Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









ACONY RECORDS - A track off the 2009 CD from L.A. based The Whispertown 2000 entitled “Lock And Key” was a definite highlight on a notable magazine's CD sampler from the U.K. So after checking out the entire CD, clearly there’s plenty more good sounds where “Lock And Key” came from. There’s a wild unique alt-rock kind of vibe on Swim, the Acony Records debut from Whispertown 2000. The first band signed to Acony—the label started by singer-songwriter Gillian Welch—The Whispertown 2000 features the twin lead, vocals of Morgan Nagler and Vanesa Corbala. Joined here by guitarists Adrian Wisenbaker (guitar) and Carey Wisenbaker (bass), these gals will have you crying in your beer in no time. This ain’t your daddy’s cowpunk. Whispertown 2000 make alternative country-tinged folk fleshed out by some startling songs mixed in with a variant of progressive pop sounds that will have you coming back for more. Whatever you call it—avant blues, new traditional, sweet/sad, cowpunk—The Whispertown 2000 is off to a solid start with Swim.

ADAMS ENTERTAINMENT - An authentic trip back in time to the heyday of ‘60s pop and psychedelia, Love-In: A Musical Celebration Of The Summer Of Love features key, nostalgic in concert performances by a number of top musicians who made history back in 1967. The DVD was put together by Anthony Adams—who released an amazing DVD documentary on the history of the guitar entitled Primal Twang back in 2007. Adams’ latest venture of bringing popular music history into focus, Love-In the musical features storyteller Ben Vereen narrating the story of 1967 in words and song with some of the main movers and shakers of that fabled year. Love-In highlights include Jesse Colin Young of The Youngbloods, Vince Martell, guitarist in Vanilla Fudge, Strawberry Alarm Clock performing their great ‘67 number one “Incense And Peppermints” and much more. A rare set by Peter & Gordon—drawing on their ‘67 Lady Godiva album (one of four albums P&G made that year!)—mix things up with jazz-fusion guitar hero Eric Johnson—here in top form playing a tribute to Cream and Hendrix—drumming legend Buddy Miles along with a host of fine players in the Love-In backing band. Similar in concept to Adams’ Primal Twang musical, Love-In benefits from it’s selective spotlight on the classic year of 1967 and just like Primal Twang, Love-Inwould make a great Broadway musical. Expertly filmed and recorded, 108 minute Love-In also features 5.1 soundtrack, bonus tracks, trailer and photo gallery. The DVD starts off slowly but before you know it, you’ll be chanting ‘let the sunshine in!’ /

- Guitarist / producer and singer-songwriter Francis Dunnery is a busy man. In 2009, Dunnery together with Steve Nardelli, produced Big Sky, the latest and greatest album from ‘60s mod rockers The Syn. Another one of Dunnery’s recent musical alliances and productions resulted in the 2007 CD from U.K. pop songstress Dorie Jackson. The daughter of musical icon David Jackson, of Van der Graf Generator, Dorie’s album is called The Courting Ground. That progressive pop and rock sound that Dunnery and Nardelli worked magic with on Big Sky seeps through the aura of Dorie’s album. A noteworthy new artist worth hearing, Dorie’s vocals can also be heard backing Nardelli's lead vocals all over the Big Sky album while on The Courting Ground she conjures a unique pop sound all her own. A cross between Big Sky Syn, a taste of ‘80s Mike Oldfield, a touch of Enya and even some of Dunnery’s more upbeat stuff, Dorie’s album exudes a refined sense of pop awareness. In addition to Dunnery and a cross section of players, Dorie’s prog legend dad even appears on the CD. How cool is that? Recorded in New York and England, the CD sound is excellent and the packaging and artwork is first rate.

BACKYARD LEVITATION / DOOR TO DOOR DISTRIBUTION - Guitarist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Billy Sherwood brought so much fresh blood to the Yes group lineup back in the mid ‘90s. In addition to helping to shape and create Yes masterpieces like Open Your Eyes and The Ladder, Sherwood worked closely with Chris Squire back on a couple albums under their group name Conspiracy. Following the 2003 release of the second Conspiracy album, The Unknown, Chris left L.A. for London where upon he rejoined his first pre-Yes band The Syn. That pretty much left Billy Sherwood on his own, but he’s been anything but idle for the past 5 years. Sherwood’s most recent projects include two albums with his CIRCA band, featuring Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, guitarist Jimmy Haun and drummer Jay Schellen. The 2009 Circa CD, HQ picks up from where the Circa 2007 CD left off. Although the new Circa HQ lineup replaces Yes drummer Alan White with Conspiracy drummer Jay Shellen, the sound is still top notch prog-rock music. With Sherwood handling all the bass and vocals, the Circa trademark sound continues on HQ with an array of complex Yes inspired prog-rock. Having top players like Yes founding keyboardist Tony Kaye on board adds to authentic prog connection, while both Haun and Schellen clearly share a sense of musical ESP with both Sherwood and Kaye. As if the new Circa HQ CD wasn’t enough, Sherwood also recently released a new solo CD in 2009. Entitled At The Speed Of Life, the CD is a true solo album in every sense of the word. With Sherwood handling all the vocals and instruments, At The Speed Of Life is very much in the Circa / Yes sound style and clearly carries forth Sherwood’s reputation as one of the leading prog-rock music makers of the new millennium. /

BECAUSE MUSIC - Taking a cue from Brian Wilson and his famous Smile album as well as avant pop icons such as John Cale, NYC based singer-songwriter Fredo Viola turns in a splendid performance on his 2009 album The Turn. With one foot in pop and the other in the classical music of Stravinsky and Benjamin Britten among others, The Turns makes for a fascinating mix of Wilson-esque harmonies with quick and quirky avant classical edges. There’s also a touch of musique concrete and even Gregorian chant in Viola’s wildly amazing music. One minute, Fredo is Brian Wilson at the piano, the next, the CD has been hijacked by Berio and Bartok. If Harry Nilsson was produced by Harry Parch, the results might have sounded like Fredo Viola’s album The Turn. Pop music takes a new turn with the arrival of Fredo Viola. Interestingly, the twelve cut CD also comes with an accompanying DVD featuring eight wildly imaginative concept style video clips.

- The Les Paul and Mary Ford of lounge pop, Inara George and Greg Kurstan return with the 2009 CD from The Bird And The Bee, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. After a series of CD and EP releases, Rayguns improves upon the duo’s original concept of Inara’s multilayered vocal arrangements. Photographed on the back of the CD booklet looking like the century 21 version of Maxwell Smart and his accomplice Agent 99 the CD booklet provides a complete lyrics sheet that really shines a spotlight on some uncanny lyric writing. Sure there’s that retro early ‘60s feel—Mary Ford would have loved Inara’s voice and Kurstin’s arrangements. The songs were co-written by both, with the multi-instrumental abilities of Kurstan, thinking here like a cross between Les Paul and Walter Wanderly! What’s up with that 10 second instrumental, “Phil” on track 9?

DANCING PAWN - One of the forerunners and a main man right at the center of modern synth pop, keyboard virtuoso and singer songwriter Tom Brislin is well known among prog-rock fans as being a member of Yes during their symphonic tour of 2001. In another Yes connection, Tom Brislin played keyboards on the 2009 Syn CD, Big Sky.Although this latest version of the Syn sadly and unexpectedly broke up following some critically acclaimed East Coast gigs in late April 2009, Brislin’s excellent keyboard work on Big Sky is a testament to his musical genius. Based out in N.J., Brislin continues making waves with his own band Spiraling. On time with the long awaited follow up to the 2004 Spiraling CD, Transmitter, Brislin & Co. released Time Travel Made Easy. Broken into two parts, the 13 track, 2009 CD contains a wealth of catchy synth pop that often displays it’s prog roots. Once again Brislin is joined by top players including guitarist Marty O’Kane, here echoing his electrifying fretboard work on the Transmitter CD. If you like catchy, thoughtful power pop that tastefully mixes in progressive overtones, you’ll catch a buzz from Tom Brislin and his latest CD with Spiraling.

DECCA RECORDS - Although paired down from the 18 track 2 CD / DVD set that came out as an import release, the 12 track Decca Records US release of Easy Come Easy Go paints a convincing musical portrait of Marianne Faithfull in 2009.Featuring Faithfull working alongside noted producer Hal Willner, the single CD 12 track release features Faithfull covering Dolly Parton, Eno, Randy Newman, Morrissey and more. Guitarists appearing including Marc Ribot, long time Faithfull collaborator Barry Reynolds, Keith Richards and Sean Lennon. Recording at Sear Sound in Manhattan, Wilner and Faithfull bring their long time recording relationship full circle. Some of the best tracks on Easy Come Easy Go—such as the Eno cover “How Many Worlds” and the Neko Case cover of “Hold On Hold On”—combine for an upbeat rock bounce balanced out in the end by Faithfull’s penchant for arty cabaret and pop soliloquy.

/ CRACKER BARREL - Is it my imagination or is Dolly Parton getting more gorgeous year after year? After three decades of being the queen of American country music, Dolly is back with her 2009 CD Backwards Barbie - Collector’s Edition. Released on her own Dolly Records, this 15 track CD is offered as a special edition through the famous Cracker Barrel chain of food stores and restaurants. Dolly’s special edition of Backwards Barbie mirrors the official release while including three songs selected by Parton from her extensive catalog. The title track “Backwards Barbie” is a real tear-jerker of a country song if there ever was one. Parton’s portrayal of her often misconstrued image as a “Backwards Barbie” will leave you misty eyed while kicking yourself for your womanizing ways. Parton has always been a heckuva singer-songwriter and on Backwards Barbie she’s penned some great songs, while adding in several covers, including a take on Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks Of My Tears.” The cream of country music assist Dolly on Backwards Barbie, including top players like producer / guitarist Kent Wells, guitarist Brent Mason and pedal steel ace Paul Franklin.

- One of the true geniuses of the U.K. pop scene, Mike Batt has released a number of albums over the past 30+ years and his Dramatico label is featuring a number of his past releases on CD as well as a bunch of new titles. First up is Dramatico’s latest star Katie Melua. Released in May 2008, Melua’s Live At The O2 Arena was recorded on November 8, 2008 and features tracks from her Pictures world tour. Melua’s 2007 CD Pictures is one of her best. Featuring tracks written by Melua, Pictures also features her covers of tracks written by Mike Batt and Leonard Cohen. Track 3 from Pictures, “If The Lights Go Out” is one of Batt’s great songs and Melua does it justice on Pictures. The players on Pictures included guitar great Chris Spedding, drummer Henry Spinetti, percussionist Ray Cooper along with Batt himself on piano and organ. Finally released stateside in the U.S., Pictures is a detailed work of orchestral and impressionistic pop music. Pop fans new to Batt’s orchestral pop touch may want to check out his Mike Batt Archive Series. Case in point is Dramatico’s 2009 double CD set combining 2 Batt classics—Songs Of Love And War (from 1988) and Arabesque (from 1995). Some of the great U.K. session guys assist Batt’s orchestral songs and vocals. Music fans should keep an eye and an ear out for Batt’s albums on Dramatico as well as Melua’s recent releases.

