Record Label and Music Spotlight 




on BGO Records

on XXI Records

on Sundazed


ACTION MUSIK - Recorded at Matthew Sweet’s home studio in L.A., the 1999 album of Free Expression by power pop favorites Velvet Crush was remastered with a bonus disc of demos from the sessions on the group’s own Action Musik through Parasol Label Group. Covering a wide array of Beatles-inspired sounds, the album shows why the group is often considered a modern day version of Badfinger or the Raspberries. There’s also a solid jingle jangle folk-rock Byrds influence at work. Featuring the crisp drumming of Ric Menck and the baritone vocals of Paul Chastain, Velvet Crush continue on today releasing new and archive material on their Action Musik label.

- Released by the NYC-based Artemis Records at the close of 2002 on both stereo CD and 5.1 DVD audio versions, Songs For Survivors carries on the Graham Nash tradition of writing fine songs which began way back in the ‘60s with The Hollies and CSN&Y. To make the record Nash joined forces with longtime music pal, famed drummer Russ Kunkel. Recorded in Hawaii and California, Songs For Survivors features the Nash knack for writing catchy pop songs like the buoyantly heartfelt “Lost Another One” and “Where Love Lies Tonight” with another highlight being the progressive reaches of “Pavane”. Fine guitarists Dean Parks, Steve Farris and pedal steel / banjo from Dan Dugmore further enhance Nash’s retro-modern folk rock vision.

- England’s best reissue label BGO (Beat Goes On) continues reissuing musical masterpieces—including many two on one CDs—by legends like Buddy Holly, Johnny Rivers, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Man and guitar god Robin Trower. High on their 2003 reissues schedule are new CDs from Canned Heat, Procol Harum and ‘50s rocker Johnny Burnette. BGO’s latest Canned Heat title pairs their 1968 CD Hallelujah with their ‘best-of’ from the waning days of the ‘60s, The Canned Heat Cookbook. Featuring classics like “Same All Over”, “Time Was” and “Canned Heat”, Hallelujah remains one of the Heat’s great studio albums, while The Canned Heat Cookbook was their first ‘greatest hits’ collection, and a good one that featured their biggies “On The Road Again” and “Going Up The Country”—two songs often associated with their late, great singer-guitarist Alan Wilson. The extensive CD booklet goes far in explaining the band’s perpetual popularity. BGO also continue releasing great CDs from Procol Harum including a new double CD set pairing A Salty Dog with Home. Once again, 2003 liner notes by John Tobler puts these unique albums into a fitting perspective. Home, from 1970 is often considered Procol’s benchmark album while the their third studio album, A Salty Dog—featuring that classic title track described by Harum’s keyboardist Matthew Fisher as ‘Procol’s Citizen Kane’—remains one of the highlights of 1969. Also on tap from BGO in 2003 is a two-fer CD release from ‘50s rocker Johnny Burnette entitled Johnny Burnette Sings / The Johnny Burnette Story. Although he’s associated with the mid ‘50s rockabilly music phenomenon—along with his brother Dorsey Burnette and guitarist Paul Burlison—Burnette went on to record huge, string-swept pop hits like “You’re Sixteen” along with a cover of “The Fool”, two tracks on this single disc 24 track CD. Although he passed away back in 1964, Johnny Burnette left behind an incredible musical legacy of classic rock and roll, a part of which can be heard on BGO’s latest Burnette CD reissue.

- Comparable to their successful Beatles 1 CD, Capitol released the 30 track Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys CD just in time for Summer 2003. With a flurry of activity, including a Summer 2003 tour by the (un)official Beach Boys fronted by the irascible Mike Love, (with the great Bruce Johnston in tow) it looks like they’re still trying to revive the moniker. With all the ongoing activities of founder Brian Wilson, in addition to the July 2003 DVD audio version of Wilson’s masterpiece with the Boys, Pet Sounds, it won’t be hard to tempt listeners with Capitol’s new SOS best of. There’s also Beach Boys 40 Top 40’s collection coming in September. Fittingly, 2003 is also the 40th anniversary of the Boys' first summer breakthrough hit “Surfin’ USA” in 1963. The excellent sound quality of Sounds Of Summer will be a prime factor among those who care about owning this latest Beach Boys best of set.

