Record Label
and Music Spotlight









- A woman of many talents indeed, Amsterdam, Holland based Sonja Van Hamel lent her artistic touch to the 2012 CD by pop maestro Ken Stringfellow, entitled Danzig In The Moonlight. Turns out Ken also had a hand in producing Sonja’s 2012 entitled Transcendental Man. Back in the mid 1980’s, the now underrated singer-songwriter Anna Domino was turning heads around in New York City with her ethereal blend of infectious dance pop. Fans of Ms. Domino are strongly advised to give a listen to Sonja’s CD. Intelligent, catchy pop with a strong beat and indelible arrangements, and featuring a range of top musicians, the 13 track Transcendental Man is simply one of the great pop albums of 2012. In the spirit of her artwork design for Ken Stringfellow’s CD, Transcendental Man is decked out in stellar packaging complete with an incredible looking CD booklet filled with album lyrics and more of Sonja’s brilliant artwork. If you liked Ken Stringfellow’s CD, you must hear Transcendental Man. /

- Being on a label with a lot of like minded spirits is a good thing, and Holland based singer-songwriter / keyboardist Eva Auad lives up to the hype with her 2012 self-titled CD debut. Eva’s CD is uptempo pop in the spirit of Madonna and the best of the rising female singers on the scene in the 21st century. Helping to set her apart is the help of album co-producer Ken Stringfellow. Eva, like Basta Music label-mate Sonja Van Hamel, also appeared on Ken’s 2012 Danzig In The Moonlight album. Dynamic dance pop with strong beat, melodic appeal and expansive arrangements, Eva’s self-titled Basta Music debut makes her an artist to keep your ears and eyes on.

- It’s being touted as Americana on their web site but the 2013 CD from Co-Pilgrim has a definite kind of classic British pop sound in mind. Sounding kind of influenced by a mix of McCartney, 10cc and The Kinks among others, A Fairer Sea is a most beguiling spin for pop fans. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Mark Gale gets solid backup from his band mates and the music is more than up to the task and gets the job done. A number of players assist and overall, if you like your pop groovy and atmospheric, Co-Pilgrim is made just for you. Battle World Wide honcho Darren Smallman is making waves with a number of his CD titles including the critically acclaimed album from Super Best Friends Club, but for unsurpassed pop fun, music fans are strongly advised to pick up the Co-Pilgrim A Fairer Sea CD.

/ NORDIC NOTES - One of the most diverse recording labels in Europe, Beste! stops at no border, musical or otherwise and they move to the big country of Russia for the release of the self-titled I Am The Morning. Coming from St. Petersburg, I Am The Morning are described as a Neoclassical vocal indie band and while there’s a definite rock influence there’s also a solid classical vibe in play. A good comparison would be the art-rock band Renaissance with lead singer Marjana Semkina sounding like a young Annie Haslam. The sound is lush and while the CD features some excellent rock guitar playing, the pastoral sound is greatly enhanced by the neoclassical Wakeman-esque keyboards of Gleb Kolyadin. Other players fill up the sound stage on this beguiling progressive rock sounding CD. Like all Beste! CDs, the packaging is first rate too. Vocals in English prove that music is indeed the international language.

- Each of the six Billy Sherwood solo CDs seem to get better with each play. Billy creates very meditative prog-rock music, very much in line with his albums made in the 1990s and early 2000’s with YES founder Chris Squire. Very linear in scope yet full of richly rewarding musical subtleties and nuances, Billy’s 2012 album, The Art Of Survival features yet more of Billy’s patented approach to prog. Of course, much like Billy’s other recent solo albums, including recently Oneirology and What Was The Question?, the nine track Art Of Survival album was completely produced, recorded, mixed, written and performed by Billy himself. So when he’s not busy producing newly made tribute albums, and working with Tony Kaye in his other band CIRCA, Billy keeps the pot brewing with his ongoing and ever evolving solo career. I can still remember Billy 20 years ago, in 1994—playing with YES, off the side on a raised platform on second guitar—while the early ‘90s YES played their Talk album live at Madison Square Garden. Many memories have come and gone, including Billy’s masterful production on the two greatest YES albums in recent memory, Open Your Eyes and The Ladder. Some YES fans still say that the band never recovered or got back their mojo after Billy left but you can get back some of that vibe with The Art Of Survival.

- The legendary Blue Note Records, home of the great jazz legends steps out into the territory of pop oldies with the 2013 CD release of My True Story by New Orleans pop legend Aaron Neville. Produced by both Rolling Stones cofounder Keith Richards and rock legend Don Was, My True Story features Neville and his band breezing through a dozen tracks every fan of 1950s and ‘60s oldies radio knows by heart. Mixing a doo-wop swing approach with vintage pop oldies groove is a great idea and in the hands of these seasoned vets, My True Story clicks and flashing by in the blink of a sonic eye, it’s a no-brainer for Neville Brothers fans, Stones fans and fans of oldies radio in general. According the Neville, ‘I attended the university of doo-wop-ology. Anything I do has got some doo-wop in it. It’s just part of me.’ In addition to Richards (on guitars) and Was, the album also features excellent work by Greg Leisz (guitars), Benmont Tench (organ), George G. Receli (drums) and more. Covers of “Ruby Baby”, “Ting A Ling”, “Money Honey”, “This Magic Moment”, “Under The Boardwalk” and other memorable hits work like magic under the spell of Neville’s timeless vocal talents. A most sublime listening experience, My True Story is the pop oldies revival event of 2013.

- Pop maestro Brad Wilson turns his attention to the soulful sound of rock ‘n’ blues with the 2012 CD release of Blues Magic. A great guitarist and songwriter, Brad sings up a storm on Blues Magic. Some radio DJ’s in the know have accurately described Blues Magic as being influenced by blues rock icons such as Gregg Allman, Curtis Mayfield and The Doobie Brothers too. Assisting Brad on Blues Magic is his fine band including Adam Gust (drums), Brian Beal (bass) and Kirk Nelson (keys). Recorded in L.A., Blues Magic has a wild west SoCal rock ‘n’ roll meets the soulful sound of of the blues kind of vibe. Fans of the great blues-rock bands and singers of the 1970’s are advised to give a listen to Brad Wilson’s kick-ass Blues Magic album.

- Over in England, Cherry Red continues branching out from their usual par excellence approach to classic CD reissues and among their new music releases is a 2013 CD from The House Of Love. Entitled She Paints Words In Red, this newly recorded album from The House Of Love is a modern day pop music masterpiece. Although they kicked off back in the 1980’s, with a combination of what come critic labeled “faux psychedelia and ‘80s gloss”, and have actually released six albums to date, this new She Paints Words In Red sounds more like early ‘70s Pink Floyd, with a touch of Velvet Underground in places. The CD is not overtly psychedelic but dreamy and pastoral nonetheless. Guitarist Terry Bickers and lead singer Guy Chadwick and company weave a magical sonic web here as the tracks so merge into each other with ease. The CD cover art and in fact the entire album packaging, complete with detailed booklet and lyric, is first rate and quite imaginative too. Dreamy pop with a touch of Floyd-ian cosmic rock, with She Paints Words In Red The House Of Love have made a most worthy comeback album.

- Not exactly a religious institution, The Catholic Girls have actually been around a good long time and their bio is hilarious. After forming 30 years ago, they actually have a CD out called Exposed! The cover art is quite a hoot. Where else could these gals come from but New Jersey. Anyway, their music is quite well played. Imagine The Bangles as produced by Phil Spector or even Marshall Crenshaw for that matter. A trio affair led by Gail Petersen (vocals guitar), Roxy Andersen (guitars, vocals) and Doreen Holmes (drums), the album features number of other musicians as are other key movers and shakers in the N.Y. / N.J. area who are cited in the album art. Exposed! features a cool kind of retro, Spector inspired rock ‘n’ roll edge going on here—‘60s pop with influences from the Beatles and Stones meets Nancy Sinatra meets the Ramones on a rockin’ rave up by three nice Catholic Girls.

- Still huge for his 43 million selling 1977 album Bat Out Of Hell, the singer and band known as Meat Loaf is still alive and rocking and his 2013 DVD Meat Loaf - The Guilty Pleasure Tour sounds like Ozzy Osborn produced by Bruce Springsteen. Captured live in concert in Sydney, Australia on the singer’s 2012 tour, the Meat Loaf live rock experience is greatly enhanced by superb filmwork and photography. Apparently Meat Loaf was involved in every aspect of the two hour DVD, including editing the 5.1 surround sound mix. Extras include a 35 minute Meat Loaf documentary with a new interview.

- One of the top session bass players in England for the past 4 decades, Danny Thompson released a superstar packed comeback album with the 2013 CD release of the 12 track Connected. Although Danny became famous in the music world thanks to his historic work with the late great John Martyn, he also played with notable jazzers like Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin and even earlier at EMI and Olympic studios working with everyone from Cliff Richard to Engelbert Humperdinck and in more recent times The Who as well. On Connected Danny reconnects with his jazzy pop roots on a set of tracks backing up notable vocal legends including John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Darrell Scott, Martin Simpson, Tom Robinson, Eric Bibb, the late great Bert Jansch and many more. Music insiders are raving about the CD centerpiece—a 13 minute live in concert version from 1975 of John Martyn’s “Inside Out” that incorporates jazz and acoustic psychedelic. Sure the big names will draw fans to the album but Danny Thompson’s tasteful stand-up bass sets the tone on the rootsy, jazz pop groove of Connected. In addition, the CD packaging is excellent featuring a booklet filled with detailed liner notes and with added notes by Danny discussing all the artists taking part in the Connected album.

- Founding member of 1980s pop group The Hooters and the writer of the huge Joan Osborne hit “One Of Us”, singer-songwriter Eric Bazilian has a 2013 album with multi-instrumentalist Mats Wester. The 12 track Bazilian Wester album What Shall Become Of The Baby? was released on the Swedish Folkpop label. As a guitarist and a singer-songwriter Bazilian is in a class by himself, yet Wester’s unique musical gift for bringing a sense of Swedish-ness to Bazilian’s American pop flair helps to add some unique folkloristic flavors to the album. Between them, Bazilian and Wester cover a ton of musical instruments including guitars, bass, drums, recorder, hurdy gurdy, keyboards and the Swedish nyckelharpa while the appearance of several drummers helps give the album a solid international rock feel. With hooks galore and top musicianship from both Bazilian and Wester, What Shall Become Of The Baby? is one of the unexpected pop pleasures of 2013.

/ ROCKET SCIENCE VENTURES - As a member of rock legends The Eagles, singer-songwriter Don Felder had a major part to play in a number of early Eagles classics including “Hotel California”. Felder’s strengths as a guitarist and a singer-songwriter are put to excellent use on his 2013 solo album entitled Road To Forever. In the spirit of “Hotel California” era Eagles, the 12 track CD is filled with solid rockers that would please any Eagles fan. What’s most impressive here, in addition to Felder’s in fine shape voice and memorable songs, is his fiery electric guitar work which just leaps out of the speakers. Backed up by a fine band, Felder makes major inroads for American pop and rock with Road To Forever.

- Back in 2009 The Vignatis released their excellent Birth Of The Gypsybilly CD to rave reviews. In 2012, The Vignatis released the follow up entitled Birth Of The Gypsybilly Vol.2. Much like their lauded classic ‘09 CD, Birth Of The Gypsybilly 2 continues to find Vignatis founders Fabrice Vignati (guitars, vocals) and Tracy Vignati (vocals, clarinet) refining their vision of retro-flavored swinging Gypsy Jazz pop/rock sounds with excellent results. Backed up by some excellent side players, the first couple of Gypsy jazz-rock continue onwards. Tracy still reminds the listener of a modern day Mary Ford while the electrifying fretboard work of of Fabrice sounds like a cross between Gypsy Jazz guitar master Django Reinhardt and rockabilly guitar hero Brian Setzer. The sounds of Gypsybilly are alive and well on this latest masterpiece CD from The Vignatis.

