Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









- Since the dawn of the CD in 1984, tribute albums have turned into a cottage industry, often with positive results—case in point being a 2010 double CD tribute to the great Neil Young entitled Cinnamon Girl: Woman Artists Cover Neil Young For Charity. Producer Joseph H. Spadaro has done a splendid job putting together this amazing undertaking. The liner notes are truly touching and without getting into the details, women are the key to Young’s great early sound and on this 26 track CD there are an equal amount of ladies to put a timeless spin on Young’s best music. Best of course is the early stuff from 1969 and ‘70, ‘ get the picture. Artists taking part include Tanya Donelly, Kristin Hersh, Cindy Wheeler, The Watson Twins and many more. Just about all the tracks renewed here are delivered with verve and are quite superbly recorded and produced, with such a wide mix of singers making good on the promise of Young’s indelible songs. Loud, soft and everything in between, just like Young and his muse, Cinnamon Girl moves from folk-rock to rock and back again and is always tasty and fresh.

ASTRALWERKS - Pop icon Bryan Ferry reconvenes key bandmates from the Roxy Music days including Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay for his 2010 CD Olympia. Released by NYC based Astralwerks here in the U.S., the ten track CD makes for a veritable who’s who of musicians’ musicians and Ferry’s music is still quite evocative, especially when backed up by such a stellar crew of players. Production from long time Roxy studio man Rhett Davies takes you back to the heyday of the ‘70s, retrofitted with a glossy 21st century afterglow. A definite highlight here is Ferry’s cover of the 1967 Traffic classic “No Face, No Name, No Number”, which, as per the sonically charged ambiance, is strategically revamped for the now generation.

BALINCE MUSIC - One of the "voices" of the ‘60s hippie generation, Marty Balin—co-founder of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship fame—retraces his rock roots for a truly amazing 2010 album called Blue Highway. Balin’s Blue Highway is anything but blue and on the fourteen cut CD, Marty delivers on an album that sounds like a logical rock extension of his more upbeat, less psychedelic Starship years in the late ‘70s, although there’s absolutely nothing here for diehard Airplane fans to sneer at. Throughout Blue Highway, Marty is backed by studio greats, including rock guitar icon Mark “Slick” Aguilar, percussionist Joe Lala and well over a dozen more top players. In other words, Blue Highway isn’t some laid back acoustic type set. Instead, the CD is really rockin’, even near discoid in places, and combines for a solid cross between smooth fusion and classic Top 40 rock style tracks that also echoes the innovations Balin brought to the world of FM rock back in the late ‘60s. In fact, Balin sounds more energized and rocked out here than guys half his age. I can see Marty Balin’s Blue Highway crossing over generations of rock fans still in search of the perfect song.

CLUTTER FAMILY - You know you're getting old when you can’t even read the text at the bottom of CD artwork. But L.A. based Clutter Family gets in on the headlines with their self-titled CD, also entitled The Clutter Family. Whether or not pointing fun at the trials and tribulations of living in 21st century America, this family always keeps their rock cool. Sometimes, as in the case of Sarah Palin, Clutter Family verbally spray paints the famous Alaskan with the sharp tongued “She’s A Moose Killing Cunt”. Backed by a tight rhythm section, guitarists / songwriters Jim Earl and Chris Hobbs mix socially satirical humor and a neo country rock sound to great avail so you can follow the bouncing ball while trying to make out the pointedly sarcastic lyrics that aren’t afraid to kick the squirm factor up to 10.

FORTUNA POP - Sounding influenced by the late ‘60s / early ‘70s ABBA genre, English pop group The Pipettes strike dance pop gold with a twelve track, 2010 album entitled Earth Vs. The Pipettes. The sound is very Phil Spector meets Bananarama in a disco kind of space way. The two gals fronting the six piece band are really special and exude a splendid musical chemistry. Interestingly, this CD says it was produced by English pop producer Martin Rushent, who worked in his heyday as engineer for Fleetwood Mac on their best albums from the early '70s. Other tracks here combine influences from Motown, Philly Soul as well as Rushent’s other productions for Buzzcocks, The Stranglers and The Human League. /

FREE HAM RECORDS - The sound of jazz is alive and well on the 2010 CD from singer Charmaine Clamor, entitled Something Good. A Filipino-American jazz singer, who specializes in what she calls “jazzipino”, Ms. Clamor combines jazz, World Beat, blues and funk with pop and the results offer a stylish CD filled with tracks that groove and swing. “Doodlin’ In Taglish” touches on her country’s native Tagalog language and other highlights include a tribute to Stevie Wonder called “Feelin’ Stevie", written by Free Ham label head Michael Konik, and there’s even a group of three tracks here called “Mother Nature Suite” that puts into song the strong feelings Charmaine has about preserving the ecology of the planet. Even the CD tray of the attractive digi-pak packaging is made out of some type of potato based material so the whole thing is one hundred percent recyclable. A pick to click among fans of the finest jazz vocalists, Ms. Clamor gets excellent support from a range of players and songwriters including guitarists Richard Ickard and drummer Abe Lagrimas. /