- Truly ground breaking sounds that had instantly impacted the pop culture of the early ‘70s, the first three Santana albums were classics that transformed Latin rock into a new breed of Latin jazz-rock fusion. By the time guitar king Carlos Santana and company set out with their fourth, 1972’s Caravanserai they were already among the biggest American bands on the scene. Superbly exploring the boundaries of rock, jazz and all sorts of pioneering Latin vocal and instrumental sounds, the ten track Caravanserai remains an absolute masterpiece. Among their brilliant originals is the band’s innovative cover of the Antonio Carlos Jobim favorite “Stone Flower”. Right after the release of Caravanserai, (and at the behest of Clive Davis) Carlos Santana joined forces with another Sri Chinmoy disciple, Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and—together with various Santana and Mahavishnu members like Jan Hammer (interestingly on drums) and Billy Cobham and Tony Williams’ organist Larry Young—they recorded the June 1973 release of Love Devotion Surrender. In another twist, prior to Carlos recording with McLaughlin, Santana founding vocalist-keyboardist Gregg Rolie left Santana with the group’s second guitarist Neil Schon to form the commercial rock sound of Journey so for Santana’s November 1973 album release Welcome, Carlos and drumming wiz Mike Shrieve brought in players like singer Leon Thomas and John Coltrane’s widow, Alice Coltrane. All three Santana albums were reissued in early August 2003—along with Moonflower (a 1977 double Lp mixing live and studio tracks) on Columbia Legacy. In addition to the bonus tracks on Love Devotion Surrender (two alternate takes), Welcome (with the unreleased “Mantra”) and Moonflower (now with bonus single versions of “Black Magic Woman” and “She’s Not There”) Legacy’s 2003 Santana reissues add in expert liner notes from fusion guru Hal Miller.

CURB RECORDS - Sounding inspired by the Stax pop sound and and any number of R&B gospel flavored singer-songwriters Laura Nyro and even Stevie Nicks, Anna Wilson released her 2003 debut album on Nashville-based Curb Records. Even if radio doesn’t pounce on it, these ten tracks will be probably be heard in no time piped into malls everywhere from Miami to Seattle. Off to an interesting, impressive start, Wilson’s upbeat groove and pleasantly effective vocals come across well on The Long Way.

FUEL 2000 - Despite the deaths of founders Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “Bear” Hite—Wilson a suicide in 1970 and Hite in 1981 in L.A.—the blues rock legend of Canned Heat continued on through the years with founding member and drummer Fito de la Parra at the helm. Having recorded over 30 albums since their late ‘60s heyday, the group remain true to their roots on their 2003 album on Fuel 2000 entitled Friends In The Can. With Fito still banging the skins, the current lineup is filled out by Greg Kage (bass), Dallas Hodge and John Paulus (guitars) and Stanley Behrens (harmonica). Another Canned Heat founder, Henry Vestine, who passed away in 1997, appears on a track here that also features vocals from the late great John Lee Hooker. And the album features two versions of the group’s trademark anthem “Let’s Work Together”, featuring guest appearances by former Heat members Harvey Mandel and Larry Taylor. Hats off to Fito for keeping the Canned Heat legacy alive now 34 years after Heat’s legendary Woodstock appearance.
Released in the wake of pioneering British rock concept albums like Sgt. Peppers and The Who’s early mini rock operas, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces, was almost as well known for it’s imaginative Lp packaging as it was for the music. Featuring a stellar selection of songs from the band’s two late great singer-songwriters Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, the album also benefited from fine engineering of Glyn Johns. Interestingly the first side of the original vinyl Lp featured some catchy hit tracks including “Lazy Sunday”, “Afterglow” (covered to great effect in the early ‘70s by Flo & Eddie) and the astounding, fuzzed out instrumental title track which kicked off the album. Side two was somewhat of a mixed bag of a concept piece mixing songs and narration by the late Stanley Unwin. This 2003 remastered reissue of Ogden’s comes complete with bonus live tracks from one of the original Small Faces’ last live shows on November 18, 1968 and a rare alternate mix of “The Autumn Stone”—a song released after the group broke up. Expert liner notes by Kent Benjamin adds further fuel to the fact that they simply don’t make albums like this anymore.

- Indian music is among the most wildly animated World music. India produces over 800 movies a year and many have some truly remarkable film soundtracks. Thanks to their affiliation with Universal Pictures, Hip-O Records secured the right to release this Indian movie music compilation entitled The Best Of Bollywood - 15 Classic Hits From The Indian Cinema. In India, film soundtracks routinely hit the top of the charts and this 75+ minute CD compilation—complete with provocative cover art and Indian film facts—puts together 15 music tracks from some of the biggest Indian films from past 30 years. The place where Bombay meets Hollywood, The Best Of Bollywood is a fine introduction to the phenomenon of Indian film music soundtracks. It’s doubtful many Americans will recognize any of these tracks, but it’s colorful, fun stuff, filled with those ultra-exotic Indian instruments, hypnotic vocals and rhythms.

