Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

JUNE 2010








20/20 MUSIC
- Gifted multi-instrumentalist and rock music conceptualist, Saul Zonana grew up a little from where I live now, in Bayside to be exact. Moving slightly upstate N.Y. to record a couple mini-masterpiece albums, especially 2007’s Love Over Money, Saul now lives in the good old red state capital of Nashville, “T” for Tennessee. After his underrated 2008 Blue Monkey album, Saul is back up to his old tricks with the 2010 eclectic pop-rock fare of his latest incarnation, Phatso. Saul always cites prog-rock wunderkind and current Nashville neighbor Adrian Belew as a musical hero and, as such fans of Belew’s eclectic Beatle-esque pop brews will dig the groovy, swinging sounds and easy on the ear hooks of Phatso. There’s even a touch of country on a Phatso track or two, making Saul officially one of Nashville’s hippest city slickers. Produced by Zonana, the twelve track Phatso features Zonana’s guitars, synths, vocals and songs backed up by some top session cats like Rob Arthur (keys), Gordon Kennedy (guitars), Teddy Kumpel (electric guitar, mando guitar) and Shawn Fichter (drums, percussion). When firing on all cylinders, as he is on Phatso, Saul Zonana is an effective pop-rock super-hero worth visiting with time and time again.

- Returning to the pop world after too many years, producer genius Don Dixon worked with singer-songwriter Sid Selvidge on the 2010 CD release of I Should Be Blue. Released on the Memphis based Archer Records, the twelve track CD features a mix of Sid’s breezy, easy on the ears rock and roll originals, joined together by Dixon’s legendary production skills and overall attention to sonic perfection. Recorded on magnetic tape at Music + Arts Studio in Memphis, I Should Be Blue features a range of top players enhancing Sid’s tracks, including Dixon himself on bass guitars, Steve Selvidge on electric guitars, backing vocals from Amy Speace and Paul “Snowflake” Taylor on drums. Amid the Selvidge originals are some well done covers, including warmly rendered covers of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” and Fred Neil’s evergreen “The Dolphins”—featuring both tracks delivered with an uncanny sense of musical devotion, warmth and intelligence. It’s been a while since Don Dixon produced those first three groundbreaking Marti Jones albums for A&M and with this release, it's gratifying to know Don hasn’t lost any of his aptitude for being able to help extract more recording greatness from clearly gifted pop artists such as Sid Selvidge.

- No matter what your color is, what your language is, your creed, your sex, whatever—the blues knows no borders or boundaries. Case in point is Free Blues, the 2010 CD from Brazilian blues guitarist / singer-songwriter Nuno Mindelis. While the 20th century blues rock phenomenon may have started with Clapton joining John Mayall back in the mid ‘60s, the sound just continues to grow into the 21st century. Who knew Brazil was a hot spot for blues-rock but Nuno proves the skeptics wrong with the twelve track Free Blues. Kicking off with the Rory Gallagher classic “Messin’ With The Kid,” Nuno goes from good to better to best on an album that mixes blues and rock classics from the pens of Rory Gallagher, George Harrison, B.B. King, Dave Mason and more while kicking in a few of his own songs. Both as a guitarist and singer, Nuno is sort of reminiscent of Clapton while his low key, understated and bluesy singing style is sort of a reminder of a modern J.J. Cale. The CD is great and with it’s mix of classic bluesy rock and tasteful guitar work, Free Blues will have you coming back for more. Some fine players assist Nuno but the spotlight is right on Nuno’s guitar and vocals. /

- Featuring a sizzling live combo cranking out a combustible mix of high octane soul, rock, R&B and even gospel based sounds, Live At The Ryman captures guitar slinger Jonny Lang live in Nashville during the summer of 2008. Commenting on his first live set, Lang adds, ‘I’ve wanted to do a live record for a long time, because I feel like our band is strongest in the live setting and an accurate reference for people who haven’t seen us yet.’ With his five piece band spotlighting top players like guitarist/vocalist Sonny Thompson and more, the CD is quite impressive and offers a pretty darn accurate appraisal of Lang’s compelling and electrifying, genre crossing rock and roll stage show.

