Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

JULY 2010








ALIVE ENERGY - Will pop wonders ever cease to amaze? Out in beautiful downtown Burbank, Alive Records have a 2010 CD from pop pundits Outrageous Cherry called Seemingly Solid Reality. The eleven cut CD is a most scenic spin. The title song starts the CD off in outrageous fashion—a Kraftwerkian / Bowie kind of instro intro that sets the sound stage and the CD quickly gets down to pop brass tacks. Ten O.C. albums in, multi-instrumentalist Matthew Smith has penned some of his best pop tracks to date here and he gets solid support form bandmates Sean Ellwood (bass), Larry Ray (lead guitar) and Samantha Linn (drums). Bowie and Lennon isn’t a bad comparison as well for track two, “Unbalanced In The City” either, with some inventive Revolver-era guitar tricks adding in some slick pop sizzle as well. Rock fans will dig the chugging beat of O.C.’s way cool and new for 2010 pop sleeper of a CD.

- Like the Rubinoos to a certain degree, The Rubettes take the best of the past and bring it forward with a 2010 album called 21st Century Rock & Roll. Although the Rubettes scored a bunch of hits—their first single in 1974 sold more than three million copies globally—and they made eight studio albums, the band never really made it in the U.S. That’s strange in itself as they sort of model themselves after a kind of futuristic version of American ‘50s rock and roll. Not to be outdone, Rubettes main man Bill Hurd is back with a 13 track, 2010 CD release on the U.K. based Angel Air, a label never afraid to be eclectic to say the least! The lead off title track “21st Century Rock ‘n’ Roll” sounds like Buddy Holly coming back in time to sing in Roy Wood’s Wizzard band. With Hurd singing lead and handling keyboards, he receives effective support from a tight band including five different guitarists. The songs are the key to the album's groove and what might pass for some as an oldies road show, is actually quite deep and is also reminiscent of the mid ‘70s work of T. Rex with Flo & Eddie. A cover of the all time oldies favorite “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” gives good indication as to where this band is coming from.

- In an age when the “major” record companies are cutting back on both music and the actual CD itself, promising and gifted bands such as Rabbit Children are going the other way. Not only does their 2010 CD Thou Shalt Have A Time Machine sound great but the CD packaging is smashing too making this a real collector’s item. There’s even a fantastic poster that sends a signal as to the vast musical intelligence on hand here. Get it before the downloaders take over! Even though this album is their debut, Rabbit Children sound like pretty seasoned pop pros here. The IPO (international pop overthrow) crowd have likened RC to anything from Elliott Smith to Blur and even The Beach Boys, but these guys have their own M.O. and they make good on it all with this album of pure, eclectic pop genius. Fashioned by childhood buddies, Michael Danaher and Blake Hand, Thou Shalt Have A Time Machine features the two singer-songwriters along with Rabbit cohorts Steve Tartaglione (bass), Natalie Catron (keys) and Noah Rotello (drums). They may be young and rising but there’s some wicked pop smarts in the grooves here and don’t forget that great CD packaging and embossed artwork. To hell with downloads. Keep the CD alive! I usually don’t like to promote right winger Rupert Murdoch or his wife, but because I don’t know their actual web site right now, you can catch RC on the Murdoch’s myspace.

- Back in 2008 Jackson Browne amazed the music world with Time The Conqueror and in 2010 he digs into the vaults for a 2010 2 CD set of a live performance from 2006. Released on Jackson’s own Inside Recordings label, the double CD set is actually culled from a 2006 live concert tour in Spain with long time pal, guitar hero David Lindley. Entitled Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino, the mostly acoustic set features Jackson’s best songs backed up by Lindley’s legendary guitar prowess with celebrated Spanish percussionist Tino di Geraldo, and other guest players from Spain. Superbly recorded, you also get some stadium like applause from the Spanish crowd who eat this up. There’s a little Spanish music edge here but the set clicks and is a peaceful, easy look back at a highlight of 2006. Never thought I’d be nostalgic for 2006!

- Some people are touting Pineapple Thief as new prog-rock but I also hear elements of late ‘70s post-punk rock and even shards of avant-garde rock in the mix of their 2010 CD, appropriately titled Someone Here Is Missing. There’s no doubt bands like Genesis and Van der Graf Generator had huge impact on today’s young U.K. bands and that lineage of sound design comes full circle on the new Pineapple Thief CD. The CD sound is really startling and the cover art of Someone Here Is Missing is equally fascinating, especially considering it was designed by long time Pink Floyd album art conceptualist Strom Thorgeson. Featuring key contributions from PT singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Soord, Someone Here Is Missing also spotlights a smashing recording from the entire PT band and overall, the entire album makes for a jarring, shock-rock experience. The spirit of the 21st century prog-rock sound is changing, that's for sure, but its alive and well on Someone Here Is Missing.