- The most revered rock opera in history gets dusted off for a new treatment by The Smithereens. As Smithereens front man Pat DiNizio puts it ‘This is punk rock opera meets the godfathers of pop. Plain and simple.’ With the core lineup of guitarists / singers DiNizio and Jim Babjak, along with drummer Dennis Diken, The Smithereens Play Tommy features 13 of the key tracks from the Who’s original. It’s all done with a definite sense of class and finesse that keeps the sense of original in mind. With a great cover art that kind of spoofs the Tommy phenomenon, this special 40th anniversary of The Smithereens Play Tommy is one cool retro rock moment.

- The blues on disc goes all the way back to Robert Johnson—the pioneering blues legend so inspirational to giants such as Eric Clapton and Peter Green. An up-and-coming force on the blues scene carrying forth the blues into the new millennium, Dave Fields stakes his claim on the blues with his 2009 CD All Wound Up.Like Clapton and Green, Fields makes his bluesy rock approach appealing to the listener thanks to his easy on the ears vocal sound and spirited electric guitar style. Composing all the music here, Fields is backed up by a range of top players including drummers Wes Little and Dave Moore, Billy Gibson (harp) and many more. In addition to his singing, guitar playing and occasional keyboard work, Fields also plays drums on a couple tracks here. A must for fans of guitar icons such as Clapton, Hendrix and Trower, All Wound Up is a solid set of electrifying rockin’ blues.

FULFILL - A mainstay of the fabled, original Factory Records from England, along with label mates New Order back in 1978, Durutti Column continue on into 2009 with a new CD appropriately
entitled Love In The Time Of Recession. With ambient guitar innovator Vini Reilly still at the helm, Durutti Column remain one of instrumental / vocal rock’s most diverse ensembles. Along with Reilly’s occasional ambient vocals and wild vision of the guitar (think a cross between Fripp and Eno), Durutti Column mainly features Reilly’s multiplexed guitars often sounding like a sonic guitar soundtrack backed up by some fine players including long time drummer Bruce Mitchell. Acclaimed avant gard musical conceptualist John Metcalf was featured on earlier Durutti Column releases. Interesting how Reilly and Metcalf are so facile with their musical ideas, sounds that flow like wine. Check out Metcalf’s latest CD too. Eno and a splendid mix between Fripp and Frith are noted influences here. Of course, coming from England what would you expect? Love In The Time Of Recession may be one of Reilly’s best albums to date and the CD fits neatly into the Durutti Column legacy. /

- Inventing a new genre of music called "Gypsybilly", the L.A. based Vignatis are making lots of new friends with their 2009 CD. The 15 track Birth Of The "Gypsybilly" combines vocals, Gypsy Jazz flavored sounds, Rockabilly and Country music. Featuring the Brian Setzer rhythm section of Bernie Dresel (drums) and John “Spazz” Hatton (bass), as well as violinist Charlie Bisharat, Birth Of The "Gypsybilly" is centered around the guitars and vocal of Fabrice Vignati and the jazzy Mary Ford style vocals of singer Tracy Vignati. Overall, the CD really captures the essence of Gypsy Jazz in the new millennium. The occasional French vocal by Fabrice and a bunch of English language vocals by Tracy makes way for the swing guitar groove of Fabrice, including a couple cool guitar based instrumentals. For guitar fans an instro highlight, “Reverie Savoyarde” features Fabrice’s guitar working out with some great pedal steel sounds from Chris Allen Burke. Birth Of The "Gypsybilly" is a cool little CD for fans of swing guitar greats,, from ‘50s rocker Scotty Moore to the 2000 sounds of Brian Setzer.

/ MPCA - After Todd Rundgren did such a great job on the New Cars’ 2006 comeback album, It’s Alive! you kind of wished he’d return to his classic pop roots, but his 2008 Arena album is almost a polar opposite to the sprightly power pop of The New Cars. With it's cover art featuring Todd looking like a Roman gladiator ready to do battle, Arena sounds like Todd Rundgren channeling Black Oak Arkansas at times! In other words, this ain’t “I Saw The Light.” Even so, playing, producing and performing it all in typical Rundgren fashion, there a plenty moments of classical Rundgren studio genius. Interestingly, Arena was recorded entirely on Rundgren’s laptop computer in a linen closet in his former home and the bedroom of new eco smart house in Hawaii. Commenting himself on this technological breakthrough, Rundgren adds, ‘I’m done with all the big, clunky equipment now. It’s a pain in the ass to keep it working and it’s expensive. I have everything that I need in a minimum of hardware and software.’ Commenting on his musical mission these days, Todd states, ‘I haven’t been doing the oldies kind of thing for a while, since I started doing this more guitar-oriented presentation. So um...we’re gonna wait and see, I guess.’ Make no mistake about, Rundgren is mad as hell at the last eight years of terror, war and fiscal deficits. Ready to do battle on Arena, Todd Rundgren is well armed with musical might and mane. On Arena, Todd Rundgren earned the rite to bare arms!

- Dan Forte at Vintage Guitar raved on about the new CD from The Del Moroccos. Entitled Blue Black Hair, the 13 cut CD features a solid band with ace guitar from Jimmy Sutton. Backed up here by three female singers with beehive hairdos, fronted by singer Gabrielle Sutton, the 2008 CD is pure ‘60s rockabilly and rave up rock and roll in coolest spirit of Buddy Holly and Wanda Jackson. If it was on black vinyl Lp you’d swear the whole shebang was cut in 1962!

- On the 2009 album from The Vines, it sounds like lead singer Craig Nicholls has been listening to Ziggy Stardust, the Velvets, the Kinks and Mott The Hoople although the press says he’s equally influenced by Brian Wilson and Kurt Cobain. For power pop and melodic rock fans looking for a fresh, sonic kick, Melodia will sound like musical nirvana. Recorded in L.A., Melodia kicks modern pop in the ass and as such is a vital mix of pummeling speedball-fired rock, twisted psychedelia with the occasional pastoral pop ballad. The Vines supply plenty of roller coaster rock that’s not afraid to take a look in the rearview mirror. /

J & R ADVENTURES - Back in the ‘60s, the Stones and Traffic had Jimmy Miller and by 1970 Yes had Eddie Offord. We’re talking about classic rock producers, sound men to the stars. Joe Bonamassa knows that and that’s why he keeps master producer Kevin Shirley close to the mixing desk. On Joe’s 2009 CD, The Ballad Of John Henry, both guitarist and producer continue mining the progressive blues-rock sound so successfully explored on the 2007 Bonamassa release of Sloe Gin. Passing away back in the ‘90s, Miller would be so proud of Joe’s John Henry cover of the original Miller production of “Feelin’ Good” from Traffic’s third album, Last Exit. At 31, Joe Bonamassa sounds like a seasoned guitar veteran carrying forth the spirit of blues rock icons such as Alvin Lee and Kim Simmonds. Bonamassa also cites early greats like Paul Kossoff and Mick Abrahams while fundamental inspirations like B.B. King and Danny Gatton continue to find their way into the Bonamassa sound. With Kevin Shirley adding tasteful light and shade details in the studio, The Ballad Of John Henry also benefits from seasoned hands like Blondie Chaplin (rhythm guitar) and Carmine Rojas (bass). Bonamassa is calling The Ballad Of John Henry among his greatest achievements yet. Fans will find it hard to argue with Joe’s estimation!

- PA.-based singer songwriter Kelian (a/k/a Kelly Babcock) is off to a fine start on her 2009 CD It’s Only Me. Hooking up with producer / guitarist Stephen Butler, Kelian has composed a fine selection of pop rockers that are somewhat reminiscent of Elton John, McCartney and Billy Joel at times. Interestingly, Kelian lives just a few blocks away from guitar great Eric Bazilian (who’s worked with the Hooters and guitarist Scott Bradoka) and with Bazilian’s encouragement she moved ahead and continued with her writing and recording. Laying down some high quality pop with a solid piano / guitar groove, Kelian is on the right road with It’s Only Me. Let’s hope she continues to refine her clear gift for scoring quality pop/rock.

- One pretty cool buzz band that cites influences such as Peter Gabriel and Roxy Music, SF based The Love X Nowhere released High Score Blackout in 2009. Intelligent alt-rock with slight prog edges, The Love X Nowhere features a solid group effort. The quintet doesn’t let on who’s playing what on the CD booklet although members Gabriel Leis and Brett Chulada wrote all the lyrics. Fans of Pink Floyd with Syd and even recent band like My Morning Jacket will definitely cop a buzz off the The Love X Nowhere.

MOONSTORM - 2005 was a turning point in American history. Towards the middle of the year, two major hurricanes hit the Southern U.S. with disastrous results. Hundreds died in the aftermath including ‘60s pop innnovator Barry Cowsill. Although Barry left messages with his sister, Susan Cowsill, following the onslaught of hurricane Katrina, after August 29, 2005, Barry was never heard from again. Cowsill’s final recordings and several unreleased outtakes were compiled in 2009 on a 13 cut CD called U.S. 1. A leader of the flower power pop of his ‘60s band The Cowsills, Barry’s U.S. 1 is a bit harder edged rock. Comparable to some of the later solo work of both Keith Richards and even Neil Young, Cowsill was clearly moving towards a more rock based sound before Hurricane Katrina took him out.

