Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









- A mix of rock, jazz, tango and modern classical music, Luz De La Noche (Light Of The Night) is a most impressive album from Argentina based singer-songwriter Florencia Ruiz. Maybe it’s because Argentina and Brazil are so close geographically that the music of Ms. Ruiz sounds greatly inspired by Brazilian genius, A.C. Jobim. In fact, among the musicians backing up Ms. Ruiz is Brazilian cellist Jacques Morelenbaum as well as Uruguayan pianist Hugo Fattoruso, while the CD was produced, arranged and directed by Carlos Villavincencio. The Luz De La Noche album was superbly recorded and even if you don’t speak her native language, the music is still captivating. Backed by a solid band of players, including the above mentioned guest artists, Ms. Ruiz sounds positively beguiling on an album that begs to be heard by adventurous ears.

- In the spirit of Robin Hitchcock and David Bowie, Dirk Speksnijder is a do it yourself pop artist but even as such, he hits a new height for the genre with his 2010 CD The Man With Two Brains. Dirk's comic klatch video for the album title track is a fab watch on YouTube but audio geeks will also get a great buzz off the studio version on the CD pressing. If you make it that far, also on you may want to catch Dirk’s brilliant video for the 1967 Bowie nugget, “The London Boys.” Ever the eclectic pop-conscious trendsetter, especially 45 years ago, Bowie would love this CD with Dirk mixing a musical composite of the essence of early Bowie, mid ‘60s Kinks and Pink Floyd era Syd Barrett. The only thing that’s missing in this picture is major label money and a push but musically, Dirk nails the snake on the head on a number of these wild rock solid rave ups. Syd may have lost it, jeez 42 years ago, but with Two Brains Dirk channels from beyond, the erstwhile Pink Floyd founder on several cuts here including the title cut and the lead off cut “What A Song And Dance!” which also sounds like a long lost Thunderclap Newman track. Enlisting the aid of drummer Tim Bragg, Dirk admirably handles all the instruments for the most part and when he cuts loose, his electric guitar fills, riffs and counterpoints are most compelling. Echoing the spirits of musical pioneers from a different decade, and filled with songs that spin round the room, The Man With Two Brains is Dirk Speksnijder's own self-styled, 21st century magical mystery tour.

- The American West Coast pop sound is alive and well on the 2011 CD from English singer-songwriter Mick Terry called The Grown Ups. Citing Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, Jellyfish and Todd Rundgren as big influences, Mick Terry brings the breezy sounds of the West Coast circa 1972 back to life on The Growns Ups. Terry calls his sound, ‘pop music for grown ups’, yet clearly his sound is timeless. The musicianship and sound is first rate and Terry’s guitar and keyboard sounds are varied while colorful while harmony vocals and drumming helps the album further stand out. Assisted by co-producer Mick Wilson, and bass player and backing vocalist Jim Boggia, The Grown Ups is all over the power-pop and modern pop map but the tracks are cool and stay around long enough to win you over.

- 35 years after they helped usher in the downtown NYC music scene, Blondie return with what has to be their defining moment. Their ‘80s hits, like “Heart Of Glass” helped define the late '70s, but the eleven track Panic Of Girls is the sound a punk era band come of age with a mature pop edge. Debby Harry is in rare form throughout, while her cofounder, Chris Stein still proves to be key to the Blondie guitar sound. Original Blondie drummer Clem Burke is still up to the task while the three original members are joined by some fine players. That said, the songs are really the stars here. Even if you missed the ‘70s era, and didn’t really think MTV was the answer to your musical problems, there’s undeniably, some great songs here that brings that spirit of ‘77 up into the now.

- Weird name for a record company but choosing the late John Martyn as its subject matter, Hole In The Rain released a 2011, double CD tribute Martyn’s music entitled Johnny Boy Would Love This...A Tribute To John Martyn. The recently departed Martyn was quite an innovator for the acoustic rock/jazz genre. Other great artists espousing a similar vision during that late ‘60s early ‘70s era included Mark-Almond and even folk pioneer Ralph McTell. Interestingly, the 30 track double CD set features mostly younger, rising bands from the rock and alt-rock work paying tribute to Martyn’s original music. Artists featured include Snow Patrol, Morcheeba, Beth Orton, Beck, Paolo Nutini, Robert Smith and David Gray along with U.K. heritage artists like Judie Tzuke, Vashti Bunyan and Phil Collins. Accompanying the double CD set is a 40 page booklet and a DVD featuring interview and performance footage.

