Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









- Although Northern California based band, The Bee Eaters are clearly part of the new generation of 21st Century bands paving a kind of acoustic Americana sound, there’s plenty of vintage vibes in their music. Case in point is the 2011 Bee Eaters album Oddfellows Road. The CD packaging and the album sound is first rate and the music ain’t bad either. A kind of rural sounding, mostly instrumental with occasional vocal CD, Oddfellows Road is mysterious and rare. Another vintage reference point for older fans might be to compare The Bee Eaters to late ‘70s Eno proteges Penguin Cafe Orchestra, led by the late great Simon Jeffes. Also inspired by the aftermath of the Windham Hill late ‘70s New Age sound, the Bee Eaters feature the twin fiddle sound of siblings Tristan Clarridge and Tashina Clarridge. The group also is also complimented by the hammered dulcimer of Simon Chrisman along with guest appearances by several players including mandolin ace Mike Marshall. The influence of their fiddle guru Darol Anger comes across here in a cover of his track “Gyroscope.” Check out the New Grass instrumental cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as well. The CD sound is superbly recorded and overall, especially with that amazing CD packaging, Oddfellows Road is well worth the time for fans of bluegrass, Celtic, jazz and vintage era acoustic music.

- A very spacey kind of modern folk electronica, Lanterns On The Lake offers up a sonic treat with the 2011 CD release of Gracious Tide Take Me Home. Ethereal is an understatement as Lanterns On The Lake sounds kind of like Penguin Cafe Orchestra meets Kate Bush produced by Eno. There’s some truly inspired rock meets avant gard spirit in play on this impressive debut CD. The sound is great and the vivid production of Paul Gregory mixes things up nicely with Lanterns On The Lake featuring the Kate Bush inspired lyrics of Hazel Wilde.

BLOODSHOT RECORDS - Hailed by modern music heroes like Jack White of the White Strips as being on of the best kept secrets of the rock ‘n’ roll underground, Dexter Romweber hits back hard with his 2011 CD, Is That You In The Blue? Combining primal rock & roll, rockabilly, psycho-billy, country music and R&B, Romweber is like a one man wrecking crew on his 14 track Bloodshot CD release. Even though it’s called Dex Romweber Duo, a number of players assist Dex including someone named Sara on all manners of drums and percussion. At times Dex sounds like Elvis Prosily on acid and at other times he sounds like Wanda Jackson’s offspring. Not for the faint of heart for sure, Is That You In The Blue? is a pretty wild ride. Dex himself excels on a number of instruments here including guitars, keyboards, bass and all the lead vocals. Take a spin with Dex into the blue, you won’t remember what decade you’re living in.

CONCORD JAZZ - On his latest CD for Concord Jazz, guitar legend George Benson re-explores the sound and style that has made him a household word among guitar fans for the past 5 decades. Benson continues to redefine guitar jazz on the twelve track Guitar Man. There’s a solid mix of both instrumental and vocal tracks that finds Benson getting excellent support from notable players including Joe Sample (piano), David Garfield (keyboards, musical director), Ben Williams (bass) and Harvey Mason (drums). Produced by John Burk, the 2011 CD release of Guitar Man features the guitar legend putting a fresh spin on a number of song classics including his faithful vocal cover of the Stevie Wonder classic “My Cheri Amour” a complete instrumental reworking of The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and even a jazzy cover of the surf-rock classic “Tequila”. There’s no song that Benson can’t put a fresh spin on. Fans of Benson’s career as both a jazz vocal artist and a guitar pioneer will find much to appreciate on Guitar Man.

DOMINO RECORDS - The 2011 CD from guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, entitled If...Music By Bill Ryder-Jones is a most eclectic affair involving string sections (by the Liverpool Philharmonic), and electric rock guitar flavored passages by Jones that often melds into dreamlike musical sequences. The CD booklet is very cool with some fantastic printing effects. Ryder-Jones was the guitarist in the U.K. rock group The Coral and If really gives him a chance to explore his more far-out musical soundtrack inclinations. A kind of Pink Floyd circa Atom Heart Mother type vibe (mixed with a solid Morricone influence) is in evidence and likewise, Ryder-Jones even includes a couple Floyd-ian type vocal tracks that serves to balance out the mostly instrumental neoclassical, Baroque etchings that dominate this melancholic yet exquisitely sonic affair.

DOWN KIDDIE! RECORDS - 25 years after their huge big MTV breakthrough, “Walk Like An Egyptian”, The Bangles have really matured as a pop band and they show it on the 2011 CD release of Sweetheart Of The Sun. Produced by long time power pop virtuoso, Matthew Sweet, the 12 track CD features all three of the remaining original Bangles—Debbi Peterson (drums), sister Vicki Peterson (guitars) and Susanna Hoffs (guitars) backed up by key studio musicians including the multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, Derrick Anderson (bass) and Greg “Harpo” Hilfman (keyboards). Those great 3 part girl group Bangle-ized harmonies remain in tact, while the catchy, introspective song writing remains the central focus and defining characteristic of this institution among power-pop legends. Following the languid, hypnotic “Through Your Eyes”, The Bangles fade the album in a blaze of glory with a set closing rave-up cover of Todd Rundgren’s Nazz classic “Open Your Eyes”.

