Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









DECCA RECORDS - Back in the mid ‘80s girl groups like Bananarama, and more sophisticated Euro-flavored pop-jazz singers Anna Domino and Sade, were all the rage. Twenty years later, one new NYC based group with a new kind of multi-culti kind of pop / jazz viewpoint is Greta’s Bakery. Featuring Italian born vocalist Greta Panettieri, bassist/guitarist Mike LaValle with Andrea Sammartino on keys, on the release of their 2010 album entitled, The Edge Of Everything, the group blend an upbeat, lounge music kind a vibe that sometimes even spotlights Greta singing in her native tongue. Commenting on the CD, Ms. Panettieri adds, 'I think it’s a bit of a complex album, and it definitely reflects our different backgrounds and the different kinds of music that we like. But more than anything else, it’s a pop album. I think that it’s very easy to like, but I also think that it works on a deeper level, because of the composing and arranging.' There’s a great mix of bouncy pop and Brazilian / Euro style lounge flavored jazz sounds in play while the most upbeat tracks also cross over into dance music with style and flair. While featuring mostly original tracks on the eleven cut album, Greta’s Bakery also works in several well chosen covers from the pens of noted song writing greats such as Jules Shear and Diane Warren.

- Rock icon Sting goes for the symphonic / classical treatment of his repertoire with the 2010 CD release of Symphonicities. Released Stateside by Decca on the NYC based Deutsche Grammophon label—the German label internationally renowned for their prolific classical recordings—the twelve track Symphonicities was recorded at Abbey Road in London and at Clinton Recording studios in NYC. Pairing Sting’s vocals and songs with the New York Chamber Consort and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra is a great idea and as such on the album Sting teams with top music people like producer Rob Mathes and Elliot Scheiner and Matthew Scheiner, who were part of the team who mixed the album. “Every Breath You Take” might not be part of Sting’s orchestral concept here but other classics like “Englishman In New York” and “Roxanne” are here and work well within the orchestral genre of the CD. Backing up Sting and the orchestras are long time Sting band members Dominic Miller (guitar), Jo Lawry (backing vocals), co-producer Rob Mathes (piano, acoustic guitar) and others. The Symphonicities CD booklet and artwork is also top notch and, fittingly the CD booklet features in depth liner notes from Rolling Stone writer Anthony DeCurtis. Symphonicities is the latest Sting release on the Deutsche Grammophon label and follows the earlier releases of Songs From The Labyrinth (2006) and If On A Winter’s Night (2009). /

- Multi-instrumentalist, electronic musician and producer Carmen Rizzo has, over the years, worked with a number of artists—from Seal and Coldplay to Pete Townshend and Ryuichi Sakamoto. With his 2010 album Looking Through Leaves, Carmen has released a CD that perfectly lays out an immaculate conception of electronica and World Beat / dance music, the place where 1986 era Tangerine Dream meets famed ‘80s producer William Orbit in the remix zone. A few scenic instrumentals pierce the sonic, space veil and give T. Dream a run for their money while the vocal pop numbers reflects another direction where Carmen shines. Guest vocalists including Grant Lee Phillips, Kate Havnevik and more drape Carmen’s sonic, sythesized backdrops with some evocative vocal tracks. I’m sure Carmen could go on at length about the hi-tech keyboard wizardry and just how he gets that stunning sonic edge on the CD. Even with this high tech approach, Carmen makes the CD sound quite accessible. With its hypnotic electronics and New Age space music / chill grooves, Looking Through Leaves cuts across a wide sea of sound.

