Record Label and Music Spotlight 

Spring 2002




Lynne Me Your Ears (Jeff Lynne Tribute) - 
on Not Lame Records

Lisa Loeb - 
on A&M Records

Renaissance - 
on Collector's Choice Music

A&M RECORDS - On her new CD—and debut for A&M Records—singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb achieves a remarkable pop chemistry. In the end it all comes down to good songs and just who’s playing on them and on Cake And Pie, the songstress has her bases covered. For her choice of lead guitarist and co-producer, Loeb wisely enlists the talents of her boyfriend Dweezil Zappa, who adds in his nimble acoustic and electric work while also lending his songwriting skills on a few tracks. There’s also some fine guitar work from Rusty Anderson and bass legend Leland Sklar topped off by some deft songwriting, production and engineering from big names like Glen Ballard, Randy Scruggs and Bob Clearmountain. Confessing to early influences from greats like Bowie, Queen and The Cure, Loeb explains that, "The rock element is a little more intense on this record. There are more guitar solos and stronger rhythms. There is variety, but also balance." Loeb scores a bullseye with the probing yet precocious sound of Cake And Pie.  

ANAGRAM RECORDS - Ten years and six albums after his ‘91 breakthrough, Afternoon In Sedona, New Age flautist/keyboardist Nicholas Gunn returns with The Great Southwest on Anagram Records. The super 24-bit 48K mastering makes it Gunn’s best sounding album to date. Composed and arranged by Gunn, the album features Gunn supported by three acoustic and flamenco guitarists with his wife Cheryl Gunn on percussion and synths. Like his other fine albums the lush instrumentation, hypnotic moods and exotic-sounding rhythms of the album reflects Gunn’s continued fascination with the American desert Southwest. One of the most impressive players on the current New Age instrumental scene, Gunn breaks musical ground with The Great Southwest.  

ANGEL AIR -The entire back catalog of U.K. based Angel Air is a real windfall for fans of vintage progressive U.K. guitar legends. Apparently, the label has a thing for guitar heroes named Mick. Besides the 2001 Mick Ralphs CD It’s All Good, other recent additions to the label include a reissue CD from one time Procol Harum guitarist Mick Grabham and his pre-Harum ‘70s solo outing Mick The Lad. Grabham is also featured extensively on the reissue of 1971’s classically-tinged Guitar Orchestra album which features a number of instrumental and vocal cuts finding Grabham teamed with guitarists Ray Fenwick, Tim Renwick and Elton John members Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums). Also on Angel Air are recent comeback titles from original Jethro Tull and Bloodwyn Pig guitarist Mick Abrahams. Lies by Mick Abraham’s Bloodwyn Pig was recorded by the guitarist and his group back in 1993 and just newly remastered is getting a second wind thanks to Angel Air. Another recent set featuring a U.K. guitar great worth hearing is Like A Black Van Parked On A Dark Curve... from guitarist Chris Spedding and his group Sharks. Spedding of course is well known for his dazzling guitar work with Jack Bruce just after the bass great left Cream, but his albums with Sharks still remains it’s cult status. A comeback of sorts from Sharks, Black Van was recorded and mixed during 1994-95 and paired Spedding’s mercurial guitar work with the fine vocals and guitar of Steve Parsons and a host of other fine players. Angel Air’s new CD reissue of the rocked-out Black Van features a great historic liner notes and complete lyric sheet.

BT MUSIC - The latest album from Indiana-based Bryon Thompson comes across like a ray of sunshine against a dark sky. Sure Thompson has chops, but he also knows the value of a melodic hook and is a master at shifting ambient musical textures, and besides on his latest self-produced instrumental album he can and does do it all. The follow-up to his self-titled debut, his 2001 release Set Your Sights features ten originals that expertly combine the hybrid sounds of Thompson’s crisply recorded, multi-tracked acoustic-electric Godin guitar. The album should be quite a treat for fans of Pat Metheny’s more pastoral settings and even the quasi New Age fingerstyle guitar sound of Adrian Legg and Preston Reed. Performing all the guitars and percussion himself, Bryon Thompson will please a lot of guitar buffs with Set Your Sights. 

BACKBEAT BOOKS - When it comes to history-filled music books, few companies can match San Francisco-based Backbeat Books. The company turned heads with their Beatles Gear book from last year and high on the list of recent Backbeat titles is the 4th edition of the All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide To Popular Music. Put together by the music historians at the All Music Guide, the 4th edition is 1500 b&w pages filled with bio material and album release data about the most important artists from the world of rock, rap, blues, gospel, country, bluegrass, folk, Celtic, cajun, worldbeat, reggae, soundtracks, vocal, easy listening, avant garde and jazz musics. Hardly anyone is omitted and the sheer scope of the 4th edition AMG book is amazing.  

Another recent Backbeat edition—along the lines of the All Music Guide—is The Book Of Hit Singles: Top 20 Charts From 1954 To The Present Day, written and compiled by Dave McAleer. You can keep the present day charts, but for long time fans of ‘50s and ‘60s Top 40 radio, the 480 page book is quite a boon. Broken down month by month—US charts sitting side by side with UK pop charts, abetted with appropriate sideline commentary—The Book Of Hit Singles is an easy read and is bound to bring back tons of memories from devoted pop cultists.

Also available from the Backbeat catalog is Rhino’s Psychedelic Trip, written by Alan Bisbort and Parke Puterbaugh. With chapter titles like "The Act You’ve Known For All These Years" and "Los Angeles: City Of Night At The Dawn Of Psychedelia", the 194 page soft cover edition covers enormous musical ground and leaves no (rolling) stones unturned in their frank discussion on the import of the ‘60s psychedelic music phenomenon. In his book forward, Turtles founder Howard Kaylan fittingly praises the incredible sights and sounds of the ‘60s adding, "We were a generation, perhaps for the last time, that shared a common bond through our music, our art, our literature, our heroes, our communal lifestyles, and yes, our recreational mind-expansion." Rhino’s Psychedelic Trip is essential for ‘60s music devotees.

In another Backbeat catalog specific, ‘60s psychedelic music masters Cream are given a book of their own with Cream: The Legendary Sixties Supergroup. Written by long time musicologist Chris Welch, the 190 page book features every conceivable color and b&w picture of Cream. From their early days as blues-rock pioneers, in a number of disparate bands, all the way to the four classic Cream studio albums and diverse live concert relics, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker did it all. The music history they made is scrupulously reexamined through the eyes and ears of master journalist Chris Welch.

BEYOND WORDS PUBLISHING - Those of us still mourning the passing of the great George Harrison may find some spiritual solace by reading the recent book The Beatles Way - Fab Wisdom For Everyday Life published by Orgeon-based Beyond Words Publishing. Written by Larry Lange, the 175 page paperback edition uses the words of The Beatles to create spiritual lessons and metaphors anyone can use to better their everyday lives. Writing seven chapters with names like "Goals", "Team" and "Spirit", author Lange constantly reminds readers how The Fab Four overcame hurdle after hurdle and then went the distance, imparting all forms of spiritual wisdom and courage to the fans. A must read for those who view The Beatles as one of the most important cultural unions of the 20th Century.  

BLUES ARTISTS RECORDS - The sound of the blues is alive and well on Long Island. Guitarist Mike Manne is the leader of the New York-based Tiger Blues Band and on Purveyor he proves his strengths as a blues guitarist and vocalist sounding at times like a young Peter Green. The 11 track CD finds the quartet romping through a stellar cross section of smokin’ blues standards written by B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Freddie King, Robert Johnson, Leonard Feather and the songwriting team of Leiber / Stoller. These standards have long represented the finest in classic blues and Mike Manne & Company breathe new fire into every track. According to Manne, "We searched the archives of the blues and wanted to show what a local blues band would do with music by the great ones. If you like electric blues, you’ll find the CD entertaining." Manne is pictured on the cover proudly holding his 1968 Gibson ES-345 guitar against the backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge. Of all the blues bands around the NYC area, The Tiger Blues Band is surely one worth checking out.  

BUDDHA RECORDS - Part of the RCA group of labels, Buddha reissues some of RCA’s greatest U.S. artists on their Country Legends series. One title sure to interest guitar fans is the Country Legends CD from guitar master Chet Atkins. Atkins passed away on June 30, 2001, but his influence on generations of guitarists and listeners can’t be overstated. Signed to RCA way back in 1947, Atkins recorded numerous albums for RCA as well as producing some fantastic music by influential artists along the way. Atkins recorded his famous album, Finger-Style Guitar way back in 1956 and his 16 track Country Legends compilation features cuts from that album as well as other Atkins classics like Chet Atkins And His Guitar (1954), Hi-Fi In Focus (1957) and Guitar Country (1963). The set also features some fine liner notes and photos.

One artist Chet Atkins had a hand in producing was country singer Skeeter Davis, best remembered for her Atkins-produced gem "The End Of The World"—recorded back in June ‘62. As her 16 track Country Legends collection proves, Davis was much more than just a one hit wonder. While "The End Of The World" realized Atkins’ long-term goal of producing country music hits that could hit the Top 40 pop charts, Davis also released a number of other classic country-pop tunes like "Last Date" (a vocal of the Floyd Cramer classic) as well as recording an entire album of Buddy Holly tunes entitled Skeeter Davis Sings Buddy Holly in 1967. Spanning tracks from 1953 to her 1971 RCA single "Bus Fare To Kentucky", the Skeeter Davis Country Legends collection also spotlights eye-opening, history-filled liner notes.

