Record Label
and Music Spotlight

FALL 2015








– One of the most famous bands with one of the weirdest names in music, Camper Van Beethoven released a new album in 2014 called El Camino Real. Describing the recent comebacks of CVB, group member, violinist / guitarist Jonathan Segel explains, “Camper Van Beethoven took a long time between 2004 and 2013, between albums, but then we wrote a lot of material and split it up between two albums, 2013’s La Costa Perdida and the recent El Camino Real, which ended up being like small concept albums about northern and southern California, respectively. The first one, La Costa Perdida is a little mellower, more Big Sur hippie-style, while El Camino Real is a little harder and faster, having more Los Angeles elements in it.’ El Camino Real has some great rocking moments on it, especially the lead off track “The Ultimate Solution” and especially track two, “It Was Like That When We Got Here”, which sounds like a countrified version of Velvet Underground. Basically, the whole albums rocks, and the band lineup on El Camino Real is first rate, spotlighting some excellent guitar work from Segel, both Greg Lisher and group vocalist David Lowery as well as Victor Krummenacher (bass) with drums by Michael Urbano. Fans of Camper Van Beethoven will not be disappointed by the eclectic palate of rockin’ sounds on El Camino Real.

ANAVIV – Singer-songwriter Diana Barash is making waves with her 2015 CD, A Miracle Of Love. Somewhat of a torch song singer, Diana's 12 track CD veers from pop–rock and jazzy sounding R&B to a more theatrical form of pop cabaret. Interesting that she was born in Moldova and settled in L.A. A Miracle Of Love is not only filled with memorable songs that catches your ear right away, but the playing is top flight stuff all around with expert production and keyboard work by Ed Roth, co-writing and arranging by Sunnie Paxson and ace musicianship from a range of players including Linda Taylor (guitars), Jonathan Hakakian (keys, guitars) and Rock Deadrick (percussion). The CD sounds great, looks great and is filled with complete credits, lyrics and liner notes by Ms. Barash. With A Miracle Of Love, singer-songwriter Diana Barash stakes out a sound all her own.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Angel Air has a number of reissues by glam-rock greats Sweet and out in 2015 is New York Groove Plus - a fairly new recording from 2012 of classic Sweet mixed in with cover versions. Featuring original Sweet guitarist Andy Scott backed up by this current Sweet incarnation, New York Groove Plus features a cool “New York Groove”, written by Russ Ballard in 1975 and well done covers of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” and The Yardbirds classic “Shapes Of Things”. Most of the tracks have a kind of New York related vibe. There’s even a cover of “On Broadway”, the ultimate New York song, although the key track here is a Sweet version of the Who’s “Join Together”. I don’t know what the connection is there, except that, according to the CD liner notes, the track was kind of the sonic glue that brought the album together. Scott’s guitar work is as razor sharp as ever and the Sweet harmonies give it that classic glam-rock seal of approval.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Angel Air continues to expand out from their base of operations as a reissue only label with the 2015 CD release of The Fetch by early 1970s singer-songwriter Linda Hoyle. Angel Air has previously reissued albums on CD from the band that Ms. Hoyle fronted called Affinity. Newly recorded and released during the summer of 2015, the 12 track CD features Hoyle’s vocals and songs backed up by the cream of the crop of London’s finest studio musicians including album producer Mo Foster (bass), Gary Husband (keyboards, drums), Oliver Whitehead (acoustic guitars) Dougie Boyle (guitars), Ray Russell (guitars), Peter Van Hooke (drums) and much more. The sound of The Fetch is very jazzy and easy on the ears and at times echoes the sound of Annette Peacock, Diana Krall and other fine jazz singers. Even so, there is an air of progressive music on hand here to separate Ms. Hoyle from the lounge / cabaret circuit of stars. As if to underscore the progressive side of jazz / pop, The Fetch features newly designed cover art by Roger Dean. Recorded in London and Canada, The Fetch is a most welcome return to form by jazz singer Linda Hoyle.

BLURRED VISION MUSIC / OPEN EYES RECORDS - If only the fate of the world rested in the hands of Canadian rockers Blurred vision. I saw that they are from Canada although the band recently relocated to the U.K. What’s really amazing is the the band is led by two brothers from Iran, singer / guitarist Sepp Osley and bass player Sohl Osley. Raging against the oppressive Iranian regime, the brothers, along with drummer Ben Riley and Rush producer Terry Brown, have created a minor sonic miracle with their 11 track CD entitled Organized Insanity. The songs range from hard rock to a more progressive / metal sound but there’s plenty of hard hitting sounds and the production and sound is excellent. The lead off track “No More War” perfectly sets the musical scene which culminates in the hard driving anthemic title track closer. Roger Waters and Rush are certain influences on the band’s sound and style yet there’s some very original sounding, quite energized modern rock tracks here to make this debut Blurred Vision album of interest among 21st century prog-rock purveyors.

BRUTAL ELITE RECORDS – If you’re in the market for a fine new CD from a band of progressive / alternative metal rock music makers, than check out the group known as hAND. (Yes, that’s the way they write the name). The four piece band centers around the sound of vocalist Kat Ward and guitarist Kieren Johnstone backed her by drummer Dan Thomas and Tom Johnstone on synths. Making music since 2004, the band hits a new high on their 2015 CD. Not your father’s New Wave sounds, Hand hits hard and fast on their 3rd CD entitled Kintsugi. The mix of hard rock and metal rock mixes well with the more progressive elements and Ms. Ward makes quite an effective vocalist. As one music writer put it hAND are bursting with passion and drive and they live up to the hype on the intriguing sounding and looking Kintsugi.

CAPITOL RECORDS - Thirty five years ago in 1980, Brian Wilson was almost non existent on the rock scene. That sad and tragic period of Brian’s career at the start of the 1980's, was kind of neglected but following the death of Dennis Wilson in 1983, Brian began his long trek back, a lot of it thanks to his ex-wife Marylyn Wilson, working in synchrony with Brian’s late, great producer Eugene Landy, the original ideas going back to the mid 1970s. I remember when Carl Wilson passed away in 1998, Brian turned a family tragedy into a great song called “Lay Down Burden”. That song was on Imagination, released in the fall of 1998 and was produced by Joe Thomas. That fortunate pairing of the minds of Wilson and Thomas is back again on 2015's No Pier Pressure, with Joe adding his famous glossy production sheen while scoring some impressive co-writing song credits. Brian’s solo albums over the past ten years have been very relaxing, some without the cutting edge sonics in play on much of his 1980s work with Gene Landy, but even so, Brian is in pretty good shape on No Pier Pressure. Brian’s eleventh album as a solo artist, the 16 track No Pier Pressure CD finds Brian and his band joined in the studio by his long time Beach Boys cohorts Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin as well as several younger singers, guest artists, who join Brian. I guess having some young girl pop stars singing his songs with him, takes the pressure off him, while hopefully imparting his magic to a whole new generation. Like his acclaimed Disney and Gershwin CD tributes, No Pier Pressure, captures the essence of the Wilson / Beach Boys sound for the 21st century. I guess having “no peer pressure” keeps Brian young and happy, and that’s the way it should be.

ELEKTROHASCH – Over in Germany the Elektrohasch label are keeping the spirit of psychedelic acid rock and heavy metal rock alive and well with a pair of albums. Holland based band, The Machine mix well crafted heavy rock with sonic instrumental excursions that will melt your mind. The Machine has released a number of CD titles on Elketrohasch and the 2015 release of Offblast! might be their rockingest yet. This in not rock to kick back and relax with. The Machine makes music that is extremely hard edged and psych-rock fans will take off into the sonic stratosphere with the “molton stoner rock” sound, riffs and dazzling electro-guitar takeoffs on Offblast! Also out on Elektroshasch is Habitat Animal by the Canadian band known as Public Animal. Once again, Elektrohasch has come up with a sonically heavy blast of sonic rock. Music fans into scathing, hard rock with psychedelic and metal arrangements will flip their lids for Public Animal.

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Doing the right thing by shining a light on his often overlooked presence in The Moody Blues, John Lodge released a solo album in 2015 entitled 10,000 Light Ages Ago. Lodge was always the rocker in the early Moody Blues 1966-1978, and many of the tracks on the 8 song, 30 minute 10,000 Light Ages Ago have a solid rock presence. John’s band features some astounding guitar work from the legendary Chris Spedding. That thundering Lodge bass sound and his presence as a vocalist is well represented here and the key for original Moodies fans is that the CD also features guest appearances, on one track, by two veteran cosmic rock legends, Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. Of course Lodge came into the Moodies after Mike, Ray and Denny Laine turned the band’s name into an international legend. Lodge has carried the Moodies torch since Mike Pinder left to move to California yet, clearly 10,000 Light Ages Ago is the perfect way to remind you what a great songwriter he is. With eight songs that clock in under a half hour, 10,000 Light Ages Ago never outstays its welcome. Each track brings back great memories of his song writing styles with the standout of course being the track with Mike and Ray and of course, the prog rock masterpiece title track—one of John’s finest Moodies inspired rockers. As with all tracks, 10,000 Light Ages Ago shines a spotlight on John’s fine band with Spedding along with album co-producer Alan Hewitt (keys, backing vocals), Gordon Marshall (drums) and Brian Howe (backing vocals).

GARD DU NORD RECORDS – As the 50th anniversary for the summer of love coming up, younger English band are taking advantage of such an illustrious pop music history. Count the band known as Papernut Cambridge among the ranks of those under 30 types who wish it was 1967 again or even 1968. This wonderful yet relatively unknown band features Ian Button, singer with Thrashing Doves and Death In Vegas. On this third Papernut Cambridge CD, called Nutlets 1967-80, Button revisits sacred terrain as many of these 10 tracks are actually obscure pop nuggets that I would dare the most astute pop historian to annotate, perhaps with the exception of a cover of that syrupy and always sweet Edison Lighthouse classic “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”. The guitar work and recorded sound of the band over the course of the entire album is first rate. Fans of classic pop bands like Lightning Seeds and ELO and even glam-rockers like T.Rex and Sparks will totally flip for the Papernut Cambridge approach to retro-rock. Button wears his influences well on this tasty blend of pop Nutlets.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA - The original guitarist in Jethro Tull, Mick Abrahams became an insurance salesman and he put music on the back burner but in 2015, Mick is back with Revived - a 17 track CD that takes Mick back to his pre-Tull roots of early rock ‘n’ roll. Just before Tull became a prog-rock band on Stand Up, they made This Was with Mick and the music on Revived is almost a shock. On hand backing Mick are fellow guitarists Martin Barre, Elliott Randall and Geoff Whitehon, of Procol Harum, while guests includes Bill Wyman of the Stones and singer Paul Jones. Highlights include a cover of the Canned Heat classic “On The Road Again”, a couple of Lieber / Stoller covers as well as new versions of Blodwyn Pig classics “Summer Day,” from Ahead Rings Out. Several guest artists appear, including singer Beverley Skeete on a cover of “Poison Ivy”. An unusual move by the one time progressive rock great, Revived also features an enclosed DVD which features Mick telling the Revived story and capturing moments in the studio with some of the key players on the CD. Revived is a welcome comeback from the early Jethro Tull / Blodwyn Pig guitar great Mick Abrahams. /

