Record Label
and Music Spotlight








ANGEL AIR RECORDS – As time marches relentlessly onward, our great heroes die and shattered lives slowly slip into footnotes of faded history books, it’s clear that one band that will live on for posterity is The Yardbirds. The band’s key members were the late, great singer, lyricist and visionary Keith Relf and founding drummer and Relf’s song-writing partner Jim McCarty. Although other members of The Yardbirds, including people like famed Cat Stevens co-producer Paul Samwell-Smith and Chris Dreja were important, as well as the unnamed three superstar guitar heroes who would later go on to plunder the Yardbirds’ iconic contributions for their own musical ends, on reflection, it was really the symbiotic team of Relf and McCarty who were the most important to not only The Yardbirds but also for their incredibly important songs and visions which are still viable now over 50 years after their heyday. Which kind of, long story short, brings us to the 2018 Jim McCarty solo album Walking In The Wild Land. Perhaps Jim’s greatest solo achievement to day, on this album you can almost hear the ghost of the late great Keith Relf, who would have loved this album. Angel Air has done a great job with a number of albums by Jim as well as his brilliant album with Shoot! and other recorded documents with the other band started by Relf and McCarty, called Renaissance, who gave the band to Annie Haslam, after being hired by Jim and Keith. So these guys invented Renaissance and then gave the others the fame. True to form and as it always is / was on anything Jim does, every song on Walking In The Wild Land is a gem, complete with exquisite album art and lyrics. Musicians backing Jim’s songs, drums, acoustic guitars and lead vocals include guest guitarist Alex Lifeson, Hugh Syme (orchestrations, keys, guitars), legendary Renaissance keyboardist John Hawken, drummer Ben Riley and many others topped off by superb contributions by bassist / producer George Koller. Although Jim sings about how he doesn’t want to talk about 1969 anymore and also on the song “Stop Living Life In The Past”, it’s nearly, virtually impossible to not link the name Jim McCarty to the brilliant legacy of U.K. rock, pop and progressive rock. A most pleasant surprise to long time Yardbirds fans and Renaissance fans, Walking In The Wild Land is a most fitting testimony to Jim McCarty’s historical and still prolific presence.

JENNY VAN WEST MUSIC – Crossing country music with an at times rustic New England folk sound, singer-songwriter Jenny Van West combines the best of both genres on her 2081 CD, Happiness To Burn. With her breathy hushed singing style, Jenny sometimes echoes 1980’s pop chanteuse Martie Jones, but the toe-tapping tracks on Happiness To Burn are more rural and even rootsy. The lead off track is the title track and it’s a definite highlight with its influences from tin-pan alley and postwar 1940’s Americana pop-jazz. The production by Shane Alexander is quite sparse and one wonders if the production was brought up a notch or two, as these songs are well worth it. Overall, Happiness To Burn is a fine collection of tracks, written by a gifted singer-songwriter and performed by an impressive range of musicians who help to do them justice.

MANATEE RECORDS – In 2017 California-based singer-songwriter Kelley Ryan released her 8th album Telescope and for pop fans it’s a breath of fresh air. Assisting Kelley on her low-key pop effort are the great team of singer Marti Jones and producer Don Dixon the latter adding in bass and strings, while drums are played by Jim Brock. Those familiar with Marti’s first three A&M albums will want to hear this as she adds backing vocals on many of the tracks, backing up Kelley’s similar sounding lead vocals. The intensity of that youthful vigor of the early 1980s are replaced here with a seasoned pop approach, nothing too heavy but the inclusion of Marti and Don Dixon really elevates the proceedings. Kelley’s songs dominate yet there is a Marshall Crenshaw track here called “Passing Through”.

ST. AUGUST RECORDS – Las Vegas based Mark Stoermer is turning heads around with his 2017 album called Filthy Apes And Lions. Stoermer is a well-known producer and bass player, yet he’s also something of a pop music maven. On his third solo album Filthy Apes And Lions, Mark Stoermer reinforces his stature as a pop force to be reckoned with. Co-produced by the team of David Hopkins and Robert Root, Filthy Apes And Lions is very much rooted in late 1960s psychedelia in the spirit of Beatles, Kinks and Pink Floyd during their heyday with Syd Barrett. This comparison doesn’t come lightly but clearly Stoermer and his widescreen musical imagination, with a little help from his friends, live up to the hype on an album that has more layers then an giant sonic onion, minus the tears. Pop-rock fans will thrill to the immense musical progress in play on Mark Stoermer’s Filthy Apes And Lions.

TAPETE RECORDS – One of the finest, good-time pop-rock albums of 2018, Maisieworld is yet another sonic delight from The Monochrome Set. The follow-up studio CD to the group’s 2016 album Cosmonaut, the early 2018 release of Maisieworld will no doubt strike a chord of glee in the fans of this long time favorite pop band. Although Monochrome Set started out in the post punk era of the late 1970s, they’ve evolved over time in an adept and essential pop-rock band that approaches their craft with kinder, gentler musical etchings. Over the years, the band’s lead singer and main singer Bid, (real name: Ganesh Seshadri) has refined his craft and the Maisieworld songs exude charms, ebullience and catchy pop, dance music grooves. Cranking out the crunchy power pop chords and lead lines, guitarist Lester Square sounds also in fine form on this latest Monochrome Set release. The title track “Maisieworld” sounds like a rare Ray Davies knees-up and is rich with sonic details. Half-American, half Indian and quintessentially British, Bid, backed by his Monochrome Set band mates, sets the scene on the pop-rock grooves of Maisieworld.

WOODSTOCK RECORDS Hot on the heels of Crowin’ The Blues, the 2017 CD by Upstate New York rockers Professor Louie & The Crowmatix, comes the release of The Lost Band Tracks. There’s a great story behind the songs on this six track EP release on Woodstock / Funzalo Records and it’s pretty much spelled out in the EP liner notes. Long story short, these songs were penned by New York rocker Jules Shear and members of The Band way back in 1991 for a new album by The Band, in the years after Robbie Robertson left the group. Shear co-wrote these songs with the intention of making the first post-Robertson Band album but Columbia dispensed with the idea and the songs laid in limbo for 25 + years. Revisiting these Jules Shear songs meant for The Band, Professor Louie rerecorded the tracks for a new Crowmatix album and, the results now heard for the first time in early 2018, are stellar. With a stellar career, Shear, who wrote classics for The Bangles and others, was at the top of his game back then and these new versions recorded exclusively for The Lost Band Tracks make them ripe for rediscovery among fans of Professor Louie as well as fans of The Band and Jules Shear. Speaking in his liner notes, Louie adds, “It’s like coming full circle for me.” With Professor Louie adding in lead vocals and all keys, the Crowmatix also features Miss Marie (backing vocals), John Platania (guitars), Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass, backing vocals) with guests Jules Shear (lead and backing vocals) and Larry Packer (from The Last Waltz on mandolin). The Lost Band Tracks proves that even without Robbie Robertson, The Band and their producer Professor Louie were never short of valid musical ideas, even despite the changing musical terrain of the post-1970s music scene. Featuring six powerhouse cuts, The Lost Band Tracks revisits some stellar rock song classics that, even better late than never, still deserves to be heard.

