Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









00:02:59 - Weird name for a record label but hey, these are weird times! On Everything Is Real, singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger unleashes a litany of modern pop rock with nods to influences like classic bands like R.E.M. and Mitch Easter with the more current rock sound and country rock influences of Steve Earle and Tom Petty. Commenting on his fourth studio album, Leeroy adds, ‘I don’t want to make records that sound like the ones I’ve already made. This time I wanted to make a classic sounding record like the ones I grew up listening to.’ Coming up with a truly near original pop sound in 2010 is not an easy task, but on a number of tracks, Leeroy comes close on Everything Is Real. The eleven cut CD was recorded with able aid from producer John Ellis while also benefiting from a range of backing musicians including guitarist Kevin Kane, drummer Pat Steward and many more, all making Everything Is Real Stagger’s most realized album to date. /

00:02:59 - Probably the most acclaimed CD release on 2:59 is the 2010 CD release of Never Say Never, from Small Faces founder Ian McLagan. McLagan
along with Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and Kenny Jones, founded the highly influential Small Faces during the tail end of the ‘60s British Invasion, an era still often spoken of in the 21st century. McLagan, Jones and Lane were also founding members of latter period offshoot band, The Faces, (no longer small) with Rod "the mod" Stewart and Ronnie Wood joining, and with Marriott going to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. Complicated stuff really that happened 40 years ago already! Unlike Jones who went on to replace Keith Moon in the Who, McLagan moved to Texas to make music sounding inspired by both The Small Faces, the Faces and the sound of innovative Texas rock and rollers he grew up with like Buddy Holly and Buddy Knox, giant American superstars who hailed out of two towns of Lubbock and Happy, TX. respectively. Also, McLagan’s singing sounds greatly inspired by his old bands mates Rod and Ronnies (note the plural 's'). Having a fun time with a sound that is brought to life more by way of tin-pan alley and good times than hard rock, McLagan gets solid support from a wide range of players including guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb, founding Spirit bass great Mark Andes and Don Harvey, who help lay down a very Faces inspired rock beat. The artwork and packaging is great and the booklet features key photos and complete lyrics. If you liked McLagan and Rod Stewart back in the ‘70s, you’ll very much enjoy Mac’s long awaited comeback. /

- When someone asks me what my favorite David Bowie album is, lately these past months and past year, I would say the first Bowie album from 1967 and 1970’s The Man Who Sold The World
which celebrates 40 years this year. What those two albums have in common is the name Tony Visconti, who produced the great music Bowie recorded after and including new versions of that ‘67 album as well as producing and playing bass on Bowie’s groundbreaking hard rock masterpiece from 1970. Having worked with Bowie and a number of bands and singers through the past five decades, Visconti is back in a big way in 2010, having recently produced a number of titles, including a vital new pop work from Bongos founder and pop impresario Richard Barone entitled Glow. Not only does Tony produce but he also plays on and co-wrote a number of tracks here. Think early Bowie pre ‘70 as well as Visconti’s work as producer of T. Rex and you get a good idea where Barone is coming from on these newly penned tracks. With so much legacy on the line, on Glow Barone brings it all back home on a decade spanning appreciation of and a newly penned chapter of the sound Visconti helped pioneer in the studio in the late ‘60s / early ‘70s with Bowie and Bolan. With Glow Visconti achieves yet another rare sonic victory in the studio, this time assisting Barone’s bold pop stance. Guitar fans will note that Glow features state-of-the-art gear that Barone picked up through his close collaboration with Gibson Guitars, including the Digital Les Paul guitar.

- Genius spanning generations of music lovers comes into focus on the 2010 CD release of California Kid by singer-songwriter Circe Link And The Discount Candy
Family Band. Fans of the great Mike Nesmith of The Monkees will note Mike's son Christian Nesmith produced the CD and—as Ms. Link’s co-writer here—the CD is cross-generational pop that sounds inspired by the great L.A. based pop and rock sounds of the ‘60s like the Monkees and even echoes ‘80s bands like The Bangles. In a like father like son deja vu move, Nesmith also acquits himself on electric guitars. Circe is backed by a fine bandincluding L.A. keyboard wiz, and YES genius Billy Sherwood’s brother, Michael Sherwoodlaying down the tracks that are captured so well in the final engineering and mixing of the eleven cut studio album. Plus, the album breaks new ground for establishing the new generation of pop/rock singer-songwriters coming out of L.A. in 2010. Ms. Link goes the distance on the album, firmly establishing her pop presence and her flashy exuberance can be readily seen on the inside of the cool CD cover artwork.

- It used to be anything with the Capitol Records logo on it—especially one of their vintage Beatles era Capitol swirl logos—was a big deal but the 2010 CD from Eli “Paperboy” Reed lives up to that honor with the release of Come And Get It! I had to do a double take after I heard Eli’s new single “Name Calling” because he sounds so much like a young Otis Redding or a 21st century, blue-eyed soul version of Arthur Conley or even a young Michael Jackson. With its upbeat “Cool Jerk” kind of infectious groove, “Name Calling” sounds like it could have come out 42 years ago. In his very retro looking garb on the inside of the cool looking CD booklet, Eli—his full name is Eli Husock—looks like he’s right at home in a kind of Motown / Philly time warp that really gets it on a century later. Backed up by a rock band with full horn section, Eli “Paperboy” Reed really holds down a groove!

- On his self-titled 2010 CD, pop singer-songwriter Chad Hollister covers so many bases, that he gets your foot tapping and your head spinning at the same time. Key players like drummer Dave Mattacks and multi-instrumentalist, album producer and guitarist Anthony Resta lend a hand and help Chad flesh out his modern pop-rock sound. The sound is slightly influenced by pop legends like Harry Nilsson but for a good example of where Chad is coming from here, check out his cover of the Cars classic “My Best Friend’s Girl”, a track that just exudes Chad’s infectious pop groove.

- Guitarist John Illsley was a founder member of U.K. rock superstars Dire Straits until the band broke up in the mid ‘90s. In early 2010, Illsley released his latest solo album—his first since leaving Dire Straits in ‘95—and the results offer a very Dire Straits inspired mix of rock sounds. Streets Of Heaven features key appearances from his old band mate in Dire Straits Mark Knopfler, who adds in some splendid electric guitar on a pair of tracks, along with other appearances by Knopfler cohort, keyboardist Guy Fletcher, drummer Lee Boylan and more. With Illsley handling guitar chores and the lead vocals, Streets Of Heaven was tastefully produced by Guy Fletcher. As you can see on Illsley’s web site, his Streets Of Heaven Tour 2010 was canceled due to a carpal tunnel syndrome related problem with his right hand. On Illsley’s web site you can also see a range of music recorded by Illsley during his time in Dire Straits, that has also recently been reissued by his label Creek Touring & Records.