- Wow, 45 years after their huge hit “Incense And Peppermints” changed the course of pop music back during the Summer of Love, 1967, Strawberry Alarm Cock returned with Wake Up Where You Are. Still featuring some of the original members, Strawberry Alarm Clock revamped their sound and really revved things up for their 2012 comeback album, which features some new tracks as well as a cross section of newly re-recorded lesser known tracks the band recorded back in their late ‘60s heyday. Although Wake Up Where You Are doesn’t include a remake of “Incense And Peppermints”, the sound of their new CD really accurately recaptures the original band’s unique flair for vocal harmonies and pop psychedelia that marked their original sound. Produced, engineered and mixed by one of the key guys behind the original band, Steve Bartek, Wake Up Where You Are is a solid comeback from Strawberry Alarm Clock, who are now planning another album filled with all new music. Relive the spirit of the 1960’s with timeless pop psychedelia of Strawberry Alarm Clock.

/ CONCORD MUSIC GROUP - There’s plenty of pop smarts in play on the 2012 CD by Erin Boheme. The Wisconsin bred Ms. Boheme’s second release, What A Life benefits greatly from the top production of pop hero Michael Bublé, except for one track here produced by Mark Portmann. Recorded in Vancouver Canada and L.A., the What A Life CD features some of the top session guys on the scene today including guitarist Dino Meneghin and keyboardist Alan Chang, the latter who also co-produced the ten track What A Life CD along with Michael Bublé. Erin’s CD is also enhanced, on certain tracks, by some tasty string arrangements. Erin cites Frank Sinatra as one of her biggest influences and, with the swinging, jazzy pop in evidence on What A Life, you can be sure ‘Ol Blue Eyes would be a big fan of Erin Boheme too.

- The late Summer 2012 CD release of Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac takes the casual Fleetwood Mac fan through tribute covers of some of the historic band’s famous tracks. Mostly focusing on the mid ‘70s era of the band—with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks—the 17 track tribute CD all but skirts many of the major influences of classic Mac album like Kiln House, Bare Trees and English Rose. One English Rose track that is covered here is the classic Peter Green instrumental “Albatross”, which mournfully kicks off this tribute album. The song “Albatross” is given a somewhat reasonable cover version here by Lee Ranaldo Band, while the CD also features a range of decent, credible Mac covers by Marianne Faithfull, Billy Gibbons, Tame Impala, MGMT, Lykke Li, Karen Elson and many more. If you were born after 1974 chances are you don’t remember or know anything about the joy and wonders of the original Fleetwood Mac—the classic Mac with Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer. That still lingering feeling of neglect has long been a big sticking point among the original fans but that’s the music business for you. As far as a good sampler of the post 1975 Fleetwood Mac, Just Tell Me That You Want Me isn’t bad at all and some of these tracks (especially Tame Impala’s psych-pop cover of “That’s All For Everyone” from Tusk and a bizarre, just plain weird CD closing cover of “Future Games”, title track of Mac’s 1971 album by, MGMT) might just make converts of this album among the band’s original fans still reluctant to face the tragic loss of the original Fleetwood Mac. Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac is well packaged, no liner notes but track by track details fills the listener in on who’s playing on what track here.

From the land down under comes organist / vocalist Clayton Doley and his sensational 2012 CD entitled Desperate Times. These are in fact desperate times yet Clayton’s 9 track CD is so much fun you won’t feel desperate after rocking out with his album. In his list of musical influences Clayton cites great organ icons like Booker T. Jones, Brian Auger and Billy Preston and you can bet that those guys would like Clayton’s approach to rootsy jazzy pop. Interesting that Clayton was actually invited to Toronto Canada by singer-songwriter Harry Manx and the whole album was in fact recorded in Toronto. In addition to Clayton’s soulful singing and B3 organ work, Desperate Times features some killer, near Clapton-esque electric guitar work from Champagne James Robertson, with Clayton also getting backed up by solid drumming from Davide Di Renzo. Liner notes shed some light on Clayton's musical mission here. Most of the originals click and there’s some fine covers of “Seventh Son” and “Chicken Shack” to help firm up Clayton’s blues cred. Desperate Times is a fine pick for jazzers and blues buffs who like to rock out.

- Imagine if Jewish music from 2000 years ago was played today by a group of young musicians bent on transcending cultural differences and you come away with the 2012 CD release of Judeo by L.A. based singer-songwriter Hillel Tigay. Described as the “Rock Cantor”, Hillel is actually a Hazzan at the IKAR synagogue in Los Angeles and his music combines ancient Hebrew psalms and biblical verses set to new original melodies composed by Tigay. To complete this wide-ranging 10 track CD, released in time for Hanukkah 2012, Hillel brought together a wide range of musicians, including those from countries such as Turkey, Iran and Armenia who were brought in to play or get close to the authentic instruments of the era. Much more than just Jewish music, Judeo is being described as ‘an ambitious, open-armed collaboration of creeds and cultures.' Commenting on the CD, Hillel adds, ‘The ancients were keenly aware that music had a singular power to bring the presence of God into their midst. The music recorded here attempts to offer the listener, whether deeply pious, agnostic or secular, a tangible sense of something greater than oneself.’

- The online world of digital downloads and hard to find CDs is a hit or miss affair but sometimes the old expression, seek and ye shall find is a good motto for music lovers to adhere to. Case in point is the 2012 CD from the group known as Foreign Slippers. Coming to London by way of Norrköping, Sweden, singer-songwriter Gabi Fröden sounds inspired by all manners of great female singers—from Debbie Harry to Anna Domino. I would think Ms. Domino is a good comparison, especially that eclectic approach to pop on the 2012 CD from Gabi’s group moniker Foreign Slippers. Another signpost here would be rising superstar Adele. Fans of Adele will love Foreign Slippers. There’s a whole lot of experimental music on the group’s Farewell To The Old Ghosts, which is mostly available as a digital downloads but for purists there is a CD too. Amid the musical charms on the CD is a brilliant single called “Avalanche” which should be a big smash in a more fair and just world. Seek out the Foreign Slippers CD, even if you have to inquire to Gabi directly but by all means start grooving to “Avalanche” asap.

- Sounding like a young Leonard Cohen as produced by Phil Spector, NYC singer-songwriter Peter Galperin returns in 2013 with his second solo album entitled A Disposable Life. Featuring Peter in the studio backed up by a number of first rate musicians, including multi-instrumentalist Robert Aaron as well as master audio mixologist Andrew Schlesinger, the 8 tracks on A Disposable Life clock in at just under 36 minutes, yet there’s hardly a minute of wasted time. No instrument stands out per se but Galperin’s vocals and guitar work, as well as the sonic keyboard sounds by Robert Aaron are first rate throughout. Although Galperin’s lyrical subject matter is somewhat cynical and incisive, the whole thing is delivered with such panache and soul-searching sustenance, that it doesn’t come off so much as protest music as much as like a sonic TV show, case in point being the title track “A Disposable Life” (complete with cutting edge lyrics set to a super relaxing bossa nova beat no less), “There’s No Future” (‘it’s just another bad year for the world’) and even a hilarious song praising the multiple uses of “Bubblewrap” (‘I’ll take plastic over pleasure’) yet every track here has its rewards. Peter Galperin’s best album to date, A Disposable Life is a modern day pop masterpiece from start to finish.

- A sonic masterpiece and a very enjoyable CD, The Ritual introduces the musical talents of Stockholm Sweden based singer-songwriter Jenny Gabrielsson Mare. Jenny’s 2012 CD showcases 12 tracks that demonstrate a fondness for her various influences including the Twin Peaks soundtracks, Nick Cave, Billy Holiday, Maria McKee, Edith Piaf and more. In fact, for some discerning ears, Jenny’s international sounding cosmic cabaret pop music is somewhat reminiscent of NYC singer-songwriter legend Anna Domino. Described as an ‘indie vaudeville jazz pop artist', Jenny’s music is a sonic delight filled out nicely by her vocals and performances on keyboards, guitars, percussion and more. A number of players assist including strings, cellos, horns and more where they’re required. The Ritual isn’t so much rock or straight ahead pop as it is atmospheric, jazzy chill out sounds and the album is delivered with conviction and confidence. The recording is excellent and the eye catching album packaging also enhances the overall sonic experience.

Speaking to about her album, Jenny says, "About the two CD's... My debut album Black Stars was produced by a friend of mine, Katharina Nuttall. I more or less gave her the freedom to choose and arrange her favorites amongst my songs. I think she did a great job and she is so talented especially when it comes to coaxing the best out of the artist she's working with and to really refine someone's expression. When the time came to start working on my second album The Ritual, the plan was to work with Katharina again.

In spring 2011 I was going through kind of a manic phase, artistically, and I wrote almost 30 songs over the duration of only a four or five months. I worked my full-time job by day and wrote songs and watched Twin Peaks and Hitchcock by night and danced to old timers like The Andrew Sisters and Rosemary Clooney. It was a crazy but creative spring.

Nuttall once again helped me sort out which songs to finally record. Katharina was set on producing this album as well but she is very much in demand so she had to back out of the project and instead of hiring another producer I decided to produce the album myself. Based on the demos I had recorded during that spring. And the result is more of a mirror of myself and the few month in which the material was written.

To sum up: Where Black Stars was the result of over ten years of song writing and in many ways an interpretation of me and my work, The Ritual is so much closer to who I am, and my vision as a songwriter and performer.

I started playing in punk rock bands when I was around 13 years old. My older brother is a jazz musician and I think he's kind of proud I moved in his direction. But I still cherish the punk rock energy, the ‘je m’en fou’ attitude still alive inside of me. Someone once described my music as “Rebellion disguised as jazz performed under the influence of moonshine in a 1930’s speakeasy.”

- Back in 2010, U.K born, NYC based singer-songwriter Louise Aubrie released her debut CD, Fingers Crossed... to great critical acclaim. Next up for this up-and-coming song stylist is her 2013 CD entitled Time Honoured Alibi. Featuring eight new Aubrie originals, the CD once again benefits from the top notch production of Boz Boorer, who also contributes keyboards, and has co-written one of the new songs. Backing up the vocals of Louise is her band including Rob Ritchie (guitars), Matt Wigton (bass) and Fred Kennedy (drums). The Louise Aubrie sound is very much rooted in a kind of Phil Spector wall-of-sound approach to pop and garage band hard rock. Her self assured vocals are superbly tracked in the tight mix to great effect and the CD sound is nicely balanced out by Boorer’s guided studio techniques. Boorer has worked with U.K. singer Morrissey for 20 years. Recorded in Portugal, mixed in London and mastered in Los Angeles, Time Honoured Alibi has a cross-border international flair, greatly enhanced by Ms. Aubrie’s confident, near defiant vocal delivery. Fans of Morrissey, Sandie Shaw’s great late ‘80s album and even the Velvet Underground and Phil Spector’s girl group legacy are well advised to check out this new hard rocking set by rising rocker Louise Aubrie. On Time Honoured Alibi, singer-songwriter Louise Aubrie adds a new and quite electrifying chapter to the time-honored legacy of great girl rockers.