- One of the most illustrious American record labels in music history, Fantasy was reactivated big time in recent years by the ever growing Concord Music Group. Fantasty is world renowned for their huge catalog of jazz archives and, of course the label was the original home to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fantasy and Concord did great things with reviving the Creedence catalog and amazingly, after a checkered relationship, Creedence main man John Fogerty is back on Fantasy again. More good news is that big things are happening once again with Fantasy as evidenced by a number of Summer 2010 CD releases, including a new title by modern glam rocker Alejandro Escovedo entitled Street Songs Of Love. Still obsessed with that mid ‘70s Bowie meets Bruce kind of Americana rock sound, Alejandro once again joins forces with esteemed producer / rock legend Tony Visconti and the results are irrepressible. Street Songs Of Love rocks hard and fast with some tight ensemble work and impassioned singing from Alejandro and then there’s the songs. Songs as great as track 9, “Undesired” goes far to further establishing Alejandro as a mainstream rock artist with something to say. As they did on their 2007 Tony Visconti produced Real Animal album, Alejandro and his group—including guitarist David Pulkingham—turn the heat up once again on this impressive release. Groundbreaking masterpieces in 2010 are few and far between but the term can be rightfully applied to the Fantasy Records debut by Crowded House, entitled Intriguer. It’s been a while since Neil Finn and company had a record this strong out in the U.S. market and Fantasy really pulls out the stops on the ten track Intriguer. Of course, arising out of New Zealand supergroup Split Enz, Tim Finn’s brother Neil went on to untold successes with Crowded House over the past 20+ years, and Enz fans will thoroughly enjoy this majestic pop-rock classic that truly qualifies Intriguer as an intriguing work. Recorded in New Zealand, mixed in L.A. and mastered by the great ears of Bob Ludwig, Intriguer is right on with that classic Beatles-inspired Crowded House / Split Enz vibe. Also out during the Summer of 2010 is See You On The Moon, the latest album from singer-songwriter Tift Merritt. Joining forces with producer Tucker Martine (who’s worked with Bill Frisell and the Decemberists), Ms. Merritt has assembled a top band for the recording including guitarist Zeke Hutchins (drums), Jay Brown (bass) and guitarist Scott McCall. Also on hand here is pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz and My Morning Jacket vocalist Jim James. Perhaps the kicker here is a cover of “Live Till You Die” which, those of us over 55 might remember was on the 1970 Emitt Rhodes album, which let’s see...was 40 years ago! Time flies. Tift does a fine job on the track, no doubt making Emitt proud! Mix one part folk, one part pop and one part rock and you get a concise overview of Tiff Merritt’s adventurous Americana folk-rock sound. With these and more titles on the way, its’ great to see that Fantasy Records is proving to be one of the guilding lights in the rock world of 2010.

- While the world lives out the remainder of the 69th year of his birth, John Lennon would have turned 70 in 2010. It’s also 30 years since he was gunned down on 72nd Street right across the street from Central Park. For what its worth, it seems almost futile to even acknowledge the bad part, and instead, in praise of John let’s take a look at a new CD from jazz-fusion keyboard giant Herbie Hancock called The Imagine Project. One would have hoped that Paul McCartney would be first out of the box on some kind of John tribute but, at 68 himself, it appears at least so far, old Macca, God bless him, would rather get out the vote with endless world tours, than craft some sort of introspective Lennon esque recording tribute. Funny paper aside, Herbie’s CD is a pretty impressive Beatle John kind of tribute. With Seal, Jeff Beck and Pink featured in the lead off cover of the song “Imagine,” the CD manages to include one additional Lennon cover, a suitably spacey take of “Tomorrow Never Knows” with lead vocals by Dave Matthews as well as a cover of the Bob Dylan protest anthem, “The Times They Are A ’Changin’” featuring The Chieftains and singer Lisa Hannigan. With the expansive Lennon and Dylan covers as a focal point, the CD keeps up the progressive spiritual vibe with other tracks featuring Hancock on keys recording alongside a number of artists including Lionel Loueke, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and a host of others, making it some kind of World Groove super session. Also helping shape the sound is famed producer Larry Klein. Speaking out about the release Hancock adds, ‘Music truly is the universal language. The Imagine Project will explore that concept across the globe, uniting a myriad of cultures through song and positive creative expression.’ Funny enough just like Lennon, Hancock turns 70 years young this year too, infusing the album with a kind of kindred “dragon spirit” vibe.

- Best known for their huge classic rock smashes like “Crazy On You”, “Magic Man” and “Barracuda”, Heart are back on the boards with their long awaited new album. Released following a six year wait after the 2004 release of Jupiter’s Darling, the ten track Red Velvet Car brings the band right back to what they do best. Most performed by Heart multi-instrumentalist Nancy Wilson and album producer Ben Mink, Red Velvet Car is the first album of all new music on the Sony owned Legacy—in fact, the last Sony-related album was 1983’s Passionworks album on Epic Records. Heart singer and cofounder Ann Wilson explains, ‘It feels good to have Sony Music holding our new baby. It’s sort of like coming home, since we worked with them on Little Queen, Dog and Butterfly, Bebe le Strange, Private Audition and Passionworks, among others.’ Even with so many great albums to their credit, Heart really rises to the occasion on Red Velvet Car. If anything, the album has a solid pop edge with a less strenuous hard rock edge, making it even more accessible to long time fans and a whole new generation of Heart fans who missed the original excitement. Perhaps Ann Wilson sums it up best claiming, ‘This album feels so right for the times. We can’t wait to share this one with the world!’ /