- Okay label freaks, with a name like Pink Hedgehog it better be good right? Well established and operated by Simon Felton, Pink Hedgehog have a number of classy, classic pop CD and download releases on its roster, including Felton’s own 2009 CD called Failing In Biology. With his decidedly English pop bent, Felton sounds very much influenced by the likes of Ray Davies and even the embryonic genius of Syd Barrett. Felton also has trouble hiding other major music influences like various artists associated with Beach Boys honcho Brian Wilson. Assisting Felton’s singing, songs and bass guitar on the CD are Californian cult superstar Anton Barbeau (guitars, keys) and psych-pop maven Alan Strawbridge (drums, keys). Also out on Pink Hedgehog are a number of CD titles including Plastic Guitar from Anton Barbeau, and, now only on download, other albums featuring one time Beach Boys accomplice Stephen John Kalinich joined by Peter Lacey. Interesting titles all from a small but beautiful English label!

- Once in a blue moon a great L.A. style pop album comes around. For sheer pop genius this time out, it’s the 2009 CD release of Tangle-Free World by Anny Celsi. It’s near impossible to escape the fantastic pop and rock music lineage of L.A. From the innocent beginningsof Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys to the great psychedelic flourishes of L.A. and sister city San Francisco by the end of the 1960's, California leaves a music legacy second to none. A thoroughly modern singer-songwriter and guitarist looking to move the California folk-rock and power pop sound into the millennium, Ms. Celsi’s album has it all, including a valuable historical context within which she weaves her pop magic. Critics may cite influences like The Bangles to The Byrds within her music, but dig deeper and the sound further unfolds with fresh covers of the Lee Hazelwood / Nancy Sinatra track “Some Velvet Morning” and there’s even a cover of “Sally Go Round The Roses” with a vocal cameo from L.A. singing great Evie Sands. Key to the album’s success is the outstanding production and arranging from Nelson Bragg, who also mixed the CD, as well also a top band including guitarist Rick Gallego, Brian Wilson band members Scott Bennett (keys) and Nick Walusko, who’s also a member of The Wondermints. Considering the ‘60s vibe throughout the set, Wilson himself would dig this eclectic retro-rock album. The packaging is fantastic too with its fold-out multi-panel digi-pak design featuring all the credits amid a swirl of paisley pop art designs. A trip into the musical time tunnel, Tangle-Free World is an essential cross-section of 21st century L.A. pop.

- Okay what kind of album do you get from a kid who grew up in the family with parents that constantly played The Beatles and Led Zeppelin? For one thing, you might get Lucid, the 2010 CD release from singer-songwriter Graham Czach. One look at the CD cover art and it’s clear, Graham likes it way out there, but he makes good on the bizarre cover art connotations on an album that mixes a wild, but cogent kind of 21st century progressive rock. In addition to producing Lucid, Graham also adds in his stellar bass work in addition to handling all the vocals, some added guitar parts, string arrangements and percussion parts while getting back up from guitarist Chris Siebold, Kris Myers (drums) and Matt Nelson (keys). Additional backing vocalists forming a kind of chorus and a round of string players adds further sonic dressing to this unique composite 21st century pop, rock and prog sounds.

- Louisiana guitarist / singer-songwriter Sam Broussard strikes folk-rock and pop-rock gold with the 2010 CD release of his 13 track Veins album. Some of Veins is real Cajon style rootsy folk-rock while on other tracks Sam cuts through the scenery with some mean ass electric guitar work. Whatever your taste, there’s no denying Broussard’s guitar work is impeccably recorded and amazingly, Sam plays just about everything on the album with some additional help from drummer Doug Belote and backing vocals from Meera Sundram. Mostly, the album stretches across a range of Americana styles but some tracks are real rootsy, with a sound just like you’d expect from the Gulf states region. A modern folk-rock classic with much fine music to applaud, Veins really gets into your system and sets up Sam Broussard as one of the rising heroes of 21st century American pop. Speaking to about the Veins album and his unique style Sam adds, "Although I'm South Lousiana Cajun and play in the Cajun touring band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, I've also traveled to some very far-flung places and seen things that people down here seldom see. Our folk music down here, full of the wisdom, soul and the French language as it is, sometimes feel a little constraining if one thinks modern thoughts about a wider world, so this album is mostly in English – a surprisingly good language too – and has harmonic and literary ambitions that my people often have no use for. They'd rather dance, and I kept that part but went both smaller and larger. I'm a Cajun musician, but to me that just means a Cajun who plays music. There's plenty of it free at my website, and I'm adding more and more." With the style of Veins sounding equally influenced by folk, pop and rock, Sam's meaningful lyrics dot the terrain and the overall, the CD sound is excellent.

