Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









BEECHWOOD RECORDINGS - Hearing the music of California guitarist James Lee Stanley back in the 90s, I was made aware of his latest CD with musical cohort Cliff Eberhardt. The 2011 CD release of All Wood And Doors is an acoustic based reconstruction of the vintage rock music of The Doors. With the vocals shared by a number of the key musicians here, the music is kind of flamenco flavored with the accent on acoustic guitars and vocals, evoking the sound Jose Feliciano got with the first Doors' hit “Light My Fire” back in 1967, the same year it came out! Coming up on 45 years after Jim Morrison sang that track, Stanley joins forces with vocalist Cliff Eberhardt and notable players like Wings guitar maven Laurence Juber, Peter Tork of the Monkees and a whole lot more. The acoustic guitar playing is superb throughout and the mood may be down tempo and jazzy, yet overall, the 12 track CD is a fine tribute to the golden era of rock.

DECCA RECORDS - Looking like a retro flashback to the late ‘50s, Irish pop firecracker Imelda May is currently making waves with her 2011 CD Mayhem. Imelda turned heads recently on the 2010 CD / DVD tribute to guitar giant Les Paul, as recorded and filmed live in NYC by Jeff Beck. Imelda’s second solo album is filled with a very Beck-like rock edge on a CD that finds her composing her own music. Backed by a tight group, featuring guitarist Darrel Higham, Imelda sounds like the modern day rockabilly version of Mary Ford and Wanda Jackson and her band masterfully backs her primal ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll edge. There’s some great insight into the Mayhem recording on the Decca web page that basically confirms what you already suspected. Imelda confesses, ‘my brother was a mad Elvis fan and I found a tape in his room with Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. I thought the music was fantastic.’ Imelda’s songs click and not enough good things can be said about Higham’s tasteful and very Cliff Gallup / Jeff Beck style electric guitar work.

DELTA GROOVE - A vital source of new music in the blues realm, Delta Groove Productions has a 2011 CD from Bay Area guitar great Elvin Bishop called Elvin Bishop’s Raisin’ Hell Review. Thanks to to huge success of his signature song, “I Fooled Around And Fell In Love,” Bishop was big back in the early ‘70s and it’s great to see him alive an well in a live 2010 concert setting backed by a tight band including long time cohort Terry Hanck as well vocalist John Nemeth. Bishop shares the vocal spotlight with three other singers including Hanck, who also has 2011 CD of his own out on Delta Groove called Look Out! Back in the early ‘70s, Bishop and groups like Cold Blood and Hot Tuna drew on a similar vibe and the formula seems to carry on with these fine blues albums. Guitar fans note that Bishop’s guitar chops are in prime form and he tears up the rock terrain with some blistering slide guitar solos. Also available on CD from Delta Groove in 2011 is Almighty Dollar from Rod Piazza & The All Mighty Flyers. After four decades of recording, Piazza is back with a new blues album featuring his harmonica and vocal work backed up by a solid band including Bay Area guitarist Rusty Zinn. Blues fans will also want to give a listen to the 2011 Delta Groove CD, Edge Of The World from singer-songwriter Shawn Pittman. Backed up by sax man Jonathan Doyle, Pittman forms a one man band while handling all guitars, vocals and drums as well. The 13 track Edge Of The World is solid Texas style blues with a dose of primordial rock ‘n’ roll, start to finish.

- I guess it’s been a dream of his for a long time now, but in 2011 Paul McCartney gets closer to the flame with the Fantasy / Concord / MPL CD release of Rave On Buddy Hollya modern day music tribute to the genius from Lubbock who basically wrote the blueprint for the British Invasion that led to groups like The Beatles, and even earlier with The Shadows influencing countless rockers and guitar groups for 50 years. He may have died in a tragic plane crash in the corn fields of Iowa during the fateful winter of 1959, but Buddy Holly’s legacy is still very much alive. One of the great Buddy Holly fans and the owner of the entire Buddy Holly songbook, McCartney turns in his own startling cover of “It’s So Easy” and it just gets better from there. Produced by noted film music supervisor Randall Poster, this 19 track CD is pretty much straight ahead rock ‘n’ pop with Macca summoning up a mass of Holly mania 2011 alongside performances that feature a wide range of classic rockers including Nick Lowe, Graham Nash, Lou Reed and Patti Smith. Intriguing Holly covers by lesser known artists—from My Morning Jacket and Fiona Apple with Jon Brion for example, and to name a few, all the way to a near set stealing version of “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” by singer Karen Elson—helps to seal the deal on what surely become one of the great Buddy Holly tribute albums. Elegant yet tasteful cover art and packaging adds further luster to Buddy Holly Rave On.