ZEELLEY MOON MUSIC - With many long respected artists backing off what is now known as “physical” product, and now going the download / web-based approach, (which is the trend), then along comes U.K. based Zeelley Moon with their self-titled album debut. And a winner it is. With appealing hard bound book like CD packaging, the artwork is excellent with complete lyrics and intriguing and sometimes shocking photography. A well-timed 21st century modern rock quartet, Zeelley Moon centers around the songs, vocals and keyboards of Patrick Molesworth. Not exclusively considered prog-rock, and sounding more like Phil Collins era Genesis than classic Genesis, the ten cut CD sounds like modern pop-rock composers influenced by piano rock legends like Billy Joel and Elton. The sizzling electric guitars of Tony Dubinski and Geoff Bolam gives the sound a cleverly tracked Frampton / Supertramp influence. Different musicians play on various tracks while keeping the rock quartet sound in focus. With additional refinement of his productions and melodic ideas on future Zeelley Moon recordings, Patrick Molesworth will no doubt be a prog-pop force to be reckoned with.


ANAYA MUSIC – Most music lovers know Brazil thanks to the timeless music of that country’s greatest composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, yet in recent years there’s been a rise in the number of gifted Brazilian jazz-fusion and even New Age composers. To that list of New Age artists shaping a new Brazilian instrumental music sound you can add the name Aonki. Featuring the music and keyboards of Tania Maria Botelho, who simply shines on the 2018 CD release of Gateway To Love. The ten track, 48 minute CD is filled with blissful, meditative instrumentals that will calm and delight even casual listeners but clearly Gateway To Love is an album to spin and spin again. Blending her background in computer sciences with a true appreciation for all things spiritual and all things musical, Tania has arrived with an album that will fascinate all fans of 21st century New Age instrumental music. Although her resume also includes work as a dancer and singer, Gateway To Love is a great representation of her New Age, keyboard based instrumental sound and it’s also a fine addition to her growing repertoire of CD releases. From her web site, Tania adds, “Our best instrument is the universal harmony of being.”

BLAZZ MUSIC Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum strikes instro-rock gold on the 2017 CD release of In Search Of Lasseter’s Riff. The 13 track CD is the most eclectic lineup of tracks yet by guitarist Ben Rogers and his Instrumental Asylum seekers Nikki Scarlett (bass) and Denis Cose (drums, guitar). Several guest artists appear and the total effort proves the album to be Ben’s finest yet. Of note is the lead off track “Heroes”, which takes one of David Bowie’s most revered songs quite successfully into the realm of instrumental rock. “Take The ‘A’ Train” as well creates an excellent RI tribute to the famous Duke Ellington standard. Several other covers ensue but the best parts are the originals by Ben, drummer Denis Close and also rock solid take of “Waves Of Apollo”, written by Australian folk-pop legend Louey Hesterman. What makes In Search Of Lasseter’s Riff so enjoyable is the impeccable recording quality, which lifts the whole thing to a new sonic level. If an award could be given for creative visuals in CD packaging, this is the album that should get it. With the late 2017 release of In Search Of Lasseter’s Riff, 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year in the life and times of Australia’s great rock instrumental guitarist Ben Rogers.

BLUJAZZ PRODUCTIONS On his 2016 debut solo album Plugged In, guitarist / composer Galen Weston paid homage to his jazz-rock influences. On his 2017 solo album The Space Between, Galen knocks down the barriers and comes up with a truly solid album of new music marked by its own vision. Back from Plugged In are fellow Toronto-based players, Richard Underhill (alto sax), David Woodhead and George Koller (bass), Matt Horner (keys) and Al Cross (drums) and others. Producing the album is Steve Rodby, noted for his work in Pat Metheny’s band. Galen proves to be a true sonic multi-tasker on The Space Between. All forms of 21st century instrumental jazz-rock merge with a bluesy edge and in fact, there’s hardly a form of rock instrumental not covered here. For example, on the track “Remembering”, Galen braves his way into progressive jazz-rock waters, combining electrifying fusion with a movie music melody that is truly haunting. A set-closing cover of the classic standard “The Shadow Of Your Smile” is given an honorable jazz-rock dusting off while keeping the song’s low-key image in tact. Infusing the tracks with horn-based electricity, Underhill’s sax backs Galen in the same way that Clarence Clemons’ rock-based horn backed Springsteen. Rather than a call and response type free-jazz context, the pair often play unison lines, underscoring Galen’s haunting melodies, although there’s plenty of freewheeling, soaring soloing too. Today’s younger musicians who have the luxury of hindsight can really benefit by combining all kinds of sounds and styles from the past and in that way Galen Weston takes guitar-based instrumental jazz-rock genre into some mighty interesting directions.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS – Under the guidance of music icon Don Was, Blue Note released the 2017 self-titled CD by Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band. Featuring 9 tracks that clock in under 32 minutes, the CD is short but sweet. Featuring a set of all-original tracks, Brian’s drums are accompanied by an excellent band including Jon Cowherd (keyboards), Chris Thomas (bass), Dave Devine (guitars) and various tracks feature sax and clarinet. There’s almost an ethereal prog-jazz sound on the gothic sounding lead-off track “Within Everything” and that spirit follows with a range of instrumentals. The CD cover art is excellent and perfectly fits the unique nature of the music. Overall, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band take jazz into some deep and dark sonic waters and the results are surprising and completely authentic sounding.

– American jazz legend Charles Lloyd turned 80 years young in 2018 and to help honor the man, Passin’ Thru may be the ticket to turn on long time fans and newcomers. Back in the 1970s Charles released his incredible Waves album on A&M, an album which featured members of the Beach Boys. I can still remember watching Charles jam with the 'Boys at their fabled 1971 Carnegie Hall debut, me mesmerized in row 5 orchestra as Carl Wilson got all the word right to “Feel Flows”, which also featured Charles at that historic show (as well as him playing on the Surf’s Up track). So on his 2017 CD (recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival on June 30th, 2016), Passin’ Thru Charles may have been 78 looking at 80, but the sound is sheer brilliance. All instrumental jazz, featuring his sax and flute, the seven track Passin’ Thru features Charles in the company of a fine band, including Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Just one of the many highlights, track five “Tagore On The Delta” sounds incredible, its folkloristic melody grooving to a jazzy flute-driven shuffle. Only a master like Charles Lloyd could make this work so elegantly. The CD sound of Passin’ Thru is masterful as well, with the booklet featuring track info, pics of Charles and the band as well poetry from Charles. /

