Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









BIG MACHINE RECORDS - Taylor Swift defied the odds and in doing so became the most incredible pop success story of 2009. Released late in 2008, her album debut, Fearless has remained a fixture on the Billboard top albums chart for weeks on end and word has it, that it has sold better than any album since 2000. Not only is the girl a knockout but she writes her own material and has a golden voice to match. A pop marketing dream come to true, Taylor often writes her catchy pop songs around her evolving relationship issues, often with different boys in mind. That earthy aspect of Swift’s music video shoots gives a great insight into what makes her tick and these early videos of a blossoming artist are a real hoot to watch for young and old alike. That fuller dimension of Swift’s musical direction can be fully appreciated on the 2009 release of Fearless - Platinum Edition. The 2 disc album repackages the entire Fearless CD with six new Swift tracks plus a second DVD featuring her best video clips, “On The Set” behind the scenes of the video shoots in addition to photo gallery, 2009 tour footage and a CMT awards clip. Whew! It’s been a busy year for Taylor. Let’s watch and see her top this. /

CENTRE CITY / WIENERWORLD - I never knew there was such a prolific soul and R&B scene in Northern England but there you go! Check it out on Centre City / Wienerworld's CD/DVD release of an excellent various artist collection called Northern Soul. I’m not sure if there’s a region free DVD half but the 28 track DVD and 24 track CD presents some really cool, newly recorded, uptempo ‘60s inspired soul music that falls, at times somewhere between a Four Tops / Motown sound, a little hip kind of Ska music vibe and the female / male vocal team sound of say The 5th Dimension. Americans might not know these English artists I presume but they’ll know where this cool sound is coming from once they pick up on it. Also noted here on several cuts is that kind of ultra slick sound that Barry White pioneered back during the heyday of the disco years. The groove is really great and most of the songs here are also geared to the dance music market too. The DVD is cool too, with four bonus cuts more than the CD, featuring all the artists here singing against a light show backdrop in a near surreal karaoke style. This ain’t your typical shake your booty kind of release. These tracks are all memorable, catchy upbeat soul-rockers that will amaze and delight listeners. A few younger artists appear with mixed results, but it's the seasoned old time soul singer veterens here that really busts a move on this modern R&B / soul pop classic from England.

CONCORD JAZZ - A legend of both the music world and the music biz, trumpet maestro Herb Alpert joined forces with jazz singer Lani Hall for the 2009 CD release of Anything Goes - Live. Alpert’s work with his ‘60s band Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass racked up hit and after in the heyday of the swinging ‘60s, and in doing so he successfully competed for top ten hits alongside the Beatles, Stones and many of the other reigning pop kings of the ‘60s. His launching of A&M records with partner Jerry Moss changed music history and introduced American ears to huge acts like Procol Harum, Joe Cocker and Cat Stevens. Chicago bred Lani Hall got her big start singing in one of Alpert’s biggest A&M acts, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66.Ms. Hall reunited with Sergio Mendes for a track in 2008 and in 2009 she partnered with Herb Alpert. Pairing with Alpert in 2009, the duo released a 14 track CD entitled Anything Goes. The first time Hall and Alpert have released a complete album together, Anything Goes features a selection of jazz standards including long time favorites like the leadoff “Fascinating Rhythm,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Besame Mucho” and of course the famous title track all backed up by Alpert’s golden horn and a top backing group.

- Commenting on his new solo album Late Music, under the name Dennis Diken with Bell Sound, the long time Smithereens drummer adds, ‘I’m really proud of our work on this album. And I got to sing lead on most tracks. I guess you can say that vocals are my second to playing drums.’ The Smithereens are known for their pop finesse and on Late Music Diken emerges with a fully blessed, self-styled tribute to the classic SoCal '60s pop sound. To make his L.A. pop dream come to life in a kind of musical time tunnel, Diken enlists the help of Brian Wilson’s band—or some key elements of over the past 14 years or so
including The Wondermints, famed producer and Brian Wilson collaborator Andy Paley, as well as Wilson’s first wife Marilyn Wilson featuring a reunion of her famous '60s group, The Honeys who appear doing backing vocals. Regarding the Honey’s contribution, Diken states, ‘It was a thrill to have Marilyn, Ginger and Diane on board,’ while commenting on working with Darian Sahanaja and Nic Walusko and their wonderful, minty fresh sound Diken claims, ‘Their sun-splashed spirit is evident, especially on “Let Your Loved One Sleep.' As if all this left coast uber pop class wasn’t enough, pop wunder-kind Jason Falkner seals the deal with his own contribution. Clearly, Diken’s love of the wall or sound of the classic '60s harmony vocal groups such as The Move, L.A. pop innovators The Association, The Bee Gees and of course Wilson and his Beach Boys conquers the brave new world of 21st century pop music. Fans who also enjoyed Andy Paley’s fabled mid ‘90s sessions with Wilson will want to catch this wave.

- The Decca Records label has a pretty illustrious history among major labels. A key component of the worldwide Universal Music Group, Decca keeps turning out the hits and a new and different kind of release from Decca can be heard on the 2009 self-titled CD from Ladyhawke. Featuring the songs and vocals of instrumentalist Pip Brown, the Ladyhawke CD is a great showcase for her modern approach to dance pop and coming from New Zealand and there’s an interesting unique edge to the music herein. Mixing pop, electronics and even hard rock, Ladyhawke’s CD is chock full of hook heavy, synth rock that echoes the big beat torch song rock sound of the finest signers of the ‘80s like Bowie, Anna Domino and even some of Yoko Ono’s more upbeat dance floor cuts, although Ladyhawke is really unique modern e-rock music at it’s core. Armed with cool songs and a cooler look, Ladyhawke demonstrates her innovative music skills by performing virtually every instrument on the CD including electric guitars, synth keyboards and even drums. Recorded in London, the Ladyhawke CD is enhanced by the work of a number of top producers who really unleash Ms. Brown in the studio. Commenting on introducing her CD in the U.S., the Ladyhawke adds, ‘I get so much support and positive response from people in the States. That’s completely a thrill to me.’

E1 MUSIC - Koch Entertainment changed their name to the more easy to pronounce E1 Music in 2008. E1 has released a number of fresh rock and jazz titles and fresh on their release schedule is a 2009 CD from guitarist Jeff Golub. Golub has impeccable credentials in the jazz and smooth jazz world and even though many of his prior releases are instrumental based jazz, on his eleven track Blues For You he stretches out on a set that also merges rock, blues and jazzy vocal tracks. Produced by John Porter and recorded in Manhattan N.Y., Blues For You spotlights a number of vocalists who worked with Golub in the past including Billy Squire, Marc Cohn, John Waite and original J. Geils Band singer Peter Wolf. Even with such an illustrious group of singers appearing, Golub doesn’t forget his bluesy, jazz-fusion instrumentals. Track three here, “Goin’ On”—also featuring jazz sax great Kirk Whalum—smolders with Golub’s fiery fretboard work, pitting some great soloing between him and Whalum while “The Blink Of An Eye” is a solid bluesy fusion instro featuring Golub’s soaring electric guitar sound. Also in Golub’s recording lineup this time are Shawn Pelton (drums), Tony Garnier (bass) and Kenny White (keys) in addition to a three piece horn section including famed trumpeter and long time Golub producer Rick Braun. Commenting on branching out on the rock and blues vocals side of his musical makeup, Golub adds, ‘I don’t really differentiate between styles of music. It’s either from the heart of it’s not. Even though we love a more sophisticated jazz approach, we can still appreciate the emotion of a bent guitar string.’ Jazz guitar fans who enjoyed Golub’s earlier CDs as well as blues and rock fans will catch a buzz off of Golub’s bluesy rock and jazz combination here.
www.E1entertainment /

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - Among the best heritage rock and DVD labels in the world, Eagle Vision’s 2009 release of Double Down Live 1980 - 2008 presents two eras of live concert footage from Texas rock legends ZZ Top. Disc one titled, “Definitely Then” features 22 tracks caught live on tour in Germany in 1980. The ‘80 show captures the band in prime form on the famous German Rockpalast show. The beards may be more grey, but the 2008 “Almost Now” half of Eagle's 2009 double DVD features eleven performances, interview clips and backstage footage from the band’s 2008 European tour. Roots and rock are what Billy F. Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all about and nearly 40 years after they arrived, ZZ Top are a band still at the top of their game, even as fans await their first studio album since 2003’s brilliant Mescalero. All the extras, interviews and backstage are tastefully built into the “Almost Now” DVD which proves to be one of the best video docs on ZZ yet and tastefully depicts the current ZZ Top aura circa 2009 in all its staggering glory. 40+ years ago in 1968, U.K. rockers Status Quo made waves across the ocean with their big single “Pictures Of Matchstick Men." Best remembered for the big twin Telecasters guitar sound of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, Status Quo commemorates the band’s 40+ year history with a 2009 Eagle DVD release entitled Pictures: Live At Montreux 2009. With their mix of rock, pop and blues, Status Quo might have been overlooked here in the U.S., especially in light of the massive amount of brilliant U.K. bands coming Stateside back in the ‘60s, yet as this 2009 performance proves, Quo still can rock out with the best of them. Live At Montreux 2009 clocks in at 142 minutes and features a picture-packed DVD booklet complete with in depth liner notes from Mick Wall. This 2009 Status Quo live DVD comes hot on the heels of the band’s also newly recorded 2009 studio album, In Search Of The Fourth Chord, also released in the U.S. on Eagle Records.

