Record Label
and Music Spotlight

FALL 2012








- Co-produced by Rick Rubin, La Futura, the 2012 CD by ZZ Top is actually their first new album since 2003 but one listen confirms the wait has been worth it. There’s plenty of classic sounding ZZ Top action on La Futura. Looking down the barrel at 2013, the CD art form has been somewhat lacking but even in this age of stripped down musical economics, ZZ Top offers a good bang for your buck on their ten track album, decked out here with some typically impressive album art. Some fans have surmised that Rubin’s stripped down recording style might have tampered with that classic ZZ sound but, it’s worth noting that just the opposite is true on La Futura. Rubin’s production approach might be more earthy then say the effects laden Mescalero, which had its share of sonic gimmicks, but what La Futura lacks in bells and whistles is made up for in sheer sonic might and diversity of material. Billy F. Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are rock legends and as they once again prove, ZZ Top lives up to their enormous legacy with the impressive rock muscle in play on La Futura.

- As a follow up album to the late 2011 / early 2012 CD release of Out Of This World, singer-songwriter Michael Laine Hildebrandt returns at the end of 2012 with Bubble Gum Orchestra II, the second album from his band Bubble Gum Orchestra. Although much younger then his mentors from the original classic rock crowd from the mid to late 1970s, Hildebrandt maintains a reverence for the classic bands from that era including Electric Light Orchestra, The Buggles, ABBA and scads of other top 40 favorites and he gets to live out his sonic fantasy once again with BGOII. Hildebrandt's upbeat musical demeanor is quite contagious on tracks like “Today Is Beautiful”, “Oh Can We Save It” and “Loving One Another”. Sure you can hear traces of upbeat Steve Miller meets The Buggles meets Jeff Lynne but there’s also a cool futuristic 21st century thing in play on the new BGO CD. The CD packaging is excellent and the enclosed lyrics booklet shines a light on just how well BGO mix words and music.

- Although they’ve been going strong since starting up back in November 1995, the Lithuanian band known as The SKYS really hits their stride with their 2012 CD Colours Of The Desert. After a few spins it’s clear that Colours Of The Desert is a masterpiece of 21st century prog-rock. For westerners, the names of the group members might be hard to pronounce yet the music, sung in English complete with complete printed lyrics, caters to a cross-section of international music lovers. In addition to the band’s 5 piece core—including lead guitarist and singer Jonas Ciurlionis and keyboardist-vocalist Bozena Buinicka—SKYS are joined by a number of renowned musicians, including esteemed guitarist Dave Kilminster of the Roger Waters band, and a number of other gifted players. With their mix of Euro-flavored prog, complete with a decidedly Pink Floyd influence, The SKYS have been praised in their native Lithuania and neighboring Russia, Estonia, Germany and beyond and now they’re poised to bring their sound far and wide. There’s plenty of top musicianship throughout the 9 track Colours Of The Desert CD but, backing up the style there’s also plenty of memorable melodic hooks and arrangements that will no doubt appeal to prog-rock mavens of all stripes, cultures and continents.

- Released in 2012 on the U.K. based K-Scope label, Fog Electric is a great introduction to a new band from the U.K. called North Atlantic Oscillation. Produced by Tony Doogan, NAO features some ethereal vocals from group front man and guitarist Sam Healy who turns in a most illuminating vocal performance. Sounding influenced by U.K. artists like Phil Manzanera and Super Furry Animals, the album Fog Electric is quite well produced with all manners of electronica and progressive rock trimmings fitting in the grooves. Some of this sounds like Robert Wyatt jamming with Phil Manzanera and in fact, the lyrics, printed here in a beautiful booklet type package are almost incidental, adorning the music like icing on a cake.

PAMA RECORDS - One of the most renowned guitarists in Sweden today, Niclas Höglind (pronounced Heg-Lind) has worked with some of the greatest musicians in Sweden including guitarist Peder Nabo, co-founder of the 1970's prog-rock group Ragnarök. As a recording artist in his own right, Niclas has also released a number of albums with the group known as UNIT and he's back in late 2012 with a new UNIT collaboration entitled Unit And Luiz Murá. A gifted singer-songwriter and guitarist from Brazil, Luiz Murá lends a tropical Brazilian flair to Unit's expansive approach to guitar-based European fusion instrumental music. Höglind's guitar-centric sound is superbly in focus, and paired with the Brazilian language vocals of Murá, the UNIT sound arrives at a whole new level and the results are engaging and progressive at the same time. At times, this Unit and Luiz Murá CD sounds like Antonio Carlos Jobim jamming with Pat Metheny or even jazz guitar great Charlie Byrd—that's just how masterful Höglind is as a guitar player. Backing up Höglind and Murá are some talented musicians, including percussionist Sebastian Notini, acoustic guitarist Marcus Wiberg, drummer Kristofer Johansson and others. With this collaboration, Höglind’s colorful approach to World Music and jazz-fusion could be described as both terrestrial and progressive at the same time. Guitar fans looking to hear a fascinating amalgam of jazzy, guitar based fusion and World Music with a definite Brazilian edge are strongly recommended to check out the sonic scenics in full bloom on Unit And Luiz Murá. On download and in print as a physical CD release, the Unit And Luiz Murá CD features a very cool packaging with some seen to be believed cover art and packaging and full lyrics sheet. / /

ROLLTOP RECORDS - Although he’s best known as a surf-rock guitar stylist with numerous recording credits to his name, San Diego based Tim Coffman is also a wonderful music producer and he puts his pedal to the mettle with With Love, Sarah Maisel, the 2012 CD from singer Sarah Maisel. While Coffman’s own solo albums are primarily guitar based instrumentals, as a producer he brings out the best in Maisel. In addition to her innate vocal ability, Ms. Maisel is an excellent ukulele player and backing herself on uke, she’s assisted by a fine band including steel guitarist Gordon Freitas. For her With Love album, Sarah delves deep into the Great American songbook, sounding like a modern day Mary Ford, while carving out a new niche with sublime Hawaiian inspired Slack Key based covers of a number of classic standards by Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Motown, Steve Goodman, The Beatles and more. Coffman’s production is pretty flawless, enhancing Ms. Maisel’s obvious vocal gift for seducing you with a classic cover song.