EAGLE RECORDS - American prog-rock icons STYX recast their 40 year legacy in a different light by rerecording thirteen Styx classics, (along with a few surprises) featuring a classic sound reinvented with fresh vision on the 2011 double CD set Regeneration, Volume 1 & 2. Just this past summer 2011 Styx toured America with YES, some say rocking even harder and louder than YES. With over 30 million records sold in North America alone, this particular lineup of the band Styx, still featuring guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young together with Chuck Panozzo (bass), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Todd Sucherman (drums), have been together longer than any other lineup in the band’s 40-year existence, with some of the finest of that history recut again in the studio on this memorable CD set. Also in abundance throughout the double CD set is that great four part vocal harmony that is the Styx musical trademark. Eagle Rock Entertainment has previously released Styx: One With Everything—a DVD and blu-Ray filmed with The Contemporary Youth Orchestra Of Cleveland and in December 2011 Eagle released The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight – Live, on DVD/CD, DVD, and blu-ray.

EVERSO RECORDS - Released through her own Everso label, Revelation Road marks the return of Alabama born singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne. Shelby blew many a mind at the 2001 John Lennon tribute concert at Radio City and she’s kept her hand in the game over the years including the 2010 CD release of Tears, Lies And Alibis. The new CD credits Shelby with producing, writing and performing the album, which is intimate at times but packs a punch. One reviewer compared the new Revelation Road track “Woebegone” to some of Lennon’s work on the first Plastic Ono Band album and that’s pretty accurate. Revelation Road is solid country-pop filled with plenty of lyrical insights and fine playing all around but the centerpiece is surely Shelby’s magnetic musical personality, vocals and lyrical insights. Revelation Road is country pop-rock for the 21st century.

FAR SHORE RECORDS - A New Age kind of vocal album currently getting around the music world, Extradimensional Ethnography introduced the music Akara. The CD offers a wild combination of music, featuring Akara founder Joshua Penman, a classically trained composer turned electronic music producer, with the sultry female vocals of Femke Weidema, who left her country/pop/Latin music roots to turn into a psychedelic New Age chanteuse. Featuring their mix of computer keyboards and ethereal Enya-like vocals, the pair get further assistance from a number of string players who bring in a touch of Philip Glass / Eno-inspired minimalism. With their wild sound and vision, Akara is helping spearhead a new kind of 21st century sound / scene for New Age electronica.

GLOBAL RECORDING ARTISTS - Back in 1967, Bill Mumy (known then as Billy Mumy) was an international celebrity thanks to his starring on the great “Lost In Space” TV show, which was kind of ABC TV’s comic answer to “Star Trek” which was on NBC TV. Growing up in the ‘60s too, Billy was obviously smitten by the pop music bug and he continues on in that direction with his latest album from 2010 called Glorious In Defeat. The 13 cut CD features Billy performing all the instruments and handling all the vocals and song writing too. Alluding to the title, the music here is quite bluesy with a cutting pop edge. This ain’t power pop or rock ‘n’ roll by any stretch, but Bill keeps it interesting with a bluesy, kind of early ‘70s Stones kind of vibe. If you like albums like Exile On Main Street and some of Keith Richards’ solo material, you’ll probably enjoy Glorious In Defeat. Who knew that kid from “Lost In Space” would end up as a raging blues man who plays some killer electric guitar? Fittingly, Glorious In Defeat winds up with Mumy offering up his own version of Robert Johnson’s blues standard “Love In Vain Blues”? Either way, welcome back Billy.

LITTLE MUSIC TREE - The fist thing you notice upon listening to the 2011 LeeSun CD, the 17 track PRiME, is how effortlessly she puts her sound together. You could swear that some of these tracks were made back in L.A. in the late ‘60s. Although of Korean lineage, LeeSun sings perfectly in English and, in fact her vocal delivery and music sounds like a blend between the spacy folk-pop vocals of Joni Mitchell with a kind of earthy Susanna Hoffs type of breathiness. You can’t discount Yoko Ono’s influence here, although Leesun is even more completely whimsical and thoroughly unique in her scope. Sounding more like L.A. in the late ‘60s (than say Leeds in 2011!) PRiME introduces a touch of lighthearted, retro style pop fun to the too often weary world of 21st century pop music. Based in the U.K., LeeSun recorded her music with some great players backing her yet, writing her own words and music, she places her unique vocals up front. You would think that if listeners could open their ears a little wider, artists as unique and special as Leesun could break through. LeeSun gets solid support from a number of players including Taz Modi (keyboards, guitars), Dan Klenner (drums, guitar) and Dan Norton (bass). Also occasionally supplanting the keyboard based sound are various musicians adding musical coloration on flute, double bass, oboe, flugelhorn, cello, tenor sax and violin. LeeSun’s music is really the reason to hear PRiME but CD collectors will enjoy the colorful artwork, excellent packaging and extensive booklet and lyrics that accompanies the silver disc edition.

NEW MILLENNIUM - Sometimes you can tell from looking at a CD cover that an album is going to be a gas and I got that same kind of vibe from the cover art of the 2011 CD from Matt Smith’s World. Best described as a mix of funky blues and jazz, Matt Smith's World features some rock solid guitar work from the Austin, Texas based Smith, who gets some fine support from a solid band of players including Ernie Durawa on drums, Joe Morales (sax) and Aaron Lack (steel drums). Guitar watchers are being bowled over by the diverse amounts of music in play on Matt Smith's World with some esteemed critics noting various influences that seep into the all original fare, including the fiery global jazz-rock of Santana, the swampy R&B grooves of Sly Stone, the deep folk-ish voice of Fred Neil and the urbane jazz/blues of Boz Scaggs. In addition to the blusier numbers, there are some interesting torch song type rock tracks as well as an excellent CD closing guitar-based Gypsy Jazz style instrumental track entitled "Hot Club Of Brooklyn". Blues and roots rock fans who enjoy say, Robbie Robertson or even Bruce Springsteen’s music will enjoy Smith’s outstanding electric guitar and vocals as well as his intriguing and quite unique approach to songwriting. Oh yeah, plus you also get that very cool cover art and packaging when you pick up the CD.