- Back in 1969, Status Quo amazed rock fans with their huge Top 40 radio hit “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.” Flash forward 40 years later, Status Quo are back with a rockin’ CD of new material called In Search Of The Fourth Chord. Sort of a play on words (or decades!), the CD shakes things up with an infectious brew of catchy rock songs dressed up with power chord pop vibes that goes bluesy when it has to. The cover art is great and the group lineup still features long time group guitarists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt and company with further production by Pip Williams. The sound is vintage ‘70s British rock and roll and there’s a catchy classic rock vibe in play here that’s kind of reminiscent of early ‘70s U.K. bands like T. Rex and Slade. Although the CD was released over in England in 2007, it’s Stateside release on Eagle is just the ticket to reintroduce Status Quo to American ears. Also planned for release by Eagle is a DVD release of Status Quo live at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival.

- Superbly recorded modern jazz, So In Love features Italian born / NYC based singer Roberta Gambarini backed up in the studio by a solid band while adding in guest appearances from top jazz cats including James Moody (tenor sax), Roy Hargrove (trumpet), George Mraz (bass) and more. The latest in a lineage of jazz singers in the spirit of greats like Ella, Sarah and Peggy, Ms. Gambarini is as much at home singing covers of Willie Nelson and Cole Porter as she is on her jazzy, lounge spectacular Beatles medley of “Golden Slumbers” and “Here, There And Everywhere” as well her tribute to Italian movie music maestro Ennio Morricone. The modern audience tuning in to Ms. Gambarini will not only hear a fine jazz-pop songstress, but will also witness an album that spotlights the significance of the songwriter as a continuing source of inspiration for today’s jazz artists from diverse musical backgrounds.

- A huge part of the music scene in pre-Beatles England, Cliff Richard And The Shadows were the biggest pop act in the world back in 1960. Huge everywhere except the U.S. Cliff, Hank B. Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett are still alive and well on the 2009 CD release of Cliff Richard & The Shadows: Reunited. On the 50th anniversary of their heyday, the 20 track studio CD features new versions of classic cuts. Hank’s guitar playing is amazing and Cliff Richard’s new performances of these songs, some written by The Shadows, shows exactly why he was considered the U.K. Elvis 50 years ago. Recorded and released to coincide with their 50th anniversary world tour, Reunited also features Cliff and his original Shadows backed up by Bennett’s son Warren Bennett (on keyboards), long time Shadows bassist Mark Griffiths in addition to a number of strings and horns. Although tracked together in England, in this age of recording by internet, Cliff’s vocals were recorded in Miami while Hank’s guitar tracks and vocals were recorded at his famous Nivram studios in Perth, Western Australia. Can’t wait to see the DVD.

- On his 2009 CD, The Heartbreaks You Embrace, singer-songwriter and guitarist Chris Church strikes a convincing balance between electric folk music and rock. A bunch of fine players participate on the CD and there’s a solid toe-tapping beat throughout. The guitars are superbly recorded, both acoustic and electric, and among the fine players here, Scott Cornette is listed as contributing guitar textures. It would be expedient to call Church a modern day Jackson Browne or to compare him to late period Byrds and even The Eagles. Let’s just say Church takes a page from the folk-rock legends from years past and jump starts it yet again for a new generation of music fans. If they’re lucky enough to hear him, early fans of the the above legends will probably enjoy The Heartbreaks You Embrace too.

- Orianthi Panagaris was set to play guitar on the 2009 Michael Jackson tour in London but after June 25, 2009 it wasn’t to be. Originally set to be released following the Jackson tour, the 2009 CD release of Believe introduces Orianthi as both a gifted guitarist and a dynamic singer-songwriter in her own right. American groups like The Bangles and Go-Go’s featured formidable female rock talent, but Orianthi goes the distance, aligning herself more as a modern guitar sensation in the spirit of her heroes Steve Vai and Carlos Santana. One look as this demure ingenue and it’s hard to believe she can belt out a tune like Ann Wilson of Heart and cut a heavy guitar sound like Prince or Slash for that matter. It’s gonna take time for the death of Michael Jackson to set in for Orianthi and millions of other pop fans. But if fans who dug Michael give Orianthi a listen they’ll find out why Jackson thought so highly of her guitar gift and stage presence. Backed up by a rocking band of like minded rockers, Orianthi establishes herself as a vital new guitar icon for the millennium.

- Started up by industry moguls Mitchell Koulouris, Ron Dante and Len Fico, Gigatone is doing a fine job restoring and reintroducing the music of two pop music giants—Dwight Twilley and Andrew Gold. First off from Twilley, it’s been a while since we heard from Dwight on his critically acclaimed 2005 CD, 47 Moons, so Gigatone makes Twilley fans with a 2009 release of Dwight's latest studio album Out Of The Box. A party CD sort of from the prolific Twilley, the 20 track OOTB features Twilley and company having a rave up on a set mostly consisting of cover versions of The Beatles, BeeGees, T. Rex, Johnny Rivers, Elvis and other early rock and roll legends from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Twilley and Co.’s powerhouse rock cover of “Secret Agent Man” almost surpasses the Johnny Rivers 1966 original! Twilley veers back and forth from a number of Fab Four covers to the more primal ‘50s sound of Elvis and company but he’s always tasteful. Twilley’s band—featuring the consistently red hot guitar sound of Bill Pitcock IV—is right with him through every hook and reprise of these all time classic ‘60s pop/rock songs. Commenting on the CD, Dwight states, ’Out Of The Box was mainly cut during 2007 & 2008 in pieces 2 or 3 songs at a time. When we got up to 18 we said that's it. After recording 47 Moons, Have a Twilley Christmas and All Access, the live album and DVD as well as a new album (still in the can) it was refreshing to enter into new territory. We had a hell of a lot of fun on the project. I have written so many songs in my career this was strangely new and challenging.’ Twilley fans will also note a number of other recent Gigatone releases from Twilley, including Dwight Twilley Rarities Volume 3, which is part of their ongoing Twilley vault history releases. Also from Gigatone, Copy Cat, from singer-songwriter Andrew Gold finds him in similar territory as the above mentioned Mr. Twilley. Gold has long been considered a master in the studio, ever famous for his 1970’s guitar and productions with singer Linda Ronstadt. There’s not much Gold can’t do and he proves it on his fitting tribute to the music of The Beatles, Beach Boys and Elton John. Like McCartney, Gold can and does it all, making himself sound like a complete rock orchestra on covers of a number of Beatles favorites—from “All I’ve Got To Do” to “Let It Be.” Both of these Gigatone party / covers albums from Twilley and Gold are recommended to fans of each of their respective careers as well as their masterful grasp and reinvention of these classics.

- Multi-instrumentalist John Lefler shows his true pop colors on the 2009 CD release of Better By Design. The packaging and cover art is really first rate and track for track, the music packs a mighty pop punch. Recording the sessions in Dallas, Lefler’s music owes a lot to the West Coast pop sound of bands such as Jellyfish and from the U.K. say, late period Electric Light Orchestra. The McCartney / Beatles influence is never far from hand. Writing all the music and handling the guitars and keyboards, Lefler gets strong help from fine players like drummer Daniel Hopkins. A sweet pop confection worthy of repeat plays, Better By Design lives up to it’s namesake with well recorded arrangements and pop hooks a plenty.

- Singer songwriter Jeff Larson is pals with some of the finest singers and pop artists in the history of West Coast pop. Larson’s alliance with Brian Wilson’s guitarist Jeffrey Foskett goes back to the start of the 2000’s. Larson also worked with surf-guitar great John Blakeley on their great 2001 Daytrips CD. Now on his 2009 CD, Heart Of The Valley, Larson once again teams with producer Gerry Beckley. Beckley, of course, is also a founding member of the group America and mapping out those influences, Heart Of The Valley features eleven new songs mainly written by Beckley himself. Larson is a fine songwriter on his own, so laying down eleven new Beckley tracks, featuring Larson on lead vocals makes for an interesting twist in Jeff’s career story. With Beckley not only producing but also writing much of the music here, Heart Of The Valley is something of a superstar session with additional guest artists appearing, including Beckley’s America partner, Dewey Bunnell, Poco pedal steeler Rusty Young and the aforementioned Jeff Foskett. Also appearing is long time Larson collaborator Hank Linderman, who shares acoustic, lead and rhythm guitar chores with Beckley. Fans of Larson’s many fine solo albums, as well as America fans are strongly advised to check out the tasty West Coast pop vibe of Heart Of The Valley.