PINK HEDGEHOG - Thank God the English have kept their sense of humor considering everything that’s happened in the past ten years. Who else would name a record label Pink Hedgehog anyway? Case in point is English music impresario Simon Felton, who continues to release excellent pop and rock, mostly under the radar, luckily catching the ear of certain discerning listeners. High on the list of classic pop releases from PH is the self-titled CD debut from The Inexperienced. Simply titled The Inexperienced, the CD sounds inspired by the pop side of early Traffic combined with the production techniques of the post Art Of Noise era madness that changed U.K. music forever, some say for the better, I can’t say. Anyway, The Inexperienced features the music arrangements and production from Alex Meadows, who is joined by a fine band and a host of revolving vocalists. The ‘60s feel is enhanced by some fine modern production techniques. Also available from Pink Hedgehog in 2010 is Don’t Sleep from the band Eye. Get it? As in Eye - Don’t Sleep? Pop pundits who know about such things are comparing Eye, fronted by songwriter Rick Hammond, to other current bands like Radiohead and Elbow, so there you go, check it out. Simon Felton himself may be the genius behind the Pink Hedgehog label but he’s also one of the recording artists on the roster. Displaying his keen skills as a lead singer, bass player and keyboardist, Simon keeps his musical direction right side up on the new CD entitled More Sense Than Money from his band Garfield’s Birthday—the group he formed brother Shane Felton (guitars, keyboards, vocals). Here the brothers are joined by guitarist Leighton McGrath and drummer Adrian Payne. On a CD that follows up the 2008 CD release of Let Them Eat Cake, this 2010, twelve cut release of all original compositions underscores the Felton brother’s collective affinity for ‘60s influenced power pop icons like XTC, Big Star and Teenage Fanclub. In their own way, Garfield’s Birthday and the other Pink Hedgehogs are shining a light on some quite appealing pop releases that follows English pop traditions, yet sounds fresh and exhilarating.

- The influence and life and legacy of Jimi Hendrix continues to grow, now 40 years after his mortal coil expired. A five disc box set called West Coast Seattle Boy and a slew of upgraded remasters will no doubt continue to unveil Jimi’s majesty as a guitarist and singer-songwriter to new generations of music fans as time goes by. Complimenting the 2010 release of Standing Next To A Mountain from guitarist Steinar Gregertsen, late in 2010, yet another Scandinavian guitarist, a gifted Swede called Slowman (real name: Svante Törngren) has assembled yet another Jimi tribute called Hey Jimi - Slowman & Friends Play Hendrix. Featuring the excellent musicianship of some fine players Slowman & Co. burn their way through fresh versions of ten of Jimi’s best tracks—and a lead off original tribute called “Electric Angel”—that should find a home with true believers and young kids looking to keep the rockin’ Hendrix sound alive. With its one, two Hendrix punch, Hey Jimi is a winner start to finish.

VAGRANT RECORDS - Based out in beautiful Santa Monica, Vagrant Records is offering some amazing releases in 2010, topped off the latest CD from School Of Seven Bells entitled Disconnect From Desire. Featuring the heavenly vocals of sisters / singers Alejandra Deheza and Claudia Deheza backed by guitarist / producer Benjamin Curtis, the wall of harmony vocals evokes ‘80s groups like Book Of Love and Humpe Humpe (also a sisters singing band), ‘90s groups like Stereolab and others. Even so, the School Of Seven Bells sound is really up date and quite experimental and different sounding while the wall of female vocals really shines with the sparkling production and sonic guitars of Curtis. The CD is creatively packaged and comes with a complete lyrics sheet. Also out on Vagrant in 2010 is PY from singer-songwriter / guitarist Pete Yorn. Yorn’s fifth solo album and Vagrant debut, PY moves away from the Baroque rock leanings of earlier efforts in favor of a more rock ‘n’ roll based sound. Finding Yorn supported by a solid group, PY is free from overdubs and pop hooks while the raucous production from Black Francis (a/k/a Frank Black) kicks up some serious rock dust.


ARK MUSIC - Wow, I can’t believe it’s Christmas already. Another year has come and passed and to help ring in the holidays what better way than to spin the 2010 CD from Washington state keyboardist Jeff Johnson. Backed up by Brian Dunning (flute, whistles, accordion) and Wendy Goodwin (violin), Johnson’s gift to the spirit of the holidays is called Under A Wonder Sky. Honoring the spirit of Christmas and the changing of the year, Johnson’s recent CD is both meditative and inspirational. Much like his work with guitarist Phil Keaggy on the 2008 release of Frio Suite—which actually started out with the two musicians sending tracks back and forth over the internet—Johnson is masterful at merging his fondness for inspirational music within the context of New Age and neoclassical, with the accent here being on the spirituality marking the descent into winter, that often recalls the sacred covenents of death and rebirth. Recording nine Christmas carols with two originals at his studio, also called The Ark, Johnson is in rare form throughout the engaging instrumental set and, guest spots from Tim Ellis (guitar), Phil Baker (bass) and Mike Snyder, helps make Under A Wonder Sky what’s certain to become a seasonal spiritual CD favorite for years to come.

