Record Label
and Music Spotlight

FALL 2016








A key founding member of the U.K. rock band Stackridge, Mutter Slater made fans quite happy with his 2015 album Absobloodylutely and in 2016 The Mutter Slater Band returns with The Champ. A riveting listening experience, The Champ is filled with memorable melodies, stunning lyrics and a rock band that won’t quit. Although he’s best known for writing quirky, Beatles inspired pop music and prog-rock instrumentals in Stackridge, in Mutter Slater Band, Mutter puts his rock boots on and the results more often than not brings to mind the power of 1970’s name bands like Led Zeppelin or Free. Giving Jimmy Page a run for his money, MSB guitarist Chris Cleaver heads up Mutter’s band that also includes Clive Astley (sax), Dan Wheeler (drums), Ian Oliver (bass) and Tom Hughes (organ). Speaking to about The Champ, Mutter adds, “The album is contemplative but hopefully not too heavily serious. Humor is always lurking in the background. I’ve come back into the game far too late for these image obsessed days and my music doesn’t chime with modern tastes, but there’s always another gig/album (i.e. fight). When all else fails I know my wife Linda will be there for me and be the answer to a prayer.” With Cleaver and Hughes producing and engineering, the nine tracks on The Champ takes the listener through all kinds of bluesy rock terrain and Mutter’s lyrics (printed here) are key to understanding the life stories behind Mutter’s latest rock classics. Best listened to several times to gain the full impact, with The Champ, The Mutter Slater Band has produced a 21st century music classic. /

APOLLON RECORDS – The Norwegian band known as Proffesor Tiptop enters the space rock race with their 2106 album called Exobiology. It’s true that Professor Tiptop owes a great deal of their sound and vision to space rock pioneers like Gong and even Jimi Hendrix, yet there’s some brave new directions on their ten track album. Professor Tiptop features a solid crew of space rock devotees including guitarist / composer Sam Fossbakk, with added sound shapers Svein Magnar Hansen (vocals), Stein Høgseth (bass) and David Sundby (drums). One can almost hear the spirit of Steve Hillage in Fossbakk’s own adventurous guitar sound to which he tastefully adds, EMS synths, Rhodes, mini-moog and mellotron. Perhaps it’s the vocals that separates them from other space rock revivalists, yet with Exobiology, Norway’s Professor Tiptop are well on their way to a bright and very spacy future in sound.

ATCO RECORDS – Wow, a new Jeff Beck album, on ATCO Records no less! Well it’s hardly a surprise for this long time fan. When I was 11 I distinctly remember coming home with the Yardbird’s smash 1966 single “Shapes Of Things” (in the standard Epic Records yellow and black 45 slipcover, no picture sleeve), and after being programmed by the majesty of that song, (with that indelible guitar solo) I’ve been a fan of his for 50 years. After hearing his 2016 album Loud Hailer one can only say Keith Relf (may he rest in peace) would have liked Beck’s paradigm shift. After all, with his insightful societal lyrics on songs like “Shapes Of Things” and “Happening Ten Years Time Ago”, Relf’s brilliant voice is the reason why any of us got to hear Beck in the first place! So great a legacy is easily transferable on the rock solid tabloid-rock vibe of Loud Hailer. For this shock rock soiree, released on the long lost ATCO imprint, Beck is joined by a pair of easy on the eyes London girls—singer Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandererg. Cutting through the sonic stratosphere like a human drone, Beck sounds nasty and bitter as he attacks the world powers with his white-hot guitar antics which transfer well to these lyrics of 21st century social diatribes, featuring Ms. Bones in rare and beautiful form. How much of the lyrics are Beck is open to speculation but with so much incredible guitar sounds running the grooves, who cares! So what’s the best song? Answer is all of them. “Live In The Dark” is startling and will rattle your walls (if you let it), “The Ballad Of The Jersey Wives” is a frightening expose on the 15 years of 9/11 cover ups, while “O.I.L.” is blunt enough to send shivers up the spine of the most ardent OPEC oil sheik. Two instrumentals are cool but clearly, with its tabloid-style power-rockers, Loud Hailer finds Jeff Beck once again peering into the abyss of society with a vengeance and introspection not heard since the heyday of Keith Relf and The Yardbirds.

BELLA UNION – As more and more younger bands discover the joys of classic cosmic space music, there’s bound to be more album releases coming out too and case in point is the 2016 CD release of Total Time by the Canadian band Doomsquad. There’s hardly a genre of music that isn’t touched upon by Doomsquad, including mid 1970s era Gong and early Faust too, as well as the instrumental, dubby On-U-Sound. Doomsquad is too much in your face to be considered minimalist space music, although that’s just another genre touched upon here. Recorded in Ontario Canada and in New Mexico, Total Time features the collective works of siblings Trevor Blumas (guitars, samplers), Jaclyn Blumas (synths, keys) and Allie Blumas (drums) as well as a variety of backing musicians, including singer / songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara and singer Huren. Vocals drift in and out of the sound stage but for the most part, the music here might just qualify under the instrumental space music banner. Some of the cosmic music of the decade, Doomsquad takes their sound way out there on the leading edge. Visit their website at your own risk.

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - Bass player and musicologist par excellence Michael Clare is one of the unsung heroes of progressive music. Starting out working with the fabled Caroline Records in the early 1980s, Clare eventually found his way to working with Gong founder, the late great Daevid Allen. In Gong, Allen had few peers and he single handedly created some of the most cosmic, tuneful psychedelia ever made. He’s also to thank for giving first breaks to U.K. prog scions like Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlin and synthesist Tim Blake. Allen passed away in 2015 but not before recording some additional music including what is now the 2016 CD release of Elevenses by Daevid Allen Weird Quartet. Featuring Daevid Allen, Michael Clare and producer Don Marino Falcone along with other fine musicians, the 13 track Elevenses album has the trademark Daevid Allen sound and is filled with cosmic instrumentals and Allen’s timeless vocals and lyrics. The booklet features some of the last pictures of Allen along with lyrics and historic liner notes. In July 2016, spoke to Michael Clare who told us, “Glad you like Elevenses. I am very pleased with the way it came out considering the death of our leader. For your information, it is not his last recordings as the CD sticker says. The title is pronounced “Elevenziz” and it is an English word for a late-morning teatime. The band was originally called Weird Biscuit Teatime and the first album came out in 2005 and that was supposed to be the name on this album but Cleopatra asked to include Daevid's name in the band name so we changed it. We just got back the rights to the first album and hope to get it reissued next year.” With Elevenses, the founding spirit of Gong and the original Soft Machine lives on.

CADET CONCEPT - Going back to the late 1970s, Graham Parker & The Rumour have made a number of memorable albums. On their own as a band, The Rumour have made some great albums too. On the 2015 CD release of Mystery Glue, released on the fabled Cadet Concept label, Parker is joined once again by his long time bandmates—legendary bandleader Brinsley Schwarz (guitars), Bob Andrews (keys), Martin Belmont (guitars), Andrew Bodner (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums). Reuniting with The Rumour on record for the first time since 1980, on Mystery Glue Parker is truly in a class of his own, as he approaches 65 years in age. Without missing a beat, The Rumour weaves their magic touch around Parker’s heartfelt, memorable tunes which reek with pop-pathos and lyrical irony. The guitar work by Schwarz and Belmont gives these songs a bounce that brings you right back to the spirit of the heady days of that fabled 1977-1980 music era when anything was possible. Looking back to his post-New Wave years, Parker is still breaking new ground as a singer-songwriter and clearly Mystery Glue is among his best albums.

CRAFT POP / PIPE & HAT – England’s latest pop sensation, The Moulettes have a real winner with the 2016 CD release of Preternatural. The eleven cut CD is filled with huge pop hooks dressed up with big sounding techno-pop beats. Influenced by Bjork, Gentle Giant and Frank Zappa, the Moulettes are a democratic process with the lyrics handled by group lyricist and singer Hannah Miller, one of the three lead singers on the band. Ms. Miller is joined by Raevennan Husbandes (guitars, vocals), Ruth Skipper (bassoon, vocals), Oliver Austin (drums), and Jim Mortimore (bass). The songs click and the studio production is fabulous sounding, even breathtaking, but the best part are the songs and the appealing three part female vocal harmonies. The Moulettes stake out some quite uniquely composed pop terrain with their 2016 classic Preternatural.

D2000 MUSIC Dave Mason has never been shy about saying his favorite soul singer is his fellow Traffic band mate Steve Winwood. Back in early 1969, Traffic came to an abrupt halt and within a year Mason retooled with the start of his prolific solo career. Leaving England and moving to California, Dave never forgot the albums he made as a member of Traffic—in fact, he’s built his career around his powerful rock radio friendly anthems from the first three Traffic albums, and he revisits the songs again on Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam. That period of Mason’s early career soon gives way to the reality of the 1970s and overall, the CD presents a good balance of Mason’s best tracks, caught live in NYC at City Winery in 2015. The 15 cut CD has a solid rock punch and is well recorded, with Mason’s lead guitar work and strong vocals shining throughout. Balancing out Mason’s vocals is co-lead vocalist Johnne Sambataro (guitars) and the rhythm section of Alvino Bennett (drums) and Tony Patler (keys, bass). Nearly half a century after he played on those momentous early Traffic songs, “Mr. Fantasy”, “40,000 Headmen” and “Medicated Goo”, it’s clear that Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam continues well into the 21st century.

DAVID FOSTER MUSIC – Guitarist David Foster plays in the U.K. bands Panic Room and The Steve Rothery Band. On his 2016 CD, Dreamless, he explores an album oriented rock sound that pairs his band with singer-lyricist Dinet Poortman, Stuart Brown (drums) and Yatim Halimi (bass). Other artists appear on the CD including singer Anne-Marie Helder, Stuart Brown (drums) and guitarist Steve Rothery but for the most part, it’s Foster’s songs and Ms. Poortman intriguing lyrics and vocals that take central focus although Dave takes the lead vocals on the effective title track. Even though Foster has been picked up by progressive rock fans, his sound on Dreamless is much more hard rock based, in the spirit of Deep Purple or even Heart, yet progressive music fans will enjoy the hard-hitting rock palate of Dreamless.

DRAG CITY RECORDS / TURNSTILE – U.K. singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon lives in Los Angeles and she released her 2016 album to great acclaim. The ten track Crab Day is quite avant garde sounding and her music has been compared to Captain Beefheart and German space rockers Faust. Cate has cited Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys as a major influence, and while not overtly sharing the Super Furry Animals allegiance to power pop (at least on their 2007 masterpiece Hey Venus!), there’s still plenty of toe-tapping sounds on Crab Day to make it an overall eventful album. In addition to her offbeat songs and clear, confident vocals, Crab Day is also a fine showcase for Cate’s “angular” guitar playing, which is staccato sounding, helping carry the songs to their ultimate conclusion. Also here are fine musicians including Huw Evans (guitars, keys), Stella Mozgowa (drums) and more including fine production work by Noah Georgson and Josiah Steinbrick. Somewhere between avant garde and (not quite) mainstream pop or rock, Cate Le Bon’s Crab Day is uniquely inventive music that effortlessly transcends musical borders.

EL TORO RECORDS – The country of Finland continues to amaze music fans worldwide with the 2016 CD release of Jump, Sister, Jump by Tina Bednoff And The Cocktailers. A colorful figure on the 21st century music scene, Tina is one of the hottest female blues-rock guitarists in Finland and in fact, all of Scandinavia. A bandleader, songwriter and lead singer, Tina sounds very influenced by blues giants like T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Thornton and Memphis Minnie. Filled with rockin’ R&B, slow blues, rhumba blues and couple haunting ballads, Jump, Sister, Jump features Tina with first class backing by her band mates—including Ville “Doc” Tolvanen (piano), Long John Rantapuro (bass), Honey Aaltonen (drums, vocals) and Jani Ahtiainen (percussion). Speaking about the recording process during the making of Jump, Sister, Jump, Tina tells, "We spent a few months writing and finishing the songs but the recording was done practically in a day. Everything was recorded live and mostly in one take. We did not aim at a "perfect" mistake-free thing but rather a good feel, like a nice small gig. Some vocal tracks, a guitar solo here and there were done over but that's all." There’s a few classic covers here, including “Aged And Mellow” by Johnny Otis—and a smokin' cover of blues great Jesse Mae Robinson’s “Gonna Catch Me A Rat”—but most of the music on Jump, Sister, Jump is original. With a timeless affinity for Americana music roots and a deep understanding of modern day rhythm & blues, Tina Bednoff And The Cocktailers get their rocks off on Jump, Sister, Jump.