- Country music has been around for decades if not centuries and the fascination with the genre by generations of younger musicians continues on in style with the 2010 CD release of Ghost Town by Marley’s Ghost. Released by the Washington state based Sage Arts label, the 14 track CD was superbly produced by Cowboy Jack Clement and features the Marley’s Ghost guys performing the countrified swing music of a number of composers including Clement, Billy Burnette, Warren Zevon and more. Clement’s own composition “Got Leavin’ On Her Mind” is a way cool country rock track that is delivered in style here. Both Clement and Burnette are also featured among the plentiful guest musicians who appear. Featuring some excellent musicians, Marley’s Ghost spotlights band members pedal steeler Ed Littlefield Jr., guitarists / mando pickers including Mike Phelan, Dan Wheetman and Jon Wilcox with added support from Jerry Fletcher (on drums, accordion, B3 and more). All the Marley’s Ghost guys sing and write as well. Featuring great digi-pak artwork, Ghost Town is an all around country pop winner of a CD from Marley’s Ghost. /

SHARIF MUSIC - The coolest thing about so much independent music these days is that great musicians like Sharif here can get it together and release a high quality CD that is both professionally written, recorded and packaged. That said, Sharif’s 2010 CD, Kisses And Lies is all that and more. Having great players on hand—such as guitarists Jon Graboff and Mark Goldenberg (from Jackson Browne's band) and backing singer Rhett Miller and more—is a huge asset. The songs rock in a kind of post Beatles kind of pop haze while track nine, “Memories Like A Melody” has a slight John Lennon influence too. Performing guitars, harmonica and taking all the lead vocals here, Sharif’s album also establishes him as a serious pop-rock composer worth hearing.

SIDE B MUSIC - is good but we’re not invincible! One CD that got by us is/was the ‘007 release of Day Into Night by pop pundit Nelson Bragg. Released on the Side B label, the 12 track CD encapsulates the best pop sound in the very early 2000’s. Nelson did such a great job co-producing on the new Anny Celsi CD, so his '007 solo album is a great attraction for pop pundits. Several key players fill out the sound including Brian Wilson band member Probyn Gregory. Nelson lays down some great guitar sounds, vocals and he’s also playing drums here too! The sound is very Brian Wilson-ized yet current pop maverick Jason Falkner is another relevant reference point, for those keeping score. Funny how the CD cover art—with the front cover evoking the classic ‘60s album covers on Columbia Records—features the glorious palm trees of L.A. with yet another panel featuring Nelson posing beside Big Ben in London.

WOLFWORK / INSIDE OUT - Back in action with a new label and a new CD, guitarist Steve Hackett returned in late 2009 with Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth. After the classical guitar sound of his 2008 CD Tribute, Steve's latest solo set, Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth is a rock solid affair blending neo-prog influences to his usual eclectic guitar fare. Vocals predominate the eight track CD although some of the instrumentals bring you right back to the best of the classic Genesis sound that Hackett helped invent. Lyrics are printed so you can easily follow Hackett’s often subdued yet classic vocals. Perhaps foreboding future projects, Hackett enlists support from Yes bass titan Chris Squire and early Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips along with several long time Hackett band mates such as Roger King (keyboards / programming) and Steve’s brother John Hackett (flute). Fans of Hackett’s early solo album and later period work with Genesis will love the wide screen prog scope and superbly recorded studio sound of Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth. For those keeping score, while the CD has come out in the U.K. on Steve's recently established Wolfwork Records imprint, alternatively, Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth is also available in 2010 as a double CD set with bonus live cuts on the famous German based progressive label Inside Out as well. It's been way too long since Inside Out was on the inside track when it comes to progressive rock releases coming out in America these days. Back in the mid double OO's, the Inside Out label was headed up by prog boss Jim Pitulski but it seems that with the state of the U.S. economy these days, as great a rock influence as Steve is, it's a wonder a double CD set from Hackett sees release here in the US.

ZIP RECORDS - Owned and operated by music impresario Arthur Herman, S.F. based ZIP are scripting some clever 21st century pop art including of course, Steve Allen’s long awaited comeback called Thinline. One of the most eclectic Zip titles of late is a self-titled, 2010 12 track CD release from Italian pop rockers called Daddy Was A Driver. Weird name for a band no doubt, but there’s some daring pop smarts in play on the twelve track CD. Not surprisingly after a spin or two, you can hear why DWAD cites huge American music influences from the height of the ‘60s, such as The Byrds and Velvet Underground, as big influences. At times you can hear echoes of both Jim McGuinn and Lou Reed, sort of “Mr. Tambourine Man” meets “Sweet Jane” by way of Bologna Italy! Coming from Italy of course, these guys script their M.O. with the implied seal of approval of both filmmakers Sergio Leone and David Lynch. Guitarist / vocalist / composer Maurizio Guidoni gets solid backup from the band, while the CD is well recorded and is enhanced by some wildly imaginative digi-pak packaging and artwork. Check ‘em out of on the Murdoch’s