AUDIO CHOCOLATE - Here’s one I couldn’t figure out if it was going to go under instrumental or rock as there’s an impressive cross-section of both on the 2010 CD from guitarist Paul Tauterouff called Audio Chocolate. From full blown fusion in the spirit of Vai and Satriani through to tributes to hard rock and Southern rock, Tauterouff covers a lot of ground, performing most of the guitars, keyboards and vocals with the solid backing from drummer Phil DiRienzo and a bunch of guest players including vocalist Johnny Ryan and former SYN guitarist Shane Theriot. Whether you dig hard rock or atmospheric New Age instrumental rock, Audio Chocolate makes for an interesting ear meal.

DAYWOOD DRIVE RECORDS - Based out on Long Island, NY., Daywood Drive Records strikes jazz guitar gold with the 2010 CD release from Brazilian guitarist Sandro Albert. Albert has a string of fine releases to his credit including his 2005 CD, The Color Of Things, which featured guest artists like Airto and Robben Ford. On the 2010 CD release of Vertical Albert joins forces with fine players, including Rodrigo Ursaia (flute), Michael O’Brien (bass) and Richie Barshay (drums), on an album that can be described as a kind of timeless chamber jazz that sounds like it could have been recorded in the early mid ‘60s. The mood is quite relaxed and, far removed from the rough and tumble jazz-rock world, the sound is at once unique and musically exhilarating. Commenting on the release Albert adds, ‘When I wrote Vertical, it was originally intended to be a solo guitar record. Then as I listened, I heard that I could put a different instrument on top, like flute, which we did end up doing.’ The guitarist also claims, ‘A lot of Vertical is thinking of the guitar as an orchestra. I can envision a string quartet on my guitar. It’s almost like a chamber ensemble.’ The end result is a kind of buoyant Brazilian flavored jazz that blends in flavors from Albert’s influences like fellow guitarist, the late Jimmy Wyble, Brazilian music icon Hector Villa Lobos as well as jazz guitar icon George Van Epps. Breezy instrumental jazz, played by a Brazilian guitarist, who was based in L.A. and now resides in NYC, Vertical is the finest album yet from Sandro Albert, who continues to stake a claim for musical originality in the 21st century.

DECCA RECORDS - Back in the 1980’s, Japan's rock legend Ryuichi Sakamoto was a king of the international avant gard rock world—at his peak releasing several fascinating instrumental / rock albums on Sony and Virgin in the late '80s. Over time Sakamoto has maintained his unique status as one of Japan’s greatest musical architects of the 20th century and he serves his legacy well with his 2010 double CD entitled Playing The Piano / Out Of Noise. Always a meticulous sound craftsman whether playing rock, electronic, soundtracks or avant gard / neoclassical instrumental, Sakamoto sounds right at home on this double album classic on Decca. Combining atmospheric neoclassical solo piano-esque music with a more avant gard eclectic approach, Sakamoto strikes a unique chord for the state of the art of 21st century music. The first CD here, Playing The Piano is essentially a self-covers album with Sakamoto performing solo piano versions of his famous movie themes and more while disc two is rightly heralded as being among Sakamoto’s most ambitious albums to date. Very soundtrack oriented in places, Out Of Noise features several other musicians and incorporates sounds Sakamoto recorded in Greenland with the Cape Farewell Project, as part of their cultural response to climate change. Ryo even recorded under the surface of the waters of the Arctic Sea and on the surface of glacial ice while always maintaining an eco-friendly approach to energy saving recording techniques. On Out Of Noise, several like minded avant gard musicians—including guitarists Christian Fennesz and Cornelius—assist Sakamoto in his unique way of combining New Age piano soundtracks, avant-garde, electronica, chill-out music and more. Whatever you want to call his music, Playing The Piano / Out Of Noise combines for a unique listening experience, and is classic Sakamoto.

ELDANKA - Finland is such an amazing country filled with some of the most illuminating musical intelligence on planet Earth. Although the Finns are at home with classical geniuses like Sibelius and the scintillating, pioneering jazz-rock sounds of the late great music maestro Pekka Pohjola, they’ve also reembraced the genre known as surf-rock over the last fifteen years. The sounds of great bands have come and gone and come again in the land of the midnight sun, as in the case of Eldanka, who strike a blow for surf-rock greatness on the 2010 CD release of Twangin’ Tritones. On the 12 track CD, guitarist Mika Jämsä is joined by his astute band mates on an album that crosses over from traditional surf-rock ala the Ventures and Shadows, to a post modern Scandinavian style instro surf rock sound made famous by countless great Swedish and Finnish bands like the great Swedish band 1961 and, in more recent times Laika And The Cosmonauts, featuring the brilliant drummer Janne Haavisto, brother of Finland’s great steel guitarist Olli Haavisto. Of course the sound of Eldanka is pure guitar instrumental rock and throughout the CD, Mika coaxes some fantastic tones out of his guitars—to say nothing about the excellent, rockin’ original tracks he’s composed for his band’s Twangin’ Tritones CD. Close your eyes’s 1961 all over again. And not a second too soon. Surf’s up.

