Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

MAY 2011








ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Fabled ‘60s rockers Badfinger were dealt a near fatal blow when it’s two founding members—Pete Ham and Tom Evan—passed away so young. Even so, Joey Molland soldiered on through various incarnations of Badfinger. One member working with Molland on various Badfinger projects, Mark Healey, released a great new power pop album that has been released in the U.K. on Angel Air Records and in the U.S. on New Folk Records. The nine track Inside Out features a fine Badfinger type pop rock sound and backing up Healey’s songs, vocals and bass guitar work are a number of players including guitarists Joey Molland, Austin Healey and Doug Orcutt. The cut throat nature of the music business aside, both Pete Ham and Tom Evan—may they rest in peace—would have loved Mark Healey’s 21st century pop masterpiece. Healey—having been active in music since the ‘60s—is no newcomer to the pop world and although it’s a long time in the making, the 2011 CD release of Inside Out should go far to well establishing Healey’s name among pop-rock fans world wide.

BUNNY RAE RECORDS - Kids today, and in fact, anyone under 40 years old, simply have no idea how big The Moody Blues were in the music world between 1965 and 1973. The second time I saw them perform live at Madison Square Garden in October 1973, they were peaking after their Seventh Sojourn album and, in fact when the Moodies burst on stage that night, they proceeded to play the entire first side of their late '69 To Our Children’s Children’s Children Lp, note perfect. Now, just about 30 years after the release of the first ever Moody Blues album without founding member and group visionary Mike Pinder at the helm, the original band, and the post-Pinder band, is paid a country music style tribute / covers album called Moody Bluegrass Two...Much Love. It seems what the Moody Blues turned into after they released that album in 1981 is still greatly loved in the heartland of America. Well, thankfully there’s no “Nights In White Satin” or “Question” or here, yet also there’s no “A Simple Game” or “Out And In” either. Instead, some of this sounds like Buck Owens, may he rest in peace, doing country style versions of some of the more commercial Moodies music. There’s even an 8 year old little girl singer doing a country music style edit of “Voices In The Sky.” There’s no doubt that there's some great musicianship on the CD, including faithful session work featuring the best pickers in Nashville, including cats like acoustic guitar maven Tim May and vocalists Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush and Larry Cordle. Despite these faithful covers of music written by Justin Hayward, the album does take a bit too many liberties with their cover of the Mike Pinder composed “Dawn Is A Feeling”. Despite being a fine singer, Peter Rowan really misses key notes on that track and he over accentuates the subtlety of Mike Pinder’s musical genius. Likewise, another Pinder cover here, “Have You Heard” is overdone and the vocal is way too accented and strained. It’s not bad and if you’ve never heard the song before, you might not know where the song came from in the first place. Isn’t that the modus operandi of the Moodies regarding our Pinder brother anyway? To disregard and rewrite rock history does not cut it with people who know the subject in the first place. To its credit, and to add to its authenticity, this 2011 Moody Bluegrass Two, “Much Love” CD does manage to feature appearances by Justin Hayward, John Lodge (taking the vocals on a fairly tasteful country-esque version of his own “Send Me No Wine”), Ray Thomas (adding flutes to his “Dear Diary”) and even Graeme Edge gets a spotlight with his latest mangled version of Mike Pinder’s ingenious keyboard / electronics drenched arrangement of “Higher And Higher.” The album credits list Mike Pinder on a couple tracks but you really can’t hear Mike, his tron or his vision, which kind of adds to the overall disappointment. What really needs to happen with the Moody Blues Today, in my humble opinion, is for Justin Hayward and John Lodge to bring back Mike Pinder’s songs and mellotron style in again and let his sons, The Pinder Brothers perform Mike's key songs from the catalog of the Moody Blues. Ultimately, they also need a producer, along the lines of the Classic 7 Moodies producer / genius Tony Clarke, who can try to recapture any of the original reasons that we’re even still talking about this.