ROSALA RECORDS - When you think of greatest British Invasion era pop songs of the 1960s, one name songwriter that springs to mind right away is Graham Gouldman. Making his breakthrough writing for The Yardbirds, and penning their huge 1965 hit “For Your Love”, Graham’s name became synonymous with pop song writing excellence. The story continued onwards with Graham getting fully behind 10CC and later works with Wax, his band with the late great Andrew Gold. Although it’s been 12 years since the last Graham Gouldman album, he’s back again in 2012 with a new solo CD called Love And Work. Simply brimming with one shiny pop jewel after the next, (and near complete with one Hank Marvin inspired instrumental) Love And Work features 12 new Gouldman originals with his vocals and guitar skills supplanted by a range of song writing partners and a round of musicians including Shadows legend Brian Bennett. Gouldman was part and parcel of the best British invasion superstars and fans of his ‘60s and ‘70s songs will be mightily impressed at the near Beatle-esque sounds in play on Love And Work, which is quite rightly dedicated to Andrew Gold.

- Las Vegas based pop maven Tommy Marolda came to prominence on his 2004 Beatles-inspired Christmas album, Classic Christmas Songs With A Dash Of Pepper. As brilliant as it was, that instrumental pop album was kind of a one off, even as he was batting around some other X-mas concepts, so it’s nice to see Tommy returning back to his power pop roots with the 2012 CD release of the album by his other pop band, The Toms. Tommy’s new album with The Toms, entitled Sun, is a 12 track pop feast. Broken up on the cover art into a quintessential ‘60s style, with a side A and side B, the Sun CD is a solid rocking affair featuring Tommy taking a sonic studio power pop approach layerng the CD with electronic keyboards, break-beat drumming and sugar coated ‘60s style vocals. Fans of Todd Rundgren will find much to applaud about Tommy’s studio expertise. Covering a number of instruments and much of the vocals himself, Tommy sounds like sugar pop icons The Archies on speed, with a Robin Gibb effect in play here, while there’s even the occasional female vocalist to offset and enhance the Toms' contagious techno pop grooves.

- Back in 1971 South African singer-songwriter John Kongos turned the progressive pop-rock world on its ear with his critically acclaimed Kongos album. An acquired taste for some, while for others a brilliant musical messiah capable of extraordinary sonic feats, John Kongos broke the sound barrier with his Kongos album which also introduced the then coming and very popular Burundi beat, subsequently popularized later by other bands as well. As luck would have it, although then based in London, John Kongos would eventually move to the U.S. and end up in Arizona. In the 21st century John’s four sons carry the Kongos legacy forward with Lunatic—the second album from the group Kongos. The four sons of John Kongos—Johnny, Jesse, Dylan and Danny—are each gifted multi-instrumentalists and even sing in unison like their dad multiplied by four. Fittingly, their fabled dad John Kongos is the executive producer while supplying backing vocals. Along with notable prodigies like the Pinder Brothers band, Kongos are clearly making their way towards really mattering on the world stage with their 2012 Lunatic CD.

- Sweden was always renowned for their excellent progressive rock bands from the late ‘70s and ‘80s and of course, there’s ABBA with 40+ years of history. Not much attention was really ever paid to Sweden’s many fine bands who break with the mother tongue but thanks to the work of Peter Holmsted of Hemifrån who, thanks to his vast knowledge and refined musical taste, has helped his fellow countrymen spread the word far and wide about the new wave of Swedish pop in the 21st century—young bands with fresh ideas and new voices including the band called Buford Pope who have an excellent 2012 CD called Matching Numbers. Apparently, there’s a whole new wave of Swedish singer-songwriters espousing the wonders of West Coast pop circa 1971—funny enough the year Buford Pope main man Mikael Liljeborg was born. Actually assuming the name Buford Pope as a stage name, the singer-songwriter, backed up here by a fine band, and sounding influenced by both Robbie Robertson and Steve Stills, cites Bob Dylan of course among his main influences and even some of this sounds kind of influenced by the music of A Man Called E back in 1992, albeit twenty years later. Several of the catchier songs really connect and there’s also a few tracks that will be played by radio. Four albums into their career, with Matching Numbers Buford Pope hits a new high for Swedish musical excellence. /


ARK RECORDS - The 2009 CD release of Frio Suite made a splendid introduction to the collaborative duo of keyboardist Jeff Johnson and rock-fusion guitar hero Phil Keaggy and in 2012 Jeff and Phil return again with their CD release entitled WaterSky. Meeting serendipitously at the Laity Lodge in Texas a few years back, the two once again reunite and in recording WaterSky they revitalize state of the art 21st century instrumental music with a brilliant musical collaboration that combines a number of instrumental music genres including electronic and neoclassical jazz fusion. Johnson’s early works, including time on the Windham Hill label established him as a contender way back in the early 1980s while for guitar fans, pop and instrumental rock followers, Phil Keaggy hardly needs any introduction. Combining Johnson’s reverential approach to spiritual music and his fondness for ethereal Celtic style fusion with Keaggy’s spacey and angular guitar prowess, WaterSky is clearly a modern masterpiece of meditative and introspective instrumental music magic.