ELEPHANT SYMPHONY RECORDS - Okay, I might not be up on the latest heavy metal instrumental bands and hard rock guitarists but I know good guitar when I hear it. Dave Celentano is one of those hard rock instrumental guitarists that just seems to dazzle listeners with an amazing sound, technique and musical vision. Clearly a great guitarist, Celentano has chosen the instro hard rock (a/k/a heavy metal) sound to encase his amazing approach. Celentano makes me think of a cross between hard rock guitarists Marty Friedman and Yngwie but with the chops of Andres Segovia! Case in point is Dave’s 2008 CD Wicked Musical Box, which simply smokes with heavy rock and intriguing musical atmospherics. In addition to his CDs, Celentano is also established as a guitar instructor and guitarists can pick up on his recorded music and thirty instructional books and DVDs at his web sites. On Wicked Musical Box, Celentano gets able support from a range of hard rockers and the same pretty much can be said about his other CD from 2004, entitled Guitar Stew. /

EPIC RECORDS - Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 23 years since the 1987 release of Surfing With The Alien, and marking that time, Joe Satriani returns in 2010 with his 14th studio album Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards. With the Black Swans part of the title brought to bear by the passing of his mom in 2009, Joe puts his emotions into context on the track “Littleworth Lane”, named after the street his mom lived on out in Sea Cliff, Long Island adding, ‘So I wanted to pay tribute to her by writing the kind of song that she would really like, one that summed up her spirit.’ Having truly come into his own over the past decade, Satch is a modern day guitar wizard when it comes to bringing mood and melody together in the composite of instrumental rock. Most of the tracks here wear their emotions out on their sleeve, with Joe’s majestic melodies triumphing over the brutal savagery of the driving hard rock instrumental beat. Before appearing on the Experience Hendrix Tour, Joe really put a great deal of work into this finishing this amazing instrumental rock classic, and all that hard work and depth defying talent comes out in the musical telepathy of the musicians here, featuring Satch backed up by top players like long time drummer Jeff Campitelli, bass player Allen Whitman of The Mermen and guitarist turned keyboardist Mike Keneally.

HRANT BEDOYAN - His name may be a little hard to pronounce but there’s no denying the ease with which he gets his music across. Armenian / Canadian guitarist Hrant Bedoyan finds a unique groove and musical niche on his 2010 CD Unleashed. In fact, I heard Hrant's record the same day I wrote the review of the 2010 Joe Satriani album Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards. What these two albums have in common, beside their obvious skill within the realm of instrumental rock fusion, is the high quality of music both Bedoyan and Satch are capable of. While Satch chose to use Mike Keneally on keyboards, Bedoyan makes a statement all his own by choosing keyboard genius Derek Sherinian to play on Unleashed. As usual, Sherinian sounds like a proto fusion version of Rick Wakeman and Bedoyan and Sherinian combine for a rare musical chemistry here. With Bedoyan writing, arranging and producing, while also performing all guitars, bass and some wild percussion arrangements, fusioneers and New Age jazz rockers will want to check out the futuristic fusion artistry in play on Unleashed.

HARP GUITAR MUSIC - Now that the baby boomers are aging onwards, it’s a good time to reflect back on some of the great songs that shaped our various childhoods. A fitting place to start is with a 2010 release from the pioneering Harp Guitar Music label, started up by guitar guru Gregg Miner. Miner and his label strike harp guitar gold with the 2010 CD from guitar icon Stephen Bennett, appropriately entitled In-A-Gadda-Da-Stephen. A mix of late ‘60s classics from the dawn of the golden era of ‘60s classic rock, the 15 cut In-A-Gadda-Da-Stephen might be missing the classic Iron Butterfly track for which it’s named but there's plenty more here including solo instrumental acoustic harp guitar covers of classics made famous by The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harum, Jethro Tull, YES, King Crimson, Rolling Stones, Cream and more. Such is Bennett’s authentic command of the acoustic harp guitar that he sounds like a virtual one man guitar army, filling in the melody and rhythm with some propulsive percussive backing—all played simultaneously on his famous acoustic harp guitar. As great as the music here sounds, one must also applaud Miner and his label for packaging the CD quite appealingly in a nostalgic ‘60s style, adding in track by track liner notes and psychedelic poster.

INNER KNOT - A group long associated with progressive rock icon Robert Fripp, California Guitar Trio have been making music fans happy since they stepped on to the worldwide stage back in 1991. The world famous guitar trio includes core members Hideyo Moriya, Bert Lams and Paul Richards and together the three guitarists return in style for the 2010 CD release of Andromeda. Commenting on the eleven cut CD, Bert Lams claims, ‘Andromeda represents a culmination of all our work together in the past 20 years. We have released numerous CDs over the years, but there’s none like this one.’ Combining all original material—both structured and spontaneous improvisations—Andromeda comes across as the ultimate in progressive, acoustic instrumental guitar music and, with its progressive stance, the new CD also has a definite Fripp/King Crimson type of vibe. In addition to the core trio, Andromeda also features guest spots from various players long and currently associated with American progressive music including Tony Levin as well as relative newcomers Julie Slick and Eric Slick. Interestingly, Andromeda combines the patented CGT acoustic guitar sound along with some heavier electric guitar touches with Paul Richards adding, ‘With each recording, we have been striving to achieve the best of acoustic analog recording techniques blended with the use of electronic guitar effects and digital processing. With Andromeda, we have achieved a new level of the acoustic/electric blend.’ Recorded in Oregon and Kentucky, Andromeda takes the California Guitar Trio sound to new a level of sonic perfection.

