Record Label
and Music Spotlight









- A member of Monty Python, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Grimms and The Rutles, Neil Innes hardly needs an introduction to pop fans. In May 2014, Neil will take his “An Evening With The Rutles” out on the road. For a good indication of how that will sound, you might want to pick up on the 2014 double CD release of Neil Innes & Fatso - Farewell Posterity Tour. Kicking off with a pair of Rutles classics, the double CD set was recorded live and feature a wide range of live versions of classics by The Rutles, the Bonzos and more. Funny how the Rutles’ songs are all credited now to Innes / Lennon / McCartney but that’s world we live in today! For his band, Neil gets ace support from great musicians including Rutles’ cofounder / drummer John Halsey. In the liner notes to this Angel Air classic, Neil takes the listeners through the history of all these memorable songs. We may all be a little wiser (and a little fatter), but great music lives forever.

/ BELLA UNION - Texas based Midlake released Antiphone in 2013. A cosmic kind of Grateful Dead meets the Eagles, the ten track Antiphone ebbs and flows in a mid ‘70s Pink Floyd kind of way. The six piece band shares the song writing credits and the songs are complex and clearly well thought out. Compared to early 2000’s jam bands like String Cheese Incident, Midlake have a near commercial rock sound. Vocalist / guitarist Eric Pulido is a solid front man for these songs and the solid musicianship and backing vocals he gets from all the players here is first rate. Fans of 1970’s era Pink Floyd, say around the time of Wish You Were Here, and the cosmic rock sound of String Cheese Incident circa 2005 will thoroughly enjoy this adventurous rock album by Midlake.

BITTER BUTTONS - Over in the U.K. the band known as Schnauser (not to be confused with the canine breed called schnauzer) has released their definitive musical statement. The 2013 CD from Schnauser, entitled Where Business Meets Fashion is a mind blowing tribute to the finest elements of U.K. pop and rock. Fans of Syd Barrett (founder of Pink Floyd), early David Bowie and even fans of Sgt. Pepper era Beatles, should check this CD out. At the helm of the Schauser ship is singer-songwriter / guitarist Alan Strawbridge, assisted here by Duncan Gammon (keys, vocals), Holly McIntosh (bass, vocals) and Jasper Williams (drums). Schnauser cites influences like YES (with Bill Bruford), The Kinks, XTC and Stackridge. Not bad yet, in their own way, Schnauser are honoring the past great while exploring a wholly new and vital realm of 21st century prog-pop. Where Business Meets Fashion is a bold and fascinating musical statement that serves as a wake-up call to pop music in general.

BLACK SHEEP GLOBAL RECORDINGS - Brother of Lovin’ Spoonful founder John Sebastian, and the co-writer of that band’s fabled 1966 number one, “Summer In The City”, Mark Sebastian never got a lot of accolades for his songs or albums but 43 years later that changed with Mark’s Bleecker Street album in 2009. Mark is back again with the 2014 CD release of The Real Story, the follow up to Bleecker Street, released on his own Black Sheep Global label. Brother John, on harmonica appears on a track here as well as a steady band with Jimi Zhivago (bass, keys) and Blake Fleming (drums). The 9 tracks here, as expected, incorporate breezy pop and rock elements of Lovin’ Spoonful, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren and various classic pop and rock styles made popular on both coasts. If you miss the high quality of pop and rock classics from the early 1970s, give a good listen to the immensely entertaining songs and sounds on Mark Sebastian’s Real Story.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS - Playing keyboards and organ in Tom Petty’s band since the 1970s and a session musician who’s worked with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and the Stones, Benmont Tench arrives in 2014 with his first solo album You Should Be So Lucky. The album was produced by U.K. producer legend Glyn Johns so it sounds extra good. Amazingly, Glyn was after Benmont to make this record. As a singer-songwriter, a keyboard wizard and a singer, Benmont is a triple threat and there’s plenty of memorable pop-rock tracks. There’s a sound you’ve heard before, a kind of musical deja-vu in play on Benmont’s CD plus there’s a couple of very cool instrumentals that lets him stretch out his piano-esque musical ideas in a rewarding way. Tom Petty and Ringo Starr lend a hand along with a core band with Don Was and Ethan Johns but the real star on You Should Be So Lucky are these very impressive new songs by Benmont Tench.

- Among the most expressive, gifted singer-songwriters since Van Morrison, Amos Lee strikes a note for universal musical goodness with his 2014 CD, his 5th, entitled Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song. Mixing folk, jazz, blues, ragtime and Americana, Amos just keeps hitting them out of the park on his latest Blue Note masterpiece. Fans of the late great J.J. Cale, Clapton and Van the man will love Amos Lee’s CD. A gifted singer-songwriter and a fine guitarist in his own right, Amos gets amazing backup from a range of musicians here including producer Jay Joyce (guitars), Zack Djankian (bass, guitars), Andy Keenan (steel / baritone guitars), Giles Reaves (drums, keyboards), and a whole lot more including a guitar performance on the CD closing “Lowdown Life” by Tony Joe White. The heavier songs can rock up a storm or likewise the introspective tracks are mesmerizing but the key here is just about all the songs on Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song hold up nicely spin after spin.

BLUE NOTE - I could listen to Rosanne Cash sing the phone book and it would be entertaining. The CD release of The River & The Thread is one her best solo albums to date. Eleven tracks of deep and rich country rock and pop filled with a host of pleasing sonic surprises, The River & The Thread was produced by Rosanne’s collaborator John Leventhal, who adds in a solid performance on guitars, bass, sitar, organ and a host of other instruments. Among the many fine players contributing here are Dan Rieser (drums) and Tim Luntzel (bass). Strings enhance several tracks including “The Long Way Home” and the evocative “Night School”, the latter with its stark references to Mobile, Alabama. Rosanne was born in Memphis and in Rosannes’s words ‘The connection to Memphis is powerful and deep'. During the course of the album, Rosanne traveled throughout the south and even visited Robert Johnson’s grave site and dug up old ghosts from the Civil War. The River & The Thread is a stunning reminder of just how much Rosanne Cash and the entire Cash family is intertwined in the long and winding history of America’s music and its rich history.

/ NORDIC NOTES / BESTE! UNTERHALTUNG - Icelandic singer-songwriter Gudrid Hansdottir released a great solo album in 2011 called Beyond The Grey. Still recording for the German based Beste! Unterhaltung label, Gudrid is back in 2014 with another well done release—a 7 song CD called Taking Ship. The CD follows in the spirit of her full length CD though, while Gudrid wrote the songs, she gets support this time from lyricist Heinrich Heine. Gudrid is kind of the Kate Bush of Iceland so that’s a good comparison for the uninitiated. Recorded in Iceland and Finland, the songs on Taking Ship are sung in English except for one and the CD was superbly produced by Gudrid and Janus Rasmussen. The CD is well packaged and features excellent watercolor design with a poster complete with full lyrics. Speaking of intriguing and exotic female singer-songwriters, Nordic Notes has another impressive CD release with Maízan from Norwegian singer Elin Kåven. Translated into Thaw (in English), the album features a unique kind of ambient folk music inspired by Elin’s life amid the Sami people near the arctic circle in Norway. Elin is also a tribal belly dancer in Northern Norway. Commenting on her unique ambient folk music, Elin adds, ‘The album, Thaw, shows my Sami background from a new side, where the traditional, mythical and modern are mixed.’ While most of her lyrics are sung in the Sami dialect, there’s a near dance music vibe on several songs, clearly making it of interest to both folk music fans and ambient electronica fans looking for something unique and different. /

BLUE CASTLE RECORDS - Cofounder of the Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, David Crosby culminates his 50 years history in music with the 2014 CD release of Croz. The 11 track album was co-produced by Crosby, Daniel Garcia and Crosby’s son James Raymond and features some solid guitar work from Shane Fontayne and Marcus Eaton. The album is said to have the same kind of vibes as Crosby’s famous first solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name and some tracks of Croz kind of hark back to Crosby’s final work with The Byrds on Notorious Byrd Brothers. Throughout his career, David Crosby never missed a beat to commercialize his music and bring it to a wider audience, thus making Croz essential for both long time fans and the uninitiated.

- There’s cool sonic stuff coming out of the Montana hinterlands. We're talking about modern masters of the art of 21st century psych-pop Donovan’s Brain and their 2013 album Turned Up Later. Donovan’s Brain came to the attention of thanks to their 2010 album Fires Which Burn Brightly. In the spirit of that album, Turned Up Later features a memorable mix of 1960’s flavored psych-pop tracks and a more progressive rock in the spirit of Procol Harum and other bands from that first era of prog-rock. There’s also a kind of offbeat Frank Zappa vocal type sound on a track or two here,. Like its predecessor, Turned Up Later continues to feature the combined production of Donovan’s Brain two main singer-songwriters Ron Sanchez and Bobby Sutliff. This latest DB album features a range of other esteemed players including drummer Ric Parnell. Seven albums in, Donavan’s Brain attains new psych-pop heights with Turned Up Later.

- A solid album of steady country rock and pop, The Would Be Plans by Jimmer features singer-songwriter and guitarist Jimmer Podrasky. Recorded in L.A., the sound is all over the musical map—from Springsteen style music to a kind of Gram Parsons meets John Cale sort of country style rock. A number of musicians form the core band including Mitch Marine (producer / drums), Brian Whelan (guitars) and Ted Russell Kamp (bass / lap steel guitars) with a number of guest artists also appearing. “She Has Good Records” is pure power pop and will bring a smile to any McCartney fan while “With This Ring” is a flashback to 1950’s style pop. Jimmer’s eclectic merger of country, rock and power pop coexist on an album filled with a wide range of sonic enjoyments. Extra points for the unusual CD packaging.

- Based down in Georgia, the band known as Afterlife have a very strong progressive rock / pop album release with Compass Rose. Rocking out since 1986, the 3 piece band features Mike Hudson (guitars, vocals), Jonathan Dorsey (bass, vocals) and Warren E. Davis, Jr. (drums). Afterlife have been compared to a number of notable rock legends including The Police, Tom Petty and even The Cars. The band cites The Beatles as a main influence so, pop fans, listen up, these guys can play. Compass Rose is actually the band's 4th album and Afterlife puts their collective musical experience into making a fine album of all original material that takes their rock influences in a fresh direction.

- The sound of the blues is alive and well on the 2013 CD called Badlands from the Kansas City based group known as Trampled Under Foot. The band’s name may be taken from the Led Zeppelin song of the same name, but the sound of TUF is much more honest and straight ahead blues-rock. Trampled Under Foot singer Danielle Schnebelen sounds like a 21st century Janis Joplin, while guitarist Nick Schnebelen adds in some potent electric guitar sounds. The rhythm section of Jan Faircloth (drums) and Mike “Shinetop Jr” Sedovic (keys) adds extra depth and presence to the Trampled Under Foot sound. The Badlands CD was recorded in L.A. and features some excellent production from the legendary Tony Braunagle (percussion) and keyboard great Mike Finnegan. The band’s originals click, while an electrifying CD closing cover of the James Brown classic “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” seals the deal on one of the most exciting and electrifying blues-rock albums in recent memory.

- The story of The Monochrome Set goes back to the late 1977 period and The B-Sides. Lead singer Adam Ant left for a solo career and the others formed Monochrome Set. With original members Bid (vocals) and Lester Square (guitars) and Andy Warren (bass) still forming the axis of the band, they’re joined on the 2014 CD release of Super Plastic City by drummer Steve Brummell (drums) and producer Jon Clayton (organ) for a memorable 11 cut, post-punk pop album that sounds timeless yet cutting edge for the 21st century. There’s some fine harmony vocals but mostly it sounds like Lou Reed or even John Cale produced by Brian Wilson. The release features top production smarts, cool cover art, complete lyrics and inventive CD packaging. What more could you want from a 21st century pop-rock album?

- South Florida based Not Dead Yett! features a cool mix of soulful pop, R&R and reggae sounds. Produced by Don Mizell, the self-titled Not Dead Yett! CD features some soulful vocals from Dr. Don DJ and Hi-Hat Carter. The songs range in style. Most are electro-pop with catchy choruses and 1980’s synth style dance grooves. The 12 track CD is sort of the South Florida version of The Art Of Noise. “Let’s Go, Let’s Go” is a solid single with dance music beats carrying the music onwards. The arrangements are kind of sparse, mostly with synth style grooves, but the music is so much fun you won’t notice. Dr. Don Mizell worked with jazz-fusion artists like Grover Washington and Stevie Wonder and in 2005 he worked on Ray Charles’ historic album of the year with Phil Ramone. Even with such a rich pedigree, Don DJ has a lot of fun to share with the soulful South Florida synth pop of Not Dead Yett!

- Best known as the gifted daughter of the late great sitar master Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar released her latest masterpiece called Traces Of You in 2013. Anoushka’s CD release on Deutsche Grammophon is filled with a fantastic mix of sitar flavored Indian sounds flavored with various sonic spices from electronica, jazz and Western classical music. Key to the sound of Traces Of You is Anoushka’s collaboration with fellow Indian music explorer and acclaimed artist in his own right, Nitin Sawhney, who adds in various performances on guitars, programming and piano as well as handling various production chores. The sound of Traces Of You is mostly instrumental except for several vocal tracks performed by Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones—who is a celebrated pop star on her own. An excellent sitar player with the Shankar touch, Anoushka adds in one vocal of her own on the track “Metamorphosis”, which is just filled with a wild sense of sonic abandon. Fans of the Shankar family’s vast repertoire of incredible sitar filled Indian music and World music will love Anoushka’s incredible sounding Traces Of You.

- Based up in the good old Catskill Mountains in Upstate N.Y., Simone Felice is making waves in the country rock world with his 2014 solo album, Strangers. Simone was a key member of The Felice Brothers band and since 2009, he’s been recording solo. There’s plenty of solid country flavored rock and pop on Strangers and you can read along in the CD booklet. The recording is clean and crisp and is a welcome addition to the world of 21st century pop. Backing up Simone’s songs, vocals and drumming are a number of players including his brothers and co-producer and co-writer David Baron. Influenced by giants who came before him, including The Band and Bruce Springsteen, the CD gets better with each spin so if you have the time for new, quality Americana music, make friends with Simone Felice’s Strangers.

- Based in upstate N.Y., guitarist Scott Helland is well known for his amazing instrumental albums. Scott called his albums ‘ambient, acoustic, instrumental space folk.’ Ten years after, Scott is back with several releases featuring his folk / cabaret band called Frenchy And The Punk. Essentially a duo with his partner Samantha Stephenson, Frenchy And The Punk have been accurately described as “an energetic hybrid of European folk roots, punk attitude, World Beat eclecticism and traveling player theatricality.” Mostly acoustic, FATP is fine showcase for Scott’s acoustic guitar work and Ms. Stephenson’s vocals. The overall effect is a pretty timeless mix of folk and pop cabaret and the sound can be heard in all its glory on the group’s 2014 CD ep called Cartwheels, which is a fine follow up to the group’s 2012 full length CD called Hey Hey Cabaret.

EDITION RECORDS - Based in the U.K., Edition Records have a number of excellent releases in their catalog and they can add in the 2014 self-titled CD release from the band Slowly Rolling Camera. Musically, SRC’s CD is quite indescribable. One part Art Of Noise, another part Rotary Connection, Slowly Rolling Camera blends vocal jazz with a kind of futuristic electronica that will baffle as well as delight listeners. Their record label compares SRC to other current bands such as Cinematic Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra and Bonobo but there’s quite a unique sounding, cinematic soulful atmosphere here. Some tracks are quite meditative while others really rock up a storm in a positive jazz fusion style. Key to the SRC sound is singer / lyricist Dionne Bennett who gets excellent support from Dave Stapleton (composer, keys), Deri Roberts (sound design / producer) and Elliot Bennett (drums). The core four SRC members get great support from a range of musicians, including string section and electric guitarist Chris Montague, who, when combined, really rounds out the sound stage. Progressive jazzers and instrumental fusioneers looking for something new and different should give a listen to Slowly Rolling Camera.

- One CD that got away from during our fabled move from NYC to South Florida during the summer of 2012 was Upon Waking, from Austin, Texas based Elijah Ford. Son of guitarist Marc Ford of Black Crowes, Elijah delivers the goods on his debut solo album. Kicking off with a killer track called “Surprise, Surprise”, the Upon Waking album merges pop and rock with a rootsy kind of Texas rock sound that’s filled with catchy melodies and killer riffs. Recording in Anahuac, Texas, Elijah gets solid support from his multi-instrumentalist pop as well as fine players such as drummer Matthew Smith as well as fine studio work from engineer Grant Jackson Wilborn. More recent developments in 2014 include, following Upon Waking and the 2012 EP CD release of Ashes, Elijah Ford & The Bloom are preparing a new album for 2014 release.