- There’s so many flashing musical signposts in the music of The Yeah You’s that it’s a miracle their CD debut, Looking Through You works so well. You can hear a late period Pet Shop Boys dance beat with a blinding musical sheen that almost conjures up a late ‘80s Yes and possibly a late ‘70s Buggles sound and so on. Recorded in England and L.A, the 2009 CD features the English pop duo of keyboardist / vocalists Mike Kintish and Nick Ingram, produced and recorded in L.A. by Greg Wells. Their effervescent songs are injected with big percussive beats, sing along choruses and pulsating electric keyboards and chiming guitars. Track seven, “Clifftop” has got to be one of the most infectious driving power pop classic rockers of the double 0’s. It’s a tough one to get out of your head! Either way, this is a great modern rock album. Looking Through You is a fab spin, from start to finish.

- Reviving the Bakersfield C&W sound of Buck Owens and very late period Clarence White era Byrds perhaps, singer-songwriter Grant Langston simply kicks ass on his 12 track 2009 CD Stand Up Man. With Langston’s Gretsch guitar laying down a wall of sound, he gets good back up from his band the Supermodels, featuring second guitarist Larry Marciano. Langston is a master of that classic Buck / Hank, heart-tugging country brew but he more often than not boots it up with a solid, kick ass country & western rock beat. The guitar fortified rock solid sound is based around Langston’s 21st century country rock vibes. Country roots and rock influences like The Flying Burrito Brothers and Chris Hillman float around the mix. Well recorded and nicely put together digi-pack artwork with full credits makes Stand Up Man worth a return visit.

NOT LAME Featuring the music and vocals of Hans Rotenberry and production from Mack, the 2009 CD, and fifth album so far from The Shazam, Meteor is an hour of action packed power pop wonder. Clearly a band than names itself after the greatest rock album of all—Shazam by The Move—The Shazam have a lot to live up to and they give it a good shot on the 2009 CD release of Meteor. Producer Mack has in the past worked with rock giants like Queen, Sparks and T.Rex to name but a few. Fans of The Move, late period ELO, The Raspberries as well fans fans of post '90s L.A. pop groups like Jellyfish, Jason Falkner and The Wondermints and more will catch a buzz off the retro, yet very much alive and well sound of The Shazam.

- One of the top New Age and music as therapy labels in the world, U.K. based Paradise Music released Moon Chants from singer Marie Bruce in 2009. The label has a presence in the U.S. with the Florida based division of Paradise Music. Even in this world of global climate change, deadly war and stolen elections, I still feel there’s still a need for this kind of music. Marie Bruce has a great voice and she’s written a number of pagan chants as she describes them, while summoning up the magical wishes and dreams of those who believe in all things metaphysical. Ms. Bruce has a great voice, and having written all the lyrics and much of the music, she receives fine support from multi-instrumentalist Chris Conway as well as Paradise Music mainstays, Llewellyn and Juliana who both appear on backing and harmony vocals. Filled with gorgeous graphics of all their releases, the catalog of Paradise Music is a real trip in itself. Filled with the ultimate collection of New Age musical releases, the catalog is the gold standard when it comes to healing and relaxation music, uplifting and inspirational music, Native American music, Celtic music, natural sounds, meditations CDs, yoga, psychic and reiki related CD releases. All these incredible releases on Paradise summons up the inner angel in your spirit. www.ParadiseMusic.US

- Sounding kind of like the Kate Bush for the 2000 era music scene, Northern Scotland bred Jo Hamilton proves her value on the 2009 CD release of her debut CD, Gown, released by U.K. based Poseidon Music. The release features fantastic artwork and packaging that underscores the strange and stark sound of Hamilton’s music. Hamilton performs much of the instruments, including guitars, viola and programming. If Billy Holiday joined up with Kate Bush, the results might sound like Hamilton’s Gown. Guitarist Andy Gunn appears while producer / mixer Jon Cotton did a great job dressing up Hamilton’s Gown. The press release says, quite rightly so, that fans of current pop divas La Roux, Little Boots and Lady Gaga will get a musical buzz from Jo Hamilton.

- Cutting a classic pop album is no easy task. With such an illustrious legacy of American and British pop always on our mind, some North American listeners have found new territory in faraway lands like Holland and the Northern European Scandinavian country of Norway, home to the very intriguing Wonderwheel. NYC based Rainbow Quartz released the 2009 CD from Wonderwheel, entitled Safe And Sorry. Billed as two pop masters, one band, Wonderwheel is actually a side project from Øyvind Holm (the one with the funny letter in the first name!) and Ulf Risnes. These guys sing in English of course and clearly, they’re pretty respectful to the pop gods of the past like The Beatles, Zombies, Kinks and more, all the while bringing the classic vintage pop sound of the past into the future. Well engineered, recorded and mastered, the CD sound is full bodied and, backed up by a number of players, it quite nicely captures the sound of what some are calling the new Simon & Garfunkel of Norway!

- Wow, Rough Trade has been a big deal label since the ‘70s. Hard to believe it's been 30 years! They're a veritable U.K. institution and long may they thrive. Lo and behold, the label actually released the 2009 CD from Super Furry Animals. I had a the unique opportunity to interview SFA guitarist Bunf for 20th Century Guitar back in early ‘08 on the occasion of the late ‘07 release of Hey Venus!—commonly referred to as the holy grail of Beatle-esque pop in the 21st century. Well anyone who knows SFA front man Gruff Rhys knows he’s an unpredictable beast and true to form he takes a left turn on the 2009 CD release of Dark Days / Light Years released on the aforementioned Rough Traders. During the interview, I became slightly effusive with old Bunf as I blabbered on about the spot on top 40 style Spector / McCartney vibes on Hey Venus, so it’s almost a relief to find a much more kind of less emotive, less infectious yet very much Stravinsky meets Brian Wilson in the Twilight Zone effect on the Dark Days CD. After all, these have been dark days and years indeed! Anyway a few cuts on Dark Days make it back to the best of the Hey Venus sound including “White Socks / Flip Flops” and “The Very Best Of Neil Diamond,” while “Cardiff In The Sun” comes off like a post New Wave meets the Moody Blues in the 21st century. The cover art is also reflective of the Hey Venus! artwork packaging and is something you could spend hours with alone. Like a flashback to just about every genre of music of the past 50 years, Dark Days Light Years closes out the double 0’s in style. What will the preteens and teens bring us ten years after?

SHOW DOG - Another hot pick coming out New Orleans, Mac McAnally released his eleven track CD Down By The River in 2009. Pairing his splendid country rock originals with insightful lyrics, McAnally, handles all the guitar work which combines some nifty acoustic work balanced out with his sonically pleasing electric work which tastefully combines country rock with a pop edge, not unlike Tom Petty or Jeff Larson in places or some of Jackson Brown’s heavier rock oriented music. Hooks aplenty merge with Mac’s catchy country rockers while a solid band, including additional guitars from Tom Bukovac. The CD booklet spreads open to feature a complete lyrics sheet with track by track liner notes.

- When it comes to blues and roots music releases few labels can touch Stony Plain. On his 16th album for Stony Plain, Stomp!, guitarist / singer Duke Robillard turns up the heat on 16 new tracks of rockin’ blues guitar magic. Handling all the guitar work and a hefty chunk of the vocals, Duke is joined by top players like Mark Teixeira (drums), Jon Foss (acoustic / electric bass), Bruce Bears (piano), Sunny Crownover (backing / lead vocals) and much more. Covers of classic rockin’ R&B giants like Lowell Fulson, Wynonie Harris, Ike Turner, Roy Milton and more rub shoulders with Duke’s originals. Described as one of the most versatile guitarists alive today, Duke has done sessions with Bob Dylan, Dr. John and the late Long John Baldry to name a few. He’s also cut a number of instrumental sides for Stony Plain with his New Guitar Summit trio. Guitar driven rockin’ R&B at it’s finest, Stomp! offers proof that in the right hands, you can bring the best music of past back to life with new verve and insight. Also up and out in 2009 on Stony Plain, Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy reunites the famous singer with some legendary friends from her Even Dozen Jug Band like rock legend John Sebastian (baritone guitar, banjo, guitar, harmonica) and David Grisman (mandolin, banjo). Also on hand are Taj Mahal (guitar, banjo), Dan Hicks and a host of other top players. Muldaur is often referred to as ‘America’s First Lady Of Roots Music’ and fittingly, Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy features new recordings of music from the classic early 1930’s era of jug band music along with several new tracks by Dan Hicks. Good timey, bluesy music with one foot in Ragtime, Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy puts a new spin on the timeless jug band music sound. Commenting on her new album, Ms. Muldaur adds, ‘Initially, I just wanted to revisit my roots and have some fun with my old band mates, but soon I realized that this was actually a very timely project. Jug band music, which tends to be lighthearted, humorous and zany, emerged out of a period of hard times as a way of lifting people’s spirits. So, once again, this will be Good Time Music for Hard Times! On his 20th album and second for Stony Plain Records, guitarist Joe Louis Walker kicks some serious butt on the 2009 CD release of Between A Rock And The Blues. Commenting on the album Joe Louis adds, ‘My dream was always to play my music in as many different places as I can. That’s why I admired Louis Armstrong and why B.B. Kind and Buddy Guy are heroes for me. Ten of the twelve tracks here were produced by Stony Plain label mate Duke Robillard while the CD also features contributions from Bruce Katz (keyboards), Jess Williams (bass), Mark Teixeira (drums) and more, including jazz fusion guitar icon Kevin Eubanks who appears on a couple tracks here. Walker’s guitar playing is excellent throughout and his sizzling vocals gives a new meaning to the term rocking the blues. On Between A Rock And The Blues, Walker pushes the boundaries of the blues into some amazing new directions while combining the vital signs of soul, gospel, rock and Stax-flavored R&B. With these three key CD releases from Robillard, Maria Muldaur and Joe Louie Walker, Stony Plain reinforces their position as one of the most significant and consistently creative labels of North American roots rock and blues. / / /