- One of America’s greatest living musical heroes, guitarist Steve Miller returns to the limelight with the 2010 CD release of Bingo! Featuring the Steve Miller Band and released on Miller’s new Space Cowboy Records label, Bingo! was recorded at the famous Skywalker Ranch studios and it just sounds great. I was a huge fan of Miller going back to his first album in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Steve Miller Band albums like Your Saving Grace and Number 5 still remain hugely influential rock music artifacts and Steve’s early albums made with fellow SMB member Boz Scaggs are a vital part of rock history. Miller is a fabulous songwriter, yet for Bingo! he’s put together an album of classic covers that reflects his early years on the Chicago blues scene. Even with the accent on the blues, the lead off track on Bingo!, “Hey Yeah”—written by Paul Henry Ray & Jimmie Vaughan—boasts one of Miller’s best ever vocals and the fun’s just starting. A couple other Vaughan covers—along with other covers of Jimmy Reed, Chester Burnett, B.B. King, Otis Rush and more—shows that Miller’s main M.O. these days is really about cutting loose and having fun and the album really reflects that. With such an illustrious lineup of classic blues-rock tracks, Bingo! also benefits from the great backup Miller gets from his band including Norton Buffalo (harmonica, vocals), Gordy Knudtson (drums), Billy Peterson (bass, vocals), Sonny Charles (vocals), Joseph Wooten (B3, keys) and long time Miller rhythm guitar ace Kenny Lee Lewis. Also on hand is Santana band percussionist Michael Carabello with added percussion from Adrian Areas and even metal rock guitar ace Joe Satriani rocks out with Steve on a pair of tracks. Sadly, the Miller Band's Norton Buffalo passed away in late 2009 and fittingly, Bingo! is dedicated to his memory. Top production from Miller and U.K. producer legend Andy Johns seals the deal on this most welcome return to form from Steve Miller and company.

- The music and sounds of the mid ‘60s was the coolest. Thanks to the Beatles and Stones, all the bands started growing their hair and wearing Beatle boots, wearing snazzy suits and playing Vox amps! American bands like The Leaves, The Standells, The Knickerbockers all arrived in the wake of the British invasion of 1964 with one memorable AM radio hit after the next. One group living the British invasion dream out in modern times of century 21 is Brooklyn, NYC based The Above, who strike pop gold with their 2010 CD, also called The Above. The Above sound inspired by the great ‘60s flavored mod-pop sound that everybody loved back in the ‘60s. Really, this CD from The Above is a must for retro-rock fans who remember how great the music world was back in 1966. Featuring the lead vocals, harmonica, rhythm guitar and songs of David Alan Horowitz, The Above finds Horowitz getting great backup from band members Frank Caira (bass), Ihan Fukuhara (lead guitar), Alec Higgins (organ, keys) and Rich Attuh (drums). Other guests pop by but the key is the completely authentic ‘60s pop sound The Above get in 2010. It’s uncanny but the songs perfectly lend themselves to the genre and the era, to which they conceivably pay tribute to. What’s the single track here? All of The Above, although track twelve, the CD closing "It's Good" is pure pop genius! From start to finish, The Above proves that the ‘60s pop era sound and styles are truly timeless.

- The spirit of 1964 era British Invasion power pop and proper rock and roll is alive and well on the 2010 CD from The Malibooz entitled Queens English. Interesting that The Malibooz started in Queens around the time of the ‘64 NYC World’s Fair, which means these guys have some serious mileage behind them them but here on CD they sound as fresh as ever. With one toe-tapping track after the next, Malibooz founders John Zambetti and Walter Egan ramp up their penchant for cutting British Invasion era sounds on disc. A little history...Funny how the NYC World’s Fair—an elaborate extravaganza that was designed as a global event that JFK was probably excited about in ‘63, actually opened in April 1964 and it turns out the early Malibooz actually played at one of the famous Pavilions at the Fair itself. Wow! The British Invasion brought the Beatles to NYC just two months before the Fair opened so it was an incredibly exciting time to live in New York City. My father, the late great Arnold Silverstein actually helped build the '64 World’s Fair—or it was his food services, Interplant Foods, that fed the workers who built the World’s Fair and the elaborate buildings and structures, including many that still exist there and have actually become icons of Queens. And when my dad took me there a few times, I watched it grow bigger and bigger till it finally opened in all its glory. It was so cool, we’d go many times and the biggest thing there, especially as my dad was in the food business, was the food! Pavilions from every country, I remember the Indonesian pavilion and Belgian pavilion that introduced us to Belgian waffles, and featuring history and a restaurant in each pavilion! It's a smallw world after all. Anyway, back at the ranch, how come nobody ever heard these guys, The Malibooz is beyond me but, with so much pop and rock goodness on their Queens English CD, this is a good time to catch up with The Malibooz. Loads of famous British Invasion all stars join John and Walter and cameo the recordings, and the list has to be seen to be believed! Anyway if you dig the hot sounds of the greatest ‘64 British Invasion giants—Beatles, Kinks, Stones—you will dig these two cool guys from Queens NYC, who lived and breathed the British Invasion while it happened and live to tell the tales. Press to play and some time with The Malibooz. Recorded in Malibu, mastered at Abbey Road.