INSIDE OUT MUSIC AMERICA - In a weird way, the first album Spock’s Beard recorded without founding vocalist and songwriter Neal Morse is a little like when Peter Gabriel left Genesis. With the emergence of Spock drummer Nick D’Virgilio as the lead singer, drummer and guitarist, the group released Feel Euphoria during the Summer 2003 on IOMA. Nick claims, “Losing Neal was kind of a surprise at the beginning, something none of us really expected, that’s for sure.” Apparently after the release of their 2002 classic Snow, Neal left the band ‘due to an increasing focus on his Christian beliefs’. Neal’s music and lead vocals (were/are) such an important factor that it’s going to be tough to measure up easily. Which is to say that Feel Euphoria—while not easily comparable to the fantastic melodic ideas on Snow—is expertly performed, with fine tracks and is basically filled with it’s share of progressive rock vibes. With D’Virgilio stepping into the light, Neal's brother, guitarist Alan Morse, Dave Meros (bass) and Ryo Okumoto (keys) put on a brave face and give it a good shot with Feel Euphoria.

- Their political leanings aside, Chumbwamba have been making brilliant, innovative music since 1989 and they’ve released their 12th album, Readymades And Then Some in 2003. Best known for their ‘97 hit “Tubthumping”, Chumbawamba continue mixing breakbeat dance rhythms and music samples with sweeping male and female vocals and depth-defying synth-laden hooks. Distinctly British, in a weird sort of Art Of Noise meets Fairport Convention way, the group remains a collective with eight musicians including guitarist Boff, who makes some nice appearances including adding some solid riffs on “After Shelly” and the ultra sleek “All In Vein”. The CD also features numerous guest players who are listed in the impressive CD booklet. Also paired on the new U.S. Koch CD version of RATS is an accompanying DVD featuring footage from the video history of the band called Well Done, Now Sod Off.

MUSTANG MUSIC - Over in the U.K. 16 year old Zoe McCulloch has released her latest mostly instrumental guitar CD entitled Never Give Up Never Give In. She’s been at it a few years now still sounding inspired by U.K. guitar legend Hank Marvin and Chet Atkin’s cohort Tommy Emmanuel’s brother Phil. Slated to appear early next year on a concert cruise with The Ventures and Los Straitjackets, Zoe is moving in the right direction and there’s something kinda cool about her wailing out on her custom shop red Strat on tunes like “Pinball Wizard”, “Suspicion” and her moving rendition of “Angel Of The Morning”. Backed by some fine players and some occasionally obtrusive back-up (cameo) singers, the 2003 album Never Give Up Never Give In is Zoe’s most, accomplished, mature sounding work to date.

- The Italian-based OmOm Records never does anything half way. Among the label’s latest masterworks are 2003 double CD adaptations of Jesus Christ Superstar, entitled Jesus Christ Surferstar as well as a unique take on the famous American Graffitti movie entitled American Graffitti Revisited. OmOm’s double CD JC Superstar is a truly innovative work. Decked out with cool cover art, the mostly instrumental album features some of best guitar-based instro groups around today—including Susan & The Surftones, El Ray, Hypnotic IV, Crime Factor Zero and 3 Piece Suit—serving up new renditions of music from the original JC Superstar production. Unlike the mostly instrumental-based Jesus Christ Surferstar, OmOm’s American Graffitti Revisited features a range of vocal tracks with a few instrumentals featuring new recordings of vintage R&R classics from Moto Litas, Voodoo Court, Paul Johnson and The Bikini Men, to name just a few. Well worth hearing by fans of the original releases, both double CDs are topped off by eye-catching artwork.

- From hardware to software, PA.-based Red Trumpet has it all covered for purveyors of audiophile stereo equipment and collectors of rare import, domestic and collectible Japanese only CDs. The Red Trumpet catalog features only the finest equipment and cool graphics of their prestige stereo amps, speakers, and CD and DVD audio and video players provides an illuminating, up to date look at some truly state of the art equipment. Red Trumpet is also a great source of CDs and rare vinyl. Their extensive CD catalog features a number of import CDs including the TOCP line of imported Japanese Toshiba / EMI Beatles CDs.