DAE VAN MUSIC - Singer songwriter / guitarist Rebecca Rippy is currently being described as a seasoned, more mature sounding singer-songwriter in the spirit of Taylor Swift. We’ll, perhaps more introspective and less overtly image conscious than Taylor might be a more valid description. Anyway, there’s a pretty cool country style pop-rock groove in play on Rippy’s 2009 CD, her second solo release entitled Telling Stories. To help execute her sound, Ms. Rippy has enlisted support from a number of top players, including electric guitarist Douglas Barnhill and the album’s producer Jamie Hoover, who also picks up bass chores here. Renowned for his impeccable work in the band the Spongetones, Hoover is a bona fide musical hero with American pop fans, and clearly some of his studio savvy has apparently rubbed off on Rippy’s latest release. Even though it’s primarily built around a breezy sort of songwriter vibe, some of the tracks here—”I’m Leaving” and especially track eight, the way cool “Time”, which is very kind of Spongetones / Marti Jones inspired—picks up the pace and lets her music cut loose and rock out a bit more. All in all, Rippy’s Telling Stories is a fine choice for country rock / pop listeners. Extra credit here for the fine production work of Hoover and the exemplary CD design and packaging. Her next album, her third, will be a much anticipated release.

- Having worked with Ricky Martin and Sergio Mendes, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Debi Nova is making waves with the 2010 Decca Records CD release of Luna Nueva. A mix of Latin rhythms and Anglo pop smarts, the Luna Nueva album tastefully crosses over from World Beat style dance grooves to a more straight ahead pop as evidenced by, say on track two, “We Were Young.” Performing piano, guitar, bass and more, Ms. Nova combines a colorful hybrid pop sound that she often refers to as ‘Spanglish’ while adding, ‘The idea of singing in both English and Spanish on the album wasn’t planned. I found myself naturally blending the two because it’s something I do every day.’ Working with a range of high profile producers, Ms. Nova strikes a chord for World Beat pop with the colorful grooves on Luna Nueva. Another new diva recently signed and released on Decca, NYC singer-songwriter Nikki Yanofsky rises to the fore with her 2010 CD simply called Nikki. On the 13 track Nikki CD, Ms. Yanofsky serves up fresh versions of jazz classics from the pens of jazz giants including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Harold Arlen, while also blending in some original music, in addition to new covers of Feist, and even Jimmy Page & Robert Plant. Having already recorded a tribute to her main influence Ella Fitzgerald, Ms. Yanoksky doesn’t consider herself primarily a jazz singer adding, ‘I consider myself an ‘everything’ singer. Jazz is definitely my first love, but I also love to sing pop, R&B, blues, and everything else.’ Clearly, Yanofsky’s colorful approach to both jazz and pop comes into focus on the Decca Records CD release of Nikki. An artist who needs no introduction to fans of modern pop, Rufus Wainwright released All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, his 2010 Decca Records studio album. Usually a colorful figure known for his outrageous kind of broadway meets pop and rock approach, Rufus is in a pretty sobering mood for his latest release. A solo album in every sense of the word, Songs For Lulu was written and produced by Rufus and Pierre Marchand, who also mixed the album. Commenting on the fact that the album was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done, Rufus adds, ‘With this album, when the curtain is raised, it’s me on my own.’ Fans who catch the early pressings of the Songs For Lulu release will be amazed by the ultra cool black vinyl look of the CD pressing.

- One of the best releases from the vaults of the Minnesota based New Folk Records is a fitting compilation from the rock meets instrumental band Lehto & Wright entitled Between The Jigs And The Reels. Described in the CD liner notes as an all instrumental compilation featuring previously released and unreleased recordings, the twelve track set features some rocking electric guitar as well as acoustic guitar work from Steve Lehto with bass handled by his partner John Wright. The band smokes their way through a number of instrumental rock cuts recorded between 1999 and 2006 put together for this compilation. Although the vibe is almost Celtic rock in places, the group sounds somewhat inspired (at least to the ears of this writer) by Swedish folk fusion guitarist Kenny Håkansson, who worked with space music pioneer Bo Hansson. More mainstream influences here include U.K. rock bands like Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull, albeit in an instrumental kind of rock meets folk-jazz meets Celtic setting. The cover art is great while track by track credits provide some kind of backdrop to this most unusual instrumental collection. For an up to date check up on what Lehto & Wright are up to in 2010, take a listen to their latest, a double disc release called Children’s Songs, also released on New Folk. More rock than their instrumental collection on New Folk, the double CD/DVD set kicks off with a very rocking track called “Wasn’t That A Time” and the CD goes on to feature several cuts, including the 32 minute “Children’s Songs” title track. Recorded in Minnesota, the CD features guitarist Steve Lehto and bassist John Wright backed up in the studio bass with drummer Matt Jacobs. With Children’s Songs, L&W continues on with their modern approach to merging instrumental and vocal folk and rock. In fact one of the tracks here, “The Broomfield Hill” is borrowed from the version arranged by esteemed U.K. folk-jazzers Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick of Steeleye Span. Again, Tull is a good reference point in various places on this very hot mix of rock, and electrifying folk-rock guitar-centric sounds. As for the second half of this double set, the DVD half of Children’s Songs features a good mix of interview segments and live performance footage that makes for an up close and personal look at the unique sound of this instrumental / rock band. /