VANGUARD RECORDS - Vanguard continue to amaze with new CDs from rock and blues legends like Levon Helm and Robert Cray. Also notable among Vanguard’s mid ‘09 releases is the latest from Carbon Leaf. The band’s third for Vanguard, Nothing Rhymes With Woman is full of catchy uptempo rock meets country vibes that yields some fine results. With electric and acoustic guitars ringing out, singer Barry Privett has a great selection of music to sing. Somewhere between U2 and String Cheese Incident, many of the uptempo numbers boast torch song type choruses that bear well with repeat spins. A tight rhythm section, excellent studio production from John Morand and a fine demonstration of multi-instrumentation on guitars and e-keyboards from Carter Gravatt and Terry Clark add much fuel to ignite the Carbon Leaf signature sound. Nothing Rhymes With Woman is clearly a fine introduction to the Carbon Leaf catalog. /

/ NOZZLE RECORDS - Modern blues rock guitar hero Robert Cray made a solid album back in 2004 called Twenty, an album marked by a powerful antiwar title track. A label change—Sanctuary to Vanguard—and the advent of his self-owned Nozzle Records is the big wheel behind the 2009 release of This Time by The Robert Cray Band. In the spirit of the searching blues rock music on Twenty, front and center on This Time is Cray’s bluesy, soulful vocals and always on target guitar skills. Still at the core of the Cray band is keyboardist Jim Pugh, who also co-composed several tracks here, appearing here along with Richard Cousins (bass) and Tony Braunagle (drums). Even though Cray always mixes his music with influences from rock, soul, jazz, blues and gospel, it’s clear his love of the liberating rock and soul music from the ‘60s that is always central in his musical message. Blues and rock guitar fans who dig Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King as well as George Harrison will find much to like about Cray and his latest studio work.

- As a nine year old growing up in Dublin, Imelda May fell in love with rockabilly and the blues and, years later her musical proclivity pays off with her first U.S. release, Love Tattoo. Released on the jazzy, rocking Verve Forecast label, the twelve track CD combines a retro sounding, jazzy, rockabilly and bluesy vibe into a swinging musical fusion of sound that’s simultaneously classic and modern. Pictured on the cover in a leopard skin jumper, Imelda will no doubt be accepted by both rock and rollers and jazz-blues buffs, to which she adds, ‘I bought my first leopard print coat at 15. Then I heard Billy Holiday and that blew my mind.’ Interestingly, Love Tattoo serves not only as a vehicle for her unique singing and band leading chops, but considering Imelda wrote and produced the entire set, the CD heralds the arrival of a major up and coming songwriter worth watching as well. Imelda’s band—including guitarist Darrel Higham and drummer Dean Beresford—helps her bring it all home with style and pizzaz. Let’s hope Imelda gets to make another swinging and rocking CD as cool as Love Tattoo.

- There’s been plenty of great bands over the past 15 years or so that carried the spirit of SoCal pop forward in the spirit of Brian Wilson, Love and the pop side of CSN. The Wondermints, Jellyfish and others come to mind. One name to add to the list is a 2009 CD from a band called Vinyl Candy. Vinyl Candy’s Land is a pretty impressive power pop album from start to back. Released with a small mini Lp jacket style packaging, this is the kind of cover that begs from a gatefold Lp package from 1968! Hence the “vinyl candy” affinity. Sure this can be considered retro ‘60s top 40 psychedelia, yet its from 2009! Fans of Wilson’s Wondermints and way underrated recording studio wizards like Jason Falkner and Brian Ray will get a positive jolt from the Land of Vinyl Candy. Fab and gear man.


ACOUSTIC TONIC MUSIC - A devout Beatle-maniac, who in his own word admits, ‘Like so many others of my generation I was in front of the TV set as The Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show,’ guitarist Bob Evans pays tribute to The Fab 4 on his recent solo CD, 4 On 6 - The Beatles For Solo Guitar. The 4 Bob is talking about is obviously The Fab 4 and the 6 he’s talking about is his six string acoustic. The Beatles have been covered by everybody from jazz icon George Benson to the Hollyridge Strings, and on his 4 On 6 CD, Evans does justice to a number of Beatles favorites. What a golden time it was when the Beatles dominated the pop charts and had music fans glued to their AM radios or like Bob said, to our B&W TV sets for the occasional U.S. performance. On 4 On 6 CD Bob has recorded eleven deftly performed solo instrumental Beatles covers and he even closes the CD out with his own vocal / guitar version of “She’s A Woman.” In addition to that very cool cover art—copying the Capitol Lp label artwork that graced so many classic Beatles albums—4 On 6 also features a neat booklet with Bob’s Beatles related background and info on his guitar tunings.

- Before 20th Century Guitar magazine folded—and before I lost a bit of my street cred with the guitar community—BHP Music honcho Brian Tarquin had me write notes for his 2008 Jimi Hendrix tribute CD, Third Stone From The Sun. I had a blast diggin’ into that great instro rock tribute, which I described in my notes as ‘the classic sound of Jimi Hendrix as visualized for 21st century ears.’ Much the same could be said about Tarquin’s 2009 instrumental guitar tribute to Eric Clapton entitled Eric Clapton Salute - I Feel Free. BHP did such a great job on their Hendrix tribute so it’s not surprising that their various artists Clapton CD features some of the same guitar slingers performing their favorite Clapton related track without words. Highlights include a cover of “Badge” by James Ryan, a soulful cover of “Tears In Heaven” by Doug Doppler and two covers of “I Feel Free,” the first Cream single—written by Cream geniuses Jack Bruce and Pete Brown—from Howard Hart with another from POM, who combine the song with “Wonderful Tonight.” Randy Coven is excellent with his cover of the Cream classic “White Room,” keeping all the great melodies front and center. Brian Tarquin himself turns in a credible instro take on “Sunshine Of Your Love,” while the mostly instrumental rock CD is rounded out by a couple vocal cuts features blues giant B.B. King (“How Blue CAn You Get”) and rock guitar virtuoso Pat Travers (“Politician”). All in all, BHP’s Clapton salute is an excellent choice for fans of Clapton—both solo and in Cream too. Liner notes by John Heidt of Vintage Guitar round out the release in style. Why stop there? BHP also have another 2009 tribute—a ten track instrumental tribute to the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan entitled Lenny, which also features Doppler, Ryan, Hart, Tarquin and more. Deviating from the superstar tribute concept, Tarquin and BHP work more musical magic with the 2009 CD release of Guitar Masters Vol. 2. This 14 track CD features a number of classic guitar players performing a mix of vocal and instrumental guitar rock. World famous guitar players including B.B. King, Jimmy Page (with Lord Sutch), Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Morse & Brian Tarquin, Yngwie Malmsteen, Carlos Santana mix things up with lesser known, yet equally deserving talents such as instro rock greats The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers (featuring guitarists Johnny Ryan and Jimmy Ryan), Beat The Bone, Hal Lindes, Pete Anderson and more. With a solid cross section of vocal guitar rock and hard rock guitar instrumental, there’s never a dull moment on Guitar Masters, Vol. 2 As such, rockers and guitar lovers are highly recommended to pick up this devastating cross section of guitar wizardry, and for that matter any and all of the above BHP CD releases for 2009.