BEAR FINN MUSIC - One of the influential guitarists on the NYC jazz scene during past four decades, guitar ace Barry Finnerty recorded his two latest studio albums over a two day period in 2008. Released in the spring of 2010, Manhattan Sessions Part 1 is credited to Barry Finnerty & the N.Y All Stars, while during the same period he also recorded another album released during the summer of 2010 called Blues For Trane. Released in Japan on Cheetah Records and in the U.S. on Finnerty’s own Bear Finn imprint, the ten track Blues For Trane features the same lineup of musicians Finnerty used on the Manhattan Sessions album, including Randy Brecker (trumpet), David Kikoski (piano) drummers Graham Hawthorne and Victor Jones and more. One of the biggest influences in 20th century music, jazz legend John Coltrane would have loved Finnerty’s self-styled tribute to the sax giant and, in fact the CD features Finnerty’s fresh interpretations of several Coltrane classics, including “Big Nick” and “Resolution”. Also complimenting the Finnerty originals is a cover of “Aisha”—written by Coltrane band piano giant McCoy Tyner and a set closing cover of the jazz classic “Green Dolphin Street”, which Coltrane also recorded with Miles Davis. Sound wise, Finnerty mixes up his classic jazz influences with more current guitar influences like George Benson and Jeff Beck. Fans of Beck’s jazzier fusion elements will appreciate Finnerty’s solid jazz-fusion approach on Blues For Trane. Balancing out the all instrumental fare, Finnerty adds in his own vocals on a version of the Rogers & Hart classic “You Are Too Beautiful.” Commenting on the Blues For Trane CD, Finnerty adds, ‘I wanted everything to have that Coltrane feeling, that blues feeling. It’s not about chops. It’s about playing to that spiritual bluesy feeling, to the soul of the music.’ Finnerty also states, ‘I always try to cover a lot of musical bases, and make it one hundred percent music, no filler. This is the best music I’ve ever made.’ Considering Finnerty made his name recording with jazz giants such as The Crusaders, Miles Davis and the Brecker Brothers, that’s really saying something.

- U.K. guitarist / composer Mark Wingfield is hardly a newcomer to the jazz-rock world. Having already released a range of solo albums on CD, Wingfield comes up a winner yet again with his 2010 CD on Dark Energy. The twelve track Sleeper Street is filled with a mix of steamy, guitar-based fusion jazz that will no doubt have wide spread appeal, especially among fans of Pat Metheny’s more adventurous fusion albums, to site one example. On board Wingfield’s Sleeper Street are top players including Iain Bellamy (sax), Robert Mitchell (keys), Yaron Stavi (bass) and drummer Jeremy Stacey. Of course, Jeremy Stacey was a key player—as was his brother producer/guitarist Paul Stacey—on the 2005 SYN album, and he raises to the occasion here backing Wingfield sonic explorations on Sleeper Street. In fact, in the CD liner notes, Wingfield singles out both Bellamy and Stacey for their invaluable help, while also singling out the craft and ingenuity of Stacey in designing the Sleeper Street mixes. While Wingfield’s forte is clearly his deft execution on electric guitar, his adventurous approach also includes his skillful implementation of samples and synth programming. Over the course of several releases—especially the 2010 Sleeper Street—Wingfield is proving to be a key proponent of adventurous, swinging and modern instrumental jazz-rock fusion in the 21st century.

- Way down under in Australia, guitarist Fred Leduc continues breaking new ground for the art and times of electric guitar based fusion instrumentals with the release of his 2010 Deluc album entitled It Is What It Is. Propelled by drummer Paul Cengia pounding out the big beat, Leduc synchronizes his riffs and melodies and in doing so organizes Deluc as a one man rock guitar army. Hard etched, guitar-based instrumental rock music in the finest spirit of Joe Satriani and DiMeola, with a touch of Santana, as recast for a new generation of ears, Leduc’s Deluc whips up a guitar frenzy worth repeating on the ten track 2010 CD release of It Is What It Is. Amid the hard hitting jazz-rock punk metal barrage, at least to long time listeners some of the tracks also sound inspired by late ‘70s Euro guitar pioneers such as Mike Oldfield and Michael Rother. first found out about Fred Leduc on his 1998 8th Wonder album and it’s great to see 12 years later he’s still breaking new ground for the art and times of instrumental rock guitar.