- Fans of rock legend Jack Bruce are in for a treat with the 2014 CD release of Silver Rails. It’s been quite a while, ten years in fact, since Jack released an all new studio solo album and clearly, with Silver Rails, the wait has yielded a most impressive batch of new music that bears the Jack Bruce stamp of excellence. Fans of Jack’s recorded work in Cream will note that the songs here are co-written by lyricist Pete Brown, the wordsmith who co-wrote the best of Cream with Jack. Fans of Jack’s work with Robin Trower will also note his appearance here as well as another guitar legend, Phil Manzanera. Also on board is guitar hero Uli Jon Roth, keyboardist John Medeski, Jack’s son, guitarist Malcolm Bruce, who along with fellow guitarist Tony Remy, turns in a spectacular performance on a very Cream like highlight here called “Don’t Look Now”. Superbly produced at the fabled Abbey Road studios by Rob Cass, (also here on percussion), the ten track Silver Rails features further contributions by lyricist Kip Hanrahan and Jack’s partner Margrit Seyffer. Drummer Frank Tontoh keeps a steady beat on an album that will just amaze long time Jack Bruce fans.

- Over in the UK, progressive rock is alive and well with the 2013 CD release of Redacted by the band known as Also Eden. Released on the F2 Records label, the 8 cut CD is filled with a range of progressive rock and hard rock elements and the CD booklet features easy to read lyrics to all the songs. No one does hard rock / progressive rock better than the English and true to form, Also Eden cites influences such as Genesis, The Flower Kings, YES, Marillion, Porcupine Tree among others, so fans of those bands will get a buzz off of the complex, driving sound of Also Eden. The six piece band features excellent playing all around from all, including Rich Hardin (voice, lyrics), guitarist Simon Rogers and Andy Davies (producer, keyboards). Prog-rock fans will find much to like about Also Eden.

- There’s a slew of solid pop tunes full of memorable hooks and choruses on Timekeeper, the 2014 CD from singer-songwriter Lucy Schwartz. Even though she’s clearly from another, younger generation of singer-songwriters, you can hear a lot of Beatles style influences on a number of tracks here including track four “Feel So Fine” and the album’s upbeat showpiece, “Captain Sunshine”. (try getting that hook out of your head!) After gaining acclaim for her first two albums, including her second album, Life In Letters, produced by by Mitchell Froom—with her third solo album Timekeeper, Lucy Schwartz strikes pop-rock gold. The album features Lucy’s songs, keyboards and vocals front and center along with a number of other players, including some fine electric guitar work by Blake Mills and drummer Stuart Johnson. Strings and things and whole lot more solid musicianship really enhances Lucy’s latest piece of pop craft work.

- A group espousing hypnotic, indescribable sounds, The Magnetic North has a winner on their hands with their 2013 CD called Orkney: Symphony Of... Ostensibly, the Orkney Symphony blends introspective New Age pop and rock with a kind of Eno-esque euphoria that’s simply hard to resist. The Magnetic North features three key members—Erland Cooper, Hannah Peel and Simon Tong—who are aided by several musicians and a string section. Some of the Magnetic North’s ambient / orchestral style of pop may be a bit understated at times, but if you hang in there long enough, the album simply begs for multiple replays. Ambient pop fans looking for something new and progressive should give this Magnetic North CD a spin.

- There’s a whole lot of country rock goodness on the eighth album by the group known as Blackie And The Rodeo Kings. The album, simply entitled South features group mainstays Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing joined by Nashville guitar hero and esteemed producer Colin Linden. The Blackie sound is kind of reminiscent of Bob Dylan and The Band, especially considering the band’s Canadian roots. With the three musicians joined by the rhythm section of Johnny Dymond (bass) and Gary Craig (drums), the sound of Blackie And The Rodeo Kings is 21st century country rock at its finest. Even thought the sessions are primarily acoustic based, there’s plenty of down home, toe-tapping sounds to appeal to both folk rockers and country rockers too.

- A very cool album of intimate, relaxing singer-songwriter sounds, ‘Til The Morning is a fine introduction to the music of Edie Carey + Sarah Sample. Produced by Scott Wiley, the 14 track CD features a number of musicians though the sound is so tasteful and sedate it sounds like you’re listening in the living room of these ladies. Although both Edie and Sarah play acoustic guitars and sing their lovely harmony vocals, there’s still some impressive guitar work from a number of musicians here, including producer Wiley and some elegant pedal steel guitar by Dylan Schorer. Sarah and Edie also compose their own music but on ‘Til The Morning they pick and choose to cover a number of classics from the songbooks of Woody Guthrie, Stephen Foster, Peggy Lee and others. Conceived to be a “harmony rich collection of beloved and original lullabies and comforting songs “, ‘Til The Morning is among the most serene and easy on the ears singer-songwriter albums of 2014. /

- The packaging of the new Jack Cheshire CD is great and the music ain’t too bad either. Singer-songwriter / guitarist Jack Cheshire’s third album, Long Mind Hotel is in the forefront of the new wave of English art-pop that’s making everything old, new again. Mixing the erstwhile psych-folk of Syd Barrett and Nick Drake and the deadpan nonchalance of Morrissey as influences, the music on the ten track CD is very well recorded with Jack getting ace backup from his four piece band, including guitarist David James Pearson, who sounds very Chris Spedding inspired while giving the music a slightly jazzy bent. The iTunes / Spotify crowd will enjoy this but if you can, seek out the amazing CD packaging and concept art of the CD itself, it will restore your faith in audio fidelity.

- With the 2013 CD release of What It Is, California singer-songwriter Heather Stewart follows in the musical styles of pop rock legends such as Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde and Sheryl Crow. There’s plenty of anthemic Americana and well strummed acoustic country-rock sounds on What It Is but it’s done in a unique way making the CD an all around winner. The musicianship of Ms. Stewart’s backing is also first rate with her band driven by some excellent guitar work from Blake Mills and Marty Rifkin. Strengthened by live “off the floor” production by Greg Critchley, What It Is sounds quite good on CD too, no doubt owing to the fact that it was recorded at L.A.’s fabled Sunset Sound and Sound Factory studios.

HEMIFRÅN / PARAPLY RECORDS - Sweden was always a legendary hub of pop, rock and jazz music. Although known to informed international music fans for their amazing instrumental rock fusion and jazz-rock artists, Sweden continues to be an epic source of 21st century pop and rock. The best of Sweden’s current indy artists are compiled on a 17 track, 70 minute 2014 compilation from the powerhouse label team of Hemifrån and Paraply Records. Home Is Where The Heart Is features a wide range of established as well as promising pop and rock artists. Kicking off with a guitar instrumental by Pontus Swanberg, the CD moves quickly onto the latest pop classic from renowned Swedish pop pundit Klas Qvist, and his Citizen K outfit, called “Our Town”. Also here is a fine new track entitled “Spiders”, from an interesting band called A Sister Or Two. Home Is Where The Heart Is does a fine job representing a wide range of pop artists from Sweden and obviously says a lot about the state of the art of 21st century pop music from the Scandinavian stronghold. Home Is Where The Heart Is closes out with another instrumental, this time by an artist called Berra Karlsson, while Berra’s sister, singer Cina Samuelson is also featured on this CD with a fine country-pop track, “This Country Girl”, that sounds like it came straight out of Nashville. The CD packaging of this compilation album is first rate with its unconventional yet highly effective artwork and insert. Scandinavian and international music fans, don’t miss the unique and catchy pop-rock experience of Home Is Where The Heart Is.

- U.K. keyboardist Ian Neal released a fine CD called Astro in 2013. It’s mostly instrumental prog-rock but several tracks do feature Neal’s vocal skills. It’s hard to describe who he sounds like but there’s some majestic, Sci-fi space music inspired rock sounds running throughout the CD. Fans of Pink Floyd with Richard Wright (circa Wish You Were Here) and Roine Stolt and his Flower Kings band will find much to like about Ian Neal and his keyboard based music. Towering synths and all forms of rock electronica meld into one unique wall of sound on this harmonious sounding 7 track, 49 minute album, which up to now, unfortunately is available only as a digital download. Commenting on his musical approach on Astro, Ian adds, ‘My aim is that every piece produced is exquisitely constructed, intriguing and will not tire of being played again and again.’ On that front alone, clearly Ian Neal has succeeded on his prog-rock opus called Astro.

INSIDE OUT MUSIC - One of the finest guitarists in Sweden for the page 35 years, Roine Stolt is back in the big way in 2013 with Desolation Rose, a double CD set from his band The Flower Kings. Released on Inside Out, the double CD set features 18 tracks with Roine backed up by his Flower Kings band mates including Tomas Bodin (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass, vocals), Hasse Fröberg (vocals, guitar), Felix Lehrmann (drums) and more. On the 18 track Desolation Rose, Roine and his Flower Kings band mates are at the top of their game. Stolt’s trademark guitar sound is all over this set which mixes extended instrumental passages with more usual songs that feature Roine’s English lyrics. Is there a concept here? If so, it takes a back seat to the monumental progressive rock sound and vision in play throughout the double CD set. As is typical with Inside Out CD releases, the sound is first rate and the album artwork / packaging makes the Desolation Rose album a joy to hear and behold.

- Hailing from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, The Dirtbombs are knockin’ ‘em dead with their 2013 CD called (wait for it...) Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Ka-blooey! What does it all mean? (lol) One can’t be too sure but musically, The Dirtbombs, at least on this CD, sound like The Archies produced by Lou Reed. Grungey sounding power pop with judicious use of sonic fuzz and harmony vocals, the five piece Dirtbombs feature some fine songs and vocals by Mick Collins, while his Dirtbombs band mates enhance the proceedings with tasty backup. Released by L.A. based In The Red Records, the cover art for the ten track Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Ka-blooey! lists a special thanks to the great Brian Wilson, who is credited on the CD closing “We Come In The Sunshine”. Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Ka-blooey! is bright and sunny West Coast style pop played by a fine, rockin’ five piece band.

- Keeping It Simple is a fine outing from singer Judy Philbin and guitar wiz Adam Levine. Essentially a duo album, the 12 track CD is getting rave reviews from a number of guitar insiders—not only for Judy’s fine vocal stylings and song selections but also for the dexterous guitar work of Adam Levine, who multi-tracks his guitars. Song wise, Keeping It Simple keeps it simple with a selection of always memorable classics from the great American songbook—including fresh covers of Hoagy Carmichael, Rogers & Hammerstein, Frankie Lyman, Roy Orbison and more, while others, including the title track, are Philbin / Levine originals. Recorded in California, Keeping It Simple succeeds by putting together a fine album of classic melodies, hot guitar playing and memorable vocal tracks. The guitar-centric Keeping It Simple is a great choice for fans of classic, timeless jazz-pop covers.

- Singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega is making waves with her 2013 CD Tin Star. The 11 cut album is filled with rockin’ country sounds in the spirit of Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and of course female singer-songwriters such as Rosanne Cash and Dolly Parton. With Tin Star, the Toronto bred / Nashville based, Lindi falls neatly into the alt country / roots / folk-rock genre. Lindi also claims living in Nashville had a positive effect on her music adding, ‘I knew I liked country and I think moving here, I wanted to delve into those influences more genuinely.’ As much as country music influenced her, there’s plenty of rootsy rock and roll influences here. On her third solo record, Lindi’s band is white hot, with solid electric guitar pickin’ from Dave Cobb, who also did a bang up job producing the CD. If you like your female country music singer-songwriters with a dose of rock ‘n’ roll, Tin Star by Lindi Ortega will be right up your alley.

- Although he joined Split Enz after their groundbreaking years, Neil Finn has had the longest lived solo career and he reaches a new pinnacle with Dizzy Heights. Interestingly, Neil took the songs to Upstate New York and worked with co-producer Dave Fridmann, sound man for Flaming Lips. Apparently, Neil wanted Dave to mess around with weird sounds and make his sound more expansive. Some tracks work better than others, track four “Divebomber” is particularly effective with Neil sounding like another Neil, Neil Young during his late ‘60s psychedelic era. Split Enz was always a band that was equal to the sum of its parts and, solo with Dizzy Heights, Neil Finn offers a brave attempt to go back to those great late 1970s albums he made with his brother Tim Finn and Phil Judd.

- A rock solid effort from the band known as The Whybirds, the 2014 CD released of A Little Blood offers a mix of rootsy rock in the spirit of The Allman Brothers and The Eagles and in doing so, comes up with something unique in the process. The UK band’s third studio album, A Little Blood features songwriting contributions from all three members—Dave Banks, Ben Haswell and Luke Tuchscherer. The sound of A Little Blood may sound retro-rock in places but it's delivered with a seasoned sense of sonic maturity that wouldn’t be out of place in 1974. All in all, if you enjoy bands like The Eagles and Bad Company, you’ll get a splendid solid buzz from The Whybirds.

- What more could you ask from a pop-rock record is a good way to describe the new album by folk-rock balladeer and NYC legend Garland Jeffreys. He’s been around for decades and, compared to some of the household names, Garland never got his proper recognition. Fitting in somewhere between Lou Reed, Arthur Lee and Bruce Springsteen, Garland can raise an audience like Bruce and knock you out with his sharp-tongued delivery like Lou. Garland’s 2013 album is humorously entitled Truth Serum. The album gets a real soul-rock groove going and several tracks standout including the single from the album “Is This The Real World”, which anyway you cut it is one of the great songs of the 21st century. The studio sound is top notch and the band just sparkles and, while now at 70, with the release of Truth Serum, Garland Jeffreys still maintains his presence as one of the great, living rock legends.

- The CD release of Fabric Of Space Divine by the band known as Daymoon is one of those rare albums that expertly mixes prog rock, ala Pink Floyd with a more humanistic kind of pop-prog sound. The band is based in Portugal and is centered around the keyboard / guitar sound of Fred Lessing, who gets some fine backup from his band mates including Bruno Evangelista (vocals, guitars), Andre Marques (drums), Renato Bonfim (bass) and a whole lot more. Also on hand are several vocalists including Jeff Markham and Michael Dorp as well as Joana Lessing (keyboards, percussion) In addition to the progressive-rock influences, there’s also some select English folkloristic influences (featuring recorders, complex time signatures, etc.) that make them sound a bit like Gentle Giant at times. Fans of GG and other prog-rock legends will enjoy this CD, which is tastefully packaged with detailed liner notes, lyrics and who played what where and when. Prog-rock fans, give a listen to Daymoon.

/ SECRET RECORDS - Released in the U.S. through MVD, the 2014 CD release of Make My Day by blues rocker Fast Eddie Clarke is a welcome development for the blues rock world. The U.K. guitarist has worked with a number of musical legends, including Motörhead and on Make My Day, Eddie teams with Shakatak keyboardist Bill Sharpe. Blues rockers who still miss greats like Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff and now Alvin Lee will get a charge from Fast Eddie’s Make My Day CD. Extensive liner notes by Eddie and complete lyrics brings the CD history into perspective. The songs are really catchy and Eddie’s vocals are spot-on but it’s really his ace guitar work that will catch your ear.

/ DADGAD MUSIC - One of the most renowned acoustic guitarists in the world, Pierre Bensusan is feted with the 2014 release of Encore. Essentially a 3 CD, 35 track showcase for Bensusan’s live perfromaces, the three hour Encore CD set, subtitled 40 Years Of An Open Mind: Travel Journal, spans four decades of music going back to 1975. At its best Pierre’s relaxing music is mostly instrumental although Encore does feature several of his French language vocal tracks. Music fans will note that there’s also several tracks here featuring Pierre performing with Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess from 1998. Although the 3 CD Encore set was planned to only include tracks from 1998 to 2013, disc 2 here starts off with five tracks from May 1975. Bensusan’s guitar based music has been called jazz, Celtic folk instrumental and even New Age, yet as he proves throughout Encore, his music is very hard to typify. Commenting on Encore, Pierre adds, ‘I would say that Encore is probably my most truthful recording ever, because the studio is not always a very dangerous place. These are moments in time reflecting ways of approaching these songs that I never did before and never did again.’ The constant factor throughout Encore is Pierre’s sense of fretboard perfection, especially, as expressed here, in front of his appreciating fans. In addition, the 38 track 3 CD Encore set features a booklet with in-depth liner notes by Pierre, complete discography information of all the tracks here, along with rare pics of Pierre through the years. Encore is the definitive document of Pierre Bensusan live in concert.

- Possessing the voice of an angel, Danish chanteuse Agnes Obel returns for a second album entitled Aventine. Too classical influenced to be considered orchestral rock, Aventine features a band of musicians adding cello, harp, melodica and other acoustic instrumentation. More like a sonic portrait with lots of watercolors as opposed to strict neoclassical music, Aventine is both hypnotic and beguiling. Central to Aventine is the voice and piano of Agnes Obel. Commenting on her music, Agnes adds, ‘I was seeing and hearing more and more links in the music to all sorts of genres from different times, also outside of the genres that I normally think of in relation to my music.’ Aventine is not rock by any stretch, yet the CD is filled with all kind of progressive influences that filter through the mix. Orchestral pop fans with a penchant for acoustic piano and enchanting female vocals will find something intriguing upon spinning this latest sonic masterpiece by Agnes Obel.