BLUE NOTE RECORDS – Jazz organ / keyboard legend Dr. Lonnie Smith made his name on Blue Note way back in the 1960’s and in 2018 he returns to the fabled jazz label with a new live album called All In My Mind. The second Blue Note album by Dr. Lonnie Smith since his 2016 Homecoming album, All In My Mind features an all-instrumental set recorded at The Jazz Standard in NYC. The seven cut album also features key musicians including Jonathan Kreisberg (guitar and album associate producer), Johnathan Blake (drums) and Joe Dyson (drums on track 3) along with guest vocalist Alicia Olatuja. The CD features a couple original tracks with others featuring jazzy instrumental covers from the pens of Paul Simon, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard and more. A master of the live jazz experience, Dr. Lonnie explains, “It’s so hard to capture what I’m feeling at the moment in the studio. Hearing me live is catching me playing in the moment. It’s a good vibe.” Among the many highlights on All In My Mind is new cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Juju”, which Lonnie first recorded on his 1965 Blue Note album, a live remake of the title track first recorded in the 1970s and a very guitar-centric version of Paul Simon’s classic “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” All In My Mind is a total jazz experience guaranteed to please. /

BOOGIE POST RECORDINGS – Swedish guitarist / composer Samuel Hällkvist continues to amaze music fans worldwide, and he reaches yet another sonic plateau with his 2017 CD, Samuel Hällkvist & Variety Of Rhythm. For some unknown reason Samuel has chosen to connect the dots and make the 43 minute Variety Of Rhythm one contiguous suite, in other words, stick it in your CD player and you’ll see only one track that reads 45:47 minutes. A daring sonic move like that has been done before but not in recent memory, it's in a word: amazing. Speaking about making his latest album a one block of sound time, Samuel explains, “It was important for me to keep the suite in one piece to challenge the listeners patience in a way, and also not putting it up on streaming sites - and it actually sells more than my other releases, which perhaps doesn’t say much, but, you know how it is. I just wanted to try this format. No shorter tracks for radio format. Well, the Swedish National Radio did actually cut it and played a part from it.” Assisting Samuel on his Variety Of Rhythm album are a range of talented, yet relatively unknown musicians with the exception being American guitarist David Torn, who seemingly fits it quite well on an instrumental avant-rock fusion album that startles as much as it entertains. Sweden has a history of experimental rock / electronic composers such as Lars Hollmer and even Ragnar Grippe yet not too many Swedish avant-gardists have been guitarists. In other words, Samuel Hällkvist & Variety Of Rhythm is most probably among the most unusual sounding avant-rock instrumental albums of the early 21st century. Another useful mention is how incredibly well the CD was recorded, mixed and mastered for CD. Having broken the sound barrier with his prior works, including the Orbit Stern album as well as his album, Samuel Hällkvist Return To Center, the 2017 release of Variety Of Rhythm is a most welcome return to form by Samuel and will most definitely help bring him further attention in the music world of 2018.

CANDYRAT RECORDS – Candyrat Records is among the finest acoustic-based instrumental guitar labels on the planet today. New for 2018 on Candyrat is Earth Suite by guitar maven Ian Ethan Case. Known for his acoustic double neck guitar prowess, and inventive instrumental guitar tracks, Ian was described by veteran finger style guitarist Don Ross as being one of the finest guitarists he’s ever seen. Ian’s 2018 CD Earth Suite is an impressive achievement and the album features a range of players, giving the overall album a lush, superbly recorded sound. Commenting on the large cast of musicians performing with him, Ian adds, “For my whole life, I’ve always been way more interested in playing in a composing for a full band. That’s what I hear in my head all the time.” A wide range of drummers and percussionists appear on Earth Suite as does New Age cello icon Eugene Friesen. Produced by Ian and mostly recorded in Connecticut in 2017, the six track, 70 minute CD features eye-popping full color packaging, including a number of pictures from the recording sessions. Fans of Don Ross, the late Michael Hedges as well as the jazzy fretboard versatility of Pat Metheny will catch a buzz from the colorful and creative sound of Ian Ethan Case and his 2018 CD Earth Suite.

CHESKY RECORDS – One of the top jazz guitarists in the NYC area, Mark Whitfield released Live & Uncut in 2017 on the NYC based Chesky Records label. The CD features a number of extended jazz workouts featuring Mark’s guitar backed up by the rhythm section of Ben Allison (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). Several rare covers penned by music composing giants like Vincent Youmans, Thelonious Monk and Ann Ronell are offset by originals written by group drummer Billy Drummond. Recorded live in concert in early 2017 at the famous Rockwood Music Hall, the sonics of Live & Uncut are pristine and clear as a bell. In fact, there are so many layers of musical depth that it’s hard to catch it all in one spin, so listening several times is essential. Mark Whitfield’s Live & Uncut is a stellar example of the timeless power of instrumental jazz guitar music in an intimate concert setting.

DAFNISON MUSIC – Cuban instrumental jazz is at its finest on the 2018 CD release of Back To The Sunset by Cuban-born drummer, composer and bandleader Dafnis Prieto. Back To The Sunset features the horn-driven, 17-piece Dafnis Prieto Big Band and it was produced by Eric Oberstein—a well known producer of large ensemble and big band records. The nine track album runs over 75 minutes and for fans of the genre it’s a nonstop action packed album. On Back To The Sunset, Prieto honors his jazz mentors, including legends like Eddie Palmieri, Michel Camilo and the CD also features contributions well known horn-based jazzers such as Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman and Brian Lynch. Recorded in Brooklyn in 2017, and featuring some of the world’s best Latin jazz musicians, Back To The Sunset establishes Dafnis Prieto as the musical leader on one of the finest Latin big band, instrumental jazz albums of the year.

DAN CHADBURN MUSIC – A mix of original piano improvisations and refined traditional religious hymns, Held In The Light is an intimate-sounding, all instrumental solo album, released in late 2017 / early 2018 by Maryland-based recording artist Dan Chadburn. In his brief yet insightful CD liner notes, Dan states that among his fondest memories remain as a youngster attending church every Sunday morning with his parents and also playing church organ in the same church. Also in the Held In The Light liner notes, Dan’s parents are also praised in as being an encouraging factor in his musical career. As always on his unique sounding piano albums, Dan makes you feel he’s performing just for you, with a rare musical gift that often times sets him apart in a field of crowded competitors. With its up close and personal studio sound, Held In The Light was recorded in Sedona Arizona with mixing and mastering engineer Joe Bongiorno and the album was co-produced by Dan and longtime partner Tom Nichols. What is even more amazing on Held In The Light is how Dan recreates a kind of hallowed spirit and aura of these hymns that he first heard and played so early on in his life. Many of the hymns, as revoiced for piano by Dan, date back to the late 1800’s although, in his approach to playing them as instrumentals, Dan also shows how important the chord structures were and still are to 20th century music and even to rock music. For example, track nine is Dan’s solo instrumental version of the famous hymn “Morning Has Broken”, which dates back to 1931 when it was first heard and appreciated later, in recent times in a mass consciousness kind of way, thanks to Rick Wakeman’s piano performance and composed piano solo in the song covered as a pop song on the 1971 Cat Stevens album Teaser And The Firecat. As Dan intended it to be, each of these hymns has a rich and unique history and, while ten of the 13 tracks on Held In The Light are Dan’s own piano versions of these timeless hymns, three of the tracks—including the title track—are actually recent, original piano improvisations composed by Dan. All of Dan’s albums are filled with a rich, sonic texture and fine attention to detail and with Held In The Light, Dan Chadburn reaches yet a new level of piano artistry.