- On the web site for guitarist Bruce Forman there’s several lines of praise—two that stick out include quotes from jazz guitar legends Barney Kessel and Kenny Burrell praising the younger guitarist. Actually, fans of both Barney and Kenny will love Forman’s 2012 CD, Formanism featuring The Bruce Forman Trio. Recorded in Pasadena, California and released in 2012 on Forman’s own label, the 11 track CD is filled with instrumental guitar jazz tracks that swing in classic bebop mode, yet there’s also a modern and meditative touch that will intrigue guitar fans who will no doubt appreciate Forman’s skillful fretboard techniques. Featuring Bruce backed up by Gabe Noel (bass) and Jake Reed (drums), Formanism is filled with Forman’s originals—one co-composed with drummer Jake Reed, and there’s also covers here of the standards “Flamingo”, written by Ted Grouya and Edmund Anderson and “I’ve Told Every Little Star”—the latter written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. As far as instrumental, mainstream modern bop guitar jazz goes, it doesn’t get any better than Bruce Forman’s Formanism. Fans of Forman will also want to check out Cowlifornia Swing, the 2012 CD from Forman's other group Cow Bop—a western bebop, country style swing group, featuring vocals by Pinto Pammy, and which is being described as hot and jazzy with a drawl. Either way, country-bop or be-bop jazz, Bruce Forman has it covered. /

BLUE ROOM STUDIOS - Canada has some great guitarists and you can count Roland Nipp as up and coming. Make that here today with the release of Roland’s 2012 album All We Desire, a CD self-produced and released by the artist. Nipp makes high octane rock instrumental music mixing say, an instrumental based Robin Trower sound with a spacier mid '70s Pink Floyd / late '70s Dixie Dregs inspired backdrop. He’s been releasing albums since 1999 but with All We Desire he’s hit a sweet spot. For a self-produced DIY project in 2012, Nipp gets a refined studio sound and the mastering seems to capture all the sound without clipping or distortion. Sounding like a full band yet written, performed and produced by Roland Nipp, the 14 track CD features modest yet fitting packaging underscoring the intense sound under the covers. Track after track, the All We Desire just slips on by and before you know it you’re hitting the replay button.

CATEGORY 1 MUSIC - Most fans of surf-rock superstars The Ventures know and admire the work of guitarist Bob Spalding—a mainstay in the legendary surf-rock band and a guitarist of renown in his own right for the past four decades. Carrying on his work in The Ventures in 2012, Bob steps into the solo spotlight with an excellent new solo album called Transitions, that should find a home with fans of The Ventures and The Shadows. As he does throughout the 13 track Transitions CD, Bob puts a modern spin and a new shine on his own instro guitar originals as well as welcome Ventures-inspired fresh takes on vintage 1960s classics "The Lonely Bull" and "Apache"—two songs that were made famous in the instro guitar world back in at the dawn of the 1960s. Fans of Jerry Lordan and Hank Marvin will be proud to hear Bob's new version of "Apache"— this Transitions version highlighting Bob's new twist on a vintage classic. Several players, including Ian Spalding and Vintage Guitar reviews editor (and undercover instro guitar legend) Teisco del Rey, appear backing up Bob Spalding's 2012 guitar masterpiece.

DB~INFUSION - Guitarist Danny Berdichevsky gets it together on Muso & Proud, the 2012 album from jazz rock band known as DB~Infusion. A bunch of guest players join Danny and his group, including original ELO cello player Hugh McDowell and jazz-rock / classical guitar virtuoso John Etheridge. Berdichevsky established himself in Israel as a rock guitarist and jazz-rock advocate in the spirit of Pat Metheny and, now in London he carries his guitar concepts one step forward on a CD filled with instrumental fusion wonder. Danny’s group of players include Gonzalo Carrera (keys), Steve Stephenson (percussion), Lakis Economou (bass) and Ollie Usiskin (drums). The CD is superbly recorded and the dynamic range of these combined players borders on ESP. Amid the mostly instrumental originals are guitar-centric, and thoroughly engaging db~infusion covers of the John Coltrane classic “Giant Steps” and the jazz classic “On Green Dolphin Street” while the neo-classical set will dig db-Infusion covers of Isaac Albeniz and a CD opening Rimsky Korsekov tribute, here entitled “Flight Of The Bumblebeat.”

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON - Part of the Decca Lable Group, Deutsche Grammophon is a label synonymous with classical masterpieces and, although slightly removed from the label's fabled heyday, DG follow up in 2012 with their second album from Montenegro bred classical guitar master Milos Karadaglic. The 16 track CD entitled Pasión (first called Latino) comes hot on the heels of the first Milos CD from 2011 on DG entitled Mediterraneo. This time out, on Pasión Milos continues to mine and reinterpret some of the great classical guitar composers from Latin America, South America, Mexico and Brazil, including the legendary Heitor Villa-Lobos. Commenting on his 2012 CD, Milos adds, ‘Latin American guitar music is perhaps even more uninhibited than Spanish. With some pieces on the album, I even went a little bit out of my comfort zone, as I wanted to showcase all the different aspects and facets of this culture.’ On Pasión, the CD sound is uniformly excellent and the packaging features eye-popping artwork and detailed liner notes by Kenneth Chalmers. Guitar fans seeking out the latest and greatest young classical masters should give a listen to Milos and his gifted classical guitar sound.

DOUBLE CROWN RECORDS - One of the top instrumental guitar albums of the decade for sure, Play Rough reunites the team of Bill Bonney and Pete "Buzz" Miller, also known as Bonney & Buzz. Recorded in San Francisco and dedicated to the memory of original Shadows bass player Jet Harris, the 12 track Play Rough features one solid guitar based instrumental after the next. One look at Miller's credentials gives a good indication of his current whereabouts, especially noting his early years back in England working with, and learning from, legends including producer legend Joe Meek. Clearly Miller's Meek-inspired approach to guitar instrumental rock in 2012 would have pleased Joe no end. Both Miller and Bonney are brilliant guitarists and multi-instrumental studio aces and on their third instrumental album together, Bonney & Buzz have made a CD that should appeal to a wide stripe of guitar fans. Fans of Surf-rock, Shadows inspired instrumentals, during and after Jet Harris, '60s style freak-beat instro and even soundtrack buffs will dig where Bonney & Buzz are coming from on the aptly titled Play Rough.