INSIDE OUT – Having been a key part of that long awaited Squackett album from 2012, prog guitar ace Steve Hackett returned in 2015 for what some are calling his finest album yet. Wolflight features Steve on the cover in the company of friendly looking wolves. He has always been considered in the top echelon of guitar players yet, even to the amazement of long time fans, Steve's vocals and song writing hits a new high on Wolflight. Progressive rock and pop vocal hooks is at the core of Wolflight, yet it also dives deep into the well of symphonic, orchestral sounds, bombastic, hard-edged rock, and a hybrid form of ethnic flavored, pan-global music. A pair of acoustic instrumental tracks offers a quick look into that legendary Hackett classical guitar sound. Guest players really enhance the sound, including the late, great Chris Squire, who plays bass on a track here—a sprawling ten minute song about domestic abuse called “Love Song To A Vampire”. Considering that the YES legend was dead within a few weeks of the release, it's kind of a metaphysical coincidence that the lead off track—one of several instrumental tracks on Wolflight—is called “Out Of The Body”. Like a phoenix rising for sure, Squire will not make another great album like Squackett again and that sobering thought will no doubt colour Steve’s future music. Backing vocals by Amanda Lehmann and Steve’s wife Jo Hackett are also sublime on Wolflight, as are Steve’s own multi-tracked vocals. What more can be said about the musicians Steve Hackett chooses for his albums? First rate players who summon sounds like a rock orchestra, including keyboard wiz Roger King, drummer Gary O’Toole and a host of other great players—in fact a veritable rock orchestra graces these tracks. Steve Hackett emerged as the lead guitarist in Genesis in 1971 and since then, he’s gone on to define the role of electric lead guitar in progressive rock. With Wolflight poised to become his most acclaimed album of the past 35 years, Steve Hackett shows no sign of letting up. In addition to the 12 track CD, the deluxe edition also includes a Blu-ray disc featuring the entire ten track album, with the two bonus tracks, presented in DTS Master Audio 5.1 and 24/48 stereo LPCM as well as 3 interview videos with Steve discussing the music of Wolflight, all topped off by that classic album artwork, which really personifies the musical content. Prog-rock fans who thrilled to Steve’s work with Chris Squire on the Squackett album will love Wolflight. With Chris Squire now sadly part of the universal garden of life, it’s perhaps up to Steve Hackett to carry that tradition of timeless, Beatles inspired progressive music onward into the brave new world of the 21st century. By 2050, at the mid 21st century, Steve Hackett will be surely be considered as one of the founding architects of progressive rock and Wolflight will be right up there among his most highly regarded albums. /

IVY LEAGUE RECORDS – Australian based pop group Alpine is turning heads around with their 2015 CD called Yuck! Far from being a yucky kind of affair, the ten track CD features a number of key songs that really stick in your head including the standout song here, track 8, a rousing pop ditty called “Damn Baby” that will immediately grab the attention of pop fans with an ear for great new sounds. Key to the Alpine sound are the twin female vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James, who both get excellent support from their band mates Christian O’Brien (guitars), Ryan Lamb (bass), Tim Royall (keys) and Phil Tucker (drums). There’s a number of outstanding tracks here and the CD cover art will also catch your eyes right away. If Alpine can keep coming up with catchy pop ditties like “Damn Baby”, they’ll be on their way to bigger and better things, like international acclaim. The CD may say Yuck on the cover, but Alpine are far from being anything but a promising pop-rock band.

– If the classic rock oldies from the late 1960s and early ‘70s appeal to you then by all means check out 8 O’ Clock In The Afternoon by guitarist / vocalist Jim Singleton. Jim is very active in the guitar world but after hearing this great CD, clearly his calling in life is as a blues-rock guitarist who can sing up a storm. The ten track CD kicks off with Jim’s smokin’ cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic “Rattlesnake Shake”. Written by Peter Green, it’s one of the original Mac’s best tracks and Singleton rips it up and makes it his own. There’s also a pair of covers written by the late great Rory Gallagher, including early favorite “What’s Going On”, from Rory’s second album with his original band Taste. A number of other covers grace the CD, while the album also features a number of guest artists backing Jim, including Bernie Mardsen (guitars), Charlie Musselwhite (harp), Joe Osborn (bass) and much more. If rock solid blues-rock and country-rock is your thing, it doesn’t get any better than 8 O’ Clock In The Afternoon by guitar aficionado Jim Singleton.

JURASSIC POP – The band known as The National have spun off and Gunnera, the 2015 CD by The Pfarmers is the result. The CD is experimental pop with a slight rock edge but it’s pretty harmless and fun stuff. Featuring drummer from The National, Bryan Devendorf along with spatial arranger Dave Nelson and vocalist Danny Seim, the Pfarmers CD has a kind of dream like quality to it and it’s rightfully described as a mix of catchy pop songs with long instrumental breaks. There’s quite a variety of vocal and instrumental music here but it’s all very experimental and very loose and open with plenty of strange looping effects and sonic textures. Check out Pfarmers for some diverse and ultra strange sonic delights. Gunnera is much easier to listen to than to describe with mere words.

KSCOPE - Multi-instrumentalist and composer Steven Wilson works prog rock magic on his 2015 CD solo release Hand. Cannot. Erase. The 11 track CD sounds like the passing of the old guard of progressive music into the brave new world of the 21st century, still. The thunder may have subsided in the 20th century rock world but Wilson and his crack band delivers the goods on a CD that is best listened to, frequently. Playing the music from Hand. Cannot. Erase. live on his 2015 tour, Wilson has assembled a virtuoso band - Nick Beggs (bass), Adam Holzman (keyboards), Guthrie Govan (guitar), David Kilminster (guitar) and Craig Blundell (drums). Hand. Cannot. Erase. features dynamic performances by Wilson and members of his touring ensemble, Marco Minneman on drums, and vocal accompaniment from Ninet Tayeb. Between his solo work, work as the leader of Porcupine Tree as well as his remixing classics by rock greats such as YES and Jethro Tull, clearly Wilson has assumed the position of resident rock statesman at large. It’s not wrong to say a lot of Wilson’s music on Hand. Cannot. Erase. echoes, at least in spirit, past music by YES and other prog pioneers and especially now, that’s a good thing. Written, produced and mixed by Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is time well spent among prog-rock disciples.

MANIAC SQUAT RECORDS – There’s only one member left of The Spiders From Mars—the band that David Bowie rode the road to fame on. Drummer MickWoody” Woodmansey takes on the ages with a new band that expertly revives Bowie's 1970 breakthrough album The Man Whole Sold The World. Coming out hot on the heels of his ’69 hit “Space Oddity”, The Man provided the template for Bowie’s success yet the masses weren’t quite ready for him yet. Key to Bowie’s original vision on The Man was Brooklyn born producer Tony Visconti, who became one of the most influential record producers in U.K. music history. Tony dedicates this double CD set to Bowie and of course the late great Mick Ronson. Ronno’s daughter, singer Lisa Ronson is among the cast of backing singers. Bowie and Tony couldn’t have hoped for a better band than the two Mick’s. With disc one featuring The Man played live start to finish in London on September 22, 2014, disc two of the 2 CD set features more Bowie classics—focusing on the track that Woody played drums on for Bowie—revived for this show. Tony and Mick have put together a great band for this revival of The Man, including Marc Almond on vocals, former Bowie keyboardist Erdal Kizilcay, the spot on vocals of Greg Norman, well recorded guitars and vocals of Steve Norman and a whole slew of great guitarists and vocalists paying the ultimate homage to Bowie and Ronno. The sound, expertly produce by Visconti, is first rate. The CD booklet features discography information and pics of all the great musicians on this revival of The Man Who Sold The World.

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE RECORDINGS – Singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni calls her music folk-noir and it’s true there some darker shades to her otherwise pop and folk based music. That said, her songs are both effective and evocative. At the tender age of 23, Ms. Sermanni is seemingly poised for an amazing future of musical greatness. Recorded in the Scottish Highlands, Ms. Sermanni’s 2015 CD, entitled Tied To The Moon, features her in the studio, recording with a range of musicians, including guitarist Colin Macleod. Although the album still maintains its sparseness and noir like edges, Rachel Sermanni’s ten track Tied To The Moon works on a number of musical levels and the CD is also appealingly packaged, featuring warm pastel shadings and complete booklet and lyrics.

- The band known as Quill have been playing in the Birmingham England area for years. The band centered around the music of guitarist Ben Brain, who tragically passed away. Ben’s wife Joy Strachan-Brain is the lead singer of Quill and she rises to the occasion on the 2015 CD release of Brush With the Moon. Ben Brain had left a number of songs in the vault so to speak and on Brush With The Moon, the band have recorded these songs as kind of a tribute to the late composer. Featuring Ben’s original demos, Brush With The Moon is being hailed as a tribute to Ben and has also been called a labor of love. The CD cover art painting and booklet also features sketches of Ben’s drawings. Playing percussion on Brush With The Moon is the great drummer of The Move and ELO, Bev Bevan. Speaking about Quill, Bev adds, “Over the years I have always been an admirer of Quill. About a year ago I joined Quill as percussionist. Joy and I are writing songs together and we are looking forward to recording tracks for another album to be released later this year.” More folk than rock, there’s also a definite progressive element to this Quill album. The songs have staying power and will appeal to progressive music lovers as well as folk-rock fans. Also of note is the excellent Brush With The Moon CD packaging and eye-catching booklet with lyrics. Overall, Brush With The Moon is a fine introduction to the progressive folk-rock sound of Quill.

NINJA TUNE – It’s exciting to see the progress of music in the early 21st century. With so much rock and fusion music like waters under the bridge, it’s up to younger bands to pave new roads and explore the virtual unknown. Case in point is the CD called Starfire by the Norwegian band called Jaga Jazzist. Featuring the music of guitarist / composer Lars Horntveth, Jaga Jazzist have been called everything from jazz-rock and prog/electronica to lesser known sub genres like polka and even hip-hop. Covering so much ground can be disconcerting for the listener, yet on Starfire, Jaga Jazzist excels in an all together new kind of music that will surely appeal to fans of jazz-rock fusion and progressive rock. True, the all instrumental nature of their music makes them special in this day and age, yet there’s also something friendly and familiar about their sound which should make them a draw for music fans who’ve been around the block. Jaga Jazzist features a band with eight members who are augmented by a number of musicians adding everything from strings and handclaps to additional synths and even something called the “Swarmatron”, which presumably is some kind of synth or mellotron related instrument. With guitars, synths and all types of percussion burning and ablaze, Jaga Jazzist is clearly not for the faint of heart. Fans of Zappa and the proggiest of the instrumental prog-bands will love Starfire. Jaga Jazzist makes daring and challenging instrumental music that explodes with impunity. With the 2015 CD release of Starfire, Jaga Jazzist have released their best album yet and sound set for even bigger and better things.

ONOMATOPOEIA RECORDS – The English have such a rich history of great “British” pop and rock bands for the past 50 years. You can add the name William D. Drake to that list. On Mr. Drake’s 2015 CD, entitled Revere Reach he seemingly channels great singer-songwriter tunesmiths like Ray Davies and even 1970s bands like Gryphon. The sound is both gothic and winsome. Imagine Penguin Café Orchestra backing up Ray Davies, Jim Pembroke or even Kevin Ayers on an album that reeks of Britishness! Here’s how the record label describes it: “At once heart felt, hearty and absurd, its heady reveries blend ancient-seeming modal folk melody with an obliquely slanted rock thrust.” (lol) That description is dead on too. A fine keyboardist and a former member of a band called The Cardiacs, Mr. Drake and his band have a number of titles on vinyl and CD on his label. Sounding influenced by Tin Pan Alley tunes to London circa 1966 to a range of heady art-rock sounds from the early Virgin years and even bands like Jethro Tull, all the way to modern sounds, with Revere Reach William D. Drake is a voice and a songwriter worth keeping your eyes on.

ORIGIN RECORDS – Based in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., Origin is one of the top jazz-related music labels world wide. Although primarily jazz focused, Origin has a great pop-jazz album out in 2015 by keyboardist / composer Jack Perla, entitled Enormous Changes. With Jack handling all the keyboards, piano and accordion, the album also features excellent contributions from a range of players and singers including Crystal Monee Hall (vocals), Jordan Carp (vocals), Robin Coomer (vocals), Gawain Matthews (guitars), Jason Slota (drums) along with other fine players. The sound on Enormous Changes is very pop-jazz, meaning there’s not only virtuoso performances all around but there’s also some cool pop hooks worked into the tracks. This is very surprising in and of itself but it’s not unheard of, especially when you consider early 1970s bands like Hatfield & The North and more recently, the long awaited comeback CD from Southern California fusioneers Blue Shift. Featuring a range of gifted singers, both male and female, Perla’s airey, yet exciting music on Enormous Changes easily fits into that class of legendary bands, even though it’s more jazz than heavy rock fusion. Jack Perla has a number of albums out under his own name that covers a range of genres including opera, jazz, chamber and symphonic music. With the 2015 CD release of Enormous Changes, Jack Perla reinvents a new and exciting blend of innovative 21st century jazz-rock.