- One of the new musically innovative labels over in the mother land that features up to date century 21 prog based on the models of YES, Genesis and others, Festival and its F2 Music imprint has a number of new CD releases by Moon Safari, Pendragon, singer Annie Haslam, all this in addition to rising prog rock music maker Sean Filkins with his 2011 CD War And Peace & Other Short Stories. Filkins sounds impressed by the works of Chris Squire and his voice is very Yes inspired in places. There’s much experimenting with world music and even hard rock in places yet there’s also some hefty musical imagination here as well. Also sounding inspired by Ummagumma era Pink Floyd, with a dash of Ron Geesin, two of the tracks clock in at twenty minutes each while Filkins fills up the sound stage quite nicely while backed up by a range of progressive rock musicians. Prog to metal to Pink Floyd-ian prog madness, Filkins has it covered.

- Ten years ago—in those fondly recalled happy days before 9/11 and the long wars and terrorisim—YES released Magnification during the summer of 2001. Hard to believe all the upheavals in YES land these past ten years but ten years after, Jon Anderson—the voice of YES and a guiding light responsible for so much of the band’s mysticism and lengthy lyrical wonders—is no longer in YES. Because of various illnesses that have plagued him in recent years, in Jon’s place is now Benoit David, yet it will never be the same. Another YES alumni, Rick Wakeman joins together with Anderson on his long awaited solo album, The Living Tree, released late in 2010 on the U.K. based Gonzo Multimedia company started by Voiceprint founder Rob Ayling. One of the great impresarios of U.K. prog-rock, Ayling is somewhat of a legend in the U.K. progressive rock world, who has worked with just about every U.K. rock legend over the past 20 years. So in 2011 it’s quite interesting to note that Gonzo Multimedia has a number of YES related CD and DVD releases, topped off by the late 2010 CD release of The Living Tree. Similar in scope to some of Anderson’s fabled solo works released through the years, The Living Tree is at once a lyrical, yet meditational outing, pairing Anderson’s voice and words with Wakeman’s orchestral grand piano and electronics. Regarding The Living Tree, Anderson claims, ‘Listening to the songs on this album, I realize how connected I am with Rick. We have this natural singsong way of creating that seems to roll off the tongue. It’s as though we have excluded ‘time and space’ to make this music.’ Performed so naturally, and filled with a number of YES related musical signposts, it’s hard to believe this is actually the first album they created as an duo / act together. Either way, The Living Tree sounds better with each successive spin and is essential listening for fans of classic YES. Released in June 2011, Survival And Other Stories is Jon Anderson’s latest solo album. Also released on Gonzo Multimedia—and featuring Anderson backed by a variety of musicians—Survival And Other Stories is filled with Anderson’s patented inspirational messages of hope, healing and survival. Anderson nearly died from his illnesses several years ago, so clearly he’s a real survivor and he lives to tell the tales on Survival And Other Stories. /

- For anyone just tuning in, the San Francisco based group known as Tea Leaf Green released what some critics contend is their big studio album breakthrough. For the Summer 2011 release of Radio Tragedy! TLG bring in producer Jeremy Black, who worked wonders with psychedelic pop band Apollo Sunshine back in 2008. Another unique comparison here might be to the now sadly defunct jam band String Cheese Incident, as I can see some of the SCI fans liking Radio Tragedy! (note that exclamation point) Commenting on the album, Tea Leaf Green guitarist and vocalist Josh Clark adds ‘TLG has been a band for 13 years and I think we’ve made the record we always thought we were capable of making.’ As is also pointed out on their Facebook page, the big Tea Leaf Green influences like various white album and big pink sounds come out to play at various points. Extra credits for the highly impressive Radio Tragedy! CD cover art depicting (what other then?) the death of radio.