RED HOUSE RECORDS - The original Jefferson Airplane was comprised of five superstar musicians the likes of which we’ve never seen since. Back then, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick were happy espousing their futuristic diatribes of a hippy utopia and Marty Balin was gut wrenching his soul on Airplane tracks like “Today” and later during the Starship era, the song “Miracles”. But even in the midst of heady psychedelia, Airplane guitarists Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were happy as kids cooking flapjacks when it came to their rootsy blues-rock Hot Tuna sound. A guitar legend who’s had a stellar solo career since the Airplane and Hot Tuna days, Jorma Kaukonen has recently been recording for Minnesota-based Red House Records.First up was Jorma’s 2007 Red House release of Stars In My Crown, and now in 2009 he follows with River Of Time. Produced by multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and featuring top players like Levon Helm and long time Kaukonen comrade Barry Mitterhoff, the CD features Jorma comfortably recording in the studio. From start to finnish, River Of Time is a centerpiece production for Kaukonen’s one of a kind guitars and vocals. There’s plenty of Kaukonen originals on hand along with music from his formative years including fresh covers of Mississippi John Hurt, Merle Haggard and Rev. Gary Davis, topped off with a fine cover of the Grateful Dead classic “Operator.” Add in a stirring cover of “Trouble In Mind,” a couple instrumentals, the Hot Tuna flavored “Izze’s Lullaby” and the highly spiritual “A Walk With Friends” and you’ve got the makings of yet another Kaukonen album classic.

- 40 years ago, in 1969, Neil Young took the rock world by storm with his song “Cowgirl In The Sand.” The tour de force from his second Reprise Lp, that song set in place a benchmark rock blueprint that Young still explores on his 2009 CD, Fork In The Road. Thank god Obama won Neil, ‘cause I couldn’t take another scathing, soul searching, gut wrenching, antiwar album like late 2005’s Living With War. Seemingly reinventing himself again, Young returns in part to the roots of his ‘69 album on his ‘09 studio album. Recorded in NYC and London, Fork features a few bona fide Young classics. Covering a number of deja vu moods and moves, Young’s music of late is kind of like reading the NY Times. You never know where his imagination may fly to. “Just Singing A Song” and “When Worlds Collide” are each indelible tracks that paint Young in his truest musical colors. Guitar icon Ben Keith appears on Fork, adding his magic steel guitar sounds although Ben is credited here with not only lap steel but also electric guitar and B-3 organ. Also on hand is guitarist Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young on vibes, acoustic guitar and vocals along with the rhythm section of Rick Rosas on bass and Chad Cromwell on drums. Possibly Young’s coolest album of the double 0’s and among his most upbeat ever, Fork In The Road is right up there with CSNY and Buffalo Springfield.

- It’s taken nearly 40 years, but in 2009 Procol Harum’s founding member and lyricist Keith Reid released his first solo project on the German based Rockville label. Credited to The Keith Reid Project, The Common Thread features Reid’s lyrics paired with music and vocals of eight different singer-songwriters such as John Waite, Southside Johnny, Terry Reid, Chris Thompson, Steve Booker, Michael Saxell and more. Co-produced by Reid and songwriter Matt Noble, The Common Thread draws on a sound not unlike the ‘90s Procol Harum album The Prodigal Stranger. Few rock lyricists were able to make the same impact that Reid made with Procol Harum, starting with the 1967 release of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” On The Common Thread, even without Procol singer Gary Brooker, Reid is able to stake out some classy pop-rock maneuvers of his own.

- For her tenth solo album, Debris, singer-songwriter Michelle Malone teams with producer Nick Di Dia. Di Dia’s technical edge in the studio breaths new life into Malone’s latest batch of songs to which she adds, ‘Nick is brilliant, and we found that we work very well together. He let the songs take us where they wanted to go.’ Backed by a solid band including guitarist Peter Stroud, Malone expertly mixes things up with a composite of gritty electric guitar blues and a straight ahead rock sound that will put her in good standing among fans of rockers like Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and the Stones. As Debris intends, few singer-songwriters and guitarists mix rock, pop and blues as well as Malone. These songs have hooks and the arrangements sizzle under the weight of Malone’s long standing experience on the road.

- A man of many talents, guitarist George Lynch is well known among hard rockers as the lead guitarist in the band Dokken. Solo since ‘89, Lynch returned in 2008 with George Lynch’s Souls Of We. With Lynch handling all the guitars and backed up by a solid band, including vocalist London Legrand, Let The Truth Be Known, is a solid representation of Lynch and his myriad of rock influences. An endorser of ESP guitars since 1986, Lynch has a remarkable grasp on the hard rock guitar style and as a result, he should have across the board appeal with Dokken’s hard rock crowd as well as fans of Holdsworth, Fripp and other prog guitar legends who’ve been known for their rock work in the past. One listen to Souls Of We and it’s clear that Lynch is on the cutting edge of extreme hard rock guitar. There’s few mellow moments on Let The Truth Be Known, so put it in the CD player, brace yourself and be prepared to be blown away by Lynch and his Souls Of We. /

- Fronting bands since she was 12, Australian singing sensation Gabriella Cilmi sounds like a near veteran at 17 with her 2009 CD Lessons To Be Learned. Sounding like a solid split between Madonna with the pipes of Linda Ronstadt as produced by Brian Wilson, Cilmi has it all—a great band with a rocking electric guitar sound, great looks and an array of catchy dance music tracks and upbeat pop grooves that swirl around in your head. Other noticible pop influences here include pop R&B titan Tina Turner and even 1980 pop-rockers Martha & The Muffins.Writing or co-writing all the tracks here, Cilmi is starting off on the right foot as she begins her ascent as a major pop talent to be watched.

- Music fans into the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead back in 1971 were probably equally turned on by the hippie country rock sounds of New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Featuring guitarists David Nelson (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (steel guitar) backing up the songs of John Dawson, the New Riders were signed to Columbia by mogul Clive Davis and went on to record 12 albums while selling 4 million. A revived New Riders lineup—featuring Nelson and Cage along with a new rhythm section and Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano—has yielded the band’s first new studio album in twenty years. Most of the tracks on Where I Come From were co-written by Nelson and his long time good buddy, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. An air of spontaneous psychedelia abounds on Where I Come From, with Nelson and Cage recreating that magical New Riders guitar sound that so many Deadheads tripped out to back in 1972. /

ZOË / ROUNDER - With producer and multi-instrumentalist Alex Wong, singer-songwriter Vienna Teng returned in 2009 with her latest CD Inland Territory. Combining pop and jazzy modern rock sounds, Teng’s latest is a sonic delight. Current guitar fave Kaki King lends her noted fretboard chops on a couple songs here with the balance of the guitar chores handled by Kiyannuu Kim. For alt-rock and modern pop fans, there’s plenty to like on Teng’s Inland Territory. Several tracks feature some soaring classical strings, arranged by Alex Wong, that adds to the album’s overall sonic diversity.


ADDISON AVENUE - Long time exponents of the big instrumental surf-rock beat, Shig And Buzz are given the live treatment with the 2009 CD release of The Live Adventures Of Shig And Buzz. Still featuring drummer Shig Komiyama, backed by Roger Rocha (guitar), Johnny Hamiltone (bass) and Yoon-ki Chai (keys, violin). Understated with determined drive, Shig and company blast their way through a number of original rockers along with select favorites from the Ventures and other instro favorites. Shig’s drumming is always tasteful while the combination of Rocha’s guitar and Yoon-ki’s sinewy violin makes for a unique musical combination rarely heard in the surf-rock or the instro genre overall. During 2006, Shig And Buzz released their Sonic Traveler and the recordings on the Live Adventures CD are taken from their 2006 tour with the Mermen and Violent Femmes. On the Live Adventures CD, a touch of the far east merges with the time honored instrumental guitar rock sound, making for an all around live instro rock winner.

- Thanks to genius keyboard / piano virtuosos like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, the sound of classical music made a huge impact on rock fans who tuned on to legends like ELP and Yes back around 1970. When his first CD came out a couple years back, Italian piano / pipe organ virtuoso Marco Lo Muscio was widely acclaimed by prog-rock legends such as Steve Hackett and Rick Wakeman. Filled with classically inspired instrumentals performed on grand piano and pipe organ, Marco’s first solo album, New Horizons was dedicated to the music of Steve Hackett. On his 2009 CD Dark And Light, Marco expands on his prog keyboard vision with a follow up CD featuring fresh transcriptions of classic compositions by Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. With the first half performed on grand piano and the second performed on pipe organ, Marco’s original compositions include tributes to Erik Satie and jazz piano legend Bill Evans. Marco’s multipart, 14+ minute opus, filled with daring, grand piano extrapolations, “The Book Of Gandalf” is a definite Dark And Light highlight. On both New Horizons and Dark And Light, Marco Lo Muscio makes beautifully recorded, classically inspired instrumental piano and organ music for rock fans with an open mind towards the classics. Masterful, meditative instrumental keyboard music at it’s finest, Dark And Light features an excellent CD booklet filled with in depth liner notes—in both English and Italian—along with additional liner notes from guitar legend Steve Hackett.

- There’s a good reason why the fantastic guitar music that Django Reinhardt made back in postwar Europe back in the ‘40s and ‘50s lives on today. It’s the same reason why modern rock guitarists like Shadows great Hank Marvin and top electric players like John Jorgenson have, in recent years, turned to Django’s Gypsy Jazz style of acoustic guitar playing. The reason is that Django’s lightening quick style approach to acoustic fingerstyle guitar makes people feel good. Canadian guitarist Duane Andrews spent time in France and upon his return he took up the Gypsy Jazz torch and the results sound great on his 2008 CD, Raindrops. A popular guitarist up in his native Canada, Andrews digs deep and delivers the goods with Raindrops. A stellar mix of Andrews originals, traditional arrangements and a Django cover fill up the sound stage on Raindrops. Backed up several key players, including rhythm guitarist Steve Hussey, and accompanied by The Atlantic String Quartet, Andrews displays a wide range of chops and impeccable taste on an all instrumental CD that not only sounds good but feels good as well. Track by track notes by Andrews within the well packaged digi-pak CD design fills in the missing pieces behind Andrews’ musette of choice.

- The mix of electric violin and electric guitar sounds like a hit or miss affair but in the hands of violinist James Sudakow and electric guitarist Eric Zimmermann the concept works wonders. A CD specializing in instrumental rock mixed up with some hardcore industrial trimming, There Is No Sound In Space is a real existential sounding album that will blow your mind. Excellently recorded, the CD is at once rock based and avant gard. Sudakow’s sting sound draws on prime influences like Jean-Luc Ponty and Jerry Goodman, while Zimmerman sounds very influenced by giants like Hendrix, Howe and Hackett. Being all instrumental, There Is No Sound In Space leaves plenty of room for your musical imagination to run free and wild. Engineered by Zimmerman and composed by both artists, There Is No Sound In Space makes an excellent choice for rock and fusion fans and classical mavens with a penchant for rocking out.

