Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

APRIL 2011








DECCA RECORDS - One of the high priority releases by Decca Records in early spring 2011 is Bells, introducing Dutch American singer-songwriter Laura Jansen. Perhaps the flagship label these days of the Universal Music Group, Decca was originally based in London back in the mid ‘60s but with a number of signings by up and coming U.S. based artists, Decca, at least the New York based branch is turning into an internationally focused A&R based label shining a light on bright new talent. Home to ingenious ‘70s progressive bands like Kayak, Focus and Supersister, Holland—Ms. Jansen's native country—was a fantastic jumping off point for Euro-pop and rock in the ‘70s. Incorporating a wealth of musical genres, Laura Jansen’s style and content fits into a myriad of musical baskets—from orch-pop ala Rufus Wainwright and Sean Lennon to a more keyboard based progressive, Euro-centric pop meets rock vibe so popular in her native country. Featuring ten tracks—including a cover of a song written and recorded by Kings Of Leon entitled, “Use Somebody”—Bells is already a hit in the Netherlands, so clearly the folks back in the old country are hoping Laura breaks big here in the U.S. Ms. Jansen couldn’t ask for a better label then Decca, and she also goes to bat with a crack band in the studio spearheaded by guitarist/keyboardist and Bells producer Bill Lefler. Ms. Jansen’s style is perfectly imbued with her songs which also gets some intriguing seasoning by her own performance on the time honored mellotron, which is discernible in the keyboard sound. Very progressive at times and at times very singer-songwriter personified, Bells benefits by the strong diversity Ms. Jansen brings to the 21st century music world. /

INTRINSIC MUSIC - One album that was overlooked in 2010 is American Dreams by jazz vocalist Laurie Antonioli. Her fourth album, the twelve track CD was recorded in Berkeley, California and features some great backup players including guitarist Dave McNab, Matt Clark on piano, drummer Jason Lewis and others. Most of the tracks are originals co-composed by Laurie while there’s also several covers, including the Rogers & Hammerstein classic “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” and “America The Beautiful”, appearing in a deconstructed, jazzy arrangement by Dave McNab highlighting slide guitar and bass clarinet. Commenting on her musical mission, Ms. Antonioli adds, ‘It’s essential that we contribute original material to keep this art form going. Jazz singers can’t exist on standards alone.’ March 2010 liner notes by Laurie provides an interesting background for a most appealing jazzy pop vocal album.

J&R ADVENTURES - The premier blues rock guitar player on Earth today, Joe Bonamassa brings his sound back into the spotlight with the 2011 CD release of Dust Bowl. The 12 track CD was once again produced by Kevin Shirley and the album also features key contributions by Vince Gill, John Hiatt, Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes, rock legend Blondie Chaplin, songwriter Pete Wasner and more. Filling out the sound spectrum on Dust Bowl are other top musicians including drumming great Anton Fig. Recorded at Black Rock studios in Greece, as well as in L.A., Dust Bowl has all the hallmarks of Joe’s early albums yet contains a certain edge of maturity including an array of the genre-defying sounds Joe has mastered in the years since. Commenting on Dust Bowl, Joe adds, ‘This is the best album we’ve ever done. I’m finding more inspiration in storytelling in my 30’s, in writing songs that are about something more profound than my baby left me. I like albums that are made with the right intentions and sound organic and a little rough around the edges, like a great band playing live in the room, and that’s what we accomplished with Dust Bowl.’ Following the CD releases of 2010’s Black Rock and 2009’s Ballad Of John Henry, as well as the 2010 CD release with his group Black Country Communion, Joe Bonamassa continues turning heads around and opening up fresh ears to the evergreen sound of blues-rock greatness. For instance, the title track, “Dust Bowl” is one of Bonamassa’s great tracks, to which he adds, ‘The title track of the album just describes my life. It really fits my voice, it fits me as a solo artist and just has a really nice feel to it.’ The Dust Bowl booklet contains a wealth of pics and info behind the album including insightful liner notes by Joe.