- Marking the solo debut of Harper Simon, the self-titled Harper Simon establishes the son of NYC folk-rock genius Paul Simon as a unique modern day pop-rock talent in his own right. Although it may be nearly impossible to live up to the legacy of a father as legendary and iconic as Paul Simon, Paul’s son Harper Simon comes pretty darn close on an album that takes the ‘60s sound of Simon & Garfunkel as nudges it up a notch thanks to some outstanding singing, song-writing and backup musicians. Commenting on the ten track Harper Simon CD, the younger Simon adds, ‘The long playing album is not just ten songs thrown together randomly. It has an arc, It has a structure. It is the attempt to make ten songs that are all as good as each other, and fit together in a seamless whole.’ A pretty daunting task indeed, yet Harper makes his solo debut click with a range of music and moods that welcomes you back time after time. Legendary producer Bob Johnston worked with giants like Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan and here, Johnston lends his midas touch as a co-producer to the Harper Simon CD while also bringing some legendary Nashville session players such as Charlie McCoy, Lloyd Green and more. From Nashville, Harper brought it all back home again—first to L.A. and then finishing up the album in his hometown of NYC with younger generation superstar musicians such as Sean Lennon, Petra Haden, Yuka Honda and others while also managing to have his dad Paul Simon featured on a few tracks as well. Commenting on the all star crew of musicians on the Harper Simon album, Harper adds, ‘The people that came together to contribute to this album are a totally bizarre and wonderful collection of people that will never come together again. There are players that represent every era of Rock & Roll from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s...every decade up until now really. People like Bob Johnston and my dad and the Nashville A Team, these people started making records in the ‘50s. And many others from today like Inara George, Sean Lennon and Adam Green to name just a few. I always wanted to blend these great session players from the ‘60s with my friends and contemporaries...that was always part of the concept. I think I may have gotten carried away, but it sure was fun.’ Fun here is an understatement, indeed as Harper Simon is a most welcome debut album from the offspring of one of the ‘60s greatest songwriters. One can hardly wait to see what musical tricks Harper has in store for the 21st century music world.

- Part of the new wave of World Beat artists exploding on the global music scene, Sa Ding Ding released her second album on the London based Wrasse Records. The eleven cut Harmony continues on with a new breed of Chinese pop music that skillfully blends in folk and traditional sounds amid a lush, dynamic synth driven rock accompaniment. Quoting Mojo mag, ‘Yoko Ono would be proud.’ I guess Mojo is comparing Sa Ding to Yoko, and clearly Ding can wail one to one with Yoko, but Ding Ding is of Chinese Mongolian descent and, while there is a definite Asian music bent here, owing to its iconoclastic Chinese origins, Ding’s world beat, hip-hop groove sounds much more exotic at least to my ears. A new icon of China’s future sound, Sa Ding Ding is representative of both China’s 21st century future and its rural past, and in the process, she’s really is turning out to be the 21st century Chinese version of Madonna. Just like Ding Ding’s 2008 CD on Wrasse, entitled Alive, her new music on Harmony incorporates a wide array of rock and World Beat musicians and arrangers. Throughout Harmony she receives top assistance from producer Marius De Vriese as well as the mixing skills of Paul Oakenfold. With Harmony, Sa Ding Ding becomes a key component in the future of 21st century Chinese World Beat pop music.


ESC RECORDS - Based over in Frankfort, Germany, ESC Records have a great new instrumental jazz-rock fusion CD from NYC based guitarist Barry Finnerty. Entitled Manhattan Sessions, the seven track CD features jazz-rock the way it used to be made in the late ‘70s, only the album was recorded in 2008, so it’s got a vital new edge to it. Finnerty’s guitar work has a solid Scofield and Carlton kind of influence but clearly, with much history behind him already, Finnerty is hardly a newcomer to the jazz world. Although he has a pretty impressive track record—including working with Miles Davis—for his first recordings in ten years, Finnerty has put together a pretty impressive band including Randy Brecker (trumpet / flugelhorn), Victor Bailey (electric bass), Graham Hawthorne (drums) and David Kikoski (keyboards). The recording quality is splendid throughout and overall, the CD gives a good overview of Finnerty’s tactful approach to modern mainstream jazz. In addition to his impressive jazz guitar skills on electric, Finnerty also adds in some ethereal synth keyboards as well as singing on the lone vocal on his primo instrumental album—a catchy, jazzy romp called “Clarita.”

FLOATING FEATHER MUSIC - Finger style acoustic guitar is among the most challenging of all guitar styles because it encompasses classical, jazz chord melody as as well time honored traditions like ragtime. All of the above can be found in abundance on Many Moods, the eleven track 2010 CD release from Minnesota based guitarist Ben Woolman. Commenting on his choice of guitar techniques, Woolman claims, ‘I played in bands for quite a few years, but it is difficult to sustain common goals, so when my third band broke up, I gravitated to playing finger style acoustic guitar because it allows me to create much of an ensemble sound all by myself. True to form, Woolman’s sonically pleasing guitar palate provides plenty of common ground for fans of guitar icons—as well as Woolman's own heroes—such as Leo Kottke, Pierre Bensusan, Michael Hedges, Tim Sparks and other top practitioners of acoustic guitar wizardry. Many Moods is superbly recorded and the packaging is quite good as well. Summing up his guitar aspirations, Woolman adds, ‘I pride myself in trying to play as many styles of music as I possibly can, and solo finger style acoustic guitar is the perfect instrument to give me the freedom to pursue that.’