- Discovered by rock legend Peter Frampton—who also produced his 2001 album Blue, Dressed In Black—NYC singer-songwriter Eric Stuart finally released his long awaited new album. Packed with ten insightful rock tracks, the release of BombShellShocked on the newly established RevUp Records is clearly among the major musical highlights of 2003. A three time winner of the coveted John Lennon Songwriting Award, Stuart’s earlier album releases were critically acclaimed albums that successfully distilled the essence of early Springsteen and even some of Cat Stevens’ penetrating folk-rock, yet on BombShellShocked Stuart has really staked out a unique musical terrain of his own. Solid examples of his expressive songwriting, songs like “Revelation” and “Second Time Around” are as good as it gets and supported by fine players like Phil Nix (guitars), Kevin Merritt (keyboards) and Jagoda (drums), Eric Stuart continues to refine his songwriting art.

RHINO RECORDS -The first rock band signed to Elektra Records back in 1966, Love burst out of the L.A. music scene with a series of albums that still amazes. Never mind that their stuff hardly made it to the top of the Billboard charts...they were the ultimate critics choice band. In fact their third album, 1967’s Forever Changes is still considered—along with Sgt. Pepper's and Pet Sounds—one of the finest albums from the golden days of rock. Although the group’s founding member, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Bryan MacLean, sadly passed away at the end of the ‘90s, Arthur Lee—Love’s main vocalist and prime songwriter—reemerged to everyone’s delight, during the early 2000’s with a 2003 version of Love. Although Elektra released the ultimate version of Forever Changes last year, they now put it all together with a single disc 22 track 2003 CD, The Best Of Love, combining a stellar variety of tracks from their four Elektra albums and the final Summer ‘68 single from the original band with Lee and MacLean. With so much mystique and a wealth of groundbreaking music still surrounding the Love legacy, Rhino’s Best Of Love is a first class introduction to one of the great ‘60s rock icons.

STEREORIFFIC - When it’s played right, guitar-based instrumental rock and roll not only rocks but it also has a great sense of humor as well. As the leader / guitarist of the Boston-based Weisstronauts, Pete Weiss is well aware of that. On the group’s third CD, Featuring “Spritely”, Weiss and his merry band superbly combine a rockin’ mid ‘60s Ventures / Shadows vibe while blending in massive guitar influences from fretboard giants such as Les Paul and Chet Atkins. Take a look at the CD booklet and you’ll be amazed at all the vintage guitars Weiss and his band mates—including guitarists Ken Lafler and Aaron Tap—implement so proficiently. And yes, with song titles like “Dr. Sanchez (I Presume”), “Hot Dog City” and the superb “Spritley”, the album also has a cool sense of humor. /

- Despite the great harmonies and songwriting of founder members Tom Dawes and Don Dannemann, The Cyrkle broke up in 1968, but not before recording an intriguing soundtrack for an X-rated, b-movie entitled The Minx. Filled with that catchy Cyrkle pop sound, the Minx soundtrack was reissued on CD in 2003 by NY-based Sundazed, who already reissued the Cyrkle’s first two studio albums Red Rubber Ball and Neon. In addition to the album’s original twelve tracks, Sundazed have added in eight unreleased tracks. Featuring a detailed booklet describing the history surrounding The Cyrkle’s involvement in the movie, The Minx is essential for ‘60s pop culture devotees. There were hundreds if not thousands of surf and hot rod groups playing instrumental guitar music all round the world back in the early and mid ‘60s. Upstate New York-based Sundazed takes the bull by the horns and attempts to shed some coherent light on the vast amount of rockin’ groups playing the genre here in the U.S.A. with two 2003 CD releases Lost Legends Of Surf Guitar I & II. The voluminous liner notes on both 20 track titles are quite well researched, with Lost Legends I featuring interview bits with two of the genres biggest exponents—producer Terry Melcher and the late, great Gary Usher. Track wise, Lost Legends i - Big Noise From Waimea! features a smokin’ instro track from ‘63 by future Buffalo Springfield member Jim Messina and his group The Jesters, along with lesser known So-Cal rockers like The Pyramids, The Surf Teens and others. Lost Legends Of Surf Guitar II - Point Panic!—with liner note clips from surf-rock legends Nokie Edwards and John Blaircompiles another 20 near forgotten ‘60s surf-rock relics from Beach Boys member David Marks and his group David Marks & The Marksmen, The Surfaris, Jerry Cole & His Spacemen, the still great Jan Davis, The Trashmen and many more. Track by track notes filled with related trivia and way cool period piece photos make the Lost Legends Of Surf Guitar series vital for instro-rockers from coast to coast.