- With the 2013 CD release of 4:45 AM, the Chilean group known as Aisles sets a new standard for 21st century international prog-rock. The band’s 2010 album In Sudden Walks was pretty widely acclaimed and their 2013 album is sure to be of interest to progressive rock and pop fans. The band cites both YES, Rush and King Crimson among their big influences and fans of guitarists such as Steve Howe and Alex Lifeson will enjoy the new progressive rock sound of Aisles. The six piece band features the solid guitar work of Germán Vergara and Rodrigo Sepúlveda and the lead vocals of Sebastian Vergara but all the members of Aisles have something to offer on the release of 4:45 AM. Aisles are masters of the modern day studio and the band reaches a new sonic plateau with their latest CD masterpiece.

- Back in 1968, guitar ace and master singer-songwriter Jeremy Spencer was a key member of the original Fleetwood Mac. In a harrowing twist of sonic fate, following the Mac’s brilliant Kiln House album from 1970, Jeremy actually left the Mac. After releasing a pair of great solo albums in the early 1970s, Jeremy was basically never heard from again till his long awaited comeback, entitled Precious Little in 2006. In 2014, Jeremy returns again with Coventry Blue, an excellent album that basically puts his legacy back up in the spotlight again. A mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks, the music on Coventry Blue echoes Jeremy’s amazing work in Fleetwood Mac during the late 1960s and very early 1970s. Jeremy was never really noted for his instrumental compositions, yet on Coventry Blues there’s a range of great guitar-centric instrumentals that eerily echoes the work of Jeremy’s one time band mate in the Mac, the nearly long, lost Danny Kirwan. Track 14 of the 15 track CD, entitled “The World In Her Heart” is simply one of the greatest instrumentals ever composed by either Jeremy, Peter Green or Danny. Fans of Danny and great Mac albums like Then Play On and Kiln House will love Coventry Blue. The album features a number of fine musicians and was superbly produced by Jeremy and long time, original Fleetwood Mac fan, guitarist Brett Lucas. The CD booklet features track by track notes by Jeremy discussing each of these memorable new songs. Original Fleetwood Mac fans don’t miss Coventry Blue.

- A mix of progressive rock stylings and singer-songwriter tendencies, Outside The Inside is a fine introduction to the music of Illinois based Scott May. May amazes here by composing and recording the entire album on his own. In his liner notes, May says he learned how to write songs from Jim Peterik and Jim and his band, The Ides Of March, of which Scott May is a current member of, are also cited. Also mentioned in the CD booklet is Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder, who May cites in the same sentence as Dr. Lonnie Smith as being one of his gurus. Come to think of it, some of the guitar solos on on Outside The Inside are kind of Pinder-esque. Each song here has a kind of sonic charm, with May’s vocals serving well the dramatic melodic cadences. Pinder’s sense of the dramatic as applied to progressive rock is well adhered to here and certain key tracks echo the inventive late 1960's rock sound of The Ides Of March. An album with a sound of its own, Outside The Inside is time well spent for progressive rock fans.

- Oklahoma native Samantha Crain recorded her third full-length album in San Francisco. Released on the North Carolina based Ramseur label and produced and engineered by John Vanderslice, the 11 track Kid Face is a low key yet highly effective showcase for Samantha’s singer-songwriter based muse. Several artists assist but the accent is squarely on Ms. Crain’s insightful and honest songs. It’s hard to describe the Kid Face CD but it definitely falls into the 21st century singer-songwriter, lo-fi country / alt-pop music category. Neil Young fans will get a kick out Ms. Crain’s sparse, yet intense studio approach. Much like fellow Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie, Samantha broadened her sonic perspective by traveling but she adds, ‘coming back home brings me perspective and focus.’ With several praiseworthy reviews in Rolling Stone and even The New York Times, it’s worth catching Samantha Crain early on in what is shaping up to be promising career.

- Some say the golden age of 20th century pop began with Brian Wilson’s mid to late 1960s pop experiments. That trend hasn’t really ever stopped and the latest band to revel in the intricacies of Wilsonian era pop is called Cold Crows Dead. The UK band released their album I Fear A New World and names dropped in various CD reviews of the album include Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips and of course Joe Meek, the Fabs and the ‘Boys. Somewhere in that place where the 1960’s meet 2020 can be felt and heard on this excellent new Cold Crows Dead album. The CD was tastefully produced by Paul Steel and features music by him and band mate Murray Macleod. Wilson / Beach Boys disciple Stephen John Kalinich gets a song writing credit here which will no doubt take the CD to a higher level in the pop world. Other musicians round out the sweeping studio sound, not unlike the master himself, with mastering by Ed Woods (lol). Despite it’s eclectic, unrelenting pop punch, Cold Crows Dead is no laughing matter.

- England’s Ravenheart Music scored points for their 2013 CD release of South African prog-metal band Crimson Chrysalis. Fans of that band might also get a buzz from Ravenheart’s CD release of Nocturnes For The Divine & The Damned by Toronto-based prog-metal band Under Heaven. Ravenheart’s specialty is releasing albums by female-fronted rock and metal bands and so Under Heaven is right up their alley. Featuring the music of composer Matthew Binks and singer Tammy Everett, the Under Heaven sound is very much in the prog-metal genre while also including elements of classical, Celtic, New Age, gothic rock and industrial too. Binks is a gifted multi-instrumentalist who combines searing electric guitars and solid percussion with all tracks featuring Ms. Everett’s vocals which echo the sound of Annie Haslam of Renaissance. The songs rock hard but if you hang in there and give it chance, the CD is time well spent for prog-rockers and rock metal fans looking for something new and cool.

/ REVIVE RECORDS - In the spirit of late 1980’s instrumental rockers Love Tractor and more recently Explosions In The Sky, the band known as God Is An Astronaut make exploding rock sounds of their own on their 2013 CD entitled Origins. The 12 track CD from the country of Ireland features a devastating wall of instrumental rock sound that offers a solid showcase for guitarists Torsten Kinsella (guitar) and Niels Kinsella (bass) who get solid support from Jamie Dean (keys) and Lloyd Hanney (drums). Several other musicians add fuel to the sonic wall of fire here. GIAA’s Origins album is, ostensibly, mainly instrumental but some of the songs do feature vocals that are near buried, yet sort of morph into the mix without any discernible words. Sort of like a more instrumental, Irish equivalent of Sigor Ros, God Is An Astronaut will impress instrumental rock fans as well as all types of 21st century progressive rock / wall of sound electronica fans.

- Regarded among his fans as the most innovative banjo player of his generation, Tony Trischka released Great Big World in early 2014. A mix of Americana instrumental and bluegrass vocals, the 13 track CD touches on all manners of traditional Americana music. Trischka explains, ‘It’s kind of hard to pin down, because there’s so much on it. It’s all over the place, which is kind of where I live.’ The CD is packed with a who’s who of country / traditional / bluegrass musicians including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Russ Barenberg (guitars). The instrumental tracks are great and even the vocal cuts sound authentic on Tony Trischka’s Great Big World. Also out in 2014 on Rounder is a fine country bluegrass album entitled The Game, which is actually the eleventh album from Blue Highway. Blue Highway features Shawn Lane, (vocals, mandolin and fiddle), Tim Stafford (guitars), Wayne Taylor (bass), Rob Ickes (dobro) and Jason Burleson (banjo). The net result is yet another great country bluegrass album from Blue Highway on the legendary Rounder Records label.

/ PRESENCE RECORDS - Also recent on Presence is a cool new CD from rising prog-rockers U.N.i entitled Dreamland. In contrast to the all instrumental band Moonwagon (also on Presence), the U.N.i sound is vocal based prog featuring the music of keyboardist / guitarist Jouni Lehtonen and voice of Finnish songstress Petra Lehtonen, who it is said is no relation to Jouni. The songs feature a mix of progressive rock, Finnish folk and electronic sounds. The press release for U.N.i also says the band was influenced by tangos, circus music and even Celtic sounds, while the lyrics are drawn from public domain works by William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Sara Teasdale. The U.N.i band features a number of musicians including some excellent electric guitar work from Kari Riihimäki, Markku Tuomi (drums), Jussi Ahonen (bass), a four piece string section, horns and a whole lot more. Progressive rock fans will catch a sonic buzz from this excellent U.N.i CD. /

SIBA RECORDS - Released on the Siba label in 2013, is an excellent, self-titled pop-rock album by New Better Spring Band. The eleven track CD features the music and vocals of group leader Aili Järvelä. Unlike many other Finnish rock and pop artists, New Better Spring Band sing in English. Like a 21st century Finnish version of ABBA, their songs should have international appeal. The seven piece NBSB features solid all-around musicianship and they get some fine assistance from other top Finnish players. Another excellent release on Siba, the NBSB CD features a booklet with all the info and lyrics. Lastly on Siba is FBB, a new folkloristic CD by the Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band. Good old fashioned Finnish folk music is never out of style and the FBB blend a range of polkas, waltzes and atmospheric folk music's. All in all, these two CD titles are a good indication of 21st century Finnish pop music at its best.

- Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna returned in 2013 with a fine album of experimental rock music called The Forester. Credited to Susanna and Ensemble neoN, The Forester is very much in the realm of Brian Eno and Harold Budd—ambient, but with neoclassical overtones. On The Forester, Susanna teams with the Norwegian group called Ensemble neoN. Together, the fortuitous musical meeting combines the near Baroque strings, woodwinds and piano of Ensemble neoN with Susanna’s captivating piano and vocals. Produced in Oslo by Deathprod and Susanna, the CD has already been compared to Kate Bush, Tim Buckley and even classical legend Debussy. The meticulously recorded album is both challenging and expansive but taken as a whole is totally musically beguiling and literally begs for repeated listens. If experimental neoclassical 21st century music is your thing, look no further than The Forester by Susanna and Ensemble neoN.

SOVIET BERET - Described as Socialist R&B, Thee Faction started out in the late 1970’s and in 1985, since leaving England for Yugoslavia, they have remained an active band ever since. On their 2013 album, Good Politics Thee Faction take their late 1970’s pop-punk sound into political waters with a range of left wing, Marxist-Leninist communist flavored manifestos set to rock music. Even though their lyrics are socialist, Thee Faction also understands rock and even post-rock punk. A lot of this album is like looking into England’s backyard politics yet there’s also something universal here. Some of Good Politics harks back to Ray Davies circa his Preservation Act 2 era. Fans who thrilled to the Kinks during that Muswell Hillbillies era will get a buzz off of Thee Faction.

- Singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn has a beautiful cinematic voice that draws you in. Ms. Ahn’s songs and vocals are given free reign and the effect is stunning on her 2014 CD entitled This Is Where We Are. The musical setting is fairly sparse and doesn’t hit you over the head—instead it draws you in with a lush backdrop of soft-rock. Commenting on her latest epic work, Priscilla explains, ‘For me, this album was about finally finding my voice again as a songwriter and a singer. This Is Where We Are portrays who I am now and another side of myself that I’d never really been able to show in other albums.’ The 13 track CD was expertly produced by Keefus Ciancia and neatly falls into the realm of dreamy electro pop. A number of musicians assist, making This Is Where We Are time well spent for fans of 21st century pop music.

- When you think of rock opera you might think Tommy or The Kinks’ Arthur. But what happens when you think of rock and opera as two separate yet equal partners? Well, near operatic voices and state of the art experimental rock take part in a bold sonic experiment on the 2014 CD release from the Brooklyn, NY based band, The Knells. There’s a little skull on the very cool cover art so we might be taking about death (as in death knells) but The Knells album is teeming with life and some intriguing music. Fans of wild rock sounds from early 1970's Canterbury England will note the use of some excellent harmonizing female vocals here, not unlike Hatfield And The North, although the sound of The Knells is much more avant gard rock based than jazz or fusion music. At the core of the Knells’ sound is guitarist and composer Andrew McKenna Lee. The Knells’ sound is very downtown New York—think John Cale producing the Swingle Singers. As a guitarist, Lee is one part Frisell, one part Fred Frith and part Terje Rypdal and he has written some fantastic rock music with three part female voices, while the entire band is propelled by a powerful rhythm section. The Knells is all about well constructed, pioneering 21st century rock-based music and, matching the intelligent nature of the album, the CD sound and recorded sound is excellent as well. Uniquely packaged, The Knells is highly recommended listening for fans of experimental rock.

- The debut album by the artist known as Bird Radio, (aka Mikey Kirkpatrick) entitled The Boy And The Audience is making waves with fans of English rock style cabaret. More rock than merely cabaret, the Bird album does pay homage to early 1960s crooners like Anthony Newley and early David Bowie and more recently Duke Special, but there’s also a cutting edge thing going on here too. The CD is beautifully packaged and features excellent cover art and booklet with lyrics. Some of the Bowie comparisons to Bird Radio is quite amazing, especially Bowie’s covers of Jacques Brel. Is Bird Radio the Jacques Brel of the 21st century? The Boy And The Audience was superbly produced by Rick Campion and the CD sound is made even made better by the golden mastering ears of Jon Astley. Although Bird Radio is rock cabaret at its 21st century best, the artist known as Bird Radio is also busy doing instrumental film soundtracks so keep your ears open for Bird Radio.

- On her 2013 CD, Austin, Texas based singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes has chosen to reinterpret a solid collection of tracks most everyone knows. 21st century country flavored rock at its best, the appropriately entitled Covers features Kimmie singing the songs of Leon Russell, Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richards, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, U2, Neil Young, Mark Knopfler and more. Produced by multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Rhodes, Covers features contributions from a number of musicians including Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball, Colin Linden and among others. Covers is a laid back but effective look back at some of the best pop songs ever written and they all seem to benefit thanks to Kimmie’s heartfelt vocals. A CD closing cover of the Beatles “A Little Help From My Friends” seals the deal. Fifteen solo albums into her career, Austin classic country rock singer Kimmie Rhodes hits another new high with Covers.

SUNDAZED RECORDS - Sundazed Records’ honcho Bob Irwin knows his jangle pop by heart so it’s no wonder he signed new U.K. paisley poppers The See See, releasing their first U.S. album Days, Nights & Late Morning Lights in early 2014. Released on CD and Lp, the album compiles various tracks and early singles and is a catchy, upbeat look at a band basking in the glory of pop history while working and recording in the world of 21st century retro-pop. Central to The See See is lead singer and songwriter Richard Olson who comes following in the jingle-jangle morning in these days of future passed. Certain tracks on Days, Nights & Late Morning Lights sound influenced by any number of legendary pop music icons—from Love and The Byrds to Strawberry Alarm Clock and Buffalo Springfield. Of course Richard and his merry band of players can only dream about just how cool it was growing up in the 1950's and 1960’s but they come pretty darn close on a CD that brings the future up to date with a modern day reflection of a classic time and a classic sound that continues to be classic. Days, Nights & Late Morning Lights is a 21st century trip down jangle-pop memory lane by a rising band well worth keeping your eyes on.

SUNN CREATIVE - Cool name for a record company, Sunn Creative have a sunny and well created album out in 2014 from the UK band known as Bram Stoker. Funny enough no one in the band is actually named after the famed author but with the 2014 CD release of Cold Reading, Bram Stoker takes its place among the great prog bands of all time. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that these guys have been playing since 1969 and not many knew it! They should have been as big as at least Camel. Original founding keyboardist from 1969, Tony Bronsdon sounds well inspired by greats like Tony Kaye and even Keith Emerson although not as flashy. The most effective tracks are the instrumentals but guitarist / producer Tony Lowe, also from the early lineup adds pizzazz and the two are joined by several other musicians, including vocalist Will Hack on four tracks for a rockin’ time. There’s all kind of sonic sign posts along with the and some will find these guys obviously are in the same league Genesis, Camel, YES and all the greats, and Hack even sounds like John Wetton or Richard Sinclair. But, releasing an album of new music in 2014, Bram Stoker takes it a step into the future, sounding unpretentious yet well schooled. A cool rediscovery from Bram Stoker, Cold Reading is a most cool and effective 21st century prog-pop CD indeed.

- Brooklyn based The End Records just keeps hitting them out of the park. We’re talking about recordings here of course, and newly released by The End in early 2014 is Slo Light by the band known as Davidge. The brainchild of synthesist Neil Davidge, Slo Light is expressive synth driven pop and rock filled with a barrage of sonic electronica. Key here are some great guest vocals including a track featuring U.K. vocal legend Sandie Shaw and singer Cate Le Bon among others. Having a number of classy female singers on hand only enhances the potency of this modern day classic from Davidge. Neil Davidge keeps the proceedings together with his potent electronics and keyboard sounds while drummer Andrew Morgan also contributes a range of electronica and string arrangements. Several drummers keeping the sound big and boomy when its called for, while other times the sound is intimate and atmospheric. Davidge covers most of the sonic bases on what is shaping up to be one of the most impressive albums of 21st century rocktronica albums in 2014.

