Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

MAY 2012








- Kids today have no idea what a big deal Bob Dylan was in the early, middle and late ‘60s. To music fans who came of age in the 1960s, Robert Zimmerman wrote the soundtrack to our lives. From the stark, early ‘60s visions of the early JFK-era folk music and civil rights, to the raging mid ‘60s anti-war period and then psychedelic folk rock and finally the invention of country rock, Bob Dylan paved the way. By the time Bob released New Morning in early 1970, the dream was over and the corporations had all but taken over the American music world. Of course, Dylan fans will tell you all the past six decades have yielded classic Bob, but as this 4 CD tribute points out, it will be Bob’s music as done by The Byrds, The Band and Jimi Hendrix that will be the stuff written about in the history books. The four CD, 75 track set Chimes Of Freedom celebrates 50 years of Dylan as interpreted by a collection of more than 80 artists including Pete Townshend, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Sting, Seal & Jeff Beck, Carly Simon, Adele, Natasha Bedingfield, Sinead O’Connor, and a whole lot more and even Bob Dylan himself appears with a set closing version of the title track—the original from 1964 being the final track on CD 4. It’s a ton of new Dylan versions as done by legends and newcomers alike but, even with some fitting liner notes, there’s no track numbers on the packaging as to know who’s doing what. (The track number are on the CDs themselves.) Bob Dylan, The Band, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix is a hard act to follow but hey, Amnesty International does a good job so pick it up for that reason alone.

- Over in Manchester, England the group known as Amplifier are making waves with their 2011 double CD set entitled The Octopus. Featuring the music and guitar work of vocalist Sel Balamir, the group is fleshed out with the contributions of Neil Mahony (bass) and Matt Brobin (drums). The place where progressive rock meets hard rock and even some metal type sounds is where you’ll find Amplifier. True to form, the 16 track CD set spans over two CDs and covers a wealth of musical styles. Prog fans who like late ‘70s Pink Floyd will like this as will fans of groups like Motorhead. The CD sounds great thanks to some imaginative mastering by pop hero Jon Astley and in addition the CD is creatively packaged with several inserts and a bunch of tiny octopus stickers. For a better idea who they are check out the spooky looking Amplifier web site.

- Sometime after Procol Harum released Broken Barricades, founding guitarist Robin Trower left the fold and for what turned out to be temporary (he returned in 1991) but his replacement was guitarist Dave Ball. Although Dave only appeared on one Procol Harum album—the late 1971 release of Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, he would be replaced by Mick Grabham, who would record the remaining 1970’s albums with Procol. It’s unbelievable but after 40 years, Dave Ball is back with a recently finished 2012 CD called Don’t Forget Your Alligator. Featuring Dave and his brother Denny Ball, the 14 track CD was recorded over a five year period and features a cross-section of bluesy, rock based singer-songwriter tracks along with Dave’s patented Trower like approach to progressive blues and rock guitar stylings. The songs range too and as such should appeal to fans of Procol Harum and Trower fans too. Ball fans looking for insight into his early ‘70s, post-Procol work with the group Bedlam are advised to track down a 2012 CD released by Angel Air entitled In Command 1973. Recorded live at Command studios in London in October 1973, the CD features the Ball brothers with drummer Cozy Powell and singer Frank Aiello who lay down a live in the studio set of hard rocking songs with Dave’s guitar front and center.

BLACK BROWN AND WHITE - Released in late 2011, Looking Up Feeling Down features guitarist Paul Wassif in the company of fine players such as the late Bert Jansch and Cream co-founder Eric Clapton. Stylistically, with a mix of bluesy rock and melodic tear-jerker ballads, Wassif is kinda like Clapton in some ways and, both as a singer-songwriter and a guitarist, (note the excellent slide work on “I Missed It All") he can certainly hold his own. For the most part, Wassif is joined by a core band including drummer Robin Clayton among others. Interestingly, several tracks here are even historically relevant, with Clapton and Jansch playing together on track three, a real tear-jerker called “Please Don’t Leave.” With an album of standout tracks, for the most part, Wassif’s CD should appeal to post-Cream Clapton fans.

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - One of the brightest and best of the American indy record labels, Cleopatra has a comeback album from veteran funk-rock master Sly Stone entitled I’m Back! Family & Friends. Inserting a few new for 2011 tracks, the 14 track album basically centers around new versions of Sly’s classic music from the heyday of his band Sly & The Family Stone. Although approaching 70 in 2013, Sly and his band sound really kinetic on these excellent remakes. In addition, the CD features guest slots from rock icons Ray Manzarek (from The Doors), Ann Wilson (from Heart), guitar hero Jeff Beck and many others. Even with these star artists fitting in, the focus is Sly’s vocals and songs, which remain ever vital five decades later. Sly was at the forefront of bringing soul and funk into the American Top 40 FM radio scene during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and, as these songs indicate, he was truly a soul-rock pioneer. Hat’s off to Cleopatra head Brian Perera as the sound of the CD is very good and even better is the amazing CD packaging with its multi-fold panels and eye-popping color scheme.