NUTONE MUSIC - There’s something childlike and innocent in the music of singer-songwriter Donna DeLory, who explores her sound and vision to the max on the 2009 CD release of Sanctuary. Inspired by her love of Indian and World Beat music—and specifically Sanskrit mantras and healing guru Joseph Campbell—for the 2009 release of Sanctuary, Ms. DeLory teams with some guest players including Bowie guitarist Gerry Leonard, drummer Dave Allen and many more. Truly mystical and ethereal in places, Sanctuary follows her recent releases The Sky Is Open and The Lover & The Beloved. For those just hearing her for the first time, you can file Donna DeLory’s music under spiritual / New Age vocal. DeLory rose to fame as a back-up singer and dancer for Madonna—from 1987 to 2006—and minus the material girl’s over-saturation of endless dance beats, DeLory’s voice even sounds a bit like Madonna too, though on record she's way more harmonious. Commenting on her music she claims, ‘Playing music is my yoga, it is my bliss.’ Finding the inner light through writing, singing and recording her own unique blend of spiritual / devotional music on the superbly recorded Sanctuary, Ms. DeLory is primed to stake out a unique place in the hearts and minds of adventurous music lovers worldwide. Check her out on the 2010 Lilith Fair tour.

- The Bee Gees are dormant and Paul McCartney doesn’t really write silly loves songs anymore, so why not lighten up with the new Air Supply album called Mumbo Jumbo. Still featuring early members Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, the fourteen cut CD is the first new album from Air Supply in eight years. In the nostalgic spirit of late period Bee Gees, the Mumbo Jumbo album kind of takes off in a kind of positive torch song / dance pop spirit that Air Supply are renowned for. Recorded at Graham Russell’s home studio in Utah, and mixed by one time Pink Floyd comrade Sean O’Dwyer, Mumbo Jumbo finds the roomy pop sound of Russell and Hitchcock backed up by a number of electric guitarists and a big drum sound, along with the keyboards of Russell and string arrangements of Frankie Moreno. Commenting on the impressive history of Air Supply, lead singer Russell Hitchcock adds, ‘We had twelve songs recorded for the album, which to me seemed like plenty, but Graham came to me with two more he wanted to record, and I had an equally positive reaction to those. When he said, okay, now we have everything we need, I knew instinctively that we had a finished project. We’ve been around nearly 40 years and are not only holding our own out there but firmly believe, with albums like Mumbo Jumbo, that our best days are still ahead of us.” Long time fans will dig it and those who missed it the first time around can catch up on the timeless big pop sound of Air Supply with the 2010 CD release of Mumbo Jumbo. The CD is quite well recorded and the packaging complete with imaginative CD booklet design.

- Syracuse, New York native Maura Kennedy steps into the pop spotlight with the release of her 2010 solo album Parade Of Echoes. The 13 cut CD captures all the warmth and excitement of her work with her band The Kennedys and then some. Handling all the vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, lead guitar solos, bass, drums and more (whew!), Maura gets some back up here and there by her partner in The Kennedys, Pete Kennedy, who adds guitars solos and drums on a few cuts here. Also on hand is drummer Tommy Allen, who plays on a couple tracks in addition to Rocky Roberts, who adds lap steel on a track too. The CD is really well packaged and the studio sound—featuring Maura producing and mixing—is top notch. Some of Parade Of Echoes might be categorized as folk-rock or even country and western but clearly with so many great pop hooks and impressive guitar solos at hand, this is a very notable pop-rock effort. Track two here “New Way To Live” would make a great single and is one of the catchiest, most upbeat tracks of the 21st century.