- Although they’re world renowned for their incredible DVD releases, Eagle also has their Eagle Records imprint and they often release some pretty darn cool CD releases. Acclaimed for their many blues related albums and DVD titles from late great guitar greats like Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, Eagle turns their attention to the late great Ian Stewart with the 2011 release of Boogie For Stu. Recorded by keyboardist Ben Waters, Boogie For Stu pays respect to the late Ian Stewart—the piano great long associated with The Rolling Stones. Ostensibly a blues rock album, featuring fresh cover versions of classic rock and blues favorites, the eleven cut Boogie For Stu features numerous musicians who knew Ian Stewart, including Rolling Stones members like drummer icon Charlie Watts. A smokin’ cover here of Bob Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow” teams Waters with an all too rare reunion of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Ronnie Wood. Also lending a hand is legendary U.K. engineering genius Glyn Johns, who is credited here with mixing the CD. Blues For Stu also features other U.K. music greats including Jools Holland, singer P.J. Harvey, who is related to Waters, and many more. Extensive liner notes by Waters, full credits and fine cover art, pics and packaging makes Boogie For Stu an essential Eagle Rock CD classic for Rolling Stones fans. /

MINSTREL HALL MUSIC - Back in the late 1960s, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore blew many a mind with his early work on those now historic first Deep Purple albums. Years before “Smoke On The Water” became bigger than the National Anthem, Blackmore was blowing minds with early Purple covers of “Hush” and “River Deep Mountain High”. Steve Morse is the guitarist in Deep Purple and has been for the past two decades already but Blackmore continues amazing his millions of fans with his work in the Long Island based Blackmore’s Night. The best Blackmore’s Night album yet, Autumn Night is actually dedicated to the new child of Blackmore and his Blackmore’s Night partner Candice Night. Featuring support from a tight band, there’s plenty of Blackmore’s patented guitar work on the 15 track CD, yet the mood is much more progressive and poppy compared to the famous sonic assault of Deep Purple. Fans of great gothic prog bands like Jethro Tull or Gryphon will love Autumn Sky. Commenting on the making of the album, Ms. Night adds, ‘On the new record, which features many originals, I am not only the lyricist and lead vocalist, but I am playing all the Renaissance woodwinds, as well as a nine-piece woodwind ensemble that I recorded when I was nine months pregnant. Many of my lyrics for the songs on this release were inspired by legends, myths or fairy tales from the places Ritchie and I have visited and picked up the local folklore, such as “Vagabond,” which was inspired by the old story “The Little Match Girl”, by Hans Christian Andersen in 1845.’ The album kicks off with a beautiful mid ‘70s, Tull inspired track called “Highland” which perfectly sets the musical scene for the CD. Among the many fine original tracks is a Blackmore’s Night cover of the Kinks classic “Celluloid Heroes,” from the 1972 Kinks album Everybody’s In Showbiz. The song is developed and delivered with such emotion and panache that Blackmore’s Night truly makes the song their own. It’s now been 22 years since Ritchie Blackmore met Candice Night at a 1989 charity event featuring Deep Purple and after releasing eight albums and achieving worldwide acclaim, Blackmore’s Night truly hits their stride with the magically musical vibe of Autumn Sky. /

- If there is such a thing as “California Feeling” you can hear it on a much welcome 2011 album of the same name. The album California Feeling is credited to Stephen Kalinich & Friends and was superbly produced by Beach Boys associates Mark Linett, Alan Boyd and executive producer Carol Schofield. In case some young folks don’t know that name, back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s Kalinch was a renowned song writing partner of both Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. With his pedigree including lyricist to the stars back during the heyday of pop history, Kalinich, in more modern times is joined on the 23 track California Feeling album by West Coast pop icons including Brian Wilson’s ex-wife Marilyn Wilson (her group The Honeys), Wilson daughters Carnie & Wendy Wilson, Brian Wilson band member Probyn Gregory, famous U.K. producer David Courtney along with a host of esteemed singers and musicians taking part in this tribute to the words of Stephen Kalinich and the musical style of all these great artists. Despite being an L.A. native who wound up living in England, on his web page, Kalinich goes into detail about his famous poetry and song writing associations and his near obsession with that rare sunswept thing known as the “California Feeling.”