FREMEAUX & ASSOCIES - Swing time and the music of Gypsy Jazz guitar hero Django Reinhardt continues moving full steam ahead as is evidenced by a great new instrumental jazz album from guitarist Marcel Campion. The thirteen track Copain Django features Marcel on guitars along with two guitarists including his son Chriss Campion and another guitarist here called Romane. The three fretboard aces get nice backup from André Charlier (drums) and Marc-Michel Le Bevllon (bass), along with sublime strings on several key cuts including the beautiful “Premier Rendez-vous.” The music is instrumental so there’s no words to get in the way between you and this beautiful music. Several Campion originals dot the landscape and there’s also key covers from the pen of legends like Kurt Weil, Michel Legrand and even Charlie Chaplin, feted here on a cover of his “Limelight.” With so much fantastic Gypsy Jazz style music on hand, you’d be hard pressed to find a recording as well done and as tastefully put together as this one. He may be getting up in years but Marcel’s ears and hands are still in primo form on Copain Django.

- A pretty amazing album of adventurous yet harmonious guitar duets, Returning is the 2010 CD from guitarists Sándor Szabó and Kevin Kastning. Reviewers have already compared Returning to the early ‘70s classic ECM sound of legends like Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie, but, what benefits this album even more is the modern, innovative recording approach, wider dynamic range and expert sonic care that is skillfully implemented here. A masterful guitar inventor and designer who works closely with the Calilfornia-based Santa Cruz Guitar Company, Kevin Kastning performs on his own 12 string extended baritone guitar as well as 6 string bass baritone guitar while Sándor Szabó shares the recording sound stage with his 12 string baritone guitar playing. Szabó and Kastning released their 2009 Greydisc album called Parabola, to great acclaim and now surely they’re poised for more accolades with the 2010 CD release of Returning. Interesting to note, the perfectionists these guys obviously are, the album was recorded on July 5, 2008 (two years to the day this review is being written by the way!) and was engineered by Kastning while the recording was expertly mixed and mastered for CD by Szabó in his native Hungary. Fans of the finest acoustic jazz fusion guitar masters—from Abercrombie to Metheny to Kottke and Hedges—will appreciate the guitar expertise in play on Returning. /

- A monster guitar player who displays a seemingly endless parade of brilliant musical ideas, Canadian fretboard genius Warren Robert can also take credit for producing, playing on, and in general being a source of inspiration behind the 2010 CD release from fellow Canadian guitar wizard Patrick Healy, entitled Narmen 1. Sci-fi connotations aside, on Narmen 1 , Healy sets himself up not only as an illustrious protégé of Warren Robert, but the 11 cut CD carves out a pretty amazing niche all its own. What’s even more amazing is that—handling all the guitars, bass, drum programming and voices—Healy establishes himself as a one man guitar army. Creating a vibe that encompasses hard rock, shred metal, neoclassical progressive rock and more, Healy defies the odds on Narmen 1 and just smokes the hell out of his guitar on an album that is truly an unbelievably creative and depth-defying attack of instrumental guitar sounds in general. Even if you hate rock instrumental music, there’s no denying the valid and vital approach Healy brings to the guitar world. There’s always room for one more guitar genius in the world of 21st century instrumental rock and Patrick Healy fits the bill perfectly. Thanks to Warren Robert for turning on to the brilliant sounds on Narmen 1.

- We’re talking Sawgrass as in South Florida type vibes that are at the heart of the music of guitarist John Fifield. Based down in Hollywood, Florida, Fifield is coming from a quite unique space in 21st century guitar based instrumental sounds. Combining white hot instrumental fusion, straight ahead jazz, funk and even rap/bass stylings, Fifield’s guitar approach is really eclectic and for a good taste of his unique guitar sounds take a spin inside the 2010 CD release of It Is What It Is... Besides DiMeola and Connors, there’s a definite Zappa like guitaristic influence here, with Fifield spinning out speedy runs and fluid fretboard concepts while getting ace backup from Ric Fierabracci (bass), Joe Locke (vibes, synth), Joel Rosenblatt (drums), violinist Christian Howes and others. The CD studio sound is great and the packaging is also first rate with its colorful psychedelic graffiti gatefold. For fans of daredevil fusion guitar pyrotechnics, John Fifield’s It Is What It Is... is a pick to click. Fans will note that hot on the heals of It Is What It Is... Fifield has also another CD out entitled All Shades Of Blue, recorded with his wife singer Beverly Lewis-Fifield and a number of top session players. Commenting on the release to in June 2010, Fifield adds, ‘All Shades Of Blues was just released within the past few weeks. I produced and played on this one and, although it's totally different than my solo album, we shot for the same level of quality throughout.’

- Having already released a couple of compilations in their Guitar Meditations series, the Soulfood Music label released Guitar Meditations Vol. 3 in 2010. Thankfully, New Age music still exists in 2010, and it’s alive and well in the grooves of Guitar Meditations Vol. 3. The premise of this fascinating music series is to present soft and meditative instrumental guitar music backed up by flutes, woodwinds and a variety of soothing soundscapes, making the music perfect for yoga, massage, meditations and more. Still on board here are top guitarists Ron Cohen, Robert McEntee and Ricky Fitzpatrick along with synthesist DJ Free and others. Superb as both background music or as active listening, the guitar-based ambient / electronica soundscapes make the Guitar Meditations series well worth spinning again and again.