DAN SIEGEL MUSIC – On his 2018 CD release, entitled Origins, keyboardist Dan Siegel has assembled a stellar crew of musicians. Among the players taking part in the ten track Origins album are Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Brian Bromberg (bass), Allen Hinds (guitars), Lenny Castro (percussion) with other fine musicians filling up the soundstage. The overall sound is very jazzy, cosmopolitan, piano-centric instrumental music. Some of the players on Origins have long standing links to Siegel. Castro’s work with Siegel goes back to 1981 and regarding the legendary percussionist says Siegel, “He brings joy and groove to everything he plays on”, while of drummer Colaiuta, Siegel adds, “He knows what the song is about before I do, and I wrote it!” Origins is very piano-centric with Siegel further explaining, “In the last decade, I’ve gravitated towards working in a more acoustic environment... I think it gives the music authenticity.” Siegel’s seasoned approach to mainstream, piano-based instrumental jazz-fusion shines like a beacon on Origins. Recorded in North Hollywood, California during the summer of 2017, Origins is a total jazz trip filled with sublime sounding, easy-groove instrumental music played by the best in the business.

DAPHNE RECORDS – Sweden’s Daphne Records is one of the top classical labels in that Nordic country. Devoted to classical artists, Daphne has a fine CD from classical guitarist Sebastián Caldas Zeballos. Born in Uruguay and living in Sweden since age two, Sebastián has a fine CD out on Daphne called Nowruz, featuring his classical guitar paired with percussionist Ismael Bétola. The subject of the music on this CD is guitar-centric tango music in the style Astor Piazzolla, who is one of the composers featured on the twelve-track, 56 minute CD. Other composers featured include Quique Sinesi, Carlos Gardel, Anibal Troilo and Zeballos himself with the CD closing title track. Classical guitar and fans of Astor Piazzolla and his South American classical / tango instrumental music will find much to like about this CD. Recorded in Uruguay and Sweden, the sound of Nowruz is varied and Sebastián’s guitar sound is very precise yet emotional at the same time.

DAVE KERZNER MUSIC – A man of many talents, Dave Kernzer released his second solo album, Static, in 2017. Known for his work with Simon Collins in the band Sound Of Contact, Kerzner’s latest solo album reads like a who’s who of 21st century prog-pop, including guest spots by Steve Hackett, Colin Edwin, Nick D’Virgilio, Fernando Perdomo and many others. The CD cover art was designed by Ed Unitsky so you know the creative music will match the bizarre cover art. The guitar work by Perdomo, Randy McStine and a guest guitar spot by guitarist Steve Hackett helps to elevate the sound into a first tier musical experience. Commenting on Static, Kerzner adds, “I aim to bring forward some of my favorite qualities of classic rock and prog albums and blend it with something new that feels right today.” Florida-based prog-rock maven Dave Kerzner will make lots of music fans quite happy with his 2017 Static album.

DESTINY RECORDS – Brooklyn-based Cameron Mizell is a true advocate of the electric guitar. On his 2017 CD for Destiny Records, Cameron demonstrates his guitar prowess on Memory / Imagination—a nine track CD that combines solo electric guitar with all kind of loops and effects such as backwards guitar sounds and all kinds of weird stuff. The CD is definitely not heavy metal or rock or even New Age per se, but rather a type of experimental CD that serves as a kind of atmospheric mediation on the power of music. There’s something truly haunting and even slightly austere about this music and also the cover art, which features a misty, shrouded forest covered in a half fog. As Cameron describes in the cover art, “Art lives in the space between our memory and imagination.” Truer words were never spoken. Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC on November 9th, 2016, Memory / Imagination takes the solo guitar music of Cameron Mizell into deep and mysterious waters.

DOUBLE CROWN RECORDS – Double Crown is of the top record labels anywhere for instrumental guitar-based rock releases. Case in point is a fab 2016 CD called Rocket Tales, by Germany-based band The Splashdowns. In the spirit of instro surf-rockers from the 1960’s, The Splashdowns are obsessed with outer space—hence the album title Rocket Tales. Guitarists Joergensen and Andreasen make a fine lead / rhythm team and the big beat gets pounded deep into the cosmos by Linntosswanksen (drums) and Thomsen (bass). With titles like “Micrometeorites”, “Pulsar” and “Moondust”, The Splashdowns keep listeners firmly in their rock instro orbit. “Joe Cuba Meets The Splashdowns” indicates these German surf-rockers also have a sense of humor to boot. The studio sound and album production is excellent and overall, the CD gets high marks for inventiveness and originality. Instrumental rock fans are advised to hop aboard and take a trip on Rocket Tales by The Splashdowns.

DOUBLE CROWN RECORDS – The country of Finland continues to be home base for some of the most gifted rock guitarist on Earth today. The time-honored RI sound (rock instrumentals) of The Shadows and The Ventures continues to be popular in Finland and throughout Europe and North America too, and The Doltones carry the spirit forward into 2018 with their latest album Dance Or Die. Described as the “best spaghetti space surf music ever”, the 13 track Dance Or Die CD clocks in around 36 minutes and it’s one nonstop rock instrumental extravaganza from start to… finish. Featuring members of Finland’s excellent band The Charades, Dance Or Die features fine group interplay from Hannu Könönen (lead guitar), Marko Rahikainen (rhythm guitar) Jukka Väisänen (bass) and J-P Harju (drums). Rarely heard instro classics from yesteryear are offset by a bunch of originals from Hannu, yet it’s all played so tastefully, you’d be hard-pressed to pick them apart. With its long and winding history, Finnish music has always sounded exotic to many outside of Finland, yet on Dance Or Die, The Doltones have discovered a common ground that will pleasure the ears of RI fans worldwide.

EARTHSIGN RECORDS – The 2018 CD by Terra Guitarra is called Spirit Wheel and it’s their best album yet. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times but the music by Terra Guitarra on Spirit Wheel is more darker and slightly more mournful than say, their flamenco-flecked 2015 album Firelight. The interplay between guitarists Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli is as perceptive as ever, yet it seems there is also a kind of reflective mood or ambiance on Spirit Wheel. Other guitaristic influences detected include German guitar maestro Michael Rother and his motorik beat, which, intentional or not, seems to permeate Spirit Wheel. Without failing to amaze long time fans of this New Age guitar-centric outfit, from start to finish Spirit Wheel is undoubtedly the finest album yet from Terra Guitarra.