INNOVA - Chinese music is thousands of years old. One of the true virtuosos of the World Music scene, Gao Hong celebrates the art of the Chinese pipa, or pear-shaped lute, and brings the sound of Chinese music to the fore with the 2010 release of her new CD, Quiet Forest, Flowing Stream, released on the Minnesota based Innova Recordings label. Ms. Hong’s first album devoted to her own compositions, Quiet Forest, Flowing Stream is filled with meditative serene soundscapes and serves as an audio visit to the Far East. With the pipa as the main instrument, the all instrumental album also blends in the sound of Indian music—a duet between Ms. Hong and Shubhendra Rao—with the CD also featuring several other artists who add in various colors from the sounds of various eastern and western instruments. That much of the music was inspired by Gao Hong’s daughter undergoing a successful treatment for leukemia, only adds to the suspense and sense of emotional relief the music on this recording evokes.

- The Finns never fail to amaze musically. Back in the ‘70s I was a big fan of Finnish guitarist Pekka Tegelman, who with his brother drummer Jussi Tegelman, were key members of the instrumental rock fusion band Finnforest. After three albums, the group broke up at the dawn of the ‘80s and now in 2010, Pekka Tegelman is back with a new CD called Bound, by his group Pekka Tegelman & Kulumo. The sound is instrumental but the accent is on a more seasoned, improvisational fusion sound with Tegelman’s guitar often overtaken by wild excursions from Antero Priha on trumpet. There’s a definite funky jazz fusion sound on the line with Tegelman occasionally ripping a few sinister licks on guitar while also getting solid support from the rhythm section of Tomi Parkkonen (drums) and Tero Siitonen (double bass).

- Fantastic instrumental hard rock and neoprog metal sounds from Colorado, 19 A.D.D. introduce their group with the finely wrought sound of Dead River. Sure, this is quite heavy throughout and more heavily reliant on style as opposed to sheer content, yet the sound is overwhelming and played and recorded with much style and panache. Guitarist Jared Emory gets fine support from Matt Blanks (bass) and Eric Pereira (drums). Besides, this works so well in part because it’s so well recorded while the impressive CD packaging and huge oversize poster goes the distance to create an indelible image for this rising power in the instrumental prog-metal world. /

- Any sane music therapist will tell you, when you need to slow down and lower the pressures, you should listen to music, but the right kind of music. Music to slow down depression and melt into, the 2010 CD release of Nature & Design is a good introduction to the music of electronic musician Mark Preston. Sort of upbeat soundtrack music that veers into an airy infectious sort of musical network of sounds, the eleven cut Nature & Design works both as a New Age style soundtrack as well as musical therapy to help you put on your innermost smiley face. Originally a drummer turned into musical software programmer, Preston makes quite a big sound with a laptop, software and a small keyboard. A couple of players assist, including guitarist Josh Sturgeon, but primarily, the CD is Preston’s synthesized keyboard wizardry center stage.

- The stick is a funny, funky instrument. Kissin’ cousin to the guitar—discovered and put “out there” by innovator Emmet Chapman—the “tap” guitar was made famous by notable stick experts like King Crimson's Tony Levin and another name that comes to mind is 20th Century Guitar mag writer Steve Adelson. With his new album you can now count Virginia based Rob Martino high on the list of up and coming stick advocates. Martino’s 2010 CD One Cloud is really just that. Solo, stick-based instrumentals that float on a dreamy cloud of guitar-centric sound. Is this New Age, jazz, meditation music or simply music that defies generic descriptions of all of the above? Pick up Martino’s superbly recorded One Cloud and draw your own conclusions.

- Illinois based guitarist Tom Salvatori is a master of recording New Age / neoclassical based guitar instrumental sounds and his album When Evening Falls actually won 2007 neoclassical album of the year from the New Age pundits at NAR. New Age based music aside, for the most part Salvatori’s music truly transcends musical borders and genre catch phrases and he delivers yet another masterpiece with the 2010 double CD release of Ever Ever On. For Ever Ever On, the guitarist teams once again with U.K. based pianist / composer Iris Litchfield and the full-on chamber string ensemble arrangements of cellist John Catchings. CD 1—entitled “These Little Pieces Went To Nashville—features the twelve Salvatori / Litchfield compositions backed up by the full string ensemble, while CD 2—entitled “These Little Pieces Stayed Home"—presents the same music on CD 1 but captured in their more minimal original solo performances. Perhaps Salvatori’s most ambitious project to date, Ever Ever On will have wide cross over appeal among classical music fans as well as those who are already familiar with Salvatori’s repertoire of blissful, meditative guitar music.

