verse here, a chorus there, or a melody with no lyric. After putting it all together for this album, we’d lost track of who wrote what and just decided to put all of the writers on each song equally.” With further vintage archival CT titles planned, let’s hope the union between the group’s own Cheap Trick Unlimited and Big3 Records proves to be a beneficial venture. Discussing the CTU and Big3 merger, guitarist/songwriter Rick Nielson adds, “Running our own label has been a lot of fun. One day Bun E. gets to be President and one day I get to play President”, while Zander further states, “It’s been a little tedious and a little overwhelming at times but we’ve got more control over our chaos.” Having once again created an album filled with memorable tracks and expert playing that perfectly suits their influential pop legacy, Cheap Trick will have very little difficulty convincing everyone that this is indeed, a ‘special one’.

Alive In Seattle
(Image Entertainment / Epic Legacy)

Looking back on the 2002 Heart concert album Alive In Seattle, guitarist Nancy Wilson says “I did a Nancy Wilson tour as well as scoring music for movies, and Ann’s done her Ann Wilson tours, but there was something super sweet about being Heart again on a big rock stage and just turning it up really loud. It felt amazing.” Released during the summer 2003 as both a live concert DVD on Image Entertainment and as a double CD set on Epic Legacy Records, Alive In Seattle features the key Heart hits along with cool covers of Led Zeppelin and Elton John along with a batch of new Heart material. Recorded live on August 8th 2002 in their hometown of Seattle, as the final stop on their “Alive In America” tour, Alive In Seattle features a tight band including Scott Olson (guitar) and drummer Ben Smith. Taking advantage of the latest sound technology, the double CD is being released by Legacy as a hybrid CD / SACD and 5.1 surround sound, all encoded on both CDs. Keeping it going in 2003, Heart also are just coming off their 2003 tour with a band that now features guitarist Gilby Clarke and Wondermints’ founder Darian Sahanaja. According to pop pundid Sahanaja, “I’m completely flattered that I’m doing this tour. I first met Ann and Nancy at Radio City Music Hall a few years back where they so graciously offered their talents at the All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson. I was in the musical director role and Ann and Nancy were the kindest, most dignified people of the lot, incredibly sincere and extremely passionate.” Evidently, alot of that Heart passion is captured forever on Alive In Seattle. /

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