BLUES LION RECORDS - Kicking off with a track entitled “Voodoo Guitar”—taken from the 2010 CD release of Deep Down Blues—the 2011 CD release of Wings Of Fire presents the first ever album compilation showcasing some of the best works of New York guitarist Mark Cloutier. Subtitled the Blues Lion Collection, the 19 track CD draws on tracks culled from nearly ten of Cloutier albums that the guitarist has released over the past decade. A colorfully packaged and tastefully designed CD, Wings Of Fire presents Cloutier in a splendid light—a guitarist sounding clearly inspired by rock guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter as well as more traditional blues, R&B and jazz guitarists as diverse as Buddy Guy, Steve Cropper, Robin Trower and Kenny Burrell. In other words, Cloutier is a guitarist who’s not afraid to break through with a hard rock riff before moving on to jazzing things up when he has to. Case in point are the first three tracks on the Wings Of Fire CD. Both “Voodoo Guitar” and “Psychedelia Man” (tracks 1 and 3, both from the aforementioned Deep Down Blues) as well as the title track “Wings Of Fire” (track 2 here, from Cloutier’s album 6 Strings Of Passion) offers solid proof of Cloutier’s skillful and imaginative guitar style. All in all, Wings Of Fire offers a revealing introduction to Cloutier’s electrifying blues meets jazz meets rock guitar style of writing and recording. Of course the entire album is completely instrumental making Wings Of Fire a great choice for instro rock and blues fans who enjoy in-your-face, hard driving sounds as well as surf-rock and jazz guitar fans who like hard rocking, dynamic and filler free instrumental guitar music.

- While listening to the 2011 CD from composer David Chesky—entitled Urbanicity: Concerto For Electric Guitar & Orchestra I thought about those great soundtracks to the original Superman shows (the TV show with George Reeves). Divided into three distinct sections, the nine track CD is retro sounding with almost with a B&W, late ‘50s / early ‘60s vibe. Even so, in the liner notes of the CD, there’s a mention of rock guitarists recording with symphony orchestras, including Frank Zappa, Terje Rypdal and Glenn Branca. The spirit may be timeless but there’s plenty of guitar flecked, avant gard instrumental orchestral ravings on hand to make Chesky’s Urbanicity album pertinent to 21st century music listeners. For the centerpiece of his huge orchestra meets rock guitar opus—the 3 part “Guitar Concerto”—Chesky enlisted guitarist Bryan Baker. Case in point is the CD’s track 4, “Movement I”, the lead off part of the Concerto, which features Baker’s searing electric guitar flaming with orchestra. Commenting on the pairing of the orchestra with electric guitar, Chesky adds, ‘My feeling is, we live in a contemporary age and we need to treat the electric guitar just like a violin. It’s part of our vocabulary today. And for the orchestra world to survive, it needs to be contemporary and reflect the world around it.’ Although he grew up around Latin music, rock, jazz, hip hop and the great classical composers, Chesky’s orchestral symphonic sound is also greatly influenced by living in New York, which he states is ‘one of the most electrifying cities on the planet, surrounded by the sights and sounds of people from all over the world.’ Although Zappa, Rypdal and even Edgard Varese took the orchestra deep into the world of the avant gard in the past, clearly Chesky is carrying on that great tradition of breaking down musical walls today.

DALLAS RECORDS - Okay here’s a much welcomed 2011 CD release by Croatian guitar ace Nebo Buhin on a company that interestingly goes by the name Dallas Records. Back in 1985, as the owner of Breakthru’ Records I released a fantastic album here in the U.S. called Traffic by Swedish guitar legend Janne Schaffer. Filled with driving melodic rock instrumentals, Traffic reminds me a little of the new Nebo Six String Diary album. Nebo’s 2007 CD Guitar Language was a hit for guitar fans yet Six String Diary is even better. What better way than to prove that guitar instrumental music is truly the world’s best and most powerful communication device, then by listening to this album. Nebo gets solid support throughout the ten track CD from his band. Another interesting thing here is that drums are recorded by Mike Gage in, you guessed it...Dallas, Texas! So that’s where the Dallas connection comes in. Mike’s drumming is fantastic and well recorded and serves as a fine counterweight to Nebo’s guitar work. Also on hand here is American guitar hero Greg Koch who also guests on a track. Even with a CD closing cover of Eric Clapton’s “Behind The Sun,” there’s a fine Euro-centric kind of vibe in play here—more Janne Schaffer (and Jan Akkerman for that matter) than Hank Marvin, although Hank’s timeless influence and guitar DNA is never far behind. With Six String Theory Nebo Buhin’s refined jazz-rock sensibilities spring to life on an album that imparts some impressive sonic innovations to the world of 21st century guitar instrumental music.