London based guitarist Phi Yaan-Zek set a new standard for instrumental art-rock fusion music on his 2010 album Dance With The Anima. Combining a “film score” style of ‘60s inspired soundtracks with a poly-rhythmic jazz-rock style performance, Dance With The Anima was a worldwide hit with progressive guitar fusion fans. Now in 2012 Phi has released a companion CD entitled Deeper With The Anima. Once again recording with and featuring the drumming of Marco Minnemann, Deeper features Lalle Larson on keyboards and several other players including bass man Bryan Beller. Sounding inspired by Phil Manzanera during the Quiet Sun days and some of Carlos Santana’s more recent progressive instrumentals, Deeper With The Anima is intergalactic surf music, played fast and furious with Phi’s thoroughly processed guitar sounds driven deep into the stratosphere by Minnemann’s ultra precise electro static rhythms and Lalle's soaring keyboard sounds. The overall studio sound is excellent and once again, the cover art and packaging is first rate. Deeper With The Anima a safe bet for fans of adventurous 21st century instrumental jazz-rock.

GREYDISC - Over the past few years, American guitarist Kevin Kastning has gone from relative unknown to making a name for himself as both a rising guitarist and a musical conceptualist / visionary. Kastning’s recent releases include 2012 CD titles with long time partner and co-guitarist Sándor Szabó as well as a second CD release with U.K. fusion guitarist Mark Wingfield. Recorded at the end of 2011, An Illustrated Silence captures the guitar duo of Wingfield and Kastning in stellar form, improvising and sonic surfing on a wave of improvised acoustic / electric harmonies. Even though the notes fall right where they should, make no mistake about it, An Illustrated Silence is angular and scales some impressive sonic glaciers. Wingfield’s horn like electric guitar embellishes Kastning’s intricate, acoustic Metheny meets Fripp type sonic extrapolations. Back in the 1970’s Kastning would have fit in perfectly on the ECM label or some other arty European label, but as it stands, he’s creating a wealth of guitar instrumental music on his own Greydisc label while recording under his own name. Kastning’s other 2012 CD release, his sixth recorded in March 2012 with Hungarian guitarist Sándor Szabó, entitled The Book Of Crossings. Guitar watchers will be amazed at the sheer diversity of guitars both Kastning and Szabó implement including 16, 14 and 12 string guitars, 10 string viola guitar, the Korean Guzheng, all types of classical guitars, the theremin-like ebow and even some piano. Kastning might seem like a 21st century Bach meets Elliott Carter type, yet for all his avant gard production prowess, there’s still progressive core at the center of Kastning's guitar thinking in a kind of Robert Fripp and Steve Hackett inspired way. With the release of these two very guitar-centric releases, Kevin Kastning sets a new standard for the guitar world while also setting a new level in his own well worth of artistic expression.

INDUS RECORDS - Former guitarist in the group Stone Roses, Aziz Ibrahim was born in the U.K. to Pakistani parents. He carries the torch for the worlds of both progressive rock and world beat music with his 2012 album Rusholme Rock. Combining a guitar centric industrumental musical backdrop with an injection of Far Eastern sonic exoticism, the results are often spectacular. With Aziz on acoustic guitar and vocals and occasional mellotron, the sound is filled out by some exotic Indo/Pak percussion effects. Also amazing is the wide range of sonic effects, in the spirit of mid ‘70s Gong with Steve Hillage, that Aziz coaxes from his smorgasbord of sonic delights. There's even a Hindu-Stani take on the Bobby Fuller Four classic "I Fought The Law." The recorded sound, mastered at Abbey Road by Peter Mew, plus beguiling cover art and packaging, makes finding it well worth the hunt.

LO-BALL RECORDS - Music maven Joe Goldmark continues to refine and perfect the art of pedal steel guitar with his 2012 double CD set entitled The Wham Of That Steel Man! Released on the San Francisco based Lo-Ball Records, the package is actually two separate albums—disc one being an 11 track vocal set, with Joe’s guitar and band backing up singer Keta Bill and disc two being a 13 track all instrumental affair featuring Joe and company romping through a set of steel flavored instrumentals of Goldmark originals and a fabulous steel based instro cover of the Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie” that would make John Lennon proud. With his vast realm of musical inspirations backing him up, Goldmark’s original steel instrumentals on disc two are nothing short of fantastic. Imagine Joe Meek producing Buck Owens and you get some idea. With disc two being all instrumental, disc one is a vocal album featuring Keta Bill and Joe and band performing a number of steel flavored classics from the pens of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bobby Fuller, Steve Winwood and more. Joe dedicates the entire 2 disc album to one of his early rock and roll heroes, Lonnie Mack and Joe’s CD set title even takes a cue from Mack’s album The Wham Of That Memphis Man, which mixed vocals and instrumentals. Either way, Joe’s got it all covered on a rockin’ double album that not only sounds great but is all a blast to listen to.

MLE MUSIC - Skillfully combining jazz, New Age, Celtic and even flamenco, guitarist Chris Fry steps onto the world stage with his CD debut entitled Composed. The ten track CD is so masterfully recorded, you’ll be amazed as the music floats across the sound stage. The music here is mainly instrumental and very guitar-centric, yet the sound is so dynamic, you’d swear there were other musicians involved. The CD is enhanced by the occasional orchestral accompaniment by violinist Emily Travis with added production from Dan Fry. Fans of former Sky guitarist Kevin Peek and Gordon Giltrap, and that style of English instrumental acoustic progressive fusion, will thoroughly enjoy this elegant and immensely listenable CD.