- An independent release from guitarist Charlie Hunter, the 2010 CD of Public Domain features eleven solo performances by Hunter. Much like the sparse CD cover art, this is quite a mysterious release from Hunter, who is better well known for his jazzy, funky and neo-fusion instrumental albums. Public Domain is still instrumental but the catch here is that the eleven classics here are actually “public domain” material. According to Hunter, ‘There is a law, that after a certain amount of time, every song becomes public domain and you don’t have to pay royalties. In the U.S. it’s 70 years. These are all popular songs from that era.’ In other words, Hunter’s jazzy, solo electric guitar tracks here are so old that your mother would know them all by heart. “Ain’t We Got Fun”, “Danny Boy”, “Meet Me In St. Louis” are each songs that were huge back in the pre-depression years. Songs for the new depression that is currently strangling the harrowing post-Bush II, 21st century America? Perhaps, but Hunter keeps the swing feel in the groove and you can relive the good, bad old days on a CD that once again brings Hunter front and center in the guitar world of 2010. Public Domain was recorded in Brooklyn NY. Brief liner notes from Hunter’s grandfather grace the stoic CD cover art, which also dedicates the album to classic guitar heroes Blind Blake, Joe Pass, Ted Greene and Tuck Andress.

- Back in the ‘90s I had the good fortune to get to know and sometimes speak with Spotted Peccary founder Howard Givens several times and he was a big supporter of my pre-internet mag Time & A Word Music News. I would marvel at the fantastic New Age instrumental CDs Howard and Spotted Peccary were releasing and I’m happy to say, Howard’s label is still at it, releasing amazing instrumental recordings on CD filled with meditative sonic delights—case in point being the 2010 CD release of The Crossing by David Helping and Jon Jenkins. Falling into the “Quiet Storm” division of instrumental New Age and electronic space music, The Crossing is a fantastic showcase displaying the musical gifts of electric guitarist Jenkins and keyboardist Helping, who combine forces for a magical cosmic foray into interstellar music space. /

- Over in France, the Ultimae label released Interloper from the Swedish band Carbon Based Lifeforms. The net result is a highly atmospheric instrumental blend of progressive electronic New Age-y synth music. Featuring musicians Daniel Segerstad & Johannes Hedberg, the album also adds in cello and one cameo vocal from Karin My Andersson. All told, the synth keyboards are flavored by the guitar-centric blend of Hedberg making for some heady instrumental music listening. Also not enough can be said about the excellent sound of the music as well as the packaging which is something to behold with its multi-panel fold out art and superbly printed booklet filled with all forms of evocative photography.

- They may site groups like Pink Floyd and Radiohead as influences but with a number of releases to their credit, the band known as The American Dollar are much more in the instrumental New Age electronic realm on their 2010 CD Ambient Two. The NYC based duo of John Emanuele and Rich Cupolo combine electric guitars and electronics with wide ranging atmospherics on a CD that sounds heavily influenced by Brian Eno, Harold Budd and even German prog guitar axman Michael Rother. On the fourteen track Ambient Two, the American Dollar do a little remixing, putting a new spin on earlier recordings and and the net result is a sublime and highly listenable amalgamation of sonically pleasing soundtrack strategies covering a lot of ground that will have you coming back for more.


- Pop icons Tommy James & The Shondells burst onto the music scene during the summer of ‘66 with “Hanky Panky” and now 45 years later in late 2010, Tommy remains a pop culture mainstay and a true believer of the rock & roll world. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this classic career than with the double CD set 40 Years - The Complete Singles Collection (1966 - 2006). Tommy’s ‘60s tracks sound great here in these original mono mixes, while the 48 track double CD released in late 2008 follows the charts from “Hanky Panky” through till a pair of songs from the 2006 Tommy James & The Shondells' CD Hold The Fire. As indicated in the illuminating liner notes for the 40 Years set, Tommy was a big supporter of Hubert Humphrey back in 1968 and amazingly, (as also told in the 40 Years liner notes), Hubert actually contributed liner notes to Tommy’s '68 Crimson & Clover Lp. The early single mixes in mono, good packaging and CD booklet, plus a comprehensive “touching on” of all of Tommy’s albums up to and including 2006, make 40 Years a worthy investment for the informed ‘60s pop fan. Speaking of Hubert Humphrey, you can read all about that scene in depth and a whole lot more in Tommy’s biography book, the 2010 printing of Me, The Mob And The Music: One Helluva Ride With Tommy James And The Shondells. Written by Tommy James with Martin Fitzpatrick, the 225 book superbly encapsulates Tommy’s early life to the meteoric rise to the top of the pop charts in 1966 and proceeds to take a look at his life story over all of his heyday years. Even in 2010, Tommy James retains a special place in the history of pop culture and beyond. Clearly with this 2010 book biography, and the 40 Years double CD set, Tommy's story deserves some timely reappraisal.