Waylon Jennings passed away last year so his new RCA Country Legends double disc takes on added meaning. Jennings came to fame as a member of Buddy Holly’s touring band during the ill-fated Winter Tour of early 1959. Scheduled to be on the flight that killed Holly, Jennings—who gave his ticket to the flu-struck Big Bopper—took a good long time to recover from that shock. Signed to RCA Nashville in 1965 by Chet Atkins, Jennings went on to define the "Outlaw" sound of modern country music. Mixing up honky tonk with a rock & roll rhythm and attitude, Jennings went on to record numerous sides for RCA, who recently compiled 40 of his best tracks on his Country Legends CD. Spanning 1965-1985, the double disc set features some of C&W’s best side players—including duets with Willie Nelson—along with extensive liner notes, rare photos and a detailed discography of Waylon’s RCA years.

CAPITOL / EMI - With their 1979 smash Capitol Records debut album Get The Knack certified gold two weeks after it’s release, The Knack became the darlings of the anti-disco, post-punk/pre-MTV power pop set in LA. Just out as expanded editions on Capitol are the group’s six million selling debut, Get The Knack (1979), their second one, But The Little Girls Understand (1980), Round Trip (1981 - produced by Jack Douglas) and the Knack reunion album from 1991, Serious Fun (produced by Don Was). All four Capitol Knack reissue CDs benefit from newly remastered sound and sport four bonus tracks a piece (1980’s Little Girls reissue features keyboardist Ray Manzarek on a pair of live Door’s covers). Looking back on the early success of The Knack, guitarist/vocalist Doug Fieger adds, "I’m very proud of all our records, there’s not a song that I would have left off of any of them. Remembering those times is always fun."

Despite company cutbacks, the EMI music group continues to yield some classic reissues from the vaults. EMI’s recently enacted Classic Masters series sees early 2002 24-bit remastered collections from rock greats like Joe South, Jackie DeShannon, Missing Persons and Billy Squire. Each classic masters title barely skims the surface when it comes to the full blown compilation each of these artists would need, but the excellent remastering and liner notes still makes it a worthwhile series for collectors. EMI and Capitol Records also scored high marks with their recent box set Rick Nelson: Legacy, and now the label puts forth an excellent 20 track, single CD best-of from Nelson entitled Rick Nelson Greatest Hits. An excellent sounding single disc set, the CD spotlights all the early Nelson classics ("Poor Little Fool", "Lonesome Town", Travelin’ Man) along somewhat later classics like "Fools Rush In" and "Garden Party". Topped off with liner notes by James Ritz and a slew of interviews with various Nelson cohorts, Rick Nelson Greatest Hits is a fine introduction to the late great rock and roll pioneer.

CHACRA MUSIC - Back in the ‘90s, Canadian guitarist Tino Izzo recorded several illuminating, guitar-based, instrumental New Age albums. As his newly remastered Nostalgia Trails collection proves, Tino Izzo is much more than just another New Age acoustic guitarist. He’s got a highly atmospheric sound (similar to Mike Oldfield) and dazzling technique to match. Tino’s new compilation connects 15 of his best album tracks adding in 3 newly recorded songs highlighted by a revved-up Flamenco flavored instro of The Beatles classic "And I Love Her". Instead of recording these songs as modest acoustic guitar instrumentals, Izzo always livens things up with a spectrum of musical textures, percussion and electronic shadings. Featuring 12 tracks from his three ‘90s albums, Blue Desires, Foreign Skies and Four September Suns, along with the three new tracks, Nostalgia Trails is a wonderful introduction to a guitar master.

CHRYSALIS RECORDS - This is about as good as it gets for Jethro Tull fans - three newly remastered reissues of the band’s first three albums, complete with candid liner notes from Tull founder Ian Anderson. Long time fans will recall that following the musical split of Anderson and founding Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams (after the release of their ‘68 debut This Was and the subsequent entrance of Tull guitar ace Martin Barre), Jethro Tull went on to more or less conquer the worldwide music scene. Anderson’s sudden move from enigmatic, bluesy flutist to international music hero and composer par excellence was well defined and explored to the max on the group’s second and third albums Stand Up (1969) and Benefit (1970), two essential items in any record collection of any worth. Pertinent bonus tracks, culled from the same period and added to each CD, nearly intrude on the hallowed terrain of each of these three newly upgraded reissues on the group’s original label Chrysalis, released through Capitol Records. A minor complaint, and the sterling 24-bit remastering clearly makes these new reissues a sound investment.

CLEARLIGHT MUSIC - Back in the mid ‘70s, the French group Clearlight Symphony released a great self-titled release on Virgin Records. Led by French keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux, the group had some of the best fusion guys in France back then and to top it off, their first Virgin album had great playing from French guitarist Christian Boule on side one and the great Gong guitarist Steve Hillage on side two. The album was recently reissued again on the California-based Clearlight Music. The company carries extensive catalog of Verdeaux CDs. Featuring some great mellotron work and incredible electronic synthesized wizardry, the first Clearlight album on Virgin was way ahead of it’s time back in the ‘70s.

COLLECTABLES - A favorite among U.K. guitar heroes like Eric Clapton and Peter Green, guitar giant Freddy King was a major influence on a number of British invasion rockers during the ‘60s. Back in the ‘60s, King recorded numerous vocal and instrumental tracks in his Cincinnati studios for Federal and King Records—including blues standards like "Hideaway" and "Have You Ever Loved A Woman". 77 classic King tracks from the ‘60s have been reassembled by the reissue experts at Collectables Records. Spread over three volumes, The Very Best Of Freddy King - Volumes 1-3 is a real ear-opener for anyone unfamiliar with his unique style of blues-rock guitar playing. After hearing these powerhouse tracks, it’s clear that as a blues composer, guitarist and a singer King had few equals. All three volumes feature a pretty even split of vocals and instrumentals, while the liner notes offer a concise synopsis of his influential legacy. Before he passed away in Dallas on 12/28/76, King recorded for other labels including Atlantic, RSO and Leon Russell’s Shelter Records, but for an overview of his ‘60s recordings on the King and Federal labels, The Very Best Of Freddy King is a good place to start.

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE - When it comes to masterpiece albums from the year of 1970 they don’t get any more influential than the debut from classical rockers Renaissance. Released in the U.S. on Elektra Records, the self-titled debut Renaissance album was the first major project after The Yardbirds from the late, great singer-songwriter Keith Relf, drummer-vocalist Jim McCarty and original Yardbirds bassist, producer legend Paul Samwell-Smith. With significant contributions from singer Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo (bass) and keyboard wiz John Hawken, the Renaissance album remains a sacred relic of melodic symphonic rock. Sadly, it failed to rally Yardbirds’ fans especially when compared to Led Zeppelin—the band started by guitar hero Jimmy Page following his departure from The Yardbirds. Compared to the blues-heavy Zeppelin sound, Renaissance was a musical shift for Relf who was quoted back then as saying, "Renaissance are trying to make beautiful sounds—it’s a gentle reverse, not a revolution. This was always part of The Yardbirds. As well as the heavy stuff—we were always a guitarist’s group—there were things like "Still I’m Sad" and that’s the other side that’s in Renaissance." Tragically, a few short years later, Relf was dead and Renaissance—under the auspices of singer Annie Haslam—became internationally known. For their CD reissue of Renaissance, Collector’s Choice has done a great job—reinstating the original Elektra artwork and adding in detailed liner notes and rare interviews with music pioneer Keith Relf.  

COLUMBIA RECORDS -Setting the record for the highest ever grossing event in Madison Square Garden’s history, The Concert For New York City provided just about everyone (terrorists excluded) with some well-earned musical relief from September 11, 2001 and the horrifying aftermath. Spurred on by Paul McCartney as a thank you to the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers, many of whom aren’t around anymore, The Concert For New York City, recorded on October 20, 2001, will forever serve as a music memorial as years go by. Perhaps it’s best summed up by Lieutenant Brenda Berkman of Ladder Company 12 who’s quoted in the liner notes, "No one who attended the concert on Saturday night could doubt the healing power of music." How could a concert with Paul McCartney (performing Beatles classics "Yesterday" and "Let It Be"), The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards doing "Miss You" and "Salt Of The Earth"), James Taylor, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Who and David Bowie not stir up enormously positive and healing vibrations. With a DVD and VHS of the concert event on tap, the recently released 32 track, double disc CD works up tons of bittersweet memories. The Concert For New York City delivers the goods as a musical memento of a once in a lifetime evening.  

Following the CD release of the album, Columbia Records released a double DVD set of The Concert For New York City. As great as it is to hear artists like Paul McCartney, The Who, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones on the same bill, it’s better to see and hear them and that’s exactly what the DVD offers. In addition—The Concert For New York City double disc DVD features the entire concert, including tracks from McCartney, The Who and Elton John & Billy Joel not found on the CD. In addition, the DVD recaptures all the short films from Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Jerry Seinfeld, shown on the live telecast, along with all the speeches and live bits from all the celebrities (Howard Stern, Billy Crystal) and politicians also missing from the CD. At just under five hours long, the double disc Concert For New York City DVD benefits The Robin Hood Relief Fund and the victims of September 11th. There just isn’t any better entertainment for as worthy a cause than this.  

CROOKED MILE - Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumental Chris Arduser gained some well-deserved national acclaim thanks to the release of the latest album from pop favorites The Bears entitled Car Caught Fire—an album that also spotlights guitar icon and Bears member Adrian Belew. Arduser’s fine drumming, mandolin and singer-songwriter skills really come into focus with The Bears and those same attributes are in abundance on his latest solo album Hostage. For Hostage, Chris lays down his mandolin and replaces it with a Telecaster. Like his songs in The Bears indicate, Hostage is filled with sardonic lyrics and catchy pop-rock hooks. Well-known in his native Cincinnati, Arduser is now poised to gain international attention with the release of the noteworthy Hostage. In addition to penning all the songs, Arduser also produces and performs the entire set, coming across like a one man band. In addition to Hostage and his work in The Bears, Arduser is also a member of pop favorites The Graveblankets and The Psychodots, two groups that also feature other Bears members Rob Fetters and Bob Nyswonger.  