MOONJUNE - Aside from John Lennon and The Beatles, before groups such as Soft Machine, Caravan and Wigwam, there was nothing in pre-progressive rock that you could call completely authentic. So great were these sonic pioneers that just about everything that came after in both rock, instro and prog, sounded derivative of the original. I would say those groups still have a vast influence—subliminal and otherwise—on a multitude of groups still recording music in 2012 so, when thinking about aspiring 21st century music trendsetters, you can count Canadian prog-instrumental band Mahogany Frog high on that list. With the release of the fifth Mahogany Frog studio album, entitled Senna, that statement rings even more true then ever, while also looking on their much lauded 2006 album entitled DO5. A modern day sonic guitar squadron, Graham Epp and Jesse Warkentin sound truly possessed, driven to new heights by the rhythm section of Andy Rudolph (drums) and Scott Elenberger (bass). Each of these players also adds in a wealth of wild sounding electronic keyboard effects that would make Edgard Varese proud. Imagine Pekka Pohjola, the now late great Finnish music and composer, recording with Soft Machine during their fabled Volume 2 era in late 1968 and you come close to the wild, subliminal sonic soundscapes in play on Senna. Progressive rock-rock fans and avant-garde experimental music fans are strongly advised to pick up on Mahogany Frog's 2012 instrumental classic. /

PARALLEL THOUGHT - The group known as 3:33 return in 2012 with a mesmerizing new album called In The Middle Of Infinity. Actually, this full length CD was preceded in 2010 by 333EP-1, the first release by 3:33. Sure there’s a lot of industrial strength instrumental mayhem in play on In The Middle Of Infinity but it’s done with such verve and spunk that you’d hardly notice the lack of melody or even a beat. 3:33 makes music that has more to do with Harry Partch, Edgard Varese and even Wendy Carlos, than progressive rock say by Pink Floyd even at their most avant gard although fans of Floyd during their Ummagumma days might like 3:33. Avant gard musical experimentalists whose music might have fit more appropriately in Stanley Kubrick movie, 3:33 makes music that may sound difficult but it’s also a lot of fun to listen to as a sound collage. There’s no shortage of musical ideas here even though In The Middle Of Infinity is totally steeped in the realm of musique concrete. Rock fans with an open progressive mind, and modern classical fans of Carlos, Varese and Berio owe it to themselves to check out the wild sonic grooves in play on 3:33’s In The Middle Of Infinity.

PRESCOTT RECORDINGS - Originally from Lexington Kentucky, guitarist Ross Hammond has made a name for himself as Northern California based artist. Over the past few years, Ross has released a pair of critically acclaimed CD releases—Ambience, Antiquite And Other Love Songs in 2011 and Adored in 2012—and now in late 2012 he adds another trick of the tale with a new album from Revival Trio. Simply entitled Revival Trio, the instrumental album was recorded in August 2012 and captures Ross in full flight with his trio band mates, Vanessa Cruz (drums) and Shawn Hale (bass). The CD has a live in the studio feel and contains a number of jazzy, improvised sounding grooves that displays all the urgency and spontaneity Ross brings to the 21st century guitar world. Ross cites guitar influences like Bill Frisell and Sonny Sharock while, with his usual flair for soaring improvisation, you can also add in John Coltrane as another music signpost. Commenting from the liner notes of the modestly packaged CD, Ross adds, ‘I started the Revival Trio project in April 2012 from a desire to play some African-influenced improv music. The project quickly became a force, as there was a great combination of a steady and fierce rhythm with a heavy sense of “let it fly” improvisations. I simply loved this project.’ Fans of both Frisell’s brand of eclectic instrumental guitar recording style and Coltrane’s jazzy and often fiery sense of improvisation will dig where Ross is coming from on his Revival Trio CD.

Instrumental art-rock continues to evolve on the European continent. Although the late 1970s and early 1980s, 20th century heyday of Eurock instrumental rock pioneers Pohjola, Rypdal, Oldfield may now be things that have happened in the past, rising, younger bands continue to espouse and expose the new power of 21st century instrumental rock. From Switzerland comes Sonar and their brilliant, critically acclaimed mid 2012 CD release entitled A Flaw Of Nature. Also, released in late 2012 is the follow up Sonar CD ep entitled Skeleton Groove. Central to Sonar is American born, Swiss based guitarist Stephan Thelen (tritone guitar), joined here by his quartet members, Bernhard Wagner (tritone guitar), Christian Kuntner (tritone bass guitar) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums). The Sonar sound is ECM influenced, although with a solid rock edge. Although avant gard in scope, the overall instrumental rock fusion sound is enhanced by an excellent studio sound which lends it kind of the depth of Pekka Pohjola’s early 1990s sound combined with Thelen's most prevalent influence, King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, with whom Thelen studied guitar. Commenting on the Fripp / Crimson influence Thelen adds, 'The band that really opened up my musical horizon however was King Crimson, especially the 1972 – 1974 version of that band. Their guitarist, Robert Fripp, was without doubt my most influential guitarist. In fact, I had to work quite hard to find my own musical voice, because Robert’s influence was so strong that I often ended up sounding like a Fripp clone.' Key to the Sonar instrumental rock composite—on both the 2012 CD release of A Flaw Of Nature, and the late 2012 CD ep release of Skeleton Groove—are the loud, resounding drums and searing intertwining electric guitars that incorporate echoes from jazz, rock and even European neoclassical music. In sync with the adventurous sound spectrum, the A Flaw Of Nature CD packaging—including a booklet with detailed analysis of the music—is first rate as well, making both of these Sonar CD titles a fine choice for jazz-rock fusion fans.