CONCORD MUSIC GROUP - There’s a cool b&w picture in the booklet on The Definitive Dave Brubeck featuring Dave being introduced by Ronald Reagan to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Moscow Summit in 1988. That says a lot about Reagan as well as the ever inquisitive mind of the Russian president but in truth it says a whole lot more about how much piano genius Dave Brubeck influenced modern post war jazz throughout the entire world. Although he’s best known for his 1959 album on Columbia, Time Out, Brubeck recorded a lot of music early on his career, during the late 1940s and ‘50s for Fantasy Records. The 2010 double CD release of The Definitive Dave Brubeck, draws on some of that early music and is paired with a second CD that spans various Brubeck music recorded in the ‘80s up to 2004. Brubeck turns 90 on December 6th 2010 and this double CD overview is a fantastic way to re-experience Brubeck’s jazz genius. A version here of Brubeck’s most famous composition, “Take Five”—co-written with Paul Desmond for the Time Out album, and here recorded once again in 1987 in Moscow and featured on Brubeck’s Moscow Night album—must have been one of Gorbachev’s favorites, and for good reason. Just like in 1959, then in 1987 and now in 2010, the song remains timeless. Extensive liner notes by Ashley Kahn, and featuring August 2010 interviews with Brubeck manager / producer and this compilation's producer, Russell Gloyd brings the Dave Brubeck story up to date. Jazz buffs will also note that Concord started off their 2010 Definitive music series with double CD sets including The Definitive John Coltrane (Coltrane’s recordings for Prestige and Riverside Records between 1955 and 1958), The Definitive Thelonious Monk (recordings on Prestige 1952-’54 and Riverside Records 1955 to ‘61) and The Definitive Sonny Rollins (Recordings on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary Records during the ‘50s).

- I can remember interviewing Justin Hayward in early 2006, just after my dad died and me and old Justin started reflecting back on things like Mike Pinder and the ‘60s and when I asked Justin what his favorite music is, he said something to the effect that it was the music he grew up with. Somehow that concept of things pretty much sums up my feelings both about the early Moody Blues and early Jethro Tull albums and high on the list of early rock classics from the ‘60s remains Tull's 1969 Stand Up album. I can even remember back that crisp autumn day I bought the Lp, I was walking home with my proud copies of Stand Up and Songs For A Tailor by Jack Bruce. It would be one of those nights—forget about “homework” if you catch my drift. Back when I interviewed Ian Anderson in 2008—part of which was a cover story for the now deceased 20th century guitar mag—me and Ian got to talking about mono versus stereo. Not contrary to the excellent 2008 mono CD reissue of This Was Jethro Tull, in my opinion, by 1969, the major players in U.K. rock (Anderson included) had worked out the kinks in the (now) currently raging mono raining supreme over stereo in the '60s debate—with to my mind mono ruling just a year before in 1968. To bring out that point on the 3 disc 2010 remaster of Stand Up, give a listen to both stereo version of and a rarely heard mono version of (what in retrospect became) the single from Stand Up, Anderson's orchestral classic “Living In The Past”, recorded while Tull was on tour in 1969 in New Jersey and San Francisco. Looking back on 1968 becoming 1969, “Living In The Past” was clearly one of the first rock songs to really maximize the full stereo effect. With Stand Up, Tull founder Ian Anderson became, historically, one of the key English songwriting geniuses who in 1969 was able to adapt to and as such, maximize that newly emerging world of stereo in the rock world. So to sum up students, mono was the ‘60s and by 1969, stereo was the ‘70s! Pure and simple. The excellent business skills of Chrysalis Records founder Terry Ellis gave Anderson an incredible amount of artistic freedom on what many say is the first real Tull album, that started post Bloodwyn Pig guitarist Mick Abrahams. Anyway, on the evergreen Stand Up, Anderson’s band of newcomers, including soon to be guitar god, Martin Barre, and the groundbreaking rock rhythm section of Glen Cornick and Clive Bunker is the quartet that, in my opinion, truly defined who Tull was and became at their best. Okay, throw in John Evan and I’ll be happy! Anyway this 2010 triple Tull threat features the entire Stand Up album, newly remastered, along with eleven bonus cuts on CD 1 while disc 2 and 3 features Tull’s historic, never fully released 1970 Live At Carnegie Hall show, which is here in its entirety on disc 2 (on CD) and again in DVD audio on disc 3, which, also features a quite in depth, 2010 DVD interview of Ian Anderson. Heck, EMI did a great remake / remodel and they even reproduced that little Tull art design pop up "Stand Up" image of the band, thirty years before the internet made the term pop-up famous!