DGM RECORDS - Getting ready to unleash their 2002 album, King Crimson recently released a live audio document recorded during the group’s fabled 1995/1996 Double Trio tour. A double CD set with one half recorded live in Mexico City and a second disc recorded in New York City, Vrooom Vrooom features a captivating performance from Robert Fripp & Co., including Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto. Described as as ‘veritable symphony of noise’, the double CD set more than reflects the incredible chemistry that occurs when these remarkable musicians join forces on stage. In addition to well wrought versions of all time Crimson classics like "21st Century Schizoid Man" and a set closing cover of the John Lennon tune "Free As A Bird", Vrooom Vrooom also revives a number of KC classics from the 1981-84 Crimson repertoire. Complete with truly bizarre cover art, the brilliant Vrooom Vrooom takes it’s place in the catalog of recently released King Crimson archive titles.  

DANCING CAT RECORDS - A mainstay on the Hawaiian music scene for years, slack key guitar expert Keola Beamer recently released his seventh solo album and his most recent for Dancing Cat Records. Keola—along with his brother, guitarist Kapono Beamer—can take alot of credit for the renewed popularity of Hawaiian guitar music during the past 12 years. An outstanding album of pure, relaxing Hawaiian acoustic guitar magic, Soliloquy is performed entirely by Keola who adds, "It’s totally guitar focused, no singing, no other instruments. It all originates from a guitarist’s point of view." Spotlighting nine Beamer originals along with six Hawaiian music classics, Soliloquy also features a guest appearance from Dancing Cat founder, New Age guru George Winston. 

Another excellent Hawaiian guitar CD recently released by Dancing Cat is the latest from composer/guitarist Ozzie Kotani. To Honor A Queen is Kotani’s self-styled tribute to one of Hawaii’s most illustrious composers—and Hawaii’s last Queen before the American annexation in 1893—Queen Lili’uokalani (1838-1917). Kotani’s solo slack key performance takes a few liberties—adding some new intros, interludes, bridges and endings—but for the most part he keeps the Queen’s original melodies intact. Another recent disc on Dancing Cat worth checking out is the latest from slack key guitar master George Kahumoku Jr. entitled Hawaiian Love Songs. Co-produced by George Winston, Hawaiian Love Songs features several duets with steel guitar expert Bob Brozman and ukulele player Diana Aki. Each Dancing Cat CD features state of the art recording and detailed liner notes about each artist as well as an informative overview of Hawaiian music.  

DIXON ARCHIVE REMNANTS - It’s been almost 18 years since the first Marti Jones solo album, so it’s really great to hear the fine new sounds on her new album. My Tidy Doily Dream is a scary name for an album for sure, yet Marti’s music always transcended mere pop. Marti’s been described as a cross between The Bangles and Dusty Springfield, and while she’s mellowed over the years, that golden voice and distinctive talent are still there. In 1984, Marti released an essential pop album called Unsophisticated Time—a vinyl classic that featured music and production from guitarist / producer Don Dixon. Just like then, only now she’s Don’s wife, her new album features Marti and Don together again—rockin’ out with plenty of catchy hooks and good musical vibes. Her solid support group includes the multi-talented Don Dixon (guitar, bass, keys, percussion and background vocals) along with top notch support from Jim Brock (drums) and long time Jones fan—the great Richard Barone (guitars and backing vocals).  

EARMEAL RECORDS - One of the most praised guitarists in Sweden over the past 30 years, Janne Schaffer got off to an early start performing on those great early albums by ABBA. In 1973, Schaffer recorded his self-titled, instrumental debut, recently reissued on the Swedish record label Four Leaf Clover Records. That album won him over quite a few fans throughout Scandinavia and even today it offers revealing insight into just how Schaffer blends his Scandinavian pop melodies within the context of guitar-based instrumental jazz-rock. On Janne Schaffer, Schaffer is joined by numerous players including Who keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, drummer Ola Brunkert and Björn J-son Lindh on keyboards and flute. More of Schaffer’s electric guitar expertise can be heard on a pair of recent compilations—Tunga Låtar (Heavy Tunes) and Lugna Låtar (Soft Tunes)—issued on Schaffer’s own Earmeal Records. Featuring some of Sweden’s great session players, both retrospectives draw upon Schaffer albums like his ‘86 release Traffic, 1988’s Electric Graffiti and his late ‘70s Earmeal. Filled with savvy electric rock and fusion, there’s plenty of stirring sounds here to make them of interest to guitar lovers everywhere. Schaffer’s most recent album from 2000—På Andra Sidan Månen (The Other Side Of The Moon)—continues his calling for crafting creative instrumental guitar albums.  /  

EIGG ISLAND SOUNDS - Heavy metal guitarists are a breed apart. Sure you have your mega-icons like Vai and Malmsteen, but there’s also some up and coming instrumentalists clearly deserving a shot—perhaps none more so than Virginia-based guitarist Ballurio who recently released a compelling new CD entitled Spider Dance. Each of the album’s ten instrumentals were produced, written and arranged by Ballurio who also performs all the instrumentation. A mixture of fusion, instrumental ballads, blues and Euro-flavored neoclassical metal, the all instrumental album is also quite melodic and atmospheric and in that respect it really carves a niche all it’s own. There’s some splendid, dynamic hard rock guitar wizardry at work on Spider Dance. If you dig guitar masters like Vai, Beck, Morse and Holdsworth then you owe it to yourself to check out Ballurio, who’s busy at work finishing his next album due later in 2002.  

EVIDENCE MUSIC - PA-based Evidence Music—one of the premier blues labels—recently issued the first all instrumental set by slide guitar ace Roy Rogers. A number of players help Rogers achieve slide nirvana including The Delta Rhythm Kings (Jimmy Sanchez on Drums and Steve Evans on bass) and Phil Aaberg (piano) along with a wide range of session cats who’ve played with Muddy Waters, Elvin Bishop and The Meters. A punchy, on the edge instrumental blues guitar album, Slideways is so funky, it could blow the back door off a barn. And Rogers’ almighty electric slide and rhythm guitar paired with the intensely syncopated harmonica playing by Norton Buffalo is something to behold. Rogers gives you a track by track synopsis in the notes while the HDCD sound quality will impress the most grizzled blues buff.  

FAST HORSE RECORDINGS - After a couple studio releases on Epic Records, Tuatara regroup for a new CD on the indy New Mexico-based Fast Horse Recordings. Like earlier Tuatara releases, Cinemathique features group founders Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey (both guitars) and Barrett Martin (drums). Inspired by atmospheric TV and film music, Cinemathique is a truly bizarre blend of hard-bop jazz and avant-gard instrumental musics. Buck’s guitar work shares center spotlight with sax legend Skerik and the subtle electric piano work of Justin Harwood. Layered with shimmering vintage keyboards, smoldering horn work and Buck’s enigmatic guitar work, Cinemathique is an uneasy listening foray into some quite compelling instrumental territory.  /

FELISSIMO RECORDS - One of the finest guitarists from Hawaii, Kapono Beamer continues to release excellent, acoustic-based instrumental guitar albums. Kapono was half of the brother act Keola & Kapono Beamer, who hit it big at the close of the ‘70s with their chart-topping pop song "Honolulu City Lights". Kapono, a fine vocalist as well, went onto release another great pop vocal album in 1983 entitled Escape To Paradise and at the dawn of the ‘90s he released his progressive New Age masterpiece entitled Secrets Under The Sun. Following several more instrumental solo albums and various TV and movie music projects, including his ‘98 Hawaiian Grammy winning Great Grandmother, Great Grandson, Kapono recently released his latest classic CD entitled Pana Aloha - Hawaiian Heartbeat. A collection of super-relaxing Beamer originals and traditional Hawaiian music instrumentals, Hawaiian Heartbeat is an intimate, tropical sounding set of acoustic-based guitar magic. Kapono adds, "I was inspired to create a collection of some of the most beloved Hawaiian melodies, the kind of songs it seems I always knew. These songs have lived inside of me since those "small kid" days and I welcome the opportunity to present them in a simple setting of new musical arrangements featuring acoustic guitars." Also featuring John Kolivas (bass), Noel Okimoto (percussion) and Dennis Graue (piano and vibes), Hawaiian Heartbeat is (almost) as good as a trip to Hawaii.  

FOREFRONT RECORDS - The solo debut from dcTalk lead vocalist Kevin Max, Stereotype Be works on a number of levels. First as a singer-songwriter, Max totally has his act down. Then there’s his choice of musical guests. Let’s see, how about having Adrian Belew as album producer and guitarist and then add Adrian’s buddy from the ‘80s and ‘90s King Crimson, Tony Levin on bass. Add in the guitars and drums of Owsley (where’s his new album?) and Matt Chamberlain respectively and you have a pop CD that’s as good as it sounds (and looks). Belew adds in some vital finishing touches with his work on guitars, sitar, vibraphone, v-drums, Pedal Steel, Cowboy and Bridge guitars. Perhaps more importantly, the songs measure up to the high quality of music Belew is generally involved with as a solo artist and with King Crimson. For sheer visionary Beatles-inspired pop music, it doesn’t get any better than track 5 "Shaping Space". Max has earned his reputation with some great albums with dc Talk and he surpasses all expectations with Stereotype Be.  

GALLO RECORDS - Contrary to popular belief the country of South Africa had a pretty detailed pop and rock scene during the past 40 years or so. South Africa’s biggest record label, Gallo Records have been reissuing some of the most acclaimed SA pop music on The Best Of SA Pop - Volumes 1-3. One of the only South African artists to break out was the great singer-songwriter John Kongos, who had his self-titled Kongos album released here in the U.S. in 1971. His big hit off that album, "He’s Gonna Step On You Again", is featured on Volume 3, while other Kongos tracks—mostly from his early ‘60s years as Johnny Kongos—are also featured. Most of the other artists featured on the Best Of SA Pop series were unknown outside of South Africa, but the detailed liner notes and cross-section of innocent pop music helps set the record straight. One of the most popular South African bands, The Bats are featured on the Gallo Records 2001 double disc 54 track Bats best-of entitled The Heart & Soul Of The Bats. Described as South Africa’s answer to The Beatles, The Bats landed on the SA hit parade in late 1964 and proceeded to release a number of albums and hit singles up until 1977. Despite it’s localized South African appeal, both The Best Of SA Pop and The Heart & Soul Of The Bats will be of interest for students of pop history.  