PYNOTIC - Although they haven’t released a lot of albums over the years, The Rubinoos nonetheless have cultivated kind of a grass roots fan base since ‘70s era recordings. I mean these guys were on The Dick Clark Show back in the ‘70s and had albums produced for them by Todd Rundgren and Kevin Gilbert! There was a 2007 3 CD set released entitled Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Rubinoos and following a Japanese double CD set and a 2009 Spain release called Hodge Podge, The Rubinoos are back with a new Stateside CD release that features all their quirky pop resolute on an album they've geared for younger fans too. In fact, I was thinking their new album reminded me kind of grown up version of The Archies even before I heard the CD closing cover of “Sugar Sugar”, the Archies’ standard from the early ‘70s! Still featuring founding Rubinoos members singer/guitarists Tommy Dunbar and Jon Rubin, 2010 release of Biff-Boff-Boing! covers a wealth of pop and feels moods—from ‘50s sock hop sounds to Brian Wilson’s colorful California flavored pop bent to a mid late ‘60s pop eclectic that yielded the formation of prefabricated pop sensations like The Archies and even The Monkees. The CD closing cover of the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” is great as is a cover of the John Entwistle classic with The Who, “Boris The Spider,” with The Rubinoos joined by singer Susie Davis. The Rubinoos are a pop wunderkind and as they prove on Biff-Boff-Boing! they can cover anything and everything and make it sound cool. The cover art of Biff-Boff-Boing! is a real hoot too, recharging the musical atmosphere with some of the excitement from back in the ‘60s, when the answer really was out there somewhere around the dial.

STARK RAVEN RECORDS - A legend of the American music scene, singer-songwriter and keyboardist Suzi Ragsdale earned a stellar reputation singing backup for almost everyone, including a ton of classic singer-songwriters like Tom Paxton, Randy Travis, Darrell Scott, rock twins Nelson, Hank Williams Jr. and more. At 5 she sang backup for country music superstar Ray Stevens on his amazing “Everything Is Beautiful” hit! Fans just tuning in to Suzi’s music can rejoice with the 2010 double CD release of Best Regards backed here with Less Of The Same. Some top players assist Suzi’s countrified rock and roll sound including pedal steel / slide guitar ace Dan Dugmore, Jerry McPherson (slide guitar), producer Tim Lauer (acoustic guitar, keyboards). Essentially two albums on two CDs combined in one superb and specially packaged release, Best Regards / Less Of The Same is a great introduction to Ms. Ragsdale’s, rocking yet countrified sound.

- With groups like The Who and the Kinks as musical signposts through the years, England has an illustrious pop past and one current U.K. group carrying on the spirit of the ‘60s is Spygenius. Having released Songs From The Devil’s Typist a couple years back, singer-songwriter Peter Watts and company make an even stronger showing with their 2010 CD Red Lounge. First off, that bizarre cover art looks just like my late great cat Rudy, that’s a big old Maine Coon cat for sure! Modern influences like XTC and Glenn Tilbrooke abound throughout the album and Watts sometimes comes across like young Ray Davies joining up with Crosby & Nash on a bunch of uptempo and moody mod rockers. The harmonies are great and a bunch of gifted backing musicians help Watts flesh out his Spygenius pop imagery. Whatever you think of this groovy pop-rock pastiche, at least you can say that it’s decidedly British!

JIM WOLF MUSIC - Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Jim Wolf strikes a blow for high quality pop-rock sounds in the 21st century with the 2010 CD release of Sleeping With Strangers. With Wolf singing his own tracks and playing guitar and synth, he gets further backing from a fine band of players including Rob Maresca on electric lead guitars. There’s a fine sonic sheen to Wolf’s tracks which includes his myriad of influences—from mid ‘70s Fleetwood Mac and ELO to Chicago and John Mayer—even though the whole is often more rewarding than just the sum of his parts. Commenting on bringing his big pop sound into the groove of the urban jungle of New York, Wolf adds, ‘Living in Brooklyn has been so incredibly amazing. I live in an artist community and everyone here is an artist. The people in this community have taught me how to be more of a risk taker and that’s really helped me grow as a musician.’ His label people say that Sleeping With Strangers is now set for release on August 17, 2010 so try to track it down as soon as you can.


BLUE CANOE RECORDS - Commenting in the liner for his 2010 CD release To Africa With Love, bass guitarist Joseph Patrick Moore states, ‘Music has no boundaries and cannot be separated by oceans, governments and principalities. Music has the power to uplift, connect, heal and create universal harmony for the human race.’ Performing electric/fretless/double bass, loops, beats, keys, pads, strings, synth bass, bells and acoustic guitars (whew!), Moore gets a ton of valuable help on his CD from top players like guitarist Brian Carl, Wayne Viar (drums), Tyrone Jackson (keyboards) and more. Recorded between June 2008 through it’s completion on February 11, 2010, To Africa With Love is a magical combination of Moore’s African musical inspirations with his own American music heritage. The original compositions, arrangements and production are offered as Moore’s own kind of personal audio diary of his musical and spiritual state of mind. Some of the tracks are vocals, featuring a kind of African/American influenced sound, while others offer a solid combination of cool jazzy instro fusion with worldly New Age vibes, case in point being the excellent sound and vision of track seven and eight respectively, “Stained Glass Aura” and “Bumpy Ride,” which sounds like Hank Marvin on safari! All in all—from the excellent CD sound and packaging—To Africa With Love is one musical expedition worth taking, plus you don’t have to leave your living room!