LEGACY - As part of their ongoing series of music releases by Heart, Legacy released Night At Sky Church on DVD and Bluray disc in March 2011. Recorded and filmed at the Experience Music Project, Seattle’s Rock & Roll History Museum on March 5th 2010, the 88 minute DVD features the Wilson sisters—Ann & Nancy Wilson—backed up by a tight band including electric guitar hero Craig Bartock. Also on hand here are guest artists Alison Krauss and Ben Mink—both credited here on vocals and fiddles. Although Heart had a fine studio album, entitled Red Velvet Car—released on Legacy in 2009, for Night At Sky Church they break out all the big hits including “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You,” “These Dreams,” “Alone” and more. Despite her professionalism on several cohesive tracks here, Ms. Krauss, at times, kinda looks star struck appearing with her teen idols. A career spanning live showcase of Heart’s best tracks live, Night At Sky Church captures an electrifying performance of classic rock. /

- The benefits of yellow and green citrus juices aside, U.K. label Lime Records continues to confound and surprise musically. First off on Lime in 2008, in his post-SYN haze, Chris Squire hits and runs then releases a religio-rock prog type album, perhaps attoning for past syns? (lol) Then of course he kicks Jon Anderson out of YES! You can’t make this stuff up folks. Anyway, so here we are in the dawn of Spring 2011 and of course then the name my old record company distributor and CD manufacturer, Doug Lexa, from 1987 turns up on a press release for the 2011 CD entitled Here In The Golden Rays from Lime’s latest pop discovery Haight-Ashbury. Featuring the brother / sister team of multi-instrumentalist Scott Ashbury and vocalist / bassist Kirsty Ashbury—joined here by Kirsty’s co-lead vocalist and percussionist Jen—they’ve been described by some as a sort of meeting of West Coast psych-pop ala the Mamas And the Papas, with the hip downtown NYC scene of Nico era Velvet Underground. In other words, the Haight-Ashbury sound sets the way-back machine to 1968—a time the Haight-Ashbury sound emanating from San Francisco was in full hippie bloom. The CD cover art is suitably retro, albeit from the very early ‘60s folk scene, but it hardly gives any pretense of the intricate fascination of the sound inside.

PIE RECORDS - With their record label based out here on Long Island, Lez Zeppelin is described as “All Girls, All Zep, All The Time”. The quartet of frisky female rockers makes good on their Led Zeppelin devotion with a true to form, note for note remake of the famous Led Zeppelin 1 album from 1969 with the 2011 CD release of Lez Zeppelin 1. Uncanny pagan innuendoes aside, the cover art must be seen to be believed while the gals really acquit themselves in style, acting out their Zeppelin 1 fantasy with nine classic covers encompassing the entire original album. Guitarist in the group, Steph Paynes offers a stunning recreation of the guitar licks and leads of Jimmy Page while singer Shannon Conley has her Robert Plant stance down to a tee. The Lez Zep rhythm section of Megan Thomas (bass) and Leesa Harrington Squyres pounds out the big beat while ace production from Perry Margouleff and William Wittman sets it right on a fitting tribute to a once in a lifetime rock music album classic.


ANGEL AIR - Angel Air have a number of CD reissues as well as newer albums from bass guitar legend Mo Foster in their extensive back catalog. Angel Air’s 2011 CD release of Mo's latest solo album, entitled Bass Themes compiles 30 instrumentals that borders on instrumental rock and pop and even smooth jazz and soundtracks. With Foster’s bass up front, the album benefits from added appearances from Ray Russell (guitars) Tony Hymas (keyboards) and a number of drummers, including Ralph Salmins, and percussionists, including Group 87 drummer Peter Van Hooke. While Foster released his first solo album, Bel Assis, back in 1988, Bass Themes consists primarily of “production music”—film music and various soundtrack pieces recorded between 1983 and 2009.