- When one of the top producers in progressive pop and rock music history, Brooklyn’s own Tony Visconti plugs a CD by an up and coming pop chanteuse, music fans in the know sit up and listen. After reading about Tony’s latest production of Calling All Magicians, by Australian singer-songwriter Danielle Spencer, tracked down the CD for review. Tony was quite right in describing Danielle as a modern day Kate Bush and Brian Wilson inspired songstress. In a word, the 13 cut CD is impeccably produced, recorded and packaged. An all around exemplary Visconti-produced long player, Calling All Magicians showcases a fine crew of musicians who back up Ms. Spencer’s ambitious progressive pop composite. With Visconti ably detailing the sounds in the studio, Calling All Magicians features some expert playing from Ms. Spencer on piano and all lead and backup vocals, along with electric and acoustic guitars performed by Mark Punch and many other fine players. Even with so much sound and vision in play, the songs are the real stars here and readily elevate Ms. Spencer to a stellar bardo in the rock world of 2010. Ms. Spencer’s MySpace page is quite impressively designed.

- Sort of a trans-America recording, the 18 track Fiery Blue CD pairs the talents of NYC based singer Simone Stevens with Austin, TX. guitarist / producer Gabe Rhodes. From San Diego, Paul Marsteller is credited with writing all the music here and he also adds in some guitar work. Also credited here is NYC singer Quinn Bogt-Welch, who adds in her backing vocals. There’s some excellent guitar work on the album including some very tasty George Harrison style slide, very noticeable on track 14 “Turn”. The results conjure up a moody kind of pop album that mixes up folk, rock and country with Americana type edges that sort of reminds one of the work of earthy pop chanteuse Sam Phillips with T-Bone Burnett but there’s always a steady pop beat in the forefront. It’s that good and the pairing is top notch throughout, including the multitalented Rhodes, who seems to be able to play any instrument. The music of Marsteller is also quite effective throughout. The cross-section of sounds is positively amazing and topping it off is some tasty drumming by one time Tin Machine / David Bowie drummer Hunt Sales, whose heroic dad is/was pop culture superstar and comic genius Soupy Sales
who was born one week after my mom and died two days after my mom on October 22, 2009.

- Under their “Music From Home” series, Swedish label Hemifrån offers up a pretty cool compilation of acoustic based folk-rock entitled Music From Home. This 17 cut 78+minute folk-rock based concept CD features some big names and some not so big yet. Case in point on the yet side is a 2010 studio track from Swedish pop-rock genius Klas Qvist called “A Place To Call Your Own” that is simply smashing and is an interesting move after his critically acclaimed ‘09 solo album, Meet Citizen K. Graham Nash and David Crosby appear on the lead off, anti-war song recorded in 2010 by Joel Rafael called “This Is My Country” while Jackson Browne kicks in a CD closing live in 2005 cut called “The Rebel Jesus”. Early ‘70s folk-rock legends Batdorf & Rodney turn in brilliant live in 2008 “Home Again” while other new tracks from California pop hero Jeff Larson and a host of others makes Music From Home a relaxing acoustic based journey into familiar musical terrain.

JARDINE TOURS - As one of the founding and earliest members of The Beach Boys, Al Jardine was a key component to the group’s huge success in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Following the final Beach Boys album on Columbia / Caribou, the one with the classic “Getcha Back”, Brian Wilson finally went on to create a long overdue solo career filled with incredible musical peaks. In the wake of Dennis Wilson’s early demise, Al, Mike Love and Carl Wilson went on to keep the Beach Boys name alive with limited input from Brian who was way too comsumed with writing his well documented solo masterpieces over the past 23 years. Compared to the ostensible right wing politic of the hard headed Mike Love, the genius of Brian and extreme genius of Dennis, Al was always the most easily likable guy in the Beach Boys
a peacemaker with a voice of pure golden sunshine that Brian always expertly implemented to flavor his unique multilayered harmony based vocal arrangements. Anyway, who would guess it, but Al Jardine is back in 2010 with his first ever solo album entitled (what else but) A Postcard From California. It’s so great to hear Al’s voice again and Brian Wilson and a host of other rock icons pop in and out with cameo shots. With a key voice from the classic Beach Boys sound in the bag, the album features well renowned sessioneers and band players. Al is no slouch on guitar either and he pairs his steady electric fretboard work with other players, including his sons Matt Jardine and Adam Jardine. Brian turns up on a number of tracks, adding his fabled vocal harmony work, especially on a track that will prove to be the album highlight among Beach Boys fans called “Don’t Fight The Sea.” The cut is an early track first worked on in the ‘70s, with Al adding more parts over the years, including some killer vocals from Brian and Carl Wilson, who sadly didn’t live to see it finished. Anyway, featuring Al’s lead vocals—and some steady studio backing from long time Jardine guitarists Ed Carter, Scott Matthews and Michael Lent—”Don’t Fight The Sea” is an unheralded Beach Boys style classic track worthy of rediscovery. A ton of pop culture icons appear on various tracks including Neil Young, David Marks, America, Steve Miller with the late Norton Buffalo, Glen Campbell, David Crosby, Alec Baldwin and even Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. Neatly packaged, with track by track info and cool cover art concept, A Postcard From California is a splendid welcome back and a long overdue solo album from one of the ‘60s most revered celebrated pop music voices.

The KKK of pop, Kool Kat MusiK really hits its stride with the 2010 CD release of the latest Maple Mars album entitled Galaxyland. Founded by singer-songwriter and electric guitar ace Rick Hromadka, the four piece Maple Mars have recorded their definitive pop masterpiece that spans generations while drawing from the world of pop gone by. A triple threat musician, Rick Hromadka is a real hero among the pop intelligencia and the IPO crowd and there’s no escape from his galaxy of pop sounds. One early comparison I thought about while spinning Galaxyland was a cross between the classic ‘60s pop band The Association as produced by Jimi Hendrix! Hromadka has a great guitar sound that Hendrix would dig while his healthy respect for pop’s past puts him on the right road. The sound of the Galaxyland CD fully captures the vast Maple Mars pop composite. Backed by Ron Pack (vocals, drums), Trevor Zimmerman (vocals, bass) and Steve Berns (guitars), Rick serves the Maple Mars spirit well and kicks it into overdrive on what will come to be viewed as the group’s best album to date. Also, don’t just buy the download, but check out the expertise put into the design and color schemes of the CD cover art, booklet and packaging. Back in the ‘60s a cover like that would stop you in your tracks and it would probably be bought immediately, back when album jackets were considered art. You can go follow Rick and Maple Mars on Facebook where you can often find him postulating on the meaning of just what qualifies as a classic album! Such devotion to the pop art form springs to life in Galaxyland. As far as the definition of pop “classic”, may I be so bold as to infer that Maple Mars comes pretty darn close on Galaxyland I might add.