FUTURISM RECORDS - Guitarist Grant Geissman always puts a ton of effort into his CD releases—from the top names backing him up in the studio all the way down to the fantastic graphics and artwork accompanying his music. Case in point is Geissman’s 2009 CD, Cool Man Cool. Sure enough, the 14 track, all instrumental Cool Man Cool finds Geissman working out on his Gibson 335 in the studio backed up by jazz giants such as Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Patrice Rushen, Jerry Hahn, Mike Finnigan and rock legend Van Dyke Parks. From the colorful booklet containing track by track credits and liner notes and pics, Geissman adds, ‘The original idea was to try and write in different jazz or jazzy style that I thought were cool. Then as the project developed it also became about inviting some old friends of mine that I’ve always thought were cool to come play. So that became the dual concept of the project—cool music I like to play, cool people that I like to play with.’ An established recording artist and session guitarist with a track record that includes backing up Quincy Jones, Mangione, Ringo Starr and Burt Bacharach to name a few, Geissman sets a new standard of guitar excellence with Cool Man Cool.

JRCD - The CD cover art of the new Johnny Roth CD Vu Jah De' is some pretty hairy stuff, but the the music inside is easy as pie to dig into. Roth made instrumental rock guitar enthusiasts happy with his 2003 album, Still Not Talkin’ and five years later, Vu Jah De' carries his guitar sound forward. Roth cites Carlton and Ritenour as big guitar influences yet one can also detect shades of Cropper and Betts amid the all instrumental fare on Vu Jah De'. Once again producing, engineering, mixing and playing all the instruments, Roth does receive a bit of help on the title track and “North Delta Heat” from his brother, drummer Barry Roth. Even with his modest studio budget, Roth proves masterful with plenty of chompin’ at the bit guitar instros on the boards.

- Another great prog-rock album from Finland, Entropia, the 2008 album from combines a wealth of sounds. Being all instrumental, there’s plenty of room for the musicians to roam. Led by keyboard wiz, Ahmed Ahonen, the sound is furthered by Matti Kanerva (drums), Jukka Packalén (bass, guitar) and Frederik Söderholm (flute, keys, percussion). The band who go by the name of their web site claim Mahavishnu Orchestra, ELP and Gong as big influences and one can easily hear a little bit of Keith Emerson in Ahonen’s hands. Mix in some solid contributions from the guitars of Packalén and you’ve got the makings of a true instrumental rock fusion classic that easily fits into the adventurous spirit of the millennium.

- Guitar player, producer and record company exec, Brazilian guitarist Jo
ão Erbetta is a busy man indeed. Currently living in Brooklyn, USA, Erbetta is the singer-guitarist in the indie power trio band Los Pirata. Amid his busy schedule Erbetta also found time to record his third “Latin Americana” instrumental CD, The L.A. Sessions. Released on his own Monga Records labels, the 11 track L.A. Sessions is an instrumental guitar lovers paradise. The L.A. Sessions is a fitting reflection of Erbetta’s love of all things guitar to which he adds, ‘Surf and country music are based on melodies. My connection is with the melody, you can actually whistle all my songs.’ Recorded in a ‘50s style L.A. studio, The L.A. Sessions features João in fine form backed up by Los Straitjackets thumper Pete Curry and Richard D’Andrea (bass). For fans of guitar icons such as Les Paul, Chet Atkins and even jazz guitar hero Wes Montgomery—as well as instro rock legends such as The Ventures—The L.A. Sessions is well worth giving a good listen to. /

MOONJUNE RECORDS - Leave it to music impressario Leonardo Pavkovic, founder of NYC-based Moonjune Records, to uncover some of the most avant gard instrumental jazz rock fusion on the planet. A devotee of U.K. jazz icons Soft Machine, especially long time Soft's bassist Hugh Hopper and latter day Soft's guitarist Allan Holdsworth, Pavkovic has come up with Moonjune’s most obscure album release. Recorded in Jakarta in 2008, the fifth album from Indonesian progressive jazz ensemble simakDialog, the nine track Demi Masa sounds like Indonesia’s answer to Soft Machine. Produced by simakDialog keyboardist Riza Arshad, the CD features fine contributions from guitarists Tohpati (electric / acoustic guitars) and Adhithya Pratama (bass) in addition to a host of Sudanese percussionists. With his work on Fender Rhodes, Arshad sounds inspired by Chick Corea, yet with Tohpati’s sizzling electric guitar playing off Arshad’s grand piano, Oberheim and synth, there’s plenty of sonically appealing instrumental prog here to make further comparisons to groups like Soft Machine and beyond. Overall another fine, cutting edge addition to the already impressive Moonjune Records catalog of avant gard and progressive fusion.

- Finland has got to be one of the most adventurous countries in Europe, especially from a musical perspective. While the rigid adherence to archaic drugs, like alcohol for instance, doesn’t exactly make it paradise, don’t tell that to musicologist Janne Haavisto. Best known to his American fans as the founding drummer / guitarist / composer with the great surf-rock outfit Laika & The Cosmonauts, Haavisto has been busy in recent years thanks to the progression of his label MuFarang International. Aside from a recent Laika compilation on Yep Roc Records, Haavisto can also be appreciated on the latest CD from his band The Farangs. Released in 2005, the 17 cut We Must Be Losing It features a range of guitar-based instrumental music marked by a hefty dose of world beat and various other worldly sounds. Way too eclectic and wild to be merely filed under the ‘90s surf-rock resurgence that Laika brought forth, The Farangs feature Haavisto in the company of gifted players like Chris Cote (guitarist and founder of Upstart Records), guitarist Marc Ribot, democratic operative Greg Palast and Haavisto’s brother, genius steel guitarist Olli Haavisto. Along similar lines as The Farangs, Haavisto has also released the debut album from Solo Adultos. Written, played and recorded by Chris Cote and Janne Haavisto in NYC during 2005 the eleven cut Lost Weekends is even stranger and more out there than the Farangs CD. World Beat, surf-style guitars at times and more mix things up in a musical brew that would impress Frank Zappa with its pure hip-hop shock value. While fans await the next Farangs (or maybe Laika?) CD, Haavisto keeps them happy with his 5 part electronic album entitled Helsinki. Composed, played and recorded by Haavisto and Miikka Paatelainen, the five part Helsinki is best described as an all instrumental ambient style recording in the spirit of Eno and a host of avant-gard composers. “Helsinki Parts 1 , 2 and 3” are following by various edits while track 5 features a 5.1 DTS mix of the earlier tracks. Well worth the time for fans of electronica, Helsinki may go over the heads of Haavisto’s Laika fans. Last but not least from Haavisto’s MuFarang label, Tone Hut, from Jarkka Rissanen And The Sons Of The Dessert finds Haavisto back on drums backing up the guitars and music of Rissanen. Recorded in 2007, the mostly instrumental album of rootsy, folksy, ambient tracks features some of the best players in Finland along with the vocals of Chris Cote on a few tracks. Like all the MuFarang CD releases, Tone Hut features excellent sound and eye-catching cover artwork.

- With a background with Christian rockers Vessel, his time in the Latin rock groupZum Zum Zum, as well as opening for acts as diverse as singer Vikki Carr and guitar group Acoustic Alchemy, guitarist Jay Soto is well primed for his third solo CD. Soto’s the 11 track CD Mesmerized is one of the most buoyant instrumental guitar jazz albums of 2009. Sure guitarists will file Soto under the smooth jazz realm, but if you listen closer, there’s so much good time-y guitar music on Mesmerized, who cares what they call it. The lead off cut, “Fascination,” is a real slinky, uptempo, in the groove track. You won’t know what decade it is, but who cares. With instro guitar played this well, you’ll be coming back for second helpings in short order. On Mesmerized, Soto receives top backing from key players including Freddie Fox (on rhythm guitar), Mel Brown (bass) and drummers who add further rhythms on top of Soto’s lead guitar, keys and drum programming. Break out the sunscreen, hit the road and let Soto’s guitar fuel your ride. /

- New Orleans was so slammed by Hurricane Katrina, at one point I thought it would never back, but clearly the great music inspired by that great city will never die. Case in point is the 2009 CD from master piano man Allen Toussaint. Produced by Joe Henry, the Nonesuch release of The Bright Mississippi finds Toussaint in top form performing an all instrumental, piano-based album of 20th century, New Orleans related jazz standards penned long ago by icons like Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Django Reinhardt, Leonard Feather, Duke Ellington, T. Monk and more.The Bright Mississippi is so ebullient, so full of life, that you’ll wonder why it took so long for Allen to make it so listeners could get into it. An American music hero too long in the shadows of other musical giants, Toussaint is best remembered for his excellent piano / production work with top players like Robbie Robertson and The Band, Van Dyke Parks and countless other music heroes. On The Bright Mississippi Toussaint links up with a tight band including guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist David Piltch, percussionist Jay Bellerose and more. Commenting on his fresh recordings of famous classics like “West End Blues” and “St. James Infirmary” Toussaint adds, ‘I hadn’t tackled them on my own. Tackle is a bad word—I hadn’t caressed them on my own, except to listen from time to time in passing. I hadn’t been through this standard bag. I always loved those songs, but I had never been in a setting where that is what I would do for a while. Until now.’ There’s so much sheer living joy and nostalgia in play on The Bright Mississippi, that you’ll be covered in goose bumps while reaching for the replay button on your CD player. Let’s hope Katrina becomes a long forgotten bad memory and that New Orleans never has to suffer through anything that tragic again.

- Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein displays some mighty impressive guitar chops and he really swings on his 2009 CD, Next Page. After honing his skills in Israel, where at age 21 he won the prestigious ‘Israeli jazz player of the year,’ he returned back to NYC and is currently in demand as a regular on the NYC jazz scene. Backed up by Sam Yahel (organ), Willie Jones III (drums) and Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Silberstein sounds clearly influenced by jazz guitar giants like Pat Martino and Peter Bernstein. Having studied with jazz guitar great Kurt Rosenwinkel, Silberstein steps out in style with his own 2009 CD on Posi-Tone Records. The mostly original, all instrumental set also is highlighted by a truly swinging, uptown jazz cover of the all time classic “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Silberstein makes swinging guitar jazz that harks back to yesterday while keeping an eye on the jazz of tomorrow. /

- Steve Herberman is one of the most respected names in the world of jazz guitar and he serves his cause well with the 2009 CD release of Ideals by the Steve Herberman Trio. With 11 tracks clocking in at 65+ minutes, Ideals yields a bumper crop of uptempo jazz guitar instrumentals in the spirit of the finest six string jazzers, from Montgomery to Bollenback. Also appearing here, Tom Baldwin (bass) and Mark Ferber follow Herberman’s jazzy originals, along with several choice covers, with uncanny musical accuracy. What’s not to like? Great jazz guitar playing, great chording work and solid improv combine on a CD that sounds like it could have been recorded live on stage at the Blue Note. All in all, Ideals is another fine jazz guitar trio date from Herberman. Topping off this fine studio recording, the CD features fine multi-panel digi-pak artwork.