ENGLISH ELECTRIC RECORDINGS – U.K. prog-rock heroes Big Big Train are making music fans happy with their 2016 album Folklore. Despite its title, this BBT CD has very little to do with folk music—instead focusing on the band’s prog-rock songwriting and performance style. Featuring nine tracks that clock in at 68 minutes, Folklore is very reminiscent of Steve Hackett-era Genesis or even some of Tull’s post ‘70s work. Featuring the flute, words and music of lead vocalist David Longdon, Big Big Train also features the work of guitarists Dave Gregory and Greg Spawton, Rachel Hall (violin), Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keys), Andy Poole (guitars, keys) Danny Manners (keys, bass), topped off by the excellent drumming of Spock’s Beard legend Nick D’Virgilio (drums). Vocal and songwriting comparisons between Peter Gabriel and BBT’s David Longdon notwithstanding, there’s plenty of original sounding and highly inventive progressive pop and rock swirling throughout the grooves of Folklore.

EXEDRA MUSIC – Guitarist Darrall Knight, singer Jeremy Gluck and bass player Mark Elliot form the core of U.K. rock band Exedra, who are making waves with their album Elemental. Fusing a range of sounds and styles—from art-rock, goth, dream-pop, prog-rock and rock ‘n’ roll—Exedra covers all the sonic bases on a CD / DL that takes some time to get into, but once you do it’s a rewarding experience. Jeremy’s vocals are good but Knight’s guitar-centric instrumental tracks are also very cool and show off the band’s interest in progressive music sub-genres like Kraut-rock. For a self-produced, DIY kind of album, Exedra’s Elemental takes the listener on quite an appealing sonic joyride. One can only hope Exedra takes the seeds of their sound and grows it into something even bigger and better.

FIRE RECORDS – U.K. label Fire has a real strange album on their hands with the 2016 release of Brothers And Sisters Of The Black Lagoon by the New Zealand band known as Orchestra Of Spheres. Mixing in elements of free jazz, ala Sun Ra and pop influences like late 1970s era Yoko Ono and B-52’s, Orchestra Of Spheres is decidedly rock but in an avant garde, way out kind of way. Very peculiar music in a heartwarming kind of way, Orchestra Of Spheres features the music of Baba Rossa (guitars, vocals), Mos Iocoss (synths, vocals), EtonalE (bass, vocals) and Tooth (drums). Mixing rock vocal music and mutant disco with several freeform instrumentals, the eleven cut CD has great packaging and the sound is excellent. Orchestra Of Spheres takes 21st century rock into strange and beautiful waters with their album Brothers And Sisters Of The Black Lagoon.

FOLKWIT RECORDS It’s hard to find totally original music these days but Louise Le May comes close with her 2015 CD called A Tale Untold. Ostensibly folk music, the eleven cut CD mixes folk-pop with a very listenable kind of chamber pop with rock sensibilities and is quite symphonic in a Beatle-esque kind of way. She’s already being mentioned among fans of songwriters like Kate Bush and even Robert Wyatt’s post ‘60s compositions. Speaking about A Tale Untold, Louise tells, "Some of the songs were written quite a few years ago, and then more recent songs were added. I’d say the first songs were written in about the late 1990s. The rest came about in 2009 and beyond. I do an intense phase of songwriting and then I stop for a few years. There are two elements to the process for me – songwriting and singing. Singing continues in that I keep working on my voice and it keeps on developing. I do songwriting so I have something to sing, bespoke to me." A Tale Untold is kind of like ear candy as it’s well worth repeat listens. The album was superbly produced by Ken Brake, while the album was arranged by Louis Philippewith the latter adding in guitars, bass keys, piano, backing vocals and more. Brake adds in drums and synth programming, yet the real focus of the album are Ms. Le May’s outstanding songs and vocals. Recorded in London, the album was skillfully recorded and is well worth the attention of music fans who enjoy high quality and completely original melodic pop inventions.

GRIT TWANG RECORDS – The spirit of raw and raunchy rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well on the 2016 CD self-titled release of Pop Skull Rebels. The album moves and grooves through all kinds of roots rock tracks that harks back to the spirit of the late 1950s and the sound of Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley, with an equal emphasis on the sound and fretboard fury of Pop Skull Rebels’ lead guitarist J Doyle. Aided and abetted by K.A. Browning (vocals), Kenny Dupree (bass) and Brian Sifton (drums), the fast-paced CD is a rock & roll party on CD! Fans of the early rockin’ “Grit Twang” sound of Elvis, Orbison and Bo Diddley will totally enjoy the Kansas City-based Pop Skull Rebels.

INSIDE OUT MUSIC – Forty five years ago, in 1971, coming up on this November marked the first YES concerts at the fabled Academy Of Music in NYC. Led by the sonic vision of band founder Jon Anderson, YES was third on the bill that fabled night to King Crimson with headliners Procol Harum. Compared to the way I felt earlier, I was completely sold on YES after that show and the main thing I remembered, besides the general pandemonium and everyone seeing YES play a concert for the first time, was Anderson’s marionette like operatic vocals and drummer Bill Bruford, who seemed to me to be a rock engine operating the machine of YES all on his own! So forty five years later here we are. Chris Squire has now left us, beyond and before, and mysteriously, Anderson is not leading YES anymore but I think he appreciates that the name is in able business hands. Better news is in 2016 Anderson has released an album on Germany’s Inside Out label, Invention Of Knowledge, surely one of his great YES side projects - this time with Sweden’s progressive rock guitar maestro Roine Stolt. Also playing on the sessions is YES keyboard icon Tom Brislin, Sweden’s keyboard virtuoso Lalle Larson, bassist Jonas Reingold and more. At times leaning towards abstract rock neo-realism, the exquisitely packaged Invention Of Knowledge is balanced by Anderson’s brilliant melodic inventions and the superb recording sound quality captures it all. Roine Stolt is surely one of Sweden’s best musicians, who made his solo break through with his 1979 Fantasia album. All the players on Invention Of Knowledge have extensive musical pedigrees and their in-depth chemistry and ESP is put to the test and passes with flying colors on Invention Of Knowledge.

– L.A. based guitarist Ciro Hurtado grew up in Peru and his music brings that wild sense of elation to the fore on his 2016 CD called Selva. The 13 cut CD features a stellar mix of Spanish influenced music—both instrumentals and vocal tracks—that serves as a great introduction to his music and a confirmation of his talents for his many fans. Selva is a fine follow up to Ciro’s last album, 2014’s Ayahuasca Dreams. Guitar fans will marvel at the Spanish guitar influence on the instrumentals while the Spanish language vocal tracks, sung by a range of female vocals, are quite appealing in their own way. Ciro plays a number of guitars—both acoustic and electric— and the album also features a number of great musicians, including Ciro’s wife Cindy Harding and notable players such as New Age keyboardist Ricky Kej. As is typical for Ciro, the CD packaging features all the Spanish language lyrics, liner notes and colorful artwork. Commenting on the CD Ciro explains, ‘My music is a reflection of the many people, cultures and musical styles t hat have touched my life. I truly believe music knows no borders.’

JUNE BISANTZ MUSIC Diving deep into the songbook of American jazz trumpet and vocal legend Chet Baker, singer June Bisantz released her album It’s Always You: June Bisantz Sings Chet Baker Vol. 2 in 2015. Backed up by a fine band and tasty string players, including Alex Nakhimovsky (piano), Norman Johnson (guitar), Ben Belillo (drums) and others, June uses her cool, well-paced jazz voice in the spirit of Astrid Gilberto and in doing so, she’s been called a modern day jazz chanteuse. Baker recorded much of his music in the 1950s and 1960s and he was also acclaimed as a singer and songwriter who covered music by legends like Mel Torme, Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter and more. Ms. Bisantz' second Baker tribute album, It’s Always You also features a Baker original called "I Know That I'll Lose You". Speaking to about her latest Chet Baker tribute CD, June explains, 'When I recorded the first Chet Baker Project CD, my goal was to learn something new about singing. I found something of myself - as yet unexpressed - in Chet's quiet, effortless singing style, and I studied him for quite a while before going into the studio. I loved what I learned from the process, and I just wasn’t finished,' adding 'I’ve been lucky with this project. Chet Baker fans have embraced both CDs, and reviewers have said very nice things - for which I am extremely grateful. People seem to understand what I’m trying to do, which for an artist is a rare and wonderful thing!' Despite living a hard and tragic life, having passed away in 1988, Chet Baker’s musical legacy lives on with the June Bisantz album release of It’s Always You.

KARISMA RECORDS – Norway’s Airbag carries the progressive spirit forward on their 2016 CD called Disconnected. The band cites influences like Porcupine Tree, Marillion and Pink Floyd among their big musical heroes and true to form, there’s plenty of spacy, hypnotic rock grooves on Disconnected. Airbag are not a newcomers, having secured a solid reputation in the progressive community going back to their 2009 debut album Identity. Even so, their third band effort, Disconnected is well worth the time for music lovers to connect with. One of the top prog-rock albums of 2016, Disconnected is the best album yet by Oslo-based Airbag. Airbag fans may also want to check out the 2016 solo CD by Airbag guitarist / composer Bjørn Riis called Lullabies In A Car Crash.

LASER’S EDGE - Back in 2013, spoke to Chris Herin, guitarist / composer with the Michigan-based progressive rock band Tiles. That 2013 album, Off The Floor is now followed by a 2016 Tiles album release on New Jersey-based Laser’s Edge called Pretending 2 Run. Featuring Herin and the classic Tiles lineup with Mark Evans (drums), Jeff Whittle (bass) and Paul Rarick (lead vocals), the all new P2R double CD studio set has all the trademarks of a modern day prog-rock classic, including contributions from a number of musicians, including the Tiles band with key cameos by fabled prog pioneer Ian Anderson, drummer Mike Portnoy, jazz fusion guitarist Mike Stern, Colin Edwin and a host of others. Recorded in Ontario, with other contributions sent via the internet, the double CD set was produced by Terry Brown, a producer who has worked with Rush. Discussing the wide sweeping concepts of P2R in the following interview, Chris Herin tells, "Pretending 2 Run didn’t start out as a double album, but we certainly had accumulated plenty of songs. Eventually we realized we had nearly 75-minutes of music, but didn’t want to make a single disc that long. So we could either leave songs out or add a couple and expand the album to two CDs. From an artistic standpoint going to two discs was a good decision. I was able to add a bit more drama and depth to the story and musically we could grab a couple more tunes from our backlog. Personally, I like spreading the story over two discs; you can listen to one or the other, or both in one sitting." Setting the trend as one of America's finest 21st century progressive rock bands , Tiles reaches even greater sonic heights with Pretending 2 Run.

LEADY MUSIC – Guitar hero Don Leady made fans happy with his 2014 CD Hillbilly Boogie Surfin’ Blues and in 2016 Don released Poppy Toppy Gone. Compared with the all instrumental vibe of his 2014 CD, his new one owes more to a live roots rock feel while also featuring Jack Montesinos (guitar), Alberto Telo (drums, vocals) and Eric Przygocki (bass). Poppy Toppy Gone is another kind of tribute to a great Texas band Buddy Holly & The Crickets. There’s also a definite early Elvis type of music here. There are still some instrumentals here but the majority of tracks feature Don’s stinging Strat guitars and vocals in a bluesy, Buddy meets Bo Diddley kind of boogie beat rock. Among the instrumentals is a nostalgic Les Paul inspired cover of Glenn Miller’s 1941 number one hit (“String Of Pearls”), Cut live in at Wire Recording Studio in Austin, the CD sound quality is crisp and clean while the action shot of Leady and his young protégé Montesinos is also kind of cool. While purists would love him too stretch out on another instrumental long player, on Poppy Toppy Gone, Leady strikes a clarion call for roots rock greatness.

