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429 RECORDS - Part of the Savoy Label Group run by music business honcho Steve Vining, the 429 Records imprint has taken it’s place in the big conglomerate with a bunch of new CDs. First up is Keep The Faith by California songstress Toni Childs.Back in action after several years recuperation from illness, Childs established herself back in the early ‘90s and Keep The Faith is a fine return to form. Supported by a fine band—including electric guitar from Jeff Trott—the eleven track CD features a cross section of pop and rock that draws on songstress influences from Grace Slick and Yoko Ono to Laura Nyro. Several tracks feel like Childs is channeling John Lennon. Childs weaves a sublime spell with her music magic.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS- 2009 marks 40 years since the self-titled first album from Mott The Hoople. Produced by Island Records music mentor Guy Stevens, that album introduced a new rock sound from England that David Bowie would draw on to launch the glam rock invasion of late 1971. On keyboards for Mott on the Mott The Hoople album was Verden Allen. Recorded between January and May 2009 and released in June 2009, My Masochistic Side is the latest solo album from Allen. Recorded in South Wales, the ten track CD features Allen performing all the instruments highlighted by his trademark Hoople-esque organ sound.The sound is full bodied and Allen’s vocals are reminiscent of founding Mott vocalist Ian Hunter. In addition to this latest Allen CD, Angel Air also have three other Allen CDs in their vast catalog of U.K. rock. Gearing up for a 5 night stand at the HMV Apollo in London during the first week of October 2009 are Allen and the original Mott The Hoople featuring Ian Hunter, guitarist Mick Ralphs, Dale Griffin and Overend Watts. That band, plus guitarist Ariel Bender and keyboardist Morgan Fisher are well represented on Angel Air’s release of Hoopling - Best Of Live. Drawing on 12 tracks, clocking in at 74 minutes, Hoopling covers the Hoople heyday of 1971 to 1974. Meant as a sampler of the many live tracks the band released, Hoopling features all the big MTH hits including “Roll Away The Stone,” “All The Way From Memphis,” “All The Young Dudes,” along with an early Mott version of “Ready For Love,” a song that guitarist Mick Ralphs would have a huge hit with in Bad Company. In addition, the CD sound is high quality and the CD also features a 16 page booklet with liners by Keith Smith of Two Miles From Heaven, a Mott The Hoople fanzine.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Over in the U.K. Angel Air continues on as one of the top reissue labels in the U.K. High on the list of 2009 Angel Air CD releases is the long awaited return by U.K. rockers Tenpole Tudor. Astute rock fans will remember Tenpole Tudor thanks to their contribution to the 1986 movie classic, featuring David Bowie, Absolute Beginners, which included a classic Tenpole track called “Ted Ain’t Dead.” The group’s leader / singer Edward Tudor-Pole was also featured in the movie as Ed The Ted. Not much was heard from Tenpole Tudor over the years but, lo and behold in 2009 Angel Air released a new CD from Tenpole Tudor. Made It This Far features some new tracks recorded as recent as 2005 as well as a bunch of others recorded in the ‘90s. Anyone who dug the cool U.K. mod Vs. rocker humor of “Ted Ain’t Dead” will find much to appreciate here. Ed Tenpole Tudor goes all the way back to the ‘70s and his affiliation with 1977 power punks, The Sex Pistols but clearly, with his keen ability to combine rockabilly, Brit-pop and a very eclectic, and often fun approach to punk and pop, Made It This Far is a welcome return from a veritable hero of the now fabled ‘80s U.K. music scene. In addition, Angel Air’s booklet features in depth liner notes from Tenpole in addition to a bunch of historic pics. Angel Air continues branching out musically with additions to their wide ranging catalog with the 2009 double CD entitled Town Beyond The Trees from U.K. pop rockers The Storys. Influenced by the breezy, West Coast, harmony strewn pop sound of the ‘70s and artists like The Eagles, CSN and others, The Storys were formed in 2003. The group’s double CD set on Angel Air, features their latest CD Town Beyond The Trees, along with a second CD of live tracks including four cuts from the group’s acclaimed self-titled 2006 CD.

APPLESEED RECORDINGS - Following in the footsteps of The Band, Jesse Winchester grew up around Memphis but split to Canada when Vietnam was raging. Back in 1970, Winchester took the FM airwaves by storm with his “Yankee Lady”—recorded with Todd Rundgren and the Band’s Levon Helm—and subsequent albums over the years. Following 25 years in Montreal—and even though President Carter declared amnesty for those fleeing the draft—Winchester moved back to live in Virginia in 2002. With the 2009 CD release of Love Filling Station on Pennsylvania based Appleseed, Winchester returns to his love of making records. With Winchester’s singing and song writing, backed by various artists including guitarists Jerry Douglas (lap steel guitar) and Russ Barenberg (guitar, mandolin), his unique blend of Americana continues to find ways to blend folk, country, bluegrass, blues and gospel music. With over ten albums to his credit, Love Filling Station is a welcome return after a nine year wait following 1999’s Gentleman Of Leisure. Also released on Appleseed in 2009 is the first album in 35 years from folk music legend Tom Rush. His first album since 1974 and his Appleseed debut, What I Know features five Rush originals. Among the nine covers is a version of “Casey Jones” with guest vocalist Nanci Griffith and a reflective take on the Mentor Williams classic “Drift Away.” Also featuring key spotlights from Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Bramlett on backing vocals, What I Know Rush reestablishes the famous Rush knack for combining a golden ear, comforting voice, supple guitar and a craftsman’s pen.