- From the big country to the north, Canada, comes Skydiggers, who have released a fine album with their early 2013 release of Northern Shore. You might say they’re influenced by the catchiest moments from The Band, but these guys also have a solid pop streak a mile wide and for the most part they keep the songs toe-tapping and radio friendly. Imagine Neil Young’s Harvest album produced by Marshall Crenshaw. One of the best kept secrets in the Americana pop world, Skydiggers actually have a number of albums going back to the mid 1990’s still, better late then never, and the release of the 15 track Northern Shore makes for a solid pop revelation. Well done vocals, solid production a round of fine tunes makes Northern Shore time well spent for the serious pop aficionado.

- Back in the 1960s and ‘70s we would have bought this on vinyl just for the cover art alone. I’m talking abut the 2013 CD from the the Manchester England band known as Baked A La Ska. Entitled Just Desserts, the eleven track CD blends a mix of Ska music with a dash of Reggae, but it’s so much fun to hear you won’t even be able to tell these blokes are from northern England. Featuring a number of singers including Frank “The Skank” Knopov and Country Ranks, the Baked A La Ska sound is big and features a cross section of players who fill out the sound including Wilkinson Sword (guitar), Robin Sunflower (harmonica, effects), Danny Ward (drums), Matt Owens (bass) and more including a fully blasting horn section. Their Reggae / Ska infused cover of Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra” melts like butter under the weight on these great players. Baked A La Ska is about the most fun you can have with a CD these days.

- Most rock fans have never really heard or understood the music of Jacques Brel, although rock innovators such as David Bowie and Alex Harvey did work wonders, introducing rock fans to several of Brel’s more accessible compositions. Some of those very same numbers are paid tribute once again on the 2012 CD release of Love & Death - The Songs Of Jacques Brel. The new CD from the Liverpool, England band known as Dead Belgian, the ten track Love & Death features some of Brel’s most accessible songs, including “Next”, “My Death” and “Amsterdam”, all sung in English, while some tracks are sung in French by Fionnuala Dorrity. An expressive vocalist in her own right, Ms. Dorrity gets solid back-up by her band mates including percussionist Andy Delemere. Fans of Bowie, Alex Harvey, Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen and Edith Piaf (to name just a few artists influenced by Brel) are strongly recommended to check out Dead Belgian.

- One of the first bluegrass bands to incorporate drums and tour rock and roll clubs, Leftover Salmon have been rocking the music world with their rootsy Americana sound since 1989. Eight years after their last album, Leftover Salmon return in 2012 with Aquatic Hitchhiker. Produced by Steve Berlin of the band Los Lobos, Aquatic Hitchhiker is above all a good time kind of record. Sounding like one part Grateful Dead circa American Beauty and one part String Cheese Incident, the CD shows these guys can play. Guitarist / singer Drew Emmitt is backed up by a solid group, including fellow guitarist / vocalist Vince Herman and newcomer in banjo wizard Andy Thorn. If you like your country rock played with a side of progressive poly-ethnic Cajun "slamgrass", Leftover Salmon are for you. Leftover Salmon’s Aquatic Hitchhiker is a tasty sonic dish worth stopping off to enjoy.

MC RECORDS - Based in Long Island, N.Y., MC Records makes inroads in the blues-rock world with Cruel Sunrise, the 2012 CD release from blues belting guitar blaster Rick Holmstrom. Rick is a native of Alaska and ever since since his disc jockey dad turned him on to Chuck Berry when he was just 12, he’s been a big music fan ever since. Another influence of Holmstrom’s is The Staple Singers and Mavis Staples contributes vocals on a pair of tracks here. Rick’s band, featuring Jeff Turmes (bass, slide guitar, sax) and Stephen Hodges (drums) is solid throughout. In addition to the blues-rock influences, there’s also a rootsy rock influence not unlike The Band. Fans of The Band and guitar great Steve Cropper should give a listen to Holmstrom’s Cruel Sunrise.

- A whole new generation of Paul McCartney fans are popping up everywhere, in part thanks to great musicians such as Tim Christensen. It seems Tim has paid tribute to Paul's great post-Beatles work with a live CD + DVD entitled Pure McCartney. A double disc set featuring the soundtrack and video of a live show recorded in Copenhagen on June 18, 2012, in honor of Paul’s 70th birthday, Pure McCartney reenacts Paul’s Ram album in its entirety with the addition of several other period piece favorites from Paul’s fabled canon of classic early ‘70s hits. Ram has remained one of McCartney’s most revered albums and Tim pulls off the event with verve and much dignity. Paul maybe 70 years young but Ram remains a timeless classic. It’s amazing that Tim and his band truly revive the amazing energy that the original album had and in a live setting, the crowd really flips out. With Tim backed up by cohorts, Mike Viola and Tracy Bonham, along with members of the group known as The Damn Crystals, Ram has rarely sounded so great in a live setting. The CD is superbly recorded while a DVD features the live concert in its entirety and makes a fine companion to the CD. McCartney fans don’t miss Pure McCartney.

- One of the first prog-rock supergroups of the 21st century, Flying Colors unites some of the leading lights in rock. On guitars Steve Morse (lead guitars) and Dave LaRue (bass), on keyboards and vocals Neal Morse, on drums Mike Portnoy and lead vocals features Casey McPherson. The resulting Flying Colors features a cross-section of near metal prog, filled with expert musicianship and memorable melodic sounds. The combined vocal effect of McPherson and Neal Morse is quite amazing while, one of the great instrumentalists of all time, Steve Morse has never sounded better. Commenting on the album, the multitalented Neal Morse says, ‘What an amazing group of musicians...I am thrilled to be part of this unique, diverse and dazzling album.’ The production by Peter Collins is first rate and the studio sound and sound mix is like the icing on the cake on this essential modern day progressive rock classic. The CD features excellent cover art while the CD booklet contains a cross section of graphics and complete lyrics.

/ WIENERWORLD - MVD also distributes (here in the U.S.) the illustrious U.K. DVD / CD company Wienerworld and high on the list of new Wienerworld DVD releases is the late 2012 release of 10cc Live In Concert, subtitled Featuring Graham Gouldman And Friends. Cofounder of 10cc, Gouldman is one of the living legends of the original British Invasion of the mid 1960s, having written huge hits for groups including The Hollies and The Yardbirds. Moving into the 1970s, Gouldman’s contributions to rock history with 10cc can’t be underrated or overlooked. Released on MVDvisual through Wienerworld, the 204 minute DVD features an outstanding performance from the 21st century version of 10cc, featuring Gouldman backed by a great band, including guitarist Rick Fenn. The 10cc live in concert experience features Gouldman & company romping through all the classic 10cc hits while the DVD is bolstered with a round of bonus features including 10cc cofounder Kevin Godley reuniting with 10cc, new interviews with Graham Gouldman and a segment entitled “The Art Of 10cc with Storm Thorgerson”. Long time fans as well as those who wonder what happened to the great 10cc can find the answers on this superbly filmed and tastefully structured DVD.

NORDIC RECORDS - Groups like Pink Floyd and Genesis made a huge impact in the progressive music world back in the early 1970s and even today young bands from all of the world espouse the free form musical thinking these legends brought to 20th century music. One group from Oslo Norway bringing back that progressive rock ethos is Kosmoratik. The group’s 9 track 2012 CD, Gravitation offers a 21st century update on state of the art symphonic pop in the best spirit of the early 1970s. Featuring the vocals of Eivind Johansen and Lise Lotte Ågedal backed up by the soaring electric guitars of Odd Gunnar Frøysland, the group sound of Kosmoratik is further fleshed out by a number of players here. Speaking to about the Kosmoratik sound, the group's guiding light, Eivind Johansen adds, “I do consider us part of the prog-rock scene, in the sense that we experiment with structures and have an open mind towards what we do. We do not easily fit into any genres.” The sound of Kosmoratik's Gravitation CD is full bodied and always captivating while the songs are filled with lush prog-rock soundscapes and memorable melodic twists and turns. If you like well done progressive rock with new ideas and fresh sonic vistas give Gravitation by Kosmoratik a spin. Word has it Kosmoratik are readying a much anticipated second release planned for later in 2013.

OK! RECORDS - It was 50 years ago today that The Beatles were poised to conquer the music world. One band from Argentina carrying on the art-pop spirit of the 1960s, Baby Scream hit hard and fast with the 2013 CD entitled Baby Scream. With a bunch of CDs already out under their name, Baby Scream are really at their zenith on their 14 track CD. Led by guitarist / singer-songwriter Juan Pablo Mazzola, the Baby Scream is a good find for power-pop fans. Truly speaking the international language of power-pop love and peace, Baby Scream takes a sonic journey through the past darkly and returns with the future pop sounds of now.

- One of the rising stars of Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, Charlie Winston strikes a blow for 21st century pop with the 2013 release of Running Still. Sounding like a younger version of Peter Gabriel, Winston’s voice and song writing approach is very Gabriel-esque in places. Another comparison would be Daniel Powter but there’s enough originality on tap to make Winston stand out on his own. Although the copyright says 2011, the Real World web site says the release date is January 2013. Either way, complete with solid production from Tony Berg, Running Still is a rocking little record indeed. Hard hitting rockers, dance tracks and subtle piano based ballads combine for a magical audio experience. Performing guitars, keyboards, bass and lead vocals, Charlie gets top support from a number of players who help to add much luster to this very appealing modern pop classic. Also out on Real World in 2013 is Santiman by The Creole Choir Of Cuba. Recorded at Real World studios in England, the CD was produced by the illustrious John Metcalfe (a great artist in his own right). Featuring a choir of classically trained musicians, the 15 track Santiman features freedom songs that combine lush harmonies sung by Haitian emigrants in Cuba.

/ HIGH COUNTRY RECORDINGS - Featuring the multitasking guitar skills of Andy Falco, the group known as The Infamous Stringdusters returned in 2012 with a double CD set. Released on the Sci-Fi label, the label famous for albums by String Cheese Incident, the 2 CD set, Silver Sky features a wealth of country rock and jam band style moves and sounds inspired by groups like Grateful Dead, circa American Beauty and the New Riders. The newest member of the Stringdusters, Andy Falco gets great support from the entire band including Travis Book (bass), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Andy Hall (dobro) and Chris Pandolfi (banjo). Perhaps what makes The Infamous Stringdusters so special—in addition to their impeccable string work and shared percussion work—is their unique wall of harmony vocals. Disc one features the group’s new studio album while the second CD here, entitled We’ll Do It Live features a live in concert experience with The Infamous Stringdusters.

- Interesting to note that singer-songwriter Martha Tilston has been making records for the past decade, releasing her first recordings way back in 2000. Her 2013 CD, Machines Of Love And Grace is a mostly a low key folksy affair filled with delicate acoustic guitar work and breathy vocals. The 11 track CD is nicely packaged and the booklet is filled with lyrics and credits. Although the CD is quite laid back in style, while also armed by contributions from several players, Martha claims that the album features nuanced, political songs dealing with the various turmoils of the 21st century. Much more low-key than say some of the more sonically enduring songs of Kate Bush, Machines Of Love And Grace will find a home among 21st century folk music enthusiasts.

- English folk music will never be the same again after the 2012 CD release of Garland Sessions by the group known as The Owl Service. What makes The Owl Service so unique is that, in addition to the more usual folksy English influences, the Owl Service includes electric guitars, sitars and pretty wild sounding electronic music influences throughout the 19 track, 68 minute CD. Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Owl Service mastermind Steven Collins, Garland Sessions also features a range of superb female vocalists as well as a range of accompanying players who really help flesh out this beguiling, modern day English folk music masterpiece. Liner notes by Steven Collins along with superb artwork and packaging help to put Garland Sessions over the top. Fans of English folk music will love this CD.