REAL MUSIC – One of the most pure New Age artists on the Real Music label is the husband and wife duo of Jethro and Prem Williams, known as Sacred Earth. Following a series of CD re-releases on Real Music, Sacred Earth return in 2015 with an album of all new material called kuTumba. Mystical and meditative are just a couple of words used to describe the hypnotic grooves of Sacred Earth and they combine their best attributes on kuTumba. The Sacred Earth sound is very much rooted in the realms of yoga, meditation and New Age music and both Jethro and Prem have openly stated that their goal is “To create music that inspires the listener to connect to the deeper place within themselves” and they more than live up to that philosophy on kuTumba. With Jethro handling the acoustic guitars, flutes and whistles and Prem on lead vocals and keyboards, Ku Tumba also features a number of guest artists on exotic instruments like gravikord, Celtic harp, tabla and didgeridoo. Most of the music is vocal based with Prem’s soaring chanting but some of the tracks are more instrumental based such as the near ten minute title track. The liner notes also feature track by track liner notes that provides further insights into Sacred Earth’s musical spirituality. Nine albums into their career, Sacred Earth find their musical sweet spot with kuTumba.

RICKY GARDINER SONGS - Rock guitar hero Ricky Gardiner is best known for his dazzling electric guitar work in the classic ‘70s prog-rock band Beggar’s Opera. In 2014, U.K. reissue label BGO released a double CD set from Beggars Opera featuring their two most famous albums - Act One and Waters Of Change. Just around the same time, Ricky’s recent solo albums came to the attention of and for long time fans they are well worth hearing. Ricky was a key part of the David Bowie band lineup that recorded the 1977 Low album and, true to form, some of the tracks on the all instrumental album Songs For The Electric feature guitar instrumentals that would have fit right in on Low. These songs are stark and full of sonic despair but the one constant is Ricky’s haunting and very linear guitar lines, mostly played on electric guitars. Songs For The Electric is performed entirely by Ricky with help from Virginia Scott on keyboards and co-writing. Another recent title featuring Ricky Gardiner and Virginia Scott is a 2010 release entitled Lose A Life, by an updated version of Gardiner’s ‘70s band Beggars Opera. Interestingly, Lose A Life revolves around Gardiner’s medical condition known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), which typically emanates from overexposure to microwave radiation devices such as cell phones, cell towers and other microwave radiation creating devices. Not yet considered a medical condition accepted in all countries, the grim prospects of EHS is at the core of the Lose A Life CD, which includes track titles like “Electrofire Invasion”, “Masts On My Roof” and “Dr. Carlo”, - written about the radiation exposure specialist blacklisted by the CTIA and other radiation promoting lobbyists world wide. Gardiner is right on the money as the world fails to grasp the importance of this heated topic of mass deception and unfortuanate medical predicament. Originally released in 2010, Lose A Life features Ricky’s guitars backed up by the voice and keys of Virginia Scott and drumming of Tom Gardiner. Both albums, the all-instrumental electro-rock soundscapes of Songs For The Electric and the rock-opera vibe of Lose A Life are truly eye-opening and will be of definite interest among fans of this often overlooked guitarist. Guitar hero Ricky Gardiner strikes sonic gold on his latest solo CD releases. /

ROUGH AND TUMBLE LABEL – Singer-songwriter Matthew K is hot off the presses with his 2015 self-titled solo album MatthewK. A number of singer-songwriters come to mind while listening to the MatthewK CD, including Billy Joel and even the late great Harry Chapin. The 12 track CD was recorded and mixed in the US, the UK and Australia as well. The sound is full bodied and is filled with crunching electric guitars and soaring synths. Like the aforementioned Joel and Chapin comparisons, the sound of MatthewK might be AOR or very singer songwriter dominated but it’s all done very tastefully and Matthew’s voice never wears out its welcome. The CD features a very smart crew of producers and engineers but ultimately the album achieves its sonic sheen thanks to the sonic charm and MatthewK's song writing smarts.

SHOOGLE RECORDS - In 2014 multi-instrumentalist / drummer / programming / guitarist James Macintosh and singer-songwriter Kaela Rowan joined forces for Kaela’s debut solo album Menagerie. Both Kaela and James are also members of the group Shooglenifty and in 2015, they released a new CD with Shooglenifty called The Untied Knot. Both James and Kaela perform on this 2015 Shooglenifty CD and they get solid support from a range of musicians. Between them all, the sound they get has been called Druidic Funk, Celtic Cantabile, Dub Ceilidh and other terms used to describe their eclectic mix of 21st century Celtic and Scottish folk and progressive 21st century folk-jazz. The majority of tracks here are instrumentals that sometimes recall some of the Chieftains music, yet there’s also some uptempo, “progressive” folk-rock inspired moments. With Kaela and James, Shooglenifty also features Malcolm Crosbie (guitars), Quee MacArthur (bass), Garry Finlayson (banjo) and Ewan MacPherson (mandolin, guitars). Hearing Kaela’s vocals on these tracks is also great and of course, James on drums seals the deal on this very cool-sounding progressive, World-Beat inspired folk-rock CD. Fans of The Chieftains, and some of Mark Knopfler’s film soundtracks will also enjoy The Untied Knot by Shooglenifty.

SUNDAY BEST – Produced by Mick Jones of The Clash, the 2015 CD by Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, entitled The Third is a great album of retro pop and rock and early country pop. After a few listens you feel like you’re back in 1957. These guys would have made a great splash at an early sock hop or rock & roll show back then. Based in London, the music this fab trio makes has been described as a mix of dirty R&B, whiskey soaked country and haunting Hawaiian jungle and gospel fever. Consisting of 2 ladies and guy, the sound is not unlike the thing Amy Winehouse was going for before her life ended way too soon. There’s some great sounding strings and horns for added effect while one look at the back cover art of the CD finds the trio playing sitar and tabla. One of the most fun experiences you can have with a CD, The Third is a fab intro to the retro-tinged rock ‘n’ sound of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis.

URBAN NOMAD BAND – Hailing from Manitoba, Canada, the band known as Urban Nomad is keeping the spirit of progressive rock and jazz-rock alive and well with their critically acclaimed, self-titled CD. Although the CD features only 3 tracks, (including the 3 part “Living In Exile”), the 33 minute CD is filled with extended jams and lyrics that sometimes evoke Steely Dan and at times, 1970s prog-rock bands such as Camel. The four piece band features Will Neufeld (keyboards, lead vocals), Nick Rempel (guitar, vocals), Justin Kroeker ( bass) and James Neufeld (drums). The songs work on a number of levels and true to form, the band’s sonic approach includes influences such as King Crimson and newer bands such as Porcupine Tree and Jaga Jazzist. Fusion, rock and funk mix well together on the Urban Nomad CD and it’s clear that spin after spin Urban Nomad have staying power. Even though the CD was released in 2012, it’s not too late to pick up on the power and sonic might of Urban Nomad.




AGELESS RECORDS – Making music since the mid 1990’s, Holland Phillips returns in 2015 with a CD of new music called Daydream Alley. The twelve track CD is very easy on the ears and mixes lite instrumental sounds with all forms of New Age related electronica. Much more easy listening than hard care electronics, Daydream Alley is clearly put together with much care. In fact, a better description could be smooth jazz meets New Age. All of the songs were written by Holland Phillips and all the pianos and synths as well were played by Holland as well. You can tell Holland was classically trained as a lot of his sonic motifs sound inspired by the great composers of the past. With its mix of ambient, instrumental and chill-out smooth jazz grooves, Holland Phillips will make instrumental music fans very happy with Daydream Alley.

– Over in the U.K., instrumental based New Age / healing music continues onwards and upwards with, Sacred Alliance - the 2014 CD from the group known as Anima. The nine track CD clocks in over 70+ minutes with the accent once again being on electronic space music that borrows from chill out grooves and hypnotic trance based synth sounds. At the core of Anima is composer Ali Calderwood, who wrote and performed the bulk of the music here, while Daniela Broder adds in some wordless female vocals for extra effect. Fans of meditation music will find much to enjoy here as the scenic sounds are superbly performed. Fans of this sort of instrumental healing music will love Sacred Alliance and equally amazing is the Anima web site, which, like their music is state of the art. Among the other genres covered on Anima music are Reiki music, relaxation music, spa and massage music, yoga music and countless other sub genres that specialize in this form of therapeutic sounds. The album art is great and the CD sounds impressive. For those into downloads, the Anima web site offers six different types of downloads, ranging from basic mp3 to high tech FLAC and DSD downloads. New Age instrumental fans will enjoy the soothing sounds of Anima and their Sacred Alliance.

BOHEMIAN EMBASSY - Acoustic guitar fans might not know his name yet, but California based Tom Caufield is a guitarist worth checking out. Caufield’s most recent CD release, entitled Tales From The Wine Dark Sea, features haunting CD cover art and the music within more than fits the bill. Caufield describes his brand of acoustic instrumental guitar as being “contemplative mood music.” In addition to Tales From The Wine Dark Sea, Caufield also has a another release out called Things I Heard While In The Womb, an album that features a 22 minute single called “Rust Of The New Babylon”. It’s interesting to note that Caufield cites progressive U.K. musicians like Mike Oldfield, Tony Banks and Brian Eno among his early progressive music influences while Carlos Santana, Will Ackerman and his early studies of Segovia are among his big guitar influences. From progressive rock vibes to Windham Hill style guitar ruminations, Tom Caufield’s Tales From The Wine Dark Sea travels down a number of sonic highways and is one of the most eclectic acoustic guitar albums of the decade.

CEDAR ‘N’ SAGE MUSIC - After recording 30 albums as solo artists, flute master and composer Sherry Finzer and fellow flautist Mark Holland recorded and released Flute Flight on the Cedar Sage Music label. The 13 track CD is a a heavenly musical experience. Ms. Finzer’s speciality is the silver flute while Mark Holland excels on the Native American flute. The pair are accompanied by a range of musicians who add key backing on light percussion, synth pads, piano, crystal blow, bongs, guitar and other instruments. The CD falls into a range of New Age / Healing Music genres and the tracks veer into both ambient and upbeat New Age styles. Having enjoyed and appreciated each other on CD over the years, Flute Flight finally became a reality and was recorded in May of 2015. What could have turned into a flute fight is in reality a sublime, sonic experience. Flute Flight is right up there with the finest meditative listening experiences of 2015. /

DAN MUSIC - Back in the 1970s, keyboardist / composer Stefan Nilsson was one of the key artists to emerge during the critically acclaimed European jazz-rock boom of that golden decade. As the leader of the Swedish jazz-rock fusion band Kornet—a band that released three excellent jazz-rock albums along the way—Nilsson was also very active in a supporting role, recording and touring with Sweden's greatest jazz-rock musicians of the era, including guitarist Janne Schaffer and the late, great flutist / keyboardist Björn J:son Lindh, as well as live shows with the late, great Finnish jazz-rock-fusion bassist / composer Pekka Pohjola. In the mid 1980’s the NYC based Breakthru’ Records was instrumental in bringing Nilsson’s music to the US, as was realized on the 1984 Breakthru’ Lp release of Nilsson’s album classic Music For Music Lovers. In 1986, Nilsson’s first CD release—a Neoclassical instrumental music masterpiece, featuring Stefan's grand piano and orchestra called Romantic Piano Dreams—was also released on CD by Breakthru’ in early 1986 . Despite critical acclaim for his solo albums, in the ensuing years, Nilsson ventured away from the jazz fusion sound and went on to score film soundtracks for a number of critically acclaimed movies, mostly from Sweden and Scandinavia. Other session work followed throughout the years and now in 2015, Stefan Nilsson is back with his first album of jazz-rock instrumentals in years, entitled The Gift. It’s almost as if it’s 1985 again as The Gift is full of magical and memorable, heavy keyboard based, jazz rock fusion instrumentals. The Gift features Stefan backed up by a full band, including electric guitarists Max Schultz and Eric Söderlind, along with other fine musicians such as percussionist and album engineer, the late Magnus Persson, who passed away at the end of 2014 and for whom The Gift is dedicated. Most of the music on this 11 cut CD are Stefan Nilsson originals that feature his one of a kind electric keyboards backed by a complete jazz fusion band. There are also two swinging Nilsson adaptations of J.S Bach classics—including the title track "The Gift", which is based around Bach's Dm Concerto—as well as a stately cover of Vivaldi’s “Winter”, from the famous Four Seasons classical suite. There are another two covers here with Nilsson and company performing “Honeysuckle Rose”, written by Fats Waller and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, the old evergreen by Duke Ellington. Anyone familiar with Stefan Nilsson’s music will be delighted to find that The Gift is one of the most varied and well rounded albums to date by the much appreciated musician. Those music fans who enjoyed Nilsson’s ground breaking work with Kornet as well his selected solo discography, including Romantic Piano Dreams and Music For Music Lovers, will find much to appreciate about The Gift. Stefan Nilsson's long awaited return to the jazz-rock fusion world, The Gift takes its place as one of the finest keyboard-based instrumental fusion albums of the decade and may, in fact be ultimately regarded as Nilsson’s crowning achievement to date as a recording artist.