- Back in the ‘80s Julee Cruise was inventing a novel form of vocal New Age and likewise, singer Mimi Goese and jazz fusion pioneer Ben Neill break new ground for the beautiful electronic jazz realm, 20+ years on with their 2011 CD Songs For Persephone. Amazingly packaged, the ten track album features a mix of ethereal jazz combining Mimi’s vocals and Ben’s trumpet horn blasts, all layered above and below by some pretty scintillating electronica. Back in the early ‘90s, Ms. Goese was the singer in Hugo Largo, who were signed by Brian Eno to the Opal label and jazz fans remember Ben Neill thanks to his fine solo albums on a range of labels including Verve and Astralwerks. Interesting to hear how these two artists blend their original music and arrangements alongside the classical music masters who are cited here in the songwriting credits. Whatever is in fact going on here, Songs For Persephone presents some of the most adventurous, sublime and superbly recorded music thus far in the 21st century.

- Minnesota based Red House continues on among the great American roots rock labels. Released on Red House during the summer of 2011, Mercury finds singer-songwriter Pieta Brown in the company of guitar great Richard Bennett. Bennett works with U.K. rock guitar great Mark Knopfler and Ms. Brown toured as well opening for the Dire Straits legend. Bennett has assembled a top band for Ms. Brown to sing her music. Commenting on the album she adds, ‘All the songs came fast. Words and melodies arrived intertwined...some like visions, some as simple memories, some like urgent messages.’ Brown’s music overall is a pretty hypnotic, lazy countrified pop blend made all the more textural and interesting thanks to Bennett’s superb guitar skills and hands on production work.

- Released through the label of surf-rock guitar icon Gary Hoey (of Endless Summer II fame), Ghost On The Canvas is stated to be the final album from country pop superstar Glen Campbell. As was the case for his 2009 album on Capitol Records—entitled Meet Glen Campbell—2011's Ghost On The Canvas provides a veritable sonic smorgasbord for fans of pop, rock ‘n’ roll and country-rock as well. Famous for his unique renditions of pop composer Jimmy Webb, Campbell never got the "cred" from the rock fans but with these last two albums that is all turned around. Ghost On The Canvas is no sleepy nod off the charts for the perennial pop favorite. Instead, Glen teams with a team of cutting edge rockers, all guided by the steady pop production and co-songwriting of Julian Raymond. Illuminating Campbell’s legendary vocals songs and guitar sounds are contributions from well known rockers including Brian Setzer (a Surfdog artist), Paul Westerberg, Chris Isaak, Rick Nielsen, Jakob Dylan and more, as well as seasoned guitar hands such as Dick Dale, Jason Falkner and Steve Hunter. Campbell is in fact 75 this year but, gearing up for his fall tour, he’s going out with a bang with this soon to be all time classic album.

TAPETE RECORDS - A lot of Beatles’ history starts in Germany so it’s quite fitting that a new CD from a German based label features a young NYC band performing songs that made the Beatles into the expert musicians they became by 1962. The 12 track, self-titled CD from the group Bambi Kino features an impressive revival of a number of songs that the Fab Four performed on the stages of the Star Club in Hamburg, including covers of favorites originally penned by Leiber & Stoller, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Phil Spector and more. Fittingly recorded in Hamburg and Brooklyn in 2010, the Bambi Kino CD sounds quite authentic and goes to great lengths to recreate the excitement of these historic songs the Beatles made even more famous very early in their career. In addition to early Fab Four favorites like “Some Other Guy,” “Besame Mucho” and “A Shot Of Rhythm ‘N Blues”, the Bambi Kino CD includes additional covers of the Duane Eddy / Al Casey classic “Ramrod” and the Johnny Kidd and Pirates’ classic “Shakin’ All Over”—a track really put on the map big time on the 1971 release of the Who Lp classic Live At Leeds. Recorded in mono (were you expecting something else?), the Bambi Kino CD is an apropos tribute to the Beatles and, in general, to the frantic energy of early rock ‘n’ roll. /