- One of the hippest drummers on the 21st century instrumental jazz and funk music scene, Stanton Moore is back in action with a 2010 CD called Groove Alchemy. A trio featuring Moore on drums, backed by Robert Walter (B-3, piano) and Will Bernard (guitar), the sound here is busy but never cluttered and Moore’s trio accomplices get really down and funky but are always tasteful. Moore has a number of acclaimed CD releases released on a variety of labels and he’s also backed up the 2010 CD release of Groove Alchemy with a Groove Alchemy book and a DVD geared for aspiring jazz drummers to which Moore adds, ‘It’s a “groove boot camp” that will vastly increase your knowledge of classic grooves and more importantly, will also ignite your imagination and make you a funkier and more creative drummer.’ Sure to be a favorite among musicians and jazz lovers, Groove Alchemy was recorded at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, N.Y. and the DVD is a fine follow up to the Take It To The Street DVD and book—Moore’s release that focused on New Orleans’ drumming styles. For pure jazz and funk instrumental music guaranteed to change your mood from funk to funky, pick up on Stanton Moore’s big rockin’ drum sound. /


BGO RECORDS - The English are the best when it comes to chronicling classic rock and none do it better then U.K. based BGO who continue to mine the vaults in search of good, better and the best in CD reissues. To their credit—in an era when most big labels just want to push downloads—BGO continue to unearth and dust off the classics on silver disc. First up in 2010 is BGO’s George Benson remaster of Good King Bad and Benson & Farrell. Before he attained superstar status with the 1976 Breezin’ album, Benson was a critically acclaimed jazz guitar giant and his albums on the CTI label—set up by producer Creed Taylor—are among his best. The 1975 release of Good King Bad turned out to be Benson’s final solo album for CTI, while the 1976 release of the Benson & Farrell featured George paired with flautist Joe Farrell. Both of these instrumental jazz albums feature some of the finest mainstream smooth jazz of the ‘70s. Highlights are numerous—including the Good King Bad inclusion of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” along with Benson’s cover of the Sam & Dave classic “Hold On I’m Coming,” the lone vocal on the twelve track two albums on one CD. Both Good King Bad and Benson & Farrell featured Benson in the studio backed up by the best session men of the era including Eric Gale, the Brecker brothers, Phil Upchurch, Will Lee, Andy Newmark and more. March 2010 liner notes by Michael Heatley goes into detail on Benson’s impeccable credentials both as a jazz innovator and guitar genius.

EDSEL RECORDS - Back in the mid ‘80s, Edsel was one of the first great CD labels in England so it’s great to see they’re going strong and out of the box on Edsel in 2010 are a bunch of Gordon Giltrap remasters. In the spirit of eclectic English guitar geniuses like Steve Howe, Hank Marvin and even Gryphon guitarist Graeme Taylor, Giltrap remains one of the mainstays of progressive English instrumental art-rock. For lack of a better term, instrumental art-rock was huge in the mid ‘70s thanks to groundbreaking English bands like Gryphon, who so masterfully blended folk, jazz and classical music with acoustic and electric rock guitar stylings—all done instrumentally, sans vocals. Through the auspices of the Demon Music Group, the Edsel label has done a great job on a series of 2010 double CD releases that shines a light on some of Giltrap’s recent recordings as well as touching on a select grouping of his archival releases. First off is a double CD set pairing The Peacock Party (1981) with Airwaves (1982). Two of Giltrap’s most acclaimed solo albums, The Peacock Party features guest appearances from guitarists John G. Perry and famed jazz guitarist John Etheridge, while Airwaves features the Giltrap band including founding Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker. Edsel’s 22 track, single CD pairing of Remember This features 16 cuts of Giltrap’s favorite covers from the pens of J.S. Bach, the Beatles, the Shadows and the Who—with Rick Wakeman guesting—while the final six tracks are culled from the album Janschology—featuring Gordon performing pieces written and/or made famous by U.K. acoustic guitar hero Bert Jansch, and ending with his self-composed tribute called “Roots.” Exploring Giltrap’s music from the ‘90s, Edsel’s double CD set spotlights Music For The Small Screen—featuring music that Giltrap composed for the BBC and ITV—and is paired with the 19 cut The Solo Album. Lastly, 1998’s Troubadour—Giltrap’s self-admitted favorite album—is paired with a DVD filmed at the Isle Of Wight on May 9th, 2008 entitled Live At Ventnor Winter Gardens. In addition, the 130 minute, NTSC DVD features Gordon Giltrap interviewed in 2009. Each double and single CD is packed with loads of historical information, rare pics, press clippings and 2010 liner notes from Giltrap himself. All in all, from the early ‘80s releases to the 2008 concert DVD, these four CD sets offer a fascinating up close and personal look at one of England’s most underrated though, certainly most gifted guitarists.