- The spirit of Syd Barrett and that whole full blown period of U.K. psychedelia is still alive and well on the early 2013 CD release of the self titled Beaulieu Porch album. The brainchild of Simon Berry, the CD has a bit of a home spun affair type feel, but Simon’s heart and head are clearly in the right place. A number of music scribes in the U.K. are comparing the CD to John Lennon’s Mystery Tour period and while that’s reaching a bit, there’s still plenty of colorful paisley pop and nimble psychedelia to recommend it. All the songs, production, instruments, recording and artwork were done by Simon himself, so if you find yourself pining for some of the wide-eyed psych-pop grandeur of those early Syd Barrett CDs during the fabled “See Emily Play” period, you might just find Beaulieu Porch hits a sweet spot. Anyway, the CD, blows you away and just breezes on by so it’s at least worth a listen.

- Going back to his 1960s albums with Procol Harum Robin Trower always had a way with the blues. After years of albums as a solo artist, Robin teamed again with Jack Bruce and the resulting album, Seven Moon was among the best album of 2008. Once again, Robin Trower redefines the blues as an art form with his 2013 album Roots And Branches. The resulting 11 track album mixes fresh Trower originals with richly drawn covers, touching on Trower’s biggest musical influences. Kicking off with “Hound Dog” and “The Thrill Is Gone”, Trower’s guitar and vocals lends another familiar touch on album that is chock full of progressive blues rock signposts. On Roots And Branches Trower’s band is first rate and they help him frame his lead vocals and one of a kind guitar sound.

- Headed up by record label mogol Richard Rosenblatt, Vizztone is one of the top blues-rock labels in the U.S. these days and they hit pay dirt with the 2012 CD release of What’s It Gonna Take by singer-songwriter and guitarist Doug Deming. The 11 cut CD, credited to Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones, features a rock solid mix of traditional blues, country flavored roots-rock and much more. What’s It Gonna Take features Deming backed up by his group including Dennis Gruenling (harmonica), Andrew Gohman (upright and Fender bass) and Kevin Neel (drums). A guitarist on the rise, Deming cites greats like T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian among his big influences while years of backing major blues artists including Kim Wilson (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds) have helped him hone his own blues rock guitar styles and vocal techniques. There’s enough accessible, upbeat electric blues on Doug Deming’s What’s It Gonna Take to make this a major find for blues-rock fans young and old.


- Hard rock instrumental music is alive and well on III by the group known as Toundra. A quartet of fine young musicians from Spain, Toundra rock hard and rock fast on III. Borrowing from heavy metal and hard rock, on their 3rd album the group come up with some unique sounds. Not for the faint of heart, Toundra have been compared to popular instrumental rock groups including Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai, yet coming from Spain they offer a new perspective on the state of indie rock music from Spain in 2013. III was released on vinyl and CD and the cover art is excellent yet disturbing in some Dali-esqueways. Musically, there’s no words to get in the way of Toundra’s hard rock assault, so fasten your sonic seat belts, batten down the hatches and crank up Toundra.

- The Dutch musicians have always leaned toward the romantic side of European music. In the 1970’s Holland produced some of the greatest art-rock and progressive rock icons, from Focus to Kayak and then some. One label going even further back than the 1970s is the Basta Music label. Having released an excellent CD from romantic rock songstress Sonja Van Hamel—produced by pop icon Ken Stringfellow—Basta turn their attention to their early 2013 CD by the humorously titled Schnauzer Radio Orchestra. Entitled Music For A 1950s Radio Orchestra, the CD is superbly packaged and the music equally fits. Full of vintage electronic keyboards—incuding Philicordas, Omnichords, Wurlitzers and Moogs—the Schnauzer’s 12 track CD clocks at just under 36 minutes but it may very well be the most fun you’ll ever have with indescribable, instrumental music. The brainchild of vintage music aficionado Rob Geboers, Schnauzer Radio Orchestra works on so many levels that it truly boggles the musical imagination.

BASTA MUSIC - Although it was released back in 2011, the CD Kamiki is a fine release from the Holland-based band known as Ocobar. Filled with a wide range of instrumental guitar styles—from surf-rock, to funk and exotica and beyond, Ocobar features the trio lineup of Cok van Vuuren (guitars), Bart Wijtman (bass, keys) and Rob Wijtman (drums). The group also dabbles in a range of diverse instrumentals—including various music used in commercials and documentaries. In addition to the above genres, Ocobar also dabble in a wild strain of nostalgic World Music but with a solid modern edge as evidenced by track six here entitled “Surfin’ The Sushi”, which sounds like Japanese folk music played on electric guitars. Another track here, “Kamiki Bar”, sounds like ZZ Top doing instrumental crunch rock. The whole CD is played to perfection with a musical and a somewhat humorous edge that keeps you coming back for more. Several guest artists pop in to assist the trio and as we’ve come to expect from Basta Music, the sound, packaging and presentation is first rate. Guitar instrumental fans looking for some new thrills won’t find a more diverse assortment of instrumental music then the sounds of Ocobar. /

BESTE! UNTERHALTUNG / NORDIC NOTES - One of the top indy record labels in Germany, Beste! / Nordic Notes keeps releasing intriguing albums and one of their recent best is the 2013 Sutcliffe III CD from Germany based instro rockers Sutcliffe. The mostly instrumental CD features eight cuts and clocks in at under 40 minutes but for fans of retro style instrumental rock, the 2013 release of Sutcliffe III is a dandy. More Love Tractor than The Ventures, there’s nevertheless some solid garage feel and surfy type guitar instrumental sounds on hand. Sutcliffe raised eyebrows with their 2010 CD Mom Where Are The Seahorses, and on III they continue to solidify their guitar noir sound with an album of dark and light that surfs on a perfect sonic storm. Fans of Sutcliffe may also want to give a listen to their recent single CD (also on their Sutcliffe III CD), entitled “Ever Wonder”, featuring a track with lead vocals from the beguiling Icelandic singer Gudrid Hansdottir Beste! moves on to the country of Finland for their latest from the band known as Taipuva Luotisuora. Finland is no shrinking violet when it comes to hard and heavy instrumental rock and Taivpuva are one of the best of the new breed. The six piece ensemble are best described as neoclassical hard rock / heavy metal instrumental rock and they put on a fine display of sonic pyrotechnics on their 2013 Beste! / Nordic Notes CD entitled Taipuva Luotisuora 8. Eight albums in Taipuva show no signs of slowing down. Rock guitar mavens and hard rock instrumental fans will love this as will the instro prog set seeking out the latest sonic thrill.

- In the hands of musicians like Pete Townshend or Jimi Hendrix the guitar can be a weapon, ready to cut you down at every turn or, in the hands of Mark Knopfler or Hank Marvin, the guitar can be a surgical instrument of sublime relaxation. The latter comparison may be more appropriate in the case of Necessity, the 2012 CD from Toronto, Canada guitar hero Jamie Bonk. Necessity is Bonk’s seventh album and on the 12 track CD the focus is on his electric guitar work. The all instrumental album kind of echoes some of Knopfler’s soundtrack and more Shadows-esque type rockers. When I say rock, I mean it in the most relaxing way possible. The album will literally transport you to a kinder, gentler world. Is there a term called New Age Rock? Well if so, put Jamie Bonk’s Necessity right into the bin. Jamie cites Metheny and Frisell among his guitar big influences but there’s hardly any overt jazz stylings on hand and you can cross off the term daredevil pyrotechnics too. Bonk’s band is first rate throughout. You won’t find a more peaceful, toe-tapping instrumental guitar album then Necessity, even if you try.

- One of the top jazz guitarists on the world stage, Boston-based Giovanni Moltoni has a solid reputation for making great albums and his best yet is the 2013 CD release of Tomorrow’s Past. Moltoni has roots in Italy but he grew up in the US and his reputation in and around the Berklee School Of Music is legendary. Now a professor at Berklee, he recorded Tomorrow’s Past mid 2012 in studio A at Berklee. On Tomorrow’s Past, Moltoni has chosen a fine band with the rhythm section of Fernando Huergo (bass) and Bob Tamagni (drums) given a unique sound thanks to the inclusion of trumpeter Greg Hopkins, whose tone is somewhat similar to flugelhorn master Kenny Wheeler. Moltoni’s nimble, fluid electric guitar sound accompanied by the stately horn sound of Hopkins yields some impressive sonic results. Tomorrow's Past is one of the great guitar-based instrumental jazz albums of 2013.

- Back in 1983 seems like a lifetime ago—in fact 30 years is a very long time but one album from 1983 sounds as good as new. That album—Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, was originally recorded by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as a documentary soundtrack about the Apollo space missions. Who would have thought, nearly 30 years later pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole would join forces with the group known as Icebreaker for a remake of the entire Apollo album. Recreating the original Apollo album nearly note for note, the 13 track, 52 minute CD on Brooklyn based Cantaloupe Records qualifies as one of the great New Age instrumental achievements released in 2012. Icebreaker have, over the course of several albums, established themselves as one of the most adventurous forces on the 21st century U.K. music scene and with BJ Cole as a willing accomplice they pull off what some Eno fans would have thought impossible. Recorded live on May 1st and 2nd, 2010, and finally released in 2012, this newly recorded version of Apollo features excellent packaging, while in depth liner notes by Tim Boon, head of research at the Science Museum, James Poke, the artistic director of Icebreaker and further notes by BJ Cole sheds light on this unusual, but highly rewarding and faithful remake of the always classic Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

DEEP EDDY RECORDS - Based in Austin Texas, Deep Eddy Records is the last word when it comes to 21st century American surf-rock instrumental guitar music. Back in 2012 Deep Eddy released a surefire guitar instrumental classic from The Coconauts entitled Get Coco-Naughty and in late 2012 and early 2013 Deep Eddy are making waves with a whole range of instro rock classics including the self-titled CD from The Surf Zombies. A rocking, 15 track instro rock classic, The Surf Zombies is a fine CD indeed, and you can’t miss it thanks to the ultra cool and quite hilarious CD cover art of the skeleton on the surf board. The CD makes a fine follow up to Deep Eddy’s other Surf Zombies CD, entitled Lust For Rust. Also on Deep Eddy in 2013 is a fascinating 12 track CD sampler featuring three Deep Eddy bands—The Man From RavCon, The Nematoads and Los Fantasticos. Entitled il Triello (“Three Western Tales”) the CD is part of the “Deep Eddy Western Series” espousing the timeless influence of classic guitar-based Spaghetti Western theme music. From San Antonio comes The Phantomatics and Deep Eddy has their six track EP entitled She Left Her Brains At The Drive-In. Once again, the theme here is monster instro tunes and B-movies sure to stir interest among fans of shock-horror-surf instrumentals. Another CD sampler on Deep Eddy from 2012, Radical Waves compiles 24 instrumental surf-rockers from just about as many bands including The Coconauts, Mister Neutron, The Insantitizers, The Surf Zombies, The SpyTones and a whole lot more. Last but not least among this batch of Deep Eddy CD releases is Dessert First from Austin Texas based Danger Cakes. Described as Austin’s most unique, most fun and most rockin’ all-female rockabilly/R&B combo, the ten track CD was recorded live at Roadhouse Rags in South Austin. More rockabilly than instro, the CD nevertheless will most likely find a home among Deep Eddy’s devoted audience. When it comes to hard-hitting instrumental surf-rock and Texas style female rockabilly, catch a wave with Deep Eddy and their impressive CD catalog.