- The Brooklyn, N.Y. based record label known as The End Records have a fine new CD from Swedish singer-songwriter Nina Persson. The 12 track CD, Animal Heart is a near perfect album of Byrds flavored folk-rock, cabaret and power pop. Sweden has long been a bastion of tasteful pop music, even going back to ABBA, and this first ever solo album from Ms. Persson is a most welcome export from the Scandinavian stronghold. Ms. Persson turned heads around as the lead singer with The Cardigans and, very much in the spirit of that band and her CD titles as A Camp, Animal Heart firmly establishes her as a gifted solo career in her own right. Recorded in Gothenburg and Brooklyn, NYC, Animal Heart finds the singer in the excellent company of a solid band including co-writers and multi-instrumentalists Eric D. Johnson and Nathan Larson.

- It wasn’t very highly publicized but sometime in 2012, Petula Clark released a fine album of new material called Lost In You. Recorded with some unknown but excellent musicians, the CD was released on the enterprising Brooklyn label called The End Records. Obviously, after listening to the CD, Petula is neither lost nor at the end, as this CD is a bold modern statement CD by an artist who was never fully understood by FM radio and rock audiences anyway, especially in the years following her immensely popular string of Top 25 hits on AM radio back in the 1960's. Some tracks on her latest album sound eerily like Anna Domino or did Petula kind of influence 1980’s pop divas like Anna? Sure there’s even a classic here, a new down tempo and very chill version of “Downtown” while a sobering cover of the Lennon classic “Imagine” sprinkles Petula’s magic dust on a song that changed the world. What a pleasant surprise!

VIRGIN / EMI - It's been six years since Mike Oldfield released his album Music Of The Spheres. That album—a classically inspired instrumental music masterpiece—is now followed by the 2014 CD release of Man On The Rocks. A most welcome return to form, Man On The Rocks is very much an Oldfield-esque rock album. Featuring Mike working in his studio in The Bahamas, Man On the Rocks was recorded using state of the art 21st century technology with Mike directing the recording process via Skype with musicians in the studio in Los Angeles. Produced by Stephen Lipson, the 11 track Man On The Rocks features a memorable batch of fresh Oldfield originals that pairs his guitar work with vocalist Luke Spiller from the band The Struts. Also playing on Man On The Rocks is bass legend Leland Sklar and drummer John Robinson. A number of other musicians lend a hand including Davy Spillane (whistles), Matt Rollings (piano) and Michael Thompson (guitars), while producer Lipson adds in guitars as well. Mike always featured excellent singers on his rock vocal albums and true to form, Luke Spiller takes on Mike’s latest complex and challenging tracks with vim and vigor. Even if you’re mainly a fan of Mike’s instrumental works including Tubular Bells, the classic QE2 as well as his now fabled 1976 album with Pekka Pohjola (to name just a few), the sheer rock power and energy of Man On The Rocks will leave you breathless and coming back for more. Commenting on Man On The Rocks, Mike explains, “The logical thing for me to have done would have been to make another Tubular Bells-style album to try and cash in, but I’m not that kind of person and the new album Man On The Rocks is all live, back to basics rock.” There’s way too many highlights to mention here, but the title track “Man On The Rocks” is surely one of Mike’s most powerful songs as is the lead off track “Sailing” and the memorable “Minutes”. Man On The Rocks takes its place right up there with Mike Oldfield’s great progressive rock albums.

- There’s plenty of power-pop goodness in the grooves of Into The Unknown by the band known as Roto’s Magic Act. At the helm is singer-songwriter / guitarist James Rotondi and the entire 14 track CD is filled with a 21st century mix of eclectic and derivative pop sounds. Clearly inspired by West Coast pop legends like Jellyfish and The Beach Boys, (with a shot of rustic roots rock influences from Robbie Robertson and The Band especially on the amazing title track) Rotondi gets excellent backup from a number of unknown yet clearly gifted musicians including producer Bryce Goggin. Although you could swear the sound is West Coast in origin, it’s amazing to note, the CD was recorded in good old Brooklyn, NYC. It’s hard to pick out the single here but I would put my money on track 9 “The Old Trapdoor” which sounds like a mix between Jason Falkner and The Raspberries. Extra points for the fantastic CD packaging and album art, lyrics included. Roto’s Into The Unknown is one of the most auspicious power pop / prog-pop albums of 2014.

- One of the strangest (in a good way) albums of the past year is the 2013 CD release of ilp by the U.K. based artist known as Kwes. Sort of the R&B / trip-hp version of the Art Of Noise for the 21st century, Kwes makes music for the future in the present tense. Even though it’s his debut full length album, Kwes has been releasing EP singles for a while as well as working with artists such as Hot Chip, Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn. Kwes describes his music as being Free-Pop, (whatever that means, lol) and true, the CD is very experimental / free-sounding, mixing soul music with daring electronica soundscapes. The sound is excellent and the CD packaging is first rate, complete with printed lyrics to the album’s strange and beautiful productions. The album production / sound is quite mysterious and apparently Kwes plays everything, making him one, truly gifted 21st century man.

- Having released eight studio CDs and two live CDs on Woodstock Records, Professor Louie & The Crowmatix bring their timeless rock sound up to date with the early 2014 release of Soul Blues. Coming from the Woodstock, N.Y. area, the Professor Louie sound is very much rooted in the legacy of The Band and their Americana sound mixes blues, rock, soul and gospel music to great effect. The band clicks and their sound is further augmented with The Rock Of Ages Horns. In addition to the Professor’s original tracks, Soul Blues features solid covers of Al Green, Jimmy Rogers, Ashford & Simpson while the CD closes out in a rousing fashion with “Baby Don’t Do It”, a song made popular by both The Band and The Who. The album is superbly recorded and, with its mix of both live tracks and studio cuts, Soul Blues is a fantastic statement from the powerhouse rock sound of Professor Louie & The Crowmatix. Fans of The Band should give a listen to Soul Blues.

WYNNTOWN RECORDINGS - Hailing from Edinburgh Scotland, The Wynntown Marshals are modern country rock at its finest. There’s also a hint of Beatles style pop at their core and after giving their 2013 CD, entitled The Long Haul, a good listen, you can hear why they also cite groups like Tom Petty, Neil Young, Matthew Sweet and Gram Parsons among their big influences. Centered around the lead vocals and guitar of Keith Benzie, the five piece band is rounded out by some fine pedal steel guitar work by Iain Sloan who also doubles on guitars so there’s also some neat twin lead guitar sounds throughout. The band is filled out with the solid rhythm section of Murdo MacLeod (bass, guitars) and Kenny McCabe (drums). A number of guest artists add further fuel to the fire here. Described as Scottish alt-country / Americana, The Wynntown Marshals bring country rock into the 21st century with the harmony filled yet thoroughly rocking sound of The Long Haul.

XL - The Icelandic rock group known as Sigur-Rós released their latest magnum opus Kveikur in 2013. One could definitely use the word indescribable to explain the otherworldly sound of this album. With nine amazing songs (all with Icelandic titles), Kveikur sounds like music concrete translated into patterns of rock music that leaves the listener completely baffled but enchanted at the same time. The Sigur-Rós sound is so amazing, that even fans have described them as being not of this world. The band’s guitarist Jónsi, has a high falsetto voice and it works to great avail on the Kveikur album. Jónsi gets excellent support on Kveikur from his band mates including Georg Hólm (bass) and Orri Páll Dyrason (drums). With their gargantuan waves of rock sounds, punctuated by the relentless beat and wall of sound, the best way to describe Sigur-Rós is that they sound like U2 produced by Phil Spector. Whatever they’re doing is truly sonically revolutionary. Recorded in Iceland and Los Angeles, the Kveikur album is hypnotic and keeps you coming back for more.


4ZERO - One CD that was overlooked in 2012 was the album The Star Child by the group known as Moon Of Ostara. The brainchild of guitarist / singer-songwriter Fred Laird, Moon Of Ostara is an offshoot of Fred’s work with Earthling Society. Primarily a 4 piece, all instrumental work by Fred and drummer / percussionist Jon Blacow, The Star Child album is a trippy (remember that word?) album filled with instrumental magic in the spirit of cosmic space music progenitors like Michael Rother, Ash Ra Tempel, Obscured By Clouds era Pink Floyd, that first Jefferson Starship album, Tangerine Dream and other late 1960s, early 1970’s artists. True to form, the album is described on the 4Zero website as being ‘A proto-druidic hallucinogenic journey into he realms of the star child.’ Attention space music fans: does it get any cooler than this?

Back in 2010, Ohio based guitarist Neil Jacobs released his 5th solo album Twelve String Guitar and in 2014 he follows up with The Peasant Sabbatical. The 13 track CD features a fresh album filled with Neil’s imaginative instrumental 12 string guitar-based sounds. Among the original tracks are traditional songs from places like Serbia and Bulgaria and there’s even a tribute to a 2006 massacre of Amish school children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that Neil has sagaciously turned into music on his 12 string guitar sound. Commenting on the title of his latest CD, Neil explains, ‘The Peasant Sabbatical” is a tongue in cheek description of my journey. I like to refer to the “Peasant Sabbatical” as one that you embark on willingly, and without the assurance of a guaranteed reward. At one point we toyed with using the tarot “Fool Card” to represent the CD, meaning that the peasant sabbatical was undertaken with naiveté and perhaps misplaced confidence. Many of my travels were serendipitous, and certainly off the beaten path.’ In his track by track liner notes, Neil takes you through the discography information for each track while also mentioning the various musicians that accompany his instrumental arrangements. The Peasant Sabbatical is a fantastic, global journey of instrumental music created by a master of the 12 string acoustic guitar.

- Over in the good city of Barcelona, Spain a new band called Exxasens is exploring a new hybrid guitar instrumental sound with the release of their acclaimed Satellites CD. Comprised of a mix of instrumental space-rock, post-rock and ambient rock, the band’s 8 track CD on Aloud Music will be of interest to fans of 21st century new wave industrial, post rock bands such as Explosions In The Sky with other guitar influences such as The Edge of U2 and even Andy Summers of The Police. Coming from Spain, the guitar-centric album release is Spain’s latest addition to the worldwide instrumental guitar sound. The four piece band rocks hard and throughout features the razor sharp guitar work of Jordi Ruiz. Another fine new pop-rock band on Aloud, this one with vocals is the band Fira Fem, who tap into a post modern new pop sound with the 2013 CD release of Madrid. The four piece band sings in English and features the voice and guitars of Óscar de la Fuente with additional synth guitar work from Manuel Cachero. Again, in this album there’s a definite influence from The Police and even other post 1980’s rock.

- Echoing the works of great rock violinists such as Eddie Jobson, U.K. based Anna Phoebe is turning heads around with her 2013 CD release entitled Embrace. Although the CD EP has only four tracks that clock in around 20 minutes total, there’s plenty of stimulating sounds here. Anna gets solid backup from her band including Nicolas Rizzi (guitar) and Franceso Lucidi (drums). There’s even a tabla player on hand to make things even more spicy. Ms. Phoebe cites Roxy Music, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Jethro Tull among her big influences. Being all instrumental, the Embrace album will find a home with progressive rock fans as well as classical music buffs with an open ear to instrumental rock experimentalism. Either way, Anna Phoebe presents the art of instrumental rock violin in an exciting new light.

Baltimore-based guitarist Carl Filipiak returned in 2013 with a solid live album of instrumental jazz-rock fusion entitled Live At The Cat’s Eye. A group effort featuring Carl Filipiak And The Jimi Jazz Band, the seven track album was recorded in 2011 and 2012 and features a number of Filipiak originals as well as covers of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and Billy Cobham’s “Stratus”. Earlier, Carl recorded the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper classic “A Day In The Life” in the spirit of Jeff Beck and likewise, his take of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a real treat for jazz guitar fans. Featuring Carl backed up by his band, the Jimi Jazz Band, the sound is very much straight ahead jazz-rock with nods to greats like Jeff Beck, John Scofield and even from a rock guitar standpoint, Peter Frampton. Carl gets excellent support from his trio band members including three different bass players—Mike Pope, Steve Zerlin and Matt Everhart—as well as Paul Hannah (sax) and Frank Young (drums). The songs range in style from near progressive fusion to a funkier brand of jazz-rock. Filipiak is a huge Beatles fan and his cover of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is one of the best instrumental versions of the track to date. Even with his leanings as a fusion guitar interpreter of classic rock, Carl readily admits, ‘When I was a teenager, I loved both The Beatles and Miles Davis, but I couldn’t figure out how to put them together. Then Hendrix came along and showed the way.’ Fans of Hendrix, Miles and The Beatles will find something unique and interesting about Carl Filipiak’s brand of jazz-fusion. In the CD liner notes, Geoffrey Himes discusses Carl’s affinity for Jimi Hendrix and how much the album follows in the wildly innovative Hendrix guitar style. Having released eight solo albums, with the 2014 CD release of Live At The Cat’s Eye, Carl Filipiak brings his brand of guitar centric fusion alive and well into the 21st century.

BASEMENT AVATAR RECORDS - Borrowing sounds and visions from progressive rock, neoclassical and 1960’s soundtrack scores, the band known as Proud Peasant has a winner on their hands with the 2014 CD release of their debut studio album, Flight. A solid 21st century progressive instrumental rock band, the Austin, Texas based Proud Peasant features the music of guitarist Xander Rapstine. The Proud Peasant bio cites band influences like King Crimson, Gryphon, Camel and Mike Oldfield and true to form, the CD actually reflects that. The Oldfield influence is perhaps the best comparison and fans of Mike’s early 1980s instrumental works will love this CD. Proud Peasant also cites other modern day prog-rock bands, yet being all instrumental, the sound is very eclectic. Proud Peasant’s Flight is very contemporary, yet very reflective and respectful music played by musicians who are boldly carrying the torch for progressive music forward and beyond into the great unknown of the 21st century.

BASHO MUSIC - An album of freewheeling, modern instrumental jazz, The Impossible Gentlemen features the talents of U.K. based piano virtuoso / composer Gwilym Simcock. Gwilym has worked with jazz giants like Kenny Wheeler, Bill Bruford and Bill Frisell and he now turns his focus to The Impossible Gentlemen album entitled Internationally Recognized Aliens, released in 2014 on the Basho Music label. Assisting Gwilym’s piano work are fine players like Mike Walker (guitars, compositions), Steve Swallow and Steve Rodby (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). With such a range of fine players on hand, you’d expect a very high quality of sound and that’s what you get. Mixing fine instrumentalists from the U.S. and the U.K. is a solid idea and for fans of modern, bop and free jazz in 2014, it doesn’t get a lot better than The Impossible Gentlemen. Much more late night, relaxing jazz as opposed to free or avant gard jazz, Internationally Recognized Aliens is smooth sounding without being lightweight, avant gard without being overly harsh. In other words, with Internationally Recognized Aliens, The Impossible Gentlemen hits a veritable sweet spot in 21st century modern jazz. www.Impossible

BCM ENTERTAINMENT - In a strange twist of fate, keyboardist / pianist Brian Culbertson rerecorded his first solo album, entitled Long Night Out, and in 2014 he has remade the album as Another Long Night Out, as a 20th anniversary. The catch here is that the album was remade with some of the finest players in contemporary jazz including David Benoit, Russ Freeman, Chuck Loeb, Steve Lukather and a whole lot more. commenting on remaking his first solo album, Culbertson adds, ‘For many years, I have wanted to remake the first album using real musicians and thought the 20th anniversary would be the perfect time. Another Long Night Out is a return to my roots as a contemporary jazz player. I always liked these songs and I even like them more now with real musicians playing them. The sound of 21st century contemporary jazz fusion is alive and well and thriving with the 2014 CD release of Brian Culbertson’s Another Long Night Out.