MADFISH MUSIC – NYC based guitarist / singer-songwriter Jane Getter released her 2016 CD, On through the Snapper Music related Madfish label. Featuring Jane backed up by some hot musicians including Adam Holzman (keys), Bryan Beller (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums) and more, the album transverses a number of musical genres—from hard rock and metal to a heavy prog-fusion mix. Guest vocalist Corey Glover, Theo Travis (flute, sax) and second guitarist Alex Skolnick add further fire to the already smoldering sound on On. Jane’s guitar-centric sound is making waves in the prog-rock community who have already adopted her as one of their own. In addition to the excellent CD sound, Madfish has done a great job, packaging the CD with unique artwork and booklet with full credits and lyrics. As long as progressive rock and fusion continues to morph and expand, there will always be a listening space for high-caliber musicians such as guitarist Jane Getter.

MELLOTRONEN The group from Sweden, Trettioåriga Kriget returns from the ashes of 1981 with a 2015 / 2016 CD called Seaside Air. Arriving during the heyday of the historic Euro-rock invasion of the mid to late 1970s, Trettioåriga Kriget—translated as 30 Years War in English—combined post-punk rock energy with a more progressive, mellotron-flavored rock sung in their native Swedish. With TK's latest music, featuring English lyrics and vocals, group bassist / composer Stefan Fredin is joined by a great sounding band including co-founder Dag Lundquist, long time members Christer Åkerberg (lead guitar) and Robert Zima (co-lead vocals), as well as Mats Lindberg (keys). Speaking to about this first album with English lyrics and English vocals, TK co-founder Stefan Fredin explains, "We actually recorded a pre-debut album in 1971, that was not released until 2004, called Glorious War, which has English lyrics, although very amateurish. But, of course, all the main Trettioåriga Kriget albums have Swedish lyrics. One other reason apart from trying something new, was that we know that we have fans in many countries all over the world and it would be nice if they could also understand the lyrics." With extended tracks flowing perfectly together, on Seaside Air Fredin’s haunting melodies are truly memorable and the band blends a dramatic rock-based progressive sound adding in all types of Swedish-flavored progressive rock and even, dare I say, strong, pop-infused melodies that would make ABBA smile. Trettioåriga Kriget are back in a big way and clearly, Seaside Air is time well spent for fans of classic, 20th and 21st century progressive rock. /

MOSHI MOSHI RECORDS / PIAS – Orchestral pop at its finest is the heart of the matter on the 2016 CD release of 2013, the 2016 CD by singer-songwriter Meilyr Jones (pronounced May-lyr). Arranged and conducted by Joseph Davies, the 12 track CD features a range of heavily orchestrated, Bowie-esque pop tracks written and composed by Meilyr and the CD features numerous musicians including an entire orchestra of strings and horns and even a choir. Recorded in London, Meilyr’s songs can rock when needed but many are mostly pastoral, orchestral based tunes that will leave you smiling. If you’re a fan of glorious orchestrated pop, give a listen to Meilyr Jones and his excellent 2013 CD.

NONE OTHER MUSIC – Greek composer and progressive rock artist Spyros Charmanis was born back in 1984 but he’s making headway as a composer in his own right with the first album by his group None Other, called Than The Common Plague. The album features Spyros performing everything with backing by a number of musicians and the premise is a concept album touching on personal experiences, disease and isolation. Recorded in Greece and mastered in New York, the CD is attractively packaged in a unique 45 page book-like presentation, complete with in depth liner notes and complete lyrics. The album was nearly completely recorded by Spyros with help from several female vocalists. Well-presented and well-recorded progressive rock with a unique twist, Spyros Charmanis and None Other takes his growing sound in a very unique direction with the cryptically titled Than The Common Plague.

PETE BRANDT MUSIC – Relatively unknown outside his native England, singer-songwriter Pete Brandt came to the attention of by way of Stackridge founder Andrew Creswell Davis. Pete played on Andy’s 2016 Emergency Love CD. Hearing Pete’s 2015 double CD set, Songs From The Basement it’s clear that the eclectic pop legacy of Stackridge was a big influence on Brandt. Another influence is Ray Davies and while not quite in that league, Pete’s sound will surely appeal to fans of The Kinks and other theatrical English pop bands. In addition to singing and writing all the 24 tracks here, Pete also adds in his own work on guitar, bass, cuatro, lap steel, banjo and keys while getting more back up from a wide range of musicians including Andy Davis on guitars, piano and organ. Songs From The Basement follows the 2013 CD release of Level Minus Zero which features many of the same fine players. Pete Brandt’s Songs From The Basement is eclectic U.K. pop at its finest.

PRESENCE RECORDS – The Finnish band Jeavestone returns in early 2016 with Human Games. At the core of Jeavestone are lyricist / vocalist Jim Goldworth, Mickey Maniac (guitars), Tommy Glorioso (bass), Kingo (drums), Angelina Galactique (backing vocals) and a number of fine players who enhance the band with session strings, harps, and added percussion. Jeavestone starts of Human Games with “Another”, which sounds like a rare Kayak song with Moon Safari harmonies. The Euro-prog rock influences are all over the album but like Kayak, Jeavestone depends on melody and well-executed songs with intricate sounds. There’s also a kind of eclectic, West Coast, Jellyfish influence from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s pop resurgence with Kingo’s drummer echoing Ringo especially on track 4 “Aurora Borealis Man”. Following a number of albums include the 2008 album Spices, Species & Poetry Petrol, Jeavestone steps forth with another solid, upbeat prog-pop classic with 2016’s Human Games.

REAL WORLD RECORDS – A rising band centered around the talents of Stuart McCallum, (guitarist with The Cinematic Orchestra) and singer Ríoghnach Connolly (pronounced REE-un-nah), and McCallum’s Cinematic Orchestra mates, Luke Flowers (drums) and John Ellis (keys), The Breath debut with Carry Your Kin. Released on the esteemed Real World Records label and mixed by the legendary Tchad Blake, Carry Your Kin is filled with a range of spacey chill pop that mixes New Age, Irish folk and ambient electronic soundscapes to great effect. The mixture of Ríoghnach, and her Irish lyricist background, is a fine match for McCallum’s rock-based and guitar-centric production skills. The Breath make rock that’s not quite rock but instead takes rock into intriguing a new ambient terrain that deserves to be heard far and wide. Carry Your Kin is a fabulous debut album from The Breath. The CD is superbly packaged and the booklet features a poster and all the song lyrics.

SANTANA IV RECORDS – The first three albums by the band Santana were like sonic ear candy and it culminated with Santana III, their third Columbia Lp. It’s taken 45 years but Santana reunite for Santana IV and the incredible thing is it sounds just like you hoped it would. With Carlos Santana on guitar, much of the early band lineup is complete again with Gregg Rolie (keys, vocals), Michael Shrieve (drums), Neil Schon (lead guitar) and Michael Carabello (conga, percussion, backing vocals) who are joined by Benny Rietveld (bass) and Karl Perazzo (timbales, percussion, vocals). Guest artist Ronald Isley (of the original Isley Brothers band) appears on a couple tracks. Different songs evoke kindred spirits from the early Santana sound and there is a pair of great instrumental songs here entitled “Fillmore East” and “You And I”, the latter written by Gregg Rolie. The CD closes with another epic part-instrumental 7+ minute cut called “Forgiveness”, with vocals at the end from Rolie, that superbly features the magical Santana band guitar sound. Other bluesy tracks with Rolie on vocals bring to mind that incredible “Black Magic Woman” era of early Santana sound. Close your eyes and it’s 1971 again!

SONATA – The artist known as Susanna continues to create experimental vocal pop music with her 2016 CD, her 11th solo album called Triangle. The CD filled with 20+ mystical, sonically enhanced vocal musings that combine all types of progressive pop sounds with a range of cutting-edge underground vibes. Playing piano, autoharp, keyboards, effects, samples and programming, Susanna receives musical aid from a range of players, all who are listed in the CD booklet along with the song lyrics. Triangle was recorded in Los Angeles and Oslo and kind of evokes the works of early gothic singers such as Nico from Velvet Underground (for example) but there’s also something mythologically appealing and also Scandinavian sounding about Susanna’s deep dark pop secrets. The follow up to her Forester album, Susanna’s Triangle takes its place in the repertoire of this mysterious yet quite entertaining Norwegian singer-songwriter. /

STRATHMERE MUSIC – Coming to the attention of thanks to his fine keyboard work on the 2016 CD by Boston-based rockers The Grand Undoing, Chris Nole steps out on his own with the 2016 CD release of his new album called It Be What It Be. Described as “a rousing celebration of vintage blues, rock & roll, and New Orleans-style piano and song”, the 12 track CD is great example of Chris Nole’s piano and vocal skills. On It Be What It Be, Chris is joined by top players like Pat Bergeson, Pat Buchanon, Andy Reiss and Jack Pearson (guitars), Dow Tomlim (bass), Chris Brown (drums) and more. The album is a great exercise in roots-rock and blues piano. Further commenting about the album in the album liner notes, Chris explains, ‘The old school piano masters like Professor Longhair, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Dr. John, and others have had a profound influence on how I’ve learned to perform and write music.’ Amid Nole’s bluesy vocals and rock sounds are some cool-sounding piano-centric instrumentals including an unusual instro cover here of the traditional favorite “House Of The Rising Sun”. Featuring the songs, vocals and piano magic of Chris Nole, It Be What It Be is a one of the best vintage piano-based blues albums of 2016.

SURFDOG RECORDS / BUSHBRANCH MUSIC – Gary Hoey’s California based Surfdog released I Still Do by guitar icon Eric Clapton. The 2016 album was released on CD, vinyl LP and USB. The CD sounds fine, having been produced by studio legend Glyn Johns and there’s also a cameo by Glyn’s son Ethan Johns on percussion. On I Still Do Eric sticks to the tried and true post 1960s Clapton, reveling in the venerable music of the pre-rock past with his legendary band featuring Chris Stainton and Henry Spinetti (drums) and guitarist / vocalist Andy Fairweather Low and company. Those looking for the Clapton who wrote “Badge”, “Layla” and “Presence Of The Lord” will pine for the old Eric but I Still Do will be manna from the skies to his many fans. A tell tale sign is the number of covers here, eschewing new music for the likes of JJ Cale, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Dylan and Broadway flavored Tin Pan Alley classics like “Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day” (a hit in 1934) and “I’ll Be Seeing You” from 1938. Clapton has been through a world of pain throughout his legendary music career, yet he’s also brought a boat load of excellence to the pop world and that spirit continues with I Still Do.

TUSCAN SUN MUSIC – Even with all the troubles and hardships of the 21st century world, artists continue to make New Age music in an effort to try to bring people up again. For the most part, that strategy works quite well on In The Garden, the 2016 CD, and fourth album, by the vocalist / composer known as Seay. Released on her own Tuscan Sun label, the twelve song CD evokes the musical grandeur of say New Age goddess of song Enya, amped up through the magic of a more pure form of Americana-based New Age. A who’s who of modern day New Age accompanies the Nashville-based Seay on her latest album, including Leon Bisquera (piano), Jerry Watts (bass), Pat Thomi (guitars), Wouter Kellerman (flute), Hitoshi Yamaguchi (cello), Ricky Kej (keys) and many others. With Seay’s soaring vocals and arrangements, the album flows like a river of sound while calmly carrying the listener to its source. New Age music fans looking for an album of sumptuous vocal music that is also keenly orchestral in scope should give a listen to Seay and her magical sounding album In The Garden.