- I’ve always liked guitarist Steve Dawson. Recording up in Canada on his Black Hen Music imprint, Dawson released a classic bluesy pop tribute to Mississippi Sheiks in 2009 entitled Things About Comin’ My Way. Just before the Sheiks tribute, Dawson released an intriguing steel guitar based instrumental album in 2008 entitled Telescope. Backed by a solid band—including drummer Scott Amendola—Dawson turns in a very respectable performance on pedal steel, acoustic, electric, baritone and slide guitars as well as ukulele, banjo, pump organ, marxophone, piano and glockenspiel. On Telescope Dawson covers a staggering range of instrumental moods and modes. This is the kind of steel guitar recording that would appeal to fans of Robbie Robertson and The Band. It’s just that melodically and systematically eclectic. Of course there’s some fantastic steel and pedal steel players around—including the renowned Greg Leisz, who Dawson claims taught him quite a lot. Even so, wiith the rock music underpinning to the Telescope framework, Dawson sets himself up as a modern day purveyor of rock based instrumental steel guitar sounds. Rock fans who love great guitar instrumentals as well as country pickers and jazz-fusion buffs who take it kind of way out there will get a charge while listening to Telescope. Telescope and Black Hen’s ‘09 blues-pop tribute to Mississippi Sheiks are completely different in sound and style, yet both are connected by Dawson’s impeccable credentials as guitarist, artist and producer. The CD cover art is also quite amazing.

CHESHIRE RECORDS - He helped New Age music get off the ground with his musical partner Nancy Rumbel and twenty five years later guitarist Eric Tingstad released what may be his finest solo album yet, Southwest early in 2008. An evocative musical statement that showcases Tingstad’s nimble acoustic guitar work, Southwest sounds like a New Age / progressive instrumental tribute to the fabled mid ‘90s Sedona / Taos sound that grew up in and around the desert area of the Southwestern U.S. On Southwest, Tingstad gets ample backup from a number of players including some well placed pedal steel guitar from Terry Lauber, drummer T.J. Morris, famous ‘80s New Age king David Lanz on piano, in addition to oboe, ocarina and English horn from Nancy Rumble—his musical partner in Tingstad And Rumbel. In 2009 Washington state based Cheshire Records also released the latest CD from Tingstad And Rumbel, entitled Leap Of Faith. Sounding sort of like a companion release to Southwest, the eleven cut Leap Of Faith veers straight into the heart of a New Age instrumental music as therapy sound with a CD that demonstrates the magic these two artists make together. Guitar fans looking to hear Tingstad more within the realm of his instrument may want to start with the mostly guitar driven Southwest, while New Age and long time fans of Tingstad & Rumbel’s pop instrumental sound will be more than delighted with Leap Of Faith. /

- One of the top trumpet players on the jazz scene today, Terence Blanchard returns with his first release since A Tale Of God’s Will (Requiem For Katrina). Recorded in Blanchard’s home town of New Orleans, Choices features long time of Blanchard group members, including drummer Kendrick Scott as well as featuring contributions from guitarist and Blanchard protégé Lionel Louke. Interesting that the album also features spoken word dialog from Dr. Cornel West, whose insightful dialog centers on the choices we all make in life, both as a society and on a personal level. On Choices, The Terence Blanchard group brings modern instrumental jazz into the new century with finesse and enthusiasm. Blanchard makes the kind of cool, groove based jazz sound that greats like Coltrane and Art Blakey would dig if they were here today. And surely the spirits of Trane and Mr. Blakey are alive and well in the jazz grooves of Terence Blanchard Group.

- American music is really an amalgam of a variety of music—from the old world folk music of England and Brittany to the percussive tribal beat coming out of countries in Africa going back hundreds if not a thousand years. One guitarist who has his pulse firmly on the distillation of American music is guitarist David Grier. Grier received accolades in Guitar Player magazine for his 2007 CD, Live At The Linda, recorded upstate in Albany, New York. Grier’s unique grasp of American music comes to further fruition on his 2009 studio album Evocative. Although he can entertain with an acoustic guitar, Grier joins forces with a number of musicians on what has to be among the finest guitar based instrumental albums of 2009. Some of these melodies sound like they could hark back to America in the 19th century, yet the steady drum beat and electric guitar leads bring it well into the 21st century. Assisting Grier on Evocative are top players including John Gardner (drums), Jeff Taylor (keyboards) and Victor Wooten (electric fretless bass). The pedal steel guitar sound of Paul Franklin is noticeable as is the acoustic bass of Byron House and others. Franklin’s pedal steel works wonders with Grier’s electric and acoustic guitar playing. Being all instrumental, the full bodied group sound of Evocative could easily cross over and make inroads with fans of bluegrass, New Age, smooth jazz and guitar instrumental genres. Fans of guitar innovators like Chet Atkins, Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin and even Peter Frampton’s recent guitar instrumental releases should take note of Grier. Grier devotee Martin Mull puts pen to paper so to speak with liner notes while the neat digi-pak packaging enhances an all around excellent set of instrumental guitar artistry.

- Watching Steve Vai performing on his new release is like watching science fiction at times. The opening track on Where The Wild Things Are was actually recorded in a 25/32 time signature so you know you’re dealing with a triple threat kind of guitar hero here. On his site there’s a great interview with Steve discussing this 2009 release which has so far come out as a double DVD set, a special Blu-Ray edition disc and a CD soundtrack of the show. For this tour, and this special September 19, 2007 show from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Vai chose to align himself with a top notch band including not one, but two violinists in Alex DePue and Ann Marie Calhoun, 7 string guitarist Dave Weiner, powerhouse rock drummer Jeremy Colson and Bryan Beller on bass. Vai describes some tracks here as bordering of performance art and throughout the DVD you really get a sense of the theatrics that Vai brings to instro and vocal rock, as well as to the progressive jazzy fusion scene, no doubt inspired by his earlier works with Joe Satriani, Frank Zappa and so many others. Mostly instrumental with a sprinkling of Vai’s vocal cameos, the new DVD looks amazing and a 78+ minute companion CD gives a great insight into Vai’s perfectionist approach to live recording. Obviously much care was taken to get the sound right on the CD as it proves to be one of the finest sounding and most dynamic live jazz-rock fusion concerts ever captured this clearly on CD. From the video perspective, clearly Vai has also made the most of the ultra dynamic Blu-ray format that is already getting rave reviews among video buffs. Bonus features on the DVD and Blu-Ray discs include fresh interviews with all the Vai band members, who elaborate on about what it’s like to work with a bonafide guitar legend. In addition there’s another amazing bonus video track here for Ibanez guitars, with Vai demonstrating his state of the art Jemini distortion guitar effect pedal. It's not only informative for guitarists but it's a joy for even the non musician to watch. From start to finish, Where The While Things Are brilliantly depicts the modern day rock fusion concert event as a hi-tech extravaganza of sound and vision.

- Anyone who thinks playing guitar is all about sex, drugs and rock and roll should spend a few years trying to master the time honored craft of classical guitar performance and technique. Perhaps that’s what made rock audiences sit up and take notice of early rock guitar icons like Robbie Krieger of The Doors and a few years later, Steve Howe and Steve Hackett of Yes and Genesis. Not only could these guys play rock but they had a healthy respect for classical guitar icons like Segovia, Julian Bream and John Williams. One American recording label keeping the art of classical guitar alive and well in the 21st century is San Francisco based GSP. Starting out in 1974 as teaching studio, GSP has evolved into a well respected source of guitar music, guitars, guitar strings and much more. GSP’s retail store is routinely voted as among the best place to buy a guitar in a number of San Francisco based publications. If you can’t afford top dollar for some of the finest classical guitars in the world, you can always check out GSP’s latest CD releases to hear some of the finest guitars played by today’s top classical guitar recording stars. High on the list of outstanding 2009 classical guitar recordings is Viaje en España from Martha Masters. On her 2009 18 track CD on GSP, Ms. Masters tackles a number of classical pieces by a some late, great classical masters who lived well into the mid 20th century and there’s also an Andres Segovia cover here called “Estudio Sin Luz.” Ms. Masters has a number of CD titles available on GSP and her recent history includes leading the guitar program at Loyola Marymount in L.A. as well as being heavily involved with the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA). The CD booklet of Viaje en España is filled with fastidious liner notes on all the Spanish guitar legends covered here by the always tasteful and elegant Martha Masters. Also released by GSP is a 2009 CD release from Roland Dyens entitled Naquele Tempo - Music Of The Brazilian Master Pixinguinha. As great as Spain’s guitar masters were, Brazil has also often been a great source for substantial contributors to the high art and craft of guitar music—from classicists like Villa-Lobos through till early '60s bossa nova kings such as Jobim. Little may have been heard of Brazilian composer Pixinguiha here in the U.S., yet guitarist Roland Dyans aims to correct that with the release of his GSP CD Nanqule Tempo. Born a black Brazilian in 1888 with the real name Alfredo da Rocha Vianna, Jr., Pixinguiha was a gifted multi-instrumentalist who was primarily a flautist and saxophonist as well as a band leader and teacher. Thanks to his mastery of the Brazilian “choro” and popular samba flavored music, Pixinguiha was regarded quite highly by both Villa-Lobos and Jobim. Pixinguiha died in 1973, and adding fuel to his legacy, Jobim was quoted as saying of Pixinguiha, ‘He’s a genius: a blessing and an inspiration for my life.’ Presenting the music of Pixinguiha for classical guitar on his 2009 GSP CD, French guitarist Roland Dyens provides an interesting opportunity to rediscover Pixinguiha’s classical flavored yet distinctly Brazilian instrumental music, all performed on solo classical guitar. Filled with in depth CD liner notes, both of these outstanding instrumental music CD releases on GSP presents a splendid way to enjoy the always fascinating sound of the classical nylon string guitar.