GATEWAY RECORDS - Arizona-based guitarist Curtis Reid strikes a compelling chord on his second solo album, Omnigatherum. Reid covers a lot of musical variety here—ranging in tone from an ECM-inspired Pat Metheny style to a more driving Steve Morse / Alan Holdsworth flavored fusion. There’s also some stately New Age sounding moments featuring the serene background vocals of Aimee Davis. Reid is backed by some fine players including Guy LeBlanc (Hammond organ), Mario Mendivil (bass), Gary Bruzzese and Dan Tomlinson (both drums), however his passionate guitar and synth playing always commands the center spotlight. Reid even steps to the mic for the album’s one vocal—a Steely Dan-inspired tune dedicated to Jimi Hendrix called "James Marshall". Striking cover art gives a good indication of the creative surge of guitar innovation at work here.  

GAZZA RECORDS - The line-up that some consider the definitive Procol Harum released their final album with Broken Barricades. It’s been said that the album wasn’t quite as great as it’s predecessor—the 1970 Harum masterpiece Home. Throughout much of the ‘70s, Procol Harum would release other great albums, but 1971’s Broken Barricades was their last as a quartet and their last with the group’s founding guitarist Robin Trower. Containing eight fantastic tracks, Broken Barricades was a complete triumph of style and content and in retrospect was the album that transported them from ‘60s psychedelic sensation towards their reign as one of the most respected progressive rock groups of the ‘70s. Although Broken Barricades was released on CD by Mobile Fidelity during the late ‘80s, it’s long been out of print. Procol mastermind and group vocalist Gary Brooker took it upon himself to reissue it on his own Gazza Records. Although minus the original die-cut artwork featured on the original U.S. release on A&M Records, the Gazza CD of Broken Barricades sounds fabulous and like the original LP jacket, it reprints the lyrics to those four classic Harum songs written by Brooker and long time group lyricist Keith Reid.  

GOLLY GEE RECORDS - A label that’s cornered the market when it comes to instrumental guitar bands from the NYC area, Golly Gee are doing great things with the wildly underrated Supertones and are now trying to break relative newcomers The Retroliners. A surf-rock power trio of sorts—featuring Michael Welch (guitars), Johnny Stanton (drums) and Mike Beckerman (bass)—the ‘Liners sound falls more into the post-punk surf-rock camp as opposed to the beautiful music sounds of ‘60s guitar groups like The Shadows. Citing instro influences like Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and Los Straitjackets, The Retroliners are off to a good start on their second CD—their first CD on Golly Gee. Subway strewn artwork adds a fitting touch to this 19 track set, which also features five bonus tracks recorded live at CBGB’s in NYC.  

GEORGE ROBINSON MUSIC - Truly an album to find safe haven in, Refuge is the the latest solo guitar album from Portland, Oregon-based George Robinson. Somewhere between New Age acoustic guitar and neoclassical music, Refuge features a hybrid mix of acoustic-electric guitar sounds. Thanks to some innovative recording technology, Refuge achieves a distinctive sound that few other guitarists can claim. Robinson picks his notes out very discreetly so anyone looking for a dazzling display of speed or technical virtuosity best look elsewhere. Instead, Robinson approaches his music like a casual walk in the park on a sunny spring day, stopping just long enough in all the right places to stop and smell the roses. Robinson’s second album, The Awakening is due to arrive later in 2002.  

HARVEST RECORDS - 2002 is the 35th anniversary of the song that broke Pink Floyd in the U.S. Written and sung by Floyd founder Syd Barrett, "See Emily Play" was a huge Top 40 hit for the group, but Syd soon lost interest in the starmaker pop machine and opted out for a life of bliss away from the center stage. Coaxed back into recording soon after his first and only album with Pink Floyd, Syd recorded a pair of solo albums that flipped his fans out even more. Looking back on it all, it’s a little ironic that Pink Floyd went on to become way too big to accommodate Syd’s precious pop vision, yet not before recording a number of fine albums. Capitol / Harvest Records recently issued a 22 track Syd compilation called Wouldn’t You Miss Me? - The Best Of Syd Barrett that sort of sets the record straight about the reclusive pop legend. Liner notes by Mark Paytress includes humorous interviews with legendary drummer Jerry Shirley, who played drums on the two Barrett solo sets. The CD includes a few rarities including the previously unreleased "Bob Dylan Blues", recorded on 2/27/70. The madcap from the summer of love will be forever remembered simply for being the brains behind Floyd’s pop classic "See Emily Play". Thanks again Syd...

After Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd at the start of ‘68, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright reformed with guitarist David Gilmour for the second Floyd album. After Syd split, Floyd had a minor credibility problem with teenyboppers and it wouldn’t be till their classic ‘69 album Ummagumma that they began to create a new stir among the progressive rock set. Capitol Records has a recent 26 track double disc Pink Floyd compilation called Echoes - The Best Of Pink Floyd. Instead of picking songs from early Floyd favorites like Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Obscured By Clouds, Echoes balances well-known, mega-buck Floyd hits from The Wall, Animals and Dark Side Of The Moon with a friendly, but unexpected helping of six early Syd Barrett favorites including "See Emily Play" and "Astronomy Domine", not to mention a pair of tracks from Floyd’s ‘71 classic Meddle. Intriguing CD packaging, designed by Storm Thorgerson, evokes artwork from a number of Floyd albums. Although minus liner notes, the fine sounding set wisely reprints all the lyrics making Echoes a good choice for novices and long time fans.  

HIGHER OCTAVE - One of the most perennially popular groups on the Higher Octave label, EKO are remembered with a new 16 track best of collection entitled Evolution: The Best Of EKO. Headed up by guitarist John O’Connor, EKO recorded four albums during the ‘90s including their final masterpiece from ‘96, Celtica. Although these days he keeps busy making music for various TV shows, O’Connor has done a whole lot more here than merely assembling a new EKO best-of—even rearranging and rerecording several existing songs as well as adding three new tracks to the album. A sublime blend of pop, blues, folk, world-beat and country sounds, Evolution: The Best Of EKO serves up a culture-hopping set of relaxing and reflective instrumental music.  

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT - Rock legend Pete Townshend is no stranger to rock theater. With Tommy, Quadrophenia and later on his ‘93 solo album Psychoderelict, Townshend, together with The Who, expanded the pop song format to encompass full length rock operas and feature films. One project that fell short of the artist’s expectations was Lifehouse, a 1971 project that—because of it’s unique and ambitious nature—was abandoned. Drawing on the best of Lifehouse, Townshend and The Who scaled things back a bit and gave us the 1971 Who’s Next album, which featured great Lifehouse songs like "Baba O’Reily", "The Song Is Over" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again". These rock classics and a host of others are newly revived on a recent DVD from Townshend entitled Music From Lifehouse. Released in the U.S. by Image Entertainment, the 100 minute live concert from 2/25/2000 finds Townshend and a host of fine players celebrating Lifehouse. Also on hand are Who keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, singer-songwriter great Billy Nicholls and guitarist Phil Palmer. A well filmed, though somewhat tempered live concert from one of rock’s master musicians, Music From Lifehouse sheds further light on an album that Townshend often describes as ‘the one that got away’. The extensive DVD booklet serves up the whole scoop on Lifehouse.  

Back on April 27, 2001 The Bee Gees appeared on the A&E Network’s Live By Request show at the Manhattan Center, just a few short blocks from Madison Sq. Garden. Having just released their latest album This Is Where I Came In, the brothers Gibb were in prime form. Hosted by Mark McEwen, the 90 minute show features a number of Bee Gees’ favorites performed before an appreciative gathering of loyal fans. More than a mere nostalgia fest, Bee Gees - Live By Request highlights a number of early favorites balanced out by tracks from their new album. The DVD looks great and audio sound quality, mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround sound, is superb. The brothers are supported by a fine back-up band as well. Packed with one great Bee Gees song after another, the Image Entertainment DVD of Bee Gees - Live By Request is rounded out by worthwhile liner notes by music maven David Leaf.  