DAMAGED GOODS - The irrepressible Angela Penhaligon goes by the stage name of Piney Gir. Her 13 track 2011 CD, Geronimo! released on the U.K. based Damaged Goods label creates a toe-tapping, kind of 21st century Phil Spector meets the Bangles style country pop set against a solid beat, also lending the music the aura of classic U.K. style mid ‘60s pop. On that level Piney Gir succeeds while overall, her album will appeal to fans of Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello and even those country style pop fans who wonder what Patsy Cline might sound like if she was alive in 2012.

DORIS MUSIC - The band known as Doris is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Paul Adelstein backed up by a number of unknown yet gifted players. Interesting that some of the tracks sound inspired by the L.A. rock sound of Brian Wilson, while others take off in a more harder rocking and sometimes even more theatrical manner sounding inspired by Robbie Robertson and The Band. Back in 2005 Doris released Between You And Me and in 2012 they follow suit with All The Details. Recording All The Details in L.A., Adelstein deftly tackles keyboards and Hammond B-3 and some guitar while he’s really backed up to the max by a number of guitarists, mellotron players and drummers. Second generation 21st century L.A. pop at it’s finest, All The Details is well served by that ultimate of all kitsch CD cover / artwork concepts.

FIRE RECORDS - One of the great pop comebacks of 2012, the ten track Hymns reunites the group known as Cardinal. Featuring singer-songwriters Richard Davies and Eric Matthews, Cardinal was described early on as “orch-pop”, mixing Beatles, BeeGees and other baroque rock influences with a post-punk rock sophistication. It’s been 18 years since the 1994 release of the self-titled Cardinal album and amazingly, after years of recording as solo artists, Hymns sounds like Davies and Matthews haven’t missed a beat. Davies wrote many of the tracks with Matthews putting on his producer / arranger hat and the results are an uncanny though satisfying mix of sophisticated 1960’s era Beatles style pop for 21st century ears.

GLITTERHOUSE RECORDS - Over in Germany, Glitterhouse is making waves with the 2012 CD from singer-songwriter Penelope Houston. Her latest CD, On Market Street is a far cry from the early ‘80s sound of her early San Francisco punk-rock band The Avengers. Overall, On Market Street is the work of a mature artist, filled with a dark, disturbing mix of rock, folk and cabaret style of music explored in the late ‘70s by artists, for instance, such as John Cale. For On Market Street, Ms. Houston is joined by notable players including co-producer Jeffery Wood, long time guitarist Pat Johnson and more. Rock for the 21st century, On Market Street is filled with a solid mix of memorable sounds.

INTERSCOPE RECORDS - Pop icon Madonna pushes past her disco roots on what can almost be deemed a pop masterpiece—the 2012 CD release of MDNA. Perhaps Madonna is in our DNA at this point. Mixing pop smarts with a white hot club beat, MDNA delivers both hypnotic dance grooves and lush melodic etchings. Pop fans who thrilled to the late ‘90s release of Ray Of Light will find much to applaud on MDNA. Ray Of Light producer William Orbit receives credits here along with a wide range of producers and musicians. One of the coolest tracks on MDNA—“I’m A Sinner” is among the great Madonna / William Orbit productions and is enhanced by electrifying percussion and drums from Alan Tilston and backup vocals from the song’s co-composer Jean Baptiste. Every track on MDNA sets itself apart from every other track here, making for a very unique listening experience. With MDNA, Madonna truly arrives with a 21st century modern pop music masterpiece.

- New Age music and the Grammys make strange bedfellows and case in point is the singer-songwriter known as Henta Ellis, mostly known as Henta. In the 52nd Grammy Awards in January 31, 2010, Henta was nominated in a category with legends like that year’s winner David Darling, as well as Kitaro and some other classic New Age heroes. I remember some New Age guru almost besmirching Henta’s innocence. Turned out, Henta sounding like Enya’s fairy god mother from a more rooted musical galaxy was very impressive indeed. That Henta sound so succinctly captured in the Grammy nominated Laserium For The Soul is carried forward on the 2012 release of Butterfly Song. Bursting out of a musical cocoon, the 12 track Butterly Song CD should appeal to fans of other female singers like Enya and Buffy St. Marie. There’s even a great CD closing instrumental called “Whisper” Some of Henta’s friends appear including Northwest guitarist / singer-songwriter Ethan Matthews but the accent here is on Henta’s songs and voice and her superb keyboard / electronic accompaniment.

- Based out in Michigan, JAM Records is owned and operated by pop maverick Jeremy, who records prolifically under his own name as well as releasing a slew of trendy sounding pop albums on JAM. Jeremy’s latest pop creation features him as a member of a band of ‘60s music mavens called The Lemon Clocks. On the 13 track Now Is The Time Jeremy’s guitar work is in full flight reverberating throughout this retro-sounding album that sounds like a 21st century version of Pink Floyd meets Traffic meets Pretty Things. Supporting Jeremy’s guitar and vocals is Stefan Johansson (guitar / drums / keyboards) and Todd Borsch (bass / guitar) All in all, Now Is The Time is essential listening for ‘60s psych-pop enthusiasts and the album doesn’t disappoint. While The Lemon Clocks satisfy Jeremy’s pop penchant, fans of his progressive instrumental leanings will want to give a listen to his other new album for 2012 entitled Guitar Heaven. With its sublime approach to acoustic instrumental guitar sounds, the CD release will be of interest to fans of big name guitarists like Steve Hackett, Gordon Giltrap, Leo Kottke and beyond. Either way, prog or pop, Jeremy has it covered on these two inviting CD releases.