- Back in 2010 Seth Swirsky released his Watercolors CD and one year on he’s back with As Far As Yesterday Goes, featuring a reunion of his group The Red Button. On this 2011 CD Swirsky teams with Mike Ruekberg and the pair are joined by a range of players including drummer Peter Anderson. That says a lot because both Seth and Mike come from the school of late 60s / early '70s era pop that witnessed great breakthroughs when certain artists like Emitt Rhodes and Todd Rundgren could record albums by themselves. Swirsky himself is a self-professed Beatles expert who actually flew to England to meet and interview the Beatles esteemed recording engineer Norman Smith, so he knows from whence the classic sound came. Swirsky and Ruekberg come off kind of like a 21st century Lennon & McCartney, or at least the West Coast version of Forest Hills' own Tan Sleeve. Conjuring up images of Badfinger, the Raspberries, Nazz and more, the Red Button passes this pop history lesson with flying colours.

- Mixing equal does of Heart and Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks, the 2011 CD release of Speeding Ticket And A Valentine introduces the sound of the group known as Blame Sally. Mixing Texas style rock ‘n’ roll with a breezy West Coast mid ‘70s pop and roll, Blame Sally features four fine singer songwriters—Monica Pasqual (keyboards), Jeri Jones (guitar, bass), Renee Harcort (bass, guitar) and Pam Delgado (drums). Inviting some modern Nashville folk-rock roots into the mix takes the music in yet another direction. With the 2011 release of Speeding Ticket And A Valentine clearly Blame Sally has found a home with the Berkeley based Ninth Street Opus.

- In contrast to his work in Styx, on the 2011 CD release of The Great Divide guitarist / vocalist Tommy Shaw goes all country rock and bluegrass. There was even a spot on the current Styx tour with Yes, where Shaw gets in a few tracks from his album. Recorded in L.A. and Nashville, the eleven cut album feature Shaw on vocals and all guitars with the accent mostly on his resonator guitars, banjo and dobro. Backing him up are the best of the current Nashville session men including Byron House (bass), Alison Krauss (backing vocals), Sam Bush (mandolin), Rob Ickes and Jerry Douglas (dobro) Brad Davis (guitar) and many others. As with his work in Styx, the sound is slick and commercial but in an appealing way. There’s even a tribute to famed American President Harry Truman called “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” which features Shaw singing an amusing tale of Truman’s illustrious life as well as his piano playing.

- Certainly one of the best of all the rising indie U.K. labels, Pink Hedgehog Records have a splendid new album from label head Simon Felton called Surrender Dorothy. The Wizard Of Oz analogy notwithstanding, Surrender Dorothy takes things out there on an album that blends Beatle-esque rock circa the “white album” with the dreamier element of say early ‘70s Lou Reed and Velvet Underground circa Loaded. Felton has overseen some fine releases as the PH label chief and on this 2011 album with Alan Strawbridge (guitarist and composer of Schnauser) and California born / U.K. based cult-music favorite Anton Barbeau, this fine trio of pop mavens blends some righteous energy on the second solo album from Simon Felton.

- Zombies fans expecting a remake of the 1968 Zombies album Odessey And Oracle will be in for a jolt upon hearing the band’s 2011 comeback album Breathe Out, Breathe In. More like the music made in their pre-psychedelic era—when as The Zombies they scored several mainstream pop hits including “She’s Not There”—on Breathe In, Breathe Out, Zombies founders Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone are joined by long time Argent founding bassist Jim Rodford, and relative newcomer Tom Toomey (guitars). Jim’s son Steve Rodford continues to hold the drum set in this post-modern Zombies. Somewhat absent on this acclaimed comeback is Zombies song co-writer Chris White, who—a key to the successes and, both in The Zombies and Argent—served as a pop counterbalance to Rod Argent’s more classical and blues compositional tendencies. However, three of the songs—remakes of several early classics—here do feature Argent-White song writing credits. Of course the innocent genius of Odessey And Oracle would be darn near impossible to recreate. Blunstone’s 2010 solo album The Ghost Of You And Me had a cool, slick pop sheen and that same effect upon hearing Breathe In, Breathe Out yields some interesting sonic results.