VIBRO-PHONIC - The release of each new album from L.A. pop favorites The Jigsaw Seen is turning into an event of its own. The band’s 2010 Bananas Foster album now gives way to an even more accomplished pop effort called Winterland. Even if the weather outside says heat wave or hurricane, listening to Winterland is just a state of mind. All original kaleidoscopic images of winter times put into song is a pretty cool idea but these guys are pop legends and are up to the task. Sounding more like an album classic from 1969, Winterland features long time JS member Dennis Davison (vocals), along with Jonathan Lea (guitars), Tom Curier (bass) and Teddy Fresse. Not only is Winterland as interesting musically as Bananas Foster, but the prominent packaging is just as amazing. CD collectors take note; this is clearly the way to present a CD as a concept piece. Also taking part are a number of engineers including David Nolte, while the lone cover here—”Circle Of Steel” by Gordon Lightfoot—features harmony vocals from rock icon Dave Davies. Trust me, you won’t believe this timeless pop is about Christmas while the Winterland CD packaging also includes complimentary snow flakes just in case you forget.


ALCHEMY - New England-based guitarist Jon Durant returns in 2011 with his his most impressive recording to date, entitled Dance Of The Shadow Planets. Commenting on the title of the CD Durant adds, ‘Dance Of The Shadow Planets is a line borrowed from Shalimar The Clown, Salman Rushdie’s epic novel set in Kashmir. The shadow planets represent love and hate, and the dance is their interplay within us all, and their influence over our actions on a daily basis. These themes are woven throughout the nine tracks of this recording, exploring passion, tension, chaos and magic.’ Durant is a true guitar master of what some aficianados call the futuristic, sonic edge of instrumental New Age jazz-rock. Back in 2004, Durant released his fifth solo album entitled Things Behind The Sun—a stellar trio album with King Crimson’s Tony Levin and drummer Vinny Sabatino. That album was followed up in 2007 with the CD release of Flood—again featuring Levin and Sabatino. For his seventh solo album, Durant enlists the aid of top players including Colin Edwin (fretless bass), Caryn Link (violin) and Jerry Leake (percussion). In the spirit of genius Euro guitar heroes such as Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal, Durant creates intense, gigantic sounding, invisible sonic glaciers that simply tower overhead. Like Fripp and Rypdal at their instrumental best, Durant’s daring instrumental music will leave you stunned and speechless. Mixing together a staggering array of sequential sonancies, Durant approaches his music much like a scientist looking for the best possible outcomes. And while Durant had not yet played with this particular group of musicians, he adds, ‘The whole point of this was to play it live. It needed to be a real group dynamic, and it needed to be spontaneous.’ Rock fans who thrilled to the instrumental side and sound of progressive bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd back in the ‘60s—as well as jazz-fusion fans looking to set sail on uncharted musical waters—are both strongly advised to give a listen to Jon Durant's sonically majestic sounds on Dance Of The Shadow Planets.

- Based in Finland, Mad Guitar Records has another winner on their hands with the 2011 CD release of Around The World by Guitarsnake. Guitarsnake guitarist Nicolas Notarianni has written a series of dynamic guitar instrumentals for an album that sometimes sounds, whether consciously or perhaps handed to his generation by musical osmosis, like a cross between late period Joe Satriani and some of the '90s fusion soundtrack works of Jan Hammer. A rising French freboard ace, Notarianni is really eclectic both as guitarist and composer. Throughout this often majestic, yet always noteworthy CD, Nicolas gets solid support from both Dave Rimmer (bass) and powerhouse drummer Laurent Reinlin. In addition to also playing drums on the CD, Notarianni also handles the synth keyboard sounds which adds another level of symphonic rock perfectionism to the mix. The CD features a video of the title track plus a pair of bonus tracks featuring an intense guitar jam with several players including Mad Guitar Records founder Roo Chapus. /