CRESCENT RECORDS - Oregon based acoustic guitar guy Don Latarski is what players usually refer to as a musician’s musician. Having shared stages with top players like Mason Williams, Bobby McFerrin and more, Latarski is also the head of guitar studies at the University of Oregon. I first heard Don’s unique approach to solo guitar work on his brilliant 2004 CD Fab 4 On 6, which, along with it’s subsequent volume two follow up is an acoustic guitar tribute to the music of The Beatles. Several more albums were released—including a 2006 trio CD called Rue D’Acoustic recorded with a trio Don worked with from 1993 to 2006—and then in 2010 got back in touch with Don, just in time for the review of his latest solo album entitled Acoustica Funkus. Kicking off with one of my favorite songs of all time—the jazz classic ”Watermelon Man”, written by genius jazzer Herbie Hancock—the ten track Acoustica Funkus is Don’s self-styled tribute to funk and bluegrass with a favorable nod to Motown. As a matter of fact, Don actually covers several other Herbie Hancock tracks here including “Cantaloupe Island” and “Chameleon.” Also covered here—along with several Latarski originals are Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, a Miles Davis favorite called “So What”, a Jose Feliciano track called “Affirmation” and last but not least a funky, solo acoustic take on the Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces,” a track heard everywhere back in the mid ‘70s. In lesser hands, this might not have worked as well but Latarski’s unique blend of acoustic stringed instruments bring out the inherent percussive natures of these tracks. With string bass performed by Mark Schneider, Acoustica Funkus features Don solo, in full flight performing Nashville-tuned guitar, octave guitar, baritone uke, Collings D1A acoustic guitar, 6 string banjo and classical guitar. All in all, Acoustica Funkus is a fine addition to Latarski’s already formidable repertoire and impeccable musical reputation.

- He may look like a man possessed on the front cover art, but the music inside features a range of beautiful and impeccably performed Spanish flavored classical guitar music. We’re talking about The Wild Romantic, the 2010 solo CD from Australian born / U.K. based classical guitar ace Roland Chadwick. Although the music sounds like it could have been written a hundred or two hundred years ago, in fact, Chadwick composed all the music here to fit the sound of the 2010 CD release. Over the course of his career, Chadwick has received praise from revered guitarists like John Renbourn and Tommy Emmanuel and, having recorded with legends like Steve Vai and famed Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow, Chadwick is clearly no new comer to the guitar world. He has a number of classical based guitar albums on his label and web site but for a glimpse into just how impeccable and masterful Chadwick is, solo on the nylon string guitar, look no further than the sublime sounds on the nine track release of The Wild Romantic.

- Progressive rock fans will remember the name Jeff Berlin thanks to his outstanding bass guitar work on the first solo albums by founding Yes drummer Bill Bruford. It’s been 30+ years since Berlin’s fantastic playing on Bruford’s Feels Good To Me but in the intervening years, Berlin continued on playing, teaching and recording and as his latest solo album points out, he’s still in great form. Far from the fusion frenzy on the late ‘70s Bruford group albums, High Standards finds the bass great in the company of top players including founding Metheny group drummer Danny Gottlieb and piano ace Richard Drexler. In a mellow mood, Berlin and his comrades reinvent standards from the great American songbook including classics from jazz legends like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. The ESP and musical chemistry of these players is pretty remarkable and overall, the instrumental CD sheds new light on Berlin’s fondness for reinterpreting these classic standards. Even in this mellow, traditional jazz setting, Berlin’s bass playing maintains a remarkable presence all its own and—here coupled with Gottlieb and Drexler—High Standards adds up to one of the most engaging examples of mainstream, modern jazz in recent memory.

- One of America’s most innovative guitar-centric acoustic and instrumental music labels, Minnesota based New Folk have a number of rewarding album releases in their catalog including a 2009 smooth jazz CD from Steve Miller Band guitarist Kenny Lee Lewis and a number of titles from guitar rockers Lehto & Wright—a group that specializes in eclectic instrumental and vocal guitar-centric rock and folk-jazz. Fitting in perfectly with the eclectic New Folk musical vision is guitarist Greg Herriges, whose latest CD is entitled Telluric Currents. On the fourteen cut CD, Herriges is primarily center stage with his acoustic guitar while receiving select support from Lehto & Wright’s John Wright (bass, guitar), Troy Berg (exotic percussion) and Indian vocals on three cuts from singer Pooja Goswami. With his album title described as natural electrical currents flowing beneath the earth’s surface, Herriges combines a number of musical currents—from Asia and the Middle East infused within the context of his North American roots—into one cohesive musical trip-tik that covers a vast of array of World Beat and folk-jazz influences. With the exception of the three vocals featuring Ms. Goswami, Telluric Currents is an exotic foray into the land of instrumental music, where boundaries are meaningless and anything and everything is possible. /