SIVLE RECORDS - There's a number of fine guitar instrumental bands on the scene in 2012, yet few can lay claim to featuring contributions from one of the original spy-surf guitar heroes. Case in point is the 2012 CD from Ohio-based Spy-Fi, entitled Espia En Vacaciones. Roughly translated to Spies On Vacation, the 18 track CD still features the excellent guitar work and music from Spy-Fi main man Tom Pervanje, who is assisted by a number of guest artists, including John Barry Seven guitar hero Vic Flick—one of the true legends of U.K. instrumental music and a veritable guitar icon thanks to his countless session work at Abbey Road studios. As a guitarist himself, Pervanje sounds clearly influenced by Vic, Hank Marvin and The Ventures too, yet musically, this 2012 Spy-Fi CD is all over the map, veering between classic West Coast instro and Flick's own sound with The John Barry Seven—often citing Barry's fascination with both '60s Beat music and the unearthing of the multitude of both U.K. and U.S. soundtrack sounds that really came to light again in the 1990's CD retro boom. Guitar fans and soundtrack buffs should give a listen to Tom Pervanje and his veritable smorgasbord of colorful instrumental sounds.

SPIN ACRE RECORDS - Heralded by music critics in the know as an acoustic guitarist on the rise, Indiana based Patrick Woods scores with his 2012 CD Gone Before Morning. Co-produced by Brian Henke and engineered by Jay Bentoff, the 11 track CD clocks in at just over a half hour yet it captures all the guitar goodness Woods has recently been rightly praised for. Thanks to his earlier releases, Woods is being compared to some big guitar names like Leo Kottke and John Fahey, yet on Gone Before Morning, Woods continues to mine and explore his own unique approach to finger style acoustic guitar artistry. Guitar fans who enjoyed other CDs by Woods, including his acclaimed 2009 album Vortex Of Discovery, will also find much to appreciate with the 2012 CD release of Gone Before Morning. Superbly recorded and packaged, Gone Before Morning features track by track liner notes by Patrick Woods.

/ SPINOUT - The legendary Bob Irwin is a veritable hero to musicians and music lovers alike. Back in the mid to late 1980s—during the bonzai blitz of the initial CD boom, brought on by the Japanese and Germans—Bob held on tight to his dreams by starting the now historic Sundazed label. The multitude of CD reissues (and also later on black vinyl) on Sundazed over the past 25 years has brought much joy to the music world. While Sundazed continues plumbing the depths of music vaults worldwide, Bob has forged yet a new path with his side project and band called The Martian Denny Orchestra. New from the MDO in 2012 is the 12 track En El Espacio. Released on Sundazed / Spinout Records, the CD release itself may be low-key but the sheer heat and energy created here is truly scintillating. In the Martian Denny Orchestra, Bob the guitarist is joined by some virtual legends of the instro rock world including fellow guitarist Eddie Angel, drummer Jimmy Lester, Dave Roe (bass) and Jim Hoke (sax). Instead of creating note for note reperfections of instro rock, Irwin and company instead focus on their choice of music by basically having a rave up of a time. The resourceful Bob Irwin proves to be a great second guitarist to Eddie Angel’s legendary fretboard prowess. Some of En El Espacio is instro in the realm of Duane Eddy’s fabled late ‘50s music while other tracks here break new ground for instro watchers. I mean when was the last time you heard a Shadows / Ventures inspired instro cover of the Frank Sinatra chestnut “It Was A Very Good Year”, yet Bob and his MDO cohorts pull the track off with added verve. Other highlights here include MDO covers of “Sealed With A Kiss” and Brian Wilson’s exquisitely melodic “The Warmth Of The Sun”. Fun in the sun, while being equally raunchy and sexy at the same time, The Martian Denny Orchestra is required listening for instro rockers of all ages.

- Back in 1980, steel guitar virtuoso BJ Cole released Transparent Music and now in 2012 he released Transparent Music 2, the new album BJ has made with Guy Jackson. A master of musical moods, Cole is really in his element on Transparent Music 2. Calling this album atmospheric would be an understatement. Completely instrumental, TM2 combines Cole’s patented, dreamlike steel guitar with Jackson’s indescribable keyboard sounds, while the pair are given further support by a number of U.K. music legends including Davy Spillane (uilleann pipes, low whistle), session legend Mo Foster (bass guitar), Michael Messer (slide guitar) and other fine players. With its wide range of instrumental music, TM2 is moody, dreamlike and totally hypnotic. This is not your typical ambient music outing and BJ has cited early releases by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as influences on the approach taken on TM2. Like those albums by Eno and Lanois, the wide ranging sonic dynamics on TM2 are quite harrowing in places, at times making the music nearly avant gard in scope. That said, when the mood strikes you, Transparent Music 2 is a most rewarding and quite sublime listening experience. Due to the mesmerizing nature of the music herein, do not drive or operate dangerous machinery while listening to this album! /

VM RECORDS - Florida native Marc Vee is making waves in the guitar world with his 2012 CD entitled My Journey. A master of the smooth jazz instrumental genre, as well as band leader of The Marc Vee Band, Vee released his first solo album in 1996. After working with a range of players, including like-minded smooth jazz guitar ace Paul Brown, Vee captures all that is good about the sublime and relaxing smooth guitar genre and puts it all together on My Journey. On this modern instrumental masterpiece, Vee features both nylon string and electric guitars and bass while receiving steady backing from a range of players while capturing a high gloss studio shine. Eight of the ten tracks here new Vee originals and there’s also a pair of covers, including smooth and jazzy sounding instrumentals of rock classics “Stairway To Heaven” and “Light My Fire”, both of which benefit from Vee’s skillful and smooth jazz guitar instrumental techniques.