- A superb sounding album of solo acoustic guitar magic, Wait, by guitarist Val Bonetti contains nine tracks that just seems to fly by. Acoustic instrumental finger style music may be Bonetti’s specialty, with a touch of ragtime guitar chops, but the jazzy edge gives the sound a real swinging vibe. That jazzy edge in Bonetti’s sound comes out on the album’s lone cover of “Three Views Of A Secret”, composed by jazz bass legend Jaco Pastorius. In the CD liner notes, Bonetti describes Jaco as ‘the greatest bass player ever.’ Throughout the 33 minute CD, Bonetti lets his musical imagination run wild and his track by track commentary gives added insight into what makes Bonetti’s guitar sound so cool.

- If the mark of a great album is one that you can play and replay again and again, then the 2011 CD from guitarist Drew Davidsen, entitled Spin Cycle fits into that category. Featuring ten tracks of guitar-centric smooth jazz magic, Drew’s latest CD is time well spent for jazz guitar fans. Although obviously a great choice for fans of jazz legends like Wes Montgomery as well as more relatively recent guitar icons like George Benson and Larry Carlton, there’s also a neat fusion edge here and regarding some tracks on Spin Cycle, several music critics have even drawn comparisons to the instrumentals written by Dickey Betts for the Allman Brothers Band back in the early ‘70s. Of course, Spin Cycle is much more smooth jazz influenced and guitar based than that. Recorded and mixed in Franklin, Tennessee, the Spin Cycle CD features a number of great players backing up Drew—including John Hammond (drums) Gary Lunn (bass) and keyboardist Eric Copeland, while the magic studio touch of Bill Whittington puts the finishing touches on what’s sure to be considered one of the top jazz guitar instrumental albums of 2011.

- Over in the U.K. Expanding Records is keeping the ambient instrumental music art form alive and well with a 2010 CD release from Italian soundtrack composer Teho Teardo. The appropriately entitled Soundtrack Work 2004-2008 captures 25 tracks of atmospheric instrumental musical vignettes that borrows both from ambient music king Brian Eno as well as Teardo’s obvious main musical influence, the king of soundtracks, the brilliant Ennio Morricone. In fact none other than Morricone himself added in brief liner notes to the CD packaging calling Teardo’s release a ‘beautiful album.’ The backing on the album is mostly string dominated with Teardo filling up the sound stage with guitars, bass, piano, keyboards and various electronics. Throughout the CD, the stage setting sounds inside clearly portrays Teardo as an important new name in the world of soundtrack music. /

- Based out in Oregon, the Hammond Beat label releases very ‘60s inspired instrumentals that would fit on any number of James Bond type action soundtracks ala John Barry with Vic Flick. The Italian band, The Link Quartet, with several high profile Hammond Beat album releases, not only evokes the Euro type of spy / surf soundtracks but there’s also an influence from the the bluesy / jazzy American groups like Booker T. & The MGs. One of Hammond Beat’s biggest acts, The Link Quartet released 4 in early 2011. Produced by Hammond Beat boss Kahlil Breithaupt and the Link Quartet, the twelve track 4 balances a mix of mainly instrumental spy/surf tracks with the occasional vocal, three in fact and sung in French no less. The five piece band features a balanced mix of instrumentation highlighted by the Hammond groove of Link Four composer Paolo “Apollo” Negri and the Cropper-esque guitar of Marco “Majo” Murtas. To coincide with their latest Link Quartet release, Hammond Beat have a number of recent CD titles out in 2011 including a solo album by Link Quartet keyboardist Paolo "Apollo" Negri entitled The Great Anything and On The 1 from Texas soul lounge band Flyjack.