/ FUTURE NOISE - Over in England, Future Noise and their subsidiary label, Fantastic Voyage continues plumbing the depths of the Ember Records catalog. Of course, Ember was a cool little U.K. based indie label started in the late ‘50s and during the early ‘60s and early ‘70s, they featured recordings from early geniuses like soundtrack king John Barry and even folk-rock stylists Chad & Jeremy. Chronicling a further inspection of the Ember catalog, in 2010 Fantastic Voyage released Looking Towards The Sky, subtitled Progressive Psychedelic And Folk Rock From The Ember Vaults 1969-1972. The most significant era of music in the 20th century, ‘69 to ‘72 was the heyday of classic rock and pop and, while many of the artists featured on the 16 track CD are pretty unknown especially outside the U.K., there’s still plenty of great psychedelic folk and rock sounds to enjoy here. Included on the 15 track Looking Towards The Sky CD are some pretty impressive tracks from groups with names like 9:30 Fly, Knocker Jungle and Blue Beard, along with somewhat bigger names like Blonde On Blonde, Back Street Band and more, including Paddy Macguire, supported here by heavy friends like Steve Winwood and folk rockers Fotheringay. Fantastic Voyage are actually planning a sequel to this first Looking Towards The Sky, to be released later in 2010. All in all, fans of high quality psych-pop and rock are well advised to hunt down this appealing package. Back in the ‘60s the sounds of those great British spy flicks and TV shows—from James Bond to shows like The Prisoner, The Saint and The Avengers—was everywhere. Having worked with John Barry early in his career, Ember Records was right there capturing the big beat of the great U.K. soundtrack masters, some of the best of which is remastered on the 2010 28 track Ember CD release of Big Sound: Ember Soundtracks & Themes. John Barry is just one of the legendary English soundtrack artists represented on this wide-ranging CD, which also includes instrumental soundtrack style sounds from lesser known, yet equally gifted artists like Edwin Astley Orchestra, Tony Crombie, Ronnie Howard Orchestra, Mark Wirtz Orchestra and much more. If you ever thrilled to the big screen sounds and productions from John Barry, you’re bound to catch a high off of this fine collection of classic ‘60s and early ‘70s U.K. soundtrack instrumentals. Back in the 1990’s, newly compiled CD collections of lounge music from the ‘50s and ‘60s was all the rage and not to be outdone—albeit a decade too late—Fantastic Voyage / Future Noise Music rise to the occasion with a stellar various artists collection called Happy Hour In The Ember Lounge. Subtitled Lounge Music From The Ember Vaults, the 22 track CD features a mix of ‘60s flavored instrumentals and vocal pop from early Ember signings like Mark Wirtz, Edwin Astley Orchestra, John Barry Seven with the instrumentals balanced by a touch of vocal pop and rock from singers including the great Chad & Jeremy. Of the two Chad & Jeremy tracks here, there’s even a cool Chad dominated instrumental called “Only For The Young.” Talk about ‘60s rarities! Packaged with an appealing digi-pak design and layout, the 22 track Happy Hour CD is just the thing to kick back with and enjoy on a sweltering hot summer day (or night too). Like usual, Fantastic Voyage / Future Noise Music pack up their Happy Hour collection with stellar artwork, colorful graphics and informative liner notes, in the case of Happy Hour by Lorne Murdoch. Close your eyes and you’d swear it was 1963 again!

- An audiophile label in England specializing in pop-jazz, classical and electronica, Linn has a number of great CDs and new hybrid super audio multichannel CD too. First up is a 2008 reissue of Perfect Alibi by singer-songwriter Claire Martin. Although released on CD in 2000, the album is one of Linn’s most popular titles and they dusted it off for this hybrid super audio CD, remastered for 5.1 audio. The CD sounds great and even though geared for audiophiles, the CD is also playable on a regular CD player. Most interesting fact here, beside the music is that the album was produced by SYN guitarist Paul Stacey who does a great job as usual on guitar, bass and keyboards. Also assisting are one time SYN drummer, his brother Jeremy Stacey along with other fine studio musicians. The album also features a guest appearance by the now late great singer John Martyn. One of the top jazz vocalists in England today, Ms. Martin’s forte is jazzy, pop covers evidenced here by some tasteful band covers of the Rascals’ ‘60s classic “How Can I Be Sure,” the Jimi Hendrix favorite, “Up From The Skies” and Al Kooper’s “More Than You’ll Ever Know.” Stacey’s production is on the money, filling up the sound stage with great backing, all in all making the CD a vital rediscovery. Ms. Martin has a number of her jazz-pop vocal CD releases available on Linn including her 2009 album A Modern Art, which is available as a dual layer SACD playable in both 5.1 and 2 channel (good old) stereo. Each of Ms. Martin’s Linn SACD / HDCD releases are superbly packaged and sound great while, in addition to their high end CD releases, the Linn label is also gearing up big time with a slew of download varieties including MP3, CD quality and a very high tech studio master quality download.

- Okay, here’s a strange name for a record company but at least their head and heart is in the right place. First off from Righteous 23 is a truly wild compilation CD called Jukebox At The Last Chance Saloon. Leave it to the England-based Righteous 23 to figure this one out. While the huge country & western singers of the ‘50s and ‘60s—guys like Hank Williams and Jim Reeves—took center stage in the country music world, there was always a slew of bad ass guitar pickers and grinners who were quite content to let their fingers do the talking so to speak and the 23 tracks on Jukebox At The Last Chance Saloon covers a lot of instrumental country style guitar ground indeed. Interestingly, the CD claims a certain web site was responsible for the music inspiration collected here and that web site is: That music blog, written by Nathan D. Gibson, that so inspired this instrumental collection, is filled with insights into the Starday Studio who were recording some of the best of Nashville’s instrumentalists back in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The liner notes of this Jukebox CD on the U.K. based Righteous label were superbly written by one Dave Henderson in 2010 and he leaves no stone unturned on this superb mix of instrumental American flavored country and western sounds. Most of these tracks and musicians will be unknown to listeners these days but even so, names like Eddie Eddings, Jackie Phelps, Herbie Remington and Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith laid down some mighty impressive instro licks and leads and deserve to be given a second lease on life and what better way than just by spinning this way cool collection of classic, home grown American instrumental country sounds.