/ HALPERN SOUND / DIAMOND SOUND PRODUCTIONS - If there is such a thing as ‘therapeutic music’, and I know for sure there is, then the music of guitarist Michael Diamond falls under that category. As a solo musician, Diamond has 20 years experience, as both musician and journalist, that makes him uniquely qualified as a therapeutic music master. Released though the company of New Age music guru Steven Halpern, the 2008 CD release of Diamond’s latest solo release, Indigo Moon works on a number of levels—from New Age therapy to a more ambient form of ‘well-chilled’ ethereal guitar based instrumental fusion sounds. Assisting Diamond on the eleven cut CD are top players such as Steven Halpern, Jefferson Starship keyboardist Pete Sears, bass player Michael Bloch and vocalist Eve West, who lends her Enya-esque vocals to a pair of tracks on this otherwise instrumental CD. Diamond’s gear includes a number of high tech devices, all further enabling his synths / samplers and electric guitars. Filled with an abundance of information about this unique and satisfying album, the CD artwork is excellent too. If you enjoy cosmic instrumental music that combines a New Age vibe with the meditative aspects of spatial rock fusion, that is kind of in the spirit of mid period Pink Floyd, then you’ll find much musical inspiration in the music of Michael Diamond, and specifically his excellent Indigo Moon CD.

- I don’t read French and that’s the language used throughout the booklet and liner notes of the 2009 CD from guitarist Samy Daussat, and his group Samy Daussat Trio. Since the excellent La Petite Famille is mostly instrumental and, as music is the international language, you don’t need to speak French to enjoy Samy’s music. There’s even an English language vocal of the jazz classic “L.O.V.E.” You might not recognize the title, but music lovers know this incredible song classic! So what about the music? If you like the timeless Gypsy Jazz sound of Django Reinhardt and modern masters in the spirit of John Jorgenson and Bireli Lagrene, you’ll flip for Samy’s CD. Credited here are several other players—including trio members David Gastine (rhythm guitar/vocals) and with Claudius Dupont (bass)—backing up Samy’s excellent Gypsy Jazz guitar as well as David Reinhardt, who I’m sure is one of the Reinhardt family tree. He sure plays guitar like he is! Guitar fans—especially Django fans—will find much to cheer about here.

- Designed as the mouthpiece for the popular live music venue and center of the Gypsy swing jazz scene, Le QuecumBar in London, their Le Q Records strikes Gypsy Jazz gold with the 2009 release of Le QuecumBar Live In London. Featuring acoustic guitarists Patrick Saussoios and Ducato Piotrowski performing live with jazz violinist / vocalist Daniel John Martin and Andy Crowdy on double bass, the sound veers from traditional Gypsy Jazz as evidenced by several Django covers on the instrumental side to a vocal swing time jazz a la John Pizzarelli sound on tracks like “It Had To Be You.” The live concert sound is first rate while the players sound like they’re having fun here. As usual Le Q Records puts a lot of effort into this CD release with loads of liner notes and key pics of the artists.

- Based up in Canada, guitarist Paul Blissett released his latest solo album in 2009. The twenty track Fire And Soul is a guitar lover’s dream come true. Clearly influenced by many of the great instro guitar legends—from Les Paul to modern rock and roll guitar masters like Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin, Blissett displays a nimble grasp of both rock and roll and country flavored instrumental guitar music. Although a number of the instro classics on Fire And Ice have appeared hundreds of times before on Hank’s albums with The Shadows and various Ventures and Duane Eddy albums, Blissett makes them his own combining some fiery fretboard moves with his soul filled affinity for these songs. In the spirit of large ensemble works of Duane Eddy and Al Casey, Blissett calls on a number of musicians to fill up his sound stage and for the most part, the album succeeds with it’s rocking tribute to these guitar classics of yesteryear.

REAL MUSIC - One of the top New Age record labels on planet Earth, Real Music was a mainstay and forerunner of the entire New Age, meditation or music as therapy sound of the ‘90s. Thankfully, the label continues on as the first decade of the millennium draws to a close. High on the list of the latest Real Music releases is the 2009 CD from New Age music king Gandalf entitled Sanctuary. Described by Gandalf as, ‘A refuge of balance and peace. A place to withdraw from the noise and craziness in the world,’ the twelve track CD features Gandalf performing a number of instruments including piano, acoustic / electric guitars, electric sitar, bells, synths, cello, percussion and more. A couple guests add in cello and djembe, but this CD is Gandalf’s masterpiece all the way. If you can’t chill out or relax listening to this CD, you probably need medical attention! Gandalf has now recorded five instrumental New Age / meditation masterworks for Real Music and with Sanctuary he’s still clearly at the top of his game. Another artist who has built a solid reputation with his Real Music releases is meditation music master Chuck Wild, who also goes by the name Liquid Mind. The latest Liquid Mind release on Real Music, Liquid Mind IX: Lullaby continues Chuck Wild’s penchant for making music to slow down life with, to help relieve stress and enhance meditative and therapeutic practices. With the 2009 CD release of Liquid Mind IX: Lullaby, Wild devotes the music to the youngest members of society and surviving loss while celebrating the continuity of life. The CD is also dedicated to Wild’s dad who passed in 2008. Mostly ethereal, New Age meditation music, Wild’s music is less structured than Gandalf, say, but clearly no less sincere and deep. With the release of his ninth Liquid Mind CD, Chuck Wild continues on at the forefront of the modern New Age music movement. Also released from Real Music in 2009 is the latest CD from guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Mike Howe entitled Time Stands Still. Described by Howe as ‘An observation and acknowledgment of the beauty and wonder of nature and a celebration of the joy of learning,’ the fifteen track CD features Howe performing acoustic guitar, bass, keys and percussion. Dreamlike and meditative, Time Stands Still is a perfect fit for the laid back, New Age vibe of what Real Music stands for. Another ‘09 release on Real Music, Endless Blue Sky features Kevin Kern performing all piano and synths while receiving support from Dean Magraw on acoustic guitar as well as a number of string players. Kern is a Steinway Artist, (Steinway makes the finest pianos in the world) and clearly if you enjoy the warm sound of acoustic grand piano instrumentals, Kern’s meditative approach to piano based New Age is just the ticket. Last but not least of Real Music’s 2009 CD releases is the latest from Germany’s Bernward Koch entitled Gentle Spirit. Similar somewhat to Gandalf’s music, Koch is certainly a gifted player and he lives up to his reputation as one of the top New Age instrumental music makers early in the 21st century. Koch has three other Real Music releases so clearly, Gentle Spirit will no doubt please long time fans of this legendary instrumental New Age music maker. Performing piano, keyboards, guitar, bass and glockenspiel, Koch receives some subtle support from added flute and light percussion and his meditative mission succeeds here. In addition to the fine music on these 2009 Real Music CD release, each release features excellent digi-pak artwork graphics and liner notes. It’s great to see Real Music continue on their musical journey that label founder Terrance Yallop started way back in the heyday of the mid 1990’s.

- Hailing from New Orleans, guitarist Shane Theriot was a member of the U.K. prog-rock group The Syn back in 2006 for a spell and he even recorded a DVD with the group on their brief yet influential American tour in January 2006. Anyway, Shane is back with an electrifying solo album of high voltage, bluesy, rocky guitar instrumental tracks entitled Dirty Power. Featuring a solid band, including tracks with drummer legends, Jim Keltner and Richie Hayward (of Little Feat), the ten track Dirty Power also features guest slots by slide master Sonny Landreth and bass virtuoso Adam Nitti to name some. You can hear why Syn founders Chris Squire and Steve Nardelli would dig Theriot’s multi-genre style of guitar playing. Easily merging from rock and blues to funk and jazz, Theriot straddles the guitar universe with often fascinating results. The album is well recorded and will clearly appeal to fans of Ry Cooder as well as Peter Frampton’s instrumental album Fingerprints.