- A mainstay of the NYC jazz guitar scene, Lou Volpe is going to make his fans happy with his 2011 CD entitled Hear And Now. Featuring Lou backed up by a band of in-synch players including Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Buddy Williams (drums), the sound of Hear And Now is timeless. Throughout the ten track CD, Volpe shows great respect for the legendary guitar styles of legends like Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. Here And Now finds Lou Volpe merging the past while breaking new ground with some modern, jazzy yet quite smooth jazz guitar stylings. Over the years, the NYC native has toured with Bette Midler and Judy Collins and he’s toured and composed music with jazz icon Herbie Mann. Certain to be regarded as one of Lou's best albums, 2011's Hear And Now is a timeless yet thoroughly engaging album bound to please music buffs and CD collectors who appreciate tasteful instrumental guitar jazz.

- Based in downtown Manhattan, Moonjune continues to break new ground in the instrumental jazz and rock world with the U.S. CD debut from Israeli jazz-fusion band Marbin. Entitled Breaking The Cycle, the eleven track album is slightly derivative of late ‘70s Euro fusioneers like Pekka Pohjola and Ragnarök, and, in places, the ECM style of Terje Rypdal, yet Marbin manages to attain a rarified sonic glow thanks to some amazing electric guitar work of Dani Rabin and the sax work of Danny Markovitch who join forces here with American players Steve Rodby (bass) and Paul Wertico (drums) and several guest artists including noted percussionist Jamey Haddad. Mixing jazz-rock with traces of progressive instrumental rock, jazz, folk and ambient music, the results are often sonically stunning. With their first Marbin album, Moonjune’s executive producer Leonardo Pavkovic has come up with one of the label’s most unique and satisfying albums yet.

MOONJUNE RECORDS - The legacy of British art rock legend Soft Machine can be traced all the way back to 1968 / early ‘69 when they released their famous Soft Machine and Soft Machine Vol. 2—the latter an album that is still revered in music circles around the world. It’s been light ages since the early Soft's years with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge and sadly Hugh Hopper is no longer walking the earth. U.K. guitar great John Etheridge continues paying tribute to the erstwhile Canterbury art-rock legends with a 2011 CD release from his group Soft Machine Legacy entitled Live Adventures Recorded live in Austria and Germany in October 2009, the nine track CD features Etheridge grooving alongside mid ‘70s Soft's bass player Roy Babbington, U.K. drumming great John Marshall and Theo Travis on sax and flute. Armed with several originals, Soft Machine Legacy cover a range of classic Soft Machine on Live Adventures, including music written by former Soft Machine icons Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and Karl Jenkins. Etheridge and company sound very much inspired by that cosmic, on the edge spirit of the original Soft Machine, showing how a band that started in the ‘60s continues to sprout new limbs in a whole new century.

MS RECORDS - A well rounded acoustic instrumental guitar player, Mark Sganga has composed some really nice sounding instrumentals for his 2010 CD An Evening In Rio. A rising star in the instrumental smooth jazz music world, Sganga offsets that side of his sound with several key vocal tracks that reveals a fondness for Brazilian sounds and styles. Mark also pays tribute to jazz greats with covers of “Birdland” (Weather Report) and “Fire” (Jimi Hendrix). Of course what ever guitar based style he plays is underscored by a tasty smooth jazz groove with visions of the tropical splendors of Miami and Rio. Sganga’s well rounded guitar instrumental originals and occasional Brazilian / English vocal numbers are backed up with a tasty studio groove with guest spots from the great Nikki Parrott (bass, backing vocals) along with a number of drummers, percussionists and keyboardists.

SMITHEREEN RECORDS The 2011 CD release by jazz bassist Sean SmithTrust is getting rave reviews in the guitar community. On Smith’s third solo album as a leader, he gets synchronized support from top rated jazz guitarist John Hart, John Ellis on sax and drummer Russell Meissner. With Hart comping furiously and soloing in abundance, much here sounds inspired by the ‘60s jazz sound of John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell, and Smith keeps an even keel on an album of uniquely mainstream yet modern jazz. Seeking to spread the word about his instrumental jazz-based CD releases, Smith founded his own label and then found the freedom to create adding, ‘I can’t tell you how empowering it is for an artist to have complete control over every aspect of a project—not only the music but the entire presentation’, adding ‘I’m already looking forward to the next CD with the quartet as I have many compositions I’d like to record.’ With its uptown jazzy horn / guitar instrumentals, Trust is a safe pick to click for modern jazz fans.