- Okay, the “Marrekesh” label name aside, The RedZen come out on top with the 2011 CD release of Void. Instrumental rockers will like this wide ranging 54 minute album as it’s primarily based in the real of instrumental progressive fusion music enhanced with several vocal tracks as well. Started up in 2009, the Italian quartet features some excellent guitar sounds from Ettore Salati. On the majority of the tracks, the band sound is sort of similar in scope to founding YES drummer Bill Bruford’s late ‘70s group with guitar icon Alan Holdsworth, yet despite the past legacies they follow, RedZen bring that prog fusion sound into the brave new world without missing a beat. Plus the cover art is very Pink Floyd inspired and the packaging and CD sound is first rate. A couple vocal cuts added to the mix harken back to the heyday of Italy’s fabled mid to late ‘70s Eurock years of Italian prog. Either way, mainstream prog or instrumental jazz-rock, I’d like to see them come up with a sequel.

NORDIC NOTES - With their impressive CD releases, Germany’s Nordic Notes label offers music fans a chance to hear some of the most inventive, cutting edge music currently coming out of the continent. Nordic Notes is doing great things bringing Finland’s latest art-rock heroes, Jeavestone to a wider audience, and likewise, another great band from Finland, (the hard to pronounce) Taipuva Luotisuora will amaze instrumental rock fans with their most recent album from early 2009 called IV. As far away from surf-rock as you can get, Taipuva Luotisuora sounds more influenced by the progressive instrumental rock of their fellow Finnish art-rock hero Pekka Pohjola, although clearly, with the long history of great Finnish instrumental music, there’s a number of musical signposts you could cite. No matter how you slice it, Taipuva Luotisuora IV is an instrumental progressive art-rock masterpiece. The six piece band features some mighty impressive, electrifying guitar work from both Jani Puistovaara and Ville Eriksson, while on IV the band cooks and sizzles its way to instro-prog nirvana. Oh and the packaging of the CD and the overall sound is first rate too.

RETSO RECORDS - There’s something so elegant, so funereal, so stately about the sound of the trumpet and its sister, the flugelhorn. Certain progressive rock groups including Mark Isham’s band Group 87 and the late, great Finnish master composer Pekka Pohjola each used the trumpet to great effect and then don’t forget Jon Hassell and his otherworldly trumpet work with Brian Eno. So now in 2011 along comes master trumpeter Jeff Oster and his amazing album entitled Surrender. Released on Oster’s own Retso Records label, the CD is not only superbly recorded and performed but the packaging is really amazing with phenomenal design and insert. Backing up Oster’s trumpet, flugelhorn, synths, loops and occasional vocals is the like minded Bryan Carrigan, who is credited here with sound design, synths, and drum programming and the occasional wordless, yet highly effective backing vocals of Diane Arkenstone. Whereas a master trumpeter such as Chris Botti is content to go commercial, credit his producer mastermind Bobby Colomby, Oster is very experimental in his approach—here reminiscent of Miles Davis produced by Eno. The majority of music here is completely instrumental, making Surrender the perfect choice for trumpet fans, New Age classical fans and ambient / electronic listeners who are looking for some fantastic sonic thrill. New Age and neoclassic art-rock fans, miss this at your own risk. / /

SPIRIT MUSIC - Back in the 1990’s the advent of musical therapy CDs came to the fore thanks in part to, then essential magazines including New Age Retailer. One artist who made enormous breakthroughs in the 1990s, and who continues on today with his groundbreaking work in the area of healing musical therapy area is Colorado-based Jonathan Goldman. One look at Goldman’s prolific catalog of music releases on CD is quite impressive. On the 2011 CD release of Chakra / Brainwave Harmonizer, Jonathan joins forces with his partner Andi Goldman and the result is a musical experience that sounds great and is also good for your health. Goldman’s musical secrets are unique in creating musical ways for the listener enhance meditation as well as for energy healing. As mentioned in the liner notes, ‘The Harmonizer incorporates the most advanced knowledge and techniques on sound currently available. Sacred sounds were combined with psycho-acoustic frequencies in order to create a safe, yet very effective recording for balancing and attuning one’s self.’ Goldman’s catalog of New Age based CD is like a primer on self-healing sounds and, also on tap from Goldman’s Healing Sounds From Spirit Music label are another pair of intriguing CD releases entitled 2013: Ecstatic Sonics and 2012: Ascension Harmonics. Both 2012 and 2013 combine overtone chanting, Tibetan bowls and bells within a mix of sacred sounds that are filled with multidimensional harmonic sounds perfect for deep states of meditation and other New Age rituals. If you thought the era of New Age musical therapy was a thing of the past—meaning the 1990s—think again and check out Goldman’s sonic New Age healing music on CD. Just remember—while perfect for overall chilling out, this music was made to be listened to in order to promote meditation so do not drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to this recording. /