VIBRO-PHONIC / PQF – A benefit CD for the foundation of the late, great, ex-Kink Pete Quaife, the 2016 CD release of Terry Reid + The Jigsaw Seen Live features 2 tracks only, including a cover of Donovan’s “Young Girl Blues” and a cover of a pair of Reid originals. Reid was a huge star in his time who, like Donovan, was produced by the late, great Mickie Most. The Jigsaw Seen is one of the great American pop bands of the past twenty years, so this brief single only release is a most welcome return for Reid and anything by the Jigsaw Seen is of interest to pop fans worldwide. /

WALK THE DOG MUSIC – Guitarist Paul Nelson came to the attention of back in 2001 with his solo instrumental jazz-rock album Look. 15 years later he’s making even more news with Badass Generation with The Paul Nelson Band. In the in between years, Nelson honed his guitar chops even more working with the late great Johnny Winter and that same rip-roaring blues rock sound can be heard on the 12 track Badass Generation. Nelson’s 4 piece band also features a fine lead singer (and sound engineer) in Morton Fredheim, a fine singer in the Paul Rogers framework or a fine blues-rock belter like Winter was in his prime. Borrowing from the blues, rock, pop and country rock, these songs click and Nelson’s guitar work is razor sharp throughout. Badass Generation boasts excellent audio quality and creative CD packaging.

WISE OLD OWL RECORDS – Mixing New Age, World Music, folk music, soft pop and Americana, singer-songwriter Kimberly Haynes is making her presence felt with her 2016 CD, Awaken Me. Kimberly is often called a Music Medicine Woman, and her album is subtitled Songs From The Heart Of A Seeker with the artist adding, “My songs are my prayers. It is a privilege to carry those prayers into the world. It is my hope that they will be a blessing to all who hear them.” Awaken Me was superbly recorded, mixed and engineered by multi-instrumentalist David Vito Gregoli in Glendale California. A number of musicians appear as guest artists on the CD, including acclaimed keyboardist Peter Kater and percussionist Byron Metcalf but the central focus is on Kimberly’s glorious songs and stellar vocal performance. Clocking in at 65 minutes, the eleven track Awaken Me is one of the finest New Age pop albums of the year.


3 VALVE MUSIC – Missouri native Mike Metheny is world renowned for his flugelhorn playing but with the 2015 CD release of Twelve For The Road he’s created an ambient fusion masterpiece of instrumental music. On Twelve For The Road, Mike handles all the keyboard work and the flugelhorn is only added to one track. Speaking about the album title, Mike says, “I’ve recorded / produced 12 albums since 1982, hence the title of the current CD Twelve For the Road. 12 is enough. The process has become too expensive and stressful, and the ratio of downloads to sales of my CDs is literally 5 to one. “ In his CD liner notes, Mike singles out his parents and younger brother Pat Metheny for their inspirations. Speaking to about the experimental nature of Twelve For The Road, Mike explains, “To say this CD was experimental would be an understatement. In late 2013 I began dabbling with a program called “Garage Band” that came with my computer but that I’d never opened. Next thing I knew I had a bunch of different tracks that were all generated by a MIDI keyboard but were too crude to ever put on a CD. That’s when a friend told me about “Logic Pro X,” and fortunately I was able to convert all of the “Garage Band” files to “Logic” and improve things. I was also able to add that one flugel track using an old AKG microphone I’ve had since 1978. Talk about a homemade CD...” Much of the music here is quite relaxed in the spirit of Ennio Morricone or even Erik Satie—and yet there are a couple quite experimental numbers on the CD as well. On Twelve For The Road, jazz legend Mike Metheny has crafted an album that brings his inventive musical craft alive and well into the 21st century.

AGELESS RECORDS – Multi-instrumentalist and synth keyboard wiz Holland Phillips returned in 2016 with his latest epic Circles Of 8. In the spirit of his earlier releases, Circles Of 8 is filled with melodic and soaring instrumental music that combines symphonic sounds within the context of New Age music. A good example of Holland’s remarkable music can be heard on track four, “The Journey” with its circular keyboard patterns and memorable melodic approaches. In addition to his keys and synths, Holland also adds in acoustic and electric guitars on several tracks here. Also on board is the sax work of Paul Christensen. All in all, Circles Of 8 is a fine follow up to Holland’s acclaimed album Daydream Alley.

ALCHEMY RECORDS – The music of Jon Durant needs no introduction to progressive instrumental listeners. In 2013 Durant joined forces with Colin Edwin for the first self-titled album by Burnt Belief, and in 2016 they return for their third set, with Emergent. In Burnt Belief, Durant and Edwin are joined by drummer Vinnie Sabatino and the result is yet again an amazing journey into the world of progressive guitar fusion music. A master electric guitar technician who mixes in cloud guitars, synths and sequencers, Durant was always influenced by the ECM style of Terje Rydpal and, in Burnt Belief, joined with Edwin’s influential post-70s King Crimson influenced, clockwork-style, fretless bass beat to the sound, Emergent at times takes on a sonically pleasing rhythmic context. Speaking to about Emergent, Durant adds, "I want to make records that I actually would want to listen to. My opinion is that it doesn’t make any sense to try to fit into a formula, just to fit in at this point. We simply have to be honest about the music we make, and that should shine through loud and clear. So, when I am writing these pieces, my idea is to create melodies that are memorable, but not obvious. Creative but not so far out that you don’t want to hear it again. It’s a balancing act, and I hope that it’s been achieved on Emergent." Some tracks, like the title track, “Emergent” sounds influenced by Carlos Santana’s purist tone and “Language Of Movement” has an infectious rhythmic pulse. One of the top instrumental rock fusion albums of 2016, Emergent should be played many times to fully absorb its kaleidoscopic moods and sounds.

ARUN SHENOY MUSIC Singapore-based composer-producer and guitarist Arun Shenoy made his breakthrough in 2012 when his debut CD Rumbadoodle was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, a genre which was later renamed to Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. In 2016, Arun is once again making news in the jazz-rock music world with his new concept album A Stagey Bank Affair by his band Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project. As a guitarist, Arun stakes out some unique sonic ground on A Stagey Bank Affair, leading his band through a range of instrumental music that quite tastefully combines jazz-rock, world groove fusion, funk, neoclassical chill, soundtracks and more. Arun describes his music as being “Bansuri Funk”, indicating a solid affiliation with his South Asian roots. Speaking about his 2016 album album, Arun tells, “The new album was written and recorded in 2015-2016 and released in July 2016. Right from the onset, it was designed to be a concept album. The album has multiple facets to it and the title itself was derived from one of them – a metaphorical reference to Stagey Bank, an agricultural fair in the North East of England that over a period of time became notorious for drinking, gambling and was eventually closed down in the 1920s. The phrase “Stagey Bank Fair” passed into common parlance to indicate a mess in general. Fact or folklore, we do not know, but it has given wings to our imagination to create a concept album around fairgrounds. A Stagey Bank Affair, is thus a metaphor for a place which used to be a fun fair, and now means a messy affair, kind of like adulthood is. Growing up just means we stop growing and stop having fun.” A Stagey Bank Affair is a collaboration between Arun and the group called The Groove Project comprising of 13 artists, which include heavyweights like Jazz legend Jeff Coffin, orchestral composer and arranger Don Hart, acclaimed flautist Ravichandra Kulur among others. There is also a guest appearance by keyboard player, Uziel on the opening track For the most part, this is Arun Shenoy’s show and the entire CD packaging is a sight to behold with two booklets providing intriguing artwork espousing Arun’s philosophy. Arun Shenoy’s jazz-rock opus A Stagey Bank Affair will surely be of interest to jazz-rock fusion guitar fans. /

ARTHUR CIRCLE MUSIC Based in New York City, Ken Hatfield is one of the best guitarists when it comes to combining jazz, Americana and neoclassical. The latest chapter in the life of a great guitar legacy can be heard on Ken’s 2016 release—a book with all sheet music of the music within, in-depth liner notes and an accompanying CDentitled 12 Preludes For Solo Guitar. Commenting on his unique approach towards composing, writing and recording his music, Ken tells, “I already wrote of book of studies called Etudes For Solo Guitar In 24 Keys, so the Preludes really are Preludes, while the Etudes really are Etudes. But like Chopin, I intend them to all have artistic as well as pedagogical value. It really depends on how deeply a player gets into this music… there is a lot there, but it’s not all on the surface. Some of the Preludes are more technically challenging than others, but I intend them all to be more about the music than calisthenics. And they are all designed to be playable for most fingerstyle players that know the fingerboard and can read traditional musical notation.” Guitarists will note that this is very high quality classical guitar picking and strumming but Ken is also quite hip to jazz geniuses like Charlie Byrd, and even classical guitarists such as John Williams, for example. On 12 Preludes Ken delves into his deep standing affinity for both classical and melodic pop melodies played from a jazzy Byrd / Jobim guitar perspective. The amazing thing is that the 12 Preludes CD is combined with the meticulously printed and packaged sheet music for all the songs Ken plays here. Guitarists and fans have been admiring Ken's music for decades and newcomers looking to check out one of New York’s best kept guitar secrets, give a listen to Ken Hatfield’s 12 Preludes For Solo Guitar.

BELLA UNION – Cosmic instrumental guitar music from a place like Texas, or even NYC (Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music notwithstanding) for that matter, was just a dream in the late ‘70s and early 1980s but thankfully the internet kids have latched on to the greatness of legendary cosmic instrumental guitar rock. Case in point is The Wilderness, the 2016 CD by Austin instro kings Explosions In The Sky. After a number of releases, EITS have sort of hit their stride. Nothing exuberantly melodic here so this is much more in the Teutonic mold of cosmic electric guitars ala Faust or Neu! or Lou Reed’s experimental sounds, than say the psychedelia of West Coast band of the ‘60s. The Wilderness is not as immediately revealing as their earlier albums but there’s still plenty of startling instro guitar cacophonies to blow your mind. As is the case with EITS, the CD packaging is brilliant, complete with a mini poster and beguiling artwork.

BIRDLAND SOUNDS – Europe has a rich history of combining folk, jazz and classical music all within the space of a single album. A good example of that eclectic European approach to instrumental music can be heard on Ison, the 2015 CD by the Italy-based band known Démodé. Described as a mix of crossover jazz and cinematic / avant gard music, the Démodé sound can be heard in its full glory on their recent album Ison. Combining clarinet, sax, piano, bass and drums, the album is kind of reminiscent of mid ‘80s chamber music, ala Von Zamla or Holland’s Flairk, that became known as the rock in opposition movement, yet in place of harder edge rock, Démodé make a more peculiar kind of chamber music in a rock-centric kind of setting. If it wasn’t for the drums, you might be tempted to think, Démodé was a throwback to the venerable age of classical music from the 1700’s. Featuring a range of compositions composed by different band members, the Ison CD is well packaged and the sound is first rate. Démodé’s Ison a good choice for modern neoclassical fans and fans of adventurous of exotic sounding, 21st century European music.

BOOGIE POST RECORDINGS – Swedish guitarist and composer Samuel Hällkvist is a busy man. With a number of albums on the Boogie Post label, Samuel released music by his group Orbit Stern and several solo albums including 2013’s Return To Center, which was influenced by both the free jazz fusion of King Crimson and Ornette Coleman. Orbit Stern is more influenced by electronica masters such as Jean Michel Jarre. In 2015 Samuel returned again with the first of his trilogy of albums called Variety Of Live. The CD features a number of musicians including King Crimson’s percussionist Pat Mastelotto, Guy Pratt (bass), Qarin Wikström (voice, keys), Stefan Pasborg (drums). Speaking about his recent projects, Samuel says, “The Variety Of Live CD is part 2 of the Variety of-trilogy: Variety Of Loud (2012) Variety Of Live (2015) with Variety Of Rhythm coming this year. It's basically my "solo" project, where I invite musicians that never played together before from different musical- and geographical backgrounds. Orbit Stern is Frederik Hauch and I, writing the material together. We actually developed a slightly different approach after doing 3 Japan tours, sometimes working with improvising musicians and meeting people from the punk- jazz- free improv- noise- prog scene. Since this year we also work with Swedish vocalist Qarin Wikström, who also writes material for the group.” Musically, Variety Of Live blends wordless vocals, surf guitar, funk, rock, jazz and more. Progressive rock fans looking for new and exciting avenues of progressive 21st century music, should check out the electrifying sounding Variety Of Live.