KOOL KAT MUSIK - Pop producer Jamie Hoover was big in the ‘80s, having established his impeccable pop credentials with the highly influential American pop singer Marti Jones as well as Hoover’s own group The Spongetones. Anyway, Jamie continues on as one of America’s great pop music producers and the proof in the pudding so to speak comes via the 2010 CD release by singer-songwriter Frank Royster. On his second solo album for the N.J. based Kook Kat Musik label—the 13 cut Innocence Is Bliss—Frank performs just about every instrument in addition to taking on the lead and harmony vocals while receiving able assistance from a range of players including Mr. Hoover, who displays his usual finesse on lead / rhythm guitars and harmony vocals. A rockin’ band indeed backs up Frank’s wide screen vision of pop in the 21st century. There’s even Frank’s timely cover of John Lennon’s album closing Beatles VI classic “Every Little Thing” that closes out the CD while Frank’s son, McCartney Royster appears here too. Talk about keeping it all in the family! Pop and rock fans who enjoyed listening to Marti Jones and Don Dixon back in the mid ‘80s, as well as fans of The Spongetones and classic American pop bands like The Smithereens will find a lot to like here. /

PINK HEDGEHOG - Label boss Simon Felton is doing a bang-up job on the Pink Hedgehog label, and old Simon strikes gold with the 2010 CD release of The Sound Of Meat by U.K, pop trendsetters Schnauser. Singer-songwriter Alan Strawbridge has assembled eleven new pop jewels for the 21st century. Backed up by Holly McIntosh on bass and backing vocals and John Fowle on drums. Even though these songs really stick in your head, The Sound Of Meat is very much a band project. As has already been noted in the U.K. press, the album takes a cue from the heyday of ‘60s British pop and psychedelia while the band openly cites influences like the Kinks, Soft Machine and current bands including The Shins and Field Music. Represented in image by some impressive CD cover art and packaging, Schnauser offers up some fine Syd era Floyd joins Arthur Lee Love induced retro-delica perfect for sonic consumption. The hills are alive with The Sound Of Meat. /

PRESAGIO - The spirit of prog-rock is alive and well in grooves of the 2009 CD from the Chilean band Aisles, entitled In Sudden Walks. The lead vocals, sung in English, are deftly handled by Sebastián Vergara while the group also sports inventive electric guitar work from Rodrigo Sepulveda and Germán Vergara, with the later handling the production chores as well. The sound is quite cutting edge and the arrangements borrow from that classic ‘70s U.K. and European progressive rock sound. With a great rock beat—courtesy of drummer Juan Carlos Raglianti—and keyboards of Luis Vergara keeping the sound moving, the CD is filled with imaginative arrangements and an excellent studio sound. Aisles cite influences like Genesis, Marillion, YES, Pink Floyd and King Crimson so if those classic bands turn you on, perhaps Aisles will do the trick as well with the release of In Sudden Walks. The Aisles CD is available from, as well as from the prog-rock experts at

SADDLE CREEK - Writing reviews in the age of the internet is a pure joy. Back when I was in the "music biz" 25 years ago, you had to keep on the streets just to get into the stores and get mags into your sound. Now you just surf on the internet and you can hear just how cool the new Mynabirds album is in one fell swoop! Singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn made a lot of music lovers quite happy with her songs and singing with the alternative pop-rock group Georgie James and following the breakup of that group last year, she’s back with the debut Mynabirds CD entitled What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood. Quite a mouthful, but the songs here cut right to the chase with fine production, studio sheen and of course, Ms. Burhenn’s music and voice are in stellar form throughout. Commenting on the album she adds, ‘I wanted to write something honest and raw, to make a record that sounded like Neil Young doing Motown, or a revival at a Buddhist monastery.’ With a sound that would no doubt impress old Neil, the ten track 33 minute
Mynabirds CD just blows through and before you know if you’re hitting the replay button. A bunch of fine musicians assist throughout the Mynabirds album, which is overall greatly enhanced by fine co-production and multi-instrumental wizardry from Richard Swift. Extra credit must go to the Omaha, Nebraska based Saddle-Creek who have designed an appealing package boasting fine graphic details and inserts.

SHOUT! FACTORY - Blues guitarist hero Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the greatest musicians ever to come from Texas, and you could say pretty much the same thing about his older brother Jimmie Vaughan, who is well represented on the 2010 Shout! Factory release of Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites. Blues and blues-rock fans will love this album although there’s no denying its cross over appeal with the oldies set and blues fanatics. Like his brother, Jimmie Vaughan is one formidable guitar slinger, yet his vocals—as well as his ace band, topped off by the appearance of singer Lou Ann Barton—makes this album one of the quickest, most easygoing blues rock spins of 2010.

SURRENDER ALL - Okay here’s another weird one for you! Electronic rockers UNKLE take the spirit of ‘70s glam rock to a whole new level with their 2010 CD When Did The Night Fall. There’s a bunch of different versions featuring remix cuts, instrumental mixes, etc. Even so, some tracks feature male/female voices over a driving electronic rock beat that reminds of Roxy Music, Goldfrappe, Neu and any number of those pioneering Teutonic electronic wizards, from Kraftwerk and Can on. Featuring the rock smarts of Unkle music maestro, James Lavelle, When Did The Night Fall is the group’s fourth album so there’s some history here and judging from the amazing groove going on here, there’s a bunch of music lovers crying (for) UNKLE!

VIZZTONE / REDSTAR - Just when you’re ready to typecast Peter Parcek as a blues guitarist in the spirit of Buddy Guy and Peter Green, he comes back at you with a sprawling nearly eight minute instrumental that also blends in influences from Rory Gallagher and Clapton. Parcek started out relocating from New England to England in the mid ‘60s and found himself in the midst of the great British blues / rock boom. Even getting to perform with a band at the Marquee club, on the bill with Pink Floyd, Parcek frequently saw Beck, Page and Clapton playing in England during that period and you can really hear the hands of experience on Parcek’s 2010 CD The Mathematics Of Love by The Peter Parcek 3. The Boston area based Parcek did a stint as guitarist and band leader with piano great Pinetop Perkins and he strikes blues rock gold on his 2010 CD. Backed up by his solid rock trio sound with a number of guest artists, such as instro guitar ace Ronnie Earl and with producer Ted Drozdowski on board, Parcek on vocals sounds like a 21st century Rory Gallagher, mixing his own original compositions with time honored originals by Peter Green, Lucinda Williams, blues icon Jessie Mae Hemphill and more. But the key here is Parcek’s white hot blues rock guitar which adds a whole lot more to his mix of blues-rock and instrumental rock tracks. Parcek’s trio cover of Green’s “Showbiz Blues” is a highlight as is the Beck inspired instrumental “Rollin’ With Zah” and track 9, “Busted” a barn storming instrumental rock tour de force written by music icon Ray Charles, with special guest appearance by rock keyboard icon Al Kooper that sounds inspired by the spacier sides of Beck and Clapton and truly transcends rock instro genres.