- Following the release of their critically acclaimed Duets album (with Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed and more) The Blind Boys Of Alabama are back with 2011 CD release of Take The High Road. Starting out as kids back in 1939, when the members were just kids at the Alabama Institute For The Negro Blind, the Blind Boys Of Alabama have been around for seventy years and even still features founding member Jimmy Carter. Their latest release for the Americana label Saguaro Road, the new Blind Boys album features a rural, rootsy and gospel style country blues that’ll send shivers up your spine. Co-produced by country music icon Jamey Johnson and recorded in Nashville, Take The High Road features the Blind Boys backed up by a fine band of musicians, including guitarist Reggie Young, with the icing on the cake including guest appearances from Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack and more.

- Cut around the same time as 2010’s Bingo! album, the 2011 CD release of Let Your Hair Down finds ‘60s rockers The Steve Miller Band in primo form. A lot of musical waters under the bridge since the heyday of Sailor and Your Saving Grace, yet the familiar Steve Miller vocal and guitar sound is in primo form on the ten track Let Your Hair Down. Two wild and crazy album covers later, (what's up with that hare!) Miller has not mellowed out with age. He’s still rockin’ harder then ever and this all-blues tribute covers album features Miller backed up by a top band including rhythm guitar ace Kenny Lee Lewis and also featuring what turned out to be the final recording of harmonica virtuoso Norton Buffalo. Like Bingo!, the accent here is on Miller’s pure devotion to constantly working with a merger of blues and rock topped off by his patentned pop music finesse. It’s noticeable that even on a traditional blues cover—say for instance track seven here, “Can’t Be Satisfied” written by Muddy Waters—Miller makes the song his own. Call it blue-eyed soul or call it traditional Steve Miller Band, Let Your Hair Down will have you coming back for more.

- Over the past 20+ years the lead singer-songwriter in Australia’s big time Christian rockers The Newsboys, Peter Furler has consistently released thought provoking anthemic rockers that melded his love of Christian religion with a rock edge. All the while uplifting, and spiritual enough, yet Furler’s voice is strong and he really knows how to pair a hook with punchy pop arrangements. Now paving a solo career, Furler’s 2011 solo album debut is called On Fire. Playing guitar and backed up by some top players, Furler brings out a platter of fat, hook heavy anthemic rockers that sounds in the same vein as groups like Styx and even late ‘80s YES. You can tell that Furler grew up listening also to groups like Split Enz and Crowded House. Furler’s guitar work is power chord punchy and the songs stick around long enough to qualify for more spins. If you missed Furler’s Newsboy years, their ‘88 CD debut was appropriately entitled Read All About It—there’s plenty of power pop rave ups to make up for lost time.

- There’s been a hole lot of comparisons of Henry Wolfe and his 2011 CD Linda Vista to self styled pop artists such as Paul McCartney. The son of actress Meryl Streep, Henry’s album is in fact pretty popped out in places, although it’s a little low key here and there. Henry also cites the Paul Simon album One Trick Pony as being similar in style to the way he crafted Linda Vista, although some may also want to cite the music of Harry Nilsson and maybe toss in a little Brian Wilson. The ten track CD even features a cool kind of guitar instrumental—in fact the title track, “Linda Vista”—with slight mariachi type horns that sounds little like The Ventures in chill mode. Anyway, it’s a cool song and an unusual title track on what ostensibly comes off as a pretty straight ahead pop album. In addition to handling all the vocals, song writing and the occasional guitars, Wolfe gets solid support from his band which here includes guitarist Mark Noseworthy, Joe Kennedy (keyboards) and Josh Collazo (drums) among others.