ECM RECORDS – The legendary ECM Records label has worked with some certified legends of both the acoustic and the electric guitar and they strike sonic gold with Only Sky—the 2015 CD release by guitar hero David Torn. Over the years, Torn has worked with a range of music legends but on Only Sky (written in lower case only sky on the CD cover), it’s just him and he really puts the pedal to the metal on a CD that is filled with a cross section of mind boggling guitar wizardry. Recorded in New York, Only Sky is both intimate and experimental and is truly an album to get lost in, only to find your way back and play it again. Speaking about his 2015 masterpiece, Torn adds, ‘This record is the closest to capturing what it is I do alone with a guitar at home – and in that way only sky is the most personal record I’ve made.’ Filled with harrowing, glacial-sounding soundscapes, Only Sky is almost Hendrix like in its approach to guitar experimentalism. Even so, the album also echoes back to the great works that ECM released over the years from Norwegian guitar icon Terje Rypdal. Perhaps the most astounding thing about Only Sky is that the album is just Torn, alone in full experimental mode, with the guitarist adding, ‘Even if it doesn’t always sound like it, all of the music is just my instrument and multiple looping devices, with some favorite fuzz boxes. The guitar and the looping devices were amplified separately, enabling that sense of both spaciousness and clarity.’ Torn has spoke extensively about Only Sky and has spoken about the ‘different planes of sound’ and the ‘strange occurrences of poly tonality’ and how they take the listener to strange sonic destinations. Featuring the guitarist performing guitar, electric Oud, real-time mechanical and electronic modifications, David Torn’s Only Sky is a collection of magical guitar paintings that will take you far beyond your wildest sonic destinations.

– Finnish trumpeter / composer Verneri Pohjola continues rising through the ranks in the jazz music world with his 2015 CD, entitled Bullhorn. Verneri’s father is Pekka Pohjola, who despite having passed away on November 27, 2008, remains among the greatest instrumental jazz-rock composers that Finland has ever produced. Some of the father’s orchestral inclinations are featured on Bullhorn, but for the most part, the CD is a solid jazz effort that eschews guitars and the rock influences of the classic Pohjola sound. Verneri gets a beautiful tone from his trumpet, which just soars throughout the CD. Bullhorn also features Verneri backed by a solid band including Aki Rissanen (piano), Antti Lötjönen (bass) and Teppo Mäkynen (drums). Also on hand are several other horn players to give the sound an even fuller, brassy sound. The U.K. based Editions label continues to give adventurous, high quality jazz a chance in a music world filled with crowded, too quickly forgotten youtube clips. The Bullhorn CD cover art is quite effective and the CD liner notes are very interesting, with Verneri stating about the CD, ‘It has my sound written very clearly into it. It has the intimate sounds and lyricism and also the rough energy and emphasis on the compositions. At the same time it’s very jazz.’ Being the son of the most gifted rock composer ever to come out of Finland and all of Europe for that matter is a daunting challenge that might stifle another offspring, yet Verneri Pohjola has created a unique statement of his own on the jazzy, potent instrumental sound of Bullhorn.

ESSENTIAL MESSENGER RECORDS – Based up in Bronxville, New York, Essential Messenger Records is making jazz guitar fans very happy with Live Intentionally! - the 2015 CD release from Long Island guitarist Larry Newcomb. Spotlighting the sonic chemistry of The Larry Newcomb Quartet, the nine track Live Intentionally! features the guitarist backed up by a solid band including Eric Olsen (piano), Dmitri Kolesnik (bass) and Jimmy Madison (drums). The CD features three Newcomb originals that sit comfortably on a CD that also features Newcomb covers of classics from the pens of legends such as Sammy Cahn, Jerome Kern, Carla Bley and much more. The tracks flow together so seamlessly that you’d be hard pressed to know which is a cover and which is an original. Commenting in the CD liner notes, Larry adds, “Live Intentionally! was recorded live. I wanted to capture the spontaneous intensity and energy of playing jazz without a safety net. I also wanted to test my own performance and improvising skills in real time. This is our genuine, spontaneous playing, reaching for all the joy and beauty we could capture in each moment.” Jazz guitar fans will totally enjoy the fretboard action in play on Live Intentionally! by Larry Newcomb Quartet.

EVERSOUND – The guitarist known as Lino is back in the summer of 2015 with his fourth solo album album called Cascadia. Musically and sonically, the 34 minute, 11 cut CD is a worthy follow up to Lino’s 2007 CD Miami Jam. Breezy and inventive instrumental guitar music, Cascadia finds Lino recording in the company of top players like Chris Frazier (drums), Georges Bouhey (keyboards) and Andy Warr (sax), to name just a few. Most of the tracks are fully blown jazz rock instrumentals that encompass the realms of jazz fusion, rock instrumental, classical guitar music, Nuevo flamenco and smooth jazz as well. Among the ensemble pieces are several acoustic instrumental tracks that showcase Lino’s skillful classical guitar playing. The CD starts off with the title track described as a “smooth jazz” gem inspired by the breathtaking landscapes of central Oregon and the CD closes out with the third of Lino’s tributes to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Lino’s favorite composer. A few spins of Cascadia and you’ll be hooked on what music lovers in the know are already referring to as “Lino Music”. It’s taken several years for a new Lino CD, but guitar fans will thoroughly enjoy the adventurous guitar instrumental sound of Lino’s Cascadia.

GREYDISC – Massachusetts based Kevin Kastning continues breaking new ground for the art of the guitar with his 2015 solo album, Otherworld. When I say breaking new ground, I don’t take that term very lightly as not many albums of solo acoustic guitar music feature a guitarist playing 36 string Contra-Alto guitar, 15 string Extended Classical guitar, 17-string and 16 string Contraguitars—all on the same album. Not only that but Kevin is actually the inventor of many of these guitars and to say he’s masterful at coaxing the best sounds possible out of them would be an understatement. Kevin’s Greydisc music imprint has already established itself as one of the most highly regarded experimental music labels in the world today. Earlier releases featured albums with modern music masters like Mark Wingfield, Michael Manring, Carl Clements, Sandor Szabo and other collaborators, yet on Otherworld, the focus is solely on Kevin’s moody and atmospheric guitar work. Once again superbly recorded, Otherworld lives up to its name as the sound is dense and raveled, dark and insightful. Back in the day, Kevin studied with modern day guitar masters such as Pat Metheny, yet his music takes you to places Metheny has yet to visit. In some respects, Kevin’s music owes more to experimental music makers such as Phillip Glass and even Harry Partch, who experimented with musical timbres that people hadn’t even dreamed of yet. Yet, even with this air of otherworldly experimentalism, all 16 tracks on Otherworld are quite easy on the ears—Kevin’s picked notes flying out into the sonic atmosphere with unparalleled ease. It’s to his credit that he’s earned his reputation by working and recording with other guitarists and musicians yet, on Otherworld guitarist Kevin Kastning raises the bar for 21st century musical experimentalism as well as expanding the horizons for the art of the acoustic guitar.

HANSENHAUS – Based in South Florida, guitarist Eric Hansen is turning heads with his latest CD entitled String Theory. Eric was brought to the attention of by guitarist Jim Stubblefield of the instrumental Nuevo Flamenco guitar group Incendio. Musically, Hansen and Stubblefield sound like guitar brothers in that they both espouse a similar classical / flamenco approach to the guitar. Like Stubblefield, Eric Hansen is also a virtuoso of the nylon string classical guitar and after giving String Theory a few spins, it’s clear that his command of Nuevo flamenco and classical guitar is impeccable. Although released in 2011, String Theory is filled with a range of Hansen instrumental originals and the CD also features covers of “Nature Boy” by Eden Ahbez and then there’s Hansen’s flamenco rave up version of “Hotel California”, turned into a flamenco guitar fest. Although he’s quite capable of entertaining as a solo guitarist, Eric is joined by some fine players on String Theory, including Matt Calderin (drums), Tony Monaco (percussion), Rick Geragi (percussion) and Randi Fishenfeld (violin). Eric’s web site is filled with more info on his CD output with each CD featuring sound clip samples. Nuevo Flamenco guitar fans and in fact anyone who appreciates virtuosic guitar playing, give a listen to Eric Hansen.

HOUSE MASTER RECORDS - In 2015, Cologne, Germany based guitarist Alan J. Bound released Deep Space: The Alan J. Bound Retrospective 2005 – 2014. The 2015 Deep Space CD compilation from German space-rock guitarist Alan J. Bound features music the guitarist recorded on a pair of albums—Cosmology and Moonglider—over the past decade. Much of the 9 track Deep Space spotlights music Alan J. Bound recorded with Jaki Liebezeit—drummer with German rock legends Can and drummer for Michael Rother during the late 1970s. Fans into the instrumental side of Pink Floyd will find that Deep Space is equally filled with a powerful combination of instrumental progressive rock, electronic rock and sonic space-rock explorations. Deep Space was created and released during the first half of 2015 as a special, limited edition CD and booklet, contained in a mini-Lp style jacket, featuring an all black CD pressing, complete with sonic remastering. Other Deep Space highlights include 4 tracks remixed especially for this 2015 CD release and new liner notes and 2014 interview with Alan J. Bound written by Robert S. Silverstein of Musically, as a guitarist and composer, Alan J. Bound echoes the more melodic and rock driven aspects of later period Tangerine Dream, while the Leibezeit / Rother connection is also echoed thanks to the relentless “motorik” beat fueled by the stellar guitar / drum combination between Alan J. Bound and the drumming icon from Can. Fans might also notice another Pink Floyd-ian kind of sound as Alan sounds (especially, tone wise) like a David Gilmour disciple of sorts. Having hinted at it on their instrumental rock classic, Obscured By Clouds, Deep Space is the kind of music Pink Floyd should have been making more of during their Dark Side era. In fact, I might take it one step further by saying that, if some of the great German classical composers of centuries past were alive today, Deep Space is the kind of music they would be making. Hopefully, this CD will inspire fans of this much revered genre of European progressive music. Who knows? If the more puritanical New Age and classical music critics pass, or miss out, perhaps the heavy metal and hard rock crowd will catch on and appreciate Alan J. Bound for the sheer unrelenting instrumental rock dynamics in play on Deep Space. With one classic melodic track after the next, Alan J. Bound’s Deep Space compilation is the instrumental rock music event of 2015.

HUMBLEDRAGON ENTERTAINMENT – Canadian flutist / composer Ron Korb is clearly in love with Chinese and Asian music in general and the results of that musical affinity can be heard on the 2015 CD release of Asia Beauty. Packaged like a book, complete with hard back CD case and multipage CD booklet, Asia Beauty takes the listener on a stroll through the magic of Asian musical motifs. With song titles like “Hanoi Café” and “Ancient China”, the album is quite soothing and as such should neatly fall into the New Age instrumental music genre. What’s even more impressive is Ron’s implementation of a number of Chinese music instruments, including all types of flutes that he plays, while backing from a range of musicians, including a number of guitarists, keyboardists and percussionists keeps the music intriguing throughout. In depth liner notes with fascinating artwork and superlative CD sound quality will keep the listener even more focused on Korb’s magical Asia Beauty CD.