REFORM RECORDS - New York baseball fans fondly remember how great Bernie Williams was during the glory days of the Yankees, especially during the ‘98, ‘98 and 2000 World Series baseball classics. Laying down his bat with the Yankees while keeping his electric guitar close, Williams scored a clutch hit with his 2003 solo album The Journey Within and he follows up that left field smash with his 2009 album Moving Forward. Bernie released The Journey Within on the GRP label and with Bernie devoting much of his life to music now, Reform records has picked up his latest release. Guitar fans take note; Bernie is stunning on Moving Forward, conjuring a
dazzling, mostly instro guitar cross somewhere between Ritenour and Santana. Commenting on the latest on his guitar career move Bernie adds, ‘I’m thrilled to be recording again and to be a part of the Reform Records family. They share my vision for this album and for my music. Creating my debut album was a great experience, although my primary focus at that point was still baseball. For the past two years, I have been able to fully dedicate my time to music, and I could not be more excited with the results.’ Folk-rock legend James Taylor adds some expressive liner notes. Musically, Moving Forward finds Bernie creative in the studio alongside guests such asfellow guitarists Bruce Springsteen (handling lead vocals and acoustic guitar on a remake of “Glory Days”), Scott Henderson and Mike Stern. Co-produced by Bernie and Loren Harriet, who also produced Bernie’s ‘03 solo CD debut, Moving Forward features a number of top players backing up, like keyboard legend David Sancious, bass greats Leland Sklar and Abe Laboriel, drummer Kenny Aronoff, singer Jon Secada and many more. Filled with Bernie’s blend of energetic, melodic and sometimes introspective mix of smooth jazz, Latin pop and instro rock, Moving Forward is a welcome return from a bona fide American hero.

- Sax master Andy Haas was just brilliant as a member of the original Canadian pop group Martha & The Muffins. Especially on their first two albums, Haas embellished that band’s romantic New Wave rock sound with his jazzy alto sax honks and riffs. That was 1980, and now 29 years late Haas is back with a new CD entitled No Wave Au GoGo with his Downtown instro jazz trio Radio I-Ching. In his mystically titled outfit, Haas and company make jazz for rock music fans. Far from mainstream jazz as you can get with still being “jazzy”, Haas, guitarist Don Fiorino and drummer Dee Pop take it out to the cutting edge of No Wave Jazz. Somewhere between the avant edge that Haas honed his chops with in Martha & The Muffins and his jazz influences, from Monk to Howard Arlen (a definite highlight is their cover of Arlen’s “Judgment Day”) No Wave Au GoGo is one cool round trip ticket indeed.

ROBERT CHARLES MUSIC - From the opening strains of “Moon River,” you just know that guitarist Robert Charles means business. Although its only six cuts deep, there’s plenty of musical meat and muscle at work on Everything I Say, released on CD in 2009 by Charles on his own label. Fans of instrumental rock and jazz fusion will love just about everything about this CD. Although he admits, ‘I like to believe my vocals are honest, which is good enough,’ Charles decides on diversification with a closing vocal number, also entitled “Everything I Say.” Charles might benefit from a bigger production budget, yet overall there’s not much out of place on Everything I Say. Recording up in Seattle with a range of talented backing musicians, on Everything I Say Charles has found a real musical sweet spot—that point in music where genres wondrously collide and no one cares if its called jazz, rock or whatever. As one key writer has noted, if there's any deficiency here at all, it's that there's only six cuts and by the end of the CD you wish there were another six tracks to go! Even so, if you enjoy electric guitar instrumental music in the spirit of giants like Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton with a chaser of Steve Cropper and even Dregs founder Steve Morse, then Robert Charles is your man.

RUSTY TAPES RECORDS - U.K. guitarist Malcolm C. McEwan strikes guitar gold with his ten track 2009 CD A Shadow Of My Former Self. Probably more a play on words rather than a swipe at the once hugely influential Shadows guitarist Hank Marvin, A Shadow Of My Former Self is an all original set of guitar tracks featuring McEwan’s expertly recorded electric guitar instrumentals enhanced by nonintrusive drum tracks. Superbly recording his guitars in the studio, McEwan evokes the spirit of those great late period albums The Shadows made for Polydor back in the ‘80s while breaking new ground with his own slate of fresh guitar vision. Well worth the time of Shadows and Ventures fans, A Shadow Of My Former Self is a 21st century CD classic in the late period style of guitarist Hank Marvin. Email:

/ TONE CENTER RECORDS - When it comes to good old fashioned head-banging hard rock and guitar metal music few labels can touch Shrapnel Records. Just the name of the label, Shrapnel Records alone conjures up a grenade smashing attack of sonic assault. Shrapnel head Mike Varney has been at the forefront of the guitar world for decades now and he keeps his label’s reputation on the front line with a range of CD releases. First off, the 2008 CD from guitar god Marty Friedman, entitled Loudspeaker (what else?!) is one of the great symphonic metal / instrumental albums of all time. The title of John Entwistle’s 1970 classic Smash Your Head Against The Wall comes to mind when playing Marty’s Loudspeaker album. The music is completely different, yet the sonic assault of Friedman’s Loudspeaker will have you pinned to the wall! (so watch yer head!) It’s mostly music to blow your roof off, although by the time you get to the final two tracks on the CD, “Coloreas Mi Vida” and the final cut, “Devil Take Tomorrow,” you gain a fuller understanding of Friedman’s impeccable symphonic instro-metal guitar chops and sheer power to blow you away. Throughout the 11 cut CD, Friedman receives topnotch support from a range of musicians. Also on tap from Shrapnel's Tone Center sister label during the ‘08 / ‘09 release season are a pair of guitar instrumental tributes to two of the greatest guitar influences ever—Carlos Santana and Jeff Beck. Produced by guitarist Jeff Richman, with Varney handling the executive producer role, Viva Carlos! - A Supernatural Marathon Celebration features some of today’s great players honoring the Santana legacy. If you haven’t heard of these players, you’ve been sleeping! The CD features illustrious guitar names such as Vinnie Moore, Eric Johnson, Pat Martino, Robben Ford, Frank Gambale, Coco Montoya, Albert Lee, Mike Stern and Eric Gales, all paying tribute to the great Santana legacy. Producer Richman teams with his solid band—including drummer Dave Weckl, keyboardist Peter Wolf, and bass ace Abe Laboriel—to give each of these guitar superstars plenty of room to move on this one of a kind Santana tribute CD. Pretty much can be said of the 2008 Tone Center CD release of Freeway Jam - To Beck And Back. Jeff Beck’s perpetual influence on generation spanning guitarists, from the ‘60s on can not be understated. Busy himself with his own ongoing legacy, Beck is rightfully honored on Shrapnel’s tribute CD. Another fine all instrumental jazz-rock fusion production by guitarist Jeff Richman, To Beck And Back once again features the best and the brightest of the guitar world including Steve Morse, Warren Haynes, John Scofield, Chris Duarte, Adam Rogers, Greg Howe and many more.

SNAPPER MUSIC - Having relocated to Colorado to spend more time performing at U.S. festivals, space rockers Ozric Tentacles celebrate 25 year of freeform dub trips, incredible rave grooves and instrumental psychedelic rock with the 2009 CD release of The Yum Yum Tree. Released on the renowned U.K. label, Snapper Music, The Yum Yum Tree finds guitarist Ed Wynne, bassist (and Ed’s Brother) Roly Wynne in fine form. Having released over 25 albums and selling a million worldwide, Ozric live up to their legendary status as innovators of instrumental space-rock with The Yum Yum Tree. The Ozrics will delight long time fans and newcomers will be drawn into the band’s famous web of spacey sounds and dig that crazy cover art!

SONIC CANVAS RECORDS - A renowned musician in the world of mainstream and smooth jazz, guitarist Denny Jiosa can always be counted on to come up with a winning strategy. On his 2008 CD, Dreams Like This, Jiosa teams with a bunch of top players and the results make for a solid set of breezy guitar instrumentals. The follow up to his 2002 CD, Body2Body, 2008’s Dreams Like This features a fresh round of Jiosa originals with a definite highlight being a cover of the Bobby Hebb 1966 song classic, “Sunny” which features Hebb on cameo vocals. Commenting on working with an icon of ‘60s pop, Jiosa adds, ‘Bobby Hebb, the original artist and composer of “Sunny” came to my studio to listen to my version of his song. He gave me an overwhelming approval and even agreed to sing on the track!’ On Dreams Like This, Jiosa keeps his sunny side up on an album of albums that should have across the board appeal among guitar enthusiasts.

- What a great concept: the music of Bach as played by Cuba’s hot Afro-Cuban “Timba” jazz group, Tiempo Libre. Led by music director / arranger / keyboardist Jorge Gómez, Tiempo Libre’s Sony Classical CD, Bach In Havana features a number of hot players including vocalist Tony Fonte on electric bass and chapman stick. Most classical music lovers know Bach inside out, but chances are they never heard it played quite this way! The Miami based group were all classically trained at Cuba’s music conservatory, La ENA, and it’s great that on Bach In Havana the group gets to combine their classical training with a solid dose of high-voltage Latin-jazz fusion. In his extensive track by track CD liner notes, Gómez speaks highly of his love of J.S. Bach as well as the wildly diverse music of his Cuban homeland. Classical purists may scoff, yet the 11 track, mostly instrumental, sometimes vocal Bach In Havana will keep you amazed, thinking cha-cha, conga and bolero while listening to the most famous classical melodies ever written. Bach In Havana is filled with timeless amazing classical jazz sounds that will keep you coming back for more.

- Following his releasing some of the great electric guitar fusion albums of the 2000’s, Scott Bradoka hasn't been resting on his laurels. Having toured Europe with the Jeff Beck Group in the middle of the decade, Bradoka now puts his recording career into perspective with the 2009 triple disc release of Everything. Featuring 34 tracks spread over 2 CDs, Everything encapsulates the best of Bradoka’s recorded output over the past fourteen years, including studio tracks produced by guitar giants like Eric Bazilian and Carl Verheyen. The CD's also include four new studio tracks, 2 live tracks and a pair of hip-hop remixes. Many of the tracks have been remixed and remastered especially for this package. Accompanying the 2 CDs is a five track DVD featuring bonus footage of Bradoka in his studio demonstrating some of his guitars. Tying it all together at the same time, Bradoka has also released a coffee table style hard cover book, entitled My Collection showing over 100 guitars from his vast collection. Commenting on his book, Scott adds, ‘I have been on a 25+ year adventure of searching out guitars. I not only collect, but I also play.’ Looking back, fans can enjoy Everything until Bradoka returns with his next, long awaited CD of all new music.