- One of the great ambient pop albums of 2011, Here Is Where We Used To Sing, makes a fine introduction to the music of the group known as Fovea Hex. One person raving about Fovea Hex is Brian Eno, who adds his performance on a track here. All very Eno-esque, Fovea Hex features the ethereal sonic vocals, keyboards and music of Clodagh Simonds with additional electronic keyboard treatments by Michael Begg. The CD, featuring a mix of eight songs and three short instrumentals, is amazingly packaged with some really out there artwork, but it’s really for the music that ambient music lovers will want to hear this. A bunch of artists appear in supporting roles. Sort of gloom and doom type stuff specializing in mesmerizing drone sounds, Fovea Hex is somewhat reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column (sans guitars) and other far out artists from England, while Ms. Simonds sounds like Kate Bush from another world. In addition to the full length CD, Janet Records is also making another bonus CD available, entitled Three Beams, that features remixes of three tracks. Lush sounding, otherworldly music from another dimension are just another couple ways to describe the music of Fovea Hex.

- A founding member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, country rock legend and banjo picker extraordinaire John McEuen returns with The McEuen Sessions on long time jazz-rock label Mesa / Blue Moon—a label started by in the ‘80s by ex-Jem Records exec Jim Snowden. McEuen is joined by two of his sons, Jonathan McEuen and Nathan McEuen on an album that tastefully combines country pop with a real generation spanning kind of Americana vibe. In his liner notes, John reflects back on his unique combination of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Beatles (the McCartney influence in play on “Love Word” presented here with two different versions) and various influences from long time McEuen cohort Dave Mason as evidenced here by a fresh McEuen cover of Mason’s 1970 post-Traffic rave-up “Only You Know And I Know”. Further commenting on The McEuen Sessions, the elder McEuen adds, ‘The album is a culmination of my sons’ influences that come from everything from Phish to Johnny Cash to The Beatles to The Band. Then, throw into the mix their having had a dad who’s been in a band for 45 years, and what that meant growing up.’

- Another fine CD from this post punk, R.E.M. inspired band, Sundrunk Angels is the 2012 CD from Old Californio. While listening you might recall the sound of The Grateful Dead circa the first New Riders album. The songs are great and sometimes combine ‘60s pop influences into the more rootsy tracks. Some music critics have been comparing Old Californio to bands like The Jayhawks and The Eagles as well, yet OC retains a real post modern sheen that carries the Americana rock sound deeper into the 21st century.

- Going strong since the late 1980’s (seems like a lifetime ago), the U.K. group known as IONA returned strong with their double CD set entitled Another Realm. The double CD set was released in 2011 and features a strong set of tracks featuring group vocalist Joanne Hogg, guitarist / keyboardist and producer Dave Bainbridge and much more. For those unfamiliar with their brand of sophisticated prog-pop, IONA sounds quite influenced by the early ‘70s sound of Annie Haslam’s Renaissance. The tracks stick in your head while the production and recording sound of Another Realm is first rate. The artwork and CD packaging really enhances the overall listening experience while Ms. Hogg’s voice is a really heavenly experience. A number of IONA members have also recorded solo albums including Dave Bainbridge, whose 2004 solo album Veil Of Gossamer features his own performance on more than twelve instruments.

- These songs are in their blood so it’s quite fitting that the children of Brian Wilson and John Phillips—the group known as Wilson-Phillips sing the songs of the ‘60s on Dedicated. Although the album sticks to the hits, there’s a finely honed pop vibe in play on the 12 track CD. Commenting, Carnie Wilson adds, ‘The basic arrangements and rhythms are really true, but vocally we’ve added some new twists and tag endings.’ With Carnie supported by sister Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, the CD features performances by a number of backing musicians, including a vocal performance from Owen Elliot—daughter of the late, great Cass Elliot, to which Carnie Wilson adds, ‘She’s been my best friend for 25 years. I know this is a Wilson Phillips album, but in honor of Cass, we wanted her to be part of it. We were literally all bawling hysterically every time we did a take, because she sounds so much like her mother that it came out beyond the beyond!’ Produced by Rob Bonfiglio, Dedicated is a welcome, 21st century addition to the ongoing saga of classic West Coast pop.

- One of the top labels in the US when it comes to releasing rocking blues based albums, Vizztone has a winner on their hands with Inside Out, the latest CD from The Phantom Blues Band. With their mix of bluesy rock, and the occasional instrumental added in, Phantom Blues Band features some top notch players including keyboard / organ legend Mike Finnigan, who’s joined on the 13 track CD by top players like Johnny Lee Schell (guitars), Larry Fulcher (bass), Darrell Leonard (sax), Joe Sublett (trumpets), Tony Braunagle (drums) with some high profile guest artists too. With all band members adding vocals and backing vocals, the music of Phantom Blues Band superbly evokes the spirit of classic ‘70s roots-rock bands like The Band, Little Feat and more. With its no holds barred, rocking down the house effect in full flight, fans of The Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Leon Russell and Elton John would dig this album.