- Heads Up, the record label, was started by Dave Love back in the late ‘80s. As an employee of L.A. based Oxymoron P&D, Dave even distributed this writer’s label, Breakthru’ Records back in the ‘88-89 era. Me and Dave never really saw eye to eye about the music I wanted to release on Breakthru’ and I didn’t have the time left or money to argue with him so I left the music business. Funny that I should find out that last year, Love ended up leaving Heads Up after producing the 2008 Stanley Clarke album Jazz In The Garden. I don’t know what happened to Dave Love these days but I know that Stanley is back with a 2010 album called The Stanley Clarke Band. Of course Japanese keyboardist Hiromi shared the spotlight with Stanley on Jazz In The Garden and on the self titled Stanley Clarke Band she’s back on hand along with a number of musicians including long time Return To Forever drummer Lenny White, who co-produced this CD, Ruslan (keyboards), Charles Altura (guitars), Ronald Bruner Jr. (drums) and more. The accent here on rock is a sweeping change after Clarke’s more recent acoustic based dynamic and, I was thinking that on several tracks here you can even detect a late ‘70s influence from the now late, great Finnish jazz-rock bass great Pekka Pohjola, which I kind of noticed here on track three, a spellbinding 21st century progressive fusion jewel appropriately entitled “Here’s Why Tears Dry,” that is kind of similar to Pekka’s late '70s era during The Group and Visitation albums. A splendid showcase for Stan’s booming ass and soaring wordless vocals, the Stanley Clarke Band is clearly one of Clarke’s finest recorded works in recent memory and is a welcome return to the jazz-rock fusion world from one of the genre’s original pioneers.

- You can read about Swedish composer Per Boysen on his Loop Room internet music hub site or you can go straight away and get his album new album called Sub City 2064. Recorded by Turkish guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu and Per Boysen, the ten track Sub City 2064 album is a 21st century avante gard, rock based instrumental music classic. Erdem’s TogaMan Guitar Viol, electric guitar and electronics offers an amazing counterpoint to Boysen’s flute, sax, EWI, electronics, drop-B guitar and fretless electric guitar. Boysen is renowned in his native Sweden for his live concerts that focus on instrumental music with a psychedelic touch, while implementing live looping and interactive electronics. You could almost say the same thing about Erdem in Turkey as well as his rise to fame in the international guitar world. Back in the ‘70s, the brilliant Wendy Carlos pioneered electronic music and later in the ‘70s, English guitarist called Fred Frith, revolutionized rock guitar within the avante gard, art-rock world. Now with this pairing of Erdem and Mr. Boysen, it almost seems like the spirits of Fred and Wendy’s avante gard guitar based instrumental music are being reborn again on this album. A fascinating album of rare and subtle neo-psychedelic electronics featuring guitar, Sub City 2064 is clearly a masterpiece of modern audio engineering. The slip cover Lp jacket style packaging, complete with succinct liner notes and evocative cover art enhances the incredible audio experience within. / /

- One of the NYC-based Moonjune label’s most adventurous World Music inspired releases of the past couple years, Views From The Chicheng Precipice is a fascinating 2010 solo album from Seattle-based guitarist Dennis Rea. For progressive music fans, Rea is perhaps best known for his work in the art-rock fusion groups Morain and Iron Kim Style. Incidentally, both groups have recent CD releases on Moonjune—Morain with their latest Manifest Destiny and the self-titled Iron Kim Style CD from 2009. For the release of Views From The Chicheng Precipice, Rea has taken a bold step in approaching the music of Asia—specifically China and Taiwan—and in doing so he’s created somewhat of a modern World Beat album classic. Performing electric and resonator guitars, melodica, kalimba and other instruments, Rea receives excellent support from a number of musicians who bring various western and eastern flavors and instruments into Rea’s World Beat mix. With his background in progressive and avant-garde rock, Rea clearly knows what he’s doing here, especially when considering he’s written a book on his own personal experiences while living in Asia, entitled Live At The Forbidden City: Musical Encounters In China and Taiwan. An astounding yet quite sublime blend of Asian flavored music as performed by Western musicians, Views From The Chicheng Precipice is truly an East meets West fusion masterpiece. Commenting on the album, Rea adds, ‘The project is my ‘love letter’ to a part of the world that has enriched my life immeasurably, musically and otherwise.’ Accessible, while also being bold and adventurous, Views From The Chicheng Precipice is mostly all instrumental—with the exception of one track featuring vocalist Caterina De Re, sounding slightly Yoko Ono-esque here—so there’s plenty of room for your musical imagination to run wild. And afterwards, give a listen to Rea’s heavier guitar work and compositional approach on the 2009 Morain album, Manifest Destiny. Described as ‘heavy chamber music’, Rea and Morain deftly combine a mix of instrumental World Beat flavors within the context of plugged in power jazz, math rock, art-rock and more that will appeal to fans of prog-rock fusion masters like King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra and beyond. Rea’s love of both modern jazz-rock and World Beat makes him one of the guitarists to watch as the second decade of the 21st century unfolds. /