/ CONCORD MUSIC GROUP / MPL - In the aftermath of The Beatles putting the ‘60s on ice with Let It Be, John and George were filling the airwaves with gargantuan sounding, promethean, Phil Spector-sized productions that were alternatively singing the praises of karma, giving peace a chance and wanting to meet the lord. At the same time, the other song writing Beatle, no offense to Ringo, Paul McCartney was writing songs about junk, flies with three legs, smelly feet, navy admirals taking baths and eating butter pies and songs about well... “Mumbo” for instance. So much for going the other way man, but don’t forget, this was McCartney, the Beatles own self-styled A&R mogul. Macca was the guy who could be counted on to produce the million selling timeless hit—from “Yesterday” to ”My Love”, from “Michele” to “The Long And Winding Road”—when needed, anytime at all. Paul was the Beatle who could bring in the girls and even please your parents in an effort to make it all seem legit and above all non-threatening to the masses. This aforementioned whimsicle side of Paul went on for several years after the Beatles, but by 1973 things began to change again. I remember when Band On The Run took off in early 1974, even John Lennon stepped back into Paul’s corner, calling it a “great” album. No offense to John, but Paul buffs will point to other great love songs and rockers on all three of Macca’s first three solo albums (not including Macca's early foray into orchestral soundtracks with The Family Way album). By the time of Band On The Run, credited to Paul McCartney & Wings, Macca was all but primed for his stadium years, which by the time of “Silly Love Songs” in 1975 was well underway. All of this history decades later makes the long awaited 2010 remaster of Band On The Run an auspicious choice as a first release to initiate the start of The Paul McCartney Archive Collection, handled in the U.S. by Hear Music and Concord Music Group. Well known for reissuing the back catalogs of some of the biggest artists of the jazz world, the Concord Musical Group has really been asserting itself in the pop world these past couple years with a number of critically acclaimed releases, but who would have guessed McCartney would have gone this way with his entire solo catalog, especially considering EMI still handles all the Beatles and John Lennon and George Harrison CD remasters. That said, the 2010 three disc version of Band On The Run is a major revelation for long time McCartney listeners. With the original album superbly remastered on disc one, disc two combines assorted singles and audio tracks from the famous One Hand Clapping movie, which itself is featured in movie form on the third disc here—a DVD with amazing animations, documentary footage and the aforementioned movie with Paul, Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britten at Abbey Road studio performing Band On The Run, while adding performances in of assorted Mac classics like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love”. Similarly styled like the 2010 John Lennon solo CD remasters, the all cardboard packaging of the three disc Band On The Run is pretty good, complete with those original Lp pics of Wings recording in Lagos, song lyrics and fresh liner notes. The remastered sound of the album on this 2010 remastered original is excellent—clearly the best to date, as is the echo soaked soundtrack on the second CD while the DVD should prove to be a major highlight for long time Beatles and Wings fans. Concord / MPL and Hear Music has so many versions of this 2010 remastered version of Band On The Run it kind of makes your head spin. Even though it was actually released over the Christmas of ‘73, looking back... if one album summed up the adventurous, "on the run" spirit of 1974, for those of us lucky enough to have grown up in the Beatles era, that one album would have to be Band On The Run.

LEGACY RECORDINGS / EXPERIENCE HENDRIX - Hot on the heels of the back catalog of Jimi Hendrix being taken over by Legacy, the reissue arm of Sony / Columbia Records released West Coast Seattle Boy - The Jimi Hendrix Anthology late in 2010. For long time fans who thought they’d heard everything, the box set release of West Coast Seattle Boy will be a true Hendrix revelation. As described in the press release, this latest Hendrix anthology reexamines Jimi’s transformation from R&B sideman to the world’s most celebrated rock guitarist. An amazing four hour collection of rare live and studio recordings, demos and alternate versions, the music here features a truly superbly compiled and remastered collection of tracks recorded by and/or featuring Jimi during all phases of his career, between 1964 and 1970. To appreciate just how far Jimi had taken rock music during those years give a listen to the 15 cuts on CD 1 here featuring Hendrix, the sideman supporting The Isley Brothers, Little Richard, Don Covay, King Curtis and many more. The alternate versions on the other three music CDs of the box offers a revealing insight into Jimi’s musical mind, with a myriad of Hendrix revelations like the lead off alternate version of “Fire” that starts off CD 2. In addition to the four CDs of rare and unreleased live and studio tracks, plus the 54 page booklet, there is disc 5, a DVD called Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child. A must see for Hendrix fans, this rare glimpse into who Jimi Hendrix really was offers an outstanding new for 2010, 90 minute video documentary directed by Bob Smeaton. The story and narration running throughout the movie, in Jimi’s own words, effectively looks, feels and sounds like a combination interview / cosmic diary, featuring the voice of Bootsy Collins. The DVD also merges in sizable segments featuring some of Jimi’s greatest music performances as well as rare and unseen interview footage and photos. For those looking for a taster of the 5 disc box set, there’s also a single disc best-of for West Coast Seattle Boy with and without the 2010 Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child DVD documentary and, get this—a deluxe edition of the box set presented on eight 12” vinyl LPs. When it rains it pours in Hendrix land and in tow to accompany this major 5 disc West Coast Seattle Boy box set are other Hendrix classics overhauled, this time by Legacy, once again including The Jimi Hendrix Experience - BBC Sessions (a new multi-panel digi-pak version of the original 37 track, 2 CD set spanning 1967-’69 plus a third disc, a DVD with a 30 minute documentary featuring performance and interview footage), Jimi Hendrix - Blues (reissue of 1994 release featuring eleven Hendrix blues-based tracks with 36 page booklet and 30 minute DVD feature -“Jimi Hendrix And The Blues” from the acclaimed Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues series), and Live At Woodstock (two CD set of Jimi’s complete performance at the historic ‘69 Woodstock festival). All of these new for 2010 Legacy remasters are also available on good old black vinyl for those who are interested and for those who may think Jimi didn’t care about such things, there’s also yet another Legacy CD / 10” green vinyl Lp release of Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year (the Jimi Hendrix “seasonal” single featuring the famous 1969 medley of “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” and “Auld Lang Syne” backed up with “Three Little Bears.”) /

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