INFINITA RECORDS / BAJA TSR RECORDS – Nuevo flamenco guitarist and contemporary instrumental music composer Lawson Rollins has released a number of excellent albums over the past decade. In early 2018, Lawson puts his career in perspective with an 18 track best of anthology CD called Airwaves: The Greatest Hits. Some of Lawson’s instrumental pieces are quite extensive in length, yet Airwaves makes a great spin and puts the tracks into concise order with tracks that generally clock in under four minutes. Many tracks here are radio edits, specifically cut down in length to garner radio airplay, hence the title Airwaves. Produced by Lawson Rollins and mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound in NYC, Airwaves consists of tracks drawn from a number of Lawson’s albums and in addition, the Airwaves CD features a pair of newly recorded tracks featuring long time Rollins cohorts, including musicians Mads Tolling (violin), Stephen Duros (electric guitar) and members of 3rd Force on keyboards and drum programming. With its 18 tracks of pure guitar bliss, Lawson Rollins’ Airwaves is an excellent anthology of upbeat 21st century Nuevo Flamenco and contemporary guitar instrumental music.

INNSBRUCK RECORDS / HEY BOY MUSIC – NYC-based drummer / guitarist Aaron Comess transcends musical genres with his 2018 CD called Sculptures. A true wakeup call to anyone who likes to stereotype jazz, Sculptures benefits further thanks to the appearance of several fine musicians, including synthesist Leon Gruenbaum, who is credited with playing an instrument called Samchillian on all songs. Samchillian is actually a unique synthesizer that Leon created to which Aaron further adds, “I really love the sonic scope Leon gets on the Samchillian, which he invented himself. He really is the secret weapon of this record.” The addition of Grey McMurray (electric guitar), Oli Rockberger (Fender Rhodes) and John Davis (bass) is further put into focus thanks to excellent album mixing and mastering by Roman Klun. Although Aaron has a background as the drummer in rock legends The Spin Doctors, on the 37 minute Sculptures he creates a whole new genre of progressive instrumental rock-jazz fusion, which features both his music and his acoustic guitar work too. Fans of The Spin Doctors may be in for a surprise, but those listeners, from across the board, who enjoy brilliant, depth-defying, genre-crossing, instrumental jazz-rock will enjoy Sculptures, spin after spin.

INSIDE OUT MUSIC – Sad to say but with the 2018 release of Nexus, Virgil Howe is no longer walking on this earth. The unique musical pairing of Virgil and his Dad, YES guitarist Steve Howe, Nexus carries forth the Howe family sound with class. Most tracks feature Virgil on keyboards and drums with Steve contributing his multilayered guitars. The same class and quality Howe brings to YES can be heard on Nexus. With its sorrowful, minor key cadences and musical interplay, track six “Moon Rising” is a definite highlight, just to single out one as all the tracks are excellent in their own right. There’s plenty of cool guitar-centric guitar instrumental tracks that fuse electronica and the neo-classical guitar sound Steve Howe is well known for. The entire eleven cut CD has a very YES-influenced sound and clearly, with the loss of Virgil Howe at such a young age, while also considering the loss of a major talent who was just finding his recording style, is quite a shock. One can hypothesize over YES and their long and winding history but the outpouring of Nexus is one turn in the YES story that will leave you in a heavy-hearted yet simultaneously, a kind of blessed out state of musical inspiration.

JARNOS MUSIC – Finland’s hot new surf-rock instrumental quartet The Jarnos keep the spirit of guitar rock alive and well with their 2017 CD Surfin’ & Rollin’. The 16 track CD features the keen lead guitar work of Jarno Tiihonen, who also wrote much of the music here. Covers include “Harlem Nocturne”, “Mr. Moto” and an unexpected thrill is a cover of Black Sabbath’s chestnut “Paranoid”. The cover art is a bit of a spoof on the early Ventures album, complete with a red-haired Finnish beauty. Much could be said about the originality of this music with some tracks truly standing out, such as “Surfer On The Moon”. There’s hardly a note out of place and the rockin’ spirit keeps things rollin’, making the Jarnos album essential listening for fans of instrumental, guitar-based surf-rock sounds—both new and classic. Check out The Jarnos on Facebook.

LAUGHING MESSIAH MUSIC – Based in the Garden State of New Jersey, guitarist Keith Calmes covers a lot of musical ground on his recent album releases. A good choice for any holiday season is Holiday Guitar Music, a 24 track, 2014 CD release, featuring a wealth of Christmas music played by Calmes, instrumentally on classical guitar. Many of the tunes are well-known yet the beauty of the album is that many are lesser known covers making it a fine seasonal guitar album. Showing off Calmes’ mastery of the classical guitar is the 16 track, 2012 CD release of All We Know Is Now, subtitled New Music For Classical Guitar. Many of the classical guitar pieces on this album were actually written for Calmes by a range of contemporary classical music composers. Perhaps the most intriguing album yet from Calmes is his 2017 release entitled Surf Guitar Classics, a 15 track CD featuring adaptations of well known surf-rock instrumentals performed by Calmes on classical guitar. Although Keith Calmes is a Juilliard graduate and an established classical guitarist, his recording of these well known surf-rock instrumentals including “Apache”, “Pipeline”, “Telstar” and “Walk, Don’t Run” makes Surf Guitar Classics a natural choice for classical guitar fans and guitar-centric surf-rock instrumental aficionados.

LEGACY RECORDINGS – It’s hard to believe that What Happens Next is the 16th solo album from American guitar legend Joe Satriani. Fusion fans in the know will remember how Joe basically exploded from out of nowhere back in the late 1980s with his early albums on Relativity Records, who started out of the Important Records company, who were based on the periphery of JFK airport. Wow, time flies as they say but any way, Satch is back in early 2018 with a smokin’ new CD of guitar instrumentals and What Happens Next has no question mark after the title because obviously Joe knows what happens next! Backed up by a blazing rhythm section of Glenn Hughes (bass) and Chad Smith (drums), and excellent album production by Mike Fraser, the twelve track CD is superbly packaged and true to form, the music fits it to a tee. Guitar instrumental fans will be in a tizzy with the dozen new Satch instrumentals but on early spins, track four, “Cherry Blossoms” is masterful with its faux drum sound and very jazzy 1960s melodic cadences, piano stabs, pizzicato strings and all. What Happens Next is released around the same time at Joe’s latest G3 tour with John Petrucci and Phil Collen as well as an upcoming Satch documentary called Beyond The Supernova, shot by Joe’s son ZZ. With its spectacular hard rock, fretboard-based anthems and overall good vibe / instrumental feel, Joe Satriani’s 2018 album What Happens Next is a truly spectacular guitar event.