- Having played with some of the greatest bands and artists of the 20th century—from Frank Zappa and Weather Report to Santana and Genesis—keyboard / drumming legend Chester “CT” Thompson is making some well earned musical waves of his own with his early 2013 CD entitled Mixology. Mixing a touch of the progressive into a steamy jazz-fusion brew, the 11 track CD features Chester grooving out big-time on Hammond organ while backed by some top jazzers like guitarist Barry Finnerty, fellow keyboardist Dr. Lonnie Smith, a horn section and no less than four different drummers. Eschewing the headier aspects of prog-rock, Mixology is actually a “feel-good” old style jazz jam mixing a solid Booker T. style instrumental groove into a jazzier jam sound. The results offer an instrumental fusion album that will just take your mind off the crap of the world and get you feeling groovy in no time. In depth liner notes take you behind the scenes and shed light on Thompson’s legendary role as an indispensable musical multi-tasker.

- That great cover art alone makes this CD worth picking up. We're talking about the 2012 CD release of The Tangible Effect Of Love by the France based group called The Loved Drones. Funny, some of the eight track CD sounds like Isaac Hayes jamming with Stereolab or German avant gardists Faust and one track in particular here—track 5, entitled “The Hindenburg Omen” sounds a bit like French jazz rockers Coincidence back in 1978. It’s just that good. Of course, there’s so much variety on the CD. It’s mostly instrumental, futuristic and experimental fusion based but there’s several offbeat vocals that sit nicely over some synth driven fusion jams. The brainchild of the multitalented Benjamin Schoos, The Loved Drones sound both nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. Schoos gets solid support from his Loved Drones mates and the whole album is perfectly exotic sonic bliss.

GREYDISC RECORDS - A sonic feast of various stringed fretboard instruments and percussion, Becoming is the latest recorded chapter from the international guitar duo of Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó. On the 69 minute, 14 track Becoming both guitarists are joined by percussionist Balázs Major. Kastning is one of the most prolific of all the experimental American guitarists recording in 2013 and both Sándor and Balázs are from Hungary so this is quite an international musical collaboration. Even so, the all instrumental fare extends way beyond border crossings. Recorded on location in March 2012 at the concert hall in Hungary where the trio were set to perform that night, Becoming is filled with all the dynamics and musical tension guitar fans have come to expect from the versatile and always challenging guitar sound Kastning has brought to the music world with the myriad of sonic complexities he has recorded over the past decade on his Greydisc label. Perhaps the most interesting part here—in addition to the wild guitars and sounds brought to life here—is the sound that Balázs adds on his percussion instruments which include unusual instruments such as gongs, udus, and African clay drums. Either way Balázs never dominates the spotlight, preferring instead to accentuate the delicate array of unusual acoustic guitars both Kastning and Sándor so skillfully perform on here—including 12 string bass-baritone guitar, baritone classical guitar (Kastning) and classical guitar, 16 string guitar, 10 string viola caipira guitar (Szabó). Kastning also adds some piano and Szabó a chinese instrument called Guzheng. With their near telepathic guitar chemistry, Kastning and Szabó, together with percussion master Balázs Major, arrive with their greatest sonic achievement yet with the impeccably written, recorded and performed sounds on Becoming. / www.Sá / www.Balázs

- Smooth jazz continues to be a favorite destination among music fans and you’d be hard pressed to find a cooler, breezier album of instrumental jazz sounds than the 2013 CD release of Summer Rain by Jeanette Harris. Based out in California, Ms. Harris is a masterful sax player and she gets more than adequate support from a range of like minded jazzers including guitarist Darrell Crooks, keys man George Freeman and a whole lot more. The drum programming is great and it fully supports the strong beat that accompanies these tracks but the main star here is Jeanette’s excellent saxophone work. Smooth jazzers, chill out music enthusiasts and dance music fans looking for a solid instrumental album of superbly recorded music must give a listen to Summer Rain by Jeanette Harris.

MOONJUNE RECORDS - When it comes to new and exciting instrumental music, NYC based Moonjune Records continues breaking sonic barriers and borders between countries far and wide. Case in point is Dawai In Paradise by Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. A world class guitarist, Dewa recorded his 12 track album in both Jakarta and Santa Monica while backed by some top artists including Weather Report drummer Pete Erskine and harmonica wiz Howard Levy. Among the engineers helping Dewa get a great sound is Mike Pinder’s oldest son Dan Pinder, recording Dewa in Santa Monica. A great album of exotic instrumental Indonesian flavored jazz-rock, Dewai In Paradise is as close to jazz fusion nirvana as you can get here on earth. Instro fusioneers don’t miss Dewa’s exotic guitar trip.

- The huge boom of melodic European progressive rock music took over big time back in the mid to late ‘70s thanks to sonic pioneers like Pekka Pohjola, Zamla, Focus and many other greats. One relatively recent group, from Israel, keeping that melodic jazz-rock aura alive in the 21st century is Marbin, and specifically the group’s excellent 2013 CD, Last Chapter Of Dreaming. Commenting on Last Chapter, Marbin guitarist Dani Rabin adds, 'Last Chapter was a HUGE production and we learned a lot and are extremely proud of the record. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done up to date.' In addition to the progressive Euro instrumental jazz-rock side, on some tracks you can also hear a definite Middle Eastern / Eastern European collage of musical genres. Dani Rabin invents a new guitar language in the finest spirits of guitar pioneers such as Jukka Tolonen and Jan Akkerman, while the driving melody-centric sax from Danny Markovitch sounds a bit influenced by the old Romania sounds of Klezmer swing icon Dave Tarras and in fact, some of this outstanding Marbin album reminds one of the mid ‘70s sound of Finnish World Beat exponents Piirpauke with Sakari Kukko. The third Marbin album, and second for Moonjune, Last Chapter Of Dreaming is strongly recommended to fans of the classic Eurock sound of the 1970'
s while World Music fans with an open ear to instrumental jazz-rock won’t go wrong with this album either. Long live the modern day composer.

- Some wise-ass critic once said something to the effect of all musical progress stopped in 1978. That may or may not be true, but that doesn’t stop a whole new generation of musicians and recording artists from trying to breath new life into the music world. Case in point is the 2012 CD from the group known as Land Observations and their album Roman Roads IV-XI. At the core of Land Observations is guitarist James Brooks, who has obviously spent some time listening to early Eurock pioneers like Michael Rother and even Vini Reilly of Durutti Column. Both Rother and Reilly specialized in instrumental guitar landscapes that are both lush and sparse at the same time. Espousing the same musical ethic as the above mentioned guitar innovators, James Brooks adds fuel to the fire with a CD of superbly relaxing and quite precise guitar extrapolations that conjure images of the history and geography of former Roman roads, as well as other key “roads” during the Roman empire no less. It’s no wonder then that the entire album was recorded in Berlin, Germany, home of the Teutonic sounds of Michael Rother and other musicians who no doubt espouse his vision. Although not quite as harrowing, one or two tracks here also evoke the images originally set forth by guitar giant Robert Fripp so the CD is also recommended to music lovers who thrilled to Robert’s Frippertronics type sound as well. The 33 minute CD is quite well recorded while the CD packaging, featuring a sparse yet effective multipage booklet, is quite excellent as well. It will be interesting to see where James Brooks heads to next as with Roman Roads IV-XI he’s off to a smashing start. Recommended for cosmic New Age guitar lovers, leave on repeat play and visit Roman Roads often. /

- Even with all the download files floating through cyberspace (lol), it’s nice to see an artist put his his (or her) heart and soul into an actual CD pressing. If that’s what you like, as I do, give a listen to the 2013 CD from smooth jazz king Drew Davidsen. Drew’s latest solo album is chock full of instrumental guitar goodness. The album True Drew is true to Drew’s jazzy influences and in the extensive CD packaging and liner notes, Drew goes into depth about all this and more. Guitar fans will have their own favorite tracks here but track one “My Guitar”, an infectious instro overture, says everything you need to know about Drew, who cites symphonic jazz guitar king Pat Metheny as being an influence, especially on this cut. Other tracks on True Drew echo the sounds of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, yet there’s enough originality in Drew’s instrumental music to help set him apart from the smooth jazz guitar pack. Throughout the 13 track True Drew CD, Drew gets solid backup from a range of key musicians but the sound of True Drew is focused right on Drew’s original guitar tracks and his tasty guitar stylings.

PONDEROSA MUSIC & ART - The 2013 CD masterpiece from Italian existentialist composer Ludovico Einaudi, entitled In A Time Lapse is a fascinating instrumental album filled with neoclassical musical wonders. Of course it’s neoclassical in nature but, with its modern edge and recording style, it’s also state of the art New Age music in many regards. Upon repeat listening, I’m not surprised that Ludovico actually studied with the brilliant Italian composer Luciano Berio and there’s a kindred spirit here with some of Berio’s “out there” musical concepts. Ludovico masterfully performs a number of instruments including electronics, looping, piano, celesta and even acoustic guitar and bass but it’s the accompaniment, featuring a number of players performing classical strings and things that gives In A Time Lapse much of its ethereal feel and design. The CD has been described as minimalism and even classical light, but In A Time Lapse is much more than that. In A Time Lapse is actually a thing of beauty, music beyond description, a sonic painting that needs no words. As beautiful and picturesque as In A Time Lapse is, it’s equally matched by the truly glorious CD packaging, which features some of the most aesthetically pleasing and colorful CD artwork of the year. Where music and art meet in wonder is where you’ll find In A Time Lapse.

REAL WORLD RECORDS - With all the trouble in the Middle East and specifically the country of Syria, it’s worth noting that a band from London called Syriana has released one of the best World Beat albums of 2013. That CD, called The Road To Damascus is filled with an array of exotic Middle Eastern vibes, wild instruments, occasional Arabic vocals and much more. The mostly instrumental CD is the brainchild of Nick “Dubulah” Page, the half Greek / half English producer and guitarist / bassist of the group Trans Global Underground and producer of Dub Colossus. For The Road To Damascus, Nick teamed up with Syrian qanun player Abdullah Chhadeh, as well as Irish double bass player and composer Bernard O’Neill, and a range of other Middle Eastern musicians and vocalists, and the results are sonically startling to say the least. Nick’s guitar playing is great when it’s spotlighted, (check out the exotic soundtrack-y / James Bond inspired track 5 “Galatian Bride At Dawn”) , but mostly it’s the exotic Middle Eastern sounds that will leave you breathless and/or on the edge of your seat. Page and his producers went to Syria and worked with seven Syria-based string players. Commenting further on The Road to Damascus, Page adds, ‘The cold war and its iconography had divided east and west. We decided to create a project that would bridge them.’ Described as the place where imagination and reality overlap, Syriana have created a true multicultural melting pot of sonic delights with the beguiling sounds of The Road To

ROUGH TRADE RECORDS - When Mike Oldfield debuted his Tubular Bells album back in 1973, who would have thought 40 years later the group known as Pantha Du Prince would have taken the whole thing to the next level. The brainchild of German composer Hendrik Weber, the 2012 Pantha Du Prince album Elements Of Light is a most remarkable auditory experiment. Credited to Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory, the five part Elements Of Light CD mixes chiming bell sounds, tubular and otherwise with all manners of experimental electronics that never gets in the way of the glorious chiming effects from bells galore. It’s one part New Age instrumental and one part hypnotic experimental, somewhere say between Oldfield’s more purist visions and say Harry Partch or even Henry Cowell. That’s not to say Elements Of Light is anywhere near dissonant. Arming Hendrik and his incredible idea are a carillon of 50 bells, plus numerous marimbas, tubular bells, vibraphones, all manners of percussion, and that’s just the tip of the musical iceberg. You could put this CD on and meditate or trance out, or just plain chill out to it. It’s just that amazing and relaxing. Hard to believe Elements Of Light is already the fourth Pantha album but check it out and chill, you’ll be glad you did.