DECCA LABEL GROUP / EMARCY - A finely tuned instrumental jazz album filled with a wealth of inventive guitar stylings, Gladwell, by guitarist Julian Lage is a top choice for jazz buffs and guitar fans who just love the guitar too. Lage, who fronts his own Julian Lage Group, has abundant guitar chops but instead chooses to set an atmospheric jazzy club type setting, backing up his dynamic fretboard approach on both acoustic and arch top jazz guitars with tasteful but not overbearing drums / percussion and occasional sax. That sense of understated dynamic in Lage’s music can perhaps be attributable to his time recording and touring with jazz master Gary Burton. Recording in Boston, the album not only portrays Lage as both a composer and rising guitar stylist, but it also shows an artist who is devoted to the evolution of the guitar as an instrumental art form all it’s own. In other words, on Gladwell, guitar-wise, the medium is the message.

- New Age pioneer David Arkenstone has been at the vanguard of instrumental electronic music for decades now and in 2011 the widely praised electronic music genius released what some are calling his best album yet. Released on the label of Japanese New Age kingpin, Kitaro, the double CD Domo Records release of Ambient World covers a wide range of instrumental music that quite skillfully combines New Age, electronica and a new and intriguing blend of ambient mood music. Commenting on the sprawling double CD Ambient World set, Arkenstone adds, ‘The more I worked on the pieces, the more I was aware that the music was heavily influenced by my recent trip to Japan. It all seems sort of surreal now, and I think my ‘paintings’ allow me to travel back to the special place in my memory and it makes me look forward to when I can visit again.’ Interestingly, the Ambient World titles are listed on the back cover of the CD in both English and Japanese. While the Japanese musical influence isn’t totally obvious in the sound, there’s plenty of meditative soundscapes, many with a strong pulse or electronic beat, that should make Ambient World a hit with both Arkenstone fans and fans of Domo owner Kitaro—himself a widely praised e-music genius who pioneered a kindred brand of New Age synthesized instrumental sounds back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

- Over the years has featured the music of Canadian guitar rockers The Falcons on both and in 20th century guitar magazine before that mag closed down in January 2009. The mag may be dead but is still cookin’ and I’m happy to say The Falcons are back in 2011 with a great new album of instrumental rock called Atomic Guitar. Nothing atom splitting here, just 41 minutes of solid, toe-tapping instro guitar fun in the spirit of early Shadows and late period Ventures. There’s a hint of Steve Morse on some of the more rocking tracks but otherwise Atomic Guitar is a fine tribute to a kinder, gentler period in guitar history. Lead guitarist Mike Beddoes gets solid backup from his band mates and he’s also composed a fine range of instrumental guitar tracks to hang his hat on. Liner notes from Jolly John Tanner and a fine CD closing cover of the 1959 Santo & Johnny chestnut “Sleep Walk” seals the deal on what will surely be regarded as being one of the best instro rock guitar albums of 2011.

- Described by listeners and critics as being one of America’s most innovative and eclectic classical guitar virtuosos, Seattle based Michael Nicolella hits his stride with the 2011 CD release of Ten Years Passed. Sort of a sonic reflection of changes we’ve all experienced over the past ten years, the 2010 recording features Nicolella adaptations of guitar music from the pen of a number of modern composers—including Nicolella himself—while the CD closes with an unusual yet elegant instrumental neoclassical cover of the Lennon & McCartney chestnut “Yesterday”—arranged by Toru Takemitsu and played solo by Nicolella on solo electric guitar. Other highlights include the nearly 13 minute title track—a lush, sinuous sonic amalgamation featuring Nicolella’s electric guitar teamed with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra. Whether showcasing his impeccable classical guitar skills or displaying his electric guitar sounds as backed up by a full symphonic orchestra, Michael Nicolella deserves a listen by both classical guitar devotees as well as adventurous progressive rock music fans.