SPIN ACRE RECORDS - Even though I come from New York—specifically I was born in New York City with it’s huge immigrant history and populations—I’ve never failed to be amazed at the vastness and rich cultural diversity of America with it’s 50 states, each with something unique and fascinating to behold. Musically speaking, some of the best American guitarists are to be found in it’s heartland. Good buddy Bryon Thompson hails from Indiana and likewise, guitarist Patrick Woods hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Woods made a lot of guitar fans quite happy with his earlier CD releases—Guitar Expeditions (2007) and Power Fields (2004). The 2009 CD from Woods, Vortex Of Discovery solidifies his reputation as one of the brightest up and coming instrumental finger style acoustic guitarists in America. Patrick cites legends such as the late Michael Hedges and Preston Reed as prime influences on his unique blend of percussive, string snapping acoustic guitar playing that combines guitar technique with intricate percussion and melodic action. His ‘one man band’ sound has sometimes been compared to a mix of Andres Segovia meeting Black Sabbath and while that comparison may be a little extreme, Patrick’s acoustic guitar sound is clearly influenced by guitar masters of the past as well his love of rock music, which can be detected in his rhythmic, percussive guitar approach. Back in the 1980’s the Windham Hill label made acoustic guitarists such as Michael Hedges, Alex DeGrassi and of course Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman into well known names. Fans of those guitar giants as well as modern acoustic guitar heroes such as Pete Huttlinger, Tommy Emmanuel, Toulouse Engelhardt, Richard Gilewitz, all the way back to early rock/acoustic guitar pioneer Steve Howe (of Yes), should give Patrick Woods a chance to impress them with his own unique and incredible guitar technique and approach. A great example of Patrick’s acoustic guitar technique merging with his love of rock music can be heard on track seven, “Lightning’s Kiss,” with its storming, melodic intro as well as track eight “The Golden Country” with it’s Steve Howe-inspired wide screen guitar moods. The ten track, all instrumental Vortex Of Discovery was tastefully produced by Jay Bentoff. The CD has a crisp and clear studio sound, capturing all of Patrick’s intricate percussive guitar slaps and snaps and melodic twists and turns and makes for a very cool way for guitar fans to spend an hour. Vortex Of Discovery is a solid spin and before you know it, you’ll be reaching for that replay button again!

SUMMERFOLD RECORDS - Forty years ago, in 1969, drumming icon Bill Bruford made his breakthrough as a key founding member of the Yes group. No one in Yes seems to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of that fabled year of 1969—especially with only one of the founding members, Chris Squire, appearing in the latest Yes, touring only, lineup. Although he recently stopped his rigorous touring schedule, drummer Bill Bruford shows no signs of letting up his musical progress, especially in the studio. Released on Bruford’s Summerfold records imprint, Skin And Wire features Bruford joining forces with Piano Circus, here performing the music of Colin Riley. Although this blend of instrumental music combines all forms of jazz, avant garde and electronica, the one constant on Skin And Wire is Bruford’s drumming, which has rarely sounded better. For the 2009 release of the nine track Skin And Wire, Bill scopes out some pretty interesting musical terrain that will no doubt appeal to listeners who enjoyed his now famous recordings with King Crimson and Pat Moraz as well as those more open minded Yes fans who remember the glory days of Close To The Edge. Formed in the late ‘80s and synchronizing at least four pianos combining for a veritable ivory onslaught, Piano Circus performing the music of Colin Riley—who is also given engineering, programming and sequencing credits here—is a splendid foil for Bruford’s fiery, innovative drumming skills. Also featured on the CD on bass guitar is Julian Crampton. Clearly with this latest outing, Bruford watchers will continue to be amazed by the man’s insatiable appetite for daring drumming venues!


AUDIO FIDELITY - Audio Fidelity Records are going to make audio tweaks very happy with a gold CD of their latest audiophile release from ‘60s pop / rock innovators The Doors. Released in 1970, the doubly titled Morrison Hotel / Hard Rock Cafe was always considered (possibly) the best album from the Doors, if you have to pick one. Elektra Records released an amazing 20+ track, remixed version from 2007. The AF gold CD picks 2 bonus tracks from that remixed CD, but makes up for any quantity comparison with their amazing stereo mix of what appears to be the original album master. Sound wise, Audio Fidelity’s gold disc release all but blows away any previous version, going back to Elektra's first 1986 CD releases that were scandalously replaced afterwards. So in addition to Elektra’s 2007 remasters, Audio Fidelity is still the best way the hear the original version of this Doors classic. Fans looking to complete their Doors collection might also want to look in to AF’s gold CD of The Soft Parade, also released during the summer of 2009. But why stop there because AF has also released an attractive gold disc remaster of Heart Like A Wheel by country pop singer Linda Ronstadt. Wow, it’s 35 years later and that album just continues to kick ass sales wise. Decked out in the original packaging as the original Capitol album, Heart Like A Wheel really represents just what made Ronstadt so incredibly popular. With legendary players like guitarist Andrew Gold, producer and Brit-pop singing legend Peter Asher at the helm and a load of indelible pop standards (“You’re No Good,” “When Will I Be Loved”) Heart Like A Wheel is a memorable momento from the height of the golden era of L.A. rock and roll circa 1974. As always on Audio Fidelity gold CDs, credit has to go to famous studio engineer Steve Hoffman, who continues to do a great job in the spirit of audiophile gold CD sound.

- When she went solo, Cass Elliot was compared to Bette Midler and Liza Minnelli. Coming out of the ‘60s pop superstardom she enjoyed with the Mamas And The Papas, Cass was truly in her element at the time she recorded her two RCA Records albums in 1972. The self-titled Cass Elliot came first with The Road Is No Place For A Lady released later in 1972. Both albums are now available during the summer of 2009 through Collector’s Choice as a 23 track single disc CD complete with a few bonus tracks. Like usual Collector’s Choice does a great job on their reissue, including 2009 liner notes from daughter Owen Elliot-Kugell and musicologist Richard Campbell. Much more singer-songwriter flavored than her earlier career singing the pop classics of John Phillips in the Mamas And The Papas, there’s still plenty of excellent Cass vibes abounding on these classic remasters. Especially interesting is the music on The Road Is No Place For A Lady, recorded at Trident studios in England with the finest U.K. arrangers such as Del Newman and top session cats like guitarist Chris Spedding. While recording in England, Cass got to record her own fresh cover of the Hurricane Smith pop standard, “Oh Babe What Would You Say.” There’s an abundance of great music, great players and great recordings on both albums of this Cass Elliot CD remaster. Although Cass would only get to record one more RCA album before she passed away at the end of July 1974, her music lives on through the decades and hasn’t aged a bit. /

- One of the best DVD’s ever featuring the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Presley, the 2009 release of Love Me Tender - The Love Songs Of Elvis remembers Elvis Presley the romantic. Featuring narration by Ashley Judd, the 80 minute DVD features 22 video clips of classic Elvis love song tracks—some original, some non-performance and tailor made—each loaded with vintage historic B&W and color film footage of the greatest American rock and roll singer. This is more than just a video collection, with Ms. Judd’s narration and story line succinctly connecting the tracks to it’s special history. Key elements include videos from classic Elvis movies, TV shows clips (including his famous duet with Frank Sinatra), videos from the King's famous ‘68 special and his Aloha special. Interesting how this DVD shows the tender, romantic side of the King that endeared him so to his fans, especially his female fans. In addition to the video clips, the DVD also features 30 minutes of bonus features, interviews and never-before seen footage. There’s also a companion CD, sold separatedly, compiling twelve songs featured in the DVD including classics like “It’s Now Or Never” and of course the title track, “Love Me Tender”. If you can’t make it down to Graceland to pick up your copy in the gift shop you can always stop my the DVD’s web site.

FANTASY RECORDS - Back in the early ‘70s the release of a new album from Creedence Clearwater Revival was a cause for celebration, or at least worth a trip down to Sam Goody! I can still remember being scared shitless as a young 14 year old kid listening to “Born On A Bayou” back in early ‘69. Another cool thing about each new Creedence album was that there was sometimes a wild cover featured in the band's repertoire. In fact, Creedence first established themselves on American AM radio with their 1968 cover of the Screaming Jay Hawkins penned “I Put A Spell On You,” featured on their first Fantasy album. Like all of the twelve tracks on the band’s 2009 covers compilation, Creedence Covers The Classics, Creedence would make these songs their own, further establishing the group’s connection classic American music history. To their credit, Fantasy Records has done a fine job assembling and compiling all the Creedence cover tracks from most of their album releases. Complete with track by track history of the recordings here, Creedence Covers The Classics puts a new spin on vintage music from a classic band.