- One of the best 21st century rock and roll guitar instrumental groups from Sweden, The Ryders keep releasing great CDs and, as a fine follow up to their 2007 album, In The Shadows, the late 2012 CD release of Destination X more than lives up to expectations. All the great bands from Sweden, Finland and Norway cite both The Shadows and The Ventures among their big influences and on Destination X, lead guitarist Kurt Fröberg and company cover two of the Shadows’ all time 1960’s classics—”It’s A Man’s World” and “The Lost City”. Commenting on The Ryders covering a most fortuitus choice of tracks Kurt adds, 'Both the songs "It´s A Man’s World" and "The Lost City" have always been among my favorite Shads tunes and we have also had both of them included in our live performances. "Thunderbolt" is also a favorite since I bought Brian Bennett’s LP Rock Dreams way back.' Other instrumental covers and several vocal tracks composed by various members of The Shadows, Lennart Clerwall, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and more make Destination X a most valuable musical destination indeed for guitar instrumental fans.

- Going back to 1969 and the dawn of the Bo Hansson classic, Lord Of The Rings, Swedish guitar hero Kenny Håkansson was right up there with the greatest. Although he toured as an opening act (with his first band Mecki Mark Men) for Jimi Hendrix back in the late 1960’s, it was to be with his group Kebnekajse that Kenny would earn his musical stripes. Having made a comeback of sorts with Kebnekajse in the 2000’s, Kenny returns with one of his best albums with the 2012 CD release of Aventure, by Kebnekajse and released in Sweden on the Subliminal Sounds record label. Featuring a solid six piece group lineup with Kenny’s guitar at the center, Aventure is pretty much slanted towards Kenny’s usual penchant for instrumental electric "World Folk Groove" music, yet the Hank Marvin influence is ever too far away, especially the Swedish music / Shadows influence on track eight “Tikli ja Tiira”. Recorded at the famous Silence Studios in Koppom with engineer Anders Lind manning the boards, the studio sound and CD sound is first rate. Fans of Kebnekajse, Kenny’s solo albums and those great Bo Hansson albums Kenny played so fantastically on back in the 1970’s are strongly advised to pick up on the groovy instrumental psychedelic Swedish folk groove in play on Aventure.

- Instrumental cosmic psychedelic is huge among a whole new generation of music listeners, and in Europe new labels are springing up everywhere in an effort to revive this nearly forgotten musical artwork. In Germany, the Sulatron label has a couple titles from Electric Moon and like minded musical cohorts Sula Bassana. The Electric Moon CD, Inferno (originally released on CD-R and now on silver disc CD) and the Sula Bassana Dreamer are both quite intriguing instrumental albums that combine a number of Teutonic instrumental influences—from Tangerine Dream and Can to all manners of experimental post-punk era groups. The 2012 Sula Bassana Dreamer CD is actually a tenth year anniversary edition of this 2002 album and it has been newly remastered by Eroc from Grobschnitt as well as including 2 bonus tracks. Even if you think you’ve heard it all, these two CDs on Sulatron are mind boggling instrumental masterpieces and are a fitting tribute to a German music scene that was once quite influential and as these CDs point out, is still quite influential.

- If instrumental surf music had a classically trained guitar maestro, it would have to be guitarist Conrad Swarz of the Oregon-based group The Insanitzers. Back in 2010, Conrad released the first CD by his group The Insanitizers entitled Whimsical Surf. Lo and behold, in 2013, Conrad follows up that album with yet a new Insanitizers album entitled Wild Surf Guitars. The Wild Surf Guitars CD once again features excellent sound and artwork / packaging with fresh liner notes from Conrad. Commenting on his latest symphonic surf masterpiece, Conrad adds, ‘If Mozart played rock ‘n’ roll today, he might play as we do.’ Say no more. Instro surf-rock enthusiasts are strongly advised to pick up on the latest surf-rock wave by The Insanitizers.

- Referred to musical lovers in the know as the greatest instrumental surf-rock band in New York City, The Supertones, featuring guitar ace Tim Sullivan, have yet another fine new album with the release of the 16 track Mysto Incognito. The Supertones have long been associated with instrumental surf music in the spirit of legends like The Ventures and Dick Dale and on their new CD they don’t disappoint. Mysto Incognito features a round of fresh Supertones’ originals along with classic covers by the likes of legends like Jerry Lordan (“Diamonds”) and a new Supertones cover of “Harlem Nocturne”, no doubt enhanced by the inclusion of a new Tim Sullivan original called “Rockaway Nocturne”. This latest Supertones lineup truly does justice to these rockin’ rave-ups. Mysto Incognito is one of the coolest instrumental guitar albums of 2013 and it will not disappoint long time Supertones fans. contact:

- Best known as the guitar player for Steely Dan back in the 1990s and later with Donald Fagen, session guitar ace Drew Zingg cuts loose on his self-titled debut CD. With a mix of electrifying blues-rock guitar riffing and jazz-fusion drive, Drew’s guitar playing is smoking hot and the mostly instrumental album will be fine choice for fans of electric guitar greats such as Jeff Beck, Robben Ford and John Scofield’s more acid-jazz based efforts. Track four here, “The Black Dog” sounds like Robin Trower going rock instrumental on an all out sonic assault. Jimi Hendrix fans will love this track and at least appreciate much of the rest. Drew’s band reads like a wish list for studio / session watchers including Beck drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, while the CD was superbly produced by George Walker. Amid the instrumental fare, there’s also a couple of vocal tracks featuring Michael McDonald while Boz Scaggs takes the other vocal on this jewel of a guitar based rock instrumental album.

- When it comes to instrumental rock and guitar based music, the country of Finland never ceases to amaze. Home of the late great progressive rock innovator Pekka Pohjola, Finland is also home to a number of Shadows style bands. It seems that over the past 50 years at least, the guitar has ruled in Finland. Among the many great Finnish guitar groups operating in 2013, The Steelers are one of the best and proof is their 2012 CD entitled Merikannon Parhat, released on the Finland based Turenki Records. While all the text and information is in Finnish, the sound of the all instrumental CD has no borders and overall this latest Steelers CD should hold much appeal among guitar worshipping surf-rockers from every continent.

- Swedish electronic music conceptualist Magnus Birgersson continues onwards with the latest CD foray from his group Solar Fields. The 2013 CD release of Origin #02 features more of the patented electronic chill music that Solar Fields is renowned for and then some. Instrumental electronica filled with floating atmospheres and cultivating contrasts, Origin #02 is actually the second chapter in a series of four retrospective albums featuring previously unreleased music from the Solar Fields archives, this time out compiling tracks composed between 2003 and 2009 that were then mixed and reassembled in 2012. Very much influenced by the late 1970’s sounds of Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, Solar Fields creates a very user friendly instrumental electronica perfect for your next intergalactic mind excursion. Although Origin #02 is being pitched as a digital download, CD aficionados must track down Ultimae’s CD release which, as is usual for them, comes with alluring multi-panel digipak artwork and detailed booklet brimming with evocative artwork that will no doubt enhance the aesthetic listening experience. /

- Although best known for their acclaimed soundtrack CDs and wide range of reissues over the years, L.A. based Varèse have been dabbling in progressive instrumental rock and fusion this past year and now they release one of their finest albums ever. The 2012 CD release of Three Fates Project by The Keith Emerson Band features the renowned progressive rock keyboardist together with guitarist Marc Bonilla and backed up by the 70 piece Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Terje Mikkelson. The result is a progressive music fan's dream come true—the ultimate classical rock maestro backed up by a full rock band and symphony orchestra. The sound is striking to say the least. Kicking off with a full scale, two part, seven minute cover of the Emerson Lake & Palmer classic “The Endless Enigma Pt. 1 & 2”, Emerson and company are in rare form. Featuring Emerson in full flight backed up by Bonilla’s hard rock guitar skills, drummer Troy Luccketta and six string bassist Travis Davis, the results are like nothing Emerson has done yet. Of course, Emerson has often dabbled in orchestral works going back to The Nice but Three Fates Project is very unique in that it’s fully orchestrated and featuring a hard rock guitar sound, something that critics often complained was missing from ELP. In addition to the orchestral ELP remakes, new Emerson originals and other new music contributed by Bonilla, highlights also include a 20 minute, instrumental concertante version of “Tarkus”. Long time ELP fans are strongly suggested to give this magnificently recorded, wide ranging orchestral Emerson album classic some serious listening.

- One of the top jazz guitarists in the U.S. today, John Stein released his fabulous Hi-Fly CD in early 2011 and in 2012 he followed up with another fine outing entitled Bing Bang Boom!. Essentially the same quartet that recorded Hi-Fly, the ten track Bing Bang Boom also features John’s solid quartet—John Stein (guitars), Jake Sherman (piano, keys), Zé Eduardo Nazario Drums) and John Lockwood (acoustic bass). There’s a good reason that, in addition to being a top recording guitarist, John Stein also teaches music theory at the famous Berklee school in Boston. Stein and his band just lives and breathes bebop guitar jazz. In the past, John has cited jazz guitar legend Jim Hall as one of his key influences and fans of Hall’s legendary jazz guitar prowess will appreciate the vital group interplay on Bing Bang Boom!. In addition to several new Stein originals, the Bing Bang Boom! CD features fresh quartet covers of jazz legends such as Charles Mingus, Billy Strayhorn, Victor Young and Cole Porter, as evidenced by the CD closing cover of Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” As with his other quartet recordings, the sound of Bing Bang Boom! is modern yet there’s some vintage sounding musical signposts that gives the CD a comfortable, relaxing vibe. When it comes to recording instrumental jazz guitar, few musicians have it so clearly in the pocket as John Stein.


ANGEL AIR - As a founding member of the U.K. band Medicine Head, singer-songwriter John Fiddler has released a number of albums, many of which have seen CD reissue of Angel Air Records. In 2013 Angel Air have a never before released album from Fiddler entitled State Of The Heart. Originally released on cassette back in 1991, the CD is kind of low-fi sounding yet the songs are not without their charms and the tracks click. Several players assist and with some fine remastering, the CD sounds great and further recaptures the spirit with cool packaging and new and revealing liner notes and lyrics. Angel Air have several albums from David Courntney in their huge catalog and in early 2013 they added an 18 track, 2 albums on 1 CD by Courtney entitled Midsummer Madness / Shooting Star. Fans of 1970’s pop may remember Courntney as the songwriter of hits like “One Man Band” and “Giving It All Away”, two hits made popular by Roger Daltrey. Courtney’s 1975 album First Day (also reissued on CD by Angel Air) was followed by Midsummer Madness, yet for some reason the album never came out, until now. On Angel Air’s 2013 reissue, the nine track Midsummer Madness is paired with another Courtney album entitled Shooting Star, which also has remained unreleased till now. A number of musicians back Courtney’s songs and vocals on both albums, including members of Argent, while in depth liner notes by James McCarraher sheds light on Courtney’s underrated and all too brief solo career.