PAINTED ROCK RECORDS - Based down in Nashville, Amy Hart kicks up quite a fuss with her ten track, 2011 CD called Congratulations. One part Sheryl Crow, one part Bangles style pop, Congratulations is described as Alt-country, yet Hart keeps the sound upbeat and rockin’ when she has to. Country rock with a happy melodic twist, the CD features Hart’s appealing approach to Nashville style pop. Track after track here, Amy gets solid support from her band—highlighted by some tasty electric guitar work from Bob Britt with drums handled by Wayne Killius.

SANDY KEY MUSIC - There’s a whole lotta great blues guitar and singing on the 2011 CD from guitarist Jim Allchin. On the 13 track Overclocked, Allchin gets solid support from a number of key players and a solid band. Allchin sounds somewhat like blues rock legend Steve Miller and both his vocals and guitar make note of that. Although he grew up in the deep south, Allchin feels quite at home with all forms of the blues—from the impressionistic instrumental guitar sounds of major players like Eric Johnson, to the classic blues players like Albert King. While most of the album is very modern blues rock vocal based, there are a few excellent bluesy rock guitar instrumentals in the spirit of Eric Johnson. Jim Allchin's Overclocked album should have wide crossover appeal among guitar lovers of all persuasions.

TATTY RECORDS - Back in the mid ‘60s, as the guitarist in The Animals, Hilton Valentine helped turn the pop world on its ear in the wake of The Beatles and the British Invasion of 1964. Joining as the Animals’ guitarist in 1963, Valentine stayed with the band through all their major hits, moving to California at the end 1966. Following a number of Animals reunions, Valentine recorded several solo projects, the latest being the 2011 CD release of Skiffledog On Coburg St. Featuring Valentine backed up by several musicians, the 15 track album is like a flashback to the skiffle music craze of pre-Beatles England, while offering up a rootsy U.K. rock and roll equivalent of Buddy Holly and Elvis with Valentine performing all guitars and vocals. There’s even a Valentine cover of the Cliff and The Shadows hit “Move It”, done here Skiffle style. Valentine's mostly acoustic performances here display his fretboard knack and the sound is quite rootsy especially evident on a skiffle / rockabilly cover of Eddie Cochran’s “20 Flight Rock”. Fans of Valentine’s illustrious career as a Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of famer may also want to give a listen to Hilton Valentine’s Christmas tribute album entitled (what else but) Merry Skifflemas! A joint project between Valentine and surf-rock / rockabilly guitar hero Big Boy Pete (aka Peter Miller), the 14 track CD offers a rockin’ and sometimes quite humorous Skiffle style Christmas album with the duo backed up by various players. Their late ‘50s style cover of “Silent Night” is especially brilliant with Valentine sounding like Buddy Holly backed up by Big Boy’s Duane Eddy inspired guitar comps. /

TROUBADOUR RECORDS - Coming across like a modern day Stevie Ray Vaughan or Billy F. Gibbons, self-styled Texas guitar slinger Roy Treviño cuts loose on his 2011 ten track self titled CD Roy Treviño. Enlisting the talents of a crack band including Chris Maresh, who plays bass with Eric Johnson, Treviño rocks out on an album that blends rock and blues and also Santana style Latino rock and Reggae. Commenting, Treviño adds, 'I absolutely love and respect Bob Marley. I thought that concept of a Hendrix-y type of guitar in a funked-up Bob Marley tune would be cool.’ Growing up in South Texas, Treviño sounds influenced by blues forerunners Robert Johnson and Son House while his electric blues rock approach is more similar in spirit to Texas legends like Gibbons, Winter and the Vaughan Brothers—not forgetting the kings of British rock guitar like Beck, Clapton, Page and Green. Noting his apparent fretboard finesse, it’s interesting that Treviño studied with top guitarist Ronnie Earl and you can detect Earl’s eclectic approach to fretboard perfection on Treviño’s CD. But the bottom line here is Treviño’s convincing vocals and sizzling electric guitar work.

WEBB SISTERS RECORDS - One of the stars of the Beatles led British Invasion of America in 1964, Peter Asher was half of Peter & Gordon and the brains behind the stardom of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. In 2011, Asher’s production touch gave us the album Savages by English folk-rockers The Webb Sisters featuring Hattie Webb and Charley Webb. The sisters get solid assistance from a number of L.A. studio legends including Asher himself on acoustic guitars and there’s even a cameo from Leonard Cohen. The sisters are each multi-instrumentalists and their songs and soaring vocal harmonies are memorable and fit nicely into the Baroque-country and folk-rock genres.

WHITE NOISE MUSIC - It seems like every generation gets a crack at reinventing the blues and at age 25, guitar ace Eli Cook makes a stand for his own legacy as a blues-rock innovator with the 2011 CD release of Ace, Jack & King. Cook’s 5th solo album, the 14 track Ace, Jack & King CD is no hippie love fest ala early ‘70s Allman Brother type blues-rock. Instead, Ace, Jack & King is a pretty stark, sonic trip into blues lore. Even younger cats like Joe Bonamassa sound more mainstream and pop oriented than Cook. Although he grew up listening to Metallica, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine, Cook soon gravitated towards the music of blues legends like Son House, Skip James, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. Handling all the electric / acoustic guitars and vocals, Cook gets solid support from his band featuring Brian Thomas (bass) and Wade Warfield (drums). If you like your blues straight up and in your face, without sugar coating, posturing or window dressing, Ace, Jack & King is your album and Eli Cook is your man.