WALT DISNEY RECORDS - America’s greatest living music pop music composer, musician and singer, Brian Wilson—founder and genius behind The Beach Boys—is going to make his legions of fans very happy with his 2010 CD release Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin. The 14 track album features Brian putting a whole new spin on the music of fabled American music icon George Gershwin, who back in the '20s and '30s wrote some amazing music with his brother Ira Gershwin, including standards like “Summertime”, “I Got Rhythm” and “Rhapsody In Blue”—songs re-imagined here by Brian Wilson and company. So what could be more American than Brian Wilson revisiting the Gershwin brothers on the home turf of Disney Records, whose icon is Mickey Mouse, possibly the first pop culture star of them all? It doesn’t get cooler than than and that great American spirit of rock and roll is alive and well on Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin. Brian was planning this Gershwin tribute album back in 2009 and, with the blessing of the Gershwin estate shedding further light on the project, Brian even completed two Gershwin songs that the fabled composer left unfinished. Who better to do this classic George Gershwin tribute than Brian Wilson and his fantastic band of gifted pop music specialists? Back in the ‘90s, Brian told the music world that if The Wondermints were around when Smile was being recorded back in late '66, he would have taken that album on the road
and so he did forty years later. Compared to stodgy, anti-progressive antagonizer types like Mike Love, the ‘Mints are really on Wilson’s wave, so to speak, and core Wondermint members and others help Brian carry this baby into the end zone! So who’s in Brian’s band on the Reimagines Gershwin CD? Well just the coolest of America’s pop cool—Darian Sahanaja, Nick Walusko, Scott Bennett, Nelson Bragg, Probyn Gregory, Taylor Mills and Jeffrey Foskett—all the great singers and musicians who graced Brian Wilson album classics from the first decade of the 2000’s and they really help seal the deal on Brian’s superlative tribute to the Gershwin brothers. Adding to the fun is the work of Paul Von Mertens, who helps Brian’s sound sparkle with his added arrangements and orchestrations, not to mention his memorable harmonica work. Reimagines Gershwin is such an authentic sounding Brian Wilson creation that while listening to it you could almost imagine some of these tracks appearing on Smile and Pet Sounds. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin makes a strong case for the multigenerational healing powers of music. So how cool is that Mickey and Minnie? Add some music to your day, indeed.


ACID LAKE PUBLISHING - Back in the mid 1980’s Will Ackerman introduced American ears to the “Windham Hill” sound. Ackerman’s approach to producing and recording instrumental New Age acoustic guitar music remains the stuff of legends. While he’s toned down his solo career somewhat, Will remains a producer in demand and long time fans will want to hear his production of the 2009 CD from guitarist Matt Millecchia. A self-produced 12 cut CD, Silhouette Of A Season is one of the best solo acoustic guitar albums of the past year and Ackerman’s deft touch in the studio truly enhances Matt’s magical guitar compositions. The music is the perfect stuff to relax and chill out with after a hard day’s night while the CD also benefits from a host of backing musicians including Ackerman’s acoustic guitar, Michael Manring (fretless bass), T. Bone Wolk (bass, accordion) and more. Silhouette Of A Season just sounds better, spin after spin.

- The biggest names in guitar jazz over the past four decades—Metheny, Scofield, Benson—may owe a lot to the masters of earlier decades, yet they continue to pave new roads for music fans and guitarists alike. One such artist bringing the jazz guitar traditions of the past into the future is Wayne Brasel. A masterful jazz guitarist and composer, Brasel hits his stride with the 2010 CD release of If You Would Dance, recorded by The Wayne Brasel Quartet and released on the Brazjazz label. Latest news is that Wayne is currently an associate professor and head of the jazz guitar department at the University of Stavenger in Norway. Recorded in Santa Monica during the summer of 2009, If You Would Dance is a completely solid instrumental guitar based album that further establishes Brasel as a real contender in the jazz guitar world. Throughout the nine track CD, Brasel gets solid support from his quartet, but clearly the accent here in on the guitarist’s impeccable guitar skills.

- Funny, I was just talking to SYN founder Steve Nardelli about Italian rock era composers and the conversation turned to a 1978 album I had on vinyl back then from Italian drummer Toni Esposito. This was just the other week when lo and behold in mid August 2010 I should receive a CD from another great Italian music legend from the ‘70s. Back in the very late ‘70s I recall being very impressed by an LP from Venegoni & Co. entitled Rumore Rosso. Led by guitarist Gigi Venegoni, the group named after him recorded several more albums in the ‘80s, yet after the longest time, late in 2006, Gigi reformed the band and, just like that, out of the blue, the long awaited Venegoni & Co. comeback album, Planetarium proves to be well worth the long wait. Superbly recorded instrumental guitar-based fusion, the sound is definitely Euro-centric, Italian flavored fusion, and as such, the CD will easily appeal to fans of the electric group oriented works by guitar giants like Al DiMeola, Jan Ackerman and Swedish guitar icon Janne Schaffer. might have missed this one back in 2007 but it’s a fine album well worth the time for fans of the illustrious legacy of Italian instrumental music as well as the amazing history of European jazz rock music over the past 33 years. With the 2007 CD release of Planetarium, it’s clear the Italian based Electromantic label is truly a bastion of progressive Italian progressive and jazz-rock music with an accent on the classic sound of both the ‘60s and the ‘70s. /

HOWESOUND - In 2008, Steve Howe released his instrumental jazz tribute album, The Haunted Melody and in early 2010, Howe released the live companion album to that album, called Travelling. Recorded live in 2008 in the U.K. and Canada, the 12 cut CD features a near complete concert with The Steve Howe Trio, which pairs Steve with his son Dylan Howe (drums) and Ross Stanley (Hammond organ). Featuring pretty faithful interpretations of music from the instrumental release of The Haunted Melody, the live Travelling album features live covers of Howe and company interpreting music from his jazz heroes—here by Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell to Miles Davis—as well as instrumental covers of Howe classics and historic pieces co-written with YES song writing partner Jon Anderson. Sadly, there’s no Hank Marvin covers! (Hank was Steve’s first big guitar influence) but, there’s a live version of The Haunted Melody favorite “Laughing With Larry” (Hey Steve, you are too lucky, I never laughed with Larry, he only laughed at me!) plus, as if to underscore Steve’s love of classic pop melodies, there’s even a welcoming (if slightly schmaltzy) instro cover of the hugely popular ‘70s Hollies’ classic “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” that Hank and the Shadows did a much better job with back in the late ‘80s.