- Sundad make music to calm the heart and soul. If that sounds like a bunch of New Age dross to you, check out their 2009 CD The Journey Continues. Contrary to popular opinion, New Age didn’t start with Windham Hill or Miramar Records back in the ‘80s. Astute musicologists may point to the early ECM releases from artists like Steve Tibbetts or even earlier, with groups like Oregon or the Paul Winter Consort. Suffice to say, if you were fortunate to hear guys like Tibbetts and Paul Winter and groups like Oregon early on, you’ll love Sundad. Interestingly enough, the group is actually comprised of guitarist John Eurell and his son John Eurell Jr. So, hence the Son / Dad connection. Also lending support on percussion is Chet Soares. Instrumental acoustic guitar music at its finest, Sundad brings New Age into the future with a hypnotic and ultimately supremely relaxing album of meditative musical magic.

TEST TUBE RHINO - Essentially a one man band, Test Tube Rhino is the brainchild of guitarist Joe Pinnavaia. The first self-titled album from Test Tube Rhino, InVitro is a real curious affair. All instrumental, the sound is a pure sonic guitar fest in the timeless musical spirit of Robert Fripp and even Norwegian guitar god Terje Rypdal but Pinnavaia often replaces the shock and awe of those masters with some subtle acoustic effects and assorted guitar atmospherics that balance out the electric guitar onslaught. Very uniquely packaged, the silver disc CD features modern and cutting edge guitar sounds while echoing some familiar progressive rock edges. The upstate NY-based Pinnavaia cites influences from Angus Young and Hendrix to shredders like Greg Howe and Van Halen while also paying respects to guitar icons like Allan Holdsworth and Eric Johnson. Always tasteful, yet always rocking on the cutting edge, Test Tube Rhino are clearly on the path to bigger and better things. Let’s hope Pinnavaia gets to fully realize his guitar mission.

TEXICALLI RECORDS- Finland continues breeding excellent electric guitarists. Case in point is the 2009 solo CD from electric bass guitarist Lauri Porra. A couple years out of his teens, Porra has worked with Pekka Pohjola group guitarist alumni Peter Lerche in the past and on his 2009 CD, All Children Have Super Powers, Porra and band—including ace Finnish guitarist Timo Kämäräinen—channels that classic Finnish fusion sound with a fresh batch of sizzling Nordic-tinged prog-fusion instrumentals that would impress Pekka and Swedish guitar god Janne Schaffer. The entire Finnish and Swedish instro progressive fusion scene has a unique history merging fantastic instrumental guitar music with the lush strains of American jazz and classical influences from Sibelius to Procol Harum. With so much to admire here for Pekka Pohjola fans, All Children Have Super Powers is a monumental adventure in sound from a guitarist on the rise.

TEXACALLI RECORDS - The concept of merging traditional Finnish and Swedish music with that of instrumenta musicl from the progressive rock realm is nothing new to the far reaches of the Northern Europeans. Back in the ‘70s Sweden had incredible prog-rock-folk bands like Kebnekaise and Samla, while across the border in neighboring Finland, the Finns were cooking up an entirely unique brew of instrumental rock. By the early ‘70s, Finnish instro art-rock innovators Piirpauke and Pekka Pohjola Group were forging ahead with some of the most unusual progressive folk / jazz sounds of the 20th century. And so it goes with the latest Finnish folk jazz band to follow in the footprints of Pohjola and Piirpauke. Featuring the incredible sound of the electric Kantele, the 2009 self-titled CD release of Senni Eskelinen & String Purée Band, is a work of sonic art. As an electric Kantele player, Ms. Eskelinen is clearly in a league of her own. For those unfamiliar with the Kantele, it’s quite popular in Finnish folklore and is similar in sound to both the zither and autoharp. With it's struck with sticks, harp-like instrumental sound, the Kantele is all over the musical map in Finland. With her electric Kantele sounding like a harpsichord, Ms. Eskelinen is enhanced by the neo-fusion rhythm section of Niko Votkin (drums) and Kalle Ylitalo (drums). Checking out their my space page, it’s interesting to note some of this band’s influences include noted Finnish jazz-rock icon Pekka Pohjola, Finnish classical icon Sibelius, King Crimson, Zappa and Yes.

- A forerunner of combining instrumental rock with genres such as New Age and electronica since way back in the late ‘80s, guitarist Mark Dwane is a unique musician who deserves to be heard by fans of all the above genres. Dwane made headway with his widely acclaimed 2007 CD 2012, and now on the 2009 release of Other Worlds he breaks new ground with a CD that will thrill his long time fans and bring in a host of newcomers. Recorded at his hi-tech Trondant studios in Westlake, Ohio, Other Worlds is not only amazing from a musical / musician standpoint, but it’s amazingly well recorded without hardly a trace of distortion in the signal to noise chain. In other words, you don’t need a ten thousand dollar CD player to fully embrace Dwane’s modus operandi. One of those outstanding, vintage Sony CD players, made when the company was perfecting the CD sound with their fabulous early ‘90s ES CD player series, is just the ticket to blow away the cobwebs out of your brain. As has already been pointed out, although he’s is a guitar player—and there’s plenty of amazing electric, midi and slide guitar work on Other Worlds—Dwane’s forte remains blurring the lines of musical reason by combining a series of challenging audio strategies that implement the guitar within a framework of a futuristic, near science fiction approach to musical concepts. A must for those who thrilled to the great music Jan Hammer was making during his brilliant instrumental rock Miami Vice era in the mid '80s, Dwane’s Other Worlds is a completely compelling and holistic musical experience just made for guitar fans who clearly think more ‘out of the box.’

- He may have been raised on rock as a big fan of giants like Allman, Betts and Page, but on his 2008 CD Bob Semanchik displays a keen grasp of musical concepts that will impress guitar fans of all persuasions. Too guitar-centric to be simply filed under the mainstream / smooth jazz banner, the 15 track Standard Interpretations features Semanchik in the studio backed up by Don Wallace (bass) and Sal Ranniello (drums). A guitar lovers dream that blends jazz, pop and even Les Paul style hot jazz, the mostly instrumental set also features Semanchik’s skillful, subdued vocals which at times recalls a laid back Eric Clapton style of singing. Several Semanchik originals rub shoulders with his tasty covers of classic standard instrumentals like “Black Orpheus,” “Take Five,” “Corcovado,” “Here, There, Everywhere” and the set closing “Over The Rainbow.” Whether backed up by his rhythm section or taking center stage with his keen chord melody solos, Semanchik’s easy going guitar style makes for a relaxing way to spend an hour. With a wide repertoire of musical tricks up his sleeve, he can rock out when he wants to—check out his acoustic / electric wah-wah flecked spin on “Take Five” and his Santana flavored “Hot Rain”—but on Standard Interpretations the sun shines on Semanchik’s refined, jazzy guitar style.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - One of the great producers of mid ‘60s British pop music, Mike Hurst is among the premier artists on famous U.K. reissue label Angel Air Records. A label that is releasing some interesting new albums, yet also specializes in rare and obscure reissues of classic U.K. pop and rock, Angel Air have no less that six related Hurst CD reissues and in 2009 they release Producers Archives Volume 3: 1964-1979. An ace audio engineer / producer and guitarist, Hurst working with Cat Stevens helped shape the post British invasion pop scene. Stevens, now Yusuf, is remembered here with a song he and Hurst worked on in 1968 in the studio, called “Twinkie.” With his vivid memory, Hurst recalls “Twinkie” and 17 other cuts he produced in the detailed liner notes. Cilla Black, Alan Bown, Murray Head, Shakin’ Stevens, Mike D’Abo and Hurst recording himself also share the spotlight on Angel Air’s latest plundering of the Hurst audio archives. To rediscover the studio magic of Hurst, start with the first two Cat Stevens albums on Decca but don’t forget to take some of these lesser known yet equally rewarding Hurst pop productions on Angel Air's Producers Archives series.

- Back in the ‘60s, Billboard, Cashbox and Record World were flooded with amazing new releases each week. You were only as cool as your single back then but another art form, and even TV commercial made music history back then. Commercials used amazingly catchy studio tracks to sell everything from cigarettes to cars to...even antacids! One such lucky break occurred when L.A. rock instrumental promoter and studio hustler Joe Saraceno saw a TV commercial for Alka Seltzer of all things. He revamped the track and renamed it “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” and struck gold on the pop charts. One of the few rock instrumentals to break the Top 5 on Billboard, “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” is also the title of a 2009, 24 track 2 on 1 CD reissue of The T-Bones on England’s famous BGO label. The liner notes go on at length about how Saraceno gave The Beach Boys their name and his overall vast experience in the music business. Having worked with Phil Spector’s people as well as the entire wrecking crew, Saraceno eventually put together a real T-Bones band with long time Ventures associate Judd Hamilton and his brother Dan Hamilton on guitar. Under Saraceno’s expert studio vision, two T-Bones albums were cut in 1966 featuring “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” and a host of cuts and covers of tracks like “Lies,” “Time Won’t Let Me,” “Satisfaction” and more. BGO packs their 24 track rock instrumental classic by The T-Bones with an in depth 12 page booklet. Clearly, with their ongoing devotion to the CD format, BGO continues on among the premier reissue labels in the U.K. today. The label’s 2009 CD reissues includes a double CD set from folk-rocker Melanie. Disc one of The Four Sides Of Melanie features a number of Melanie classics like “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain,”) “Beautiful People” while the second CD features a number of Melanie covers like “Ruby Tuesday” and “Carolina On My Mind.” Originally released as a compilation of sorts by Buddah Records, back in 1972, the set is reproduced as a double CD by BGO complete with liner notes and photos. Another 2009 BGO double set worth hearing is a double from legendary U.K. 70’s rockers Family. Pairing Bandstand (1972) with It’s Only A Movie (1973), BGO’s Family double CD set gives a good overview of one of the key band’s who helped pioneer the art-rock and hard rock worlds in U.K. music. Both albums feature a brace of original by Roger Chapman and guitarist John “Charlie” Whitney. Remastered in 2009 BGO adorns their latest Family double CD set with bonus live tracks, unreleased rarities and a detailed booklet with historic notes and complete lyrics. One of the great American folk-rock poets and the genius behind classics like “Reason To Believe” and “If I Were A Carpetner,” Tim Hardin may have passed away in December 1980 but his spirit lives on in the grooves of BGO’s 2008 reissue of Painted Head. Produced by the late, great Shadows drummer Tony Meehan (for Leiber-Stoller Productions), Painted Head finds Hardin the company of top players such as drummer Meehan and guitarists Peter Frampton and Cat Stevens guitarist Alun Davies. Although Painted Bird features no Hardin originals, highlights include Hardin’s two Badfinger covers, along with other covers of Randy Newman and Jesse Winchester. 2007 liner notes by John Tobler fill in some missing pieces behind Hardin’s tragic demise. Although the catalog of BGO is rife with one classic reissue after the next, one title worth taking another look at is their 1999 reissue of The Mamas & The Papas.Pairing The Mamas & The Papas Deliver (from 1967) with the humorously titled The Papas & The Mamas (from 1968), BGO packs their 25 cut, 2 albums on 1 CD with excellent liner notes from John Tobler and there’s even a bonus cut. Recorded following the enormous success of “California Dreamin” and “Monday, Monday,” both Deliver and the Papas & The Mamas display the clear genius of group founder / guitarist John Phillips for crafting incredible singles and shaping those genius harmonies. Also worth revisiting is lead vocal work of the late, great Mama Cass Elliot. Produced by musical genius Lou Adler, both Deliver and the Papas & The Mamas feature the quartet backed up by the best L.A. session players of the era including guitarist P.F. Sloan and drummers Hal Blaine and Larry Knechtel. Keep your eyes on BGO as they unveil more essential reissues of classic U.K. and U.S. rock icons.