- Carrying on the tradition of the old school Chicago Blues style made famous by blues legends such as blues giant Muddy Waters, guitarist / vocalist Bob Margolin strikes gold with the 2011 CD release of Steady Rollin’. Featuring Bob with The Mike Sponza Band, the 12 track Steady Rollin’ (subtitled Blues Around The World) includes a number of rocking blues based tracks co-written by Bob and fellow guitarist Mike Sponza, who also co-produced the album. Also included in the mix are hard-hitting covers of the classic blues tracks, “Love In Vain” and a rousing “Rollin’ And Tumblin’”, the latter a track made famous by Cream and also given a rousing Margolin workout here. The electric guitar work by Margolin and Sponza is on fire while additional support from a solid band of support players keeps the blues rock action at a fever pitch. The Steady Rollin’ CD is well recorded and features fine packaging including informative liner notes from both Bob Margolin and Mike Sponza.

- Back in the 1960’s crooners like Tony Bennett, Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra made some solid inroads on the pop charts especially during the Beatles era, when quality music ruled the day. One artist in 2012 who pays homage to that great ‘63-69 era of the 20th century is singer-guitarist Frank D’Rone, caught in full flight on his 2012 album from Whaling City Sound entitled Double Exposure. Arranged and conducted by Phil Kelly, the 11 track CD features D’Rone breathing new life into a number of classic, near vintage pop standards, from the Great American Songbook, that really sounds like it was recorded in the ‘60s. With its Creed Taylor like wide screen scope, the CD features D’Rone stretching out in the studio backed by a wide range of players including trumpets, trombones, saxes, piano, percussion, EFX, drums and fretless bass. Like a newly created flashback to a vintage Sinatra album from 1962, D’Rone works musical magic on Double Exposure. Oh yeah, Frank's new CD also features back cover notes from Tony Bennett himself.

- Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Woodstock (the town) was a big deal. Home to Dylan and The Band back when, in 2012 the town is also home to a fine record label, Woodstock Records. Released on CD by Woodstock in 2012, 17 Pine Avenue is yet another fine set from hippie rock heroes New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Still featuring key members David Nelson and long time NRPS pedal steel ace Buddy Cage, the album also features key contributions from Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski. Contributing to the new songs is Nelson song writing partner and long time Grateful Dead icon Robert Hunter. Guesting here is Professor Louie. Many of these tracks pick right up from that classic “psychedelic Americana” period on that first NRPS album with Jerry Garcia from 1971. On 17 Pine Avenue, the New Riders keep their freak flag flying high on an album that further honors their heritage.


ABSTRACT LOGIX - Who ever says jazz-fusion is passé should give a listen to U.K. drumming ace Gary Husband. Gary is keeping the entire instro fusion art form alive and well on his two CD releases entitled Dirty & Beautiful. The first volume of Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 blew many a jazz-rockers mind and likewise, the same is being said about Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2, released in late 2011 on the Abstract Logix label. Like volume 1, released in 2010, this second volume finds Gary in the studio recording with jazz-rock giants including guitarists Ray Russell, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Jimmy Herring, Robin Trower as well as keyboard icon Jan Hammer and many more. The sound is cutting edge yet it harkens back to that fabled late ‘70s period when jazz fusion was at its zenith. Much more than a dedicated musician keeping an art form alive, Dirty & Beautiful makes for a great jazz-rock experience for true believers and newcomers to the time honored genre.

AMD RECORDS - Guitar fans who caught up with Irish guitar ace Austin Durack and his 2009 CD entitled A Guitar Journey will be happy to see and hear Austin’s 2012 CD Drops Of Jazz. Although meditative and guitar based, the 15 track CD is just that—a jazz mix of instrumental and vocal based jazzy guitar tracks that all serve to underscore Austin’s deft touch on acoustic guitar. On A Guitar Journey, Austin mixed his original tracks with a number of covers and likewise, Drops Of Jazz mixes both Durack originals with covers, including some unusual choices like a haunting solo guitar instrumental of the Bob Dylan classic “Blind Willie McTell”, George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Austin’s impressive reworking of an A.C. Jobim favorite, here entitled “Callin’ Ipanema.” Despite being a fine composer in his own right, Austin states in his liner notes that Drops Of Jazz is ‘more about my arrangements of standard tunes.’ Several players assist, including jazz singer Judy O’Connor, who sings up a storm on the lead off title track, but clearly the focus of Drops Of Jazz is on Austin’s wide depth of experience as a jazz stylist and guitar virtuoso.