LEO RECORDS - A mysterious photograph is pictured on the cover art of the 2010 CD from Carolyn Hume and Paul May entitled Come To Nothing. In the U.K. Ms. May is renowned in musical circles for her piano / keyboard skills, and there’s a definite air of mystery on the nine track CD, which is listed on the back of the CD cover as consisting of "Come To Nothing" parts 1-9. The U.K. based Leo Records is quite well known for their adventurous avant gard instrumental, jazzy kind of releases and one of the label’s finest albums, Come To Nothing superbly mixes Ms. May’s sparse yet effective piano improv with never obtrusive drums and right time /right place percussion from Paul May. The best yet pairing of this musical collaboration, Come To Nothing is actually the fifth CD collaboration between Hume and May. Quite accurately, the music of Hume and May is described as ‘haunting and mesmerizing, full of suspense and ghostly echoes.’ Even with so much intrigue in the air—from the striking CD cover art, right down to the evocative, minimalist atmospherics—Come To Nothing is nevertheless quite a musical achievement. You’ll find yourself hitting the replay button to once again try and figure out just what is really happening here. Ms. Hume’s website features a number of music clips from her solo works as well as her albums with Paul May.

MOON BOY MUSIC - A thoroughly inventive instrumental tribute album to the music of John Lennon and the Beatles, Liverpool: Re-Imagining The Beatles is a stunning and haunting work of art from New Age keyboard genius David Lanz. There is a very heavy air of musical karma brought to light here through the brilliant melodies of John Lennon. Most Beatles fans know that Lennon was the voice and vision behind songs like “Rain”, “Eight Days A Week”, “Because”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Yes It Is” and “Norwegian Wood” however Paul McCartney is also represented here with Lanz re-imagining his “Things We Said Today” and “Lovely Rita”. By deconstructing and re-imagining these indelible melodies of Lennon & McCartney as floating, meditational soundscapes, Lanz has created a thing of sonic beauty. Snippets of melodies appear then reappear amid the sonic seasonings that echo the spirit of the Beatles as re-imagined as Neoclassical flavored instrumental and New Age inspired piano based renditions. A number of musicians appear including Gary Stroutsos (Xiao flute) and Walter Gray (cello). Several other players add in some intriguing sonic flavors including, co-producer Gary Lanz (autoharp) and the late Larry Knechtel, who adds Hammond organ on an ethereal composite of “Rain / Eight Days A Week”. In fact, upon further inspective, the CD is actually dedicated to Larry Knechtel who passed away in 2009. Ironically this appearance is one of Larry’s last ever, and how fitting that he should be playing on such a heavenly sonata style arrangement of these song classics. With the inventive work of Lanz and the Satie inspired flute of Stroutsos, ethereal is in fact the key word here. In fact, this music is near weightless and overall, Liverpool is superbly recorded with plenty of atmospheric echo and strategic effects to help it rise above a mere solo piano Beatles tribute. Fitting in among the Beatles covers, Lanz even adds in a leadoff tribute original called “Liverpool” and a set closing atmospheric tribute to Beatles captain John Lennon called “London Skies.” Clearly one of the best piano based instrumental Beatles tributes ever, Liverpool: Re-Imagining The Beatles is tastefully packaged with pictures of Lanz actually visiting the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool while the project is put into further perspective by some very reflective liner notes penned by Lanz himself.

ORIGIN RECORDS - A 2008 tour of Africa inspired saxophonist / composer Geof Bradfield and the results can be heard on his second Origin Records release entitled African Flowers. Proficient on both tenor & soprano saxophone as well as bass clarinet and flute, Bradfield toured Africa as a member of the Ryan Cohan quartet and likewise, Cohan returns the favor and appears on Bradfield’s new album along with Jeff Parker (electric guitar), Clark Sommers (bass), George Fludas (drums) and Victor Garcia (percussion / trumpet / flugelhorn). The sound is a cohesive and swinging blend of instrumental ‘new’ jazz that really shines a light on the sound of each instrument. There’s a definite Coltrane / Tyner influence and even a slight Metheny-esque kind of guitarist vibe, yet the sound is also quite modern throughout the twelve track CD. Commenting on his cross-cultural sonic homage to the dark continent, Bradfield says, ‘With African Flowers I hope to communicate to the listener the expansive spirit and deep soulfulness I experienced as a traveler in Africa.'

- Currently one of the most acclaimed New Age recordings, Elements, by electric cellist Matthew Schoening is just the ticket for winding things down after a hard day’s night. Recorded live in front of a live audience, the five track CD clocks in at 46 minutes and offers a good snapshot of just how effective Schoening is at entertaining in a live setting. Just how Schoening is able to execute this can be linked back to his mastery of the art of live looping and layering while only using his electric cello as his instrument. The full range of sounds Schoening gets, via the loops and layering, is quite amazing at times. The all instrumental album will appeal to a broad range of music fans into alternative classical, instrumental, avant-garde and more. Interestingly, the CD is structured around the elements of water, air, fire, earth and spirit. With so much music emanating out of Matthew’s solo cello, Elements is one CD that just unveils fresh musical insights with each press of the play button. Elements is Schoening’s fourth solo album and follows his 2008 album The Art Of Live Looping.

- A cutting edge label releasing unusual instrumental based music, Strut is based in Germany but their American branch, K7 is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. First up with the Strut logo is Rising Sun by Ottawa Canada fusioneers The Souljazz Orchestra. Kind of sounding like a cross between Art Blakey’s albums from the ‘60s, Soft Machine, Italian percussionist Toni Esposito and the Afro beat of Fela Kuti, this sextet also reminds one a little of the classic American and British TV soundtrack music from the ‘60s and early ‘70s that blended a host of imaginative arrangements. Spearheaded by the keyboard based compositions of Pierre Chrétien and drummer Philippe Lafrenière, Souljazz is mostly horn based yet they bunch their intriguing horn driven unison lines with a hefty helping of strategic echo that sounds influenced by African intensity with a cutting edge jazzy soundtrack edge that keeps the instrumental sound consistently grooving. Strut also has a double CD remix / remaster set from late, great NYC remix DJ Walter Gibbons entitled Jungle Music, subtitled Mixed With Love: Essential & Unreleased Remixes 1976-1986. Already hailed as one of the acclaimed reissues of 2010, the double CD set features Gibbons in full remix mode, having a ball reworking lesser known disco classics from Gladys Knight, Salsoul Orchestra, Bettye Levette, Arthur Russell, Stetasonic and many more. Gibbons had a real knack for the art of the 12” mix and was king of the NYC D.J.’s during the late ‘70s disco era that followed into the early ‘80s. Much more than just mere disco, these tracks often feature some really gifted musicians summoning up extended instrumental reworkings, grooves and edits that also owe a debt of musical gratitude to high voltage disco funk kings like Isaac Hayes and Barry White. Strut Records continues on in 2010 with a range of new releases from Lloyd Miller (an eclectic, jazzy instrumental sound track called The Heliocentrics), and on the vocal side, a Salsa music collection called Salsa Explosion! (subtitled The New York Salsa Revolution 1969-1979), a multi -part excursion into South African music called Next Stop Soweto (subtitled Vol. 2: Soul, Funk & Organ Grooves From the Townships 1969-1976), and back on the instrumental side, Mulatu Steps Ahead, the 2010 CD of Western jazz and Ethiopian modes from the father of Ethio jazz Mulatu Astatke. With each of these World Beat, jazz and remix remasters, Strut takes the music way out there.