/ MVD VISUAL - Following the Beatles and Stones, simply put, The Yardbirds were the third coolest band during the heyday of the first British invasion circa 1965. Didn’t really matter that Eric Clapton played on “For Your Love” or Jeff Beck played on “Shapes Of Things.” All that mattered back then was the band and their new song
guitar stars came later with Clapton and Hendrix. Song for song, the Yardbirds had fantastic hit after hit during the swinging '60s and despite the huge egos of Clapton, Page and Beck, the band soldiered on until they literally morphed into Led Zeppelin and Renaissance. A most fitting way this band with the ultimate split personality should turn out. I was living in L.A. in 1975 and deeply saddened when I heard the news that Yardbirds singer Keith Relf was found dead. As the song goes...still I'm sad. Years after their mid to later ‘60s zenith, The Yardbirds are remembered on a fantastic documentary DVD—mostly filmed in 1992 and repackaged and reissued in 2008—that expertly encapsulates the group’s brief yet highly influential existence within the context of their 5 decade long legacy. A DVD available Stateside, The Story Of The Yardbirds: The Documentary features incredible interviews with all the membersincluding Slowhand, Beck and Pagealong with rare live b&w footage from the U.S., England and Germany, where for that memorable time, the band ruled the pop charts. In addition to the great Yardbirds 'rave up' live video clips of the band in concert and assorted significant memories is some way cool interview footage with late great rock impresarios including first Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky, Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and late period Yardbirds producer Mickie Most.

- Upstate New York based Magna Carta has found ample outlets for it’s back catalog of mostly instrumental and progressive rock releases in the form of their Prime Cuts series of releases. Steve Morse is well annotated on his second Prime Cuts CD, Prime Cuts Volume 2: From Steve Morse’s Magna Carta Sessions. Fans of Steve’s great work with The Dregs won’t want to miss this. It’s only ten tracks long but it goes a long way, taking in a number of tracks from various albums Morse recorded for Magna Carta including his famous two Major Impacts releases where he covers his heroes instrumentally such as Steve Howe (a faithful cover the Fragile classic “Mood For A Day”) and Jeff Beck (a fantastic inspiration on Beck’s, guitar work called “Truthola”) among many others. The Morse group’s musicianship turns on a time, like clockwork taking in key appearance from long time Morse men Van Romanine (drums), Dave LaRue (bass) along with Jordan Rudess (keys), John Patitucci (bass) and more. The instrumental CD closes out with the the CD’s lone vocal, “Red Barchetta” from the Magna Carta album Working Man (Tribute To Rush). Hats off to Magna Carta execs Peter Morticelli and Mike Varney for this tasteful Steve Morse set.

- The mid ‘80s saw the advent of the compact disc and the myriad of new musical styles that instantly took advantage of all the dynamic it could offer. One of Seymour Stein’s better signings back during his then early Madonna era at Sire Records was the group Book Of Love. Consisting of Susan Ottaviano, Jade Lee, Lauren Roselli and producer / songwriter Ted Ottaviano, Book Of Love recorded four killer synth pop albums for Sire, all of which were reissued during the fall of 2009 by Noble Rot Records. The band’s catchy synth pop sound is well represented on these four excellent reissues including their debut CD Book Of Love (1986 12 tracks + a second CD with 11 bonus cuts), Lullaby (1988 + 5 bonus cuts), their best album Candy Carol (1991 + 4 bonus cuts) and their last gasp as a band, Lovebubble (1993 + 4 bonus cuts). A best of in 2001 brought the group together for some live dates and as Michael Paoletta points out in his February 2009 liner notes for each of these Noble Rot CD reissues, Book Of Love may again be on the verge of another comeback in the coming months.

PAST & PRESENT - Over in England, the top reissue label Past & Present continues plumbing the vaults for a number of strange and beautiful CD compilations of pop/rock and instrumental music. Released in December 2009 is Piccadilly Sunshine Part Two: British Pop Psych And Other Flavours 1966-1971. The heyday of 20th century music, ‘66 to ‘71 were crucial years in British pop and rock, often rememberd with the Beatles and Stones dominating the pop charts. For their 20 track, second Piccadilly Sunshine compilation, Past & Present comes up with 20 different yet interesting unknown flower power flavored tracks that, all together, have been lovingly restored complete with a comprehensive CD booklet filled with detailed liners. Clearly, with so much amazing pop music coming out of England then, Piccadilly Sunshine offers yet another sampling of (mostly unheard of in the U.S.) classic ‘60s U.K. pop. Still mining the vaults for cool ‘60s instrumental singles, Past & Present strikes instro gold with the 2009 CD reissue compilation entitled Get Smarter: ‘60s Instrumental Grooves From Around The Globe!!!! Again, this compilation is mostly comprised of unknown artists clearly influenced by ‘60s soundtracks as well as artists such as U.K.'s John Barry and America's Booker T. & The MG’s. Described in the liners as 18 tracks of freaky go-go-phased Hammond wig-outs, groovy party rave-ups, trippy psych weirdness and laid back lounge influenced funky pop jazz, Get Smarter is one cool retro instro experience. Again, Past & Presents packs their set with detailed liner notes on each band here.

RAVEN RECORDS - The coolest reissue label in Australia, Raven continues finding unique ways to pair original masters with rare music. Case in point is Raven’s 2009 double CD set from Spirit entitled Live From The Time Coast: The Best Of 1968-1977. With disc one focusing on key tracks from the original Spirit’s late ‘60s Ode and Epic Records years, disc two comes off as the more revealing, kicking off with rare cuts from lesser known Spirit albums like 1972’s Feedback and a range of music composed by Randy California for various albums including his famous Kapt. Kopter as well and a sampling from Spirit’s four albums on Mercury Records from the later ‘70s. Raven’s 44 track Spirit best of features picture packed liner notes from Raven’s Ian McFarlane. Also from Raven in 2009 is a two on one reissue from country rock vocalist Linda Ronstadt. For this‘09 reissue Raven joins together two early Rondstadt efforts—Hand Sown...Home Grown (1969) and Silk Purse (1970). Twenty one tracks from the two combined albums feature Ronstadt covering the best songwriters of that classic first rock era including Dylan, Randy Newman, Fred Neil, Gene Clark and Bernie Leadon all the while backed by stellar sessioneers like steel guitarists Red Rhodes and Weldon Myrick, guitarists Clarence White and Pete Wade and many more. Of course, a clear highlight from Silk Purse, and a song played everywhere on FM radio in 1970, is Ronstadt’s popular classic “Long Long Time,” her first solo hit single, written by one Gary White. The CD closes out with a rare, previously unreleased on CD, bonus cut of Ronstadt singing “(She’s A) Very Lovely Woman,” penned by pop icon Emitt Rhodes. Raven’s Ronstadt CD is tastefully packaged with original art, rare pics and detailed liners. Also available from Raven is a CD featuring Ronstadt’s early band The Stone Poneys.

- Of all those wild and crazy Blaxploitation films from the 1970’s, Shaft was the biggest. The movie's main song, “Theme From Shaft” was a killer hit song boiling over with crazy wah-wah soaked guitars. Of course, the song made R&B kingpin Isaac Hayes a household name upon it’s release in September 1971. I can’t believe Hayes died on August 10, 2008 but he leaves behind an amazing legacy of deeply hued, soul-drenched R&B vocal and jazzy instrumental albums and movie soundtracks. Case in point, and a great way to relive the Hayes phenomenon, is on the 2009 CD reissue of the Shaft soundtrack. “Theme From Shaft” was a huge worldwide hit and, coupled with the accompanying soundtrack, the Shaft story reigned on the pop singles and album charts for 60+ weeks. The 2009 Stax reissue of the Shaft soundtrack is a collector’s dream come true. Although the CD kicks off with the famous Hayes single smash of “Theme From Shaft,” the Shaft soundtrack CD is also filled with a range of great instrumental music from the film, penned by Hayes. Also produced and arranged by Hayes, the Shaft soundtrack features Hayes backed up by top R&B and soul musicians like guitarists Michael Toles and Charles Pitts. Hayes, of course handles all the vocals and keyboards. A lot of this soundtrack is really a forerunner of much of the disco, smooth jazz and funk that would emerge later in the ‘70s. Filling up an entire album side of the original album, “Do Your Thing,” is a stunning nineteen + minutes suite and mixes Hayes on vocals with some staccato horns and funky guitar jams. Track eight, the instrumental “Be Yourself,” is great rediscovery that could have been a huge vocal had Hayes added words. Commenting on the Shaft back in 1972, Hayes said, ‘The one thing I’ve learned from Shaft is that pop music doesn’t set any restrictions anymore. You don’t just have to go up there and sing a song because that’s the way it was always done before. Use whatever means necessary, be it rap, song or arrangement, to get to the people.’ The 2009 Stax CD reissue of Shaft features an extensive booklet filled with key photos, loads of history with new liner notes by Ashley Kahn. There’s even a 2009 “Theme From Shaft” (2009 Mix) that closes out the CD. Way to go Isaac. Shaft, right on.

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in MWE3.COM
Send to CD Reviews MWE3, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249 e-mail:





CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home


Copyright 1999-2009, Inc.
All Rights Reserved