- Cosmic space music is nothing new yet in the right hands it still packs a solid, convincing musical punch. Fans of the genre should have a listen to the latest CD from multi-instrumentalist Robert Burger and his musical entity called The Gak Omek. Released in 2011, the Gak Omek CD (just try and pronounce it!) Nonrenormalizability will take your mind far and wide and you don’t even have to leave your living room! Some astute listeners have compared Burger and The Gak Omek to U.K. space music masters Ozric Tentacles and there’s a little bit of a late ‘70s Mike Oldfield / Phillip Glass vibe in play, but even so, there’s plenty here to separate The Gak Omek from the Ozrics. Open your mind and your ears will follow. Turn on to The Gak Omek.

- The German jazz label Inakukstik has a fine 2 hour live concert DVD from jazz fusion guitar ace Al DiMeola. Captured live in 2009 at the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco, Morocco Fantasia features the Return To Forever guitar ace joined by a number of musicians including Peo Alfonsi (on second guitar) as well as Peter Kasza on drums and a number of local Moroccan musicians. Bonus features include excerpts from the rehearsals from the sound check and Al performing a session while visiting a bazaar and a photo gallery. Liner notes from DiMeola describing the concert event is featured in a colorful booklet complete with full credits and band pics.

- Joining Squeeze as their bass player in 1979, John Bentley has played on classic Squeeze albums as well as appearing as a side man with a number of classic rock acts. Little is known of it but John has a couple a great impressionistic sounding rock-pop instrumental albums that borrow from a number of genres like soundtrack music, light jazz and even reggae and a surf-flecked, Hank Marvin style guitar sound. Featuring Bentley playing electric upright bass, double bass, acoustic guitar, drums, keyboards and percussion, Mind Your Head is enhanced by a fine performance by guitarist Duncan McKenzie who adds in National steel, acoustic and electric guitars. McKenzie also appears on a track on Bentley’s nearly completely self-played 2006 album The Man Who Never Was. Mind YOur Head is much more guitar-centric but they’re both worth a listening for those instro heads.

- Recorded in 2011, Shapes is an engaging instrumental jazz set from NYC based guitarist Nils Weinhold. On the eight track Shapes Nils is joined by a range of players including Adam Larson (sax), Fabian Almazan (keyboards), Luques Curtis (bass) and Bastian Weinhold (drums). Although it’s Weinhold’s debut album, Shapes sounds like the recorded work of a mature jazz guitar man. Having studied with some of the jazz greats, including Phil Markowitz and Dave Liebman, Weinhold steps out in style on his own with the thoroughly satisfying, contemporary jazz groove of Shapes.

OKTAF MUSIC - New age instrumental music guru and pianist extraordinaire, Harold Budd is an icon among ambient music enthusiasts. Budd’s recordings with Brian Eno is still the stuff of electronic ambient music legends and fittingly, in 2012, a number of younger artists have joined together to pay homage to Harold on a 13 track, various artists tribute album called Lost In The Humming Air - Music Inspired By Harold Budd. Released on the German-based Oktaf Music & Art Label, the CD is filled with the same spirit Budd originally set out to craft throughout his prolific repertoire of New Age inspired electronic instrumental music, before, during and after Eno. Although many of the younger artists paying their tributes here to Budd are unknown, their kindred spirit is unmistakable. The 2012 CD release is superbly mastered and overall it captures the essence of Budd’s importance and significance in the ambient music world. In addition to the hypnotic sonic soundtrack within, the CD artwork is also very Budd influenced while liner notes from two the key artists taking part here—Martin Juhls and Rafael Anton Irisarri—paints a fitting picture of Budd’s importance among today’s ambient music enthusiasts.

ROLLER RECORDS - Over in Germany, Roller Records is releasing some interesting CDs by Norwegian guitarist Berdon Kirksaether. A guitar player on the rise, Berdon’s 2010 CD Ray Of Light is an intriguing, New Age type affair filled with relaxing instrumental sounds. Too laid back to be considered jazz, the 12 track, 37 minute CD just kind of floats along and makes a great soundtrack to some late night, imaginary type of fantasy. The other side of Berdon’s guitar styles can be heard on his late 2011 CD, simply entitled Blues. The 12 track, 48 minute CD is a rocking affair, featuring Berdon’s electric guitar and vocals backed up by his group The Twang Bar Kings. Sounding kind of influenced by Dire Straits and even ZZ Top, Blues makes an interesting contrast especially when compared to the instrumental New Age vibe of Berdon’s 2010 Ray Of Light CD.

SUNNYSIDE RECORDS - Guitar fans who caught up with Joel Harrison during his 2005 Harrison On Harrison tribute to the Beatles guitarist, will equally appreciate his 2012 CD entitled Search by the Joel Harrison 7. Backed up by a mini jazz orchestra, including strings and horns, Harrison’s specialty is deeply rooted orchestrated chamber jazz that at times echoes various recordings by guitarists such as John Scofield and Bill Frisell, yet Harrison carries on the jazz fusion maestro mantle with his own unique guitar sound. Originally planned as a showcase for bringing Harrison’s classical music influence into jazz, Search took on a life of its own and, amid the impressionistic neo-jazz fusion there’s even a jazzy / rocky kind of out there, with that style taken to the extreme on Harrison’s instrumental version of “Whipping Post”—originally a track on the 1969 Allman Brothers Band debut album. There’s also a cover of classical avant gardist Oliver Messiaen while the title track was co-composed by Joel Harrison 7 keyboardist Gary Versce. All in all, Search is one of the most adventurous, guitar-centric jazz fusion albums of the year. Commenting on working with the NYC based Sunnyside label, Harrison adds, ‘Sunnyside is putting out some of the best jazz music in the world right now. Their taste is similar to mine: progressive. They are good with artists who "fit between the cracks" stylistically like me. I just met them by being in New York. Francois knows what's happening in town. You see him and Bret at a lot of shows’. After seeking out Search, Harrison watchers will also want to give a listen to his previous Sunnyside Records release—a neo-classical jazz guitar meets strings tribute to jazz drumming legend Paul Motian, by the Joel Harrison String Choir, appropriately entitled The Music Of Paul Motian.