Another worthwhile addition to the Image DVD catalog is Paul McCartney & Friends - The PETA Concert For Party Animals. A vegetarian, McCartney has long been a supporter of animal rights and for this recent live benefit concert he’s joined by a number of pop culture icons including Chrissie Hynde, Sarah McLachlan and The B-52’s along with various comedian and show-biz luminaries. As cool as it is seeing The B-52’s do their big hits—"Rock Lobster" and "Love Shack"—the real deal are the songs that McCartney performs with his group which features Pink Floyd guitar great David Gilmour and Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice. The Peta Concert was filmed around the time of Macca’s Run Devil Run album so there’s a number of that album’s oldies tracks like "Honey Hush", "Lonesome Town" and the title track. The 68 minute show is fun to see and everyone looks like they’re really enjoying themselves, especially Paul.  /

INTERSCOPE - Rock sensations U2 more or less hijacked this year’s Grammy awards with their huge album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. One listen to that album proves that the post-punk Irish rockers have really fine tuned and upgraded their act. Even if you couldn’t stand them during the inexplicable U2 mania of the ‘80s, there’s quite a lot—for long time fans and for those who might have missed them the first time around—to enjoy on their 2002 double disc DVD on Interscope Records. Thankfully, Elevation 2001: U2 Live From Boston features a number of well wrought live versions of tracks from All That You Can’t Leave Behind including their big hit "Beautiful Day", "Elevation" and the intimidating "New York". After a look and a listen, it’s clear the entire band—especially singer Bono and group guitarist The Edge—are in prime form here. The whole double disc DVD set takes on a futuristic tone—from the computerized packaging to the video design. Disc one features their entire June 6, 2001 19 track concert as it was shot from 20 different cameras as well as a 25 minute documentary on the making of the concert. Disc two adds to the fun with an entire ‘alternate cam’ version of the concert as shot from 3 different camera angles, a time-lapse road movie of the concert set up and breakdown, recent U2 videos filmed in Dublin, Miami, Sydney and Mexico City as well as web links and DVD Rom screensavers. If you’ve never seen U2 live before, there’s no better way to witness their voracious musical appetite and sonic majesty in concert than with Elevation 2001.  /

LEGACY RECORDINGS - Compared to classic late ‘60s Antonio Carlos Jobim albums like Wave and Tide, his 1970 album Stone Flower was somewhat of a sleeper. Produced by early Jobim confidant Creed Taylor, Stone Flower featured great session players like Joe Farrell (sax), Hubert Laws (flute) and Ron Carter (bass) while clearly one of the main players was Eumir Deodato, who adds guitar and was responsible for some of the arranging. Spotlighting Jobim’s lushly recorded acoustic guitar and piano, Stone Flower highlights include Jobim’s version of "Brazil" (written by Ary Barroso) and his fascinating title track. The CTI / Legacy reissue of Stone Flower also tags on a bonus track—an alternate take of "Brazil"—and historic liner notes by James Isaccs.

NYC native, singer-songwriter Neil Diamond needs no introduction. One of the great songwriters to emerge from the famous Brill Building scene of the early ‘60s, Diamond burst onto the pop stage in ‘66 with his now classic "Solitary Man"—a song recently covered by the great Johnny Cash. Other early Diamond classics include favorites like "Cherry, Cherry", "Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon" and "Kentucky Woman"—the latter a huge ‘60s hit for Deep Purple. Many teenyboppers first turned on to Diamond’s music with "I’m A Believer"—a hit for The Monkees in ‘67. Diamond’s original versions and just about every other huge Diamond classic can be found on the recent Legacy release of The Essential Neil Diamond. Newly remastered and produced by Diamond and Al Quaglieri, the double disc, 38 track set features original tracks from the various labels Diamond recorded for throughout the years, including Bang, Uni, Capitol and Columbia Records. In addition to his studio classics, the set also features ten live tracks—six of which were recorded during Diamond’s current 2001-2002 tour. This essential set is topped off with new liner notes by David Wild.

LION RECORDS - He earned his reputation drumming with greats like Yngwie Malmsteen and Tony Macalpine and now drummer Mike Terrana adds to his list of achievements with a fine recent album released in Europe on Finland’s Lion Music imprint. For fans of fiery instrumental jazz-rock, it doesn’t get any better than Shadows Of The Past. As far as support players go, Terrana has chosen some excellent ones including guitar ace Steve Lukather (who nearly steals the show with his dazzling electric solos) along with Kevin Chown (bass) and Brian Lord (acoustic, slide guitar). For anyone unfamiliar with Terrana (a New York native, currently residing in Europe), his drumming is firmly rooted in the Simon Phillips and Bill Bruford school. With so many fine original, high energy, yet also melodic-based tracks on the CD, it’s clear Terrana is also a composer to keep an eye on.

MGM - All the way from the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre comes Villa D’Leste. With composers like Jobim and Villa-Lobos emanating from that part of the world, it should come as no surprise to find some fine guitar based instrumental groups from Brazil. A mix of smooth jazz, surf-style guitar and Brazilian-flavored pop music, the Villa D’Leste album spotlights the electric guitar work of Fernando Payer, who’s joined on the ten track album by the rhythm section of João Kopps (drums) and Paulo Cunh (bass). As far as influences go the group cites the Brasilian pop group Os Mutatnes and legends like Jimmy Page, George Harrison and classical composer Chopin. Like a lot of the music from Brazil, the mood here is quite melodic, atmospheric and quite lively while the playing is really quite good. Clearly Villa D’Leste are on the right track with their first CD.  

MAGIC RECORDS - The French label, Magic Records are doing a great job with their recent 24-bit CD reissues of ‘60s guitar rockers The Shadows. The instrumental guitar sound of The Shadows, and so many other guitar groups, has always been popular throughout Europe and Asia. Magic’s 24-bit remasters of both Jigsaw (1967) and From Hank, Bruce, Brian And John (also 1967) sound superb and are filled out by a generous helping of period piece bonus tracks including rare E.P. cuts and tracks from the group’s various film soundtracks. Jigsaw was the last completely instrumental studio album The Shadows made during the ‘60s as From Hank, Bruce, Brian And John featured a number of vocal cuts including covers of pop standards like John Phillips’ "San Francisco" and "The Letter". Looking back on it 35 years later, it’s clear that only The Shadows could so successfully consummate such a wide-ranging array of vocals, cover tunes and guitar-based instrumentals.  

Over the past few years California-based singer-songwriter Jeff Larson has carved out quite a niche for himself. First on his ‘98 solo album Watercolor Sky and then on his classic 2000 solo set Room For Summer. During this time, Larson also made what some claim is his best album yet, Daytrips, recorded with ‘60s guitar hero John Blakeley. 43 of Larson’s best album cuts, alternate mixes and unreleased tracks are now compiled on Complete Works 1998-2000, a most impressive double CD set recently released on the French label, Magic Records. A number of fine musicians are featured throughout the two disc set including guitarist Hank Linderman, the multi-talented Jeff Foskett and drummer Danny Weston Jr. to name just a few. Remastered in high definition 24-bit technology, the double disc French import presents a fine line-up of West Coast-inspired surf-pop, topped off by eye-catching artwork and complete track data.  

MESSENGER RECORDS - Featuring multi-instrumentalist, lead singer and songwriter Kenny Siegal, the latest Johnny Society CD, Clairvoyance is a great album in the spirit of classic ‘70s rock groups like The Move, T.Rex, The Guess Who and Cheap Trick. Have a listen to the CD’s lead off track, "Blue Plastic Bag"—with it’s catchy-as-hell Beatles-style riffing and powerhouse lead vocal—and you know you’re in for a cool musical experience. Siegal more than proves his worth as a lead singer, keyboardist and guitarist, while the album is also enhanced with ‘60s sounding instruments like sitar, harpsichord and mellotron. Despite come-ons from major record labels, Johnny Society wisely opted out for their albums to come out on the NYC-based Messenger Records. In addition to Clairvoyance, the label also offers a couple other Johnny Society discs including It Don’t Matter (1997) and Wood (1998). Anyone interested in trend-setting rock and roll as it moves into the 21st Century must check out Clairvoyance.

MILAN RECORDS - It’s been a few years since the last Aqua Velvets CD, yet with the recent release Radio Waves, the band is once again positioned to resume their stature as one of the preeminent surf-rock instrumental guitar combos. Not exactly an album of all new material, Radio Waves captures 23 rocked out, live in the studio instrumentals recorded for radio stations KFJC and KPFR in California during the mid ‘90s. These noteworthy, live radio shows captures the ‘90s version of The Aqua Velvets at their peak. Featuring the fine lead guitar sound of Miles Corbin, the AV’s romp through a number of their original album classics as well as serving up covers of surf-rock classics like "Diamond Head", "Walk, Don’t Run" and "Apache". Bringing the band history up to date, Radio Waves comes with a 4 song bonus E.P. of recently recorded live Aqua Velvets tracks including instrumentals of Nirvana’s "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the Astronauts 1962 surf-rock classic "Baja". Let’s hope that a new studio album of all new music is not too far behind.

MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS - Calling Big Beat Box a Beatles DVD is slightly misleading, although the DVD half of this double disc DVD/CD set does feature vintage ‘60s newsreels and interviews from the heyday of international Beatlemania set against newly recorded versions of Beatles classics. The 13 newly recorded Beatles and Beatles-inspired tunes by The Overtures makes Big Beat Box a pretty good bet for long time Beatles fans. The highlight is a Beatles-inspired song with the same title of a tune written by George Harrison and Paul McCartney in 1958 called, "In Spite Of All The Danger". Featured on both discs, the anthemic song is like the theme of both the DVD and CD. The DVD half, with it’s color treated B&W film footage of various Beatles interviews from their early touring years, is pretty good but even better is the music half which finds The Overtures performing Beatles favorites like "Anna" and "Words Of Love" (actually, songs The Beatles covered). Other highlights are cool guitar-based instrumentals of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "I Am The Walrus", which—along with the vocal and instrumental versions of "In Spite Of All The Danger"—provide reasons enough to check it out.  