WHALING CITY SOUND - Headed up by music impresario Neal Weiss, Whaling City Sound is one of the finest independent American jazz labels. For musicians and music fans who've followed WCS for years, it’s clear the Whaling City Sound label is a great source for instrumental modern and mainstream jazz. One of the label’s most inventive guitarists, John Stein returns in 2011 with the CD release of Hi Fly. On the “fly” usually refers to something that happens off the cuff or kind of unpremeditated, yet Stein’s Hi Fly is a solid, and well thought out set of jazzy, groove-based guitar instrumentals. What’s readily apparent on the ten track, 57 minute Hi Fly is just how well Stein interacts with his band—Jake Sherman (piano, organ), John Lockwood (acoustic bass) and Zé Eduardo Nazario (drums). The CD cover art and packaging is quite colorful too and in depth liner notes—written by Wayne Everett Goins—testifies to Stein’s overall satisfaction at the way the Hi Fly CD turned out. Commenting on the CD, Stein adds, ‘The main thing, is the collaborative spirit in this record. The guys contributed a lot of musical ideas. Their instrumental virtuosity was challenging and I really stretched to keep up.’ Recorded in 2011, the Hi Fly CD was superbly engineered by Peter Kontrimas, sealing the deal on Stein’s finest guitar statement yet.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Over in the U.K. Angel Air Records just continues to boggle the mind with their prodigious CD release schedule of new and archival recordings. Angel Air started out as a reissue CD label for the vast output of classic rock, pop and instrumental music coming out of the U.K. but thanks to the release of several key instrumental artists, including U.K. bass great Mo Foster, the label has dabbled with excellent results in the instrumental rock and neo-fusion genres. Case in point is a welcome new album from U.K. keyboardist Dave Greenslade called Routes / Roots. Greenslade was the force behind the mid ‘70s instrumental fusion band Greenslade and his new album on Angel Air is one of the most adventurous albums the Angel Air label has yet released. Greenslade may still be the keyboardist in the current day Coliseum and the Greenslade group, but with his solo CD Routes / Roots he’s carved out an impressive instro art-rock fusion niche of his own. Amazingly, Greenslade composed, arranged and played all the music on the Routes / Roots album while the booklet—with July 2011 liner notes by the artist—is filled with pictures of Greenslade with U.K. jazz icons including Jon Hiseman and Barbara Thompson. Routes / Roots is the sound of a mature and modern Greenslade, evoking a sound that owes as much to his ‘70s fusion sound as it does to his swing jazz icon / idols like Brubeck. Speaking of his group, Greenslade has a 2011 archival remaster CD on Angel Air entitled Greenslade Live 1973 - 1975. Without a guitarist in the group, the music centered around the artful fusion sound of Greenslade’s keyboard sound backed up by key players including vocalist Dave Lawson (add’l keyboards), Andrew McCulloch (drums) and Tony Reeves (bass). Angel Air packs their Greenslade live archival album with ample liner notes. Angel Air released an archival album from U.K. rockers Rococo in 2010 and they follow up with their second album The Firestorm And Other Love Songs. Rococo featured a gifted line up of rockers with the music mostly composed by the group’s keyboardist Roy Shipton and his song writing partner Geoff Ward. Angel Air’s second Rococo CD features eleven cuts recorded in the mid ‘70s while the CD booklet is packed with vital stats and history from this underrated band. Another oddity from the vaults is Life’s Too Short - The Singles Anthology 1971 - 75 —a CD from a U.K. band called Rescue Co. No. 1. Having released a number of singles on a variety of record labels, Rescue Co. No. 1 remain somewhat of a curio yet Angel Air’s 20 track CD is a great way to catch up on their unique blend of pop and rock.
Also on Angel Air in 2011 is a new album, the first album in ten years, from U.K. guitar great Luther Grosvenor called If You Dare. Also known in U.K. rock circles as Ariel Bender, Grosvenor was a founding member of Spooky Tooth and was with them during their fabled Spooky Two era in the late ‘60s / early ‘70s. Grosvenor also was a key member of Mott The Hoople. The ten track If You Dare features several musicians backing up Grosvenor’s patented guitar work and vocals yet, overall the CD is primarily a collaboration that also features guitarist / keyboardist / vocalist / producer Mike Triggs, who met Luther back in 2004 with the resulting chemistry ending up in this pleasing bluesy rock album. Also on Angel Air in 2011 is a two albums on one CD release entitled The Vital Spark / Sings Stephen Foster from American singer-songwriter Randy Van Warmer. Although he passed away in January 2004, Van Warmer was already well established in the rock community and his album The Vital Spark, recorded in Woodstock, N.Y. in 1995 featured key contributions from a fine band including guitar hero Mick Ronson. An accomplished songwriter based in Nashville in the years before he passed on, Van Warmer was able to complete his self-produced tribute to American song writing legend Stephen Foster. Ironically, Van Warmer died exactly 140 years to the day that Foster died in NYC. Randy’s take on Foster’s music is truly something to behold. Everyone knows these songs and Van Warmer’s modern take gives the songs a modern sonic sheen that truly does them justice. Overall, the 21 track, 2 on 1 CD release of The Vital Spark / Sings Stephen Foster is a fitting introduction to Vam Warmer’s song writing skills and wide-screen musical imagination.