BEAT & TWANG RECORDS - I was very happy that Eero Pätäri said some nice things about featuring articles and reviews on Finland’s late great genius rock classicist Pekka Pohjola. An up and coming Finnish guitar figure—albeit, a little younger and fronting an instrumental band in a new century, Eero heads up the Finnish surf-rock instrumental quartet, The Silhouettes, who lead the 21st century surf-rock charge with The Ocean Of Sunken Dreams, released on Surf &Twang Records in 2011. Like The Hypnomen, Laika & The Cosmonauts and The Charades, The Silhouettes draw inspiration from the great instrumental bands of the ‘60s—from The Ventures and The Shadows to Davie Allan to any of the great modern guitar bands. The CD really stokes the surf-rock fires, maybe a little too much, as the CD sizzles and burns its way to instro rock nirvana. Much like the guitarist posed on the beach with the sharks not too far off in the distance, The Silhouettes may evoke a kinder and gentler era in music history, but under the waters lurk hidden dangers.

BOMBORA - The preeminent early ‘60s surf-rock instrumental band in Australia, The Atlantics returned to the music world ten or so years ago with a slightly younger guitarist named Martin Cilia. As a 13 year old Cilia dreamed of playing in a Shadows type band and now as the lead guitarist in The Atlantics, Cilia also has an impressive solo career that reaches a new height with his 16 track 2011 solo album Surfersaurus on the Bombora label. As if he’s paying back the mentors who inspired that 13 year old in the early ‘60s, Cilia covers original instrumental classics such as “Endless Summer”, “Apache”, “Telstar” and many others. The reverence handed down to John Blakeley’s hypnotic guitar groove in the original “Endless Summer” theme is quite riveting and I’m sure Blakeley would approve of Martin’s version. Also, to coincide with the new Martin Cilia CD, Surfersaurus, Bombora also has released a new 2011 compilation from The Atlantics entitled Collectibles. A few tracks on the 14 cut CD are actually vocal cuts that date back to 1967 with the original Atlantics lineup, while the rest with guitarist Martin Cilia date back to the nineties and the past decade. In addition to the vintage cuts, there’s also a new 2010 Atlantics recording here featuring other Atlantics guitarist Jim Skiathitis. Collectibles is a fine look back at Australia’s most legendary surf-rock group. / /

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON - Back in the ‘70s, when I started to really discover the classical masters, I turned to the famous German label Deutsche Grammophon for inspiration while learning about the great classical masters like Richard Strauss and Gustav Holst, for example. That label also had a solid dedication to classical guitar music and following in their own tradition, in 2011 Deutsche Grammophon released a new album, recorded in London, from classical guitarist Milos Karadaglic entitled Mediterráneo. Hailing out of Montenegro, a small country on the Adriatic sea which was once a part of Yugoslavia, the 28 year old Karadaglic has the chops and the musical acumen to take him far in the world of classical guitar music while his youth and stamina should stand him in good stead with those younger listeners aspiring towards a greater understanding of the time honored classical guitar repertoire.

ELLER SOUL RECORDS - When I first started spinning Blue And Instrumental by guitarist Ivan Appelrouth, I thought right away of that amazing 1968 album from Fleetwood Mac, English Rose. Mac’s dedication to great blues guitar greats like Elmore James, T-Bone Walker and Albert Collins comes into focus on this CD yet, I could also see fans of Chet Atkins picking up on a few of Appelrouth’s tracks. Echoes of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, fabled rock ‘n’ roll icons of the original Fleetwood Mac come around even though Appelrouth’s entire 16 track album is entirely instrumental. It has a vintage sound and the recording sound is at once retro yet always up to date. Throughout, Appelrouth is backed up by a noteworthy band of musicians including performances from ‘Big’ Joe Maher (drums) and John Cocuzzi (piano). A prominent quote from guitar hero Duke Robillard graces the cover and puts the guitar seal of approval within plain site of guitar fans.