ZOLTAN RECORDS - Over in England, Paris-born singer-songwriter Florence Joelle is causing quite a stir with her new CD entitled Florence Joell’s Kiss Of Fire. Florence is a little bluesier than say Imelda May, yet there’s still a cool kind of ‘50s / ‘60s retro vibe in play on her CD and overall it’s filled with a sensational ‘60s rockabilly / lounge jazz vibe. Singing in English with just a slight French accent, Florence gets a solid backing from her band including lead guitarist Huck Whitney, Chris Campion (bass, keyboards) and Arthur Lager (drums, percussion). For a comparison, imagine a young Mary Ford singing rockabilly, lounge jazz and even flamenco style Gypsy Jazz. Chances are if you enjoyed the latest works of Imelda May, you’ll dig the retro-pop groove of Florence Joell’s Kiss Of Fire.


BALLET TREE / FINGERDANCE MUSIC - Although he grew up listening to the greats of jazz guitar—including Wes Montgomery, Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell and Ted Green—when Fred Fried heard 7 string guitar icon George Van Eps, he really got inspired. That amazing sense of jazz guitar inspiration can be heard all over Fred’s 2011 CD entitled EnCore. A favorite among jazz guitar enthusiasts for years, Fred puts it all together on his 2011 CD, an album that finds the guitarist in the studio, cutting an album of all original instrumentals with Michael Lavoie (bass) and Miki Matuski (drums). While Fred gained acclaim for his acoustic 7 string guitar work, on EnCore he actually plays an 8 string guitar and in his liner notes, he credits Scottish classical guitarist Paul Galbraith for inspiring the switch from 7 string to 8 string guitar. The results make EnCore a fascinating study in acoustic, swing jazz. On his EnCore CD, Fred Fried keeps an eye on the jazz greats of the past while forging a new instrumental jazz guitar sound for the future.

BLACK MAMBA RECORDS - Based up in Ontario Canada, guitarist Adrian Raso makes a convincing musical statement with his 2011 CD Niña del Sol. Although The Adrian Raso Band can swing out Gypsy Jazz style with the best of them, by the time the CD rolls around to track 9 here, entitled “Sisters”, Raso breaks out a little more and the album takes off in full flight instrumental rock. Most great guitarists, from Hellecasters founder John Jorgenson to Aussie guitar wunderkind Ben Rogers, can do everything from Gyspy Jazz and nuevo flamenco to fusion. Fittingly, with his all around approach, Raso makes a similar statement, although Raso’s retro Gyspy acoustic thing and forays into what sounds like Mariachi music or Greek bouzouki sounds is still very cool. Backed up by some fine percussionists, including the legendary Sheila E., Adrian Raso’s Niña del Sol is a guitar lover’s paradise.

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - Long associated as the guitarist with the space rock band Hawkwind, guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton released an album of classical guitar style tracks called Classical Guitar Tales in 2011. About as far away from rock based music as you can get, the 18 track, 30 minute Classical Guitar Tales nevertheless indicates Huw’s fondness for the classical music of masters like Sor, Bach, Giuliani, Purcell, Brahams and more, including Italian film composer Nino Rota—covered here by Huw on a solo guitar track of the theme from “Romeo & Juliet”. No real surprises here, just a truly masterfully recorded and produced album of classical style music that most guitar fans and a number of musicians, from all around the world, know like the back of their hand.

DIALTONE RECORDS - Released after his passing in May 2011, I’m Alright by guitarist Cornell Dupree is a solid long player of funky jazzy fusion instrumentals. Cornell rose to fame in the 1960s performing with Aretha Franklin, King Curtis and he even played alongside Jimi Hendrix with King at one point before eventually forming the smooth funk jazz of Stuff in the ‘70s. Having played on over 2500 sessions during his career, Cornell is in his element on I’m Alright, which was released on CD late in 2011 by the Austin based Dialtone Records. Although it’s been a while since his last solo album Bop ‘n’ Blues in 1994, the wait is worth it. Even at the end of his career, with the help of some seasoned session players and producer Eddie Stout, Cornell was able to document a new, albeit final, album highlighting what made his brand of funky, bluesy guitar instrumentals so special. Eight weeks after the final album session, Cornell left the building so to speak though as told in the fitting liner notes by Roger Stout, Cornell and his blues were doing all right.

FOSSIL RECORDS - One of progressive instrumental rock’s unsung guitar geniuses, Charles Brown has continually released great albums for the past decade, a number of which are reviewed on Even with a half dozen albums to his credit, Brown released his finest album, entitled Storm Rising at the end of 2011. The surrealistic cover art and design by Jilaen Sherwood gives a good indication of the music within. With his driving orchestrally composed hard rock and fusion sound, Brown gives his guitar collection a good workout and he firms up his sound with the backing of Matt Bassano (keyboards), Steve Espinosa (bass, keyboards) and Dave X (drums).

HORIZONTAL JAZZ - In 2011 keyboard virtuoso and arranging genius Vince Mendoza released Nights Of Earth on his own Horizontal Jazz label. The results are predictably great. One of the great musical minds in the jazz fusion world, Mendoza sounds like a modern day Don Sebesky or Jobim on some of the more expansive instrumental passages. Mendoza goes from World Beat to bop jazz to New Age sometimes within the scope of one song. Handling all the grand piano and electronic keyboards, Mendoza gets solid support from a number of players including jazz legends John Abercrombie (guitar) and Peter Erskine (drums) with strings from members of the Metrople Orkest. More an orchestral neoclassical soundtrack of chamber jazz, Nights On Earth is modern atmospheric instrumental music at its finest.