- Based in Canada and in Nashville, guitarist / producer Steve Dawson has recorded and released a wide range of instrumental and pop vocal music. As the creative founder of Black Hen Music, Steve has worked with a number of up and coming artists (check out his production of the Roxanne Potvin CD) but it’s Dawson’s work as a solo artist that has always excited guitar fans. Back in 2008, Steve released his instrumental Telescope CD, which featured him performing a number of guitars, both electric and acoustic, while backed up by a band including drummer Scott Amendola. On his 2014 solo album, entitled Rattlesnake Cage, the sound gets back to an all acoustic instrumental, finger style guitar picking / slide guitar format which borders on the rustic and rural. It takes quite a guitarist to entertain with just one guitar and Dawson is just that guitarist. The eleven cut Rattlesnake Cage album finds Steve getting back to the guitar form known as “American Primitive” that was first explored by legends like John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Among the guitars Steve plays on the CD are both 6 and 12 string acoustic, a National tricone guitar and a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar - all played without effects. A must hear for fans of Kottke, Ry Cooder and the late, great Bert Jansch, Steve Dawson’s Rattlesnake Cage is a stellar example of a master guitarist exploring the infinite possibilities of modern roots music. /

CELLAR LIVE - On her 2014 CD, A Meeting Of Minds, NYC based guitarist Sheryl Bailey takes a cue from the classic jazz guitar / organ trios of the past and the results put forward another solid jazzy instrumental offering. Sheryl rises to the occasion on her new 12 track CD, composing a range of instrumental originals that make the most of her jazzy guitar grooves. On A Meeting Of Minds, Sheryl joins forces with a solid trio, featuring Ron Oswanski (Hammond B-3) and Ian Froman (drums). One of the finest guitarists on the 21st century jazz guitar scene, Sheryl always preferred the warm and fuzzy sound of vintage jazz, eschewing the sometimes manic side of jazz-rock, so her new album may say 2014 yet the grooves take you back the time-honored instrumental jazz sound of the 1950’s and ‘60s and the timeless sound of organ trio greats like Charles Earland, Groove Holmes and the king of the B-3, Jimmy Smith. Commenting on the album in the liner notes of the CD, Sheryl explains, ‘I named this recording A Meeting Of Minds, because it is a testament to what happens when you keep a group working, hanging and touring together. For me, this is the ultimate experience in having a band.’ Recorded in New Jersey and released by the Cellar Live record label, A Meeting Of Minds features in depth liner notes by both Sheryl and music journo Jim Carlton. /

- Jazz guitar ace Fareed Haque was signed to Sting’s Pangaea label back in the late 1990’s and he’s also recorded for Blue Note Records among other famous labels. Fareed’s 2014 album, entitled Out Of Nowhere is a solid jazz trio album featuring his guitar skills paired with Billy Hart (drums) and George Mraz (bass), along with other musicians who play on various tracks. The Chicago based guitarist has worked with some of the greats including Sting, Joe Zawinul, Ramsey Lewis and countless others yet on his own albums, the sound is pure guitar instrumental. With a heritage that includes Pakistani and Chilean background, Fareed is not a stranger to including exotic instrumentation in his music and several tracks on Out Of Nowhere feature the sound of tablas, an instrument that isn’t uncommon in south Asian music. Fareed also played in an offshoot band called Garaj Mahal and after that that band, the group MathGames in which he performs moog guitar. Even with his exotic musical inclinations, on Out Of Nowhere, the sound is pretty straight ahead guitar jazz for most of the tracks, with the occasional tabla and electronica etching to spice things up. Most of the tracks are originals but several covers, including a brilliant cover of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” adds fuel to the sonic fire here. Taken as a whole album, Fareed Haque’s Out Of Nowhere is a bold sonic statement from a world class guitarist.

CUNEIFORM RECORDS - The 2014 CD release of Static Motion by the Swiss band Sonar is certain to be one of the year's most acclaimed albums of experimental electric guitar music. Featuring the interlocking guitar sound of Stephan Thelen and Bernard Wagner, this first Sonar CD release on the highly regarded Cuneiform Records label also features key contributions by Christian Kuntner (bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums). In critically acclaimed write-ups and reviews, much has been made of the tritone guitar sound of Sonar and for a cross-reference on the band’s influences you might look to early Mahavishnu Orchestra and shades of King Crimson’s work circa 1973. As expected and as delivered on Static Motion, Sonar defines the art of experimental guitar music in the early 21st century. Completely instrumental, the net result of Static Motion is an experience akin to hearing the sonic equivalent of a fascinating M.C. Esher painting, complete with spiraling patterns of guitar sounds juxtaposed over hypnotic jazzy fusion rhythms. One could also cite Robert Fripp and certain works of California Guitar Trio as being comparable to the Sonar sound, yet with the 2014 CD release of Static Motion, Sonar stakes out a most unique musical terrain all their own.

DEEP EDDY RECORDS - Industrial strength instrumental surf-rock at its best, Kill, Baby...Kill! is a solid musical statement from the band known as Corridor X. Heavy metal meets surf / grunge is nothing new but in the hands of this rising band, the genre gets a new burst of life. The Atlanta, Ga. based Corridor X quartet is a solid band featuring Noah Holt (guitars), Chris Eagle (keys), Josh Jackson (drums) and Erek Smith (bass), backed up by several guest musicians. There’s actually 99 tracks on their CD but after the first 12 you’ll have to sit through minutes of silence to get to track 99! It’s all done in good taste though, so if hard rock / heavy metal meets surf-rock is your thing, look no further than Corridor X.

DELTA GROOVE MUSIC - One of the preeminent blues labels in the world today, Delta Groove has a fine instrumental blues album out by harmonica virtuoso Bob Corritore. Bob’s 12 track Delta Groove CD is called Taboo. Releasing an album of all blues-based harmonica instrumentals is a pretty daring idea but thanks to the variety of musicians on board, Bob’s CD is always entertaining. The CD features liner notes by esteemed blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite who adds, ‘Bob really nails the ‘50s Chicago Chess sound, but also exhibits modern ideas.’ Among the guitar greats taking part in Taboo include blues icons Jimmie Vaughan and Junior Watson while the CD also features a wide range of musicians including three drummers. Most of the tracks on Taboo are Corritore originals yet, start to finish, the sound is very authentic and will please fans of the blues as well as fans of blues-rock guitar based instrumentals. Extra points for the very “taboo” looking CD cover art.

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON RECORDS - Best known as the gifted daughter of the late great sitar master Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar released her latest masterpiece called Traces Of You in 2013. Anoushka’s CD release on Deutsche Grammophon is filled with a fantastic mix of sitar flavored Indian sounds flavored with various sonic spices from electronica, jazz and Western classical music. Key to the sound of Traces Of You is Anoushka’s collaboration with fellow Indian music explorer and acclaimed artist in his own right, Nitin Sawhney, who adds in various performances on guitars, programming and piano as well as handling various production chores. The sound of Traces Of You is mostly instrumental except for several vocal tracks performed by Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones—who is a celebrated pop star on her own. An excellent sitar player with the Shankar touch, Anoushka adds in one vocal of her own on the track “Metamorphosis”, which is just filled with a wild sense of sonic abandon. Fans of the Shankar family’s vast repertoire of incredible sitar filled Indian music and World music will love Anoushka’s incredible sounding Traces Of You.

- It’s quite true that World Music hero and icon Ravi Shankar passed away into the next world in San Diego on December 11, 2012. He was 92 years old. In the year before he passed, Ravi recorded two instrumental albums of new ragas and in 2013 they were released on California based East Meets West Music. The two albums are entitled The Living Room Sessions Part 1 and The Living Room Sessions Part 2. According to Ravi (from the CD liner notes), “At almost 92 years, I was fooling around at home in Encinitas, California with my sitar, playing pieces with Tanmoy Bose on tabla. We recorded seven ragas in four days in my living room and had a lot of fun.” Both Living Room Sessions CDs sound amazing and clearly demonstrate that even at 92, Ravi had all his marbles and musical skills in check. Liner notes written by Sukanya Shankar are quite praiseworthy, describing how even at an advanced age in human years, Ravi thoroughly enjoyed making what would turn out to be his final recorded works. East Meets West Music has done a great job preserving and reinstating these final albums from the great man and humanitarian who introduced Indian music and specifically, the sitar to music lovers of the Western world. Lastly, East Meets West also has another Ravi related album—a tribute album to Ravi featuring Hindustani vocalist Ashwini Bhide DeshpandeArghyam (“The Offering”) which is part of a series celebrating the life, music and legacy of Ravi, entitled Utsav! Ravi fans owe it to themselves to give a listen to these excellent and superbly packaged CDs. /

- Over in Spain, El Toro Records are keeping the spirit of the late 1950’s / early ‘60s alive and well with the 2013 CD release of Impacto Inminente by instrumental rockers Los Mambo Jambo. A mix of rootsy instrumental rock and roll with a touch of surf-rock sounds, the 10 track CD clocks in under a half hour yet there’s plenty of action-packed instrumental rock on hand to keep even the most ardent instro rock fan happy. The instrumentation of the five piece band is pretty straightforward with guitarist Mario Cobo sounding like a young, super-energized Duane Eddy, while sax honker Dani Nel-Lo gives the sound a fresh vital groove. The CD cover art is also first rate and fits the frantic balance of the sound. Fans of American surf-instro pioneers like Duane Eddy, Link Wray, The Ventures and modern instro rockers Los Straitjackets will enjoy this rockin’ powerful CD from Los Mambo Jambo.

Bass ace and multi-instrumentalist Erik Scott is one among a few select rock musicians who made a successful foray into the world of experimental jazz-rock and even borrows from what some dare to still call New Age. Erik Scott’s 2014 CD, And The Earth Bleeds is filled with such a wide range of instrumental and pop/rock vocal music, it will make your head spin. Erik’s 2011 CD, Other Planets was an instrumental music classic, although on And The Earth Bleeds he blends in several vocal tracks amid his instrumental excursions. Erik Scott’s sonically adventurous bass work on And The Earth Bleeds continues to amaze, while some of the instrumental tracks feature special sounding instruments such as pedal steel guitar. Commenting on the unique sound of his new album, Erik explains, ‘Bleeds differs from Other Planets in the strong use of the medieval violin, the Scottish / Celtic melodies, and the use of vocals on some tracks. I continued to go for cool sounds on the electric bass, especially on the melodic lines, but the 'outer space' vibe is less, I think.’ Drawing on an expansive sonic palate, Erik Scott cites Pink Floyd, Ennio Morricone and Michael Manring among his influences yet the sound on And The Earth Bleeds is also quite unusual and personal. As he did on Other Planets, Scott masterfully blends in a wide range of sonic electronic effects that he uses, in his words, ‘to enhance the otherworldliness of the music.’ Erik Scott’s music history includes time in the bands of Alice Cooper, Flo & Eddie and the group Sonia Dada. Erik Scott's musical legacy continues to flourish with the superb contemporary fusion sound of And The Earth Bleeds.

FAVOR PRODUCTIONS - Mixing hip-hop rhythms with the sound of contemporary jazz instrumental music is a great idea and the concept comes to life on the 2014 CD release of Tell You Something by saxophone master Sam Rucker. With eight original tracks and three classic covers, Tell You Something is filled with a stellar mix of hip-hop, vintage R&B, gospel etchings and of course improvisational jazz nuances. Rucker gets excellent support from a number of musicians, including jazz legend Norman Connors, who is further praised here with a Rucker cover of the Connors classic “You Are My Starship”. The CD sounds great thanks to top notch mixing and mastering by Euge Groove. Several female vocalists add in some background vocals that serves to enhance the instrumental nature of the album. Commenting on his latest instrumental jazz masterpiece, the Virginia-based Rucker adds, ‘My desire as an artist is not only to entertain, but to be a communicator - to connect with the listener in such a way that they are encouraged and inspired by my music. Even as an instrumentalist, I believe my music speaks lyrically and I use it to convey an unlifting message.' Sam Rucker’s Tell You Something is contemporary instrumental jazz at its finest.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA - Back in 1975, the Virgin Records label could do no wrong. Having already established Mike Oldfield as a world class artist, Richard Branson, Simon Draper and company turned their focus to great progressive artists in other countries. Case in point was the France-based group called Clearlight, who released their fantastic Clearlight Symphony album on Virgin. Fitting in with other Virgin artists like Gong and their guitarist Steve Hillage, Clearlight and their leading light Cyrille Verdeaux went on to release a number of albums in their long history. Lo and behold, Cyrille and Clearlight are back in 2014 with an album of brand new music magic that sounds like the past 38 years never happened. Which means of course that the 2014 CD release of The Impressionist Symphony is a fantastic comeback. In the spirit of that first Clearlight Symphony album on Virgin, the 2014 CD release of The Impressionist Symphony is filled with a wealth of progressive instrumental music and there’s also contributions from Gong legends Steve Hillage (guitars), Tim Blake (synth / keys) and Didier Malherbe (winds) A number of other artists contribute adding to the symphonic and progressive nature of Clearlight’s new eight cut, 65 minute CD. Gonzo Multimedia has done a great job on the CD release and the booklet is filled with pictures of all the artists including producer Don Falcone, who plays tubular bells! Even if you missed the first, fabled Clearlight Symphony album back in the 1970s, Clearlight’s masterpiece, The Impressionist Symphony is a great way to experience the magic of a veritable progressive rock legend. /

HELP RECORDS - The sound of guitar instrumental music is alive and well on the 2013 CD from the Switzerland based band known as Joeland Guitar Sound. Essentially the work of father and son guitarist Roland Siegfried and Joel Siegfriend, Joeland Guitar Sound features several other fine players who round out the band sound. On their rockin’ 14 track CD, Joeland picks out some great songs to cover here including the Beatles’ classic, “The Ballad Of John & Yoko”, Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” and the Shadows’ classic “Round And Round”—all done instrumentally in the style of The Shadows and the multitude of bands they influenced. Fans of Hank Marvin, Albert Lee, The Beatles, The Ventures and all the great instro bands and artists over the years will get a definite buzz from Joeland Guitar Sound.

HKJ MUSIK - Back in the 1980’s, guitarist Dan Jonsson was a member of the short-lived , yet highly influential instrumental rock band called Triangulus. The band featured members from the influential Swedish bands Ragnarök and Samla Mammas Manna. Also on hand for the first Triangulus album was the late great Björn J:son Lindh. Nearly 30 years later Don is back in a big way with the first album, entitled Snow Tears from his band Tow Truck Two. The band is very much rooted in the Triangulus mold yet also has a few interesting side effects. Rounding out the 3T sound is another guitarist called Hans Thunberg, along with the rhythm section of Olle Stockman (bass) and Anders Jogstam (drums). High powered processed guitars merge, with stunning effects, with the solid rhythm section on a CD that is best described as being 21st century progressive instrumental rock. Fans of Ragnarök and Triangulus will completely enjoy this wildly diverse and entertaining instrumental rock album from Sweden.

HOME RECORDS - Very European influenced instrumental music in the spirit of Philip Glass and bands like Holland’s Flairk, the Belgium based Aranis continues making waves with their 2012 opus called Made In Belgium. All instrumental, Made In Belgium cites a number of influences, including early rock in opposition band Universe Zero, as well as Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Bartok, Bach, Mike Oldfield and a whole lot more. With only acoustic instruments—including guitars, piano, strings, accordion, strings and more—Aranis manages to get a decisive chamber rock fusion sound that is both pleasant and challenging at the same time. A number of composers are covered here, including Wim Mertens and Roger Trigaux and Daniel Denis, the latter two legends of fellow Belgium band Universe Zero. Kindred spirit, King Crimson’s Trey Gunn manages a cameo appearance on this CD as well. There’s also something quite cinematic about Aranis, as their music has a definite soundtrack quality that must be quite amazing to behold in a concert setting. Aranis and their latest classic Made In Belgium successfully merges both neoclassical sounds and rock (in thinking) in a most pleasurable 21st century sonic setting. Give a listen to Aranis and check out their five albums so far released, including RoqueForte (Aranis IV - 2010) and Songs From Mirage (Aranis III - 2009). Keep an ear out for the next Aranis opus, Made In Belgium II, coming in late 2014. /

IAN NEAL RECORDS - U.K. keyboardist Ian Neal released a fine CD called Astro in 2013. It’s mostly instrumental prog-rock but several tracks do feature Neal’s vocal skills. It’s hard to describe who he sounds like but there’s some majestic, Sci-fi space music inspired rock sounds running throughout the CD. Fans of Pink Floyd with Richard Wright (circa Wish You Were Here) and Roine Stolt and his Flower Kings band will find much to like about Ian Neal and his keyboard based music. Towering synths and all forms of rock electronica meld into one unique wall of sound on this harmonious sounding 7 track, 49 minute album, which up to now, unfortunately is available only as a digital download. Commenting on his musical approach on Astro, Ian adds, ‘My aim is that every piece produced is exquisitely constructed, intriguing and will not tire of being played again and again.’ On that front alone, clearly Ian Neal has succeeded on his prog-rock opus called Astro.

INTI PRODUCTIONS RECORDINGS - Based in L.A., guitarist Ciro Hurtado was born in Peru and settled in California. Ciro’s sixth solo album, released in 2012, is appropriately entitled Los Angeles Blues. In the spirit of John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Ciro’s acoustic guitar music is all instrumental and is alternatively jazz and kind of classically based with New Age with slight Latin and Flamenco guitar undertones. A guitarist with a multifaceted musical personality, Ciro Hurtado covers a whole lot of ground on the appealing and relaxing guitar-centric sounds of Los Angeles Blues.