GSP GUITAR - For guitar fans, the fabled repertoire of the classical guitar remains a constant source of inspiration. Case in point is a 2011 CD release on the California based GSP Records entitled Dreams by guitar soloist Cristina Azuma. The 19 track, 54 minute CD is filled with highly accessible solo classical guitar performances that—with the exception of one track here—consists mostly of covers composed by noted modern day classical masters like Marco Pereira and Segio Assad, to name just a couple. Perhaps the light hearted innocence of the overall album is attributable to, as Ms. Azuma points out in her liner notes, ‘the different moods we experience when we become parents and also the games and the nursery songs which become part of our daily existence and in this case, this album, a source of musical inspiration.’ Produced and recorded in San Francisco by GSP guitar maven Dean Kamei—and featuring illuminating liner notes by the guitarist—Cristina Azuma’s Dreams brings the timeless spirit of solo classical guitar performance to yet a new level of musical perfection.

JAZZAND - Smooth and with a deft touch, NYC based guitarist Rick Stone returns with his first album in five years with the 2011 CD release of Fractals. The twelve track disc merges Stone originals with covers of jazz standards. On Fractals, Stone clearly demonstrates an affinity for jazz guitar legends such as Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell and he gets tasteful support here from Marco Panascia (bass) and Tom Pollard (drums). Obviously a big fan of John Coltrane, Stone is a masterful improviser and even makes these covers his own.

- Back in the late ‘70s and for much of the 1980’s I was a fan of the Swedish progressive instrumental band Ragnarök. Two of that band’s founding members, Peter Bryngelsson and Peder Nabo both released solo albums in 2010 and now in 2011 one of Peder Nabo’s musical cohorts, Niclas Höglind released a fine album by his group Unit Jazz & World. The sound of the ten track Unit Jazz & World CD is very much jazz but with hip-hop and various electronic music tendencies. Very different from the instrumental prog romanticism of Ragnarök, Högland’s Unit Jazz & World features a much more open air of improvisation in contrast to the highly structured melodic intent of Ragnarök. On this 2011 Unit Jazz & World release, Höglind is joined by Anders Hagberg (sax, flute) and Kristofer Johansson (drums). In the CD liner notes by Hagberg, Niclas is described as a “sound freak” and a versatile, brilliant guitarist who is very much aware of different timbres. Featured on eight string guitar, laptop and looping, Höglind and company delivers an engaging album filled with sonic, progressive type instrumental delights that is bound to find a home among fans of both Ragnarök and lucky listeners who enjoyed Peder Nabo’s recent solo album. /

- Jazz has always been a huge deal in the U.K. Those jazz-loving English musicians who weren’t fortunate enough to move to the U.S. to live closer to their American jazz mentors, were always free to roam all over the map while espousing their love of all things jazz and sometimes yes, (at the risk of offending purists) even jazz-rock. One U.K. jazzer who packed things up and moved to distant shores is New York-based, British-expat, jazz keyboard virtuoso John Escreet, who really seems to be thinking about where jazz can go next on his 2011 CD The Age We Live In. Sounding more like a frozen in time snapshot of the musical ages we’ve been living in for the past 50 years, the twelve track, all instrumental, mainstream jazz sound of The Age We Live In finds Escreet in the fine company of classic jazzers, including NYC guitar hero Wayne Krantz, drummer Marcus Gilmore and many more. Sounding remarkably seasoned for an artist still yet in his twenties, Escreet adds, ‘The music on this recording is the most accurate reflection to date of who I am musically. I still tried to make it compositionally very involved in places, still retaining my own voice, yet at the same time I wanted the music to be very open, allowing each member of the group a lot of space to really play.’ Guitarist Krantz, in fine form throughout this CD, bounces some vital musical ideas off of Escreet’s fleet fingered piano / Fender Rhodes based instrumental jazz, while the whole CD gels to the point of complete originality. The Age We Live In is a worthy find for fans of traditional, yet modern mainstream jazz.