BUREAU B – Based in Germany, Bureau B released a 2016 album from Peter Baumann called Machines Of Desire. Baumann of course was a member of electronic music legends Tangerine Dream during their 1971 to 1977 heyday. In the mid 1980’s Baumann formed the Private Music recording label in New York and went on to release dozens of influential electronic music albums. With Baumann meeting long time T. Dream founder Edgar Froese in Vienna early January 2015, there was talk of a reunion but Froese’s untimely passing on January 20th, 2015 made that impossible. Released in the aftermath, Machines Of Desire is a fitting tribute to Baumann’s time in T. Dream. With electronic synths and all sorts of sounds whirling across the music spectrum, Machines Of Desire a great sonic achievement and one of Baumann’s finest albums.

CENTURY JAZZ – Produced by jazz piano virtuoso Dan Siegel, the 2016 CD release of The American Dream introduces American jazz ears to the sound of Damian Draghici. The Romanian who left his homeland to get the full impact of the American dream, is convincing jazz audiences world wide with his 13 track CD. Musically, the album features Damian’s sprightly sounding pan flutes backed up by some of the best jazzers on either coast including Stanley Clarke, Alex Acuna, Charlie Bisharat and more. Damian’s skills on the pan flutes are very cool and the music he features on his CD covers a cross section of classics from the pens of Charlie Parker, Jobim, Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and more. The album also features a range of music arrangers including Tom Zink, co-producer Dan Siegel, Michel Camilo and many others. One of the breeziest, most listenable album smooth jazz and mainstream jazz albums of the year, The American Dream is a splendid introduction to Damian’s lush sounding pan flutes and from start to finish serves as a solid wake up call for jazz lovers world wide.

COLORBURST SOUNDFIELD – As the original drummer in the 1969 lineup of Santana, Michael Shrieve took part in the 2016 Santana reunion album and he’s also back big time with a new CD called Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder. Spellbinder is a great word to describe Shrieve’s latest group project as it sounds like a cross between smooth jazz and soundtrack music in the spirit of the 1960s James Bond movies. Speaking about the name of his band, Shrieve adds, ‘I named my group Spellbinder to constantly remind myself that my job is spiritual in nature and my job is to take people away, to create a spell with the rhythm, to create a space for them to go to with the music. I want to transport people.’ With Shrieve on drums, the album features key contributions by Joe Doria (keys), Danny Godinez (guitar), Farko Dosumov (bass) and John Fricke (trumpet). Commenting on the album, Shrieve explains, ‘I’m excited to get Spellbinder out and playing in front of people. The whole idea of it was, what kind of music would I like to listen to at two in the morning, made by a drummer? And that’s what I came up with.’ Santana fans and instrumental jazz-rock fusion fans will totally enjoy Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder.

CORRADO RUSTICI MUSIC Based in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California, Italian guitarist Corrado Rustici is making waves with his solo album Aham, released in mid 2016. Taking the electric guitar in a bold and exciting direction, on Aham Corrado blends a range of instrumental guitar stylesfrom spatial New Age and atmospheric jazz to a more rock-centric instrumental sound that will appeal to fans of guitar fusion and cutting edge, cerebral rock metal guitar players. Featuring nine tracks, including the CD-closing “Aham Suite”, the mostly instrumental album also includes a pair of vocal tracks featuring Corrado and singer Andrew Strong. Speaking to about Aham, Corrado says, “My last album, Deconstruction Of A Postmodern Musician was released ten years ago. Around six years ago I started working on Aham. I really wanted to explore new sounds and “voices” that the guitar could produce.” A native of Naples Italy, Corrado was a member of the late 1970s Italian jazz-rock fusion band Nova, who worked with Narada Michael Walden, while recording a trio of album releases for Arista Records in the late ‘70s. His guitar sound might have tempered a bit since the intense, heady, jazz-rock fusion of the Nova Vimana days but there’s still plenty of scintillating tracks on Aham to welcome back Corrado Rustici’s inventive, instrumental guitar sound.

DEKATRIA RECORDS - Influenced by the great jazz guitar legendsfrom Django Reinhardt to John McLaughlinGreece-born / Canada-based guitarist Strat Andriotis is making waves in the music world with his 2016 CD entitled Less Off Patient. Less Off Patient is the follow up to Strat’s critically acclaimed 2015 CD, Liars Incorporated. Featuring eleven original tracks of enchanting instrumental guitar music, blending Gypsy Jazz and Neoclassical music, on Less Off Patient, Strat is joined by his trio mates Adrianna Lee (violin) and Jeff Vidov (piano). Speaking to about working with the same musicians on both Liars Incorporated and his 2016 CD, Less Off Patient, Strat adds, "I gave Adrianna more of a featured role, I'm writing her a lot more solos and passages. Because we had all played a few dates together, I think Less Off Patient has more of a freedom to it. Jeff’s piano playing once again is terrific and soul-inspiring—this album came together rather quickly because of our familiarity from playing with each other." Ripe with imaginative guitar musings that make vintage sounds modern again, Less Off Patient takes 21st century classical music and Gypsy jazz in a bright and bold direction. With eleven tracks that fly by in just over 36 minutes, Less Off Patient features Strat Andriotis recording in Grant Avenue studio in Hamilton, Canada with production by both Strat and Bob Doidge. Strat Andriotis has released two albums over the past few years and, with Less Off Patient he is breaking new ground for both instrumental Gypsy jazz guitar and neoclassical music. Gypsy Jazz is one of the guitar world’s most treasured art forms and fans and disciples of Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli as well as modern day guitar heroes like John Jorgenson and Biréli Lagrène will enjoy the Euro-flavored guitar music of Strat Andriotis. With eye-catching cover artwork of a hospital patient, Less Off Patient is dedicated to Strat’s late friend Freddy Brown (1939-2016), yet Less Of Patient is clearly a celebration of life and Strat’s guitar music honors the illustrious past.

ECM – The initials ECM mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Since ECM joined forces with the huge multinationals, to some it means excellent corporate music. Whatever your persuasion, ECM and its leader Manfred Eicher have come a long way since the label released Odyssey by Terje Rypdal in 1973 or even the famous Pat Metheny Group album in 1977. David Bowie passed away in 2016 and one guitarist who was working with the late star around the time of his death, Ben Monder released a cool but overlooked album in late 2015, a few months before Bowie died. Ben’s ECM album is called Amorphae and true to its title, the album is filled with highly atmospheric “free-jazz” accentuated by the great players also playing on the CD including Pete Rende (synths) and the late great jazz drummer Paul Motian. Motian appears on several tracks here and a result of his death in 2015 meant that Andrew Cyrille would replace him on the other album tracks. Motian’s playing with Ben on the Rogers & Hammerstein track “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” is the stuff of legend. If you like ECM style guitar playing in the finest spirit of Metheny and Rypdal you will admire Ben Monder’s Amorphae.

ECM RECORDS - Also released in 2016 on ECM is Continuum by Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile. Swiss born Bärtsch made inroads on the ECM label with his band Ronin and with Continuum he gets back to his acoustic jazz roots. In Mobile, Bärtsch is accompanied by Sha (clarinet), Kaspar Rast (drums, percussion) and Nicolas Stocker (drums, tuned percussion), while receiving further backup from a five piece string section. A great late night spin, Continuum flows with a hypnotic mix of jazz, minimalist and all forms of new music. In the spirit of recent Swiss jazz-fusion bands, such as Sonar (who were also influenced to a degree by Philip Glass and Steve Reich), Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile specializes in what they describe as an “acoustic picture puzzle” and further investigation indicates that Bärtsch was influenced by masters such as Stravinsky and György Ligeti. With Continuum Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile has recorded a dramatic classic album of modern day minimalism.

EXEDRA MUSIC – Guitarist Darrall Knight, singer Jeremy Gluck and bass player Mark Elliot form the core of U.K. rock band Exedra, who are making waves with their album Elemental. Fusing a range of sounds and styles—from art-rock, goth, dream-pop, prog-rock and rock ‘n’ roll, Exedra cover all the sonic bases on a CD / DL that takes some time to get into, but once you do it’s a rewarding experience. Jeremy’s vocals are good but Knight’s guitar-centric instrumental tracks are also very cool and show off the band’s interest in progressive music sub-genres like Kraut-rock. For a self-produced, DIY kind of album, Exedra’s Elemental takes the listener on quite an appealing sonic joyride. One can only hope Exedra takes the seeds of their sound and grows it into something even bigger and better.

FIRST ORBIT SOUNDS MUSIC – Having released his debut album in 2009, Bulgarian born / California-based guitarist Hristo Vitchev returns in 2016 with a most impressive double album called In Search Of Wonders. Backed up by a gifted band of musicians, including Weber Iago (piano), Dan Robbins (bass) and Mike Shannon (drums), the music on In Search Of Wonders is well produced and recorded. Borrowing from European modalities and American jazz-guitar sensibilities, the double CD set clocks in at over 100 minutes total. Interestingly, the album was recorded in San Francisco and features Hristo’s paintings throughout the cover art. Another insight here is that even though he’s guitar through and through, Hristo writes much of his music on piano. The blend of Weber’s acoustic piano and Hristo’s guitar sounds kind of echoes the groundbreaking jazz of the late 1970s Pat Metheny Group, yet there’s so much memorable music on In Search Of Wonders, guitar fans and jazz fans alike will be impressed.

GREYDISC RECORDS Referred to by guitar enthusiasts as fretboard explorers and sonic experimentalists, Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó return in 2016 with Perspectives. In the years between their 2013 CD, Becoming, Kevin Kastning has broken immense ground in the guitar world in part thanks to his implementation of the 30 string Contra-Alto guitar and his 36 string Double Contra guitar. Coupled with Szabó’s performance on his 16 string guitar, between the two, the sound of 52 guitar stings resonating at the same time is par for the course. This vast array of guitar strings played on futuristic guitars is made all the more signficant in light of the mesmerizing improvisations caught live during the Perspectives recording sessions in late 2015. Speaking about once again recording with the Hungary-based Szabó, Kastning tells, “Sándor was able to come to the US in October 2015, and we spent several days in the studio. Perspectives is the first album release from those sessions, with more to come in the near future.” A critically acclaimed guitarist and composer and an expert mastering engineerwho works on various Greydisc recording projects a half a world awaySándor was eager to once again record with Kastning in New England and specifically on this first project featuring his 16 string guitars paired with Kastning’s 30 and 36 string guitars. Sándor explains, “When I first heard Kevin’s 30-string carbon guitar I knew we entered to a new era in the history of the acoustic guitar. Kevin’s guitars are perfect instruments and they are an acoustically perfect fit to my wooden guitars. Of course we were very curious how our guitars sound together and bit by bit we managed to create a really never-before-heard soundscape which will be the standard for us in the years to come. We both use strange tunings and multiple strings because this is the only way to extend the musical potential of the guitar. So we were at the threshold of a new world and we just jumped into the unknown.” Featuring nine tracks that clock in at 54 minutes, Perspectives is the most impressive sounding album yet from these two innovative guitar figures. Much like the CD cover art for Perspectives, featuring two windows, Perspectives is the product of two guitarists who, while maybe looking out / in different windows, see the same views and arrive at a sonically similar vantage point. A true study in fretboard logic, combining the ancient and the futuristic, on Perspectives, Kevin Kastning & Sándor Szabó take the guitar boldly to where no player has gone before. /

GSI RECORDS – Jazz is alive and well on Safe In Sound, the 2016 CD by the group known as Songevity. Spearheaded by bassist / composer Rob Duguay, the Songevity trio is balanced out by Justin Kauflin (piano) and Nadav Snir-Zelniker (drums). With Duguay handling the composition, the music just swings and with Kauflin’s swinging piano at the fore, the CD will appeal to fans of jazz piano giants like Oscar Peterson or even McCoy Tyner, although Duguay’s music is quite harmonious as well. The Queens-based Duguay is quite active in the NYC area jazz community and he brings his seasoned jazz compositions into full bloom on the exciting acoustic piano – bass – drums trio sound of Songevity. When it comes to new and innovative 21st century instrumental jazz, it doesn’t get a lot better than Songevity’s Safe In Sound.