JOHN IRVINE MUSIC - The concept of jazz-rock fusion is not exactly a new idea, yet new and exciting musicians keep stepping up to the challenges of bringing the genre just that much further. Case in point is Next Stop, the 2013 CD by The John Irvine Band. This excellent nine track Next Stop CD somehow went under the radar yet, thanks to astute listeners who continue to sing its praises the Next Stop CD finally found its way for review into the trusty mwe3 CD player. Some in the know music fans have cited the late 1970s music of Alan Holdsworth as being similar in style to the sound of Next Stop. That may be true, yet on Next Stop, the Scotland-based John Irvine just about revolutionizes the entire jazz-rock instrumental concept and overall, Next Stop makes for a most electrifying hour of music listening. Not only are Irvine’s guitar skills first rate but his mastery of the melodic ideas involved in creating memorable instrumental music makes Next Stop one of the most vital instrumental fusion albums of the millennium. A most successful follow up to Irvine’s 2011 CD Wait & See, on 2013’s Next Stop, Irvine settles deeply into a vast sonic landscape while receiving fantastic support from his JIB rhythm section—Alan Emslie (drums, percussion and co-production) and Doug Kemp (bass). Fusion fans looking for new and intelligently written and recorded instrumental jazz-rock fusion will do the right thing by picking up on the CD release of Next Stop, by the John Irvine Ban.

JUST MUSIC – One of the best electronic music / experimental music labels in the U.K. today is Just Music and they have another winner on their hands with the 2015 CD release of Beautiful Broken, from the group known as Digitonal. Actually, Digitonal is more or less the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Andy Dobson. Some astute music insiders have compared Digitonal to the minimalist sounds of Steve Reich. There is a bit of that Reich meets Philip Glass experimentalism on Beautiful Broken, but there’s also a kind of alternative, soundtrack kind of feel ala Penguin Café Orchestra that is also present in the best New Age kind of albums. With the experimental minimalist meets New Age meets soundtrack kind of sound going on, it’s hard to pigeon hole Digitonal’s Beautiful Broken CD. The album is actually the 5th Digitonal release since 1997, yet the first since Save Your Light For Darker Days, released in 2008. Dobson’s forte is his unique approach to electronic keyboards yet he’s also well versed on piano and clarinet too and he puts most of that to good use on an album that also features contributions from several like minded musicians who never overshadow the sound which is often harmonious and picturesque. Commenting on Beautiful Broken, Dobson further explains, “I’ve always wanted to make music that’s emotive for me and the audience. I think it’s quite difficult with electronic music, to get the right blend. But that’s what I’m always working towards.”

LETIZIA MUSIC – The perfect album to bring you up and out of the sonic doldrums, Froggy & The Toads is a solid jazz-funk instrumental CD featuring the production and compositions of guitarist Gaetano Letizia. Sonically, the all instrumental CD is all over the musical map while taking in elements of jazz, funk, R&B and even reggae beats. Gaetano receives solid support from his group members Wilbur Krebs (bass) and Mike Clark (drums). Gaetano has cited influences like Hendrix, Clapton, B.B. and Albert King and more and you can hear those sonic influences and a whole lot more on the solid funk-jazz sound of Froggy & The Toads. With all the tracks featuring frog-titled themes throughout, on Froggy & The Toads, Gaetano Letizia brings out the jazz with a heaping helping of funky, bluesy guitar tracks.

LOU PECCI MUSIC – Guitarist Lou Pecci is receiving accolades for his solo acoustic and electric guitar albums. Lou’s 2014 CD, Original Time is filled with a dozen atmospheric guitar instrumentals and the album spotlights a mix of his acoustic and electric guitar work. The tracks are eventful and, start to finish, Original Time is a good choice if you enjoy original, driving and rhythmic acoustic / electric solo guitar music. Commenting on the concept behind Original Time, in the following interview Lou tells, "Years ago I started getting interested in odd time signatures, and decided to go back and start with Dave Brubeck’s old albums, like Time Out, Time Further Out and Time Changes… etc. Then awhile back John McLaughlin put out a DVD called The Gateway To Rhythm, which is about Konokol, a system of mastering rhythm which also deals quite a bit with odd time. Eventually I decided to write some tunes in 5/4 and 7/4 and mix them in with 4/4 and 6/8 tunes, which is one difference to the other CDs. I called it Original Time as there are no covers and it’s a play on the word “time.” Just as intriguing is Lou’s 2013 CD entitled James Bond On Electric Guitar. Even though there’s no drumming on Lou's CDs, his classic Bond movie song covers are played quite well as solo guitar instrumentals. Starting off with the famous “James Bond Theme”, written by Monty Norman, the 12 track CD goes on to feature solo instrumental guitar sounds of some of the most famous James Bond melodies written by the late great John Barry, while the CD closes out with a Pecci original called “The Black Path”. Along the same lines are a pair of CDs Lou recorded as tributes to the king of “spaghetti westerns”, Ennio Morricone, as well as other composers in that genre, entitled Spaghetti Western Themes On Nylon String Guitar Vol. 1 & 2. Lou achieves some sonic breakthroughs on these two Spaghetti Western Themes CD titles as well, making Morricone’s cinematic sounds come alive as solo guitar pieces. All four of these Lou Pecci albums are quite unique sounding and are well worth the time for guitar fans to seek out and give a listen to. email:

LUMINESCENT RECORDS – Guitar fans asking if there’s anything new under the sun will need to hear a 2015 CD release called AEAEA from guitarist Stephen Duros. One part hypnotica, one part a form of New Age, world-beat jazz-fusion mix for the 21st century, AEAEA centers around the inventive flamenco, electric and bass guitars, as well as synth keyboards, of Stephen Duros. It’s a form of aural exotica with the album featuring unique percussion instruments like charango, riq and darbuka, that mix in with Stephen’s guitars, and that are performed by a range of percussionists. Even with so much exotic accompaniment, the accent is mainly on Stephen’s skillful fretboard work. Speaking to mwe3 about the album and the unusual title, Stephen explains—'The title of the album, AEAEA is a mythological island from the ancient poem ‘Odyssey’ and I thought it would be a nice starting point for the musical journey. It’s up to the listener to decide where the story goes from there. That’s what I like about instrumental music, there are no words to tell you what the song is about. The listener can put headphones on, close their eyes and imagine whatever they like when listening and let the music take them away for a bit.' Returning a favor from when Stephen played in his band, guitar icon Ottmar Liebert is also featured, here in a cameo role, playing electric guitar. The CD features 12 tracks and the album works quite effectively, perfectly in fact as the artist puts it, ‘To recount a musical journey or odyssey. The album tells a story, much like a book does.’ Being all instrumental, AEAEA is the perfect soundtrack for guitar fans to feast on. Duros also worked as concert lighting director for the rock band TOTO, and interestingly, just after Stephen did the on September 1st, 2015 he was called by TOTO to come and do the lighting midway through their Summer 2015 tour with YES. Masterful at creating uncanny sonic extrapolations, Stephen Duros takes the guitar into deep and uncharted waters with the phenomenal sounding AEAEA.

MANGO EATER MUSIC – Guitarist Terry Wollman is making guitar fans happy with his 2015 CD release entitled, Silver Collection. The CD has a lot of jazzy elements but it’s also one of the top smooth jazz CDs to come out in recent memory. The 14 track, mostly instrumental music CD is actually Terry’s 25 year musical retrospective and the music touches on tracks dating back to the late 1980s, ‘90s and 2000’s too. Commenting on the retrospective in the CD liner notes, Wollman adds, “These songs are some of my personal favorites. They are reflections of the places have been, the people I have met and the lessons I have learned.” With Terry’s guitars front and center, the CD also features a ‘who’s who’ of jazz music greats, including Joe Sample (keys), Dave Koz (sax), Abe Laboriel (bass), Keb’ Mo’ (guitar), Michael McDonald (vocals on track 3 “Our Love” – from 1998), Dean Parks (guitar) and so much more. Top notch mastering by Bernie Grundman keeps the sound uniform as it spans the decades. Terry Wollman is one of the most entertaining jazz guitarists on the music scene in 2015 and he puts his long-standing career in the jazz guitar world into a timely perspective with Silver Collection.

MORAZ ALBAN PRODUCTIONS – Although he was a member of both YES and The Moody Blues at different times in his career, keyboard wizard Patrick Moraz also has an esteemed solo career. Far along in the world of progressive rock, Pat is back in action with an album MAP, created with percussionist / drummer Greg Alban. Of course MAP signifies the debut of the Moraz Alban Project. Anyone expecting a rehash of Pat’s work in YES, the Moodies and even Refugee will be in for a jolt as the method of operations here is an album of fully blown instrumental rock. Incorporating instrumental rock, spacey electronics and intense drumming and percussion, MAP also features key contributions from Lenny Castro (percussion), John Avila (bass), Matt Malley (slide electric sitar) and other esteemed musicians. Some of the best tracks here are performed solely by Moraz and Alban and it’s a testament to their virtuosity that they attain such a full bodied sound throughout the nine track CD. The appealing looking 8 panel digipak artwork is also something to behold as is the hi-tech website designed especially for MAP. Commenting on working with a true rock fusion keyboard icon, Alban states, “Patrick and I have been very good friends for a long time and I’m still always being surprised by his depth of knowledge, not just about music but everything! He’s a creative genius and I’m honored to be working with him.” A truly ear opening sonic experience, MAP takes instrumental electro fusion into the stratosphere. YES fans and others who thrilled to Pat's various solo projects, with be very happy with the sonic sheen of the debut CD by the Moraz Alban Project. /

MUTE RECORDS – One of the founders of the rock band Depeche Mode, Martin Gore released MG in 2015. The album is a sprawling, 16 track exercise in experimental, instrumental electro-sonics. Decidedly more experimental than most electronic albums, the album mixes some static dance beats with a more cerebral, Eno-esque edge that will appeal to fans of German experimentalists Kraftwerk. Minus unruly guitar sounds, some of the MG tracks kind of evoke Bowie during the somber Berlin-era of Low. MG is actually Gore’s first solo outing since his 2003 album Counterfeit2. Speaking about the MG album, Gore adds, “I wanted to keep the music very electronic, very filmic and give it an almost sci-fi quality”. Whether or not pop fans will take to the album’s experimental, soundtrack like quality remains to be seen but clearly, MG is a masterful musically experimental statement that will make you take notice and listen.

MYSTERIUM MUSIC - In 2014, keyboardist Peter Kater released his album Etheria on CD and in 2015 he follows with his latest solo piano album called Love. Kater's first solo piano release in over ten years, the 13 track, 72 minute Love CD is filled with a range of deeply memorable and meditative piano musings. When it comes to heartfelt, piano performance and music that matches, there are just a few artists that are in the same class as Kater. Commenting on the Love CD, Kater adds, “These improvisations and compositions were recorded over the last three years in the heat of the moment. These are musical portraits of my heart, ripe with all the emotions, joys, complexities, excitement, pains and revelations of the various manifestations and landscapes of love.” It’s incredible to learn that Kater has released some 60 recordings in a catalog of instrumental music magic that goes way back to 1983, so for those music fans first getting into his music, there’s plenty of great sounds to catch up on. A good place to tune into the sound and vision of his music, Peter Kater’s Love CD is superbly recorded, with eye-catching packaging to match and is filled with Peter’s own track by track notes of the sentiments behind these songs. Peter Kater’s fourth album for the Mysterium Music label, Love is a timeless solo piano album for music lovers to delight in. /

NATURAL ELEMENTS RECORDS – Guitarist Jim Stubblefield came to the attention of with his playing in the guitar trio Incendio. Taking some time out from Incendio, in 2015 Jim released his sixth solo guitar masterpiece entitled Encantado. It’s a solo CD in the sense that Jim's guitar is front and center and his music is the prime focus here. With Jim playing all the steel string acoustic guitars, Spanish guitar, 6 and 7 string electric guitars and the synthesizers, there’s a number of fine players backing him up throughout the ten track album. Enhanced by the fine co-production of Jim and Bo Astrup, the Encantado CD features stellar support and backing from Ramon Yslas (drums), Randy Tico (bass), Novi Novog (violin and viola), Moksha Sommer (vocals) as well as added Spanish guitar work by Mark Barnwell and Eric Hansen. Speaking to about his innovative guitar sounds in the following interview, Jim explains, "With Encantado, I immediately set out to do music that would engage the listener on more than a casual level. I also wanted to get away from the strong Latin guitar sound that has been associated with me. I have always loved other styles of instrumental music - Celtic, classical, Arabic, jazz fusion, etc. It's music that is hard to put in a box. I'll let the critics and listeners categorize me, but for now I'll just write stuff and hope people enjoy what I'm doing." With its stunning crossection of Nuevo-flamenco, World Beat jazz, neo-classical guitar sounds and superb recording techniques, Encantado is Jim Stubblefield’s best solo album yet and is one of the most intriguing guitar recordings of 2015.