OWL STUDIOS - Jazz rockers and jam bandies are falling over themselves for the 2010 CD from Garaj Mahal entitled More Mr. Nice Guy. Featuring the guitar skills of the renowned Fareed Haque, bass ace Kai Eckhardt, keyboardist Eric Levy and someone called the Rick on drums, the overall instrumental musical sound of More Mr. Nice Guy is the perfect showcase for these multi-talented players. As if paying some kind of homage to Fareed’s middle Eastern / Asian roots, the sound of the album comes off as really exotic and clearly there’s a definite World Beat groove mixing in with a kind of ‘70s instrumental jazz-rock sound ala early Return To Forever, before they went way over the top. In fact, several astute reviewers compare the Haque and Garaj Mahal sound to early RTF with guitarist Bill Connors, Herbie Hancock’s exotic ‘70s style funk-jazz with The Headhunters as well as a touch of the straight ahead jazz ala guitar icon Pat Martino. Mix in a healthy respect for modern day jam bands like String Cheese Incident and you really get the sense that there’s some vital new musical sound being crafted here. With his extensive discography as a solo artist—recording on the Blue Note label, as well his work with Garaj Mahal—Fareed Haque has earned the respect of both jazzers and instrumental rock fans and you can clearly hear why and how on the 2010 CD release of More Mr. Nice Guy.

STONY PLAIN - On of America’s great 21st century blues-rock guitar groups, Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters rocks up a storm on his 2010 CD Spread The Love. Up in Canada, the Stony Plain crew continues rockin’ the blues with a number of Stony classics from Mr. Earl. A native of good old Queens county in N.Y. state, Earl has played alongside some of the great players of his era, but on his solo albums the sound that predominates is a kind blues rock based instrumental fusion. Amazingly, and fortunately for his many guitar fans waiting for this release, Earl’s 2010 CD is completely instrumental. There’s a high quality guitar sound here that draws from the well of masters like Steve Cropper and James Burton, and that equally draws on the legacy of the blues and even Gospel strains. Earl showcases his own tunes alongside covers of Albert Collins, Kenny Burrell and are other tracks are laced with notable influences and stories behind them. A splendid spin for America instrumental blues rock guitar listeners, Spread The Love is never less than satisfying while the CD sound is quite good and benefits from Earl’s solid back up band The Broadcasters.

SOUNDSCOPE / COTTAGE RECORDS - In previous reviews in both and in my twelve years as the reviews editor with 20th Century Guitar magazine, I always singled out great guitarists from Long Island for review. Although rock legends like Lou Reed and Leslie West are noted Long Islanders who made it big in the rock world, many great players are equally deserving of some press. Case in point is Long Island guitarist Garry Katz. Garry made waves with his 2007 album Straight On Till Morning, which this writer featured in the February 2007 issue of 20th Century Guitar magazine. You can see the interview on Garry’s web site where it’s been archived and now in 2010, is pleased to review Garry’s 12 cut all instrumental compilation CD, released on his own Soundscope / Cottage Records label. 0 To 60 - Collected features classic previously released Katz tracks, several newly remixed and overdubbed tracks plus three brand new tracks. Garry describes the guitar based collection as a mixture of fusion, rock, funk and acoustic instrumental pieces. With Garry handling all the electric lead and rhythm guitars, guitar synth, fretless bass guitar and more, 0 To 60 - Collected also features key contributions from several other musicians including drummers Frank Pace and Leo Portuesi. With its mix of cosmic, New Age-y style instrumental rock or straight ahead, hard hitting instrumental rock fusion, 0 To 60 - Collected has something for all types of guitar instrumental aficionados.

THREEFIFTY DUO MUSIC - Sounding inspired by the spirit of the best acoustic guitar players on the current music scene, Brett Parnell and Geremy Schulick—of the Threefifty Duo—sound equally inspired by both classical guitar and rock music as well. Coming out of the Yale School Of Music—where they were taught by classical guitar great Ben Verdery—Threefifty Duo are gaining acclaim for their 2010 CD entitled Circles. Released on their own Threefifty Duo Music, the eleven track Circles features a spirited blend of impeccably written and recorded classically inspired instrumental guitar music. Utilizing both classical nylon string guitars and steel string guitars, Threefifty Duo make music played on time-honored acoustic guitars sound both stately and contemporary at the same time. I’m thinking here that these guys were no doubt influenced by the classical, folk and rock eclectic of The California Guitar Trio. Guitar fans who thrive on diverse instrumental guitar music are strongly recommended to track down and give a good listen to Circles by Threefifty Duo. With a little extra refinement in the recording process and mastering, their next CD should hopefully be even further on target.