STARLAND MUSIC - Winning all kinds of awards and selling quite a few CDs in the process, Beauty And Fire, from guitarist Tomas Michaud combines flamenco guitar sounds with piano, drums and keyboards. With all songs composed by Tomas, the 12 track album features a number of musicians who fully support these lush sounding guitar-centric tracks. Based out in Alameda, California, Michaud is also the founder of the Starland Music Center where he teaches his Starland guitar system to up and coming guitarists. There’s plenty of fine instrumental, World Beat inspired nuevo flamenco guitar stylings to please listeners and guitarists alike. After taking a listen to Beauty And Fire, you might want to go go back the take a listen to Michaud’s six other CD releases.

- During the late ‘60s, the ‘70s and much of the ‘80s, Finland’s progressive rock scene revolved around the song writing genius of rock innovator Jim Pembroke and Finnish jazz-rock pioneer Pekka Pohjola. By 1990 or ‘91, there then emerged a fully blown Finnish surf-rock guitar music scene around recording bands such as Laika & The Cosmonauts. In fact even now, dozens of great Finnish instrumental Shadows style bands are still quite popular throughout the Finnish music world. One guitarist carrying on the tradition of great instro guitarists like Hank Marvin and John Blakeley is Finnish guitarist Janne Louhivuori. What’s even more amazing is throughout the 2011, 13 cut CD release of Yin ‘N’ Twang, Louhivuori handles all the guitars and in fact, through the process of overdubbing, he sounds like a whole band. On a mixed bag of guitar goodies that will make the grade among surfers, jazzers and even fans of Duane Allman style instro rock, Louhivuori takes you to that place where Finnish fondness for the Shadows style guitar instrumental music meets the windswept beaches where bands like The Ventures and The Sandals (with our Mr. Blakeley) created a whole new guitar culture back in the '60s. There’s even some nice slide guitar touches on track six, “The Ghost Of Shiloh” that sounds a little like George Harrison cutting a lost side with Duane Eddy. /


COLUMBIA LEGACY - Because we only had small little transistor radios back in the early ‘60s, 1961 to 1966, a magical trip to the record store meant stocking up on the latest 45 rpm records. All this, at a time when you were only as cool as your picture sleeve—we all took mono for granted. It really only wasn’t until sonic geniuses like Herb Belkin—founder of Mobile Fidelity—who shined a light on the true possibilities of audio on CD back in the late ‘90s, that the sound of mono on CD was even taken seriously again. Collectors of the greatest pop and rock recordings began seeking out mono mixes of the Beatles back in the late ‘90s and although it took quite a lot of time, EMI did finally relent and they did a magnificent job on the Beatles catalog in mono—collecting en masse all their albums except Abbey Road, which was only released in mono on Lp in Brazil. Although the ‘60s albums of Bob Dylan were never taken as seriously as albums by The Beatles were, a year after EMI reissued the mono Beatles box, Columbia did release a Bob Dylan mono box set appropriately entitled The Original Mono Recordings. Dylan fans who might not yet have the hundred dollars to plunk down for the box, could do far worse than picking up on a single disc distillation of Columbia's Dylan mono box set appropriately entitled The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings, released at the same time as Dylan’s extensive 9 CD mono box set. The single disc of The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings is just that—a fantastic 15 cut overview CD, with all tracks in glorious mono, and touching upon many highlights of Dylan’s extensive ‘60s albums catalog—starting with “Song To Woody” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” in 1962/63 and ending with “I Want You” (from Blond On Blond), and “I’ll Be Your Baby tonight” and “All Along The Watchtower” (two highlights from John Wesley Harding). As if that wasn’t reason enough to take a listen, The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings is the only place (it was never on a Dylan “studio album”) to actually get to hear a mono mix of what some commonly refer to as Dylan’s greatest ‘60s song—”Positively 4th Street”, which was recorded during the summer of ‘65. The packaging of The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings is also quite impressive, with full credits, excellent artwork and detailed 2010 liner notes by Greil Marcus, the famous Rolling Stone mag alum who further explains the lure of the now historic ‘60s flavored mono recordings of Bob Dylan.