- Introduced to American ears as the guitarist in the early ‘70s Elton John band, during the period before Davey Johnstone took over, U.K. bred / California based guitarist Caleb Quaye is back with a great new album called Out Of The Blue. Most fans of the finest classic U.K. rock of the ‘70s have heard him play and perhaps my favorite Caleb Quaye guitar sound was featured on the great Kongos album by the brillliant and now Arizona-based South African singer-songwriter John Kongos, whose sons have a great new band called Kongos, by the way. Years after seemingly falling off the rock radar screen, Caleb is back with his new guitar based jazz-rock group called the Faculty and together they’ve done a smashing job on Out Of The Blue. Although Caleb’s background is rock, on this all instrumental set he sounds equally inspired by Pat Metheny, Carlos Santana, Dicky Betts, Stax guitar great Steve Cropper and Phil Upchurch. Clapton’s funky mid ‘70s sound is another signpost and even Clapton himself is admittedly a big Caleb fan. With his mastery of the electric guitar speaking for him, Caleb’s religious devotion rises to the surface on these sonically sublime instrumental arrangements. Out Of The Blue should have wide appeal with guitar lovers and jazz fusion fans.

NOWHERE QUEST RECORDS - The guitar-based instrumental rock art form is in fine form on the 2010 release of Door 15 by Little Muddy. Featuring the fine electric lead guitar work of Rich Goldstein—ably backed up here by Jeff Obee (bass) and Mark Abbott (drums)—Little Muddy incorporates both new music and covers of time honored classics from the pens of John Barry, Neil Diamond, Quincy Jones, Nino Rota and Don Black & Mark London, the latter two, the writers of the song classic “To Sir With Love”, one of the cool cover songs also featured on Door 15. Decked out with haunting cover art, the CD sounds great and the brilliant mix of covers and Little Muddy originals clearly makes it of interest to instrumental rock fans—spanning icons such as Hank Marvin & The Shadows to modern practitioners like Bill Frisell and others. Guitar fans can take a look and a listen to Door 15—and the other fine Little Muddy CDs available on silver disc CD, as well as available on downloads through iTunes—on the band’s well designed web site.

PETUNIA RECORDS - Having lived and worked as a guitarist, bandleader, sideman, composer and educator, NYC based Ethan Mann is making waves with his 2010 CD It’s All About A Groove. Featuring the trio of Mann on guitar, recording in the studio with veteran jazzers Albert “Chip” Crawford (piano and organ) and Greg Bandy (drums), the eleven cut CD puts together a winning cross section of instrumental guitar/organ jazz with more than a nod to giants like Jimmy Smith with Kenny Burrell and even Steve Cropper with Booker T. Funky grooves, sizzling improv and top playing. Mann covers a cross section of tracks here, including group originals and fresh takes on classics from Burt Bacharach, Michel Legrand and three unexpected covers from the pen of Thom Bell writing for the repertoire of ‘70s Philadelphia soul group The Stylistics. A good bet for fans of guitar giants like Montgomery, Burrell, Benson and Martino, Mann & company brings the sound of vintage instrumental mainstream jazz up into the here and now with the 2010 release of It’s All About A Groove.

- A guitarist on a mission, N.J. based Rich Tozzoli comes alive on the 2010 release of Rhythm Up. Featuring Tozzoli firing on all cylinders in the studio, the ten track Rhythm Up features Tozzoli on both electric lead and acoustic finger-style guitar tracks, getting primo backup from a number of players including a round of top drummers in Ray Levier and Shawn Pelton. Also kicking in fresh energy is engineer and album co-producer / drummer Vincent Miraglia. Tozzoli’s sound is clearly instrumental rock based fusion although several of the acoustic guitar flavored tracks are really atmospheric and the sonic grandeur of track seven “Palisades Parkway” is a definite keeper. Fans of stately guitar instrumentals from giants like Hank Marvin and Sandals fretboard genius John Blakeley should hunt this CD down. There’s also a good Steve Morse comparison knockin' around in there. With his nimble fretboard touch, Tozzoli’s calling card as a top guitarist, producer, mixer, composer and sound designer is no doubt shaped by his love of the fine guitars and vintage amps in abundance here. Decked out in fine digi-pak design, the CD sound is also enhanced by additional string arrangements by David Henry capped off by mastering at NYC’s fabled Sterling Sound. An amazing sounding, state of the art sounding instrumental jazz-rock fusion album that will blow you away, Rhythm Up yields some very positive musical results indeed. proudly presents Rich Tozzoli - Guitars Center Stage.