- Upstate New York guitarist Doug Munro is a veritable legend among jazz guitarists. Recording for the Chase Music Group label back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Doug is back in 2011 with Alone But Not Alone Vol.1 released on his own Got Music Records. A true instrumental solo guitar album filled with ten tracks, the CD is basically a recording of spiritual songs including seven original tracks and three classic Munro covers of the famous spirituals “People Get Ready,” “Amazing Grace” and “Down By The Riverside.” Munro’s track by track liner notes below each song quotes either a biblical verse or lyric fragment for the listener to reflect upon while listening to the instrumental music. Munro further adds, ‘All the music here was performed live in the studio with no overdubs. I used a ‘loop station’ to create the multiple parts. The listener experiences the entire process.’ In lesser hands, this could have been difficult, but Munro’s playing is flawless throughout and despite being a one man performance, there’s plenty of great music and superb guitar playing to make the album a praiseworthy musical experience.

- The worm turns so to speak on Return Of The Worm, the 2011 album from Florida based guitarist Todd Grubbs. Grubbs hinted at great things for the guitar on his 2008 album, Time, Space And The Electric and he puts it together again on Return Of The Worm. On that ‘08 album Todd featured keyboardist Derek Sherinian, and likewise on 2011 CD release he gets support from key players like Jeff Henry (drums) and Alan Tatum (bass). Citing his own performance here on guitar, mandolin, loops, keys and bass, Grubbs details each track here with his own liner notes. Maybe it is pretty low key by his own standards—some of this makes you think of instrumental Neil Young type rock—but there’s enough depth and energy to make it time worth listening.

- Back in the ‘70s, the Musea label had some wild French instrumental art rock bands like Wappasou on their roster and, believe it or not, they keep the CD alive with the 2010 album from Swedish instro rockers Nevärlläjf called Klusterfloristen. Okay, now that’s a mouthful of Euro-talk but let’s cut right to the chase. Nevärlläjf are a gifted bunch of jazz rockers from Sweden. This is guitar fusion but as played by younger artists in the 21st century. Underscoring the fact that this sound emanated from that part of the world back in the 1970s and to a lesser degree the ‘60s, the Nevärlläjf sound here is really a tribute to far-out, instrumental art-rock fusion groups like Soft Machine (with guitarist Alan Holdsworth) and even Sweden’s Samla Mammas Manna (with guitarist Coste Apetrea.) A solid band that also boasts a hard driving rhythm section and keyboard sound, the Nevärlläjf sound is very structured around the (sometimes) dueling twin electric guitars of Daniel Björklund and Martin Olsson. So even if you can’t pronounce their names, relax, you don’t have to. Instrumental rock is still the international language. www.Nevärllä

NONESUCH RECORDS - Founded by Jac Holzman, the Nonesuch label is an venerable institution among American music labels. Nonesuch Records continues on in the 21st century breaking ground for both pop, rock and jazz. Jazz is the order of the day on the 2011 CD release of the self-titled James Farm CD. Featuring a collaborative jazz band, the all instrumental James Farm CD features the collective talents of Joshua Redman (sax), Matt Penman (bass), Eric Harland (drums) and Aaron Parks (piano). Produced by James Farm, the ten track CD sounds ostensibly like a traditional jazz album in the spirit of classic ‘60s Coltrane but if you listen further, you’ll discover there’s also something quite modern in play in the grooves. Commenting on the album Matt Penman accurately states that the CD combines, ‘A love of jazz, a fascination with song and structure, an obsession with groove, and a receptivity to contemporary influences.’ On their self-titled debut CD, James Farm combines classic jazz influences with modern musical vibrations and in the process comes up with something quite unique and musically satisfying.

- No matter how badly man keeps polluting the earth and it’s oceans, artists, scientists, dreamers and, well just regular people keep romanticizing about the beautiful, mysterious oceans of planet Earth. One such artist, Michael Brant DeMaria has been widely acclaimed for his Grammy nominated album, appropriately entitled Ocean. Definitely falling into instrumental New Age electronica—also known as the music as meditation genre—Ocean features Michael performing on Native American flute, piano, synthesizers and a wide range of World Beat percussion instruments such as African djembe and Middle Eastern doumbek. With his sound, known as integrative psychotherapeutic music and also healing music, Dr. Michael Brant DeMaria’s music is quite exotic sounding. Even so, because Ocean is grounded in the New Age style, the music is extremely meditative and near hypnotic. Ocean is perfect for late night / early morning sojourns into the land of healing New Age musical magic.