LMH RECORDS – When she’s not performing with the Hawaii Symphony, violinist Nancy Shoop-Wu can be heard recording her own solo music. Nancy’s latest album, Rainbow Road is a good example of her skillful, neoclassical approach to atmospheric New Age instrumental music. Rainbow Road is sort of a combination of 21st century light classical with a slight New Age direction, mostly because the album is so supremely relaxing. Rainbow Road combines the eight track album with four bonus tracks taken from her EP Beautiful Manao. Accompanying Ms. Shoop-Wu’s peaceful, soaring violin on Rainbow Road are some excellent musicians including Derek Nakamoto (keys, co-production), a couple excellent Hawaiian slack key guitarists, acoustic bass and several drummers and percussionists. One of the year’s most relaxing sounding instrumental albums from Hawaii, Rainbow Road is sublime sounding, meditative musical journeys you could take without leaving the comfort of your living room.

LONG TALE RECORDINGS / REAL WORLD WORKS /BOB HOLROYD MUSIC – A master of the 21st century instrumental ambient music art-form, U.K. based Bob Holroyd released The Cage in early 2018 and fans of the genre will be most pleased by this extraordinary release. Inspired by Eno and more recent masters like John Metcalfe, composer Holroyd uses a montage of synthesized soundtracks to create otherworldly sonic paintings. Ostensibly keyboard / synth based music that borrows from minimalist music World Music, electronica and even jazz, The Cage also benefits from contributions from several other musicians including Peter Gregson (cello), Craig Joiner (guitars) and more. The CD sounds excellent and comes in user friendly digi-pak artwork with intriguing looking artwork. In addition to The Cage, Bob has also recently worked on the soundtrack to a new movie narrated by Jeff Bridges and U.K. fans should keep an eye out for Bob appearing at Winchester Planetarium which will feature The Cage in surround sound with intergalactic cinema screen backdrop.

MARLIN RECORDS - One of America’s coolest surf-rock instrumental bands, The Insect Surfers released their album Infra Green back in 2013 and in 2018 they follow up with Datura Moon. Featuring spooky cover art, the music here is as upbeat as ever. Influenced by the great California surf-rock legends of the past, lead guitarist Dave Arnson keeps the instro rock flame burning brightly on an album that shines as bright as anything The Insect Surfers have done. Recorded in Venice California, the ten track CD features Dave working up a storm in the studio backed back his Insect Surfer comrades including Jonpaul Balak (Fender Precision bass), Michael Abraham (guitars) and Chris Roberts (drums). Every track shines in its own right but the highlight is clearly the neo-progressive surf-rock sound of the title track, which closes out the album while clocking in at just under nine minutes. Speaking about the title of the album and the title track, Dave tells, "Datura is a frequently desert-dwelling plant with beautiful blossoms but has properties as a toxic hallucinogen as well. Our album titles have always tended towards oxymorons or synaesthetic meanings- Reverb Sun, Death Valley Coastline, Mojave Reef, Infra Green... , so Datura Moon is a suitable follow-up! The title track is a slow dark psychedelic was actually edited down from 12 minutes to 8 minutes!" Long time Insect Surfer fans will love this track and this superbly recorded surf-rock album.

MICHAEL WHALEN MUSIC – NYC-based composer musician Michael Whalen has a number of albums out under his name and his latest is called Kiss The Quiet. The ten cut CD is a good example of relaxing New Age ambient instrumental music. Although well established in the world of soundtracks and music production going back to his 1993 Narada album Sea Power, Michael will make long time fans of his solo album quite happy with his 2018 album Kiss The Quiet. Michael performs all the instruments used in the recording including piano, electric piano, synths, electronics and various processing. It’s interesting but Michael doesn’t consider himself to be a pianist in the typical meaning of the art form, yet he uses the piano and its related synth keyboards to express himself as a composer, which is done splendidly on Kiss The Quiet. A perfect piano-centric, instrumental soundtrack, featuring excellent album artwork, Kiss The Quiet will truly awaken your senses and calm your mind.

MUSICK RECORDINGS – The name of RI mogol Art Bourasseau is legendary in the rock instrumental world. He’s produced a number of guitar instrumentals in the past and in 2018, Art’s label, MuSick released Taste The Blood Of Guitaracula by Russian surf-rock aficionados The Messer Chups. There's a cool cover depicting Russian vampires munching on Fender amps with a black cat lurking in the foreground. Showing off their diverse yet quite authentic compositional and recording styles, Messer Chups tackle a range of rock instrumental styles and they even get spacy and add in an occasional Russian-esque theremin moment. After all, Leon Theremin was a Russian genius yet hearing an RI band of this caliber from Russia is quite a rare event, even for a seasoned surf-rock fan. Essentially a trio propelled by lead guitarist Oleg Guitaracula, backed up by the key rhythm section of Rockin’ Eugene (drums) and Zombierella on bass, the 16 track CD was recorded in St. Petersburg, Russia. Several guest artists appear and, with its pristine recording, fans of the classic surf-rock instrumental genre will enjoy this Messer Chups album on MuSick. /

ORIGIN RECORDS – Recently released on the Origin label is Destinations, the 2017 CD by the group called Scenes. Featuring jazz guitarist John Stowell, supported by the rhythm section of Jeff Johnson (bass) and John Bishop (drums), the ten-track Destinations CD is a completely entertaining collection of instrumental fusion jazz with a solid mainstream jazz edge. For those music fans just tuning in, Destinations is actually the sixth Scenes CD while the group have been playing together for the past fifteen years. Recorded and mixed in Seattle by Floyd Reitsma, the CD sound is excellent and cover art and packaging adds to the album’s enjoyment. Most of the music is all original but there is a Miles Davis cover called “Solar”. Guitarist John Stowell continues to release fine albums on Origin, and this latest album with his group Scenes is well worth the time to check out.

REAL MUSIC – After eleven albums of New Age instrumental electronic majesty, composer and recording artist Chuck Wild brings his Liquid Mind project in a fresh direction with Peace: Liquid Mind XII. On the twelfth Liquid Mind studio album, Chuck Wild is inspired by the concept of peace. Chuck adds that peace between feuding nations takes time to heal yet peace between people, specifically one-on-one is the subject the album is dedicated to. From his liner notes, Chuck explains, “Peace on a person-to-person basis is possible between any two willing individuals, regardless of their backgrounds.” The CD features tracks with titles like “At The Center Is Love”, “Person To Person”, “Trust” and “Spirit Of Peace”. The calmness and serenity of the album is very clear, making Peace: Liquid Mind XII an excellent album for chilling out and also meditation. In the past Chuck Wild has proclaimed that Liquid Mind makes music to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain and to help remedy other human conditions exacerbated by stress in the modern age. Perhaps Liquid Mind: XII is the perfect album to bring peace to a person, a relationship or even a planet. Whether you’re seeking a restful state or a state of enhanced regeneration, tune in to the peaceful sounds of Chuck Wild and Liquid Mind on the sublime sounding meditative sound of Liquid Mind XII: Peace. /