- Although there’s been at least a hundred album collection best of’s from surf rock legends, The Beach Boys, it seems like they just keep on coming from everywhere. Just in time for Summer 2009, Capitol Records here in the USA gives the music world Summer Love Songs. For those keeping score, the 20 track CD features a number of rarities including three new stereo mixes, three tracks mixed in stereo for the first time and a previously unreleased track called “Fallin’ In Love (a/k/a “Lady”) from late, great Beach Boys drummer, Dennis Wilson that had come out before, but this version is different they say. All in all, the CD offers a romantic, summer breeze look back at the group that started it all. The usual tracks mix things up with some surprise choices including a new stereo mix of “Time To Get Alone” (from 1969) and a rare track written by Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine called “Our Sweet Love,” from the 1970 Sunflower Lp. Back to the beach.

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE - Released May 26, 2009 by Collector’s Choice music, The Complete Liberty Singles compiles 55 of the biggest hits by the great Gary Lewis & the Playboys. The key here is that most of these classic pop tracks from the ‘60s are presented for the first time in their original mono mixes.The double CD set presents all the best A & B sides in chronological order starting with the 1965 Gary Lewis smash “This Diamond Ring.” Who would have thought that the great Leon Russell would be such a huge pop influence but, taking a look at the track lineup, Russell takes song writing credits on a number of Gary’s huge hits including “She’s Just My Style,” and “Everybody Loves A Clown.” As the liner notes indicate, Lewis was well on the way to becoming one of the key American pop artists of the ‘60s when he was drafted into the Vietnam war. Like so many cheering on the hope of peace and pop music back in the ‘60s, Lewis fell victim to the unstoppable U.S. war machine and (unlike Elvis, say) basically had his career terminated after getting shipped off to Vietnam. Looking back on it all Lewis states, ‘It was a terrible time,’ although he also adds, ‘I was thrilled to be doing that. It was really so much fun.’ With all the A & B sides presented in glorious mono, remastered from the original tapes, along with in depth liner notes, rare pics and sleeves and artwork, The Complete Liberty Singles presents the definitive story behind the classic ‘60s pop sound of music greats Gary Lewis & The Playboys.

MASTERWORKS BROADWAY - All those great Original Broadway Cast and motion picture soundtracks put out by Columbia and RCA Records back in the early ‘60s have lost none of their original luster. That period 1960-68 were the golden years for Broadway and movies. Before Ann Margaret sizzled on screen with the motion picture sound track and movie version, the Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie was a huge deal back then. Sony Masterworks keeps the flame burning brightly with their 2009, 24bit CD reissue of the Broadway version of Bye Bye Birdie. With Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde and Chita Rivera reprising their roles in the movie, this Broadway CD features Susan Watson, age 15, covering Ann Margaret’s role with Dick Gautier serving up a fine Conrad Birdie.In depth notes from Marc Kirkeby adds historical details, adorned with pics, about this Original Broadway Cast soundtrack produced by Goddard Lieberson and Teo Macero and recorded on April 24, 1960 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in Manhattan. Another classic Original Broadway Cast Recording reissued in 2009 by Masterworks Broadway, Fiddler On The Roof was another major contribution, not only to Broadway, where it held sway over all for years, but also to pop culture. With one great Broadway standard after the next, the original Broadway production of Fiddler featured the late, great Zero Mostel in the role of Tevye. “If I Were A Rich Man,” “To Life,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker,” These are just some of the Jerry Bock / Sheldon Harnick songs gracing the Broadway Cast Recording album of Fiddler On The Roof, recorded at Webster Hall in Manhattan on September 27, 1964, five days after the show opened on Broadway during the magical year of 1964. For their 2009 CD reissue of the Fiddler soundtrack, Masterworks loads up their set with fine digi-pak artwork and a neat CD booklet. Both Broadway cast CD’s of Fiddler and Bye Bye Birdie remain staples of American pop culture. Their greatness has hardly been surpassed.

MOBILE FIDELITY - Back around 1984, the Japanese came forth with a new medium for the world wide music market called the compact disc. Despite being in the proverbial pipeline since around 1981, the CD as it became known, completely caught the American music market, software and hardware, by surprise and by 1986, the clumsy, click/pop warp of the black vinyl had become nothing more than a side show reality. Nationwide retail chains like Tower began filtering the sparkling silverdisc CD into the racks and less and less black vinyl was sold. Of course in 1985, for the multitudes of indy labels in America, the CD became a focal point—a must have item even at the expense of signing and losing all to unscrupulous “contact points” who manufactured CDs through connections in places like Switzerland and Germany. The lack of CD manufacturing in the U.S. especially in '85-'86 all but decimated way too many labels who were unable to manufacture CD in the U.S. So much for the Reagan revolution! One great American hero with a vision for the U.S. was the late, great Herb Belkin, former Capitol Records mogol and the visionary genius behind Mobile Fidelity. Herb saw that, even though the crafty Japanese were manufacturing CD from second and third generation masters, they actually sounded better at least for the ninety percent of record buyers, then even the virgin vinyl Lp pressings popular in the U.S. in the early / mid ‘80s on boutique labels such as NYC's famous Breakthru' Records. Even before CD, Herb’s Mobile Fidelity imprint became an innovator of “half-speed mastering” techniques that were popular among audiophiles early on with vinyl. As he had done wonders with the black vinyl, Herb seized the moment and began pressing silver disc CDs with a painstakingly done mastering through the auspices of Philips and Dupont Optical in Germany. Belkin’s early attempts at pressing audiophile silver discs for the U.S. market in the late ‘80s—known as original master recordings—soon gave way to his miraculous Mobile Fidelity Gold Disc releases. In the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s Mobile Fidelity earned their impeccable reputation as the premier reissue label for audiophiles turned on forever to the original vision of the CD. MoFi’s gold disc reissues from rock legends like The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull and even Iron Butterfly today in 2009 fetch hundreds of dollars on trader's markets—if you can find them new! Following the abrupt and near scandalous closing of M.S. Distribution, the original Mobile Fidelity shuttered its doors in November 1999. In the years since Herb Belkin’s death in 2001, a newly revived Mobile Fidelity has once again resumed pressing gold CD and even silver disc SACD. Backed by Music Direct in Chicago and featuring several engineers on board from the Sebastopol days, in 2009 MoFi are once again becoming an audiophile source to be reckoned with. High on the list of recent Mobile Fidelity releases is a 2008 gold CD of The All Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison. Although first released on DCC—the other California Gold CD company who were "friendly competitors" of Herb Belkin—Mobile Fidelity’s gold CD of the 20 track, The All Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison will no doubt intrigue audiophiles who might have missed out on DCC's limited edition gold pressing. Of course as you’d expect from MoFi, the sound quality of their Orbison release is first rate, although missing that excellent booklet that came with the the DCC gold disc of the same CD. MoFi's special limited edition package of Roy Orbison features an appealing, oversized Lp jacket style hard back CD slip case. Keep your eyes peeled for more gold CD audiophile releases from the company that Herb Belkin started all those years ago.

MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS - Years before the Pat Metheny Group made jazz-rock and household term back in 1977, guitarist Larry Coryell was breaking down walls between rock and jazz. Primarily known as a fusion master on par with giants like McLaughlin and Santana, Coryell refused to embrace one musical style and as such he’s always been an acquired taste for jazz guitar mavens worldwide. In a rare comeback move, Coryell and company—including his son Julian Coryell, guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Bernard Purdie—rocked the Avalon theater, across the street from the Capitol building on Vine Street. The recording from the night of October 13, 2005 can now be heard on the 2009 CD release of Earthquake At The Avalon, released on the Inakustik label, distributed stateside through MVD. Although mostly known for his guitar chops, Coryell also sings on a few tracks here that echo his embryonic rock approach to jazz style. On Earthquake Coryell breaks out some classic guitars including his vintage Super 400, Les Paul and Strat guitars while Julian gleefully remembers using the best of the old school stuff including a collection of vintage Fenders and Music Man amps. A scintillating set of funky / jazzy blues fusion and guitar jam pop, Earthquake At The Avalon features in depth liner notes, including track by track notes from Julian Coryell, pages of pics from the show and colorful artwork. Engineering expert Niko Bolas captures Coryell and company in fine form here.