BGO RECORDS - Speaking of classic jazz-rock CD remasters from the giants of Return To Forever on England's BGO label, Al DiMeola has a couple key titles available in 2010, including a single CD pairing of his albums Elegant Gypsy and Casino. Recorded at Electric Lady studios in Manhattan in 1976, Elegant Gypsy remains a masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion wonder. Of course, having a killer band on tap to help execute DiMeola’s post RTF sound didn’t exactly hurt either! In the studio with Al on the six track Elegant Gypsy album were incredible players such as Paco De Lucia (acoustic guitars), Jan Hammer (keyboards) and Mingo Lewis (percussion). Mingo can also take credit for composing the lead off track “Flight Over Rio,” which perfectly sets the scene for this period piece jazz-rock classic. Elegant Gypsy is paired on BGO’s double album, 2-on-1 CD with Casino, which was recorded in 1977. Rejoining Al from the Elegant Gypsy album are Steve Gadd (drums), Anthony Jackson (bass) and Barry Miles (keys). Excellent 2010 remastering enhances the proceedings while the 12 track single disc CD also features 2010 liner notes from Alyn Shipton, author of the 2007 book A New History Of Jazz. DiMeola fans will also note that BGO has another 2010 release from the guitar giant. BGO’s latest DiMeola double CD set combines Splendido Hotel (on CD 1) with Electric Rendezvous (on CD 2). This double, 2 CD set pairing Splendido Hotel (originally from 1979) with Electric Rendezvous (from 1981) should give DiMeola fans plenty to cheer about. Like the single disc pairing of Elegant Gypsy and Casino, this double CD set of Splendido Hotel with Electric Rendezvous features some excellent remastering and is topped off by more extensive liner notes from Mr. Shipton.With a catalog of classic rock and jazz second to none, BGO isn’t only about jazz-rock, and they continue to mine the vaults of Traffic cofounder Dave Mason with the 2010, 21 track, single CD remaster of Mariposa de Oro / OLd Crest On A New Wave. Although Dave Mason was key to the early Traffic sound, he was basically removed from the band and in doing so, he created quite a successful solo career, chalking up over a dozen solo albums in the ‘70s alone. The 1978 release of Mariposa de Oro features Dave in the company of some great players including Steve Stills, Graham Nash and Gerry Beckley of America. Mason’s band for the album was top flight too, including Vanilla Fudge founder Mark Stein on keyboards, Rick Jaeger (drums) and Gerald Johnson (bass). As indicated in the fine liner notes for this 21 cut CD—written by John Tobler—Mason started off the ‘80s with the release of Old Crest On A New Wave and the CD even included guest vocals from Michael Jackson, who was recording his Thriller album in the studio next door at the same time. Many of the same players from Mariposa joined Dave again and the album also featured several co-writes from VF's Mark Stein. As the liner notes from Tobler allude, Traffic had a string of bad luck over the years and Mason and Winwood have sadly had little or nothing to do with each other anymore. Yet, Mason thankfully continues on recording—having released 26 Letters~12 Notes in early 2008. With this latest archival remaster, BGO keeps Dave Mason’s illustrious rock legacy front and center.

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE - Although Rhino did a bang-up job on a box set of his albums, Allan Sherman fans can rejoice in the first ever individual CD releases of his eight long out of print Warner Brothers albums by Collector’s Choice Music. Released back in 1962, during the heyday of the JFK era, Sherman’s debut Lp as a solo artist made a huge splash and introduced Sherman’s Marx Brothers inspired Jewish musical comedy and vaudeville style parody to a whole new generation. Sherman was no newcomer to the entertainment world when he released My Son, The Folk Singer yet, with the release he shot to international fame overnight. Kids today have no idea, but in the early ‘60s, New York / L.A. style Jewish comedy was all the rage with Jackie Mason, Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis and dozens more filming, recording and touring—from the city and the Borsht Belt in upstate N.Y. in the Catskills to Hollywood. Yet for its time, Sherman’s recording shtick was really unique and with his voice and priceless comedy parodies—pairing crazy lyrics to classic songs—you could almost say Sherman was like the Van Dyke Parks of Jewish musical comedy in the early ‘60s! After the success of My Son, The Folk Singer, Sherman released his follow up, My Son, The Celebrity in early ‘63. Perhaps Sherman hit his peak with his mid ‘63 album, My Son, The Nut. By that time, Sherman’s fans included JFK and Harpo Marx. Sherman went all out on My Son, The Nut, recording with a full orchestra. The album included his all time biggest hit, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” and amazingly, the Lp hovered around number one for nearly two months. "Do you remember Leonard Skinner? He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner!" By early ‘64, JFK was dead and The Beatles had taken over America's top 40 radio and pop culture. In that shocking context that a year makes, Sherman’s comedic routine fell from fashion yet he continued on with the release of Allan In Wonderland. Also out in 2010 on CD by Sherman on Collector’s Choice is For Swingin’ Livers Only (November 1964), My Name Is Allan (1965), Allan Sherman Live (Hoping You Are The Same) (1966) and Sherman’s final Warner Bros. album from 1967—the only one he recorded without a live (and often quite appreciative!) audience of any kind—entitled Togetherness. On each CD, Sherman’s unique place in ‘60s pop culture history is put into context thanks to in-depth liner notes from none other than pop culture / comedic music authority Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen. Although Sherman passed away way too soon, in November, 1973 at age 47, his legacy lives on thanks to these Collector’s Choice remasters.