LIFE LINE PRODUCTIONS - During the early 1970s a generation of musicians from Holland began reinventing an astounding type of rock as played by a rising force of Dutch classical rock fusion bands including Focus, Kayak, and Supersister. 40 years later a new Dutch band called Life Line Project, featuring a multi-instrumentalist called Erik de Beer, keeps the old world Dutch prog-rock sound alive with a 2011 double CD set called The Journey. Wild thing here is that instead of a full band, most of the instruments are played by Erik, who can play in the progressive style of Jan Akkerman and the classic keyboard style of KayaK legend Ton Scherpenzeel. Assisted by various musicians, Erik's classical prog sound is given a further push by the rock solid drum sound of Ludo de Murianos here while vocals from a pair of female singers bring to mind Maggie Riley’s work with Mike Oldfield in the early ‘80s. Disc one is called Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind and it’s quite prog-rock in scope while disc 2 entitled The Narrow Path is more instrumental classical rock based, with Erik’s keyboards echoing both Scherpenzeel and Focus icon Thijs van Leer. Anyway, it’s great to hear today’s artists keeping the style of the Dutch masters alive and well.

RE-SO RECORDS - With ongoing devotion to both The Shadows and The Ventures, it’s worth noting how revered the guitar instrumental music scene is still in Scandinavia and Finland. From Sweden, The Re-Sounds carry on the tradition of Hank Marvin and The Shadows with the 2011 CD release of Back On Stage! Despite the title, the 25 track CD is actually a studio album featuring The Re-Sounds, with guitarist (and sometimes singer) Ulf Forsström, backed up by a super tight 5 piece band, including some very echo-y Marvin-esque guitar work by Gösta “Hank” Jonsson. There’s a whole lotta well known cover versions here, mostly all done instrumentally (with ample reverb) in the spirit of the 1960s, from the pens of giant U.K. / Euro masters like Shadows accomplice Jerry Lordan and Sweden’s own Hank Marvin type guitar hero Lenny Clerwall. With Back On Stage! The Re-Sounds redefine the spirit of the ‘60s with a refreshing sonic approach to 21st century guitar-based rock instrumentals.

- Canadian New Age music guru Adham Shaikh is truly a man of many talents. As a world fusion artist, a film composer and a producer / engineer, Shaikh has a number of CD releases, including a very special collection of music written for film and multimedia projects entitled Resonance: Selected Ambient Works. Incorporating a number of New Age related healing music concepts as his overall theme, Shaikh stated that, ‘The people I had originally shared this music with all reported an energetic connection to these sounds that resulted in relaxed calm states, a reduction in stress, general well being, as well as increased deep sleep and dreaming.’ Although Shaikh is clearly influenced by Indian and Chinese musical modalities, clearly fans of New Age musical kingpins like Jonathan Goldman, Terry Riley and Steven Halpern will want to hear Shaikh and the uniquely appealing instrumental music magic in play on his Resonance CD.

- One of the choice guitar based instrumental albums of 2011, Round-Trip Ticket is the second album from New West Guitar Group. Like LAGQ and CGT, New West Guitar Group creates scenic and highly melody acoustic guitar music as played by the all guitar group members Perry Smith, John Storie and Jeff Stein. Where the California Guitar Trio is more avant gard and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet are much more classical, you can consider New West Guitar Group more Americana and overtly melodic and near fusion in its scope. Blending acoustic guitars with some spatial electric stylings, the CD is superbly recorded and mastered and is decked out with nifty multi-panel digi-pak artwork. Recorded without percussion or drumming tracks, the original tracks on Round-Trip Ticket are quite relaxing yet, from start the finish, the CD maintains high levels of cutting edge originality. From new grass to Metheny-esque guitar seasonings, NWGG has it covered.

- Recording over in France, Renaud Louis-Servais Group released a masterful album of jazz-rock fusion entitled iLuna in 2011. Featuring the extraordinary guitar chops of Renaud, the nine track CD features Renaud and his band performing a daredevil cross-section of jazz, rock and fusion instrumentals. Pretty much 21st century fusion music at its best, the CD swerves and veers all over the musical map and comes across as state of the art instrumental rock in the spirit of 1970’s legends such as Return To Forever and Weather Report. Renaud’s music is quite intriguing and overall, iLuna makes for some amazing listening for jazz rock fans and guitar fans in general.

SUBLIMINAL SOUNDS - Ground breaking guitar hero Kenny Håkansson is a hero to many in Sweden and you can also add for progressive rock guitar fans world wide. Prog-rock fans remember Kenny’s acclaimed instrumental rock recordings with the late, great Bo Hansson and there’s also those of us who remember Kenny’s work with the legendary Swedish folk-prog group Kebnekajse. With Håkansson on guitar and backed up by some amazing players, Kebnekajse returns with the CD release of Idioten—their anticipated return to form following the self-titled Kebnekajse from 2009. Released in 2011 on Subliminal Sounds, Idioten (The Fool) revisits the cosmic hippy, World Beat groove of early ‘70s Kebnekajse without missing a beat. The early Kebnekajse Lp’s were recorded by legendary Swedish audio genius Anders Lind and released on the pioneering Silence Records. Even though Anders’ ingenious touch in the studio is missing on Idioten, there’s still plenty to marvel at. All instrumental music—incorporating Swedish fiddle-folk, prog-fusion and rock—with Idioten, Kebnekajse make timeless music for the ages, while keeping their legacy alive and well in the 21st century. Fans of Håkansson’s work with Bo Hansson will be happy to hear a reworked tribute cover of here of “Tax Free”—a track Bo Hansson worked on with Jimi Hendrix all those years ago.