- Turkish guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu continues to break new ground for the guitar as an artisan’s tool with Black Falcon—his 2010 collaboration album with sound artist Ros Bandt, famous for her work on a long neck instrument called the Tarhu. Thanks to his earlier acclaimed releases—including his recent CD with Swedish composer Per Boysen entitled Sub City 2064—Erdem has built up quite a stellar reputation among music listeners who appreciate challenging avant gard guitar music. On the 2011 CD release of Black Falcon, Erdem redefines the role of the electric guitar—performing the guitar within the context of a challenging mix of new music, ambient electronics, electro-acoustic soundtrack music and more. Ms. Bandt is the perfect collaborator for Erdem’s wide screen musical palate and for fans of this kind of music, Black Falcon is an album to listen to over and over again.

- Based down in North Carolina, The Man From Ravcon is headed up by guitarist Mike Brown, who is essentially The Man From Ravcon. Although ostensibly an instrumental surf-rock band, TMFR evolved out of The Ravelers, who were known for their subtle mix of instrumental psychedelic, folk-tinged pop. Starting with the January, 2010 CD debut from The Man From Ravcon, entitled Zombie Pimp Cowboys From Outer Space!, Brown and company have excelled at conjuring up a number of instrumental surf-rock influences—from Italian film composer Ennio Morricone, to funk / soundtrack wizard Isaac Hayes to a better known sound evoking more well established instrumental rock legends like Duane Eddy, The Shadows, John Barry and more recently Finnish surf rockers Laika & The Cosmonauts. Morricone’s instro legacy is praised on a cover of “Once Upon A Time In The West”—track ten on the eleven cut 2011 release of Everything Is Golden by The Man From Ravcon. Even wearing his instrumental rock influences on his sleeve, Brown remains committed to further delivering his instrumental rock music with even a more progressive rock slant and in fact such an album is in the works as we speak.

- A much respected guitarist, composer and producer based in NYC, Ron Jackson has cut a wide range of albums over the past couple decades. Jackson is renowned for tastefully blending his love of rock, R&B, World Beat, jazz, funk and even classical. Subsequently, there aren't many styles of music that Jackson hasn’t covered on record. Moving forward on his esteemed musical legacy, Jackson also released a 2011 CD from his side project, entitled Burning Gums. I guess the title fits in well with the young lady on the cover of the Burning Gums CD art, who looks like she’s about to bite into a red hot chili pepper. In contrast, the music on the Burning Gums CD is quite cool actually with Jackson’s smooth jazz instrumental sound and vision getting suitable backing from Norbert Marius (bass) and Matus Hiroyuki (drums). All types of jazz guitar lovers will completely dig this record which covers a wide range of styles and sounds—from smooth jazz to soul-jazz to Brazilian style jazz samba. Even with so many instrumental guitar-based moves on hand, the key here is the groove that Jackson and company brings to the forefront on this thoroughly enjoyable instrumental jazz-rock fusion CD. Coinciding with the release of his 2011 CD with Burning Gums, NYC guitar hero Ron Jackson also has a companion 2011 CD rerelease of his 2009 album, Flubby Dubby. Featuring a Hammond organ inspired group, produced by Jackson mentor Melvin Sparks, the CD was recorded at a live Jackson date from West Orange, N.J. with the guitarist featuring the core trio of Jackson, Kyle Koeler (organ) and Otis Brown III (drums), along with a smoking horn section. Flubby Dubby is real electrifying, uptown instrumental guitar fusion. After six albums to his credit, both of these CDs accurately portrays Jackson as a vital fretboard force in the world of 21st century jazz-rock. /