TELARC - Classical guitar master David Russell continues making great CDs of his recordings with the 2012 release of The Grandeur Of The Baroque. The 21 track CD was released in early 2012 and features Russell covering a number of classical masters including J.S. Bach, George Frederic Handel, François Couperin and lutist Silvius Leopold Weiss. Produced by María Jesus Rodríguez, The Grandeur Of The Baroque was recorded at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and, thanks in part to the superb sonic mastering by Paul Blackmore, the CD maintains a high level of sonic superiority. Commenting on the album Russell explains, ‘I have chosen a group of pieces from the Baroque period by composers that have meant much to me over the years. All of them have brought me great pleasure both in the enjoyment of studying and playing their music and also in listening to their great works being performed by others. I hope that you enjoy the recording as much as I have enjoyed playing this wonderful music.’ In depth liner notes and a number of color pics enhance the listening experience of David Russell’s tribute to four of the most celebrated and renowned Baroque masters for the guitar.

- An innovative power jazz trio featuring Scott Hamill (guitars), James Day (keyboards) and Christopher Brown (drums), Random Touch reach a new zenith with their 2011 double CD set, Tributary. The sprawling two disc set mixes jazz, avant gard with a wild futuristic sound. It’s amazing to witness the degree to which they guys can improvise. This isn’t some retro jazz sound as Random Touch mix their jazz side with fresh inspirations, while drawing on key influences such as King Crimson, Weather Report and 20th century avant gardists like Wendy Carlos, Fred Frith and Morton Subotnick. Influenced by Phil Manzanera and Bill Frisell, guitarist Scott Hamill has a guitar pedigree going back to the 1970’s, while keyboardist Day cites Giorgio Ligeti’s soundtrack work in 2001 as another sonic signpost to live up to. After some serious listening, you realize that on their 15th album, Random Touch aren’t traditional anything and they clearly break new musical ground on this double CD masterwerk.

- One of the best European electronic music labels, Ultimate continue onward with an amazing instrumental CD from Solar Fields entitled Until We Meet The Sky. reviewed the first Solar Fields album—Origin #1—back in 2011 and likewise, the 79 minute, 2012 Solar Fields release Until We Meet The Sky is equally beguiling and hypnotic. Once again Solar Fields is helmed by Swedish e-music maestro Magnus Birgersson who edges forward with a fine performance on guitars, bass and all manners of scintillating electronics. Kick in the fine studio wizardry from from Ultimae founder Vincent Villuis, and you come away with one of the most amazing albums of instrumental, Euro-based electronic of the 21st century. Check it out for the music, but the packaging is also truly a sight to behold so, while it is available as a download, so serious electronic music buffs should consider investing in the actual CD release. A slightly different, yet equally intriguing release on Ultimae—Greenosphy is a collection of electronic collected by Swiss activist / DJ Cyril Miserez (aka mizoo). The February 2012 CD release features nearly 80 minutes of music from various artists from around the world, including Solar Fields (Sweden), mnnsk (Switzerland), Rildrim (Spain), Liquid Stranger (USA) and many more. Mizoo works electronic music magic on yet another amazing Ultimae CD release filled with deep ambient grooves and what he describes as being ‘fresh chlorophyll visions, leafy rhythms and luxuriant melodies.’ Not quite as hard hitting or intense as a complete album from Solar Fields, Greenosophy is a most meditative and illuminating sonic treatise indeed.

- The trend of beautiful, Euro-based guitar-based instrumental pop and rock started by Hank B. Marvin and The Shadows back in 1958 continues on, 55 years later. Of course, Hank had his influences too, like Duane Eddy and Cliff Gallup to mention but two, yet in a lot of ways, Hank was and still is the man. Case in point is a 2011 CD from Hungarian guitar ace László Üveges entitled Dalaim II. There’s plenty of superbly executed and sonically pleasing instrumental guitar tracks on Üveges’ CD and even though the track titles are all printed in Hungarian, there’s a lot for instrumental guitar fans, and especially fans of Hank and the Shadows to admire here. Even though Üveges plays all the instruments, the sound is full-bodied and the CD proudly takes its place among the more interesting and sonically rewarding instrumental rock CD releases of 2011. For more information contact Üveges directly.