PARTIAL MUSIC - Back in 2011, featured an interview with multi-instrumentalist Robert Spalding Newcomb, centered around his double CD set called Anastasia Of The Gardens. Even though Spalding-Newcomb is a first rate classical guitarist and sitar player, he also flexes his musical might as a purveyor of all thing electronic. Electronic music in this case means avant-gard, and not in the spirit of New Age music. One look at Spalding-Newcomb’s musical influences offers a telltale sign of his manifold approach to 20th and 21st century music. Among Spalding-Newcomb’s influences are Robert Fripp, Harry Partch and Ravi Shankar. Catching up with Spalding-Newcomb after a couple years, finally had some listening time with his CD release of To The Passage Of Time - an album Spalding-Newcomb recorded with fellow composer James Aikman. In the spirit of Spalding-Newcomb’s Anastasia double CD, To The Passage Of Time is actually a superbly recorded live album, filled with depth-defying electronic sounds very much in the spirit of Wendy Carlos and even the late 1960s sound of Italian avant gard composer Luciano Berio. Recorded in Ann Arbor, Michigan on December 21st 2012, To The Passage Of Time features liner notes by James Aikman that goes into detail on the wide ranging music within. Following the CD release of To The Passage Of Time, in 2014 Spalding-Newcomb released Light Of Life: A Summer Solstice Concert - recorded live on June 22nd 2013 and featuring Spalding-Newcomb on guitar and sitar performing live alongside James Aikman’s keyboards and Ken Kozora on percussion, flutes and horn. More varied than To The Passage Of Time, the Light Of Life CD is accompanied by a DVD of the live performance along with other scenic footage featuring contributions by Grace Chung and Mike Halerz. Robert Spalding-Newcomb continues to take experimental guitar and avant gard electronic instrumental music to new heights. Keep an eye out for Robert Spalding-Newcomb’s next sitar album due for release on CD in late 2015.

REAL MUSIC - So much New Age and electronic instrumental music relies heavily on atmosphere and not so much on sheer melodic romanticism. Favoring melodic content rather than daring atmospherics might not be true for every artist, but it is in the case of Bernward Koch. Bernward’s 2015 album on Real Music is called Remembering and you really get that feeling of neoclassical remembrances on his most recent CD. The thirteen track, 63 minute Remembering CD is kind of in the spirit of Bernward’s 2013 album on Real Music, Day of Life, but if anything Remembering is even more wistful and nostalgic. Speaking to about his 2015 CD masterpiece, Bernward adds, "I started composing directly after the Day of Life album in 2013. Yes, I always have some kind of déjà vu feeling in my music, but it’s not always the same. On Remembering for example, the track "First Flowers" is a memory back in time to when I started playing piano at age fifteen. I was living in a small village in the countryside. It was sunny and quiet days indeed." On Remembering it almost sounds like Bernward is pining for a younger and more innocent time in life. The melodies are clearly sentimental and nostalgic and, while cloaked in the mystery of New Age sonics, this is clearly an album made by a composer who isn’t ashamed to show his appreciation and craft when it comes to drafting a melody that will last through time. It’s interesting to note that while Bernward uses the state of the art in audio gear, the musical notes and content itself sounds relatively timeless in scope and origin. So, while it’s easy to get nostalgic or full of reverie for Remembering, it’s worth noting one of Bernward’s quotes: “Strength lies in calmness.” That sense of aural calmness and sonic strength is at the very core of Remembering. /

REALWORLD RECORDS – The music of composer John Metcalfe is unique. In fact, it’s so unique it’s often hard to categorize it under known music categories. One part avant garde, one part experimental, one part rock, one part chill music, one part electronic… Anyway you get the drift. As great as John’s 2008 album, A Darker Sunset, was things don’t get a lot more "clear" on his excellent 2015 comeback album, The Appearance Of Colour. This time around, there’s an even greater emphasis on pop like sounds, even though the album is mainly instrumental, with the glimpses of wordless female and male voices that sometimes drift in and out of the soundstage. There’s still a sonic comparison to the musics of U.K. greats like William Orbit and Mike Oldfield, with a slightly less emphasis on the guitar, which is also played by Metcalfe. Interestingly, Metcalfe has cited Vini Reilly’s linear approach to electric guitar as being one of his influences. Commenting on the making of The Appearance Of Colour, Metcalfe explains, ‘Perhaps in the sense that colour itself has no absolute meaning but can still provoke strong reactions, my initial notion for the album was to try and write music as free as possible from conscious narrative and create a sound world that triggers more intense reaction in our nonverbal minds.’ In other words, keyboards and various synth patterns prevail along with some very pretty string like sounds. Fans of the harrowing minimalism of composer Phillip Glass, the sheer shock of The Art Of Noise, producer’s hat of William Orbit and others coming from that U.K. school of sonic experimentation will enjoy Metcalfe’s dazzling and disorienting sonic outlook on the brilliant soundscapes of The Appearance Of Colour - an album that takes its place among the great experimental albums of 2015.

REINGOLD RECORDS - Back in 2012, Swedish keyboardist and composer Lalle Larson released his album Nightscapes, on Reingold Records. That album was filled with “thematically inspired and sonically heavy” rock istrumental music. Taking a sonic detour, Lalle shows off another side of his multifaceted musical personality with the 2014 CD release of Until Never. Drifting away on waves of solo piano magic, Until Never retains its sense of Swedish-ness, echoing some of those fascinating musical moods that Stefan Nilsson evoked way back in the 1970s and early ‘80s, especially on his 1985 Romantic Piano Dreams CD. Even so, filled with haunting melodies and dead of night atmospheres, Until Never is a musical breakthrough in its own way. Part of the younger wave of gifted progressive rock musicians who were first being born in the mid 1970s, Lalle keeps the spirit of progressive keyboard music alive and well on Until Never. Throughout the nine track CD, Lalle receives tasteful, yet unobtrusive backing from Jonas Reingold (fretless bass and co-production) and Richard Hallebeek (acoustic guitars). If you’re looking to spend an introspective hour with some memorable solo piano music with light backing, then you’d be hard pressed to find another album of solo piano music as magical as Until Never.

RICKY GARDINER SONGS - Rock guitar hero Ricky Gardiner is best known for his dazzling electric guitar work in the classic ‘70s prog-rock band Beggar’s Opera. In 2014, U.K. reissue label BGO released a double CD set from Beggars Opera featuring their two most famous albums - Act One and Waters Of Change. Just around the same time, Ricky’s recent solo albums came to the attention of and for long time fans they are well worth hearing. Ricky was a key part of the David Bowie band lineup that recorded the 1977 Low album and, true to form, some of the tracks on the all instrumental album Songs For The Electric feature guitar instrumentals that would have fit right in on Low. These songs are stark and full of sonic despair but the one constant is Ricky’s haunting and very linear guitar lines, mostly played on electric guitars. Songs For The Electric is performed entirely by Ricky with help from Virginia Scott on keyboards and co-writing. Another recent title featuring Ricky Gardiner and Virginia Scott is a 2010 release entitled Lose A Life, by an updated version of Gardiner’s ‘70s band Beggars Opera. Interestingly, Lose A Life revolves around Gardiner’s medical condition known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), which typically emanates from overexposure to microwave radiation devices such as cell phones, cell towers and other microwave radiation creating devices. Not yet considered a medical condition accepted in all countries, the grim prospects of EHS is at the core of the Lose A Life CD, which includes track titles like “Electrofire Invasion”, “Masts On My Roof” and “Dr. Carlo”, - written about the radiation exposure specialist blacklisted by the CTIA and other radiation promoting lobbyists world wide. Gardiner is right on the money as the world fails to grasp the importance of this heated topic of mass deception and unfortuanate medical predicament. Originally released in 2010, Lose A Life features Ricky’s guitars backed up by the voice and keys of Virginia Scott and drumming of Tom Gardiner. Both albums, the all-instrumental electro-rock soundscapes of Songs For The Electric and the rock-opera vibe of Lose A Life are truly eye-opening and will be of definite interest among fans of this often overlooked guitarist. Guitar hero Ricky Gardiner strikes sonic gold on his latest solo CD releases. /

SCOTT HENDERSON MUSIC - The CD release of Vibe Station by guitar icon Scott Henderson, released in May, 2015 is a journey that will traverse a variety of musical genres including reggae, fusion, blues, more blues, rock, jazz, and even country. Music listeners will love this album and guitar players need to own this album. Scott never breaks a sweat when soloing over even the most complex chord changes. Scott is also great with the whammy bar and further fattens up his single note playing with finger style in a sound that projects sassiness and attitude. Of course, the influence of blues legends like Albert King and some of his contemporaries have lent ideas to Scott’s sound, and like Frank Zappa, Scott often puts humorous twists on his song titles. Bassist, Travis Carlton (son of Larry Carlton) and drummer Alan Hertz are also on hand to deliver thundering performances on the album. This is Scott’s first release in three years and unlike some of the prior work, Scott had creative control over the entire album. “I put my heart and soul into it… I work long hours every day and I’m very meticulous about every little tone and phrase. I just want it to be right” Scott glides effortlessly through various styles within a single song. You could even say that the Vibe Station album is similar to the weather in Baltimore…If there’s something about it you don’t like, wait a minute and it will change! “It’s the A.D.D.!” Scott says. The songs are complex but tight and never meandering. To anyone with any familiarity with Scott, he loves to play his guitar and nowhere does that characteristic reveal itself more than within the nine excellent tracks that grace this album.

SHOOGLE RECORDS - In 2014 multi-instrumentalist / drummer / programming / guitarist James Macintosh and singer-songwriter Kaela Rowan joined forces for Kaela’s debut solo album Menagerie. Both Kaela and James are also members of the group Shooglenifty and in 2015, they released a new CD with Shooglenifty called The Untied Knot. Both James and Kaela perform on this 2015 Shooglenifty CD and they get solid support from a range of musicians. Between them all, the sound they get has been called Druidic Funk, Celtic Cantabile, Dub Ceilidh and other terms used to describe their eclectic mix of 21st century Celtic and Scottish folk and progressive 21st century folk-jazz. The majority of tracks here are instrumentals that sometimes recall some of the Chieftains music, yet there’s also some uptempo, “progressive” folk-rock inspired moments. With Kaela and James, Shooglenifty also features Malcolm Crosbie (guitars), Quee MacArthur (bass), Garry Finlayson (banjo) and Ewan MacPherson (mandolin, guitars). Hearing Kaela’s vocals on these tracks is also great and of course, James on drums seals the deal on this very cool-sounding progressive, World-Beat inspired folk-rock CD. Fans of The Chieftains, and some of Mark Knopfler’s film soundtracks will also enjoy The Untied Knot by Shooglenifty.