- A studio veteran who’s worked with artists including Rick Wakeman, Roine Stolt and Adrian Belew, multi-instrumentalist Randy George returns in 2011 with Action Reaction. Released on his own Threshing Floor Records, the album is like a case study in how to record state of the art instrumental fusion Americana. Several masters of the genre appear here including guitarists Phil Keaggy, Neal Morse and Dave Beegle, as well as fretless bass master Michael Manring. Hearing Randy and Phil trade acoustic guitar licks and leads on the track “Gentle Rain” is a highlight as are the more jazz-rock tracks that feature solid, well recorded drumming from Paul Kikenny and others. Performing bass, guitar, keyboards and percussion, Randy has recorded an album classic for fans of the more urbane side of jazz-rock.

- In France, the Ultimae label stays of top of the electronica, chill out, down tempo trip-hop groove sound with Ambrosia - Selected By Fishimself. Like the other Ultimae CD releases, Ambrosia is beautifully packaged with spectacular artwork with hi-tech mastering by Vincent Villuis at Ultimae Studio, France. Inspired by various electronic musicians from Greece, Fishimself—the deejay and the man behind IT Records shop and Freeze Magazine—has done a great job in assembling what’s described here as a “dense musical journey built upon warm, down-tempo grooves with a touch of electronica, breakbeat, wrapped in hypnotic atmospheres, pulsating basslines and melancholic pads.’ As far as a state of the art CD sampler of stately instrumental synth keyboard based exotica, Ambrosia can’t be beat. Ultimae really deserves some kind of award for their beautifully packaged sonic CD joyrides.

- On Time—as usual, Steve Howe is brimming with eclectic guitar ideas, incorporating all the groundbreaking attributes he’s brought to YES (and in fact the entire progressive rock world) over the past 40 years. Of course, Time is a Warners Classic CD, so yes, there is a definite urbane, classical guitar-esque edge here but it’s done so with the same cutting edge taste and sonic vision Howe has built the indestructible YES empire upon. Steve’s cohort on Time is keyboardist / soundtrack composer Paul K. Joyce. Throughout the 12 track CD, the synthesized keyboards of Paul Joyce adds Wakeman-esque depth and color to Howe’s flights of guitar fancy. Also on hand, here with co-compositional credits, is long time Howe collaborator Paul Sutin as well as welcome contributions on a track from Howe’s musically gifted son Virgil Howe (keyboards) who plays on and composed track the “Kindred Spirits”, which is dedicated to Howe’s daughters and Virgil’s sisters Georgia and Stephanie. Added real strings and things on several tracks are supplied by The Classical Ensemble, conducted by Joyce. There’s plenty here for YES fans to enjoy—with some tracks here harkening back to the eclectic neoclassical vibe of Howe’s first solo album from 1975. Howe’s wide palate of fretboard sounds is sonically supported by the wide array of guitars, both acoustic, classical and electric, in his arsenal. There’s also a track here, a Bach cover, dedicated to the late Andrew Pryce-Jackman. Sometimes the air is mournful and then Howe shifts into neoclassical prog-rock mode, going full flight. With Time, Howe reinvigorates the progressive music world once again and Paul K. Joyce makes a perfect musical accomplice on what some are already saying is Howe’s best solo album in 36 years.

- In 2009, guitarist / singer-songwriter Matt Malley released an acclaimed solo album entitled The Goddess Within. Combining Matt’s love of spiritual Indian music with his background as a founding member of the rock group Counting Crows, The Goddess Within was a critically acclaimed success. In addition to his solo album, in recent years Malley has also worked with former YES keyboardist Patrick Moraz and power pop maestro Emitt Rhodes. Even with a vast background in the music world, Malley steps further into the light with Sleepless Nights—his 2010 CD with Indian sitar / guitar master Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. A master of the Mohan Veena, V.M. Bhatt is described as “the king of Indian slide guitar” and Malley helps further the CD adding in bass and keyboards while the pair receive further assistance from tabla player Subhen Chatterjee. The mostly instrumental album is a really spiritual experience, evoking sonic images of Ravi Shankar’s work, while also bringing the time honored Indian music sound into the 21st century. Although it was recorded in 2008, it took some time to catch up to this modern day World Music classic, but it was worth the wait. Sleepless Nights is recommended to World Music fans as well as fans of the time-honored tradition of Indian music.