- Over in the U.K. BGO Records keeps breaking records with their amazing CD reissues. Among the hot BGO reissues for 2012 include Love Is from Eric Burdon & The Animals. Originally released back in 1968 as a double Lp set, Love Is was a a far cry from the heyday of the Animals during the 1964 British Invasion but there’s plenty on this for long time fans to admire. The beat group craze was history and the the hippie / flower power dream was in full bloom in 1968 and Burdon’s band made the most of the scene. The Animals at that point included Burdon, piano / keyboard legend Zoot Money, guitarists Andy Summers and John Weider and Barry Jenkins on drums. Essentially the final Animals album before Burdon created WAR, Love Is is filled with psychedeli-sized covers of “River Deep Mountain High”, “Coloured Rain”, “To Love Somebody” and much more. Despite being overlooked at the time, the 66 minute CD is a fitting tribute to the Animals while the CD features amazing performances by all including Zoot Money and Andy Summers, who, by the next decade would become take over the world with Sting and The Police. The BGO CD remaster features fitting liner notes surrounding the history of Love Is from BGO’s resident music historian David Wells. Also newly released on CD from BGO is a 2 CD set from Steve Gibbons Band. The CD combines two early 1980’s albums—Street Parade with Saints & Sinners—making for 24 tracks in total. Another reissue from Loggins & MessinaFinale features the dynamic duo of country rock in fine form while capturing performances from 1975 and 1976. To their credit L&M made a great comeback in 2005 yet this 16 track, 2012 BGO reissue is a long sought after masterpiece. Also reissued in 2012 is double CD set from British Invasion superstars Peter & Gordon. BGO’s 2012 reissue pair three Peter & Gordon albums on one double CD set including Sing & Play The Hits Of Nashville Tennessee (11 tracks), Woman (11 tracks) with Hot Cold & Custard (11 tracks on disc 2). “Woman” was a huge Peter & Gordan track written by Paul McCartney, under the pen name Bernard Webb, yet there’s a ton a great music from the legendary folk-rock duo to make this BGO classic a must for their many fans.

/ EMI RECORDS - Guitarist Robin Trower is a legend among U.K. guitar gods and rock heroes. The original guitarist in the original Procol Harum, Trower left Procol in 1971 yet his solo career has been filled with an enormous amounts of highlights. Starting out with his 1974 Matthew Fisher produced solo album debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, Trower’s career has proved to be a text book example on how to craft hard rocking blues albums. As a follow up to the A Tale Untold: The Chrysalis Years 1974-1977, Chrysalis / EMI follow up in 2012 with Robin Trower: Farther On Up The Road: The Chrysalis Years 1977-1983. Featuring both rock hall of famer and Cream founder Jack Bruce and original Trower group vocalist, the late, gerat James Dewar—along with lyrics sometimes written by the great Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid and Cream lyricist Pete Brown—the three disc Farther On Up The Road is loaded with 58 killer tracks tracks—incuding a couple single edits and b-sides—spanning six different Trower solo albums including two made with Jack Bruce during the BLT years. Mastered for perfect CD sound by Abbey Road engineer Peter Mew, the 3 CD set features an extensive CD booklet filled with rare pics, CD artwork and insightful liner notes—with interviews from Robin—written by musicologist Malcolm Dome. There isn’t much that Trower has not done over the past 45 years, yet as Farther On Up The Road underscores, Trower’s past musical glories are still very much vital and worth reexploring, even in 2012.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - What more can be said about Stackridge? Simply one of the great post-Beatles rock bands from England, Andy Davis, James Warren, Crun, Mutter Slater & company are remembered yet again with a new best of on Angel Air entitled, Preserved - Best Of Volume Two. Angel Air has the entire Stackrige back catalog in their catalog and this second volume of choice favorites and rarities is a dandy. Much more esoteric then the first best of on Angel Air, Preserved compiles tracks as far back as the early ‘70s and adds in some early and mid 2000 era Stackridge, somehow making it all fit together. In fact, by including some rarely heard Stackridge music, the first four track here sounds like a long lost Stackridge album from the mid ‘70s. The booklet features song by song liner notes which further credits Andy, James and long time Stackridge manager Mike Tobin with various production credits.

MOONJUNE - Based in NYC, Moonjune is headed up by musicologist / producer Leonardo Pavkovic. Over the past decade Moonjune has worked with some of the finest cutting edge progressive rock and jazz-rock bands the world over. Guitar fusion fans will flip for a pair of reissue CDs from electric guitar pioneer Allan Holdsworth. Supporting Allan’s 2012 live tour, Moonjune has 2012 CD reissues of two Holdsworth albums—Hard Hat Area (1993) and None Too Soon (1997). Both albums have been superbly remastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering and both titles feature 2012 liner notes by Guitar Player editor Barry Cleveland. For those who might have missed them, Hard Hat Area features Allan performing his usual instrumental fusion wonders backed up by fusion legends including drummer Gary Husband while None Too Soon is yet another Holdsworth instrumental jazz-rock extravaganza featuring the iconic guitar hero in the fine company of long time Holdsworth cohort Gordon Beck, drummer Kirk Covington and Gary Willis on bass. Both of these classic fusion reissues from Holdsworth have stood the test of time and still amaze. Guitar fans miss these CD classics at your own peril.