- Progressive rock fans will flip for the self-titled 2010 CD from composer / bass player Julie Slick. Slick has earned her reputation recording and performing in recent years along side top artists like Eddie Vedder, Stewart Copeland, Alice Cooper and Jon Anderson of Yes. In 2005, Ms. Slick and her brother, Eric Slick joined up with Adrian Belew’s power trio and have so far recorded three albums together. With a very cool assortment of instrumental prog flavored rock, jazz-rock fusion, avant garde and even World Beat influences, the fourteen cut Julie Slick has truly got something for progressive music lovers, across the board. Tastefully packaged and well recorded, the CD features a number of guest artists backing up Slick’s eclectic instrumental rock vision including King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, drummers Pat Mastelotto and Marco Minnemann—in addition to Slick’s brother Eric Slick on drums / keys—along with stick man Michael Bernier and guitarists André Cholmondeley and Jordan Del Rosario. There’s a solid ‘90s era Crimson-esque edge in Slick’s edgy, insto rock sound, and that fact, coupled with the superstar musicians here, makes Ms. Slick’s CD time well spent for progressive music lovers.

/ ROCKADILLO - In 2007, Finland’s vibraphone master Arttu Takalo released Dark.Dark.Dark to critcal acclaim and keeping on the dark side of the music he follows up in 2010 with his latest Rockadillo release The Truth In Dark Phrases. Arttu featured Finnish guitar ace Marzi Nyman on his ‘07 CD and likewise Marzi makes a showing again on a pair of tracks here, but dominating the guitar slot this time out is yet another genius guitarist from Finland, Mikko Kosonen. A number of players assist and one gets a feeling throughout that the mood is somber, especially when reflecting back on the November 2008 passing of Finland’s greatest rock instrumental composer / bass guitarist Pekka Pohjola. No doubt, Pekka would have liked Arttu’s 2010 CD and yet, it almost sounds like Arttu is paying a tribute to Pohjola’s groundbreaking influence on the Finnish sound from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Look no further for the Pohjola influence permeating the sound here than track two here, a somber, steady rock instrumental called “I Wish I Knew.” The influence of classic Finnish rock musicians such as Pekka Pohjola and Jukka Tolonen is legendary on the recent generations of Finnish musicians and suffice to say, from the international perspective of his fans in far away countries, with the release of The Truth In Dark Places, Arttu Takalo carries on the fascinating legacy of Finnish instrumental rock.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - With a massive catalog of great U.K. pop and rock spanning 40+ years, Angel Air takes the vault plunge and comes up with Do You Dream? U.K. Pop And Psychedelia 1965-1970. Culled from the Angel Air catalog, the 21 track CD fits in well with any number of great U.K. psych-pop vault trips released in recent years from fellow labels like Sunbeam, Cherry Red and also EMI’s great look back at '60s pop, the Insane Times comp from 2007. With so many great ‘60s pop classics to choose from, a few highlights on the Angel Air CD include new rediscoveries from the vaults of noted U.K. pop producer Mike Hurst including his ‘67 production of “Come On Babe” from Double Feature, “Number One” by Phillip Goodhand-Tait & The Stormsville Shakers, early music featuring Mick Ronson and his early group The Treacle and more. Other essential cuts taken from the Angel Air vaults include music from The Alan Bown, Freedom, Outer Limits, Family, Atomic Rooster, Phil Cordell, another Mick Ronson related track here with The Rats and much more. A fantastic overview of the extensive greatness of the Angel Air catalog—especially from a ‘60s perspective—Do You Dream? was expertly compiled by Stefan Granados and is capped off by some pretty bizarre cover art courtesy of Peter Lewis.