HITCHHIKE RECORDS / EONE MUSIC – Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is taking the art of his stringed instrument to unbelievable heights. Jake’s most recent studio album, 2015’s Travels is a wonderful album of mostly instrumental ukulele songs backed up by light yet effective backing. Among the musicians assisting Jake on Travels are Dean Taba (bass), Noel Okimoto (drums, marimba), Michael Grande (keys) Del Beazley (guitar, vocal on “Everything Is Better With You”) and Asa Young (12-string guitar). Overall, Travels sounds like an album that Pat Metheny would make if he played ukulele instead of electric guitar. It’s just that good and in fact, Travels might be the best instrumental pop-jazz album ever made with a Uke! Jake’s many fans will also want to check out his 15 track, 2016 double CD set, called Live In Japan. The two CD set features a live version of “Travels”, as well as other Jake Shimabukuro covers including his take on the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, all getting the Shimabukuro instrumental uke-jazz treatment.

INTI PRODUCTIONS – L.A. based guitarist Ciro Hurtado grew up in Peru and his music brings that wild sense of elation to the fore on his 2016 CD called Selva. The 13 cut CD features a stellar mix of Spanish influenced music—both instrumentals and vocal tracks—that serves as a great introduction to his music and a confirmation of his talents for his many fans. Selva is a fine follow up to Ciro’s last album, 2014’s Ayahuasca Dreams. Guitar fans will marvel at the Spanish guitar influence on the instrumentals while the Spanish language vocal tracks—sung by a range of female vocals—are quite appealing in their own way. Ciro plays a number of guitars—both acoustic and electric— and the album also features a number of great musicians, including Ciro’s wife Cindy Harding and notable players such as New Age keyboardist Ricky Kej. As is typical for Ciro, the CD packaging features all the Spanish language lyrics, liner notes and colorful artwork. Commenting on the CD, Ciro explains, ‘My music is a reflection of the many people, cultures and musical styles t hat have touched my life. I truly believe music knows no borders.’

JOYSPRING MUSIC – Upbeat, piano-based music at its finest, In The Garden: Piano Orchestrations is the perfect sonic vehicle for Peggy Duquesnel—who is joined here by Billy Martin (woodwinds, orchestrations) and Steve Hall (keyboards, piano). The music on the 14 track In The Garden is serious and sedate but mainly it’s good “calming down” music. I put this CD on and I really felt the calmness, reflection and serenity created by Ms. Duquesnal’s piano touches. This is not religious music per se, yet it will bring you closer to God in some ways. With tracks like “No More Tears”, “How Great Thou Art” and covers of Chopin, and a version of “Canon In D”, there’s plenty of sobering, reflective acoustic piano and light synth tracks here to last a lifetime. You’d be hard-pressed to find another album as peaceful and meditative as Peggy Duquesnal’s In The Garden.

JUST MUSIC – Over in England, in 2016 the esteemed electronic music label Just Music label released Ghost Stations, from the humorously titled Marconi Union. Featuring a trio of fine electronic musicians—Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows, the Marconi Union sounds mixes electronic music with a kind of experimental edge, not unlike Tangerine Dream mixing elements of jazz into the spectrum. Adding to the hypnotic, trance-inducing sound this time are added contributions by Giorgio Li Calzi (trumpet) and Andy Dobson (clarinet) while keeping the patented Marconi Union sound in place. Long time fans of the band’s earlier album releases will not be disappointed in the sweeping, pulsing vibe of Ghost Stations, which is suitably packaged with truly ghostly looking artwork. Fourteen years after their 2003 debut, Marconi Union takes their sound into stranger and deeper waters with Ghost Stations.

LUCKY ME RECORDS – New and interesting electronic instrumental music can be appreciated on the debut album of Parc en Ciel called Path Integral. The music here is the brainchild of Paris born / Scotland based composer and e-music recording artist Mathieu Thomas. The sound has a connection back to the French minimalist art-rock sound and some tracks are also steeped in the ambient Americana guitar instrumentals of Tortoise and TransAm and also Low era Bowie as well as all types of cutting edge soundtrack music for that matter. The music was influenced by a range of instrumental electronica too but there’s clearly an avant garde rock edge to the music which helps to separate it. Meaning French for “Park Sky”, whole album is quite well recorded. With the title track dedicated to Dr. Richard, and after perusing their amazing web site, it’s clear that these guys have interesting brains. With a staggering range of futuristic electronic sounds here, the future universe is open wide for Parc en Ciel.

MARTINIZING MUSIC – The name of Swiss composer Martin Tillman might not be very familiar to music fans yet his 2016 CD Superhuman might very well change that. Featuring twelve tracks of instrumental music, the sound of Superhuman sounds very much inspired by the works of Mike Oldfield and Jean Michel Jarre. Like those composers, Tillman’s music is equally evocative and is filled with chill out grooves and trance and dance beats that glorify the sound of Tillman’s heavily processed cello and string sounds, almost to the point of not even recognizing it. Tillman has contributed to countless movie soundtracks and released following a string of solo albums, Superhuman features Martin’s music backed up in the studio by some of the best session players, including guitarists Davey Johnstone, Michael Landau and Graham Russell, along with other big names like Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Leland Sklar (bass), David Paich (keys) and much more. Very much inspired by big screen soundtrack music, Superhuman sounds larger than life.

MELODIC REVOLUTION – Progressive rock graphic artist Leon Alvarado returns in 2016 with his latest solo album called The Future Left Behind. With an impressive pedigree in the rock music world, on The Future Left Behind Leon joins forces with a number of musicians who appear on his latest CD, including Rick Wakeman and Billy Sherwood, while the album mastering is handled by Andy Jackson. Commenting on his new album, Leon explains, “It is the most ambitious album I have created so far. The idea of making a concept album out of instrumental progressive rock music had appealed to me ever since I first heard Rick Wakeman's’ Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. My goal was to create something that would combine the artwork and the music into one cohesive vision.” Featuring spoken word intros and instrumental music tracks, Leon Alvarado’s The Future Left Behind is a major work worthy of the ears of prog-rock fans worldwide.

MIG-MUSIC / SLEDGEHAMMER In 1970, Finland’s late great Pekka Pohjola began to pave the way for the unfolding popularity of symphonic instrumental jazz-rock fusion in Finland. Although he tragically died at the end of 2008, Pohjola would have appreciated Untold Stories, the 2016 CD by Finnish jazz-rock guitarist Jartse Tuominen. Released by the Germany-based Mig Music, Jartse’s CD is filled with scintillating instrumental fusion that tastefully combines a distilled 21st century jazz-rock with that Neoclassica,l symphonic Finnish classical instrumental rock sound that made Pekka Pohjola such a vital, yet overlooked composer / innovator. Speaking about the international flavor of his latest album, Jartse tells "I’ve always been huge fan of Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, Steve Morse, John McLaughlin, Joe Satriani etc. Seems like rock-jazz is coming back finally, with a bunch of great new bands all over the world playing rock-jazz, so I really hope it will find its way for bigger audience." Untold Stories is actually Jartse’s fifth solo album. On hand is Pohjola’s late-period drummer Anssi Nykänen (sharing percussion chores with Brannen Temple), Harri Rantanen and Steve Bernal (both bass) and Pekka Siistonen (keys). In the spirit of Pekka Pohjola, Jartse often sprinkles his symphonic jazz-rock fusion sound with traces of musical humour—case in point here being track six “Trouble Shuffle”. Recorded in both Finland and Texas, Untold Stories is an all-around instrumental jazz-rock fusion masterpiece by Finnish guitar wiz Jartse Tuominen.

NONESUCH RECORDS – Guitarist and composer Pat Metheny is having a good year with the release of two unique yet different sounding releases on the esteemed Nonesuch Records label. Culled from a filmed DVD performance by The Pat Metheny Unity Group, the double CD set of The Unity Sessions features the jazz legend in the studio with fine players including Chris Potter (sax, flute, guitar), Antonio Sanchez (drums, cajon) and Ben Williams (bass). Also on hand is Giulio Carmassi (piano, synth). Metheny’s Unity Group released Kin in 2014 and now, essentially the soundtrack to The Unity Sessions DVD comes out as a 2 CD set. Metheny’s sound and vision is quite explosive on The Unity Sessions CD. The sound has the trademark Metheny guitar sound all over it and there’s plenty of swinging, atmospheric instrumental sounds to make long time fans sit up and notice. Highlights of the double CD include covers of Ornette Coleman’s “Police People” and a cover of the Ray Noble-penned jazz classic “Cherokee”, as well as the tuneful “Two Folk Songs (#1)” while liner notes by Metheny takes the listener inside his mindset during the making of this epic moment in jazz fusion history. Also out on Nonesuch in 2016 is a single CD called Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny. With Metheny adding in his patented guitar sounds and one Metheny original, The Cuong Vu Trio—Cuong Vu (trumpet), Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Ted Poor—supplies the solid foundation. Commenting on the album, Metheny adds, “Cuong came up with a great set of tunes for the project, and we all met in NYC for a few days and recorded this music quite quickly and spontaneously. This project is something that Cuong and I have talked about doing for years.” Both The Unity Sessions and Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny offers a stellar cross section of intense instrumental jazz fusion sounds. /

PLAYGROUND MUSIC SCANDINAVIA – Flying under the prog radar for way too long, in 2016, Swedish drummer Magnus Östrom released his third album Parachute to wide acclaim in the jazz fusion community. On Parachute, Magnus is all over the instrumental fusion map, and backing up his drumming and compositional skills are fine musicians including Andreas Hourdakis (guitars), Thobias Gabrielson (bass, keys) and Daniel Karlsson (piano, keys). Long time drummer for the trio of the late Esbjörn Svensson (e.s.t.), Magnus shines in this quartet setting, writing music that combines European jazz with American smooth jazz influences as well. It’s rare to find a band leading drummer that writes music but you can really hear the propulsion and steady rhythms in the groove based melodies. If comparisons be made, Magnus reminds of the great Terry Bozzio who was comfortable in any kind of music, from prog instrumental to experimental jazz and beyond. Fans of Bozzio and even Bill Bruford’s solo album post-YES would enjoy Magnus Östrom’s Parachute.

PRODUCT OF IMAGINATION RECORDS – On his 2016 CD, Verde NYC-based guitarist Francisco Pais is all over the musical map. Credited to his band Francisco Pais’ Lotus Project, the 14 track CD never wears out its welcome and is filled with a range of instrumental jazz, rock and mixtures of all kinds of experimental instrumental music. There’s even a few jazzier pop vocal numbers for a change of pace. Commenting on the CD, Francisco explains, “When I make an album I am always driven by the creative collaborations I will have in order to give birth to any project. To be recording with the people I admire and love, my friends, it’s truly a blessing.” The album features Francisco in the studio with a range of players including Myron Walden and Godwin Louis (sax), Ferenc Nemeth (drums), Julian Shore (keys) and Connor Schultze (bass). Although Francisco lists Hendrix, Clapton and Chuck Berry among his big influences, the bulk of Verde is cutting edge jazz that creates an exciting interplay between all the musicians here. On Verde, Francisco Pais brings together and combines a wealth of musical influences and styles.