NOT LAME RECORDS - Pop fans in the know have been hip to Jeff Lynne since his work with late ‘60s paisley pop wonders The Idle Race. The Idle Race sadly never got off the ground here in the U.S.—and so it was Lynne’s work as a member of The Move that would put him on the map way back in 1970 with the release of the third Move masterpiece Looking On. Next came the final Move album classic—1971’s Message From The Country—which later that same year gave way to the very first self-titled debut from Electric Light Orchestra. Strangely, it wasn’t until Move and ELO brainchild Roy Wood left ELO—placing it essentially in the worthy hands of Lynne—that the classical rockers really took off and the rest is history. ELO’s eventual break-up in 1986 lead to Lynne joining the late, great George Harrison and Traveling Wilburys which lead to various Lynne productions with Roy Orbison, Duane Eddy, Hank B. Marvin and of course, The Beatles. Now more than 15 years after the ELO split—and less than a year after the great 2001 ELO comeback album Zoom—comes the first Jeff Lynne tribute album—a double disc no less, appropriately titled Lynne Me Your Ears - A Tribute To The Music Of Jeff Lynne. Released on Not Lame Records and produced by pop wiz Doug Powell—who adds his own version of the Eldorado gem "Can’t Get It Out Of My Head"—the set features covers of a number of great Lynne songs including the first ever ELO song "10538 Overture" by Mitch Easter, "Do Ya"—the Move classic given a kick-ass cover by Jason Falkner, "Bluebird Is Dead" by Todd Rundgren, "Twilight" by Shazam, "Boy Blue" by rising pop pundit Rick Altizer, "Showdown" by NYC pop icon Richard Barone, "Telephone Line" by Brian Wilson guitarist Jeff Foskett and a whole lot more. 32 tracks in all, along with cool ELO inspired cover art and praiseworthy liner notes by Rob Caiger of the ELO web site Face The Music, makes Lynne Me Your Ears one collection that deserves to be heard by any true fan of Jeff Lynne.  /

OKIE MOTION RECORDS - A local musical hero in his native Oklahoma, guitarist Terry "Buffalo" Ware cut a number of guitar instrumental tracks back in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s that for the longest time have remained unreleased—until now. Recently, Ware took it upon himself to compile some his unreleased pieces on a CD entitled Buffalo Tracks, which he released on his own Okie Motion Records. Guitar-wise Ware’s sound falls somewhere between The Ventures, Steve Cropper, George Harrison and Frank Zappa. The 13 track album features a number of fine Ware originals which he balances with a pair of Zappa originals—including a cool cover of Frank’s great "Peaches En Regalia"—as well as a Ware version of the "3 Part Invention" by classical icon J.S. Bach. Several artists lend a hand—including Jim Herbst (drums) and Marlin Butcher (bass)—but for the most part Ware skillfully performs all the guitar parts as well as mellotron, organ, snare drum and piano. Buffalo Tracks sheds light on Ware’s accomplished, yet sadly uncelebrated musical background.

PENGUIN PUTNAM BOOKS - Documenting the spiritual and musical growth of the world’s most popular rock and roll group, The Beatles In Rishikesh is an incredible picture book of The Beatles in India. Following the release of Sgt. Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour, in February, 1968 The Beatles traveled to India where they were taught TM by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In a little less than two years The Beatles would officially break up, yet during their meditation experience in India they were still in the midst of composing some of their greatest songs—many of which were recorded for the late ‘68 White Album. Canadian photographer Paul Saltzman was also studying TM at the Maharishi Academy in Rishikesh, India back then and luckily he had his trusty Pentax camera on hand. More than thirty years later Saltzman was finally ready to recount—in both pictures and words—the life and times of The Beatles mystical trek to India. Saltzman, a long time Beatles fan, took manifold color photos of The Beatles and their entire entourage and the results of his earnest endeavor are in abundance throughout the 145 page hard bound book. Saltzman’s photographs of John, Paul, George & Ringo along with his poignant reflections and historical narrative on The Beatles during this incredibly colorful time in pop history, make The Beatles In Rishikesh an essential item for Fab Four followers.  

POLYDOR / UTV RECORDS - Everyone has their favorite Bee Gees period. Some prefer the gothic, Beatles inspired late ‘60s recordings, while some prefer the Saturday Night Fever disco years. Polydor Records recently issued a 40 track double disc best-of set entitled Their Greatest Hits: The Record from The Brothers Gibb that kicks off with their 1967 U.S. debut, "New York Mining Disaster 1941" and goes on to cover all the big hits through to their March 2001 single "This Is Where I Came In". The CD booklet further explains just how huge The Bee Gees’ influence remains: over 60 charting singles (19 of which were #1), sales of over 110 million records, 7 Grammy Awards, etc. All of this wouldn’t matter one iota if the music didn’t hold up. Thankfully, most of these song classics sound as good today as they did back in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. New digital remastering adds additional clarity and luster to these timeless pop gems.  

PLAYGROUND RECORDS - 22 Pistepirkko have been a mainstay on the Finnish pop music scene since the mid ‘90s. Rally Of Love is the group’s ninth and most recent album. Like earlier efforts the CD tastefully combines Nuggets-era garage rock, psychedelia, modern electro and classic pop. The group cites a number of pop influences like Love, The Troggs, Nick Drake to The Beach Boys, yet their sound is a completely modern mix of pop and rock with a trip-hop sensibility. The group’s lead vocalist and guitarist P-K Keränen receives top support from his brother Asko Keränen (bass, organ, synths) and Espe Haverinen (drums). Anyone interested in hearing some modern, cutting edge pop from Finland should check out these excellent CDs.

PRO MUSIC PRESS - The Beatles made "Strawberry Fields Forever" with it and The Moody Blues and King Crimson gained fame with it. The "it" we’re talking about is the Mellotron—the keyboard/tape instrument that has a history now spanning six decades. The ‘tron is so significant an instrument that it can almost single-handedly take credit for the explosive growth of late ‘60s prog-rock. The one musician most identified with ‘60s Mellotron mania remains the great Mike Pinder—founder of The Moody Blues. Pinder turned The Beatles onto the wonders of the tron and the rest is history. The Mellotron Book—written by Frank Samagaio—tells the whole Mellotron story, detailing the early history and musical ideas behind the tron. In addition to numerous pics, the 150 page soft cover book devotes ample pages to other esteemed Mellotron masters like Rick Wakeman, John Hawken, Ian McDonald and producer Tony Visconti. No self-respecting student of prog-rock should be without The Mellotron Book.

RANBACH RECORDS - This new double disc reissue from Canada displays another side of singer-songwriter and guitarist Randy Bachman, who at the time had just left his position with Canada’s best rock group, The Guess Who to form Brave Belt. Originally released by Reprise Records in 1971-1972, both Brave Belt albums were forerunners of the country rock sound that would become so popular in the mid ‘70s. The CD set features an innovative blend of ‘60s pop layered with mid ‘70s country rock tendencies. Some of the harder rocking songs, among the 25 tracks here, point the way towards Bachman’s next recordings with the soon to be hugely popular BTO—the band Brave Belt turned into after a name change. The double CD features cool cover art backed up by 14 pages of background info. Bachman carries on these days with his archival label Ranbach Music and has recently toured with his old band The Guess Who.

RAVEN RECORDS - When The Byrds burst onto the pop scene in 1965 with "Mr. Tambourine Man" they were just scratching the surface of a legacy that has now spanned five decades. The Australian reissue label Raven Records has collected a number of rare Byrds-related sides on their recent 24 track CD entitled Byrd Parts. The early Byrds are still considered the most influential of all the group’s various incarnations and luckily for pop fans, there’s also an abundance of rarities from that period on Byrd Parts. Subtitled Oddities, Curios, Rarities & Essentials, the disc kicks off with two rare David Crosby tracks, produced by soon-to-be Byrds producer Jim Dickson in 1963. Other highlights include two 1966 cuts by actor David Hemmings backed by the classic Byrds lineup, a track by songstress Jackie DeShannon backed by The Byrds, assorted songs from pre-Byrds bands like The Jet Set, The Beefeaters and The Hillmen, several cuts by International Submarine Band (the Gram Parsons group), tracks by Doug Dillard (a brief Byrd - here with Gene Clark), Terry Melcher (Byrds producer), Skip Battin, the late great guitarist Clarence White and Gene Parsons (various cuts by these three early ‘70s Byrd members). The CD closes out with several cuts from the late ‘70s Byrds reunion band McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. Raven has done another great job here annotating their Byrd Parts collection with a fine 12 page booklet filled with eye-opening photos and remembrances.

Another recent Raven CD worth checking out is a two on one CD by country & western songstress Rosanne Cash entitled Right Or Wrong / Seven Year Ache. Produced by former husband Rodney Crowell and recorded in 1980 and 1981 respectively, both albums offer a good indication of how much further Cash would go in the ‘80s. Recorded in L.A., both albums feature numerous high caliber players like guitarists Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell and James Burton, Jim Horn (sax), Hal Blaine (drums) as well as guest spots from her dad Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers.

Also on Raven is a 20 track, 75 minute retrospective by ‘70s NYC-rocker Garland Jeffreys called Wild In The Streets (Best Of 1977-1983). After releasing an album with his late ‘60s group Grinder’s Switch, Jeffrey’s—encouraged by college buddy Lou Reed—went on to a pretty successful solo career. A fine mixture of rock, pop-flavored soul and R&B, Wild In The Streets draws on five albums Jeffrey’s released on A&M and Epic Records. Some of NYC’s finest studio players (G.E. Smith, Tony Levin, David Sanborn, etc.) are featured throughout making Wild In The Streets a good introduction to the wildly underrated Jeffreys.

Featuring tracks from Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler and The Impressions, Raven’s Got Soul! brings together 28 songs featuring tracks from each of those popular ‘60s R&B stars. All the big hits are here—including 22 US top 40 hits—and the set closes out with tracks from Mayfield’s huge 1972 soundtrack Superfly, including the title track and "Freddie’s Dead", topped off by Mayfield’s ‘73 hit "Future Shock". Although Mayfield sadly passed away after a tragic accident in December 1999—just after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame—his legacy is righteously kept alive on the action-packed Got Soul! compilation.