DIAMOND DOG RECORDS - One CD spinning on the carousel these past few weeks is a recent compilation CD from Australian rockers Geisha. (As in geisha girls, get it?) Anyway, the Geisha group’s 2010 CD, called Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow is a great rave up CD filled with one solid rock track after the next, including several Beatles covers. Track two is a rockin’ Geisha cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the same lead off title track of the Beatles’ album of the same name. The group’s founder and lead singer, Chris Doheny is quite effective too. Amid the originals—comprising a cross section of various releases, with some tracks dating back to the mid ‘80s—there’s even a cover of “Come Together” that John Lennon would be proud of. spoke with current Geisha guitarist, Joe Matera who told us, ‘We had Tom Werman legendary US producer do some of the tracks on our album. He produced Motley Crue, Poison, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick and others. He produced “Birthday” and “Mystery Writer” for us on the album, He's one of the biggest producers of the 70s/80s.' So is Yesterday Today & Tomorrow like a compilation with a couple new cuts? Matera adds, ‘Yes & No. Yes, it is a compilation, and no it has five new songs, the five songs that feature me as full-time member, “Birthday”, “Mystery Writer,” “Tin Soldier” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and an acoustic version of “Birthday”. It’s a proper studio album release to tie the past with the present to the future of the band.’ Joining up with Doheny for the current Geisha band is a great move for Matera, who adds in some excellent Mick Ronson-esque electric work on several tracks. The older vintage originals are amazing, especially the track “Rainy Day,” which sounds quite modern in a number of ways. The two Beatles covers are fab as is their take on the Small Faces' early classic “Tin Soldier”the 2010 Geisha singlewhich really does the original justice. There’s a sort Split Enz kind of style of Aussie rock in play here but, on this wide ranging decades spanning compilation, Geisha come up with some quite original rock sounds of their own.

RETRO FRESH - South Africa? Holy smoke Batman, the only rock god I know from that country was John Kongos who recorded with Caleb Quaye and Gus Dudgeon back in 1971! So now, lo and behold in 2010 discovers a new record label dedicated to chronicling the classic vintage rock recordings from South Africa called Retro Fresh. Who knew? The RetroFresh label has a ton of classic music and reissues on CD, dating from the late ‘60s / early ‘70s through the early 2000’s. Case in point is a great rock reissue from South Africa rockers The Invaders called There’s A Light, There’s A Way. Insightful 2010 liner notes by label honcho Benjy Mudie sheds a new light on the Invaders story. Inspired by the 1961 South African tour by Cliff Richard & The Shadows, the seeds of the Invaders was sown and featuring the 1963 lineup of John Burke (bass), Joe Moses (lead guitar) and Dave Burke (drums), they went on to become one of South Africa’s best bands. With the addition of singer Lionel Petersen, The Invaders would go on to record their early ‘70s classic There’s A Light, There’s A Way, which was reissued by Retro Fresh in 2010. Mixing steamy prog-rock, psychedelic soul and even guitar driven pop instrumentals, the Invaders album is a really great rediscovery and serves as a fine introduction to one of South Africa’s great bands. I was thinking a more cutting edge version of mid ‘60s American rockers ? Mark & The Mysterians with a touch of Grand Funk, would be a great analogy, as there’s a mix of rockin’ originals and some great rave-ups and even a couple covers of the Rolling Stones and Creedence but the originals keeps this boat sailing on. Commenting on his work with the Fresh label, Benjy Mudie adds, 'As for Fresh's mission, it`s simple; I have always believed that South African rock music, particularly that recorded in the late 60's and throughout the 70's, was in some cases as good as that emanating from the US, UK and Europe. Apartheid not only suppressed the rights of the South African people but also led to a damaging cultural boycott, ending the dreams and hopes of many progressive artists. The Retro imprint label seeks to redress this through an ongoing campaign of reissuing many classic albums by the likes of Freedoms Children, Hawk, Abstract Truth, The Invaders and many more. Each release is carefully created with original and extended artwork, rare photos, bonus tracks and comprehensive liner notes by some of the country’s leading writers and all tracks have been digitally remastered.' As Benjy also points out in his liner notes for the 2010 CD reissue of There’s A Light, There’s A Way, the Invaders finally take their place alongside South African rock legends like Freedom’s Children and Otis Waygood. There’s a ton of CD releases on RetroFresh but this one makes a good starting point for the uninitiated.

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