- Nashville guitarist Steve Wariner continues turning heads and ears around with his 2011 album Guitar Laboratory. Released on his SelecTone Records label, the CD is filled with great country flavored guitar instrumentals that evokes the guitar greatness of legends like Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler, while the lead off cut is a track that Les Paul would have loved. With the title coming from his friend’s remark that he seemed like a ‘mad scientist’ holed up in his studio, Wariner combines his various guitar styles and genre dabblings to great effect on Guitar Laboratory. Commenting on the album, Steve adds, ‘What I wound up trying to do was not only demonstrate the different styles that I can play, but also the different kinds of music that I love.’ Steve plays just about everything on the album and there’s even some fine drumming and percussion to make it sound like a full band. Despite covering so much ground all over the guitar instrumental sound, Guitar Laboratory comes across as a quite cohesive album that never fails to amaze, spin after spin. Hats off to Chet, Les, Mark Knopfler and George Harrison, but also hats off to Steve Wariner too. Welcome to “Twangri-La” indeed.

- Back in the 1990s I started collecting movie soundtracks and off the wall guitar instrumental music from India where’s there’s a huge market for instrumental sitar / guitar sounds. In the past few years, Turkey has emerged as a new hot spot for guitar music and case in point is a 2009 album from Hayvanlar Alemi, a band from Turkey led by guitarist Özüm Itez. Although Turkey is known for its exotic musics and also a fondness of American jazz, the sound here is quite exotic guitar music in the spirit of The Ventures and Link Wray, perhaps produced by Joe Meek. Who would have known? Guitarist Itez gets a solid beat from drummer Isik Sarihan, and there’s that definite influence from Indian music in some of the guitar scales implemented but the sound is so modern it sounds more like it could be applied to a spy/surf type of James Bond action movie from Turkey. This is the kind of guitar music Jimi Hendrix would liked. Great studio sound and excellent CD booklet provides atmospheric color art work and pics along with detailed track data. You wouldn’t get this much from those wacky Bollywood style CDs.

VENETO WEST - Leave it to Guitar Player mag’s head guitar guru Barry Cleveland to discover and turn the readers on to a 2009 CD from guitarist Bill Forth called Adamantine. Of course this is right where Cleveland himself started back in the ‘80s, with his early albums on Larry Fast’s Jem Records distributed label called Audion. Calling Bill Forth a “guitarist” would be like calling Robert Fripp a guitarist. Both are well schooled in transforming the guitar from a typically plucked or picked rock or classical instrument into some kind of alien art form depicted in an old Star Trek episode. Forth really takes it out there on his seven cut all instrumental Adamantine album. As Barry noted, Forth has musical pedigree thanks to his association with Robert Fripp and his Guitar Craft community. That said, Forth’s album sounds more like Brian Eno while, one of the highlights—the 32 minute long “Mourning Doves”—features the violin work of Jeff Gauthier. King Crimson followers will also note that, in addition to Forth’s stealth guitar work, Adamantine also features contributions from KC drummer Pat Mastelotto on a pair of tracks as well as some tasty keyboard playing from Ronan Chris Murphy. Forth puts the album history into perspective with his insightful liner notes.


CAPITOL RECORDS - American rock icon Leon Russell had a bunch of reissues on Capitol’s sub label The Right Stuff back in the mid ‘90s and Capitol makes good on a new best of compilation from the fabled rock legend called The Best Of Leon Russell. In addition to featuring a number of classic rock favorites, the 16 track, 2011 CD also brings Leon’s latest adventures into focus, including a track from his 2010 album with Elton John, The Union. From that album “If It Wasn’t For Bad” proves Leon still has that classic rock sound down to a tee. Going back to George Harrison’s famous concerts for Bangladesh, the CD closes out with Leon's all time signature cover track of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash / Youngblood” live from George's historic Madison Square Garden concert. In between is a fine sampling of classics from Leon's early to mid ‘70s Shelter Records catalog. No liner notes, just some cool pics, stately artwork and those new inclusions here with Elton and George, but you better believe, this CD proves Leon Russell still kicks ass.