- BGO continues on a roll into 2013 unearthing albums you thought had never even come out. Case in point is Balin / Lucky—a 77 minute two albums on one CD from Jefferson Airplane co- founder Marty Balin. Released in 1981 and 1983, both albums fit neatly on one CD and liner notes from John Tobler takes the listener from Marty’s early years as the voice of The Jefferson Airplane and back to the early ‘80s when these albums were hardly noticed. Slick, commercial Top 40 dance pop is the fare of the day here, but Balin’s voice was one in a million and his unique vocals and seasoned approach saves the day on these long forgotten relics from the Marty Balin archives. In 2012, BGO released a double album from cofounder of Soft Machine, singer-songwriter, the late great Kevin Ayers. The final two album Ayers released on Harvest Records, Rainbow Takeaway and That’s What You Get Babe were first released in 1978 and 1980 respectively and both feature Ayers nonchalant approach to progressive pop in general. Rainbow Takeaway features some fine production from Anthony Moore who also adds in keyboards with further contributions from top session guys like guitarists Ollie Halsall, Geoff Whitehorn, Mo Foster and others. Released in 1980, That’s What You Get Babe was a somewhat more upbeat affair with the added programming of synthesizers by Hans Zimmer. Detailed liner notes by David Wells takes the listener back to that heady 1978-80 period of anything goes in the pop world. BGO have several CD titles out by guitar session hero Eric Gale and in 2013 they released 2 albums on 1 CD remaster of Ginseng Woman / Multiplication. First released in 1977 and 1978 respectively, both albums were issued on Lp on Columbia Records and were major hits in the instrumental jazz fusion world. Both albums feature the cream of the crop of American jazzers from that amazing time in music history. Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis is 78 years young and BGO continues reissuing many of his albums on CD. In early 2013 BGO pairs Jerry Lee's 1970 album She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye with his 1971 album There Must Be More To Love Than This. Both albums were huge hits on Country music radio and in the know fans rate both albums up there with his best honky tonk flavored country rock. Back in the 1970s you couldn’t go far on the radio dial without hearing the sound of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and their huge hit “Takin’ Care Of Business” from 1974. In 2013, BGO Records revive the golden day of the 1970s with a 16 track, 2 albums on 1 reissue CD of the first two BTO albums, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. Of course BGO's BTO CD features their huge hits, “Takin’ Care Of Business” (from BTO II) and “Let It Ride” (from BTO I) as well as in depth notes discussing the sonic significance of guitarist Randy Bachman and company.

- Cherry Red are having a field day over in Merry Old. "Merry Olde" as in Mother England, which was positively swinging back in the 1960s. Before 10cc, there was the genius of Graham Gouldman and then again, there was also Hotlegs. The other half of 10cc, the part with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, tried their luck in 1969 with impresario Giorgio Gomelsky and then with their second incarnation as Hotlegs, who are commemorated by Cherry’s Grapefruit Records imprint with You Didn’t Like It Because You Didn’t Think Of It - The Complete Sessions 1970-1971. Of course, here in the colonies, Kevin and Lol couldn’t get arrested as Hotlegs but apparently, as far as the coming greatness with 10cc, clearly they were on the right track. Cherry Red’s 14 track CD compiles every track released by Hotlegs, including two versions of their sleeper hit “Neanderthal Man.” In addition, the CD features newly commissioned artwork and newly penned liner notes, making the package a fine look back at (half of) a (then) burgeoning musical dynasty. Another must have collectible CD on Cherry Red is Paradise Lost: The Complete UK Fontana Recordings by 1960s U.K. popsters The Herd. Perhaps the most notable thing about The Herd was that the group featured guitarist Peter Frampton in one of his earliest band lineups. Another fine reissue CD released on Cherry’s Grapefruit imprint, their Herd CD features way cool packaging including a 16 page booklet filled with rare pics along with in depth liner notes discussing The Herd during that heady 1967-68, pre-prog era of pop psychedelia. Cherry spin-off label Now Sounds looks back at the late great Del Shannon with a 2012 remaster of Home & Away. Conceived by Del and produced by Rolling Stones mastermind Andrew Loog Oldham, the album was originally planned to be the British answer to Pet Sounds. The album goes far and beyond Del’s original early ‘60s pop blueprint and as such is filled with the 1967 baroque rock sounds of harpsichords and various horns and strings. The original eleven track album is bolstered by several rare mono mixes along with a new 16 page booklet detailing the history of the Home & Away album along with rare photos by famed photographer Gered Mankowitz.

/ RPM RECORDS - For years, U.K. based Cherry Red Records have been tempting and tantalizing music collectors with their amazing assortment of collectible CD reissues. They’ve even branched out with new albums, having released the debut Squackett CD on their Antenna Records imprint. One of their fine labels, RPM have a most impressive double CD compilation from master singer-songwriter Roger Cook entitled Running With the Rat Pack - Albums, Singles, Unreleased 1972 - 1973. Cook, as part of the Cook - Greenaway song writing team was responsible for innumerable hits including the brilliant “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart”, recorded by both Gene Pitney and The Shadows. Running With The Rat Pack focuses mostly on Cook, the singer-songwriter but the results are quite impressive. Some of England’s greatest session musicians can be heard on this 30 track double CD set, which features in depth liner notes by Kingsley Abbott. Another musician who made his mark writing huge hits for Hank Marvin and The Shadows, Jerry Lordan is paid a long overdue homage on the Cherry Red / RPM Records release of All My Own Work—a collection of his early 1960’s solo sides for EMI / Parlophone Records. The 24 track single CD set features Jerry’s own original version of his biggest composition “Apache”, a huge number one instrumental hit for The Shadows in 1960 as well as Jerry’s original version of both “Diamonds” and “Scarlet O’Hara”—huge very early 1960s hits in England by Shadows cofounders Jet Harris & Tony Meehan—while other tracks here, made famous in the U.K. by noted stars like Anthony Newley and even American rock and roll pioneer Dale Hawkins. It’s hard to believe that this release marks the first time these Lordan originals are seeing the light of day on CD. Either way All My Own Work is a fitting look back at one of the most significant songwriters in English pop music history. In depth liner notes by Rob Bradford and August 2012 liner notes by Jerry’s widow Claudine Lordan fills in the history behind this most amazing songwriter.

/ LEGACY - Although he would have turned 70 on November 27, 2012, the late great Jimi Hendrix is remembered once again with the March 2013 CD release of a fresh album of for the most part unheard tracks entitled People, Hell And Angels. Essentially a new album of unreleased studio material, the album is superbly packaged with a tastefully presented CD booklet including track by track liner notes shedding fresh light on each song here. The center piece of People, Hell And Angels is being hyped as “Somewhere”, a track Jimi recorded on March 13, 1968 with Buddy Miles (drums) and Steve Stills (bass). Co-produced by Janie Hendrix and John McDermott, People, Hell And Angels is being touted as the musical companion and successor to Jimi’s 2010 CD, Valleys Of Neptune. Although People, Hell And Angels is mostly filled with songs that were later perfected, along with a few instrumental jams and sketches of songs still in the development stages, Jimi’s patented one of a kind vocals and electrifying guitar sounds are more than fabulous throughout. Coupled with some truly outstanding CD packaging, People, Hell And Angels is a most welcome treat for Hendrix fans seeking out fresh insights into musical chapters that might have taken place had Jimi not left the planet way too soon.

- Although he died way too early, age 39 in 1965, music icon Bill Black left the music world a stellar legacy. Having recorded some life changing recordings—on stand-up, “dog house” bass, with Elvis and Scotty Moore—Bill went to to cut a number of instrument sides, the best of which is recalled on a 2012 double CD set from Bill Black’s Combo, on U.K, based Jasmine Records, entitled Smokin’. A quartet of fantastic players, centered around guitar prodigy Reggie Young, these sides, cut at the dawn of the 1960’s, feature Bill and his boys cutting a slew of instrumental sides that everyone should know, including rootsy, near surf-a-billy instrumentals of amazing songs like “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Mack The Knife”, “Bo Diddley” and so much more. With 52 tracks, and insightful liner notes by Groper Odson, you can’t go wrong with this magical retrospective of early instrumental rock ‘n’ roll and the timeless genius of the great Bill Black.

/ CHROME DREAMS - Distributed in the U.S. by MVD, the U.K. based Chrome Dreams is just awesome. Their documentaries are never less than fascinating and lately they’ve been branching out into CD compilations. Although Chrome Dreams is most associated with rock history, but from the U.S. and the U.K., their new best of jazz history CD series takes a fresh look at the time-honored American art form with the 2012 double CD set entitled The 25 Best Jazz Tunes Of 1960. A seminal year to be sure, this 158 minute double CD set compiles classic jazz tracks that made their debut in 1960 including now classic tracks from legends such as John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Modern Jazz Quartet and much more. Each CD is maxed out with up to 79 minutes per disc and the CD was superbly remastered and features in-depth liner notes by noted jazz musicologist Charles Waring. Much the same could be said about the next jazz compilation from Chrome Dreams entitled The 25 Best Jazz Tunes Of 1961, which features many of the same artists from the 1960 set with the inclusion of other classic 1960’s jazz legends including Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Gary Burton, Ray Charles, Bill Evans and so much more. /

/ CHROME DREAMS - Also available through MVD in 2013 is the latest DVD box set from U.K. documentary experts Chrome Dreams on The Rolling Stones—a 2 DVD box set entitled Mick Vs. Keith - The Strange Case Of Jagger & Richards. Although featured together in a slip case cover, the set is actually comprised of two distinct yet connected DVD titles—Keith Richards Under Review and The Roaring 20s - Mick Jagger’s Glory Years. The two DVDs go into depth on the history of The Rolling Stones and specifically just how these two history making musicians helped shape music history over the past 50 years. Hard to believe it’s been a half century since The Rolling Stones burst on the music scene and the story is scoped out in fastidious depth and detail complete with archival film footage and history making music clips from the Stones and the numerous musicians who helped inspire their journey. Combining for nearly 4 hours of Stones’ history making, the DVDs feature excellent commentary and narration from English rock musicologists including Alan Clayson, Barney Hoskyns and Nigel Williamson. For the complete story on the always competitive yet highly rewarding relationship of Jagger & Richards, give a good look at Mick Vs. Keith.

/ MIG MUSIC - MVD are making available a number of CD/DVD titles out from the German based Rockpalast series on MIG Music, including a 2013 CD/DVD from the late great Ronnie Lane. Caught live on the Rockpalast TV show in Deutschland on March 3rd, 1980. the Ronnie Lane Band featured the Small Faces cofounder with a full 8 piece band with outstanding performances from Wings guitarist Henry McCullough and Rolling Stones keyboard legend Ian Stewart. The sound is excellent on both the CD and the DVD is professionally filmed. Hard to believe it’s been a third of a century but 1980 truly kicked off the rock's war era. Stewart, McCullough and company aid Lane in supreme style. Anyone expecting a folk-rock, more laid back type of set from the great Ronnie Lane will be in for a sonic jolt as the CD/DVD is a fitting musical document featuring Lane & Company rocking out with vigor and style.