-During the early '70s Europeans were greatly influenced by geniuses like Mike Oldfield. Up in Sweden, espousng the instrumental "eurock" sound there you had Bo Hansson, Ralph Lundsten and Bjorn J-Son Lindh. One artist from Austria called Gandalf started out on record back in 1981 and just about year after year since he’s released numerous albums and soundtracks. Real Music in California has released a number of Gandalf albums on CD including a 2011 album called Earthsong And Stardance. In addition to Gandalf’s electronics and guitar work, which is here in abundance, the album also features a collaboration with the orchestra Corso Wien. There’s some highly atmospheric musical interplay of Gandalf with the orchestra which occasionally is enhanced by Sanskrit chanting from a male choir. Gandalf is turning out to be the New Age version of Tangerine Dream for the 21st century. Back in the ‘60s some people would have bought this for the cover art alone.

RIP CAT RECORDS - Mixing instrumental guitar-based blues with all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll is at the central core of the 2011, 15 cut CD release of The Late Show, by California guitarist Barry Levenson. A fresh, fifty-fifty toss up of early Fleetwood Mac style instrumental rave-ups (circa the constantly being referred to English Rose album) with vocals from a number of guest singers, The Late Show—also produced by Levenson—finds the guitarist joined by the solid rhythm section of Blake Watson (bass) and Dave Kida (drums). Along with a wide variety of singers, the album reaches a fever pitch, at times evoking the sound and vision of Levenson’s guitar heroes such as Buddy Guy and Albert King as well as instrumental blues guitarists like Freddie King and Albert Collins. Even though Levenson is foremost a blues-based guitarist, he’s always quick to point out his jazz influences, also heard here, including but not limited to Bill Frisell, The Meters along with Les Paul, Kenny Burrell and Grant Green. The crossroads where blues, rock and jazz meet head to head is where you’ll find Barry Levenson smokin’ the blues at The Late Show.

SEQUOIA RECORDS - Back in the ‘90s the Gordon brothers—David Gordon and Steve Gordon—helped forge the then pioneering New Age electronic music spirit and 30 years after they entered the music world, they’re going strong as ever with their Sequoia Records label. Back in ‘94, I can remember the brothers releasing Sacred Earth Drums, and although it seems like a different world, now in 2011 their new album is called Nirvana Groove. That’s just what it is as the entire album is geared for downtime instrumental music to relax with for chill-out purposes and also for use in spas and neat stuff like that. With it’s futuristic pulse driven World Beat trip-hop groove, featuring song titles like, “Ibiza Drift,” “Ultra Lounge” and “Ambient Spa”, the CD features a constant beat throughout making it a great work out soundtrack too. Featuring David Gordon on keyboards and Steve Gordon on all guitars, on Nirvana Groove the brothers are joined by other players adding in bass, keyboards, drum loops and all manners of percussion enhancing the experience. There’s even the occasional exotic female voice carried on the sound waves to give the music an even more other worldly sound. In addition to the Nirvana Groove CD, Sequoia also has another classic Gordon brothers collection called Drum Cargo: Rhythms Of Water, which is accompanied by two other companion CDs called Drum Cargo: Rhythms Of Wind and Drum Cargo: Rhythms Of Earth (2010). There’s also a neat series on Sequoia Records called Buddha Lounge that compiles down tempo chill out electronica from artists all around the world. Sequoia released Buddha Lounge 7 in 2010. When it comes to the art of music as therapy and healing music sounds, few labels do it better than Sequoia Records.

- Among the greatest living classical guitar virtuosos recording today, David Russell returns in 2011 with a tribute to the great Isaac Albéniz entitled Spanish Music For Classical Guitar. Renowned for his many fine CD releases on the eclectic jazz-based Telarc label, Russell sounds quite at home here, delving into the repertoire of one of the most illustrious Spanish classical guitar masters. Commenting on the Isaac Albéniz legacy, Russell explains, ‘The magic of his Spanish melodies is unsurpassed. Many of his pieces sound so good on the guitar that it is amazing that they were not written for our instrument. I am sure that Albéniz had the sound of the guitar in the back of his mind while he was writing them.’ The timeless factor comes into play on Russell’s Isaac Albéniz tribute, especially when you consider the fact that, among the 15 tracks covered here, Albéniz composed the seven musical postcards of his Recuerdos de Viaje (“Souvenirs Of A Journey”) in Madrid in 1886-1887. Named in 2009 an honorary member of the “Amigos de la Guitarra” (the oldest guitar society in Spain), Russell currently lives in Spain, in the town of Nigrán.