ACE RECORDS - Back the the 1960’s you didn’t have to look too hard to find the name Bert Berns. Armed with an arsenal of catchy, foot-tapping R&B pop songs, Bert and his productions were topping the charts everywhere. Even The Beatles praised Berns by covering his song “Twist And Shout” (first made famous by The Isley Brothers) on their very first album on Parlophone in 1962. Back in the 1960’s R&B, pop and even surf-rock instrumentals combined to create a fascinating composite of American musical greatness and Berns was right at the center of the artistic storm. Like so many children of immigrant parents in NYC, Bert Russell Berns was born to become an overachiever, a fact that no doubt led to his premature death at age 38 on December 30, 1967. Besides The Beatles, other artists who fell under the spell of Bert’s unique blend of R&B and pop included The Isley Brothers, Van Morrison, Otis Redding, The McCoys, The Rolling Stones, Solomon Burke, Gene Pitney, The Drifters and so many more. Some of Bert’s greatest songs—and the artists who made them hits—can be heard on a pair of CD compilations on England’s ACE Records. The Bert Berns Story: Twist And Shout Volume 1 1960-1964 (2008) and The Bert Berns Story: Mr. Success Volume 2 1964-1967 (2010) are each filled with the musical mark of greatness that Bert’s music brought to both the pop and R&B musical worlds. With their impeccable track record as one of England’s most illustrious CD reissue labels, ACE has done a spectacular job chronicling Bert’s songs. With 52 tracks in total—including al time classics songs like “Hang On Sloopy”, “Piece Of My Heart”, “Twist And Shout”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Here Comes The Night” and so many more—each of these CDs serve as a veritable musical encyclopedia of Berns and his music. True, there’s no Beatles, Janis Joplin or David Bowie tracks on these ACE compilations, but the original versions (the ones that inspired the Beatles, Janis and Bowie) are here and readily serve as a reminder of the influence Berns had on these artists, the artists who preceded them and the artists and musicians of the 21st century lucky enough to find out about Bert Berns’ pop/R&B treasure of American musical greatness. Collectors take note; there is another double CD set (now a rarity) released by Berns’ son Brett Berns entitled Sloopy II Music Presents The Songs Of Bert Russell Berns. There’s some overlap with the the ACE compilations but it’s on the Sloopy II double CD set that you will find the most comprehensive collection of Bert’s music. No Beatles still, but you will find Bowie, Janis, The Exciters, Otis, Ron Wood, Led Zeppelin, the Blues Brothers and so many more singing the praises of the timeless wonders of the music of Bert Berns. Bert may have left the planet way too soon, but his music is timeless and will last through the millennium.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Continuing onwards into 2012, Angel Air keeps plundering the vaults for CD rarity after CD rarity. Although they’ve done and continue to release rarities from the world of prog, hard rock, heavy metal and jazz fusion, it’s cool to see Angel Air stretching out with some lite pop fare with the release of two compilations featuring the gifted pens of singer-songwriters Chris Arnold, David Martin and Geoff Morrow. Although the trio wrote a number of hits for U.K. pop stars such as Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and Cilla Black to name a few, some of the songs that more popular artists covered are featured on the double CD set from Angel Air by AMMO (Arnold, Martin and Morrow) entitled Can’t Smile Without You - 1966-1977. Collectors of U.K. pop will note that this trio of singer-songwriters also wrote all the singles for Rescue Co. No. 1 (also featured with a CD on Angel Air) as well as other hits for big name acts like Barry Manilow, Elvis Presley, The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield and more. Angel Air’s double CD release of Can’t Smile Without You features 40 Ammo tracks, including original versions of songs that became world wide hits as well as unreleased demo tracks. Although they achieved success as songwriters for other artists, Arnold, Martin and Morrow really came into their own with the band called Butterscotch, who are feted on their own 2011 Angel Air CD entitled Don’t You Know It’s Butterscotch. Echoing 1960s and ‘70s artists like Gilbert O’Sullivan and Cliff Richard, Angel Air’s Butterscotch compilation spotlights 20 tracks of sentimental and lush pop sounds, swirling strings and first rate musical inventions. Track three on the Butterscotch CD, “Theme For A Theme” is a classic instrumental yet it fits in perfectly with their vocal based retro-pop fare. Both the AMMO and Butterscotch CDs on Angel Air features informative liner notes by Karl Carpenter, filling in the missing pieces behind this overlooked pop outfit. Also reissued on Angel Air in 2011 are a pair of CD compilations by the group known as Hard Stuff—a 1970’s band formed by John Du Cann and Paul Hammond (from Atomic Rooster) and John Gustafson (from Quatermass). Signed to Deep Purple’s Purple Records in 1971, two of the group’s albums—Bolex Dementia (1973 + 2 bonus track) and Bulletproof (1972 + 2 bonus cuts) receive the Angel Air reissue treatment. Although he passed away in 2011, John Du Cann is further remembered on the late 2011 CD release of John Du Cann - The Many Sides Of 1967 - 1980. The 16 cut compilation features various tracks Du Cann appeared on during the 1960s and ‘70s in bands such as The Attack, Andromeda, Atomic Rooster and Hard Stuff. In a twist of fate, before he passed away, Du Cann gave instructions regarding the liner notes to Jeff Perkins, who puts Du Cann’s career into perspective in the colorful and insightful CD booklet. Also reissued in 2011 from Angel Air is Signs Of Change, first released in 1979 by the U.K. pop group After The Fire, which featured guitarist Peter Banks (same name but not the YES guitarist) and a 16 track compilation from singer-songwriter Phillip Goodhand-Tait, best known for writing songs for other artists such as Roger Daltrey and Gene Pitney. Entitled Radio Songs, Angel Air’s reissue CD features 16 tracks Goodhand-Tait recorded, accompanied by just a beautiful Steinway piano, for Radio Bremen in 1977.