MVD VISUAL / WIENERWORLD- For The Beatles, 1967 may have begun in the psychedelic swirl of Strawberry Fields but by Christmas ‘67, the group had considerably altered their musical perspective. Change of course was the August 1967 death of Brian Epstein in the wake of Sgt. Pepper as well as the officiating of transcendental meditation by both the Beatles and Beach Boys. Basically discovering the band, Epstein had more or less controlled the Beatles’ empire of wealth of music business contracts and ties since they made it and, with his passing, the band had to quickly assume both the musicians hat and the business hat. The Apple empire was in the test tube and ready to be born, but starting out in the aftermath of Epstein’s death, a shattered but deeply cosmic Beatles created their third movie epic of the ‘60s. The story behind the making of of Magical Mystery Tour is caught forever on DVD with the 2008 release on Wienerworld, Magical Mystery Tour Memories. The DVD is the brainchild of Beatles movie director Victor Spinetti, himself a star in the original movie and this timeless rockumentary. MMTM offers a fascinating glimpse into the myriad of memories surrounding Magical Mystery Tour from Spinetti, Michael McCartney, Neil Innes, Spencer Davis and a host of Beatles insiders and dozens of local citizens who were touched and forever memorialized by being featured in the filming of the movie in Cornwall England. One of the great documentary films surrounding the Beatles at their zenith, Magical Mystery Tour Memories is a brilliant way to humanize and put a face on a revealing glimpse of Beatlemania in the band's home country. Featuring the Fab Four blissed out in meditation during the filming, Magical Mystery Tour Memories is an essential video scrapbook regarding the most cosmic Beatles movie of all time.

- Back in the ‘60s, I had a subscription to Cashbox and Billboard magazine, back when it as only about the music. In each issue there were loads of great rock bands on the famous Billboard Record Reviews page, who if they were lucky were relegated to a five star merit pick or 40 word spotlight mention. Then as if seemingly squeezed out of the record racks, they were instant history the week later. The advent of the CD in 1984 changed that for once and for good. With the tens of thousands of different CDs that have come out every year in the last 25 year you might think that there couldn’t be that much more that could be uncovered. Well back in mother England, Cherry Red and their stable of affiliates plow onward, just as if they found those back issues of Billboard and Cashbox from ‘64 to ‘69 and called Sherlock Holmes to locate the masters. One such cherry red cupcake unearthed by Steve Stanley at Cherry Red’s Now Sounds subsidiary is a CD remaster by ‘60s California pop band The Peppermint Trolley Company. Back in the days when the longer your name the better, PTC released a cohesive obscure jewel of a soft pop album called Beautiful Sun. For pop fans who remember how great Gary Usher’s productions were with Sagittarius, its worth noting that Chad & Jeremy guitarist Chad Stuart helped with PTC’s studio arrangements, adding textures not unlike Gary Usher’s work on C&J’s The Ark. To the credit of Now Sounds, they pack their 27 cut Peppermint Trolley Company CD reissue with a 24 page encyclopedic booklet and no less than 16 bonus tracks, all relating to the band’s history circa ‘68. Now, if only I could relocate some of those back issues of Billboard again.

NOW SOUNDS - L.A. in 1968 was the epicenter of progressive rock and pop in the U.S. With the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield numbers one and two, dozens of talented groups flew under the radar. The stories are numerous and some are only now being rediscovered for the first time thanks to experts like Cherry Red Records over in London. The English have this impeccable ability to unearth and reissue classic American music that labels here either don’t know about or just don’t have the resources to deal with. That a country one thirtieth the size of our own can put out countless expert reissues of American music classics says a lot of the spunk and verve these English record labels have for the sheer joy of our own country’s discarded diamonds. Case in point is the 2008 reissue of the band Colours. Back in L.A. the group featured the singing-songwriting of Gary Montgomery and Jack Dalton—two songwriters who learned their craft writing for The Turtles, Nino & April and others. Against a fine collection of classic ‘68 pop/rock sounds, the pair are joined by a number of great players including original Beach Boys guitarist David Marks and soon to be bassist in Derek & The Dominoes, Carl Radle. Entitled Love Heals: The Complete Recordings, the 28 track CD features the band’s two albums along with a number of rare singles, well done demos and more. Best of all, producer Steve Stanley, of his Now Sounds label, has lovingly repackaged the whole thing with excellent artwork and encyclopedic liner notes. If you like the spirit of early Lee Michaels, the pop wizardry of Emitt Rhodes and even Clapton‘s early solo vibe circa 1970, give Colours a spin.

- One of the great reissue labels, Australia-based Raven keep unearthing past masters. A highlight of Raven’s 2009 CD release schedule is a remaster of the classic Richie Havens album Richard P. Havens, 1983. Released on Verve Records in 1969, the double Lp set was a spectacular vehicle for Havens’ incredible musical presence. For the most part, Havens is backed by notable players like guitarist Steven Stills, flautist Jeremy Steig and many more. Although there’s an abundance of Havens originals, there’s also plenty of classic covers including Richie’s now famous folk-jazz interpretations of the Beatles, Donovan, Cohen and Dylan. Mostly recorded to tape in the studio, later tracks on the CD are live tracks from the Santa Monica Civic from July 12, 1968. There’s even a couple bonus cuts including two Havens’ studio classics—the antiwar evergreen ”Handsome Johnny” and “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed,” the later covered by Yes on 1970’s Time And A Word. As always, Raven packs the CD with that great original album artwork, bonus cuts and informative liner notes that brings the Richie Havens story up to date in the 2000’s. Interestingly, Havens continues releasing some of the best music of his career including his 2008 CD, Nobody Left To Crown, ironically released on his original label Verve Forecast. Also out on CD from Raven late in 2008 is a 2 on 1 CD from American pop songstress Bobbie Gentry, entitled Ode To Billie Joe / Touch ‘em With Love. Raven has a number of Bobbie Gentry reissues including the compilation An American Quilt 1967 - 1974, and Ode To Billie Joe / Touch ‘em With Love pairs her two Capitol studio albums from 1967 and 1969 respectively. In addition to the 20 tracks from the two studio albums, Raven fits the CD with seven bonus cuts including three duets with Glen Campbell, the A & B sides of her 1972 single and a 1970 Euro-only set closing Spanish version of the Beatles’ “Here, There And Everywhere,” with the title “En Todas Partes.” The 27 track CD features excellent art and liner notes by Raven honcho Ian McFarlane.

- Just why the Buffalo Springfield broke up in April 1968 is subject to all kinds of theories. Suffice to say, they were one of the first major American rock bands, basically writing the blueprint on what would become classic rock in a few short years. Stephen Stills told me that Mike Love of The Beach Boys was a culpable influence in luring Neil Young out of the band. Funny enough by 1969 both Young and Mike Love (with the Beach Boys) would become signature artists on Reprise Records where they would make the best music of their respective careers. Still on Reprise 40 years later, Neil Young has become the elder statesman of rock. While long time fans may want to invest in the 2009 release of Neil Young Archives (1963 - 1972), others may want to start with the 2008 CD release of Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968. While the Archives is only set to be available as a ten Blu-ray or DVD set, the more modest Sugar Mountain Live CD is a solid investment in its own right and it will not be part of the ten DVD set. As Young had just left Buffalo Springfield, this performance from the night of November 9 and 10, 1968 in Ann Arbor, MI. is filled with solo acoustic Young versions of his classic Buffalo Springfield tracks as well as music that would appear on Young’s late ‘68 self-titled solo debut on Reprise. As you can readily hear on Sugar Mountain Live, Young could literally hypnotize an audience and with absolutely no one talking or whistling or otherwise ruining the sound, this CD performance is pure musical theater at its finest. You can literally hear a pin drop in the background. Back in the day when people actually came to listen and no one cared much about sex, music was king and in 1968 Young was our crown prince of rock. As part of the ongoing Neil Young Archive Performance Series, the 23 track Sugar Mountain Live CD is superbly packaged with front cover photography from the late great Linda McCartney and, on some versions, an additional 70 minute DVD filled with DVD audio track and a colorful 5 minute trailer video for Young’s 2009 10 DVD/BluRay archive box set.

- A major find for fans of Buddy Holly, The Buddy Holly Songbook and Country Classics featuring Tommy Allsup is a fitting guitar instrumental tribute to Buddy Holly’s music as recorded by Holly’s last ever lead guitarist. Recorded in the years following Buddy’s tragic end, the twelve track album was released as a mono Lp on London Records in England in 1964. Amazingly, in 2008 the stereo masters were located and immediately cleaned up and processed for this CD release on Rollercoaster Records. Based in England, Rollercoaster has done a spectacular job on their 22 track CD reissue, pairing the original 12 track album with ten more guitar-based instrumentals recorded by Tommy Allsup and friends, including steeler Bobbi Seymour, in 2001. The original Songbook album from ‘64 was produced and recorded by Holly producer Norman Petty and with a host of side players like J.I. Allison and second guitarist George Tomsco it really has that classic “West Texas” studio sound that Holly perfected at Petty’s studio in Clovis, N.M. Recreating his amazing guitar parts on a number of Holly song classics, Allsup’s Buddy Holly instrumental tribute will leave fans misty eyed and amazed, while the inclusion of the much more recent 2001 bonus cuts are a solid tribute to Allsup’s impeccable country rock guitar chops. This record is notable for a number of reasons: first is the first stereo release of this album, second has got to be the excellent CD artwork and packaging. Pictures of Tommy with Buddy and a Vi Petty pic of Norman Petty and Tommy are multi-panelled with later pics from 2006. A 24 page booklet recalls the ultimate story about Buddy Holly’s lead guitarist of choice, the great Tommy Allsup.

- Producer Jim Dickson was right there back when folk became folk-rock in the huge rock music explosion of 1965. A Sierra Records CD release from 2007, Sixties Transition takes a look at some of Dickson’s early productions featuring Dino Valente, David Crosby, Leon Russell, his early attempts at greatness with The Byrds and many more. Dickson’s liner notes are oblique but, clearly in the wake of Beatlemania, American folk and rock hit a merging point, and these early productions point the way to a historic musical legacy and greatness. One track here the traditional song “Stewball”—here featuring Leon Russell and guitarist Glen Campbell—will have you wondering if John Lennon hadn’t heard it too when he wrote his famous “War Is Over, If You Want it”!

- The rise in popularity of the DVD over the past 8 years has given rise to those stupid prohibitive region numbers which sometimes makes a DVD unplayable on our so-called Region 1 players in America. One “Region 2” import double disc DVD from Europe, Jack Bruce Live Concert played, fine on my Apple computer. A great look at the Cream bass great in action, Wienerworld’s DVD set feature three different Jack Bruce concerts. One from Germany’s Rockpalast show in 1980, one from 1990 and a great trio gig from 1983. That November 1983 gig—presented here on video—featured Jack in a superb trio setting with keyboardist / guitarist David Sancious and late, great drummer Bruce Gary. With 14 tracks, the DVD captures Jack live just around the time of his unheralded early ‘80s album classic, Automatic. The combination of Bruce and Sancious with drummer Gary was one of Jack’s best and playing tracks from Automatic, the trio also tackles several Cream covers. The October 16, 1990 show features jack in a solo setting running through a number of classics, while the October 1980 show is taken from his famous period of touring with Sancious, Billy Cobham and guitarist Clem Clempson.

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