CONCORD MUSIC GROUP / FRANK SINATRA ENTERPRISES - A year after he made a most impressive showing on the Billboard and Cashbox pop charts with his brilliant ‘60s singles—”Strangers In The Night” and “That’s Life”—music icon Frank Sinatra teamed with the renowned early '60s Brazilian composer/guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim. The resulting Lp—simply entitled Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim—saw the chairman of the board in the studio, reinterpreting some of Jobim’s most sublime bossa nova standards. Although released on Frank’s own Reprise Records label back in 1967, the album was reissued in a completely new way in 2010 thanks to Frank’s latest record deal with the ever growing Concord Records. The twenty track 2010 Concord CD called Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim—The Complete Reprise Recordings features the original ten track ‘67 album along with seven songs from a planned, but never released, second Sinatra / Jobim album along with three unreleased tracks. As evidenced by this historic album, the recordings from January 30, 1967 through February 1, 1967 featured Sinatra in the company of producer Sonny Burke and string arranger / conductor Claus Ogerman and the rest of the orchestra including session guitar great Al Viola. Two years later, Sinatra and Jobim returned to Western Recorders for a second album set for release in the Fall of ‘69 but at the last minute, Sinatra decided to stop the release. Although the tracks from the second session were later released on the ‘71 Lp Sinatra & Company, Concord’s CD release of The Complete Reprise Recordings is the first time all the Sinatra / Jobim tracks have been compiled on one CD. The new mastering for the 2010 CD is excellent and period piece photos of Frank and Jobim, from the sessions are further underscored by in depth January 2010 liner notes from Stan “Underwood” Cornyn. /

EAGLE ENTERTAINMENT - Finally a Doors DVD that fans can be proud of, well almost. Eagle comes really close with the 2010 DVD release of When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors. A film by Tom DiCillo, with narration from genius actor Johnny Depp, When You’re Strange covers the Doors’ story with a myriad of true to life tales of America along with a subplot fantasy that really underscores the magic The Doors brought to rock music starting out in 1967. It’s an accepted fact that during the late ‘60s The Doors were the greatest and certainly the most innovative and challenging of all America’s rock bands, perhaps even more important than The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. Throughout this 96 minute DVD, there’s such a brilliant mix of Doors music—tailored with plenty of music video footage—that accompanies the various triumphs and tragedies that plagued Morrison’s haunted sociological / musical visions. Although he died in Paris at age 27, Morrison’s proved to be wise beyond his years, and fittingly, DiCillo’s movie impeccably captures the essence of Morrison’s tortured genius. Additionally, the DVD is very well packaged with a neat-o movie poster and a DVD booklet filled with color pics and succinct liner notes from DiCillo, Depp and exec producer Dick Wolf, who succinctly states here, ‘This film has been a labor of love for everybody involved. It’s the story a band, but it’s also an insight into a moment out of time that will never be repeated.’ In fact the only thing slightly wrong with this excellent film, at least from this writer’s opinion, is the balance of sound. At least as noticed while using the speakers on my wide screen DVD TV combo and also my Apple laptop with built in computer speakers, the narration from Depp is often lower than the music of The Doors that accompanies the movie and often follows the narration bits. Even in the touching bonus track interviews here featuring with Jim’s sister and father—his dad discussing this for the first time before his own passing is very moving indeed—when Jim’s father coughs slightly it's much louder than his spoken word parts. I don’t know if this sounds better in 5.1 or DTS, but in regular stereo sound when just using the built in speakers on the computer and TV is slightly irking. Amp it up a little more next time! Even so, Jim’s father, Admiral George C. Morrison—who passed away in 2008, nearly 30 years after his famous son—should be proud of the momentous songs and one of a kind contributions Jim Morrison and The Doors brought to rock and roll music all those years ago. Minor quibbles aside (I'll be using some add on speakers soon enough) the magic of the ‘60s is expertly brought to light one more time in this brilliant DVD expose on The Doors. / /

STAX RECORDS - The premier soul and R&B label in the world, Stax Records released a fabulous live album from the late, great soul music icon Otis Redding entitled Live On The Sunset Strip. Recorded live on April 9 and 10, 1966, the double CD set captures everything that was brilliant about Redding’s unbelievable ability to captivate an audience. Featuring three complete live sets, never available before, Live On Sunset features Redding in peak form backed by his hot band. Redding’s huge cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” was climbing the charts at that point so the live show captures him at the height of his popularity. The double CD set also features Otis rocking out on live versions of his all time biggest hits like “Respect,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Recorded live at the famous Whiskey A Go Go nightclub by famed engineer Wally Heider, the sound is brilliant, right there in your face. I can’t think of another live release with this music raw front and center energy. Redding would attain even greatest heights in the year that followed—including his huge hits “Dock Of The Bay” and “Try A Little Tenderness"—yet on December 10, 1967 he tragically perished in a plane crash. Although Stax released an Lp called, In Person At The Whiskey A Go Go, this first ever comprehensive release of those historic Whiskey A Go Go shows—Live On The Sunset Strip—offers the definitive sound of the immortal Otis Redding live in concert.

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