- Another classic from the Takoma catalog, Old Fashioned Love by acoustic guitar great John Fahey was reissued on CD in early 2003 by Takoma through Fantasy Jazz. Recorded in NYC and LA back in 1975, the album featured 8 hypnotic guitar instrumentals featuring Fahey joined by fellow guitarist Woody Mann. Three tracks feature Fahey backed by a Dixieland jazz orchestra complete trombones, clarinets, banjos and more. The album was superbly recorded and with some cool sounding Leslie reverb on the two acoustic guitars, the overall sound is quite full-bodied. The liner notes by Sam Charters adds in some reflective memories of the sessions. On Old Fashioned Love Fahey’s exquisite solo guitar pieces straddle the gamut of Americana—from folk and blues to jazzy Ragtime—all played with that unmistakable Fahey edge and mystique.

TIMBRELINE MUSIC - Dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges and guitar maker Tom Beeston, the latest CD from Michael Gulezian covers a remarkable range of instrumental acoustic guitar-based music. Recorded in 2001 but finally released in 2003, Language Of The Flame is a skillful and mature work by an artist who was discovered early on by the legendary John Fahey who signed him to Takoma Records. Described as “maybe the best solo guitar album since Leo Kottke’s justly renowned first effort”, Gulezian’s first major label release, 1980’s Unspoken Intentions received a fine reissue last year on Fantasy Records. Now with the release of his latest album Language Of The Flame, Gulezian takes his place among the great acoustic guitar innovators of the 20th Century. Featuring a mind-boggling composite of folk and jazz-based acoustic guitar tracks, the 9 track CD features one vocal—a sterling cover of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah”—and the startling set-closer “Michael Hedges Goes To Heaven”.

- Subtitled Folk Songs For The 21st Century, the 2003 CD release of Now And Then from California-based acoustic guitarist Alex De Grassi finds him in a playful mood putting a unique spin on a variety of American folk melodies recognizable to just about everyone. According to the guitarist, “I have come to appreciate the maxim that folk music is a “living” tradition and in that spirit, I have arranged traditional melodies to reflect the musical idioms and social climate of today’s multicultural landscape.” On Now And Then, De Grassi’s acoustic guitar wizardry blends nicely with his jazzy, improvisational approach to long time folk tunes like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, “Laredo”, “Oh Susannah” (featuring Michael Manring on bass and Joe Craven on percussion) and “Shortnin’ Bread”. Inspired by fingerstyle guitar greats like Leo Kottke, John Renbourn and John Fahey, De Grassi recorded his debut album, Turning: Turning Back, way back in 1978 for Windham Hill and he carries on his distinctive approach to solo instrumental guitar music on Now And Then.

XXI - Montreal-based XXI, (21 Records) released what has to be one of the strangest records of the new millennium with their 2001 CD entitled The Beatles Gregorian Songbook - The Liverpool Manuscripts. Divided up into four Cantus segments and displaying a near religious vibe, the whole thing is a real treat. Performed by Schola Musica, with Martin Dagenais as the soloist and conductor, Beatle fans with an open mind will be in for a celestial time with this CD featuring Gregorian chant renditions of Beatles favorites. Another Beatles-related CD out on XX1-21 is a reissue of Chant And Be Happy by George Harrison and The London Radha Krishna Temple. Recorded at Apple Studios and released on Apple in 1970, the album was yet another groundbreaking Harrison production featuring his work on guitar, bass and harmonium backing a number singers and ‘assembled devotees’. Like his incredible Wonderwall soundtrack, the George-produced Radha Krishna Temple album was a very influential album that, even today makes for a rather spiritual listening experience. With the sublime lead off track “Govinda”, XXI's CD reissue features different cover art than the original and closes out with a bonus track called “Room Conversation” (excerpts) featuring George, John Lennon and Yoko Ono having a discussion with Swami Prabhupada on September 11, 1969. Another recommended title is XXI’s Marc Bolan: Tales From The Book Of Time. Using early Bolan songs as a backdrop, the neoclassical / medieval approach is sort of Enya inspired and as a quasi modern neoclassical work it’s quite interesting. Performed by Catherine Lambert & The Lore Liege Ensemble, the double set features a CD Rom and there’s a fabulous booklet in English that even adds in further liner notes from original T.Rex producer Tony Visconti.


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