RHINO RECORDS - Back in the ‘60s, San Francisco was a major focal point for the burgeoning American psychedelic music scene. Of all the dozens of great bands to emerge from the Bay Area in the ‘60s, Jerry Garcia, Pigpen, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir & Company—The Grateful Dead—outlasted them all, spawning new generations of Dead Heads to this very day. So much has already been said about The Grateful Dead’s embryonic years on Warner Bros. Records. A timely upgrading of The Dead’s early music, their album classics have been superbly remastered in HDCD sound and combined under one roof for the first time in a lavishly packaged Rhino Records box set entitled The Golden Road 1965-1973. Unlike their buddies in Jefferson Airplane, The Dead pretty much remained a cult band for much of the ‘60s, at least until their Fall ‘69 classic, Live/Dead. All that changed in June, 1970 with the release of Workingman’s Dead—an album that put The Dead on the map big time. For the whole trip behind these psychedelic pioneers look no further than The Golden Road. Containing the group’s twelve Warner Bros. albums—enhanced with 7 hours of previously unreleased material, including bonus tracks—the box is decked out with an 80 page CD booklet containing ample bio material, complete discography and color photos galore. Totaling almost 16 hours of music, the 12 CDs on hand includes Birth Of The Dead (a two CD live/studio set consisting of their pre-Dead years as The Warlocks), their first album, The Grateful Dead (March 1967), Anthem Of The Sun (July 1968), Aoxomoxoa (May 1969), Live/Dead (November 1969), Workingman’s Dead (June 1970), American Beauty (November 1970), Grateful Dead (a/k/a Skull & Roses - September 1971), Europe ‘72 (double CD set - November 1972), and History Of The Grateful Dead - Bear’s Choice (July 1973). Each individual CD features original art, repackaged in digi-pak design, along with separate liner notes. The Grateful Dead would go on to make more music history after leaving Warner Bros. Records—however for a significant overview of their embryonic years, there’s no better way to experience The Dead than with The Golden Road.  /

RHINO HANDMADE RECORDS - The reissue experts at Rhino Records entrust some of their more eclectic, collectible titles to their speciality internet-friendly label which they call Rhino Handmade. Earlier Handmade titles from Jo Jo Gunne, Soupy Sales and David Peel have made the label a favorite among collectors of rare and out of print pop and rock albums. Rhino Handmade continues reviving rare albums with Three Piece Suite: The Reprise Recordings 1971-1974 from producer legend great Jack Nitzsche. Nitzsche recently passed away so the long out of print albums compiled on Three Piece Suite makes the nearly 78 minute CD a most timely reissue. With only three thousand pressed, the CD—filled with detailed liner notes—should be something of a collectors item in short order. Centered primarily around Nitzsche’s 1972 neoclassical symphonic instrumental album St. Giles Cripplegate, the CD also features numerous unreleased pop recordings Nitzsche recorded between 1971 and 1974. Nitzsche fans in the know recall his outstanding production, arranging and keyboard work with Phil Spector, The Rolling Stones and Neil Young. A key player on the first Crazy Horse album, Nitzsche’s orchestral scoring on Young’s 1972 Harvest album resounds throughout the six part Cripplegate album. A great singer-songwriter, producer and string arranger (sort of a cross between Brian Wilson and Beatles producer George Martin), Nitzsche was a musical giant and an enigma and the complex music personalities of Three Piece Suite will no doubt add to his legacy. Another welcome arrival on Rhino Handmade is the triple disc mini-box set Faithful Virtue: The Reprise Recordings by Lovin’ Spoonful founder, singer/songwriter John Sebastian. Sebastian of course wrote and sang numerous memorable songs with the Spoonful and that tradition continued on his Reprise albums—John B. Sebastian (released January, 1970), Cheapo Cheapo Productions (March, 1971), The Four Of Us (August, 1971), Tarzana Kid (September, 1974), and Welcome Back (April 1976). All five of his Reprise albums are collected here in their entirety along with five live tracks Sebastian recorded at the ‘69 Woodstock Festival and several rare single releases. What really makes this set so special is the extensively researched 48 page CD booklet supported by extensive memories from Sebastian himself.

SANCTUARY RECORDS - Back in 1971, South African singer-songwriter John Kongos released his all time musical masterpiece, simply called Kongos. Released in the U.S. on Elektra and in England on Fly / Cube Records, Kongos was an artistic triumph on the scale of the first Elton John album, but sadly—despite significant contributions from Elton guitarist Caleb Quaye and producer Gus Dudgeon—the Kongos album failed to ignite the music world the way it should have. Several years before what sadly turned out to be his final album, the John Kongos story was bridged by several other interesting chapters. His early years in South Africa were quite productive—yielding a half dozen albums recorded as Johnny Kongos & The G-Men. Arriving in London at the height of pop psychedelia in 1966, Kongos hooked up with Piccadilly and Pye Records producer John Schroeder. Kongos went on to record a number of tracks with Schroeder at the helm before switching over to Fly / Cube Records. Those early Kongos tracks on Pye are in ample abundance here on the impressive 26 track CD Lavender Popcorn - 1966-1969, recently released by the Sanctuary Records Group. Kicking off with four tracks Kongos recorded as John T. Kongos and the group Floribunda Rose, Lavender Popcorn goes the distance with seven tracks recorded by the Kongos-lead paisley-pop art-rock group Scrugg—although the best part of the CD is the inclusion of his entire 1969 singer-songwriter masterpiece Confusions About A Goldfish. These vital early Kongos sides recorded in London—missing in action for too long until now—are faithfully restored here in all their glory. The colorful psychedelic CD artwork features a thoroughly researched booklet loaded with heaps of related information to help straighten out the Kongos story. Lavender Popcorn is a just one of the many excellent titles imported by the CD experts at

SONY CLASSICAL - Classical guitar giant John Williams recently returned with his new 2002 album The Magic Box. Inspired by the sounds of traditional and contemporary African music, Williams is joined by the late, great Cameroonian guitarist & composer Francis Bebey and a wide range of other fine players as they perform fifteen spirited musical selections from Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and other countries from the African continent. According to Williams, "For as many years as I can remember, I’ve always loved African music, the traditional music. What you have in African music, which Western music hasn’t approached, is the complexity of actual rhythms, where you have many rhythms going along with a life. In the midst of so much suffering, African people seem to be a happy people. And it comes out in the music." Assisting Williams on The Magic Box are a variety of excellent players including esteemed U.K. guitarist John Etheridge (acoustic steel string), the great Richard Harvey (flutes, whistles) and Francis Bebey.

SPEC RECORDS - New Jersey based Spec Records recently released the latest album from the group 4FRONT entitled Radio Waves Goodbye. Headed up by drumming ace Joe Bergamini and guitarist Zak Rizvi, the 4Front sound features a strong cinematic quality and to match their technical prowess, guitarist Rizvi has written a dozen electrifying jazz-rock tracks that underscores both his unique guitar style and compositional flair. Rizvi adds, "After all, the best and most liberating thing about instrumental music is being able to draw one's own conclusions about what it all might mean." The all-instrumental set also features a cool instro version of Bowie’s "Space Oddity". The high quality of the musical production—and particularly Bergamini’s first rate drumming and Rizvi’s dynamic fretboard work—put’s Radio Waves Goodbye into a class all it’s own.

STIR RECORDS - Back in the late ‘90s, singer-songwriter and guitarist Simon Townshend, the younger brother of Who mastermind Pete Townshend, released his benchmark album, Among Us—an album that really shines a light on Simon’s memorable pop hooks and compelling vocals. In 2000, Simon released Bare Bodies Bare Assets, a live CD of his various recent solo concerts in the U.S. and the U.K. Simon’s most recent studio CDs include his ‘99 album Animal Soup and an excellent five track e.p. from 2000 called Ages—both of which feature contributions from son Ben Townshend on drums. And just like big brother Pete, Simon can sing and write catchy pop hooks. As his albums demonstrate, Simon is also quite a competent guitarist. In fact, it was Simon’s electric guitar playing that backed up The Who during their recent Quadrophenia tour of North America. Check out Simon’s web site, which offers streaming audio and his daily diary entries.

SUNDAZED RECORDS - Featuring some of the most collectible reissue classics from the ‘60s, the extensive catalog of New York-based Sundazed Records boggles the mind. Label head Bob Irwin is also known for his high visibility reissue productions over at Sony Legacy, yet with Sundazed Irwin still manages the time to hunt down, remaster and reissue some of the most sought after pop artifacts of the ‘60s. Sundazed hits another homer with two long sought after reissues from The Cyrkle, best known for their Paul Simon-composed classic "Red Rubber Ball". Despite fine follow-up 45’s like "Turn Down Day" and "Cloudy" (another Simon tune) they soon disappeared off of the charts, but not before releasing two studio albums, Red Rubber Ball (1966) and Neon (1967). On both reissues, the group’s fine pop sensibilities really come into focus on a wide range of original material as well as covers of Paul Simon, The Bee Gees and The Beatles. Both albums echo that vivid sense of mid ‘60s pop, a time when Billboard charts ruled and your AM radio was your lifeline to the world. Sundazed gives The Cyrkle’s pop legacy a timely boost on their reissues of both Red Rubber Ball and Neon, packing them with original artwork, flawless liner notes, photos and a slew of bonus tracks.

Another top job from Sundazed features four reissue CDs by sixties West Coast retro-pop wonders Harpers Bizarre. Like the New York City area sound of The Cyrkle, California-based Harpers Bizarre hit the big time with another Paul Simon song, this time "Feelin’ Groovy". The four expanded-edition Harpers reissues on Sundazed include Feelin’ Groovy (1967), Anything Goes (December 1967), The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre (1968) and Harpers Bizarre 4 (1969). A prestigious act on Warner Bros. Records, Harpers were known for their smooth covers of ‘60s legends like Paul Simon, Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Gerry Goffin.

A key ‘60s U.K. band, The Spencer Davis Group never had their albums reissued Stateside, despite having scored a number of U.S. Top 40 hits. Sundazed sets the record straight with two Spencer Davis Group reissues, Gimme Some Lovin (February 1967) and I’m A Man (July 1967). Unfortunately, the SDG’s lead singer and keyboardist Steve Winwood had other plans and, of course, went on to form Traffic with Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi. Davis, a fine singer and guitarist in his own right, was stunned by Winwood’s departure, just in time for Traffic to headline the psychedelic Summer of Love with "Paper Sun". In the detailed liner notes for I’m A Man Davis adds, "One day it was there and then it just disappeared." Nevertheless, Davis rebounded nicely for his first of his many post-Winwood albums, 1968’s With Their New Face On, a cool psych-pop album inspired by Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy. Two albums of smokin’ mid ‘60s R&B flavored pop, both I’m A Man and Gimme Some Lovin’, complete with numerous bonus tracks and detailed liner notes, are welcome additions to the prestigious Sundazed catalog.