REAL MUSIC – Grammy winning recording artist Peter Kater returns to California-based Real Music for his 2018 album, simply called She. On She, Peter teams with a very gifted singer called Peia Luzzi. She also benefits from adding contributions from Matt Hefner (bass) and Michelle Ancheta (cello). The resulting nine track, 54 minute She album is an hour of pure musical bliss. On the opening track “She Awakens In The Garden”, there’s a kind of Bach inspired, neo-progressive rock melody tempered in the New Age genre, with soaring synths and delicate piano cadences. Coupled with Peia’s wordless vocals, the sound of She is both meditative and enthralling. With Peia’s female vocals perfectly matching Peter’s compositions, the sound of She brings out the muse element in Peter’s music. In an earlier interview Peter has stated that “I’m more committed to my muse than anything else. I try to keep true to my creative instincts and passion.” With She, Peter Kater sings the praises of the female divinity in music and in life. John Lennon said his final song “Woman”, was dedicated to the other half of the sky and Peter corresponds with his most recent instrumental music, adding “She is everywhere, in everything and in everyone. This album is an offering and homage to the endless wellspring of inspiration and healing that She nourishes within me.” Echoing the spirit of the modern day goddess divinity, Peia’s vocals perfectly match Peter’s piano and keyboard based sound, as clear as a bell. As Peter states in his She liner notes “there was no auto tune or vocal correction programs used on her vocals.” Another intriguing aspect on She is the interwoven effects of nature sounds, including waterfalls, beaches and bamboo forest that were each recorded by Peter in Hawaii. Several of the She album tracks are actually presented in two versions thanks to the creative art of abridged and extended remixes. The title track “She” closes the album. With a thrilling sensation of sonic Déjà-vu, New Age keyboard icon, Peter Kater reinvents his muse yet again on the sublime, soothing sounds of She. /

ROLAND BÜHLMAN MUSIC Over in Switzerland, guitarist / composer Roland Bühlmann continues releasing unique sounding instrumental fusion albums. Much like his 2014 album Aineo, Roland’s 2017 album Bailenas features a staggering array of intriguing music. With Roland performing all the guitars, the five-track 50-minute album features several drummers who add some fine powerful grooves. Roland cites King Crimson founder Robert Fripp and Norwegian fusion guitar hero Terje Rypdal as big influences while on Bailenas, Roland reinvents 21st century guitar fusion but think electronic jazz-fusion with a postmodern Euro-centric twist. Speaking with about the unique musical chemistry he attains on the album, Roland explains, “While I recorded and produced my first album I have never thought about it. But now I think it’s prog rock with fusion and soundscape / minimal elements. So I like acronyms I found the following term: Prim-Rock: ‘PRogressive-Instrumental-Minimal’.” The closing track, “Pange Chorda” runs 18:09 and the entire album is filled with intricate, detailed tracks that make the most of Roland’s intriguing electric guitar based fusion sound.

SOUNDSCAPE PRODUCTIONS – In a world of ubiquitous synthesized soundscapes everywhere you turn, electronic music master Robert Rich truly stands out as unique. With The Biode, Rich returns in 2018 for his most unusual electronic music album. The ten track, 57 minute CD release of The Biode sounds like sci-fi soundtrack yet it’s also quite musical. There’s plenty of unique sounding electronic sounds yet the sound also offers a kind of early 1970s King Crimson backdrop of drama and intrigue, with a solid slice of the kind of otherworldly guitar/synth patterns explored by Fripp & Eno in the late 1970s as well as a touch of Berlin School style teutonica. On his website page, Rich talks about putting his music to images genomes, mitochondria and DNA. That in and of itself is quite an interesting matter for a sci-fi documentary and fittingly The Biode is the perfect soundtrack for an intense, audio docudrama. The music of Robert Rich takes over where words dare not go.

SPOTTED PECCARY – Oregon-based Spotted Peccary continues making New Age music fans happy with the 2018 CD release of Eclipse, featuring Frore & Shane Morris. A collaboration between Frore founder and synth maven Paul Casper and percussionist, flutist and synthesist Shane Morris, the eight track CD conjures a realm of otherworldly instrumental sounds that are truly beguiling and hypnotic. What separates Eclipse from other New Age instrumental albums is the blend of digital and analog synths with a range of exotic percussion, including electronic percussion as well as all types of timeless percussion like rattle, shells, shakers, bells, gongs and much more. Frore and Shane are both masterful synth players and their overlapping sounds creates an endless tapestry of electronic effects that will completely amaze listeners. Every Spotted Peccary album since the mid-1990s has had something to offer music fans and Eclipse is right up there with the label’s finest releases.

ULTIMATE VIBE RECORDINGS – Guitarist Chris Standring is synonymous with the whole smooth jazz movement. Sort of the easy listening side of 21st century mainstream jazz, smooth jazz has been around for a while yet in Chris Standring’s hands, the 2018 CD release of Sunlight is a most welcome addition to the genre. Commenting on his latest album, Chris explains, “Overall, Sunlight has got a joyful, upbeat vibe. It’s got an upbeat spirit to it.” A bunch of gifted players help Chris attain that upbeat groove that goes hand in hand with his guitar instrumental sound. Musicians backing Chris up include keyboardists John Novello, Mitchel Forman, Rodney Lee and Bob James, along with notable studio cats like the rhythm section of Andre Berry (bass) and Chris Coleman (drums) along with guest vocalists who bring some extra pizzazz to the mostly instrumental guitar sound. Even with so many ace players on hand, it’s really Standring’s guitar sound and original tunes that will put a smile on your face. An instrumental cover of Brian Wilson’s timeless, haunting melody from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, “God Only Knows” melts like butter in Standring’s hands. Smooth jazz hardly gets any smoother or cooler than Chris Standring’s Sunlight.

WESTERNMOST RECORDS – Hot on the heels of his 2016 solo album Guitar Stories as well as Slackers In Paradise—his 2016 CD with guitarist Ken Emerson—Jim “Kimo” West makes fans happy again with his 2018 solo album Moku Maluhia – Peaceful Island. Released on Kimo’s Westernmost label, the twelve track Moku Maluhia CD brings an impressive repertoire of newly recorded Slack Key guitar instrumentals that Kimo says, “transports the listener to their own peaceful island.” The sound of Slack Key guitar music is virtually intrinsic to the culture and whole vibe of Hawaii and its beautiful islands and, there’s no better guitarist than Jim Kimo West to represent the sound of that magical land. Well known in the pop music world as electric lead guitarist in the band of “Weird Al” Yankovic, in a wonderfully contrasting manner, Jim Kimo West is equally well respected as a cutting edge advocate of the timeless, acoustic Slack Key guitar sound. Kimo’s track-by-track liner notes include recording info and insights into each song—as well as the various guitar tunings used on each track. Dedicated to Kimo’s composer friend Ried Kapo Ku, Moku Maluhia also features superb, picturesque album artwork created by acclaimed Hawaiian painter Harry Wishard that almost instantly provides you with a sublime, scenic backdrop for Kimo’s meditative slack key musical experience. Pure slack key guitar magic by one of the world’s finest fretboard masters, Moko Maluhia is like a sonic treasure hunt into the lore and legend of Hawaii.



ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Founding member and keyboardist with progressive rock greats Procol Harum, Matthew Fisher left the band after producing and co-creating the 1969 classic A Salty Dog. After producing Robin Trower’s early solo albums, Matthew went on to record a number of critically acclaimed, tho’ often overlooked solo albums. Angel Air has done a good job reestablishing some of the history behind Matthew’s solo career and they follow suit with the 2018 CD release of Matthew Fisher / Strange Days. The self-titled Matthew Fisher was released circa 1980 with the follow up, Strange Days in 1981. A number of UK session greats play on both albums including guitarist Tim Renwick and drummers Dave Mattacks as well as Peter Van Hooke. Fisher’s vocals were never featured a lot in Procol Harum, yet he was always a fine, if slightly understated vocalist, especially when compared to Procol Harum icon Gary Brooker. Strange Days is quite unique in that many of the tracks were co-written and co-produced by Zombies / Argent legend Chris White. Rod Argent also appears on backing vocals and Procol guitar icon Mick Grabham also appears on electric guitar here as well. Both albums are superbly recorded and produced and provide fresh insights into Matthew Fisher’s creative whereabouts in the ultra-strange daze of 1980/81. Liner notes by Austin Powell are excellent and as usual, the CD features all the vital names and dates and who’s who.

MUFFIN MUSIC – Back during the fateful summer of 1980, the song of that season was “Echo Beach” by Canadian pop superstars Martha And The Muffins. The band later shortened their name to o M+M and, following their early post-punk pop origins, and went on to blaze a daring musical trail of catchy, dance music-based pop albums. To the delight of long time fans, M+M made a most welcome comeback with their 2010 album Delicate as well as a solo album, called Solo-One from their lead vocalist Martha Johnson. M+M cofounder Mark Gane is still very much involved in chronicling the band’s colorful history. Speaking to about the CD reissues of the early M+M albums, over the past ten years Mark Gane tells, “Our first full album reissue on our own label, Muffin Music was Danseparc (1983), supplemented with Parctalk - A One-Sided Conversation About Danseparc both from 2008, Mystery Walk (1984) in 2014 and The World Is A Ball (1986) in 2016. When we could afford to do so, we would put one out! The last two reissues plus Martha's 2013 solo album, 'SOLO•ONE' have been done through crowdfunding campaigns with PledgeMusic.” Of course when Martha & The Muffins made “Echo Beach” and their first three studio albums, including their breakthrough album Metro Music, there was no compact disc yet and hardly any indie bands released cassettes. Recalling their 1980s album releases, Mark also explains, “None of our albums were originally on CD. They were all vinyl including The World Is A Ball in 1986 and at that point RCA Canada would only let us master for vinyl not CD. It was only when we did our own full album remasters that they came out in CD format. There was one Virgin UK compilation CD released in 1987 without our input, which was garbage and another one on One Way Records in 2000, again without consulting us. Since 1992 when Modern Lullaby came out, we've always done our mastering and remastering with Peter J. Moore here in Toronto.” There’s no denying the historic albums released by Gane, Johnson and company, yet for many fans the early Martha & The Muffins will always have irreplaceable musical importance to which Gane also tells, “Thanks to changes made in U.S. copyright law in the 1970s, we are in the process of regaining the masters and publishing rights in the U.S. for our first 3 albums done with Virgin in the UK and the masters for the subsequent 3 albums with Current/RCA Canada. It's a fairly long process but once it's done we will have the ability to release whatever material we want from those albums. It's quite exciting.” With the release of the M+M comeback from 2010 and the Martha Johnson Solo-One album the future looks bright for M+M to which Gane also adds, “Working on more music, I had a painting retrospective a year ago which went well. I’m also doing a lot of improvised music with like-minded players (John Oswald, Eugene Martynec, Ray Dillard etc, and Martha writes with younger songwriters and artists as well.” Martha & The Muffins created so many great memories for the music fans of the 1980s. Those who are still here to tell of the history can only rub their eyes and with much gratitude and hope, I can't believe Echo Beach is 38 this summer… Summer '80 forever!

RHINO RECORDS There’s so many incredible musical highlights on the 2017 Steve Howe release of Anthology 2: Groups & Collaborations that it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, just about every musician Steve Howe ever played with has got to be somewhere on this 52 track, three CD set. Liner notes by Steve are understated, yet meaningful. Early track, “On The Horizon” (a Leiber-Stoller cover) produced by Joe Meek and featuring Howe’s early band The Syndicats is brilliant, as are his fine recordings with lead singer Keith West and their band Tomorrow, as well as three rarities featuring the overlooked David Lawrence Atkins—the latter the phenomenal Curtiss / Maldoon singer (stage name Dave Curtiss) from Steve’s lesser explored bands Canto and Bodast. The brief instrumental by YES, “Montreux’s Theme” is noteworthy but represents a sound that was tragically under-explored in YES, while the full length Fragile version of “Roundabout”, the band’s breakthrough track, hardly needs any introduction. Other insertions of additional YES material is offset by tastes of 1980’s era Howe in both GTR and ASIA. Disc two starts off with a fantastic rock edit version of “Brother Of Mine” from Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe yet, slightly less-played YES tracks from Keys To Ascension and humble choices from The Ladder and Open Your Eyes are not the best representatives of that underrated, fleeting late 1990’s YES period. For long time Howe fans who have already tasted some of the above material, the best part of Anthology 2 is disc 3, which features rare rock tracks that Steve made with Billy Currie, singer Fish, Oliver Wakeman and Annie Haslam. Annie Haslam is latter featured on the hardly-ever-heard and overlooked track “Lily’s In The Field”, which is the studio version of what became the theme song from Steve and Annie’s fabled live concert event in New York, organized by Steve, Annie and 20th Century Guitar magazine, at Irving Plaza in the borough of Manhattan on the 21st of November 1995—just as YES were in the throes of their big mid decade comeback starting off the second half of the 1990’s. Despite the release of this ear-opening three CD set, 2017 was not a good year for Steve as his son Virgil Howe, brother to Dylan Howe, tragically died in September 2017. Virgil, at a very young age is featured drumming on some excellent songs here that Steve chronicles as being recorded in 1988. Those tracks, on disc three, featured Steve reunited with Tomorrow vocalist Keith West and a 13 year old Virgil on drums and man, that boy can play! Essential and ultra cool Howe rock instrumentals from ASIA (“Masquerade”) and Ray Fenwick & Steve Howe with Virgil (“Slim Pickings” from 2002) as well as another rare instrumental from 1988, called “Curved Ball”—featuring Steve, Keith and Virgil blasting forth—are alone worth the price of admission to Anthology 2.

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