ACE RECORDS - England swings and the record labels of the land continue to plumb the depths of classic rock albums of yesteryear. The first big U.K. reissue label, and in the running for most fastidious, ACE Records has a third collection of mid-late 1960s tracks featuring L.A. session guitar hero Jerry Cole. The 24 track CD, Psychedelic Guitars combines a wealth of instrumental music Cole cut with a number of different groups who recorded for the L.A. based Crown label. The width and breath of this collection shows Cole not only to be ahead of his time, but his own take on “space age” rock guitar instrumentals put him in the same league as the Ventures on one hand, with the more adventurous tracks here sounding at times like they were produced with U.K. instro pioneer Joe Meek. Cole recorded these tracks with a number of different lineups with wild sounding group names like The Generation Gap and The Projection Company but the musicians he used were a different matter—well known names like Leon Russell and Billy Preston to name a couple. Although his forte is his approach to guitar instrumentals, Cole does add in the occasional vocal that clicks to the ‘60s psychedelia vibe, including a well produced, true to form CD closing cover of “MacArthur Park”. Par for the course, ACE adds in splendid artwork, while liner notes from 3 Balls of Fire guitar ace Burnin’ Mike Vernon adds another layer to this in-depth look back at guitar legend Jerry Cole.

1967 came in like a lion and went out like a...dragon. 1967 was also the year The Beatles were truly in their prime, perhaps for the last time. What started off as a spectacular sonic orgy of good vibrations, mind-expanding drugs and peace and love turned into a do or die moment that saw the Fab Four truly begin to grow up and grow apart. Perhaps the turning point of this most incredible episode in the history of western culture was the untimely and totally tragic death of Brian Epstein—the genius British impresario who was the first man on earth to believe just that much in The Beatles. Epstein’s demise on August 27, 1967 was a devastating blow to Beatles founder and guiding light John Lennon, who was never quite the same kind of Beatle again. Perhaps John knew the jig was up and Beatlemania was soon to be just as surreal as it seemed to be on the cover of the May 1967 cover art for Sgt. Pepper’s. Not so much could be said for Lennon’s sidekick and Beatles own self-styled A&R genius Paul McCartney who, in the months before his death, was petitioning Brian about his new concept called Magical Mystery Tour—a 53 minute movie first shown in B&W on the BBC in England on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas day in England) 1967. Of course the movie Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t even shown in the U.S. until years later but Americans did get the December 1967 LP release of Magical Mystery Tour which contained the movie’s entire 6 song EP plus all the great Beatles singles from 1967. The movie Magical Mystery Tour has remained one of the unusual episodes of The Beatles and their amazing history. Although released on VHS and on DVD by MPI before, the movie never received a proper treatment on DVD, until now. In October 2012, Apple / EMI / Capitol finally reissued the movie on DVD and the results are truly spectacular. Everything looks fantastic and the sound, meticulously restored by George Martin’s son Giles Martin, is state of the art. The sound and vision of this 2012 Magical Mystery Tour just leaps right out at you. It’s just fantastic to see John Lennon look so happy with all the actors, especially the now late great Victor Spinetti, who was always totally in sync with The Beatles. Musically, as the movie demonstrates, with then new songs like “I Am The Walrus” (first released as the b-side to "Hello Goodbye") and “Blue Jay Way”, The Beatles were untouchable as musical visionaries for their time. An essential investment for Beatles fans and even those who weren’t even born before 1967, the 2012 DVD remaster of Magical Mystery Tour is filled with some fantastic bonus tracks, and many are totally mind blowing. Little is known about John Lennon being the man behind the explosion of industry exposure of groups such as Cream and Pink Floyd (just ask Tony Palmer director of All My Loving) but without Lennon, there’s no doubt that we wouldn’t be here today discussing this at all. For one thing, as far as the 2012 MMT remaster goes, besides the spectacular restoration of the original movie itself, there’s a director’s commentary version (of the entire movie again) featuring scene by scene comments by Paul McCartney, who also wrote liner notes for the booklet, plus new interviews with Fab 4 thumper Ringo Starr and others, a 20 minute documentary called “The Making Of Magical Mystery Tour”, unseen videos for several tracks here including “Blue Jay Way”, “Hello Goodbye” and “The Fool On The Hill”, plus more incredible videos of genius actor and MMT’s very own “Buster Bloodvessel”, himself being Ivor Cutler, plus a rare video of the band Traffic (with Dave Mason and Steve Winwood) performing one of their earliest tracks called “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush”—a video actually commissioned by The Beatles for Magical Mystery Tour but never used in the final film. With fitting 21st century post-production and more by Ringo and Paul McCartney, 45 years on, this 2012 DVD of Magical Mystery Tour is a trip well worth taking again.