Another essential title just out from Sundazed is a reissue of the January 1969 self-titled album from Montage, a group which featured production, songwriting and keyboard arrangements from Michael Brown, renowned for his mid-60’s Baroque pop group The Left Banke and later with pop favorites Stories. Inspired by the great music of The Left Banke, Brown set out to create a new Baroque pop sound, even rerecording The Left Banke hit "Desiree" for the Montage album. Recorded in NYC in 1968 and released on the famous Laurie Records label, Montage has remained largely overlooked till now. Sundazed adds in four bonus tracks and historic liner notes making Montage a major find for anyone interested in the criminally under recorded pop genius of Michael Brown.

TEST ROCKET - What would happen if Buddy Holly surfed or had better gear? That’s not a bad way to describe the first CD from Virginia-based Reverb Rockets. Headed up by Mike Lucas (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, 12-String and steel guitar) and Chris Ball (vocals, bass, percussion), The Reverb Rockets deliver a potent blast of rockabilly sounds and ‘60s style guitar instrumentals with the results sounding like a mix between Dick Dale, Johnny Cash and Dave Edmunds. Clocking in at just over 32 minutes, the 11 track album is a good-natured kick ass record of vintage surfabilly rock and roll and one listen provides ample proof that these guys can really play. As a guitarist and vocalist Lucas has his act down—while his bandmates and several additional players add more fuel to the Reverb Rockets sound.

THIRSTY EAR RECORDS - U.K. rockers Teenage Fanclub finally get a Stateside release for their latest album on Thirsty Ear Records. Featuring new songs and vocals from Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley, Howdy! evokes a gentle, rocking sound that’s obviously influenced by Neil Young, Brian Wilson, The Byrds and XTC. Suffice to say, there’s a definite ‘60s pop sound at work on Howdy! The Scottish band have been winning over pop fans since the release of their debut, Bandwagonesque in 1991, and their new one goes the distance with a winning batch of impressive tracks and some fine playing.  d

TRI-SURF RECORDS - A legend of the California surf-rock instrumental scene of the mid ‘60s, The Sandals have kept their legacy alive thanks to a number of home grown releases on their own Tri-Surf Records label based out in Carmel, California. Way back in 1964, the band—featuring founding members Walter Georis (guitar, voice), John Blakeley (guitar, mandolin) and Gaston Georis (keyboards)—recorded their influential soundtrack for the Bruce Brown surf movie classic, The Endless Summer. The perennial popularity of that movie classic gave the group a renewed spirit and since their reformation in the mid ‘90s, The Sandals have released a number of classic instrumental guitar albums including a rerecording of their original Endless Summer soundtrack. In 1995, The Sandals released an acoustic-flavored guitar album entitled Milagro and now, in 2002, The Sandals follow-up the sound of Milagro with their latest CD Silvertone. The mostly instrumental 70+ minute Silvertone CD blends a wealth of sublime acoustic and electric guitar work with flavorings like Spanish, African and French Bayou folk melodies while also adding in a couple of vocals. Featuring contributions from several fine side players, Silvertone is a different, yet equally fascinating side of a guitar band that helped shape the sound of surf-rock back in the ‘60s.

VIRGIN RECORDS - The first new music from rocker Lenny Kravitz in three years, Lenny was actually released last November. Written, arranged, produced and performed by Kravitz, the set features a dozen original tracks and is a solid follow-up to his ‘98 album 5. Commenting on his latest studio album, Kravitz asserts, "There’s a definite theme that unites these songs. It’s about moving forward and seizing the day. I’m very optimistic and that’s a great place to be." Like earlier efforts, Lenny is flavored with an appreciable Beatles influence, most notably on the CD’s standout track "Yesterday Is Gone". An excellent guitarist and drummer in his own right, Kravitz sings and plays everything pretty much himself although a couple guest artists do lend a hand including string arranger Henry Hirsch and electric guitarist Craig Ross—who also co-composes some of the music with Lenny. During the best moments you can almost sense the spirit of John Lennon’s early solo recordings.

VOICEPRINT RECORDS - Following the November 1968 release of The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles & Fripp, the Giles brothers—Peter Giles and Michael Giles—along with guitarist Robert Fripp, joined forces with the multi-talented Ian McDonald and lyricist Pete Sinfield. The music recorded at their Brondesbury Road studios in London paved the way for the first album the group would record as King Crimson. In fact, the Ian McDonald / Pete Sinfield classic, "I Talk To The Wind"—featured here as two different versions—would soon be rerecorded and would be a focal point on King Crimson’s 1969 debut album. Falling right smack in between the first Giles, Giles & Fripp and In The Court Of The Crimson King, The Brondesbury Tapes is a fascinating look back at just how King Crimson came into being. Superbly remastered and fastidiously documented with liner notes and technical insight by Peter Giles—along with track by track personnel information and rare photos—The Brondesbury Tapes, on Voiceprint sheds significant new light on the roots of King Crimson.

UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP - Looking back thirty years after the release of The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, Traffic founder Jim Capaldi muses, "You hear it now and you can’t work out if it’s rock, jazz or what. Traffic formed it’s own style. We really laid the ground-work for lots of other bands who became very technical and scientific. But we kept a very simple approach." Following the massive success of their 1970 comeback album, John Barleycorn Must Die, Traffic founders Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi, reformed with Blind Faith bassist Ric Grech, drummer Jim Gordon and percussionist Reebop for the 1971 Traffic masterpiece The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys. Compared to their Barleycorn set, Low Spark was cloaked in mystery, especially obvious on the jazzy, synth-heavy title track. Capaldi really came alive during the Low Spark sessions singing lead on the album’s two popular FM radio songs—"Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" and "Rock & Roll Stew", also included here as a two part, six minute+ bonus track. From the incredible die-cut album jacket (sort of recreated here) to Winwood-Capaldi classics like "Hidden Treasure" and "Rainmaker", Low Spark was a first class Traffic album—clearly one of the high points of late 1971. In their effort to keep the Traffic legacy burning brightly, UMG has also reissued Traffic’s Summer ‘71 live album Welcome To The Canteen—an album that featured the same line-up (with the short-lived addition of Traffic founding guitarist Dave Mason) that would go on to make the Low Spark album.

One of the many fine labels under the UMG umbrella, Polydor Records / Threshold Records recently reissued a DVD of Legend Of A Band - The Story Of The Moody Blues. The Moodies truly remain legendary among ‘60s British rock bands, dating all the way back to the British Invasion heyday of the mid ‘60s when Mike Pinder started the band up with Denny Laine and Ray Thomas. Long time fans still worship the bands early albums—1967’s Days Of Future Passed through till ‘73s Seventh Sojourn—which were filled with Pinder’s glorious mellotron work. Even after Pinder split the band following their ‘78 album Octave, The Moodies carried on throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s making some pretty good albums along the way. Produced in 1990, Legend Of A Band focuses primarily on the post-Pinder Moodies albums, which feature keyboardist Pat Moraz. As the footage points out, Moraz is no Mike Pinder, although the songs of Justin Hayward and John Lodge are still quite captivating. Filled with later period interviews, videos and various live concert footage, Legend Of A Band looks great on DVD. While preserving the story of possibly the greatest of all the U.K. progressive rock bands of the ‘60s, it unfortunately only scratches the surface of the band’s glory years with Mike Pinder.

As great as names like Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson were, no one sang like Levi Stubbs and no group better personified the spirit of Motown Records like The Four Tops. One of the most popular groups of the ‘60s, The Four Tops are remembered for all their great Top 40 hit tunes on their new four CD box set Four Tops Fourever. All the classic Tops’ tunes are here starting with their breakthrough ‘65 hit "I Can’t Help Myself" and ending with various ‘80s and ‘90s tracks. Starting off the box on disc one are some rarely heard recordings the group made during the mid ‘50s and early ‘60s that suggested the greatness to follow. Besides recording some of the greatest Holland/Dozier/Holland tunes coming out of Motown during the ‘60s, The Four Tops knew a song classic when they heard it and went on to record their own versions of various tracks by Smokey Robinson, The Moody Blues, Tim Hardin, Jimmy Webb and countless others. The Four Tops influence on the pop charts of the ‘60s can’t be underestimated and the Motown / Hip-O/ UMG release of Fourever is a most fitting tribute.  /

VARIOUS ARTISTS - These two recent CD soundtrack collections have something in common in that they both feature new Beatles-related recordings. The soundtrack CD of I Am Sam compiles 17 new Beatles covers with the highlights being the lead off "Two Of Us" from Aimee Mann & Michael Penn, The Wallflowers (a tasteful "I’m Looking Through You"), Ben Harper ("Strawberry Fields Forever") and Eddie Vedder ("You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away"). The theme of the movie centers around the main character (Sean Penn) who lives his life through the words and music of The Fab Four. Featuring a number of today’s cutting edge younger musicians—some of whom weren’t even born when these songs were written—some tracks are better than others, but it works as a reminder of the movie and a new compendium for Beatles completists.  /

The title track to the soundtrack for Vanilla Sky comes in the way of a new song by Paul McCartney. Paul’s "Vanilla Sky" title theme is nestled among a mixed bag of 17 new and vintage tracks by Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, The Monkees, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Peter Gabriel, so there’s obviously something for all types of pop fans here. The ongoing trend towards these hodgepodge kind of soundtracks has created a fairly artificial musical phenomenon and doesn’t often lead to anything of supreme artistic merit although, as these two classy discs point out, there’s always some exceptions to every rule.




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