J&R ADVENTURES - If you’re an instrumental jazz-rock fusion fan, the CD/DVD release of Rock Candy: Funk Party Takes New York - Live At The Iridium will be music to your ears. It might have been just a matter of time before blues-rock guitar hero Joe Bonamassa threw his hat into the fusion / instrumental arena yet with this 2 CD / 1 DVD set he does so with style. Released on the J&R Adventures label, the double CD and DVD set features Joe and a solid band rocking out at the fabled Iridium night club in midtown Manhattan. The Iridium is a small place but the walls were shaking that night! Joe gets excellent backup from his band which includes Tal Bergman (drums), Ron DeJesus (2nd guitar), Mike Merritt (bass), Renato Neto (keys) and Daniel Sadownick (percussion). Clearly the musical ESP on these live tracks is quite astonishing. Recorded and filmed during the course of three nights in June 2013, Live At The Iridium is a pure instrumental groove fest that features an electrifying mix of jazz-rock, rock instrumental and of course funk grooves. Watching and hearing Bonamassa delving into these instrumental jazz-rock-funk tracks is a wonder to behold and these guys keep it totally real and work up quite a sweat in the process. There’s a DVD/Blu-ray version while the DVD/2CD set is an excellent sounding choice for audio buffs. The packaging and overall sound and vision is excellent and there’s also a 30 minute documentary on the DVD, plus a colorful booklet filled with pics and notes from all the players here. Fans of Joe Bonamassa’s blues-rock sound should give a listen to his latest, and totally rockin’ instro jazz-funk forays with Rock Candy Funk Party.

LMB MUSIC - Featuring studio production by famed producer / New Age music conceptualist Will Ackerman, the 2014 CD release of Emergence is the finest album yet from acoustic / finger-style guitarist Lawrence Blatt. The 12 track, all instrumental album should be right up the alley among fans of Ackermans’s world renowned Windham Hill Records. Recorded in Ackerman’s Vermont-based Imaginary Road studio, Emergence features Lawrence working with Ackerman’s “A-list” of solo instrumentalists including violinists Charlie Bisharat and Lila Sklar, Eugene Friesen (cello), Sam Bevan (double bass), Jill Haley (English horn), Richard “Gus” Sebring (French horn) and Jim Rothermel (penny whistle). Earlier album releases, including Fibonacci’s Dream and The Color Of Sunshine were both critically acclaimed, yet the release of Emergence brings Lawrence Blatt's guitar-centric brand of instrumental music to a whole higher level. The sound on Emergence is more 21st century guitar-based mood music than meditative acoustic instrumental, yet there’s elements of both that should have wide crossover appeal not just among contemporary art music aficionados but also among guitar fans looking for an eclectic acoustic instrumental music experience. For Emergence, Blatt states that his compositional style was influenced by a ‘world full of complex patterns and seemingly unexplainable order, from the beauty of an individual snowflake to the migration patterns of birds and butterflies.’ The unexplainable complexity of life and the miracle of sound is brought under the sonic microscope on Lawrence Blatt’s excellent Emergence CD.

LONE RIDER RECORDS - U.K. guitarist Peter Williams returned in 2013 with, Remembering Roy Orbison: Only The Lonely, a guitar instrumental tribute to the late great Roy Orbison. Most fans of legendary American rock ‘n’ roll remember Roy as the voice and artist behind song classics like “Oh! Pretty Woman”, “Only The Lonely”, “Dream Baby” and countless others. An ace guitarist with a great ear, Peter Williams is the perfect choice to reinterpret Orbison’s music in a guitar instrumental setting as he does so tastefully here. Covering 16 tracks associated with Orbison as guitar instrumentals, Remembering Roy Orbison is rounded out by six additional “bonus” instrumental covers including tracks written by Sonny Curtis, Danny Whitten, Goffin-King and more. Clearly, Williams is most comfortable in the setting of 1960’s music as he has proven on his other instrumental guitar-based tribute albums to Elvis Presley, John Leyton, The Shadows and others. What’s even more amazing is that Peter performs all the instruments himself and the sound of the CD is first rate. Fans of Orbison, as well as fans of classic late 1950’s and 1960s music will enjoy the magic guitar instrumental sound of Peter Williams. The Only The Lonely Roy Orbison tribute CD is a great introduction to Peter’s unique guitar / tribute approach to now classic music. In addition, the inside of the CD booklet features extensive liner notes by Peter discussing the significance of Roy Orbison’s timeless, magical pop melodies.

LUCAS LEE MUSIC - The influence of King Crimson, and all their various members over the years, has had a very positive impact on 21st century music and recording musicians. Case in point is the 2014 CD release called Normalcy Bias, the second album by Canadian-bred, California-based guitarist Lucas Lee. On his seven track CD, his second album, Lucas is joined by King Crimson thumper Pat Mastelotto, who adds in some of his typically fantastic drumming. With Lucas playing all the guitars, keys and bass, backed by Pat, the sound of Normalcy Bias is very futuristic instrumental jazz-rock that sort of invents a new kind of prog-rock sound. There’s no shortage of innovative guitar-centric ideas here that, while influenced by King Crimson, is not wholly derivative of their various sounds. In other words, Lucas Lee’s Normalcy Bias is an original sounding sonic masterpiece of 21st century, progressive instrumental art-rock that will find a good home with jazz-rockers, prog-rockers and art-rockers, young and old.

M.A.C.E. - Heavy metal is a hit or miss affair, especially when it comes to the guitar. That much heaviness can be a burden for some listeners, for others, it's a panacea to solve their sonic ills. One guitarist sure to gain acclaim among hard rock and heavy metal guitar fans is Michael Angelo Batio and his all instrumental CD Intermezzo. Clearly, Batio can excel in almost any type of guitar setting, yet he’s chosen the guitar art form of heavy metal instrumental as the vehicle for his fretboard art forms. A number of musical friends assist Batio on Intermezzo including George Lynch, Guthrie Govan, Chris Poland and a whole lot more. Suffice to say, the guitar work is fast and furious with hardly a note out of place. Some of it is more melodic and more easily accessible than other tracks but for a guitarist that has been described the “number one fastest guitarist of all time”, Intermezzo is quite a powerful musical statement. Hard rockers and heavy metal instrumental fans don’t miss Michael Angelo Batio.

MUSEA - Going strong since 1999, Madrid, Spain based Kotebel released an underrated CD in mid 2012 called Concerto For Piano And Electric Ensemble. Kotebel cites a number of prog-rock legends as influences including Keith Emerson, Gentle Giant, PFM, YES and classical icons like Ravel and Stravinsky. The all instrumental nature of their sound is very wide ranging but the album successfully merges avant-garde rock fusion, classical rock and even some Spanish classical influences as well. Kotebel’s Concerto album features five talented musicians including, guitarist / composers César García Forero, who gets solid backing from his Kotebel band mates. Also included in the CD is a flexi type of DVD that looks great and shows on video what virtuosos these musicians are. Fans of symphonic prog-rock—complete with searing electric guitars, syncopated drum / bass workouts and mellotron sounds galore—will get a real charge off of Kotebel’s elegant instrumental rock sound.

MVD VISUAL - As a founding member of Emerson Lake & Palmer, drummer Carl Palmer has always had a loyal fan base and they come out for Carl Palmer - Decade: 10th Anniversary Celebrating The Music Of Emerson Lake & Palmer. Of course without Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, ELP drummer Carl Palmer soldiers on with near hard rock / heavy metal versions of ELP classics of the past, all done instrumentally. Firing on all cylinders live in 2011 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Palmer’s band features a solid power trio sound with electric guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick. For this nearly two hour live DVD from the Carl Palmer Band, larger pieces, like the large scale rock concept work “Pictures At An Exhibition” and the side long "Tarkus" are given instrumental, guitar-centric power trio versions that can’t compare to the originals and the reason they work here is they don’t try to be. Transcribing the original Emerson keyboard parts and Lake’s vocals to be played instrumentally is a pretty bold move that presents an innovative melodic hard rock overview of ELP’s classical rock approach in a live concert setting. Combining a complete concert and interviews with the musicians, as well as producer Bruce Pilato, is a neat way to bring Carl Palmer’s illustrious prog-rock legacy alive and kicking into the 21st century.

MVD AUDIO / DADGAD MUSIC - One of the most renowned acoustic guitarists in the world, Pierre Bensusan is feted with the 2014 release of Encore. Essentially a 3 CD, 35 track showcase for Bensusan’s live perfromaces, the three hour Encore CD set, subtitled 40 Years Of An Open Mind: Travel Journal, spans four decades of music going back to 1975. At its best Pierre’s relaxing music is mostly instrumental although Encore does feature several of his French language vocal tracks. Music fans will note that there’s also several tracks here featuring Pierre performing with Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess from 1998. Although the 3 CD Encore set was planned to only include tracks from 1998 to 2013, disc 2 here starts off with five tracks from May 1975. Bensusan’s guitar based music has been called jazz, Celtic folk instrumental and even New Age, yet as he proves throughout Encore, his music is very hard to typify. Commenting on Encore, Pierre adds, ‘I would say that Encore is probably my most truthful recording ever, because the studio is not always a very dangerous place. These are moments in time reflecting ways of approaching these songs that I never did before and never did again.’ The constant factor throughout Encore is Pierre’s sense of fretboard perfection, especially, as expressed here, in front of his appreciating fans. In addition, the 38 track 3 CD Encore set features a booklet with in-depth liner notes by Pierre, complete discography information of all the tracks here, along with rare pics of Pierre through the years. Encore is the definitive document of Pierre Bensusan live in concert.

The music of the late, great Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim has remained a constant source of inspiration for both musicians and music lovers as well. Inspired by Jobim’s magical bossa nova jazz sound, Florida-based guitarist Les Sabler released a great sounding album of Jobim’s timeless music appropriately entitled Jobim Tribute. On the 2014 CD release of Jobim Tribute, Les chose to cover some of Jobim’s most popular tunes as well as some lesser known Jobim classics. Although he’s best known as a guitar instrumentalist, Les also demonstrates his vocal talents on several tracks here that he sings in both English and Brazilian. As if to further demonstrate his affinity for Jobim’s music, Les traveled to Brazil in 2010, immersing himself in the rich history of Brazilian music while exploring the places that Jobim himself was inspired by. Most of the songs here are from the 1960’s, while the CD opener “A Felicidade (Happiness)” was actually featured as the opening song in the 1959 film Black Orpheus. Another highlight here is a fine Sabler cover of Jobim’s classic “Triste” from his highly influential 1967 Wave album. Les has chosen to surround himself with excellent musicians for the Jobim Tribute album including Clay Perry (keyboards), Celso Alberti (drums), Tom Zink (string arrangements) as well as the late, great percussionist Joe Lala, who passed away shortly after this album was recorded. Track by track liner notes by Scott Yanow takes you through the album’s discography information. Les Sabler’s other album releases feature combined elements of jazz, fusion, Latin music and contemporary jazz and the 2014 CD release of Les’ Brazilian music homage—Jobim Tribute is a most welcome development in the musical progression of one of America’s finest jazz guitarists.

NORTHERN SPY - Over in Australia, the band known as The Necks are making sonic waves with their 2013 CD entitled Open. The CD is very much experimental jazz and possibly avant gard / neoclassical in scope, but there’s so many amazing sounds on hand, you’ll be at a loss for a more accurate description. The CD is elegantly packaged and the studio sound is excellent so overall, Open truly does justice to the concept of the CD as a viable 21st century sonic art form. To their credit and estimation, The Necks have a number of CD releases in their catalog, with the first dating back to 1989. Described as making “lengthy pieces which slowly unravel in the most mesmerizing fashion”, The Necks’ Open features a solid interplay between members Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums) and Lloyd Swanton. In fact, the entire Open album is one long 68 minute pieces that builds slowly into a kind of Tubular Bells/ Eno-esque type of sonic opus. Jazz buffs and minimalist instrumental music fans who enjoy experimental jazz that borders on a very unique type of 21st century minimalist New Age instrumental sound will find much to enjoy about The Necks’ latest masterpiece Open.

OKEH RECORDS / SONY MASTERWORKS - Sony Music has been coming through of late with their reactivation of the OKeh Records (pronounced ‘okay’) imprint, now a part of their Masterworks line. A great new Bill Frisell album from 2013 called Big Sur reintroduced OKeh (correct spelling) to music listeners again and guitar lovers will also take note of a worthy 2014 instrumental music CD entitled Golden Age by New York guitarist Nir Felder. Concerning the title of his CD, Nir chimes in and wonders whether there really ever was a “golden age” in history. I can imagine younger guitarists and music lovers who didn’t have the good luck to grow up in the 1960s and early 1970s, yet with all the wars and assassinations American youth suffered through during the 1960s, was even that a golden age? So, looking back Nir adds, ‘Has there really ever been one? The question is always, according to whom? So there is a lack of clarity about whether things are going great or they’re really bad, and the music reflects that.’ Best part of Nir Felder’s Golden Age are the sublime sounding all original instrumentals that borders on jazz and even jazz-rock. Some of the songs feature snippets of political speeches from all types of political figures—from Hilary Clinton and Richard Nixon (talk about polar opposites!) to Elie Wiesel and even Lou Gehrig. Those voice overs are strategically inserted into the mix (on just a couple tracks) yet it adds to the tension of Nir’s evocative instrumental tracks. Although he’s a diehard jazzbo, Nir is also a smart 21st century fusion guitarist, one who’s well aware of the greats who passed before him and wiser for that. Although the CD is predominantly guitar-centric, Nir’s band is first rate and his album features excellent studio support from Aaron Parks (piano), Matt Penman (bass) and Nate Smith (drums). There’s way too many sonic highlights to mention here, but the 9+ minute “Memorial” is a great, somber and sobering track, filled with electrifying dirge-like guitar motifs sure to make listeners sit up and notice. With Golden Age, Nir Felder brings the art of instrumental, guitar based jazz-fusion to a higher level. /

PROMOTION MUSIC RECORDS - The sounds of native American flutes and a number of other intriguing instruments form the core of the CD called Sacred Spaces. With the flutes sound of Peter Phippen at the center, the ten track CD also features a number of other instruments played by Enrique Rueda (harps, kantele, tambor) and Rahbi Crawford (crystal bowls and crystal pyramid). The sound of Sacred Spaces is totally relaxing New Age meditation music. The playing of all the musicians is excellent and the moods are truly magical. The CD packaging comes with a complete bio and background of each of these renowned musicians.

PROPELZ - Back in 1968, guitar ace and master singer-songwriter Jeremy Spencer was a key member of the original Fleetwood Mac. In a harrowing twist of sonic fate, following the Mac’s brilliant Kiln House album from 1970, Jeremy actually left the Mac. After releasing a pair of great solo albums in the early 1970s, Jeremy was basically never heard from again till his long awaited comeback, entitled Precious Little in 2006. In 2014, Jeremy returns again with Coventry Blue, an excellent album that basically puts his legacy back up in the spotlight again. A mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks, the music on Coventry Blue echoes Jeremy’s amazing work in Fleetwood Mac during the late 1960s and very early 1970s. Jeremy was never really noted for his instrumental compositions, yet on Coventry Blues there’s a range of great guitar-centric instrumentals that eerily echoes the work of Jeremy’s one time band mate in the Mac, the nearly long, lost Danny Kirwan. Track 14 of the 15 track CD, entitled “The World In Her Heart” is simply one of the greatest instrumentals ever composed by either Jeremy, Peter Green or Danny. Fans of Danny and great Mac albums like Then Play On and Kiln House will love Coventry Blue. The album features a number of fine musicians and was superbly produced by Jeremy and long time, original Fleetwood Mac fan, guitarist Brett Lucas. The CD booklet features track by track notes by Jeremy discussing each of these memorable new songs. Original Fleetwood Mac fans don’t miss Coventry Blue.

- Dominic Miller is a guitarist’s guitarist. Having played as Sting’s guitarist, on every album since the 1991 release of The Soul Cages, Miller also has a solo career and his 2014 CD release Ad Hoc is well worth hearing. for Ad Hoc, Miller has put together a fine band including Rhani Krija (percussion), Lars Danielsson (bass, cello), Sebastian Studnitzky (trumpet) and fellow guitarist Dylan Fowler (lap steel). Dominic calls his album Ad Hoc for all the right reason, number one being the eclectic nature of the album. In the spirit of Sting, Miller excels in an eclectic form of instrumental guitar music while borrowing from jazz and pop. Ranging from low-key acoustic tracks to more developed fusion instrumentals, Ad Hoc is 21st century instrumental guitar music at its best. Commenting on Ad Hoc, Miller explains, ‘As with past albums, all the tunes are written fairly quickly. It’s the arranging that takes time. I love solving problems, like how to get from one key to the next and back 'home' successfully’. Overall, Ad Hoc is a solid follow up CD to Miller’s 2012 album on Q-Rious entitled 5th House (that album featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Pino Palladino). A fine showcase for Miller’s acoustic guitar work, Ad Hoc is a successful blend of 21st century jazz, chill out electronica, acoustic folk, contemporary classical and world music.