LOST GROVE ARTS / MVD - MVD is handling distribution on Toulousology, subtitled Definitive Guitar Soli 1976 - 2009. Toulouse Engelhardt has a long standing history as a guitar based instrumental music trendsetter who is sometimes mentioned in the same breath along with acoustic guitar legends such as his one time Takoma Records label mates John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Described by some as the “Segovia of Surf”, Engelhardt mixes acoustic guitars the way Neil Young writes songs—full of intertwining, cinematic sounding guitar instrumentals that combine for a wall of sound that engulfs you. Released on his own Lost Grove Arts label, Toulousology features an entertaining compilation of various Engelhardt tracks recorded between 1976 and 2009. Excellent sound, CD cover art and concept helps to make Toulousology a winning collection of instrumental guitar magic.

REAL MUSIC - The last word on healing New Age instrumental electronic, the Real Music label have had a strong presence in the music world for for the past couple decades. Real Music stay real with their most recent CD releases including the 2011 CD from therapeutic music genius Chuck Wild. Chuck’s 2011 CD, entitled Dream - A Liquid Mind Experience contains some of Chuck’s most sonically relaxing and meditative soundscpaes yet. Wild is still on the forefront of New Age, often espousing the benefits of his sculptured slow music that promotes the benefits of meditation, rest and deep relaxation. Taking some of his most dreamlike and relaxing pieces of music, Chuck elongated the music and, with the three tracks here clocking in at ten, twenty and thirty minutes each, Dream will have you in a sublimely relaxing state in no time. This music should not be listened to while driving! Turn the lights of, put on your lava lamp and just chill out with Chuck Wild. /

SEQUOIA RECORDS - One of the great American New Age based instrumental music labels, Sequoia Records was founded by the Gordon brothers—David Gordon (synths, sequencers) and Steve Gordon (acoustic / electric guitars, bass guitars)—back in the late 1980’s. With a multitude of fascinating instrumental and occasional vocal CDs, Sequoia moves forward with the 2012 release of Celestial Zen. Interestingly, the six track album was recorded way back 1984 and was released on black vinyl Lp and cassette under the name Celestial Suite. In preparation for this, the first ever CD release, the original reel to reel master tapes were located and the end result features the original album greatly enhanced by today’s superior audio technology. Owing more to artists such as Eno and even electronic music pioneers like Morton Subotnick, the 54 minute Celestial Zen is very much an early ambient / electronic instrumental album filled with a unique mix of spacy electronics mixed with processed organic instruments like acoustic guitar. 2012 liner notes from the Gordon brothers shines a fresh light on this still essential space music masterpiece. Carrying on their original mission from the 1980’s, the brothers Gordon also have several other titles newly released in 2012 on their Light Of Mind label—two metaphysical musical therapy / creative visualization collaborations with Dr. Arlene Alexander—entitled Inner Journeys To Tranquility and Astral Meditations: Out Of Body Explorations. /

TALKING ELEPHANT - Two tragic occurrences for the EMI label took place in 1980. First of course was the assassination of John Lennon, which basically stopped the future of the Beatles dead in its tracks. Second blow to EMI, was that after 22 years recording on EMI, The Shadows released Change Of Address, their prophetically titled first album for Polydor Records. That period between 1980 and 1990 was a fantastic and prolific era for both The Shadows and the band’s lead guitarist Hank B. Marvin, who also went on to release numerous solo albums for Polydor during 1982-2010 period, most recently with 2010’s Guitar Man CD. Anyway, where it all began for Hank and the Shads on Polygram is with the appropriately entitled Change Of Address. Typical of the Shads approach to recording during that post-EMI period, COA features a mix of memorable originals and covers—most notably a stirring CD closing cover of the Jean Michel Jarre favorite “Oxygen”, a stirring version of the Peter Green / Fleetwood Mac classic “Albatross” and a remake of their own amazing cover of “Temptation”—a song written in 1933 and featured in the movie “Singin’ In The Rain”—that first appeared as an instrumental on the 1964 Shadows’ album Dance With The Shadows. The CD for Change Of Address came out at least 20 years ago on Polydor but it’s been long out of print so those who missed the reissue the first time around should pick up on the 2012 remaster of Change Of Address on the U.K. based Talking Elephant label. No in depth liner notes, nor interviews with any of the Shads, and no bonus cuts on this Talking Elephant remaster, but it’s good to see this timeless instrumental album classic in print on CD again. Also available on Talking Elephant in 2012 is a double CD set entitled Edge Of Twilight that compiles early works from groundbreaking progressive rock pioneers Gentle Giant. In fact, a double CD set of a 1996 Polygram remaster of the same name, Talking Elephant’s version of Edge Of Twilight remasters and restores the original version with 2011 liner notes from Ian Milton. For those who might have missed Gentle Giant, during their 1970s heyday, they were a hard act to follow, releasing one fantastic album after the next throughout that magical decade while giving bands like YES and Jethro Tull a run for their money. The band’s early years and their first four studio albums on the Polydor owned Vertigo label form the core of Edge Of Twilight.

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