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT – Georgia-based smooth jazz artist Bob Baldwin is winning over fans with his 2016 double CD set called The Brazilian-American Soundtrack. Americans have a long standing interest in Brazilian music and Bob’s latest CD is just the ticket to satisfy that interest. The double CD set features two parts—“Movement 1: Rio-Ipanema” and Movment II: New York”. Mixing NYC style funky jazz with Brazilian Samba / Bossa Nova music makes for a good match and clearly Bob gets to satisfy both of his long standing musical styles with this well-recorded double album. A number of musical guests appear including Brazilian artists Café Da Silva, Torcuato Mariano and more and on the NYC half, guest artists include Marion Meadows, Freddy V and other artists. Bob’s entire band is first rate throughout the two CD set and the up-tempo, upbeat mix of smooth jazz and Brazilian music is a great idea in theory and in practice. Featuring eye-popping cover art and a fully detailed CD booklet, The Brazilian-American Soundtrack is one of the best albums yet to successfully and tastefully combine two favorite, long prized genres among music lovers.

RETSO RECORDS – A master of both the trumpet and flugel horn, Bay Area based musician / composer Jeff Oster made music fans quite happy with his recent albums, next and Surrender and he will no doubt make those same fans happy again with his 2016 CD Live! The seven track Live! was recorded during Jeff's shows at The Fenix venue in San Rafael California in late 2015 and early 2016. The CD was superbly recorded with just the slightest audience noises and the recording sounds great. For his first ever live CD, Jeff is joined by excellent musicians including Michael Manring (bass), Todd Boston (guitar), Celso Alberti (drums) and Frank Martin (keys). Playing before a hometown crowd, Oster proves to be a truly versatile musician. Drawing upon the best of his studio work, Live! (including tracks from next and Surrender) captures one of America’s best New Age / Ambient Jazz artists in rare form performing before a most appreciative audience.

RUNE GRAMMOFON – Norway’s Rune Grammofon label is on the cutting edge of adventurous jazz and eclectic rock and it doesn’t get any more eclectic than guitarist Hedvig Mollestad. The five cut, 33 minute 2016 CD by Hedvig Mollestad Trio is called Black Stabat Mater, which comes hot on the heels of a highly charged and atmospheric, 69 minute live album recorded in 2015 called Evil In Oslo. Superbly recorded, the album sounds very influenced by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Both albums feature Ms. Mollestad’s guitar sounds in trio form with Ellen Brekken (bass) and Ivar Loe Bjornstad (drums). Her latest and heaviest sounding studio album, Black Stabat Mater ranges from very hard rock instrumental instrumental ala Jimmy Page and Robin Trower to a more atmospheric, cutting edge experimental guitar sounds that sometimes hark back to late 1960s West Coast psychedelic music. Each of these albums offers a stunning showcase for the Molldestad Trio, and Hedvig is one of the premier 21st century female instrumental rock guitarists in the Nordic regions.

SCRAMPION RECORDS – Australian piano ace Casey Golden released Miniature by The Casey Golden Trio on his label and the results offer some truly ear-opening instrumental jazz. A piano trio with Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums), the sound of Miniature is quite appealing, adventurous and abstract—and quite easy on the ears. Daniel Walsh guests on guitars but the main attraction here is Casey Golden’s fluid piano and compositions, which never seem to wear out their welcome. The CD features 4 parts, or movements, including an “Interlude”, that clocks in around 25 minutes. Golden is part of the new jazz movement and with plenty of jazz to look back on, it’s still nice to know the art of jazz piano composition is in good hands with Casey Golden.

STRATHMERE MUSIC – Coming to the attention of thanks to his fine keyboard work on the 2016 CD by Boston-based rockers The Grand Undoing, Chris Nole steps out on his own with the 2016 CD release of his album called It Be What It Be. Described as “a rousing celebration of vintage blues, rock & roll, and New Orleans-style piano and song”, the 12 track CD is fine example of Chris Nole’s piano and vocal skills. On It Be What It Be, Chris is joined by top players like Pat Bergeson, Pat Buchanon, Andy Reiss and Jack Pearson (guitars), Dow Tomlim (bass), Chris Brown (drums) and more. The album is a great exercise in roots-rock and blues piano. Further commenting about the album in the album liner notes, Chris explains, ‘The old school piano masters like Professor Longhair, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Dr. John, and others have had a profound influence on how I’ve learned to perform and write music.’ Amid Nole’s bluesy vocals and rock sounds are some cool-sounding piano-centric instrumentals including an unusual instro cover here of the traditional favorite “House Of The Rising Sun”. Featuring the songs, vocals and piano magic of Chris Nole, It Be What It Be is one of the best vintage piano-based blues albums of 2016.

SUNNYSIDE COMMUNICATIONS – Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo lives in NYC yet he continues on espousing the wonders of bossa nova jazz on this 2016 CD Septembro: A Brazilian Under The Influence. The music that Antonio Carlos Jobim left to his fans has stood the test of time and more importantly, has inspired a whole new generation of Brazilian jazz fans to follow suit and even contribute a whole new canon of music of their own. From the album liner notes, Romero states, “In these recordings I bring all the influences from my childhood and play like a Brazilian, under the Jazz influence.” Romero combines his nylon string classical guitar expertise with some electric guitar as well as acoustic guitar and the results make for a highly listenable and well-recorded album of instrumental, guitar-centric bossa nova jazz melodies and arrangements.

SUSILA MUSIC – Fusion jazz guitarist Prasanna is taking the music world by storm with his 2015 CD, All Terrain Guitar. The mainly instrumental album features Prasanna backed up by fine horn players including Dave Douglas (trumpet), a pair of bass players and a pair of drummers along with a pair of singers who add wordless vocals to the jazz sound. There’s also some hot piano on a couple tracks by Vijay Iyer. Coming from India, Prasanna’s compositions occasionally dip into the Indian music scales yet his electric and acoustic guitar work here takes center stage. Recorded in NYC and Boston, All Terrain Guitar will impress jazz-rock fans and world groove listeners with its eclectic palate of colorful and hard hitting instrumental jazz-rock guitar sounds.

ULTIMAE – In June 2016, France based Ultimae released Unyt by the musical entity known as Scann-Tec. The project of Russian music composer and sound sculptor Vladislav Isaev, the ten track Unyt CD may feature all Russian sounding titles, but the all instrumental nature of the music means it will be played and enjoyed the world over. A master synthesist and electronic composer, Vladislav has worked with The Future Sound Of London in the past and with its cinematic downtempo aesthetics, the Unyt project is filled with a distinctive and dynamic approach to 21st century electronica. The CD/DL release of Unyt follows the release of several projects and solo albums by Scann-Tec. /

ULTIMATE VIBE RECORDINGS – The art of smooth jazz really took off in the early 1990s and it continues onwards today. A modern master of the smooth jazz art form, guitarist Chris Strandring released his album Ten in 2016. Chris says the album was greatly inspired by his Benedetto Bambino archtop guitar. That guitar gets a great workout on the all-instrumental jazz sound of Ten. Jazz guitar purists will probably be the first to tell you that jazz genius Wes Montgomery was the originator of the smooth jazz sound back in the late 1960s when he cut all those great CTI albums and fans of Wes and other modern guitar heroes would do well to pick up Strandring’s jazz masterpiece Ten. Backing up Chris in the studio are cool jazzers including the rhythm section of Andre Berry (bass) and Chris Coleman (drums) and the CD features many other fine musicians. The art of smooth jazz guitar instrumentals rises to a higher level on Chris Strandring’s Ten.

YARDBIRD ARTS – Over in the U.K. Gypsy Jazz guitarist Remi Harris is making sound waves with his 2016 CD In On The Two. The all instrumental CD kicks off with a rousing cover of “Can’t Buy Me Love” and just goes on to better sounds with more covers of Bill Evans, Irving Berlin, Buddy Montgomery, Neil Young, Thelonius Monk and more. All played to Gyspy Jazz perfection, In On The Two features Remi backed up by double bassist Mike Green but he makes ample sounds on his high strung Gypsy Jazz guitar. Remi’s dexterity on guitar is nothing to scoff at and the CD booklet features track by track liner notes that take you into the guitarist’s frames of mind. In On The Two is time well spent among guitar aficionados.


– Dutch composer / musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen released his first album back in 1996, except he didn’t release it under his own name. That 22 track album, Strange Hobby was a tribute to the spirit of the 1960s and featured Arjen singing and playing everything. Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Donovan, The Move and countless others get the Arjen treatment on Strange Hobby, which will appeal to fans of classic rock from the 1960s. Speaking about the album, Arjen recalls, “Back in 1996 I had so much fun recording Strange Hobby! It was great to take a break from recording my complex, bombastic Ayreon prog-extravaganzas and blow off some steam blasting out these rocky cover versions of my favorite songs from the sixties.” Although he’s now a prog-rock legend among fans of the genre, it’s nice to see how Arjen’s early prog-rock and pop roots so greatly influenced his music. Well done and worth a listen, Strange Hobby is a great tribute to the power of the 1960s.

BUREAU B – In 2011, Holland-based neoclassical / minimalist music composer Michel Banabila released his album Migratons (see February 2011) and although it’s not his new album per se, Germany based Bureau B released Early Works: Things Popping Up From The Past. The eleven track Early Works takes a look at music Banabila composed over the years with some of it going back to the 1980s. A renowned composer and sound artist, Banabila has composed a variety of music for film and video art, and Early Works offers a keen insight into his mindset as a younger composer. He’s been compared to a number of historic composers, including the master of classical minimalism Erik Satie, with whom he shares a kindred affinity for intimate low key romantic vignettes but there’s the experimental side that’s also been compared to some works of Michael Nyman and even Philip Glass. Featuring low-key, haunting piano musings to more expressive electronica, Early Works is a glimpse into the mindset of Michel Banabila’s often overlooked, yet quite fascinating experimental instrumental sound views.

CREATIVE MUSICAL ARTS – 1981 is a blur to me in 2016 but 35 years later rock legend Greg Lake has repackaged his 1981 album Greg Lake with his second solo album Manoeuvres from 1983, on a double CD set with 4 bonus tracks. Admittedly lost after the break up of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Greg Lake went for a more commercial AOR sound on these albums uniting with members of Toto on the bonus cuts. Even so, uniting with guitar great Gary Moore and Alex Harvey Band drummer Ted McKenna and keyboardist Tommy Eyre makes sure the album keeps the sound at very high levels. The album booklet takes the listener back to Lake’s mindset after leaving ELP and the overall daze that permeated much of 1981. Included on Lake’s self-titled debut is a track co-written with Bob Dylan and there’s also a cover of “You Really Got A Hold On Me” offered as a bonus cut. Center at all times is Lake’s dramatic voice, indelibly stamped into the fans of his legendary work in both King Crimson and ELP.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – Eagle Rock continues releasing historically valid music and video, case in point being Eagle’s 2016 DVD + CD of What Happened, Miss Simone. Essentially the story of the life and career of the late singer - composer Nina Simone, who passed away in 2003, the movie retells her life story through extensive live concert footage as well as interviews of family, friends and musicians she worked with. Highlights of the movie include her involvement in the 1960s civil rights movement and her relocating to Africa and then Europe in the early 1970s. Directed by Liz Garbus and produced by Amy Hobby, the 2 hour DVD and Blu-ray is accompanied by a 15 track CD of live and studio songs Nina recorded during the 1950s and ‘60s, including classics like “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “I Loves You, Porgy”, “Strange Fruit”, “I Put A Spell On You” and many more.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA – U.K. based Gonzo released Madison Park by The RAZ Band in 2015 and in 2016, the label offers a best of, appropriately called The Best Of RAZ. The 19 track Best Of RAZ features singer-songwriter Michael Raz backed up by a number of musicians including album RAZ producer Joey Molland (of Badfinger) and Joe Vitale, Stu Cook (bassist from Creedence) and more. The 19 track Best Of RAZ draws on a number of album releases going back to the late 1980s. The Best Of RAZ gives listeners who turned on to Madison Park, 19 more good reasons to listen to Michael Raz and The RAZ Band.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA – Guitarist in the 1970s World Groove rock band Osibisa, Gregg Kofi Brown is paid honors with the 2016 CD release of his 17 track / 69 minute anthology, Rock ‘n’ Roll And UFO’s, released on UK based Gonzo Multimedia. Released at the same time as his book of the same name, Rock ‘n’ Roll And UFOs, the CD, features a driving mix of pop, rock, soul, funky Afro-centric R&B and dance music that features Gregg in the studio with music legends Dominic Miller (guitars), John Rabbit Bundrick (keys) and many others, the album mixes unreleased tracks, remixes and demos all in one concise album. The liner notes are quite illuminating too, taking the reader on the amazing journey of Gregg’s career with Osibisa and the myriad of connections he made in the music world. A fine spotlight of a music legend on the World Music scene, Gregg Kofi Brown’s Rock ‘n’ Roll And UFO’s is one of the funkiest CD compilations of 2016.