RARE NOISE RECORDS - Rare Noise continues on as one of the most adventurous free jazz meets progressive rock labels in the world with the 2014 CD release of Elec3Cities by the three piece band known as Chat Noir. Trying to put a name on the face of the music Chat Noir have made on this sonic masterpiece would be like trying to describe the color purple. There was a wild band from Sweden in the early 1970’s called Älgarnas Trädgård from back in 1972 and that wild sense of free form, dreamy progressive rock and jazz sound permeates this amazing Chat Noir album. Described on the Rare Noise web site as a mix of chamber music and jazz, Chat Noir features three gifted musicians: Michele Cavallari (keyboards), Luca Fogagnolo (bass) and Giuliano Ferrari (drums). Together on their 2014 Elec3Cities, their sound is both perplexing and sublime. Elec3Cities is clearly one of the most amazing sounding jazz meets prog-tronica, all instrumental albums of the decade.

RARE NOISE RECORDS - One of the most adventurous of all the 21st century free jazz labels is Rare Noise Records. Experimental, avant gard and prog-rock are all musical genres broached by Rare Noise and the 2014 CD release of the new album by Twinscapes is one of the label’s best. Twinscapes, the self-titled CD and the group features the dueling basses of Colin Edwin (most notably of Porcupine Tree) and Lorenzo Feliciati. Both Colin and Lorenzo are bass players and their self-titled Twinscapes album is an all-instrumental tour-de-force featuring contributions from the likes of the esteemed David Jackson (sax player from prog legends Van der Graaf Generator), Andi Pupato (drums) and Nils-Petter Molvaer (trumpet). Of course, the Twinscapes album is very much “out there” but the sonics, complete with all sorts of programming and electronica, hang together quite nicely and the CD is superbly recorded. Commenting on working with another bass player on the Twinscapes CD, Colin Edward explains, ‘I was familiar with Lorenzo’s band Naked Truth and also his solo album Frequent Flyer and had been toying with the idea of a dual-bass project with a bass player friend of mine. So, I immediately thought it was something worth doing as an experiment, at least.’ Music fans who enjoyed Colin’s amazing album from 2012 with guitarist Jon Durant, entitled Burnt Belief, will completely enjoy the similarly amazing musical atmospherics in play on the Twinscapes album.

REAL MUSIC - A CD certain to gain acclaim among fans of instrumental New Age music as well meditation / ambient / soundtrack albums is the 2014 Real Music CD release of Flow by the Danish artist known as Haiku. Essentially the creation of Danish electronic music synthesist Henrik Hytteballe, Flow is a masterpiece of transcendental synthesized sounds. Although Henrik has a background in both ambient instrumental and pop music, on Flow the sound is focused on sublime electronics and is more in the spirit of acclaimed Real Music artists such as Gandalf and Bernward Koch, but with a Danish twist. Although Haiku's Flow album was released in Denmark in 2009, it’s emergence as a Real Music worldwide release is a most welcome development for fans of ambient electronic instrumental music. With several releases in the Haiku catalog, Henrik’s specialty is in composing music for soundtracks and music for meditation and yoga, and there’s a definite sense of relaxing timelessness on the Flow CD. Henrik is also promising Haiku's much anticipated follow up to Flow, set for release in 2015. One of the most calming and reflective sonic experiences you could have, Haiku’s Flow is 21st century mood music at its finest.

REAL WORLD RECORDS - Headed up by Genesis founder Peter Gabriel, the Real World Records label has always been about experimental music that breaks new ground and challenges the status quo. The Real World label lives up to its name with the 2014 CD release of Utopia, by Tom Kerstens' G PLus Ensemble. All instrumental, the nearly 75 minute CD is chock full of daring musical moves, all headed up by Tom’s dazzling guitar work. Influences abound, including California Guitar Trio, Philip Glass and even some of Mike Oldfield’s work, and as such, centered upon acoustic music visions, Utopia is very much experimental and hypnotic at its core. The album also features outstanding contributions from arranger Artem Vassiliev, co-producer Joby Talbot and arranger and avant gard composer extraordinaire John Metcalfe. With Tom handling guitar and bass guitar, the album also features second guitarist Amanda Cook and a very Penguin Cafe Orchestra influenced string section called The Tippett Quartet that further fleshes out Kerstens' musical ideas. Utopia is a totally innovative and quite beguiling album of modern day avant gard neoclassical musical ideas from guitarist Tom Kerstens. / /

- One of the brightest stars of the American desert Southwest music scene is the group known as Reno del Mar. Back in 2010, Reno del Mar released their self-titled, critically acclaimed album and in 2014 they’re back with a new CD entitled For Rose. The Reno del Mar lineup still features the dual guitar sound of Phil Lipman and Mark Wilsey but this time out they’ve added a new sound with the addition of violinist Beth Dounis. The Reno del Mar sound is even fuller thanks to Beth’s violin sound, which brings an element of the symphonic to the mix. Recorded in Tucson, Arizona, For Rose sound is very much rooted in the American desert Southwest sound which mixes a nouveau flamenco instrumental guitar sound with a rustic Americana meets World Music vibe. Being all instrumental, the music on For Rose is very imaginative and the songs just breeze by with the album still sounding fresh after multiple spins. Both Wilsey and Lipman have in depth backgrounds in both guitar-based jazz and rock and, together with the addition of Beth Dounis, they infuse the Reno del Mar sound with a fresh, renewed energy that comes to life in living color on the For Rose album. Fans of nouveau flamenco and even 21st century classical instrumental will receive much enjoyment from Reno del Mar and their excellent For Rose album.

ROCKET GIRL / REVIVE RECORDS - In the spirit of late 1980’s instrumental rockers Love Tractor and more recently Explosions In The Sky, the band known as God Is An Astronaut make exploding rock sounds of their own on their 2013 CD entitled Origins. The 12 track CD from the country of Ireland features a devastating wall of instrumental rock sound that offers a solid showcase for guitarists Torsten Kinsella (guitar) and Niels Kinsella (bass) who get solid support from Jamie Dean (keys) and Lloyd Hanney (drums). Several other musicians add fuel to the sonic wall of fire here. GIAA’s Origins album is, ostensibly, mainly instrumental but some of the songs do feature vocals that are near buried, yet sort of morph into the mix without any discernible words. Sort of like a more instrumental, Irish equivalent of Sigor Ros, God Is An Astronaut will impress instrumental rock fans as well as all types of 21st century progressive rock / wall of sound electronica fans.

RUNE GRAMMOFON - Norway is known for its breathtaking scenery and icy cool guitarists. Of course the name Terje Rypdal comes to mind as being Norway’s greatest jazz rock guitarist. That said a newcomer named Hedvig Mollestad is raising eyes and ears as being a young, female fusion guitar ace. Still, the 2014 CD release of her new CD, Enfant Terrible must be a first at least regarding the news coming out of Norway. Hedvig is also being compared to Jimmy Page for sheer sonics, and one listen to the lead off track "Laughing John" confirms this fact. The Hedvig Mollestad Trio features the young jazz guitarist recording with Ellen Brekken (bass) and Ivar Loe Bjornstad (drums) and the result is a six track 36 minute CD that rocks and swings. Fans of instrumental jazz-rock, for something new and different, give a listen to guitarist Hedvig Mollestad.

RUNNING MOOSE / PRESENCE RECORDS - The revolution in sound created by the late, great Pekka Pohjola continues on in his native country. One label with a steady hand on the Finnish prog-rock and instrumental rock fusion pulse is Running Moose and its sub labels, Presence Records and Puuma Records, headed up by Matti Kervinen, himself a fine keyboardist and member of the group Pax Romana. One 2013 Running Moose CD release, entitled Foyers Of The Future is solid showcase by the band known as Moonwagon. Parts of this electrifying fusion affair harks back to the early 1980s and the heyday of Pekka Pohjola while Moonwagaon is also kind of futuristic sounding, not unlike a variation of some of the more progressive guitar-centric instrumental tracks recorded during the mid 1980’s by The Shadows. Some excellent guitar work by Joni Tiala adds sizzle to this fine example of 21st Century Finnish instrumental prog. Somewhere in heaven Pekka Pohjola is smiling down on Moonwagon. Commenting on carrying on the tradition of great Finnish instrumental progressive rock music, Moonwagon's Joni Tiala, in the following interview, told, 'Foyers Of The Future was a lot of fun, composing and rehearsing the material took a little less than a year. We wanted everything to be properly ready before going into the studio. Lots of the music came out just jamming together, and some of the songs were composed more precisely. Some ideas were really old, some ideas were just crazy but we really liked the material and felt comfortable with it. And we still do. Everybody had something to give.'

- Solo guitar instrumental music is a true musical art form. One guitarist recording solo on both electric and acoustic guitar is Sean Weaver, who is making waves with his 12 track, 2013 CD, Half Past Midnight. Very much rooted in the sweet-sounding chord melody style of fretboarding made famous by Chet Atkins, Weaver starts the all instrumental album off in style with his version of the classic jazz track “Little Rock Getaway”—a jazz standard made famous by Les Paul—and Weaver does the song justice. All the tracks here—a fine array of jazz standards along with covers of The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Don McLean—merge seamlessly under the watchful and faithful hands and ears of Sean Weaver. In his liner notes, Sean Weaver discusses jazz guitar legends such as Chet Atkins, Johnny Smith and Ted Green, as well as his fondness for Clapton and B.B. King. Fans of Les Paul and Chet Atkins will enjoy Sean Weaver’s guitar-centric universe.

SIBA RECORDS - Over in the country of Finland, the name Tolonen is considered gold when it comes to the guitar. True to form, a new Tolonen is making waves on the six string horizon. We’re talking about Otto Tolonen and his 2013 CD called Toccata. Otto’s album is very much rooted in classical guitar and on his new Siba Records CD, Toccata, he covers a number of guitar composers including Erik Bergman (SuitePour Guitare - from 1949) all the way through till Sauli Zinovjev (Elegietta - from 2013). The CD sounds excellent and the colorful album artwork and packaging is enhanced by in depth liner notes (in both Finnish and English) about Otto and all the composers covered here. /

SIBA RECORDS - Over in Finland, accordion master Antti Paalanen continues breaking new ground for the fabled instrument. Antti’s latest CD is called Breathbox and features nine tracks of solo accordion music. The sound is quite a mix of World Beat sounds (think Finnish folk-jazz) and a kind of alt-New Age instrumental sound. True, the CD is from 2010 (it’s 2014 now) but the timeless aspects of Antti’s sound give the album a long lasting appeal. The accordion holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Finns and Scandinavians in general, and when it comes to solo instrumental accordion music, it just doesn’t get any better than Antti Paalanen’s Breathbox CD.

SUNN CREATIVE - Cool name for a record company, Sunn Creative have a sunny and well created album out in 2014 from the UK band known as Bram Stoker. Funny enough no one in the band is actually named after the famed author but with the 2014 CD release of Cold Reading, Bram Stoker takes its place among the great prog bands of all time. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that these guys have been playing since 1969 and not many knew it! They should have been as big as at least Camel. Original founding keyboardist from 1969, Tony Bronsdon sounds well inspired by greats like Tony Kaye and even Keith Emerson although not as flashy. The most effective tracks are the instrumentals but guitarist / producer Tony Lowe, also from the early lineup adds pizzazz and the two are joined by several other musicians, including vocalist Will Hack on four tracks for a rockin’ time. There’s all kind of sonic sign posts along with the and some will find these guys obviously are in the same league Genesis, Camel, YES and all the greats, and Hack even sounds like John Wetton or Richard Sinclair. But, releasing an album of new music in 2014, Bram Stoker takes it a step into the future, sounding unpretentious yet well schooled. A cool rediscovery from Bram Stoker, Cold Reading is a most cool and effective 21st century prog-pop CD indeed.

SUPERBALL MUSIC - Produced by 65 Days Of Static and Dave Sanderson, the CD release of Wild Light is a startling listening experience. Recorded in the U.K. and released on L.A. based Superball Music, the CD is a great example of 21st century electronica with near dance floor rhythms, while the music is offset by a kind of avant gard music concrete, if you can imagine such a thing for cosmic chill-out disco. The menacing atmospherics and razor sharp synthesizer etchings are straight out of Pink Floyd’s arsenal of sonic tricks but the beat is heavier and faster. Being all instrumental, 65 Days Of Static makes music that will appeal to fans of adventurous instrumental rockers, from Tangerine Dream through to Explosions In The Sky. File under: industrial post-rock instrumental.

- Being raised as an American in New York City, one is never far away from his or her roots—roots as in other countries, some half way across the world. A good example of the Jewish cultural experience in old New York can be heard on the 2014 CD release of The Big Picture, by clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. Like it is for so many native New Yorkers of Eastern European descent, traditional Yiddish music (from Romania for example) was always in the mix. On The Big Picture, Krakauer Klezmer-izes famous movie soundtrack themes to which he adds, ‘For the music part, I’ve taken themes from iconic films with Jewish content and re-imagined them with a band of world-class musicians.’ The recorded music side is basically the soundtrack part that coincides with Krakaurer’s month long series of shows in February 2014 at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. So, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate The Big Picture because the all instrumental music fare is really excellent and features a mix of 21st century classical, jazz, avant gard and traditional Klezmer sounding arrangements played by an excellent band (featuring guitarist Adam Rogers, drummer Jim Black and more) as well as fantastic CD packaging and cover art, which should win a Grammy. Also on hand here are Sheryl Bailey (guitar) and Nikki Parrott (double bass). Krakauer and company’s take on Prokofiev’s “The March”, the arrangement as featured in Woody Allen’s movie Love And Death, is simply brilliant. In the end, David Krakauer’s The Big Picture truly transcends traditional cultural roots and metamorphosizes into something modern and innovative. /

THOSSOUNDS - One of the most intriguing instrumental guitar albums released during 2013, Unnamed Lands is a fantastic meeting of the musical minds, so to speak, between guitarist Bert Lams (of the California Guitar Trio) and fellow fretboard maven Tom Griesgraber. The 14 track, self-produced Unnamed Lands CD has just about every possible type of guitar sound on it—from lush, deep and meditative CGT type guitarscapes, to a more electric / eclectic type of guitar-esque fusion sound punctuated by Tom’s electrifying stick / loops / pedal and assorted synth / electronica sounds. Their album, Unnamed Lands is based around the early plight of early American settlers, exploring American lands in the 19th century in their covered wagons. From the following interview with Tom and Bert, Tom Griesgraber explains, 'The inspiration for us getting together was I think just one of a shared curiosity and love for music. We both listen to a very broad spectrum of music and have something of a common musical language that I think ultimately puts things like mood, atmosphere and feel above things like technique or complexity. Of course there are plenty of odd meters flying about and tricky instrumental parts but I’d like to think they take a back seat to actually conveying a sense of mood and a story through the music.' Unnamed Lands is all very Americana at its core, while the all instrumental sounds allows you to imagine the travails of early American explorers as you read along, track by track, in the fascinating, detailed CD booklet and expertly designed album packaging. Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber bring a new chapter of 21st century guitar expertise to the fore with the fascinating sounds of Unnamed Lands. /

TOUCAN TANGO MUSIC - There’s something so stately and eloquent about the sound of the trumpet, especially in jazz. That thought comes sharply into focus after hearing Pavane, the 2013 CD from U.K. trumpet master Paul Higgs. The 11 track, all instrumental CD is filled with a refined mix of atmospheric classical and jazz sounds—all featuring Paul’s masterful trumpet backed up by a range of musicians on drums, bass guitar and strings. Interestingly, Paul also plays piano on the Pavane album and the intricate recorded interplay between trumpet and piano is quite amazing. Paul’s varied musical background is in composing and arranging music for film, theater and TV so there is that appealing aspect running throughout the CD as well. Paul’s multi-textured instrumental music would sound great in the Albert Hall (or Carnegie Hall) as well as Ronnie Scott’s jazz club for that matter. Fans of crossover classical / jazz music, and especially trumpet fans, will enjoy Pavane by Paul Higgs.

ULTIMAE RECORDS - Carrying on the tradition of electronic music greats such as Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, Lyon, France based Ultimate scores another winner with their 2014 CD release of Passages. Subtitled Framed By Nova, the 12 track CD is actually the third Ultimae compilation by London-based DJ, promoter and music journalist Massimo Terranova. A 72+minute compilation feature a new mix of ambient electronica, Passages features a collection of classic Ultimae Records artists that presents a stunning cross-section of often startling but always arresting instrumental music that combines all manners of electronic music with minimal dub, chill-out sounds, atmospherica and down tempo sounds. Although many listeners enjoy Ultimae’s downloads, if you can find the CD of Passages you won’t be sorry because, as is the case with all Ultimae CDs, the packaging and presentation and artwork is fantastic and more than suits this impressive collection of 21st century electronica / instrumental sounds. Photo credits here by Giovanni Calemma are just staggering and add so much to the overall sonic experience. With a wide range of Ultimae artists—including AES Dana, James Murray, Miktek and Lars Leonard and many more—sonically remixed by Terranova, Passages is a fantastic electronic music experience that borders on the existential.