/ EMI - Forty years after it hit the streets in the USA through Reprise Records, Aqualung still remains the most popular and ground breaking Jethro Tull album. A great album gets greater with the 40th anniversary remix of Aqualung. Going back to the original 16 track and 8 track tapes, modern day sonic savior Steve Wilson has done a brilliant job on the remix, keeping the sonic signposts in check while bringing a new clarity and precision to the overall sound of the album. Commenting on this CD, Wilson adds, ‘It’s been a privilege and instruction to be able to delve into all the Aqualung sessions to create this 40th anniversary edition for 21st century ears. For me it feels a little like the musical equivalent of cleaning the Sistine Chapel!’ With Wilson sonically purifying the Mona Lisa of prog, the second CD in this 40th anniversary two CD set is where it really gets interesting for Tull collectors. Right after Aqualung, Tull released their now legendary Life’s A Long Song EP and CD 2 here includes the entire EP along with rarities plus early versions and unreleased versions of classics from the Aqualung sessions. Mastering at Abbey Road has to make this the definitive Aqualung album to date. The booklet is equally revealing with new interviews featuring Ian Anderson plus extensive photos and liner notes combining for a veritable round trip back to the magical year of 1971 when Tull were the reigning kings of rock.

/ SONY LEGACY - Among the first ever Jimi Hendrix CD reissues was the 1989 Rykodisc release of Live At Winterland. Now, over 20 years later, Sony Legacy has assembled Winterland—the ultimate live Hendrix box set look back at Jimi’s fabled Winterland concerts on October 10, 11 and 12, 1968. With Electric Ladyland right around the corner, Jimi, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were setting the musical world on fire and with each of the three nights in October 1968 recorded in totality, this box set is like primer on just what made Jimi Hendrix so great live. Tellingly, for each of the October 10 and 11, 1968 shows at Winterland in San Francisco, Jimi started off both sets with “Tax Free”, an instrumental rock track originally written and recorded by the late, great Swedish progressive rock innovator Bo Hansson (only the October 12 show started with “Fire”). I remember in early ‘81, Bo’s producer Anders Lind, playing me tapes of an instrumental jam session between Bo and Jimi back! (Anders are you listening?) Anyway, Jimi’s instrumental versions of “Tax Free” here are stellar and are quite telling in their vast depth and scope. They also give a fantastic indication of just how cool an instrumental rock collaboration with Jimi and Bo would have been and you can easily hear just how influenced Jimi was by Bo Hansson's mysterious muse—Bo was truly the most mercurial and spacy of all the Nordic masters. Combined, the rest of the four discs here offers an amazing snapshot of how powerful Jimi, Noel and Mitch were in concert. Likewise it also offers insight just how meteoric Jimi’s ascent was during those fleeting, magical late ‘60s days. This box set of 4 CDs, detailing the entire three nights of Jimi Hendrix Experience at Winterland, comes inside a superbly packaged box set with built-in booklet that really does justice to the Hendrix legacy. Topping off this essential Hendrix set is the fantastic CD sound quality captured by the great Eddie Kramer, plus masterful mastering by Sterling Sound’s engineer George Marino that fully restores the original sonic beauty captured during these groundbreaking Hendrix concerts.

- Over in the U.K. MRS keeps the flame burning bright for Elvis Presley with a number of specialist CD releases including a single CD reissue of G.I. Blues - The Alternate Album Version. Cut in October 1960, after Elvis returned from his Army duty in Germany, the album might not have been as exciting as early Elvis mania from the mid ‘50s, yet it contained a number of great songs. On hand with Elvis were long time Elvis players including Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana (drums) along with other key players like Tiny Timbrell (guitar) and Pete Drake (pedal steel guitar). Released by Memphis Recording Service in 2011, the 26 cut digi-pak CD features the complete alternative version, along with alternate out-takes and movie versions. A legit release, the sound quality is also quite good, although the packaging is okay but (unlike the other incredible Elvis box sets on MRS) is lacking liner notes. Another very cool release from Elvis Prosily on Memphis Recording Service is The Complete Louisiana Hayride Archives 1954-1956—a 29 track 75 minute CD packaged in an oversized book like package featuring a 100 page booklet detailing Elvis during his very early appearances on the Louisiana Hayride radio shows. The sound quality for live radio back in 1954 was kind of rough but the packaging looks great and, chronicling every detail of Elvis during that period, it offers insights into the King’s early career.

- An awesome find for Beatles fans is the 2011 Time-Life release of First Recordings: The Beatles With Tony Sheridan. There’s been a fairly exhaustive 50 years of history on these early recordings that The Beatles cut in Germany in 1961 and 1962 backing up singer Tony Sheridan. Although they tend to get more obscured with time—and considering the many times these songs have been made available over the years—their incredible impact remains intact. Amazingly, prior to The Beatles conquering the world a year later at the dawn of 1963, a whole bunch of music filling up the U.S. radio still sounded pretty similar to the Elvis / Buddy / Chuck / Shadows inspired rock and roll, and however appealing, based on the music they recorded in Germany way back when, Tony Sheridan and The Beatles were no exception at that time. It’s almost laughable how much German producer Bert Kaemphert underestimated them and had absolutely no faith in the potential of the early Beatles. It always seemed that Kaemphert centered the whole project around his vision of Tony Sheridan being a new Elvis, and I guess old Bert prodding John Lennon to sing “Ain’t She Sweet” and having John and George Harrison write and record a Shadows tribute song called (predictably) “Cry For A Shadow” was Bert’s idea of an artistic success. Perhaps it was...little did he know. Some of those who lived through Beatlemania might recall that these 1961/62 recordings started turning up Stateside on bootleg vinyl late in 1964 (65? 71?)—depicting that era before Ringo Starr joined, when Los Beatles recorded with drummer Pete Best. This 2011 double CD set featuring one mono CD and one stereo CD, presents this vital slice of early rock and roll history in its best sound quality yet. First Recordings features amazing packaging, using quite effectively that haunting picture of the pre-Fabs that first appeared on the Pete Best - Best Of The Beatles Lp bootleg. Ach du Beatles!

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