EAGLE RECORDS - An album classic reissued by Eagle in 2011 on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and vinyl, Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour is simply one of the great live albums of the 1970s. When listening to this 1974 live album from the late great blues master, you get the feeling that from a live perspective—what Irish Tour is to the blues-rock world, the Who classic Live At Leeds is to hard rock. Simply stated, Irish Tour is just that well recorded and dynamic an album. The Irish Tour CD is encased by an attractive slip case that also unfolds as an impressive ad for Rory’s extensive CD repertoire on Eagle Records. Coinciding with the CD and vinyl L.P. reissue of Irish Tour is the DVD of the Irish Tour—an original movie produced by England’s great filmmaker Tony Palmer, who followed Gallagher around Ireland, as the audiences went wild night after night. Essential bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray includes the Irish television network (RTE) half-hour documentary “Rory Gallagher: Music Makers” as well as bonus home movie footage of Rory’s ‘74 Japanese tour. Sixteen years after his passing, Rory Gallagher remains as vital as ever to the blues-rock world. Speaking of key reissues on Eagle, in 2011 Eagle Records reintroduces Time Traders by Peter Green Splinter Group. Founder of Fleetwood Mac and the real genius behind the Fleetwood Mac concept, Green released Time Traders back in 2001 and the album features a bluesy mix featuring Green’s vocals and guitars backed up by band mates Nigel Watson (guitars, vocals), Roger Cotton (keyboards), Pete Stroud (bass) and Larry Tolfree (drums). A bunch of side players appear including U.K. guitar hero Snowy White. Eagle also has a reintroduction / reissue of a 2000 album from late great Canadian guitarist / songwriter Jeff Healey called Get Me Some, released by The Jeff Healey Band. A mix of hard hitting blues and rock, the thirteen track album features Healey’s signature lap steel guitar sound backed up by Tom Stephen (drums), Joe Rockman (bass) and a variety of players. /

PAST & PRESENT / FORCED EXPOSURE - Based up in the Boston area, Forced Exposure continues to serve the music world well bringing in some great CD imports from the U.K. Case in point is a 2010 CD release from the Past & Present label, who continue knocking out pop music fans with their Piccadilly Sunshine series including the 2011 release of Piccadilly Sunshine Part Five: British Pop Psych And Other Flavours 1966-1969. Back in the late ‘60s, 1966-1969, The Beatles and The Moody Blues were the pioneering musical forces in both the pop / rock world as well as the burgeoning progressive rock world, which would burst open fully formed by September 1969. You can readily here that concept in play here on this various artists CD of the Piccadilly Sunshine series. This 5th installment of Piccadilly Sunshine is one of the best yet. These artists are for the most part unknown (the lone exception for me was tracks by the better known Ian Whitcomb and Wayne Fontana) yet the quality is pretty impressive throughout the CD, especially starting with track six here—a 1968 cut called “In Too Deep” by someone called Jago Simms. As usual, Past & Present packs their 20 track, 2010 CD release with impeccable liner notes and detailed photos chronicling each of these singles as they first appeared on 45 rpm in England way back when.

- Ever since the passing of the late, great Maurice Gibb in 2003, the band he started with his brothers Robin Gibb and Barry GibbThe Bee Gees have been almost dormant regarding recording new music. Sad to say, but it’s true nevertheless. In honor of the historic music of the BeeGees, Reprise Records, through the auspices of Rhino Records, released a comprehensive 2010 box set of classic Bee Gees entitled Mythology: The 50th Anniversary Collection. The kicker here is that the four CD set devotes a CD each to each brother—Maurice, Barry and Robin as well as younger brother Andy Gibb, who tragically died in 1988. Commenting on the Mythology box set Barry Gibb adds, ‘These are pretty much our personal favorites,’ with Robin Gibb adding, ‘I always see our songs as just us brothers having a good time. When I look back now, it is more about the journey, not the arrival.’ Featuring all the big hits and select, though lesser known album cuts—including a pair of unreleased Maurice Gibb tracks—the 81 track, four CD box set features an impressive, built-in CD book spotlighting photos galore and written tribute remembrances from the BeeGees family and surviving members, as well as notable Bee Gees fans like Beatles producer George Martin, Brian Wilson, Elton John, Graham Nash and many more including long time Bee Gee’s manager Robert Stigwood. From their early Beatles inspired psychedelic years, through the late ‘70s disco years, through their impressive comebacks in the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond, Mythology collects the best of the Bee Gees and much more.

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