GUERSSEN RECORDS – Spanish label Guerssen is making reissue fans with their double CD reissue of San Francisco Earthquake by the late 1960’s early ‘70s California-based band Uther Pendragon. Musically, the sound of Uther Pendragon touches on West Coast psychedelia, evoking the sounds of Quicksilver and Grateful Dead and other late ‘60s bands like The Blues Magoos and Blue Cheer. Guerssen’s double CD set comes with a 24 page booklet and the album is also available as a 3Lp box set with an 8 page insert. The band also sounds quite influenced by early Stones and Yardbirds music. The band’s original manager Craig Pederson has done a great job finally making sure the band’s music appeared on CD and vinyl. Fans of ‘60s psychedelia and garage rock will get a sonic jolt from the timeless psychedelic rock sound of Uther Pendragon.

HOWE SOUNDS – Some of my best memories of working with 20th century guitar magazine and Real News magazine was seeing and meeting YES guitarist Steve Howe live in concert. Steve was a key performer at the 20th Century Guitar concert event Lilies Of The Field, co-produced by Steve and Annie Haslam in November 1995 and I met him the night of the show, just before the concert at the fabled Chinese vegan restaurant Zen Palate. With the passing of YES founder and bass icon Chris Squire in 2015, it now is truly up to Howe to figure out how the band’s legacy will be viewed by 2050, when we will most likely, all finally be gone. I wish him luck. As if to remind YES fans about his unsurpassed guitar skills and composing skills as a solo recording artist, in 2016 Steve released the sixth chapter of his home demo recordings, Homebrew 6 on his Howe Sounds label. A curator who clearly enjoys trolling through the vaults, Howe is a true hoarder of not only YES music but his own music and by dissecting all the various elements of his demo recordings you can truly see the inside sound story behind his numerous solo albums and YES music. For example, Steve starts off the 18 track, 54 minute CD with two demos from the YES album Heaven And Earth, which he admits was “fraught with difficulties”. Much better is a great sounding alternate version here of 1993’s title track, “The Grand Scheme Of Things”, which is among his greatest moments as a solo artist. Other album outtakes here reexamines Time, with Paul K. Joyce and Paul Sutin, two of Howe’s long time collaborators. The 1980 YES album Drama is represented with demos as well as tracks from ABWH and GTR. A number of Howe solo albums are also represented with a number of vocal and instrumental demos that range from audiophile quality to Howe-approved “Homebrew” demo quality. The CD is the way to go as the booklet features a number of Howe’s photographs, cover art by Roger Dean and track-by-track liner notes by Howe that gives a good indication of the history that was made with these tunes.

HUX RECORDS – The late ‘60s early 1970’s prog-rock band Quintessence was brought to the attention of by the Colin Harper. Producer of the double CD Quintessence set, Spirits From Another Time, Harper is not only a fantastic musician—check his work on the Sunset Cavaliers album—but he’s also an astute musicologist. Colin was also involved in the Quintessence album production, which took place in Belfast, London, New York and Leeds. Flying under the radar back in the day, Quintessence released a number of studio albums during their tenure and they’ve also been compared to better known early U.K. innovators like The Incredible String Band and even Third Ear Band to name a couple. Harper’s notations on Quintessence are truly mind-blowing and to his credit he also writes about others who were involved the HUX double CD set such as sound guru Cormac O’Kane and original Quintessence producer John Barham. Spirits From Another Time is a fascinating look into the history of Quintessence—one of the last progressive great underground U.K. bands of the ‘60s.

IN AND OUT OF FOCUS RECORDS – The Dutch band Focus are still considered one of Holland’s great instrumental classical jazz-rock bands. Still kicking around in 2016, Focus released Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon. The band recorded this album back in 2005 and it’s finally seeing the light of day in 2016. Recorded during the band’s South American tour, the seven track CD has the trademark Focus sound but there’s also a definite South American influence thanks to the appearance of producer Marvio Ciribelli, as well as a range of South American musicians like drummer Marcio Bahia. The core Focus band on 8.5 includes long time keyboardist Thijs Van Leer, Pierre Van Der Linden (drums), Bobby Jacobs (bass) and Jan Dumée (guitars). The concept of pairing the neoclassical Focus sound with the free sounding grooves of colorful South American and Brazilian music grows on you and despite being recorded way back in 2005, the album still feels fresh and exciting. The 2016 CD release of Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon is welcome news for long time fans of this Dutch musical institution.

MANIFESTO RECORDS – L.A. based Manifesto did a great job on their early 2016 Lee Michaels box set and they do an equally remarkable job on their late 2016 six CD box set by The Turtles entitled The Complete Original Album Collection. Coinciding with the box set is a double Turtles CD set on Manifesto, called All The Singles—pairing all the A and B sides of the monster Turtles hits. One of the first bands to burst out of the mid 1960's Los Angeles pop scene that gave us legends like The Doors, Love and The Leaves, The Turtles were the brainchild of singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. Kaylan—from the Bronx in NYC—and Los Angeles native Volman, hit upon a brilliant formula with The Turtles, who quickly became a favorite among the AM radio teenybopper fans who were just coming into their teens during the age of Sgt. Pepper. Despite being pegged as a singles only band, The Turtles actually released a number of studio albums. Rhino reissued a double CD best of back in 2002 and Sundazed even took a crack at the Turtles’ back catalog, yet seeing it all “under one roof” in Manifesto's appealing box set, containing all the mono / stereo mixes and a wealth of ear opening Turtles rarities—plus an extensive booklet and liner notes by Andrew Sandoval—is a timely reminder of the power of pop music in the 1960s. Like The Mamas & The Papas, the Turtles’ albums were overlooked during the age of mid ‘60s Beatlemania—that incredible 1965 period when the teenyboppers were slowly graduating to buying Lps. Pressured by their label White Whale into constantly recreating huge hits, like “Happy Together”, the band’s identity and true potential got lost in the power play shuffle of the music biz—as did so many great bands of the era. Also remember that, so great was the power of the Beatles that no one could encroach upon their domination of the pop singles charts and the pop album charts. In many ways, The Turtles were merely an opening act for Volman and Kaylan, who evolved into Flo & Eddie due to record company control of their names. Post-Turtles work with Frank Zappa and T. Rex is historic, but the Turtles’ legacy keeps growing into the 21st century with Manifesto’s tasty Turtles CD box set.

MANTICORE / BMG - What ever Steven Wilson did to the remix of the first Emerson Lake & Palmer album—it’s sheer magic. That first ELP album from the autumn of 1970 was powerful enough to keep groups like YES at bay but not for long. Wilson remixed both the first Emerson Lake & Palmer album and its follow up Tarkus (1971) and Wilson’s remix is featured as disc 2 on a pair of 2016 double CD sets that also features new remasters of the of the original album by engineer Andy Pearce. Both albums are truly a historic find for ELP fans and I sincerely hope Keith Emerson got to hear Wilson’s remixes before he left us earlier this year. That special chemistry between Keith Emerson and Greg Lake and Carl Palmer was originally glued together in the studio by fabled engineer Eddy Offord, soon to be the engineer / producer svengali behind the YES sound of 1972. Eddy gave it that spectacular sound that now can be even more fully realized thanks to the sonic genius of Steven Wilson. Some may scoff at tampering with the tapes, but by fully adjusting the sound spectrum to max out the CD to a perfect balance, Steven Wilson has truly brought ELP into the 21st century. Also out is a double CD set of the third ELP album Pictures At An Exhibition featuring the original 1971 live album with an alternate mix on disc 2, along with live tracks from the Mar Y Sol Festival in Puerto Rico on April 12, 1972. Choice tracks from the group’s many classic albums can be sampled on the three CD set called The Anthology with three and a half hours of music and pics galore with voluminous liner notes by writer the "Raver" Chris Welch of 1970s era Melody Maker fame. Long time fans will want to hear the remixes by Steven Wilson but of you’re just catching up in time, the three CD set is a great way to meet Emerson Lake & Palmer.

MPL / CONCORD MUSIC GROUP - Famed record label executive Nancy Jeffries is the head of NYC based MPL—the record company and publishing branch owned by Paul McCartney. A legend of the A&R world of the major label music biz—who also helped sign the underrated Marti Jones to her first recording deal in the mid 1980's—Jeffries did some quite impressive research and investigation, while spearheading her team for the 67 track, 4 CD set released in 2016 called Pure McCartney, which was released as a condensed 2 CD version as well. A compilation of various post-Beatles McCartney music, Pure McCartney features most the Wings era hits but it extends outward and upward to include more recent music that he wrote and recorded following the passing of Wings' cofounder Linda McCartney in 1997. The album liner notes features detailed discography info, including key info on the musicians with a focus on the engineers and producers and recording studio data. Yes, there are well known Macca tracks like “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” and even the underrated post-Lennon classic “Wanderlust” but there’s enough rarities and singles versions, even on the disc 2 condensed version—including Macca’s 2014 single “Hope For The Future”, produced by Giles Martin—to make of interest to hard core Macca “purists”.

PURPLE PYRAMID – Recorded live at the famous Winterland concert hall on New Year’s Eve 12/31/69, the 2016 CD release of More Happy Trails 1969 features a classic gig from the original lineup of Quicksilver Messenger Service. The gig featured the triumphant return to the ranks of Dino Valenti joined here by the classic Quicksilver lineup of Gary Duncan (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (keys) and more. The band had just released Shady Grove and was poised to carry on with the rest of the Quicksilver albums soon to be coming. The late great Valenti was in fine form that night and the CD sound isn’t bad for a 46 year old bootleg. Valenti’s voice sounds great all these years later. Liner notes by Dave Thompson puts the gig into perspective for 21st century music fans. Maybe the most underrated of all the finest West Coast psychedelic bands, Quicksilver may be a distant memory for old hippies and the kids might never understand them but back then Quicksilver was a beacon of sonic perfection and their music still amazes in a whole new century.

One of the legendary artists on the California-based Real Music label, Bernward Koch is back in 2016 with a compilation album called Touched by Love. One of the Euro legends of the New Age music scene, Bernward has over the years, released seven albums on Real Music and his eighth, Touched by Love compiles some of his favorite tracks with the kicker being that the CD features two newly recorded tracks called “Memories of A Cherry Tree” and “Hope.” Thanks to the expertise of Real Music’s mastering, the music effortlessly flows from one track to the next, regardless of what year the music is from. Speaking with about his 2016 Real Music CD, Bernward says, "Touched by Love is my very first “Best of” record and I was actually surprised how good that workswith so many tracks we might produce another “Best of” album on another topic. First I thought it would not be easy to put “Ever Returning” from the 1989 Flowing album together with the two new tracks from 2016 on one record, but it works fantastically!" A gifted multi-instrumentalists and composer, Bernward plays a number of instruments on the CD including piano, synths and electronic keys, guitar, bass guitar and all manner of percussion while receiving some support from his brother Christoph Koch (12 string guitar, drums) and his wife Christiane Böhm (flute). Perfect for meditation or sonic relaxation, Touched by Love is a splendid introduction to the timeless New Age instrumental sound of Bernward Koch.

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 1999-2016
All Rights Reserved