SOFT SCIENCE RECORDS – In 2013 guitarist Richard Leo Johnson released his Celeste album to great acclaim. On a completely different tact, Richard is back in 2015 with a double CD set which features two completely different albums—Duval Rey – Same Place New Day and Roscoe Houndstooth – Listen To The Sky. Richard Leo Johnson has recorded under different pseudonyms including Vernon McAlister and Vernon’s supposed offspring Celeste. Now of course there’s two new people that have come out of Richard’s vivid imagination, Duval Rey and Roscoe Houndstooth. Calling this music adventurous would be an understatement as both CDs encapsulate a wild, near avant garde sound and a form of music that ranges from the amusing to the completely disconcerting. The enclosed CD booklet goes to lengths to provide insights into Richard's two mythological friends. The closest thing I can think of when describing both CDs would be to compare it to some of Fred Frith’s wild guitaresque instrumentals and even Harry Partch, the avant gard neo classical composer of the 1950s and ‘60s. Just the list of all the instruments Richard plays on both of these CDs is quite interesting and even hysterical too! The Duval Rey CD was actually recorded in 2009 while the Roscoe Houndstooth CD was recorded in the Fall of 2014, so it’s the more recent of the two CDs. Fans of Richard Leo Johnson and his many guitar-centric personalities will love the adventurous spirit of his latest strange and wonderful double CD set. /

SOJOURN RECORDS - The 2015 CD release of Lamar by NYC basd jazz guitarist Brad Allen Williams is a fun-filled romp through a range of original tracks and select covers. The CD starts off in style with a jazzy, instrumental version of the Joe Jackson chestnut “Steppin’ Out” (anyone remember 1982?) and takes off in various directions from there. Several Williams instrumental originals dot the musical landscape while another cover here of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston” furthers the sonic appeal here. On Lamar, Williams gets excellent backup from his trio band mates Tyshawn Sorey (drums) and Pat Bianchi (organ). Commenting on the making of Lamar, Brad adds, “It was recorded with all three of us in one great sounding room together using the best analog tape machine and a great analog engineer.” With its live sound and jazz club atmospheres, guitar purists will love Lamar. Brad Allen Williams hits a veritable sonic sweet spot with the right on, jazzy instrumental grooves of Lamar.

SONICLAYERS MUSIC - The music of synthesist Chad Kettering comes across like 21t century classical music. With all the music created, recorded, mixed and mastered by Kettering, his third solo album, entitled Pathways is a most well-rounded sonic experience. Pathways can be described as being a mix of symphonic orchestral passages combined with modern electronic styles and sounds. Chad’s wife Kari Kettering, of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, appears here on cello along with the ambient, wordless female vocals of Francesca Genco. Also of note is that after a 20 year hiatus from playing the trumpet, Kettering returns to the instrument on a track near the end of the album. Filled with a range of electrifying electronics, Pathways is much too kinetic and dynamic sounding to be called New Age and wide-ranging orchestral elements also separates it from more meditative and ambient instrumental recordings. On Pathways, Chad Kettering brings symphonic orchestral instrumental electronic music to a new level of sonic greatness.

STRINGTIME JAZZ - Subtitled A Jazz Guitar Beatles Collection, the 2015 CD release of Penny Lane is a most welcome return to form by guitarist John Basile. Having released over a dozen albums on a variety of labels, Basile is hardly a newcomer to the jazz guitar world and he uses his depth of experience to execute his eleven track tribute to The Beatles. Among the Fab Four classics given the jazz instrumental treatment here is a George Harrison cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The CD starts off with rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” that kind of echoes the Wes Montgomery version and Wes would be proud of Basile’s album. For instance, Basile’s jazz instro cover of “A Day In The Life” starts off predictably enough yet Basile’s expertise as a first rate jazz guitar improviser soon takes the track deep into jazz guitar land. Basile’s guitar is well recorded and his knowledge of midi programming really fills out the soundstage. Liner notes by Tom Schreck puts Basile’s guitar treatment of the Beatles into a fitting perspective. Overall, Penny Lane is a very cool, breezy jazz guitar album of Beatles evergreens that makes it clear these songs are meant for the ages.

TAO MUSIC Australian guitarist Bruce Stringer is breaking down walls for the art of sonically electrifying electric guitar music. The 2015 release of Onethe name One illustrated with an "Omega" symbol is on the CD packagingis filled with a range of guitar instrumental tracks that are boldly dynamic and highly explosive. Commenting, in the following interview, on listeners and critics attempting to describe the sound of his new CD, Bruce tells "I’m not keen on labels, in general, because it tends to polarize the audience before they’ve heard a single note. I’m not sure if the album is progressive rock, or not. My definition of progressive is probably closer to an ideal rather than a sound, which might go against other people’s definitions of the term. I’ll leave that up to the listeners to decide." Dynamic, melodic and electrifying are just some of the adjectives that come to mind to describe Bruce Stringer’s guitar-centric vision. The CD packaging of One is also very intriguing and clearly, with Bruce performing most of the instrumentation, his craft is even more clearly highlightedthis in addition to his creative production and engineering work too. In the know music fans will note that Bruce also works with Elaine Wang Yi-Ling in the Chinese-Western duo called Space Of Snow. Even though Bruce is one of the rising guitarists currently recording in the instrumental rock fusion realm, he is also greatly influenced by the orchestral synthesized soundtrack music of giants like Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre and you can literally feel that sense of wide-screen dynamics throughout this CD. Guitar fans looking for the next big thing in the world of rock instrumental music, pick up and give a listen to Bruce Stringer’s One.

TECHNE RECORDS – Earlier in 2015, the NYC based band known as Consider The Source released World War Trio Part 1. Featuring one 24 minute track, the CD was heralded as a breakthrough for instrumental prog-metal fusion. As promised, Consider The Source deliver the goods on their full length double CD set entitled World War Trio Parts II and III. Masters at the new hybrid fusion sound, Consider The Source skillfully mix a range of musical styles into their instrumental jazz-rock blend. If the idea of Indian and Balkanized folk mixed in with jazz-rock and hard rock appeals to you, then by all means give a listen to Consider The Source. As on their first CDEP, World War Trio Parts II and III also features the guitars of Gabriel Marin, who also doubles on guitar synth and a range of exotic sounding string instruments like saz and dutar. Backing Gabriel up on the double CD set are John Ferrara, on a range of bass effects and drummer Jeff Mann. The CD packaging is very colorful and the track by track liner notes are useful in clarifying the CTS vision. Progressive rock fans open to instrumental World Beat exoticism and World Music fans looking for a solid rock experience give a listen to Consider The Source. Consider The Source bring their unique progressive instrumental World Beat groove into the great wide open with World War Trio Parts II & III.

UMP RECORDS – Guitarist Randy Armstrong joins forces with bass player Volker Nahrmann on the 2015 CD release of Beyond Borders. More than a collection of tracks, the album is a scenic travelogue covering a range of World Beat music with the accent on Latin, Brazilian and Indian music and those genres are just some of the scenic signposts dotting the album’s sweeping terrain. In addition to his expert synth guitar work and his background in exotic percussion, Randy Armstrong is a seasoned guitarist who is equally gifted on both classical, steel string and electric guitars and he uses all of it to enhance the sound. Volker Narhmann gives the album its tasteful sonic thunder so to speak and he plays a range of different acoustic and electric basses. Also worth noting is the muted trumpet sound of Cuban-born musician, Yaure Muniz. The CD features numerous guest musicians, including some excellent percussionists, ranging from full kit to incidental percussive sounds. There’s a colorful and well done CD booklet featuring track by track details of the wide range of music here, including tracks devoted to Ravi Shankar, George Harrison and Dizzy Gillespie. Surprisingly, instead of being made in Rio or even L.A., Beyond Borders was recorded in Barrington, New Hampshire but if you close your eyes you can feel the music carry you beyond borders indeed. Filled with cool World Beat moods and meditative Global Groove sounds, Beyond Borders will take your mind to far off lands.

YAMAHA ENTERTAINMENT GROUP - The 2015 CD release of The New Cool is a masterful album created by piano virtuoso Bob James and bass ace Nathan East. The CD was produced by Chris Gero, James and East and was superbly engineered by Bryan Lenox. Released on the Yamaha Entertainment imprint, The New Cool was recorded in Nashville on state of the art Yamaha gear. For an album of straight ahead, mainstream vintage sounding instrumental jazz, The New Cool is surprisingly pastoral in places and, while not quite smooth jazz, it’s very easy on the ears. Several guest artists appear on the mainly instrumental CD, including a guest vocal by country music great Vince Gill, on a cover of the Willie Nelson classic “Crazy”. There’s also a couple players - Rafael Padilla (percussion) and Scott Williamson (drums) - who add some different flavors on a pair of tracks and there’s added strings on some tracks here. Speaking about The New Cool, Bob James says, “The more I played with Nathan over the course of the many live performances and spanning more than 25 years, the more in sync we were whether or not we had the anchor of the drums”, with Nathan adding “The New Cool carries with it a special level of excitement for me as Bob and I have been courting the idea of this duo adventure for many years. The New Cool is our celebration of more than 25 years of friendships and musical camaraderie.” For fans of these two musical legends, the sound of The New Cool is essential listening. Filled with eleven tracks, The New Cool sounds superb and is a most memorable blend of classic and contemporary instrumental jazz.



- Among the latest CD remasters on U.K. based Angel Air Records is the 2015 CD release of Pearls Of The Deep: The Best Of Stairway. Following his work in British invasion superstars The Yardbirds, drummer Jim McCarty went on to form the band Renaissance with Keith Relf and Keith's sister Jane Relf. After Relf lost interest in Renaissance, he sold the band to Annie Haslam but not before recording and releasing that first fabled Renaissance album from 1971. In the years following Keith Relf’s untimely death in 1975, McCarty has done a lot of recording under his own name as well as with other bands he started and one of those bands was the group Stairway, who are remembered on a 14 track best of CD released in 2015 by Angel Air. Stairway was McCarty’s attempt at recording and releasing a type of progressive New Age / soft rock sound and for the most part, the sound of Stairway was wonderfully inventive and served as a sonic bridge from The Yardbirds and early Renaissance to something more deep and meaningful. Stairway was a fine collaboration between McCarty, guitarist Louis Cennamo, keyboardist Clifford White and original Renaissance vocalist Jane Relf. Starting out in the late 1980’s, when New Age was becoming a household term, Stairway began releasing their first of four subsequent albums that would bring much attention back to McCarty and his well rounded approach. Commenting on turning away from rock to New Age rock in the late ‘80s, McCarty recalls, “I hadn’t thought about New Age things back in the ‘70s but I suppose I was always open to music by Vangelis and Andreas Vollenwieder.” Angel Air’s CD by Stairway recalls the finest moments from Stairway’s four CDs. In addition to the 14 tracks taken from their original albums, the CD also features in depth liner notes by Joe Geesin that recalls the changing times brought many rockers into the fold of New Age. Another artist who is currently popular again thanks to a series of Angel Air remasters is English keyboardist Dave Greenslade, who has a number of classic album remasters out on Angel Air with his band Greenslade. Angel Air has a number of albums out featuring Greenslade solo, as well as with Greenslade and the band and Colosseum, another band associated with Greenslade. In 2015 Angel Air released Time To Make Hay - A Collection Of Original Recordings. The 9 tracks here were recorded as solo tracks by Greenslade from 1979 through till the mid 1990s, many of which were re-recorded and released as Greenslade (the band) and Colosseum tracks. That said, these original tracks have never been released in this form before and features Dave playing all the instruments as well as taking lead vocals. While not as accomplished as the Greenslade (the band) tracks, these solo, near demo sounding tracks are fascinating glimpses into the way Dave Greenslade works his sonic magic. The late, great sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith makes an appearance here. A vital rediscovery for Greenslade fans, Time To Make Hay features track by track notes by Greenslade and full lyrics.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Songwriter and producer legend David Courtney is sometimes referred to as the English Phil Spector. Courtney worked with great singers like Roger Daltrey, Leo Sayer, Adam Faith, Roger Chapman, Maggie Bell and those singers and a host of others are featured on Angel Air’s 2015 double CD Anthology. Anthology goes the distance to establish Courtney, his songs and productions, as being among the best in U.K. classic rock history. The CD booklet features track by track Summer 2015 liner notes with Courtney providing a near encyclopedic summation, making Anthology a look back at a vital time in rock history. Also released on Angel Air Summer 2015, is a 2 CD set by English rock legends Stone The Crows. The set pairs the self-titled Stone The Crows (1970) and Ode To John Law (1971). Back in 1970 “Raining In Your Heart” was getting good airplay on FM radio and music fans looking for a harder edged blues rock band in the spirit of Taste and Free, note that Stone The Crows fit the bill. Lead singer Maggie Bell is world renowned and the band also featured singer-bassist, the late James Dewar on bass as well as Alex Harvey’s brother, Les Harvey on guitar. Harvey’s cutting edge electric guitar sounds and Bell’s legendary vocals put Stone The Crows into the high end of British blues-rock greats. Topped off with liner notes and pics of STC, Angel Air’s 2 CD set features 4 bonus tracks, including a live “Raining In Your Heart”.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - The early 1980’s was a unmitigated disaster for corporate rock music. The 1980 assassination of John Lennon and the destruction of The Beatles in NYC, by evil, though then unforeseen forces, was surely enough to scare some off but not The Who. With the core three—Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and the late, great John Alec Entwistle—plus Faces drummer Kenney Jones rising to the fore, Thee Who descended on Shea Stadium to make their big 1980s comeback post-Keith Moon splash. With rain pouring down on the Shea Stadium crowd, The Who sprang to life on October 13th, 1982, performing a range of tracks from their 1982 album It’s Hard, such as the classic title track and “Emminence Front”. Even so, it’s the early Who classics—they’re all here, from “I Can’t Explain” to “Sister Disco”—that brings the house down. This long awaited 2015 DVD release of Live At Shea Stadium 1982 on Eagle Rock includes colorful packaging and a booklet filled with liner notes of this historic concert, while rounding out the October 13th show are five bonus tracks from the October 12th show. Stereo and 5.1 mastering by audio legend Jon Astley dusts off the tapes and gives a sonic shine to a turning point concert from the early 1980s. Who fans don’t miss the historic DVD release of Live At Shea Stadium 1982.