- The music archivists at U.K. based Angel Air unearth pop-rock gold with the 2010 CD release of Run From The Wildfire by English rockers Rococo. Formed back in the early ‘70s, and featuring rock journalist Roy Shipton (keyboards, vocal) lead singer Ian Raines and a host of other top rock players of the times, Rococo recorded their album in the ‘70s and also had asingles deal with the Deram label yet for some reason, their music has remained unreleased till now. As is indicated in the well done liner notes, the Rococo song writing team of Shipton and his rock journalist buddy Jeff Ward both originally worked for Melody Maker as music scribes during the tenure of the late great Ray Coleman and clearly these guys had a sound of their own. Although overshadowed by numerous bands of the same era—like City Boy, 10cc and even Supertramp—clearly Rococo had a similar high standard approach when it came to progressive pop and rock during an era of the incredibly high musicianship that was emanating out of the U.K. during that time. Complete with a pair of bonus cuts, Run From The Wildfire may have been recorded back in the ‘70s, yet there’s a vital aura of musical rediscovery and fascination with their music that makes it worth taking a listen 35 years later. Another archival masterpiece from the vaults of Angel Air is a various artists compilation called The Best Of Homegrown Music 1968 to 1980. As far back as 1962, singer-songwriter Brian Carroll was involved with Transatlantic Records and producer legend, the late great Gus Dudgeon. Teaming up with fellow musician Damon Lyon Shaw, Carroll formed Joint Production which morphed into Homegrown Music, the label for which this multi-artist collection is named after. Working with Shaw and a host of bands, including Factory, Five Day Rain, One Way Ticket and more, Carroll established himself as a producing musician and record company genius. The majority of tracks from The Best Of Homegrown Music come out of the heyday of classic rock—1968 to 1975—with some tracks as late as ‘79. Semi-psychedelic pop and rock well worth revisiting, The Best Of Homegrown Music features an in depth CD booklet packed with a wealth of information on Carroll and company. Another Angel Air classic reissue in 2010 is Better Late Than Never from Cold River Lady. Discovered by Cream lyricist and Jack Bruce song writing partner Pete Brown, way back in 1971, Cold River Lady finally got the chance to record Better Late Than Never in 1991 for Brown’s then Interoceter Records and Brown even wrote the introduction to the informative CD liner notes on the band’s Angel Air remaster. For music fans looking for a better description, from the liner notes, Better Late Than Never is described as an album “that has a strong folk influence, but sophisticated flavors from the likes of Arthur Lee, Tim Buckley and Caravan were also present in the mix.” /

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Ever since the summer ‘69 release of the first Taste album, Irish blues guitar legend Rory Gallagher has remained a household word among blues rock fans. In 1971, following Taste, Rory released his first ever solo album. That self-titled album featured Irish bass ace Gerry McAvoy, who remained in Rory’s band till 1991 when he rejoined rockers Nine Below Zero. Angel Air has done a great job unearthing some tasty rock tracks Gerry made during downtime in Rory’s band in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the liner notes for the 2010 CD release of Can’t Win ‘Em All, Gerry adds, ‘I’m delighted this material is now seeing the light of day. It’s lovely to have something out on CD under my own name and I very much hope both Rory Gallagher and Nine Below Zero fans will enjoy it.’ Throughout the eleven track CD, Gerry displays a real knack for singing and writing music along with his impressive bass skills. Backed up by a range of players—four different guitarists, drummer Brendan O’Neill and more—Gerry’s sound is similar to Rory’s in a way. Both Gerry and Rory were immersed in the blues yet both could always be counted on to come up with a catchy hook, riff and melody, all at the right place and right time.

BGO RECORDS - I remember buying BGO CD remasters as far back as the late '80s and early '90s. Such was the devotion of big name guys in the U.K. music business like Mike Gott and Andy Gray that BGO continues maximizing the implementation of the CD as the most viable and trusted method for music listening. With hundreds of CD releases in their catalog over years, BGO keeps the CD flame bright with summer 2010 CD titles from huge legends like Cass Elliot. Music fans first heard Cass as the lead voice of The Mamas And The Papas. By the time the band split up way toosoon, Cass was the one who got famous as a solo artist first and, her final three releases are compiled on a 2010 BGO double CD. Her final two studio albums—the 1972 self-titled Cass Elliot and The Road Is No Place For A Lady—comprise CD one while CD two features her Las Vegas show called Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore. There's no Mamas & Papas best of here. This is an artist looking to upgrade her stature as a viable solo artist and, tragically she was well on the way before dying in London in late July, 1974. This was Cass Elliot at her best. BGO, over the years has proven to be quite eclectic in its release schedule and case in point is a 2010 CD from jazz flugelhorn master Kenny Wheeler entitled Windmill Tilter - The Story Of Don Quixote. Filled with atmospheric jazz that borrows from early fusion as well as '60s soundtracks, this album is a way cool rediscovery recorded in 1968 and features Wheeler’s music backed up by the jazz masters of the ‘60s, including a number of big name U.K. brass players from John Dankworth Orchestra plus jazz guitar icon John McLaughlin and future SKY drummer Tristan Fry. Of course fans will remember Wheeler’s flugelhorn also being a feature on Bill Bruford’s debut album and rock fans who dug him there will dig this more straight ahead, visionary instrumental fusion set. The CD is well packaged with original artwork and 1969 Lp liner notes from John Dankworth, while newly penned in depth notes from Alyn Shipton puts the album history into perspective. Some of BGO’s earliest CD reissues were by Quicksilver Messenger Service and now in 2010 they fill in a missing link with the most famous second Quicksilver album from 1968, Happy Trails. Liner notes by David Wells are exemplary. Although founding members Dino Valenti and John Cipollina passed away in 1994 and 1989 respectively, long time members Gary Duncan and David Freiberg have resurrected the name in recent years. Even so, with its rare mix of psychedelia and Bo Diddley beats, nothing beats Happy Trails for vintage, visionary rock psychedelia, to say nothing of that fantastic cover art which is another story in and of itself. Also out form BGO is a double CD set entitled Road Noise from U.K. pop chanteuse Judie Tzuke. In early 2010, Wrasse Records released Moon On A Mirrorball—a double CD retrospective from Tzuke, including tracks from her late ‘70s / early ‘80s tenure on Elton John’s Rocket Records label as well as new music. Now in 2010, BGO digs into the vaults for Road Noise: The Official Bootleg—a double CD live in concert set recorded in the U.K. in the spring of 1982. Backed up by a tight band, Road Noise demonstrates just how powerful Judie is in concert, while 2010 liner notes by Michael Heatley puts the finishing touches on this fine addition to her star-studded career. BGO also has a double CD set out from Blondie front woman Debby Harry. The 2010 double CD set pairs two of Harry’s solo albums—Rockbird (from 1986) with Debravation (from 1993). Also out recently from BGO is a 23 track single CD from Ike & Tina Turner. The 23 track BGO CD combines two of Ike & Tina’s most popular studio albums—Come Together (released in 1970) and ‘Nuff Said (released in 1971). Compared to the covers-heavy sound of Come Together (featuring covers of the Beatles, Stones and Sly Stone), the ‘71 release of ‘Nuff Said offers eleven Ike & Tina originals. 2010 liner notes by David Wells puts a fresh spin on the early ‘70s musical heyday of this dynamic soul-rock duo. Although Ike Turner passed away in 2007, his legacy lives on in the grooves of his fantastic productions and guitar work.