- An offshoot of the prolific Voiceprint label in the U.K., Gonzo Multimedia are going to make YES fans quite happy with the 2011 four disc set of YES - Union Live. The 2 CD / 2 DVD set mainly features a concert of the Union era YES band caught live in California on August 8th 1991. The 1991 Union album was a monumental moment in YES history as it featured a coming together of the classic ‘70s YES with Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman and the ‘80s / early ‘90s YES with Trevor Rabin. As such, the massive set also features key contributions from YES founders Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford with Alan White, the drummer who changed the band forever when Bill Bruford joined King Crimson in early ‘73. The massive sound of this never to happen again YES big band is superbly captured on an impressive package which includes the original Union film of the concert from the Shoreline Amphitheater and additional film footage spread over two DVDs, along with a first ever soundtrack of the film spread over two CDs. Bonus cuts on the second DVD includes bootleg footage of the band, some bonus audio tracks in both 5.1 and stereo mixes as well as more Union era YES from various concerts in the U.S. and the U.K. Featuring classic YES artwork of Roger Dean, the packaging of the four disc set is quite definitive—including voluminous liner notes, rare color pics, collectible inserts and exhaustive discography information. Of course, the Union Live package draws on tracks from both classic YES and the 90125 era YES so it’s still quite amazing to see both Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin sharing the spotlight playing guitars on the same stage on songs propelled by the mighty drumming sound of both Alan White and Bill Bruford. For YES fans, who enjoyed the Union album, in all its fleeting glory, it doesn’t get much better than Union Live.

- Over in L.A., Concord Music Group’s offshoot label Hear Music released both a CD and DVD of the 2007 reunion of Carole King & James Taylor entitled Live At The Troubadour. As a companion to that ‘07 show, Hear Music now offers a stunning DVD documentary entitled Troubadours - The Rise Of The Singer Songwriter. The 91 minute, 2011 documentary ostensibly focuses around the histories of King and Taylor—superbly merging then and now—but instead winds up as a sprawling, encyclopedic look at L.A. during the heyday of the year 1970, back when King and Taylor made their respective commercial breakthroughs as solo artists. The movie does this great balancing act, of blending the now and then, while also managing to encompass an impressive and comprehensive history of the L.A. music scene circa ‘70 / ‘71, especially as it revolved around the famous Troubadour nightclub in West L.A. A literal who’s who of L.A. pop icons appear in interview form throughout the superbly produced documentary discussing their own experiences at the Troubadour and the entire L.A. scene—from The Byrds’ David Crosby and Roger McGuinn to Jackson Browne, Cheech & Chong to name just a few, while also including rock critics Robert Hilburn and Robert Christgau. In addition to the historic video documentary, the DVD release is accompanied by a ten track CD featuring signature songwriter tracks from key songwriting greats including King and Taylor as well as Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristopherson, Linda Ronstadt and rockers Little Feat.