FORCED EXPOSURE - Back in the mid to late ‘70s and early 1980’s, pop innocence was still a viable art form. Even amid the art-rock and new wave onslaught of the late ‘70s, Canadian singer-songwriter Craig Ruhnke was releasing some impressive pop music that owes as much to singers like Gilbert O’Sullivan and early Elton as it does to late ‘60s Beach Boys and early ‘70s America. Case in point is a CD reissue of the 1979 album The Craig Ruhnke Band CD reissued on the Korean Riverman Music label. Featuring Ruhnke with a full band, the CD features three bonus cuts. Ruhnke recorded for A&M and several other labels, but overall The Craig Ruhnke Band is good choice for fans of well recorded pop. Also available by Craig Ruhnke on Riverman in 2011 are CD remasters of a pair of Ruhnke album from the early 1980’s—Just Like The Old Times (originally release in 1982) and Keep The Flame (1984). Good packaging, good remastering and booklets with track information in English offer good reasons to give a listen to this vintage classic pop.

- MVD also proudly distributes the U.K. based Sexy Intellectual DVD line and among the new SI releases MVD is handling Stateside is Brian Eno - 1971 - 1977: The Man Who Fell To Earth. Over two and a half hours, the DVD features key events between Eno’s involvement in Roxy Music leading to his works with David Bowie during that period. The DVD features a wide range of interviews and discussions by musicians and noted writers as well as an abundance of archival footage. Another 2011 MVD title causing interest among Led Zeppelin fans is a Sexy Intellectual DVD documentary on singer Robert Plant entitled Robert Plant’s Blue Note. For music fans wondering about Plant’s early musical fascination with the blues, this is the place to start. There's a whole lotta interviews, including clips of a 2010 interview with Plant, along with his close musical confidants and noted players including members of The Yardbirds and McGuiness Flint, who rub elbows with noted commentator Nigel Williamson further discussing the evolution of the golden era of U.K. blues and hard rock . The DVD also provides insight into Plant’s attraction to the World Beat groove of Arabic and northern African music as well as his love of ‘60s West Coast folk-rock and psychedelia. Robert Plant’s Blue Note is a must for fans of this U.K. rock icon.

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