Arising out of the ashes of The Nice and King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer quickly established themselves as the leaders of the progressive rock movement of 1970. The band’s first self-titled album was a huge commercial success and redefined the way post-Beatles rock fans listened to music. As groups like YES and Genesis struggled to find a place as major contenders, which of course they would by late 1971, the first ELP album just bowled everyone over immediately and their roller coaster ride to the top was nonstop throughout much of the ‘70s. In between the first ELP album and the Summer 1971 release of Tarkus, ELP filmed and recorded a live concert that was quite daring for its time. Filmed live at the Lyceum in London in December 1970, Pictures At An Exhibition featured the trio of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer performing a souped up, rock / jazz version of the Mussorgsky classical masterpiece while putting a unique spin on the quickly evolving classic prog-rock genre. Of course, Emerson had done this kind of thing before with his group The Nice, but ELP recording and releasing Pictures was a huge artistic success that not only blew away the prog-rock crowd, but overall further established ELP as worldwide musical trendsetters. The Lp version of Pictures, featuring a different performance from the video, and engineered by audio genius Eddie Offord, was released on Island in late ‘71. Unbeknownst to most ELP music fans at the time, the live Lyceum show was filmed and a movie of that show actually came out in the cinemas in 1973. Of course, most American fans didn’t get to see it until years later when it surfaced as a DVD. Eagle Rock sets the record straight on that December 1970 show with a fantastic 2010 DVD reissue of the ELP movie Pictures At An Exhibition. This 40th anniversary look back at Pictures, recaptures the video of the December 9th, 1970 show in its most complete form, presenting the entire Pictures composition with live versions of classics from the first ELP album along with Emerson’s “Rondo” from the Nice era. Amazing graphics and special effects enhance this fascinating trip down memory lane, while also adding in footage of a previously unreleased 1971 live performance from the Belgian TV program “Pop Shop” in addition to the original theatrical trailer for the Pictures movie. Eagle’s 144 minute DVD of Pictures At An Exhibition follows their earlier ELP DVD releases of Emerson, Lake & Palmer - The Birth Of A Band: Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 and Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live At Montreux 1977. In addition to their historic Emerson, Lake & Palmer DVD release of Pictures, Eagle have a number of other amazing DVD titles released during the summer of 2010, and high on the list is a memorable DVD from Electric Light Orchestra entitled Live: The Early Years. Featuring highlights from three different ELO concerts, the 91 minute DVD is a real eye opener for music fans who might have missed them during their early 1971-73 era when they were untouchable as musical innovators. The more popular they became the less innovative they would become but during their ‘70s and early ‘80s years ELO became so popular that original fans hardly recognized them anymore. The 1976 ELO concert at the New Victoria Theatre in London is pretty cool as is their 1974 Rockpalast show for German TV but their 1973 show at Brunel University (featuring a quite amazing Jeff Lynne without sunglasses) offers key insights into the band that Lynne had started with sadly, ousted key member Roy Wood and ELO / Move drumming wizard Bev Bevan, who remained a key member of ELO till Lynne left the band to form Traveling Wilburys with Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Like their ELP DVD of Pictures, Eagle tastefully present their ELO DVD with excellent packaging and key liners notes by rock scribe Malcolm Dome. Another title available on Eagle during the Summer 2010 is a fresh off the presses DVD release of Berlin - A Concert For The People (A 79 minute August 30, 1980 live in Berlin concert from U.K. prog-rock legends Barclay James Harvest). Amazingly, the concert featured BJH performing live before an audience of up to 250,000 people. Also included here is the previously unreleased “Time Honored Tales” which is a sequence of five original promotional films created in support of the 1975 Barclay James Harvest album, Time Honored Ghosts. Also on Eagle is Going Home, a 90 minute DVD reissue of a 1994 home video by Jackson Browne, which serves as a documentary of his, up till then 25 year career while combining live performances, rare footage and key interviews and performances by key Browne cohorts including Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby,The Eagles, Graham Nash, David Lindley, Jennifer Warnes and more. In addition, the DVD also features key performances from Browne’s incredible band including guitarists Mark Goldenberg and Scott Thurston. Eagle’s release of Cry Tough is a 252 minute double DVD set from Nils Lofgren performing three different shows on the German Rockpalast TV show from 1976, 1979 and 1991). Lofgren’s band—including his brother / guitarist Tom Lofgren—is in peak form throughout and the DVD booklet features new liner notes from Rockpalast honcho Peter Ruechel and well as brief liners from Nils himself, who adds, ‘These memorable Rockpalast shows remain great musical adventures for my bandmates, crewmates and I.’

HOWESOUND - Back when I was the music reviews editor with 20th Century Guitar magazine between 1998 and 2009, I had the opportunity to meet Steve Howe on several occasions, although I had met and interviewed him years before joining the mag. Of course, during my tenure there, the concensus was that the mag always featured Steve on the cover whenever possible. Many music lovers, especially Americans of the progressive ilk (you know who you are!), go back a long way with Steve—way back in fact to 1971’s The Yes Album, when Steve first made his mark here in the U.S. in a huge way by joining, recording and then touring with YES. Times have sure changed since the Acunto brothers closed down TCG magazine in the dark days of late December 2008 but Steve Howe rolls on, both as a member of the current 2010 YES and as a solo artist. Back in the ‘90s Steve had a number of fine solo albums out under his own name, including two of his greatest albums—The Grand Scheme Of Things and Quantum Guitar as well his famous ‘99 Bob Dylan tribute called Portraits Of Bob Dylan. It was also back in the ‘90s that Steve debuted his Homebrew series. I remember going with Real News editor Craig Gordon and the lovely graphic artist Hye Chon Hong to a '93 show at the Bottom Line in NYC when Steve totally captivated with crowd with just an acoustic guitar. It was one standing ovation after another! After several successful Homebrew titles, in 2010 Steve continues on with the 2009 CD release of Homebrew 4 on his HoweSound label. Like the earlier Homebrew albums, Homebrew 4 features a further 19 tracks of Howe works in progress, demo tracks and other Howe compositions that have till now remained in the vaults. Although these instrumental and vocal based ‘home’ recordings are not meant to supplant the more finessed final productions, they offer an up close and personal look at Howe’s compositional frames of mind. In his own words from the liner notes Steve adds, ‘There’s often a mood of excitement in the actual creation of the piece that doesn’t totally transport to the further developed and mastered recordings.’ Homebrew 4 offers Howe fans yet another inside vantage point at just how some of his greatest solo works took flight and came to fruition. The CD includes excellent packaging and graphics that accompany track by track liner notes by Steve and, there’s even a cameo performance from long time Howe associate in ASIA, keyboardist Geoff Downes. Another Homebrew 4 highlight is Steve’s retooled solo demo version of “Lily’s Of The Field”—a track co-written by Steve and Annie Haslam and a song that became the anthem, so to speak, of the November 1995 Lily’s concert event that was organized by Steve and Annie in conjunction with Larry "Laughing With Larry" Acunto of 20th Century Guitar magazine. As Steve well knows (and as he told me personally) a proper live CD of that amazing concert event is 15 years late yet, yet is still being obstructed by Larry Acunto’s dogmatic insistence of removing all of the 3 hour concert’s spoken word intros, segues and vital comedic sketches featuring the show’s MC, the great pop culture hero and now Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Larry’s nemesis in the Democratically controlled Senate of 2010. Steve, did you know that?