- The Germans are a scary lot. The same country that brought you diabolical Nazi-ism and that single-handedly killed six millions Jews, including members of my own family, 60+ years ago, is also home to the ingenious minds behind so much of the technology involved in the recording process since the WWII days. One of the most musically conspicuous people in Europe, the Germans continue to be quite active in the reissue CD business and the Deutschland based Trikont have been issuing some pretty damn scary compilations of American music lately, including the 2010 CD release of Murder: Songs From The Dark Side Of The Soul. There’s no shortage of gloom and doom in music but this compilation seems to go out of its way to find more of it for you. Basically subtitled Murder Ballads In The U.S. And The Caribbean, the 23 track CD is filled with harrowing vintage tales of musical despair featuring a number of American blues and Americana musical giants including Sonny Boy Williamson, Billie Holiday, Memphis Minnie, Ethal Waters, Jimmie Rodgers and many more. Of course, for this writer, the main highlight here is a harrowing song called “Seven Skeletons Found In The Yard” from a fabulous singer from Trinidad called Lord Executor. Recorded in 1938, the song is truly a highlight here and, in my opinion, it’s also related to another favorite song of mine called “Money Is King”, a great Jim Pembroke ska cover recorded on his 1980 Flatbroke album. All the liner notes of Murder are in German, and English as well. The artwork—with graphic descriptions that point the finger at America’s long time fascination with guns and selling firearms—is pretty perspicuous. The sound, considering these are vintage, archival recordings from the ‘30s and ‘40s, is pretty impressive. Offspring of mein fuhrer, the Germans know a lot about murder and they deliver the goods on this amazing collection. Ditto for Trikont’s tribute to Gyspy Jazz guitar giant Django Reinhardt, who is feted on a 20 track 2010 CD on Trikont called Django’s Spirit: A Tribute To Django Reinhardt. Some big names appear here including jazz guitar great Bireli Lagrene, The David Reinhardt Trio and of course Django himself on the lead off track “Bouncin’ Around.” Filled with gypsy jazz stylings and a bunch of French vocal tracks, the CD was expertly compiled by Susie Reinhardt, who claims to be a distant relative of Django’s on her father’s side but the closest relative on a track here is trio leader David Reinhardt, who is actually said to be the grandson of the great Django. Thankfully Trikont have done another top job here, featuring both the German and English translations of the song info. A label on the rise, Trikont has a bunch of cool and superbly packaged CD compilations out that are each, in their own way, bound to pique the interest of globe spanning vintage music collectors far and wide.

VOCALION - Back in the 1960’s, the sights and sound of James Bond and those wacky Bond movies was everywhere—on the radio, the TV and the movies—especially in England, where the thing originated. Over in the U.K. Vocalion released a 25 track, two albums on one CD called The Bedside Bond, backed up by Number One Themes—featuring thirteen like minded Decca Records instrumental singles from the 1965-1979 era. The 12 track album comprising The Bedside Bond was originally released by Decca in 1966 in association with Penthouse magazine and features the ultra hip and glossy Ted Heath Orchestra as produced by James Economides along with arranger Des Champs. The result is some of the hippest Bond era instrumental themes from either side of the Atlantic. Filled with swooping strings and potent echo tinged brass, this 2010 CD marks the first ever release of the Bedside Bond album in stereo. Following the original twelve track Bedside Bond on the CD are another thirteen soundtrack style instrumentals, pitted with even more fuzzed out guitars and deep brass echo, that would fit right in with any episode of The Avengers or The Prisoner for that matter. Featuring a variety of British composers and musicians—including jazz composer Neil Ardley, The Syd Dale Orchestra, guitarist Rhet Stoller and more, these rare Decca singles offer a unique look at finest in soundtracks from England during the ‘60s and early / mid ‘70s. 2010 liner notes by OLiver Lomax—along with some cool mini graphics—puts the stamp of approval on Vocalion’s Bedside Bond CD.

WRASSE - Another essential Wrasse CD release, Moon On A Mirrorball is a timely look back at the career of singer-songwriter Judie Tzuke. The U.K. songstress burst onto the pop scene after she got signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records in the late ‘70s. With a number of album releases to her credit, Ms. Tzuke is well represented on her Wrasse compilation which also includes four new songs as well. With over twelve albums of music well represented—including releases on Rocket, Chrysalis, Columbia and Big Moon Records—the double CD set spans thirty plus years and skillfully underscores why Tzuke is considered to be among the most gifted pop artists in the U.K. The CD packaging of Moon On A Mirrorball is quite superb as well—complete with lyrics and liners—making it well worth the time to track down.

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