ESOTERIC RECORDINGS – Esoteric is turning into the most incredible source of classic U.K. progressive rock CD remasters as well as newly recorded music. Of course nothing can touch the greatest remasters on Esoteric, and a good example is Esoteric’s 2015 CD remaster of the final album from the classical instrumental rock band SKY. Several years after John Williams left the band, they carried on with Kevin Peek on guitars, Herbie Flowers (bass), Steve Gray (keyboards) and Tristian Fry (drums). Simply called Mozart, what would turn out to be the final SKY studio album originally came out in 1987, just as CDs were finally getting a foothold in American pop culture. Pairing an orchestra with the Euro-beat instrumental sound of SKY was a great idea of the band’s drummer Mr. Fry. With Peek back in Australia, clearly Fry, Flowers and Gray did a great job with stellar support of Neville Mariner conducting the orchestra known as Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields. The liner notes of Mozart, written by rock scribe Sid Smith are revealing while the booklet also features the extensive original notes that came with the ’87 CD and vinyl, or was that already CD only? Over the years, Mozart was never regarded as being one of the great classic SKY albums, but going back nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the album has a certain charm that is a haunting reminder of just how important SKY was as a musical force and the major impact they had on the music of that era.

ESOTERIC RECORDINGS – The period between Thanksgiving 1968 and Christmas that same year was one of the most eventful times in music history. While America was mired in the Vietnam War, with hundreds of young boys dying every week, over in England, rock music was coming of age. One album that was overlooked during that period of The Beatles and Stones was Shine On Brightly, the December 1968 album release by Procol Harum. Procol was rightfully lauded for their breakthrough 1967 single “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, which was a top ten single much to everyone’s pleasant surprise. Anyway, Shine On Brightly was kind of overlooked in the aftermath but in retrospect, there’s so many glorious musical moments on it - way too many to single one out in so many respects. The title track for example, “Shine On Brightly” remains one of the best songs ever penned by the team of Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid. The great news here it that Esoteric Recordings has done a fantastic job on their 2015 CD remaster of Shine Of Brightly, repackaging the album as part of a 3 CD set, featuring the original stereo and mono mixes on two separate CDs with a third CD of rarities from the period. The box set is quite appealing to see and the CD sound is first rate. Even so, the booklet and packaging is equally amazing, reprinting Keith Reid’s brilliant lyrics, which, while often hard to discern, were always underrated. The story of the album is retold with untold clarity, including all the names, dates and who’s who associated with it. Esoteric’s 3 CD box set of Shine On Brightly is part of their 2015 reissue program of the first four Procol Harum albums, including their 1967 self-titled debut, A Salty Dog (1969) and their all time masterpiece, Home (1970). Progressive rock fans looking to see where it all started are advised to pick up Esoteric’s 2015 Shine On Brightly as well as their other newly minted Procol Harum remasters.

EXPERIENCE HENDRIX - It’s just incredible the amount of business pressure that Jimi Hendrix endured during his brief life as a rock guitar hero. Just before his first big release Are You Experienced? on Reprise Records, out of the blue, a singer called Curtis Knight and his record company man Ed Chalpin actually had the audacity to release a different Jimi Hendrix album, trying to wreck havoc on Jimi’s career. Decades passed and finally in 2003 all the music Jimi played on as a session guitarist, released by Knight and Chalpin, were taken back by the Experience Hendrix label, run by Jimi’s younger sister Janie Hendrix and a first installment can be heard and understood on the ironically entitled You Can’t Use My Name, released in 2015 on Experience Hendrix. It’s a despicable thing to do, to try to destroy an artist’s career just as it was taking off, but still the tracks Hendrix did play guitar on for Curtis Knight aren’t bad musically and show a great guitarist, just before his big break, lending a hand to a friend and ending up nearly stealing the show with the famous Hendrix guitar sound. There’s a couple of cool funky Hendrix-esque sounding instrumentals with Jimi’s guitar well recorded that shows another side of his work as a session guitar ace. Literally buying these tracks back through decades spanning court cases, Experience Hendrix has set the record straight with You Can’t Use My Name. You Can’t Use My Name features fourteen tracks of upbeat R&B dance music and instrumentals featuring Jimi jamming on the songs and vocals of Curtis Knight. With the CD featuring a 24 page booklet with notes by John McDermott and new studio sheen by audio expert Eddie Kramer, Experience Hendrix finally puts this early music with Jimi as a session man for Curtis Knight into the proper context with the ear opening sound on You Can’t Use My Name.

RAVEN RECORDS – Astute musicologists from the land down under, Aussie reissue mavens Raven has a 2 CD album remaster from 1960s pop sensations The 5th Dimension. These albums have never been compiled on one CD set so it’s a welcome addition to the group's legacy. With the mindset being Top 40 radio in the late 1960s, specifically 1967 through ’69, these tracks were huge on AM radio. Compiled on disc 1 are: Up, Up And Away and The Magic Garden (26 tracks including three bonus cuts) with disc 2 taking in Stoned Soul Picnic and The Age Of Aquarius (25 tracks with 2 bonus cuts). Raven’s resident musicologist Ian McFarlane takes you back in the time tunnel to the golden era of pop music history. Raven collects three albums on a 2 CD set entitled Toussaint: The Real Thing 1970 – 1975, by New Orleans roots music pioneer Allen Toussaint. Disc 1 features the entire 1970 Toussaint album, first released on Scepter Records, along with two bonus tracks. Highlights include Toussaint’s own version of his ‘60s hit “Working In A Coal Mine” along with a number of piano instrumentals capturing his one of a kind, New Orleans style barrelhouse piano sounds, topped off by a cool piano driven instrumental of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”. Disc two combines a pair of albums Toussaint recorded for Reprise Records, Life, Love And Faith (1972) and Southern Nights (1975). A little more polished than his earlier works, disc 2 provides fine period piece flashbacks from this legend of American music. Like Elton John and Leon Russell, Allen Toussaint can work magic with his piano and songs. Also current on Raven is a double CD set, containing three albums, by funk / soul master Roy Ayers. Searching For Sunshine 1973 – 1980 contains three albums from the late 1970s. Included on CD 1 are: You Send Me (1978), Fever (1979) while CD 2 features No Stranger To Love (1980) complete with eight bonus cuts. Best known for his soul, R&B and jazz-funk albums, Ayers is at his very best on his double Raven CD set.

REPRISE RECORDS – Leaving The Bee Gees when he was 19, Robin Gibb went solo in 1969 and scored a big hit called “Save By The Bell”. With fans still smarting from the band’s breakup, and despite big success in the UK, the song hardly made a dent in the US charts. Robin’s solo album debut Robin’s Reign followed it and too was hardly a substitute for the three part Bee Gees harmonies. But most fans don’t know that by early 1970 Robin was quite busy recording a second album called Sing Slowly Sisters and an assortment of unreleased tracks that were never officially released. Finally assembled during the Summer of 2015 is a 63 track, 3 CD set, called Saved By The Bell – The Collected Works Of Robin Gibb 1968-1970, that aims to shine a brighter light on Robin’s often overlooked first solo era. Excellent liner notes by Bob Stanley (of the band St. Etienne) and album producer Andrew Sandoval sheds some interesting information on the genesis of this long sought after collection. The CD booklet also features some touching photos of Robin from back in the day that will no doubt leave a teary eyed memory of the rock music legend who passed away in 2011. The Bee Gees left fans dozens of great songs and albums and this from the vaults collection of Robin Gibb makes for an ear-opening few hours of magical, Bee Gees-related rarities.

RESONANCE RECORDS - The early years of jazz guitar icon Wes Montgomery are remembered on a 2015 double CD set on Resonance called In The Beginning. A celebration of the great music recorded and released by Wes during his formative years, the 26 track, 2 CD In The Beginning compiles 26 tracks of rare and never-before-released tracks, spanning 1949-1958. In addition to a range of live recordings, In The Beginning also includes a complete and newly discovered 1955 recording session that Wes did for Epic Records with Quincy Jones producing. The double disc set is superbly packaged with a 55 page booklet featuring essays and recollections by Quincy Jones and Pete Townshend of The Who, to name some of the in depth notes featured here. In addition to the double CD set, In The Beginning is also being released as a 3 Lp version. Interestingly, In The Beginning is also just the beginning of a planned, upcoming series of even more previously unreleased Wes recordings that will take place during 2016 and 2017. 47 years after his untimely passing, In The Beginning is a splendid look back at the classic early music of jazz guitar genius Wes Montgomery.

RHINO - As of this writing, Summer '15, YES fans are still in shock following the passing of the band’s founding member Chris Squire on June 27, 2015. Released shortly before Squire’s untimely passing, Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two captures two CDs of YES magic from their late 1972 US tour. In the spirit of the first YES post-Bill Bruford—Bill had just appeared with the band during their historic Winter 1972 tour of the US and was also on the release of Yessongs—the double CD version of Progeny is a fine example of the soon to be regarded classic YES lineup with Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White and Rick Wakeman. Steve Howe has always said ‘bravo the ‘70s’ and Progeny is a fine tribute to the early part of that heady and unforgettable decade. The shows featured on the Progeny 2 CD version spotlight tracks from the first YES stadium tour of the USA, mostly from October and November of 1972. Hard to believe in November 1971, YES was third on the bill backing King Crimson and Procol Harum on their fabled Fall 1971 tour of the US, and a year later, they were headlining arenas all over the world! It would take a while for YES to hit their stride which they would do a year later with ease on their all time classic double album Tales From Topographic Oceans yet regarding this first post Bruford lineup, everything sounds fine and dandy on Progeny. Some audiophiles have complained that on Progeny, Squire’s bass and vocals are somewhat buried in the mix but as a counterpoint alternative to Yessongs, the 2015 release of Progeny is a most welcome development and serves its function to further immortalize this early ‘70s Tales era YES lineup. Of note on Progeny is the Roger Dean album artwork along with memorable liner notes by writer Syd Schwartz and Progeny producer Brian Kehew. One can never get enough YES so if you like the 2 disc CD Progeny Highlights set, you might want to further explore the official 14 disc version, simultaneously released by


Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in MWE3.COM
Send to: CD Reviews at
2351 West Atlantic Blvd. #667754
Pompano Beach, Florida 33066
New York address (for legal matters only) :
P.O. Box 222151, Great Neck, N.Y. 11022-2151





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


Copyright 1999-2015
All Rights Reserved