- Delving deeper into the vaults of the greatest pop and jazz artists of England and America, U.K. based BGO has a number of releases set for late 2012 including a 2 albums on 1 CD remaster from American jazz guitar legend Charlie Byrd. Recorded and released in 1966 and 1967, Brazilian Byrd and Hollywood Byrd capture the jazz guitar legend in prime form in a couple different settings. Both albums were produced by Teo Macero, yet while Brazilian Byrd finds Charlie picking up on the musical style he pioneered on 1962 Jazz Samba album (made with Stan Getz), albeit in a more super produced album filled with strings, horns and occasional female voices backing up his usual jazz guitar excellence. Hollywood Byrd features Charlie once again working with Macero on another album filled with Byrd instrumental covers of classic 1960’s film score themes including “Georgy Girl”, “Alfie”, “Born Free” and more. Extensive liner notes by Charles Waring seals the deal on this outstanding BGO CD reissue by the late, but always great Charlie Byrd. Speaking of Byrd or rather The Byrds, BGO has a fine 2012 CD remaster from founder of The Byrds, Roger McGuinn. McGuinn’s final album for Columbia Records (now Sony music) was entitled Thunderbyrd and the 9 track album featured McGuinn in prime form covering giants like Dylan, Tom Petty, Peter Frampton and McGuinn himself. Fans have said Thunderbyrd is among McGuinn’s best solo albums and BGO’s 2012 CD remaster gives you a good chance to give it a fresh spin. I’m sure that while his son was racking up one Top 40 hit after the next, the last thing on the mind of comic hero Jerry Lewis was that the career of Gary Lewis & The Playboys would become undone by the Vietnam War but that’s in fact what happened. Called to duty in on January 1, 1967, Lewis gave up his near impeccable pop group career to go and fight an immoral war that killed millions of innocent people. Despite sort of falling out of favor in the wake of the antiwar movement, Gary’s label, Liberty Record, released three final albums during his time in Vietnam including one last one when he returned from Nam. Those albums, You Don’t Have To Paint Me A Picture (1967), New Directions (1967) and Gary Lewis Now! (1968) have been collected by BGO and released in 2012 on a double CD set. Although nowhere near as successful as his major hits, these three albums stand as fine period piece recordings, with production from American geniuses including Snuff Garrett, Leon Russell and Jack Nitzsche. BGO’s inclusion of original liner notes and September 2012 notes by David Wells make this double CD set a major revelation for Gary’s long time fans. Another artist extensively catalogued by BGO, Leo Kottke has a voluminous back catalog, including various titles on Capital and Chrysalis Records. When the CD hit American shores, in 1984 and 1985, from Germany and Japan, America was totally unprepared and the resulting digital bonzai was directly responsible for the premature death of numerous American music labels while consumers were being gouged by the luring temptation of buying the first CDs that ironically, while sounding much better than vinyl, would for the most part, be laughed at by audiophiles in 2012. One German who came to American shores to take part in this sonic blitzkrieg was Peter Bauman, the originator of the first all digital record label called Private Music. Among Private’s early CD titles in late 1985, including first ever CD releases by American geniuses like Jerry Goodman and Group 87’s Patrick O’Hearn, also included A Shout Toward Noon, the first ever CD release by American guitar hero Leo Kottke. It’s been a while since Private released Leo Kottke’s A Shout Toward Noon in late 1986 but now in 2012 BGO has a new CD remaster of the album and has packaged it with another Private CD by Leo Kottke called Regards From Chuck Pink, released in 1987 on Private. Both instrumental albums were considered ground breaking for their era and, complete with 2012 liner notes by David Tobler, you can here just why Kotkke made such a positive impact with his first release on Herr Bauman's Private label all those years ago.

- The American division of EMI Records, Capitol Records is among the great artistic institutions of North America. While passing on a number of artists world wide over the past 55 years, Capitol is nevertheless home of The Beatles and America’s first family of pop, The Beach Boys. While The Beach Boys never enjoyed quite the same amount of artistic adulation as The Beatles did, they nevertheless have a stellar record as a recording legend. The best of The Beach Boys is once again distilled and reexamined on the 2012 CD release of The Beach Boys - Fifty Big Ones: Greatest Hits. Completists will want this, not only for the superb packaging but also for the amazingly uniform sound which follows the ‘Boys from “Surfin’ USA” straight through till the 2012 CD release of “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” Things didn’t work out too great on the 2012 Beach Boys reunion tour (Mike Love ended up firing Brian Wilson, much to everyone’s shock and horror) but this music, some of which is 50 years young this year, speaks for itself. There’s a mix of mono and stereo masters used for this double CD set and the sound is totally brilliant, with clean crisp mastering that makes it sound like these songs were all cut in the same year! Sure there’s a bunch of omissions but most of the big hits are here, sounding bigger and better than ever. Also on Capitol in 2012 is another 50 year milestone entitled Best Of Bond...James Bond: 50 Years - 50 Tracks. Subtitled Celebrating 50 Years Of 007, the double CD set features all the biggest movie themes from the biggest and best James Bond movies, while encompassing a range of vocals and instrumentals. Many of the James Bond movie soundtrack instrumentals, which were impeccably written, produced and arranged by the now sadly late great John Barry, still sound amazing, while the vocal tracks take on a new luster, perhaps due to the passing of Mr. Barry. So for all the John Barry Orchestra titles here, you also get a number of pop vocal tracks from a range of Bond movies featuring great rock and pop stars like Nancy Sinatra, Tom Jones, Madonna, Lulu, Tina Turner, The Pretenders, Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon and a whole lot more. Other instrumentals here feature The George Martin Orchestra and even Moby gets in on the action with his version of the "James Bond Theme”. There’s no liner notes to speak of, but there’s track by track annotation and overall, Best Of Bond...James Bond sounds great, thanks to some spiffy remastering, serving as a most illuminating introduction to the multitude of brilliant music created by John Barry all those years ago. /

FACTS THAT MATTER / MVD VISUAL - A 60 minute film released in 2012, produced and hosted / narrated by Les Krantz, The Beatles - Their Golden Age is just the latest in a seemingly never ending series of documentaries on The Fab Four. Based up in Wisconsin, Krantz is clearly a history buff and—with a range of releases written about some of the great moments in professional sports and movies—the subject of The Beatles seems to be right up his alley. Featuring classic and historic footage of The Beatles mixed and edited into some sort of cogent, although clearly abbreviated form, written by Krantz and his co-writers, Their Golden Age makes for a decent enough introduction to the endlessly colorful and fascinating history of The Beatles. The musical soundtrack accompanying the video includes a Beatles inspired instrumental backdrop from Vince Varco, highlighted by a brilliant Beatles meets The Shadows instrumental track that rolls over the closing DVD credits.

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