- Guitar legend Joe Beck passed away in 2008 and in honor of his vast jazz legacy Whaling City released Get Me Joe Beck by the Joe Beck Trio. Recorded live in 2006 at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley, California, the guitar hero is joined here by they rhythm section of Peter Barshay (bass) and Dave Rokeach (drums). In this live trio setting, that turned out to be his final recordings, Joe gets to shine while performing classics from the pens of Hoagy Carmichael, Jobim, Arthur Schwartz, Ira Gershwin, Victor Young and more. The tracks on Get Me Joe Beck are tunes most jazz buffs know inside out, yet the guitar magic of Joe Beck dusts them off so they shine again. The CD is filled with praiseworthy notes from Whaling City Sound founder Neal Weiss, music promoter and club owner Anna de Leon as well as a sum it up kind of quote from the late great Joe Beck.

Northern California based guitarist Jack Gates exhibits a mastery of a wide range of jazz guitar genres on the 2014 CD release of Voyage Of The Troubadour. Assisted by the fine rhythm section of Phil Thompson (drums) and Dean Muench (bass), as well as featuring the vocals of Sharyl Gates, the 12 track CD is best described as a mix of Latin, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban sounds all accented by Jack’s nimble fretboard work. Commenting on the title, Jack adds, ‘The traveling troubadour concept, was how music moved from place to place for hundreds of years. Generally, the music was made with just a couple of stringed instruments and maybe some percussion. On this album I wanted to capture that sort of sparseness with just a few instruments and occasional voice, and have the music subtly reflect different styles, motifs and rhythms that I have discovered and enjoyed playing during my career.’ As a guitar instrumentalist, Jack Gates proves his worth on his latest CD, while the addition of Sharyl's vocals on several tracks adds to the overall variety of music showcased here. Jack Gates' Voyage Of The Troubadour is a masterpiece of subtle and refined jazz guitar sounds.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Following his time as the first ever solo artist signing on Apple Records, Jackie Lomax joined the band Heavy Jelly. Originally planned for release on Apple Records, the self-titled Heavy Jelly album finally saw CD release in early 2014 on Angel Air. The 1970 album, consisting of eight Lomax originals, features a number of musicians including Animals drummer Barry Jenkens, as well as members of Badfinger and the horn section of Bobby Keys and Jim Price. The album is very much different the first Jackie Lomax album on Apple, Is This What You Want? Instead of the concise Beatles inspired pop songs on his Apple solo album, the songs on Heavy Jelly are well, more heavy, with some tracks presaging a more jam band type sound that would reemerge 30 years later in 2000. Angel Air’s Heavy Jelly reissue features in depth liner notes and complete lyrics of the album. Heavy Jelly follows Angel Air’s 2013 CD release of Jackie's final album, Against All Odds.

- Still featuring founding member Andy Scott, the band known as Sweet are still alive and kickin’ nearly 45 years since their first album in 1971. Sweet were part of the original glam rock movement and, while not quite as acclaimed as Bowie and T. Rex for example, the Sweet legacy lives on thanks to Angel Air’s 13 track CD of Hits. Essentially a rerecording of all the big Sweet hits, the Hits CD was recorded by the 2013 version of the band with only Andy Scott left from the original lineup. Also out on Angel Air by Sweet in 2013 is Sweetlife, an 11 track CD reissue of the 2002 Sweet album with all the tracks written by Andy Scott and keyboardist Steve Grant. Angel Air’s reissue of Sweetlife features in depth liner notes by James McCarraher. Sweet fans and pop historians will want to check out Angel Air’s 2013, 17 track CD reissue of the 1992 Sweet album The Answer. Even though The Answer finally came out in ‘92, Sweet made their big comeback of the 1980s in 1986 and that event is brought into focus on the 2012 Angel Air CD release of Sweet’s Live At The Marquee album, which was recorded in 1986 and first released in 1989. Also released by Angel Air in the Spring of 2014 is Level Headed Tour Rehearsals 1977. This 16 track CD features recordings from Shepperton Studios where the Sweet were rehearsing for their 1977 Level Headed Tour. Each of these latter day Sweet CDs on Angel Air takes an in depth look at an often underrated pop-rock legend.

- The life of Buddy Holly may have ended on February 2nd, 1952 but The Buddy Holly Story did not. Case in point is BGO’s 2014 CD pairing of both The Buddy Holly Story and The Buddy Holly Story Vol. II, originally released as consecutive albums in 1959 and 1960. A lot has been made of Buddy’s famous “Apartment Tapes” cut at the Brevoort in Greenwich Village weeks before he died. Some like the original, unadorned versions came out finally in the US back in 2010 but for many, the original, posthumous releases that came in 1959 and 1961, with the "sweetening" from other musicians are still the best and certainly the most rocking. Even back in 1959, the studio capability of Holly’s clique of sound men was incredible and no doubt influenced legendary U.K. producers like Norrie Paramor and George Martin who found some great artists in Buddy’s style with The Shadows and The Beatles. Combining Buddy’s last songs as fans first heard them on these 1959 and ‘60 albums, with his biggest hits added, both of these albums were huge in England after Buddy died, even more directly influencing both The Shadows and Beatles. The 24 track CD features excellent 2013 liner notes by Barry Holley as well as further notes by Maria Elena Holly from 1960 and original notes from Vol. 1 by Ren Grevatt. Another artist featured on BGO with a variety of releases is Argent founder / guitarist Russ Ballard, his latest on BGO being a 19 track single disc CD pairing Barnet Dogs and Into The Fire. Argent, the band started by Russ and Rod Argent is also featured with several BGO reissues and these two albums on one CD offers more proof of Ballard’s mastery of the pop-rock genre. Featuring two classic Ballard albums, released in 1980 and 1981, BGO’s pairing of Barnet Dogs and Into The Fire features in depth, 2014 liner notes by Neil Daniels with the booklet also adding in complete lyrics. Also out in 2014 on BGO is Freakin’ At The Freakers Ball, by the late great singer-songwriter, comedian and artist Shel Silverstein. Although best known for his big song writing hits “A Boy Name Sue” and “Cover Of The Rolling Stone”, Shel's Freaking At The Freakers Ball was released on Columbia Records back in 1972 to great acclaim. BGO’s 2014 CD reissue features the original 12 track album and in depth liner notes by John O’Regan as well as complete lyrics. That classic British invasion era is well represented with BGO’s 2014 double CD release of Live At The BBC by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes. All the great British bands recorded at the BBC and The Tremeloes were one of the best from that era. The double CD set features 37 tracks including interview clips from Brian Poole and other members of The Tremeloes. Recorded live in the studio for BBC programs such as Saturday Club, Live At The BBC features a number of Tremeloes classic covers like “Walking My Cat Named Dog” and “Here Comes My Baby” along with numerous pics of the band and new for 2013 liner notes by David Wells. BGO has a number of reissue CDs from country rock legends Poco and they add to their catalog with the 2014 CD reissue of Poco’s 1989 comeback album Legacy. The beauty of this album is that it was the first Poco album since 1969 to feature all of the original members. BGO’s 2014 CD reissue of Legacy features a bonus track, complete lyrics and 2014 liner notes by John Tobler.

/ VSC / MVD - With John Lennon sadly dead and gone 34 years now, it’s almost hard to believe The Rutles ever existed at all. Of course, we’re talking about The Rutles here and not The Beatles but still you can’t help but admire the work and craft that went into The Rutles and their fantastic Beatles spoof movie from 1978, All You Need Is Cash. That movie did come out on DVD on Rhino records but fans of both The Rutles and The Beatles will want to check out a 2013 reissue of All You Need Is Cash on Broadway Video (distributed by Music Video Distributors). This new 2 hour DVD / Blu-ray reissue of the Rutles’ movie has been enhanced with a new HD restoration complete with an 5.1 audio mix. Also here is the 1978 movie’s follow up called Can’t Buy Me Lunch, a very cool feature in its own right that originally came out in 2002. Broadway Video’s double disc reissue of the Rutles contains All You Need Is Cash on one Blu-ray disc along with a second disc featuring the DVD version of All You Need Is Cash (which looks great by the way), along with other perks including Can’t Buy Me Lunch, and other bonus features including a 2013 interview / commentary with Rutles bass player Eric Idle. All the great Rutles songs, composed by cofounder Neil Innes, along with other memorable performances from Rutles members Ricky Fataar and John Halsey are still there to be totally enjoyed. There’s even a cameo here by Beatles icon George Harrison to give the movie even more cred. Can’t Buy Me Lunch features a number of artists talking about The Rutles including James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. If you missed The Rutles back in 1978, and in 1996 when they made their fabled second album Archaeology, it’s not too late to catch their amazing story in depth thanks to this amazing double disc Blu-ray / DVD set. The Rutles’ history is wild stuff indeed but definitely worth the trip back in time! /

- Released in the U.K. by Pride and distributed in the US by MVD is Fifty By Four from rock superstars Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This band of rock legends needs no introductions but even their most ardent fans will find much to enjoy on this nearly 3 hour documentary on CSN&Y. In addition to a wealth of footage of the band themselves, the Fifty By Four documentary features a number of rock journalists adding much insight into the bands history as well as other interview clips from music insiders like Dallas Taylor, Joe Lala, Joe Vitale, Danny Kortchmar and many others. It will be hard for long time fans to stop viewing this fascinating documentary. Also available on MVD is a three DVD box set from U.K. based Chrome Dreams on the late great Lou Reed. Simply entitled Tribute, the nearly 5 hour long, 3 DVD box set is actually three DVD titles packed in one box set. Included are: The Velvet Underground - Under Review (75 minute film about NYC’s greatest rock legend), Punk Revolution NYC - The Velvet Underground, The N.Y. Dolls & The CBGB’s Set as well as The Sacred Triangle - Bowie, Iggy & Lou - 1971 - 1973. Each of these DVD titles has been released separately but it’s great to see them fitting together as part of a video retrospective surrounding the late, great Lou Reed. Also available through MVD is The 1970s Review, a 2 and half hour DVD on rock guitar hero Eric Clapton. By late 1968, Clapton had left rock superstars Cream and this DVD tells the tale of Clapton’s post-Cream era of the the 1970’s including his work with Delaney & Bonnie and Derek & The Dominos, an era that led to his his successful solo career. The DVD is a sequel to the earlier release of Clapton’s The 1960s Review DVD and features in depth interviews all around including Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock, Clapton biographer Marc Roberty and is loaded with other features too.

- The history of the American rock band Devo is brought in into focus on Devo - The Complete Truth About De-Evolution. Formed way back in the late 1970’s, Devo was a completely unique musical experience that borrowed from both post-punk, New Wave and avant gard music. Their early song “Mongoloid” was quite revolutionary for its time. The band eventually signed to Warner Bros. Records and went “commercial” if that's the right word, and even had videos on MTV during the mid 1980s. The history of Devo and all their classic videos are brought together into one superb DVD package, released on the great MVD label. The DVD features 20 videos that really demonstrates just how revolutionary Devo was during their heyday. Along with the video clips, there’s also a range of bonus material showcased on the DVD including commentary tracks featuring group members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale. The original film for “Mongoloid”, directed by Bruce Conner, is essential for long time Devo fans.

- Australia is a huge place but clearly the best CD reissue label there is the still rocking Raven Records. Raven’s catalog is filled with classic reissues, mainly of American and U.K. artists. Hundreds of CDs later, Raven is still booming with a 2013 double reissue CD set by American rock band legend Paul Revere & The Raiders. Something Has Happened 1967-1969 is a double CD flashback to the 1960s, pairing 4 album titles—Goin’ To Memphis (1968), Something Happening (1968), Hard ‘N Heavy (with marshmallow) (1969) and Alias Pink Puzz (1969). This would have been a time when Raiders’ lead singer and group front man Mark Lindsay had taken over production chores from Terry Melcher and there was less evidence of hit singles compared to a more album friendly experience. These albums were played much on FM radio back then, but then again, taken as a whole package, the albums on Something Has Happened 1967-1969 underscores a unique period from a classic AM radio band. Another recent CD on Raven worth hearing is True Confessions: The Epic Sessions by NYC folk-rocker Garland Jeffreys. A 2 CD set that features three album recorded between 1980 and 1982, Garland’s Raven double CD from 2013 combines Escape Artist and the Escapades EP with a bonus track making for 15 tracks on disc one with the five track live EP Rock & Roll Adult and Guts For Love combined for 16 tracks on disc two. True Confessions is the third Garland Jeffreys CD on Raven, following Best Of 1977-1983 (Wild In The Streets) and another double CD set combining Ghost Writer / One-Eyed Jack and American Boy & Girl. Another American rock legend well documented on Raven is The Dictators who are recalled on Raven with Faster... Louder - The Dictators’ Best 1975-2001. Raven’s 20 track CD from the NYC legends features their authentic proto-punk sound combined with vintage rock & roll. Well known for their retro-rock meets proto-punk sound, The Dictators were famously produced by Blue Oyster Cult’s mentors Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman and Raven’s CD follows the band's mid to late 1970s period up to and including their 2001 comeback D.F.F.D. Another NYC folk-rock legend given the Raven treatment is Elliott Murphy, who is remembered here with Lost Generation & Night Lights - The RCA Years. Recorded in 1975 and 1976, the single disc, 19 track CD features the NYC legend at the height of his powers. A wide range of musicians back Murphy on both albums with Lost Generation produced by famed Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild and Night Lights produced by Blood, Sweat & Tears legend Steve Katz. Both albums are accurately described as “timeless singer-songwriter rock ‘n’ roll.” Last but not least here is Baby, I’m For Real! - Raven’s double CD set from soulful songstress Esther Phillips. Featuring four classic albums released between 1971 and 1974, Raven’s double CD set from Esther Phillips demonstrates why she is compared to other giants like Nina Simone and Dinah Washington and why she’s still held is such high regards among fans of blues, soul, jazz, pop and country music. As expected, the musical fare is vast and sweeping - from covers of Gil Scott-Heron to Bill Withers and Joe Cocker - and the wide range of session musicans here include Eric Gale, George Benson, Billy Cobham and more. As is usual with Raven, each of their CDs are superbly remasterd and feature in depth liner notes that give historically accurate insights into the artists and their albums.

/ MVD - The Move never did anything normally. Hardly a trace of the band could be found in the U.S. until Herb Alpert’s A&M Records released Shazam Stateside in early Fall 1969. Already huge in England, and presumably elsewhere, The Move were basically abandoned by A&M, as it seems most UK bands on that label baled out, but in a bizarre twist of industry lore, they quickly were signed by Herb Belkin at Capitol for two brilliant, yet commercially unsung albums. Of course this was moot in a year or two by 1971, as The Move became Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO as they became known. All this is pretty tragic (lol) as the key genius behind The Move, Roy Wood was always two steps ahead of the others yet nothing more came from The Move as it were. In 2014, Right Recordings, through MVD, released a fine double live album of The Move, from their 1969 Shazam tour the results of which can be heard on the double CD set Live At The Fillmore 1969. The sound quality of the live set is good for 1969 and plus it was actually recorded at Fillmore West. The CD set is chock full of liner notes by ex Movers—including the late, great Move singer Carl Wayne—all with the exception of Roy, who apparently has nothing to do with the current Move lineup headed by original drummer Bev Bevan. If you’re a fan of classic U.K. pop and progressive rock, you can’t say you’ve heard it all until you've listened to Roy Wood and The Move.

- If there was one American band that could be described as being ahead of their time it was The Velvet Underground. Dropped by MGM label honcho turned republican politician Mike Curb and MGM Records in 1970 as a band promoting hard drugs, Velvet Underground never got the chance they clearly deserved and it wouldn’t be till David Bowie championed group founder Lou Reed, in early 1972, did things change. The early classics of The Velvet Underground were captured on the ten track Velvet Underground album, originally released by MGM (after Curb’s tragic blunders) and reissued by Sundazed on CD and LP in 2013. Even though it’s only ten tracks, the listener can get a solid grasp on just how gifted this band truly was. Lou Reed’s early pop masterpiece “Sunday Morning” (from early 1967) and the pre-glam rock beat of “White Light White Heat” rubs shoulders with lesser known yet clearly influential early Velvet Underground classics. Passing away in 2013, Lou Reed may be gone from this world but his legacy lives on with this Sundazed CD reissue classic.

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