- Over in the U.K. Proper is doing things well...proper! Properly, props, propitious.... Apropos might be another good word for a new, well 2011 (only 989 years till 3000) release of a 5 disc version of Keys To Ascension. A controversial Yes album when it came out around early 1997-ish, that release event was marked by a reunion of the Topographic Oceans era band—the late ‘73 YES with then new drummer Alan White. On that sprawling musical monster that is Topographic Oceans, White nearly stole the album spotlight with his thunderous drumming style made famous on his recordings with John “Yes is the answer” Lennon. The winter of ‘73-74 is one that for sure will go down in musical history and is never to be forgotten. Well now, decades after the fact and at the dawn of the internet revolution by 1996, Topographic Oceans was revived again, near 25 years later, during the ‘96 Keys reunion shows and subsequent double CD studio album that spawned out of the reunion. The redux of the all time Yes masterpiece “The Revealing Science Of God” is near perfect on both the live version CD and DVD versions presented here. In fact, the song was/is so great, in my opinion Yes was never able to reach that musical pinnacle again in the studio but they came close. Five discs—four CDs and one DVD—recaptures the live shows with that fleeting glimpse of Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe in the same Yes lineup. Also included here is the famous Keys To Ascension studio tracks compiled on the one studio CD here. It's still so strange to think that after this album, Squire and Sherwood properly changed the YES sound to more fit the coming internet era and in my opinion Open Your Eyes was the best YES album of the '90s, but Howe publicly said he didn't like those albums which is so strange considering his work with Asia. As one of the rare believers that YES was on the right track with Open Your Eyes and the Conspiracy, I'm still wanting to form an opinion on this Keys studio album. Nevertheless, perhaps the coolest reason to check out Proper’s 5 disc version of Keys is—the sound is great throughout—the accompanying DVD. The amazing cinematography on the DVD is enhanced by some vivid special effects—for instance during the beginning and end of “The Revealing Science Of God” Jon Anderson’s legendary song lyrics appear scrolling across the screen and there’s other very cool visual scenery appearing throughout the live DVD. As if that wasn’t enough, bonus tracks on the DVD includes Chris Squire putting together a new commentary track throughout what appears to be a pretty well done documentary regarding what I guess could be described as a story behind the ultimate classic rock YES tracks that were redone at the Keys live shows. As another bonus track here, there’s a complete Yes concert from 1979, from the Tormato era. Of course, this Tales era Yes lineup, live in '96 at the Keys show, was soon to fade from the scene and in its place at the end of ‘97 emerged a new supercharged Yes mainly featuring the music of Squire and then Yes guitarist / producer Billy Sherwood. Of course, Squire and Sherwood were behind the Open Your Eyes era Yes and, ever the musical purist, Steve Howe was unhappy with that stuff, which is a real shame because Squire would then take that sound to new heights with his bands, the Conspiracy (2000-2003) and then in 2005 with a revival of his early pre-Yes band with his now estranged partner Steve Nardelli and the Syn. Anyway, Proper’s 5 disc version of Keys To Ascension is the most thorough version of the Keys album to date. The CD sound is great throughout, while the DVD on hand makes this box set type package a must for Yes fans and prog-rock watchers.

- Started by Sony reissue expert Bob Irwin way back in the late ‘80s, Sundazed has slowed down somewhat over the past few years, even getting more heavily into vinyl remasters than the CD craze that started them off. Even so, every so often Sundazed comes up with a real winner of a CD remaster and high on the list in 2011 is a Sundzed mono CD reissue of the final album from The Yardbirds entitled Little Games. What makes this Sundazed CD version of Little Games so special is the fact that it’s taken from a mono mix of the album master and it sounds simply fantastic. Back in the mid to late ‘60s, audio geniuses like the Yardbirds’ producer Mickie Most really knew how to maximize the mono art form on disc. Released back in 1967, Little Games found remaining Yardbirds founders Keith Relf, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja in the studio one last time with soon to be Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page. Like Cream, The Yardbirds were way ahead of their time musically, and as such the Little Games album features a split mix of blues, rock and period piece psychedelia, which was at its zenith back in 1967. This 2011 mono CD remaster of Little Games features the original artwork from the ‘67 Lp originally released on Epic Records in the U.S. Despite having Jimmy Page calling the shots on lead guitar and some brilliant, as usual, song writing by the late great Keith Relf and drumming / vocalist genius Jim McCarty, Little Games might not have been The Yardbirds at their zenith, but it comes close. Kicking off with the still fascinating title track and ending with a pair of period piece bonus tracks, Little Games is still highly recommended listening for Yardbirds fans and for that matter, listeners interested in the history of classic, essential ‘60s British rock.

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