- Over in the U.K. apparently the copyright laws have expired for music made during or before 1960 so some labels are taking advantage and releasing compilations of early music. Case in point is Surf’s Comin’—a 3 CD, 60 track set featuring classic guitar instrumental music from some of the biggest names in guitar history. Although, even in England, Duane Eddy, Link Wray and The Ventures were superstars by 1960, it was The Shadows, featuring guitar hero Hank Marvin who best captured the hearts and minds of pre-Beatles England. So here in 2013, Not Now Music has taken advantage of the never ending fascination with the early instrumental surf and pre-surf music craze with their well produced Surf’s Comin’ set. Being that the genre of “instrumental guitar” really took off and evolved after 1960, especially in the case of The Shadows, there’s a kind of rawness to this collection but overall, it’s not without its charms. In addition to key early tracks, recorded between 1957 and 1960, from the above mentioned artists, Surf’s Comin’ also features other more obscure instrumentals by The Scotty Moore Trio, Dale Hawkins, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, Bert Weedon, Dick Dale, Phil Spector, The Bel-Airs, The Fireballs and lots of other rarities (there’s even a couple vocal tracks from from the likes of Dick Dale and a pre-Beach Boys Bruce Johnston). Succinct liner notes, contributed here by Nigel Cross, give some perspective but overall, it’s a low budget affair (listed on Amazon for three dollars and change!) sure to please newcomers and surf-rock instro enthusiasts looking to add to their CD collection.

- L.A. based Real Gone Music teams up with power-pop legend Shoes for a 21 track 2012 CD compilation called 35 Years - The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977 - 2012. Having recorded over 180 songs since 1974 on a string of now classic pop albums, Shoes features the band sound of brothers John Murphy and Jeff Murphy while long time member Gary Klebe rounds out the classic Shoes lineup. Having released what many are saying in the best Shoes album yet, the 2012 comeback CD Ignition, Real Gone’s Definitive Shoes set features 21 tracks compiled from eight studio albums including their Black Vinyl Shoes album from 1977, various albums for Elektra Records, their 1994 album Propeller, a cut from the now classic Ignition and much more. As Definitive Shoes displays, the broken in, timeless Shoes pop sound is like a well worn friend coming back for a visit.

RGF RECORDS - Coming out of the Birmingham, England scene that spawned great bands like The Move and Moody Blues, singer-songwriter Steve Gibbons has long been overlooked but thanks to Road Goes On Forever Records that oversight is a thing of the past. Gibbons started making a name for himself as a solo artist back in the mid 1970s and his all time classic album Down In The Bunker is one of the best from that era. The highlight of the CD is the song “Down In The Bunker” which is one of Steve’s best rockers. The entire album sounds like a cross between Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler and Elvis Costello, plus producer Tony Visconti is actually credited playing moog on the “Down In The Bunker” track. Recalling playing on The Steve Gibbons Band track “Down In The Bunker”, producer legend Tony Visconti recently told, ‘Do you mean a Moog synthesizer? I thought, at the time, that Steve was going to have a very big hit. The record was amazing, I pulled out all the stops. His band were top musicians. Then after it was finished his one of his managers committed suicide and that brought all the promotion to a halt. I still play the “Down In The Bunker” every couple of months. For Steve, it was his masterpiece.’ Steve’s action packed band also features original Move member Trevor Burton who is credited on bass throughout the 19 track Down In The Bunker CD, which thanks to this top reissue comes complete with booklet filled with lyrics and liner notes. RGF Records has a number of Gibbons CD remasters, including a 2011 double CD retrospective by Steve Gibbons Band entitled There & Now Volume 1, which features “Down In The Bunker” along with 41 other classics from The Steve Gibbons Band.

- L.A. based Rock Beat Records is breaking new ground for American reissue CD labels. Case in point is Rock Beat’s 2012 double CD box set from Moving Sidewalks entitled The Complete Collection. The 26 track double set CD chronicles the early works of ZZ Top founder and rock guitar god Billy F. Gibbons. Gibbons could sing the phone book and it would probably be entertaining but lucky for us, his early works with The Moving Sidewalks and his other band The Coachmen are very much in the spirit of early ZZ Top, albeit without the ultra pizzaz and showmanship ZZ have come to be known for. Even so, these Moving Sidewalk tracks sound great and are truly hypnotizing. Overall the whole double CD set is a must for ZZ Top fans and for fans of classic 1960s underground garage bands and psyche-rock nuggets collectors. Extra credit must go to Rock Beat for their amazingly detailed 54 page CD booklet which is filled with excellent period piece photos of Gibbons & Co. along with detailed liner notes by esteemed musicologist Bill Bentley. Also new and essential from Rock Beat in 2012 is an absolutely fascinating 4 CD box set entitled Surf-Age Nuggets - Trash & Twang Instrumentals 1959 - 1966. Produced by James Austin, and featuring in depth liner notes by Austin and both Alan Taylor and Dave Burke of the celebrated instrumental rock quarterly Pipeline Magazine, from England, the 4 disc set compiles 104 tracks from some of the coolest, yet also mostly completely unknown guitar instrumental bands from the USA recording at the dawn of 1960s and well into that magical decade. This whole concept is absolutely right up the alley of Alan and Dave of Pipeline, who specialize in unearthing just about every guitar instrumental known to man, from the U.S. and, per their Pipeline work, the U.K and beyond. That said, the high quality of the impeccable remastering is only bettered by the amazing packaging of the 4 CD box set. Focusing on surf-rock, the 60 page booklet is actually built right into the box set, which should absolutely win some kind of Grammy award for innovative packaging. In his review of Surf-Age Nuggets in the Spring 2013 issue of Pipeline, Alan Taylor favorably compared this box set to Rhino’s famous Cowabunga! box set also stating that this new box is “both highly listenable and an automatic essential purchase for collectors.” Like Alan also correctly noted in his Pipeline review, there’s way too many highlights on Surf-Age Nuggets to fit into a mere CD review. Surf-rock fans and collectors of vintage guitar instrumentals from the late 1950s and well into the ‘60s are strongly advised to pick up and check out this instant guitar classic, before it too goes out of print.

- The follow up to his 1978 horror movie, Halloween, the 1980 film release of The Fog featured another stellar soundtrack by movie maker / musician John Carpenter. The movie soundtrack was released in 2000 and now in 2012 Silva Screen Records have released an updated version of the long deleted original 2000 CD reissue. This late 2012 reissue of The Fog soundtrack features the original album, expanded with 20 minutes of additional music, all remastered by long time Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth, plus a radio interview with the Fog star Jamie Lee Curtiss. This 2012 reissue also features a second CD featuring a 20 track disc of the entire 1980 film score cues. The sound of the newly remastered soundtrack of disc one is excellent and stands up quite well compared to other film soundtracks and electronic music albums from well known artists such as Tangerine Dream. The music on the second CD mirrors the nightmarish vision of the film and makes an interesting contrast to the more accessible sounds of disc one. The CD booklet is quite extensive and takes the listener back to 1980 and works its way up to the story behind the 2012 reissue. Also out on Silva Screen in 2012 is the soundtrack to Pusher, with music by Orbital. Much more synth driven and percussive with a solid dance music type instrumental score, than The Fog, this 26 track CD on Silva Screen features the music from the 2012 film as composed by brothers Phil Hartnoll and Paul Hartnoll along with several bonus tracks and an extensive booklet detailing the Orbital’s music behind the movie score. The interesting thing about both The Fog and the Pusher soundtracks is how well they both stack up both as soundtrack CDs and as listening experiences in their own right.

- Among the most underrated and under-recorded guitarists in America today, Scott Bradoka calls his 2013, 17 track CD collection Never Been Cool. Just that name alone conjures up all kinds of perceived detriments, yet in a concerted effort to bring his name back into the limelight, with Never Been Cool, Bradoka has put together a well-rounded collection of remixed archival tracks from the past fifteen years along with several newly recorded tracks. For guitar buffs who have followed his career over the past decade, you can’t really mention the name Scott Bradoka without at least mentioning the name Eric Bazilian, the singer-songwriter who turned rock fusion guitar instrumental advocate when he teamed up with Scott for his 2003 album Create Your Own Reality. Even though Bazilian made his name as the singing guitarist / composer of the rock group The Hooters back in the 1980s, joined in 2003 with Bradoka the two achieved a rare balance of musical muscle and compositional integrity, a combination that made for truly ground breaking musical history, most notably on Bazilian’s instrumental “X2000”, a track that was featured as the crown jewel on CYOR. If you had to pick one of the greatest instrumentals that captured the intensity and the passing of the greatest generation and the passing of the torch into the great unknown it is “X2000”. Looking back on working with Bradoka on Create Your Own Reality, Bazilian recently told, ‘Of all the records I've been involved in this is actually one of my favorites. Scott was amazing and inspiring to work with.” And when further questioned about about other great tracks he and Bradoka worked on Bazilian adds, ‘They really are, and I made a conscious effort to let Scott's voice as an electric guitarist stand alone, though I did end up playing a solo on “X2000”. It was a blast playing all those bass, sax, keyboard and dobro parts.” Another great Bradoka / Bazilian work of sonic art that was another highlight of CYOR is a unique sounding instro rock version of the Brian Wilson / Beach Boys song “California Girls”. We all know Brian loves jazz so, even though it’s ten years after, he’s well advised to groove out with Scott and Eric. One must also applaud Bazilian’s excellent sax work on that track. There’s so many great songs on Never Been Cool and, while it’s super hard to reach the sonic nirvana of“X2000”, you might want to reword that after giving a listen to the sonic grandeur of a new track here entitled “Mojado” which is a personal favorite, I’m told by Bradoka. The new tracks including “Mojado” were recorded with Steve Kalafski (on second guitar), Bradoka co-composer Glen Radomski and long time Bradoka band drummer Scott Williams. Of course in addition to “X2000” and the new tracks, there’s plenty of Scott’s great jazz-rock instrumentals on hand here including “Black Crayon” and “Friends”, another two highlights with Bazilian. A solid combination of guitar based instrumentals that merge jazz, rock, fusion, funk, hip-hop, soundtrack sounds and more, Never Been Cool is proof that Scott Bradoka has always been cool.

- Back at the dawn of the 1990’s, English guitarist Adrian Legg made a name for himself thanks to a series of acoustic guitar based instrumental CD titles released on the now defunct Relativity Records, originally based in New York City. At that time, some couldn’t quite figure Adrian out. One part folk, one part New Age, one part classical, Legg was accurately described by one U.K. music critic as being a “cross between Robert Fripp and Garrison Keeler”. Although culled from five different CD titles, between 1990 and 1994, as well as adding in one bonus live track from the winter of 1994, the music on the 2013 CD release of The Very Best Of Adrian Legg exudes a kind of timeless feel, perhaps definitively portraying Legg as a dazzling acoustic guitar technician, a player who arrived at the height of the New Age music boom, yet offered something completely different and uniquely rewarding at the same time. The 15 tracks collected on this excellent retrospective on the esteemed Varèse Vintage label perfectly captures the brief, yet effective Legg-mania that ensued among guitar aficionados during that memorable, yet fleeting era of the early 1990’s. Commenting in the excellent CD liner notes here, written by Jerry MCulley, Adrian, looking back at that time reflects, ‘I was honored and stimulated by the interest and positive reaction. I think I felt that as a musician I belonged somewhere at last.’ /

VARÈSE SARABANDE - Also out on Varèse in 2012 is a CD soundtrack to the film Winged Migration, which was originally released as a film called Le Peuple Migrateur. Described by no less than Mike Oldfield as “a very beautiful film”, the soundtrack for the movie first came out in 2001 and now in 2012 / early 2013, the CD is once again available on Varèse Sarabande, the kings of the CD soundtrack. In addition to the soundtrack music by Bruno Coulais, the CD also features a cross section of pop vocal selections featuring Robert Wyatt, Nick Cave and Gabriel Yacoub. Wyatt, one of the legends and founding architects of the progressive rock movement of 1968/69 and cofounder of Soft Machine, in particular fits in quite well on this spellbinding, quite relaxing cross section of instrumental and vocal tracks. Lyrics, liner notes about the movie and full credits are other good reasons to pick up on this timeless music soundtrack.

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