/ CHROME DREAMS - One of the best among all the U.K. DVD makers of rockumentaries, Chrome Dreams is well represented in the U.S. by PA.-based MVD. Chrome have a number of fine DVD rockumentary titles out in 2010 spearheaded by The Rolling Stones 1969-1974: The Mick Taylor Years. Of course, when U.K. blues guitar great Mick Taylor joined The Rolling Stones in time for the late summer ‘69 release of “Honky Tonk Women”, some original Stones fans who grew up on their amazing ‘60s 45 rpm singles were still in shock and dismay over the July 3, 1969 death of Brian Jones, who many believe held the key to the band’s magical '60s pop masterpieces. Anyway, Mick Taylor was the guy who joined in place of Brian, and this DVD is a fine expose on the years Taylor joined the Stones and recorded Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock And Roll. As usual, Chrome Dreams leaves no stone unturned regarding this era, all the while pairing original documentary and concert footage of The Stones with some of the biggest music critics on either side of the Atlantic, who wax philosophically, long after the fact, on the meaning of it all. The DVD also features some fairly recent interview footage with Taylor who left the band in the mid ‘70s over artistic disagreements. Clocking in at 99 minutes, you’d be hard pressed to find another as complete a documentary on the Stones during this crucial time in their early ‘70s years. Chrome Dreams / MVD also has an DVD on Cream guitar icon Eric Clapton entitled The 1960s Review. The two hour DVD presents an in depth look at Clapton’s early career with The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream and Blind Faith while also including new interviews with John Mayall, Tom McGuiness, Chris Dreja, Cream biographer Chris Welch and a host of other music critics and scribes. The Chrome Dreams / MVD DVD release of Frank ZappaThe Freak-Out List presents an intensive look at the musical roots and influences of Mothers Of Invention founder Frank Zappa. Turns out, Zappa’s influences were some of the most eclectic names in 20th century music history—from avant gard classicist Edgard Varese to ‘50s doo-wop groups from the Bronx. Complete with rare video footage of The Mothers and the Freak Out list of artists, the 88 minute DVD also features interviews with Mothers Of Invention group members Ian Underwood, Don Preston and George Duke. As on all the Chrome Dreams DVD releases, The Freak-Out List features extra add ons, here including a segment called “Frank Zappa’s Record Collection.” Each Chrome Dreams DVD offers priceless insights into the key players in classic rock history. /

- The sudden death of Brian Jones in July of 1969 was such a shock that original fans of The Rolling Stones barely had time to recover before the band released “Honky Tonk Woman” at the end of that summer. Then the old one, two, Woodstock and the Beatles’ breakup and that was 1969 for you in a nutshell! Without Brian and the Beatles to drive them on, the Stones as they became known as weren’t quite as cosmic anymore. The ‘60s and the AM radio hit singles Stones era was officially over. Knocked off, over and out of the Stones by Keith Richards in a cosmic musical dual where the ‘60s were sacrificed and blind faith fell, Brian Jones became the first major rock star of the Beatles era to perish. The rude awakening of Sticky Fingers followed and then by 1972, the Stones released their double album masterpiece Exile On Main Street, which was reissued as a double CD set on Universal Music during the summer of 2010. Interesting to note that backing up the 2010 CD pressing of the original 18 cut Exile, the double CD also features a second, ten track CD of newly uncovered Stones tracks from the original sessions, including some of which that were actually reworked in 2009 with new lyrics and vocals by Mick Jagger, some new guitar licks from guitarist Mick Taylor and backing vocals from current Stones singers Cindy Mizelle and Lisa Fischer. It’s been noted by one astute writer that one of the newly reworked tracks here, “So Divine (Aladdin Story)” portends a rip-off of sorts of the Brian Jones’ sitar intro riff from “Paint It Black” but Jones isn’t even credited in any song writing credits here. Another newly reworked vintage song here, “Following The River” features new lyrics and vocals added in 2009 and an instrumental from 1970 called “Title 5”—a neat little guitar jam featuring Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman—nearly harkens back to the beat group days of ‘60s with Brian in the band and it's a great way to close out the bonus second CD here. “Title 5” as it’s known here is actually under 2 minutes, yet offers keen insight into just how much of an underrated guitar genius Richards was back in the ‘60s. It’s a real shame he never pursued recording this type of instrumental free jam sound as it’s kind of indicative of his “Satisfaction” groove type of guitar sound. As cool as the newly discovered tracks are on disc two of the 2010 double CD set, it’s the original eighteen cuts—neatly fitting on CD1 and that comprised the original Exile On Main Street produced by the late, great Jimmy Miller—that are still the meat of the matter so to speak. Despite coming out on CD for 20+ years, the sound is quite good on this 2010 remaster set. The double digi-pak packaging is good but the original Exile, double black vinyl pressing was quite uniquely packaged and came with a number of amazing connected post card inserts that are missing here. You’d have to find the mid ‘90s Virgin Records “collectors edition” CD pressing to find all the original Lp style, albeit miniaturized, artwork. Stones fans who grew up with their singles and monumental albums like Satanic Majesties Request, December’s Children, Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed were never completely sold on Exile. The sound without Brian Jones and the attention to pop detail and orchestration was gone, replaced by an overt kind of sexy, drug induced sonic rock and roll mania. Even so, 38 years after it was first released, the original 18 track Exile On Main Street still smolders with an unbridled rock energy that perhaps sounds better and more urgent now then when it was first released in '72. Caught in between the pop revolution of the ‘60s and Las Vegas, the Stones opted for Vegas but in doing so, they gave us quite a wild ride over the years. For their 2010 remaster, UMe have put together a fine package, made essential with the ten track bonus CD, that also includes a thin little booklet with near miniature text and stylized photos from the heyday of the historic Exile sessions.

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