T.D. CLARK PRODUCTIONS - If classical composers like Niccolo Paganini were reincarnated rock as metal guitar gods in the 21st century, they might sound like T.D. Clark. Among the heaviest of all the new hard rock / metal guitarists, Clark cuts loose on his latest instrumental rock outing appropriately entitled Shreddtime Stories. The Illinois guitarist gets solid backup from his band but the focus is right on Clark’s daredevil electric guitar tactics. Much like the horrific / hilarious cover art, T.D. Clark’s Shreddtime Stories will leave you breathless. The 11 cut CD is mostly hard rock instrumental with no vocals, yet Clark stretches out on a couple acoustic tracks that gives further indication of his well-rounded guitar work (check out track four and the belly dancing guitar vibe of “Moroccan Bedtime Story”). With his hard hitting sonic roller coaster approach to instrumental metal guitar, Clark is recommended listening for fans of guitar legends such as Steve Vai and Tony MacAlpine, as well as up and coming instrumental rockers like Hrant Bedoyan and Bill Lonero.


/ EAGLE RECORDS - Fans of the late, great blues rock guitar icon Rory Gallagher continue praising the late hero with the 2011 DVD release of Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ‘74. Although released on CD earlier in 2011, the DVD is clearly the best way to experience Gallagher’s one of a kind in concert experience. The DVD package also features a memorable watercolor poster depicting Rory in a myriad of settings. The DVD features a wealth of bonus footage and is available in Blu-ray and, as mentioned, a soundtrack on CD. Recorded way back in 1980 and released by Eagle on CD in 2011, ZZ Top Live In Germany 1980 features Billy F.Gibbons, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill performing 16 tracks live rave-ups including cuts from their 1979 Deguello album. Opening with the title cut “El Deguello” and ending with their huge hit “Tush”, this particular concert was filmed by the Rockpalast TV show and was first released on DVD in 2009 with the title Double Down Live. Rock vocalist Sheryl Crow is featured on the 2011 CD and Blue-Ray of Miles From Memphis: Live At The Pantages Theater. Filmed and recorded at Hollywood’s beautiful art deco Pantages Theater, this 2010 filmed DVD concert highlights Crow and company performing 18 songs including covers of Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson as well as adding in a sound check as a DVD bonus feature. Also on CD from Eagle is The Jeff Healey Band: Live At Grossman’s 1994. For this CD Healey returned to his early roots reappearing at one of his early haunts and performing a number of tracks, including Dylan and Beatles covers. Eagle also has a CD and DVD release from rock legends The Doobie Brothers entitled Live At The Greek Theatre 1982. Caught live on the final date of their 1982 farewell tour, the show combines classic Doobie Brothers with numerous band members on hand. The DVD combines five bonus cuts plus a variety of interviews. Another 2011 release from Eagle is WhoCares, from Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan & Friends. The two track CD features a 1983 reunion with the metal gods, in an effort to benefit Armenia earthquake victims. Also included on the enhanced CD is a 30 minute documentary on the history of the project including additional music featuring Deep Purple’s John Lord along with members of Iron Maiden and Metallica.

- Yet another amazing CD collection from Neil Young, A Treasure collects the best of live music from the 1984-85 period that featured the International Harvesters band with Neil and his pedal steel guitar ace Ben “Long Grain” Keith. The sound, however countrified during that 1985 Old Ways period, is awesome sounding and lush in this setting. A dignified cover here of Young’s long lost Buffalo Springfield rarity, “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” captures the essence of Young’s incredible ‘60s sound perfectly, complete with some just retro-fying pedal steel work by Ben that will send shivers up your spine. Overall, A Treasure is a fitting tribute to Ben Keith, who tragically passed away in 2010 and it looks like this was Ben’s parting shot at rock greatness, co-producing and naming this volume nine in Young’s archive series and the sixth to be released. Ironically, the title was conceived by Ben, who after finding the tapes after 25 years said ‘this is a treasure.’

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