BAR/NONE RECORDS - hERE aND nOW (correct spelling) signals the return to form from pop legends Peter Holsappple and Chris Stamey—both of the ‘80s pop group The dB’s. Backed by a top band, both singer-songwriters merge 14 cuts of authentic sounding ‘90s pop with some interesting progressive edges, perhaps underscored by a lead off cover of a Dave Mason friendly pop track from ‘60s U.K. prog/blues band Family called “My Friend The Sun.” (Mason produced the song) With this much pop wonder cut to disc, fans can also look forward to Holsapple and Stamey releasing a new dB's release in the future.

- U.K. guitar legend Peter Frampton produced the eleven cut Coming Up For Air, the 2009 album from 22 year old, Isle of Man based guitar slinging singing rocker Davy Knowles. Much like he did with Brooklyn based folk-rock singer Eric Stuart back in the ‘90s, Frampton’s midas touch in the studio and on guitars yields some positive feedback a decade later as Knowles sets his guitars on fire. Fans of Frampton’s guitar work in Humble Pie as well as the singing of the late great Steve Marriott circa 1971 will enjoy the Knowles guitar sound. With his blue eyed soul and vigorous vocals, the multitalented Knowles is more reminiscent of Free / Bad Company singer Paul Rogers—in other words, he rocks but with lots of soul. A definite highlight is a searing, searching cover of the George Harrison All Things Must Pass track “Hear Me Lord,” which features Knowles delivering a first rate vocal with him and Frampton trading scorching hot lead guitar choruses on the mantra like ending. Be interesting to see if, even as a producer if Frampton will one day go back in to his love of instrumental work as evidenced by his fantastic Fingerprints album of 2006, which incidentally featured Frampton’s jazz-rock instrumental cover of Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” In the meantime, fans of the Frampton legacy as a guitar hero and producer have something new to cheer down about in 2009.

CBS RECORDS - The biggest challenge any artist has is following up a good album with an even better one. In 2007 Will Dailey released Back Flipping Forward. As good as that pop effort was, the 2009 CD release of Torrent Volumes 1 & 2 solidifies Dailey’s reputation as a rising pop singer and songwriter. With Dailey’s latest self-described torrential output of music, the CD’s first 5 tracks are part of Fashions Of Distraction. By the time part two, By The Blue Hills kicks in Dailey comes alive with six uptempo pop rockers. The CD features Dailey’s backing band, The Rivals, while a bunch of guest artists also appear including Byrds’ founding guitarist Roger McGuinn, Cars / New Cars guitar driver Elliott Easton and noted guitar ace Duke Levine. Produced by Tom Polce, with further input regarding the album’s studio sound from T Bone Burnett, Torrent Volumes 1 & 2 has something for pop fans of all stripes and colors. A good example that leads off By The Blues Hills is “How Can I Make You Happy”—a driving pop-rocker with some great Beatle-esque guitar work from Duke. A pair of bonus tracks and excellent CD packaging adds to the excellence of the 13 track CD. Clearly influenced by all the great singers such as Dylan and Van Morrison, Dailey’s specialty is merging that funky vocal style with a solid power pop combo that should definitely appeal to fans of the west coast edge of Tom Petty and even the urbane Rundgren-esque sound of Mr. Easton’s band, Boston rockers The New Cars.

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE MUSIC - The first album of new music specifically made for archive / reissue label Collector’s Choice, Starting All Over Again from U.K. blues / rock singer Paul Jones is the first album in quite a while from the one time Manfred Mann vocalist. With Jones handling lead vocals—with backing from R&B legend Percy Sledge on the set closing “Big Blues Diamonds”—Starting All Over Again is a guitar slingers dream, complete with guest lead work from Eric Clapton including scorching lead work from Slowhand on the title track. Also appearing are Jake Andrews (guitars), former Hollies singer Mikael Rifors, drummer Alvino Bennett and more. Getting producer credits here is singer Carla Olson. Recorded in L.A. and London, Starting All Over Again is a solid blues rock effort and a welcome return to form from singer Paul Jones.

/ MONSTER MUSIC - 40 years after releasing his first recordings, the ever soulful George Benson returns in fine form on his 2009 Concord Jazz release Songs And Stories. A guitar superstar and all around nice guy too, Benson is as comfortable skirting the edges of guitar fusion as he is as a soulful crooner, a modern day R&B Bing Crosby if you like! That side of Benson the singer is at the core of Songs And Stories. On Songs And Stories, the singing guitarist is at his best performing the music of a number of song writing legends including Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier, Bill Withers, who came out of retirement for his song and James Taylor, reworked here by Benson on a cover of the Taylor classic “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” showcased here with a Latin beat. Benson’s band—featuring drummer John “JR” Robinson, bass ace Marcus Miller—is smokin’ too with added support from top players such as singer Lalah Hathaway and jazz fusion guitarist Lee Ritenour. Interestingly, Benson closes his Songs And Stories CD with a cover of the 1980 Christopher Cross hit “Sailing,” revived here with the help of fellow guitarists Toninho Horta and Marcelo Lima. Songs And Stories may be a superstar heavy session but the spotlight is always on Benson’s soulful singing and guitar work.

CRANKTONE ENTERTAINMENT - Whether offering up covers of rock classics, writing his own rock tracks or laying down a range of mighty powerful instrumentals, guitarist and singer-songwriter Carl Verheyen has it covered on his 2009 CD, Trading 8s. With such a range of vital guitar rock and fusion in play, there’s plenty of fine tracks on what might very well be Verheyen’s finest release yet. Guitar fans already aware of Verheyen’s legendary guitar prowess and vocals will be even more impressed with the range of guitarists appearing as guests here including Joe Bonamassa, Steve Morse, Robben Ford, Albert Lee and Scott Henderson. Verheyen’s core band here—bass ace Dave Marotta and drum legend Walfredo Reyes Jr.—keeps the steady rhythm. Also on board, keyboardist Jim Cox is a long time Verheyen accomplice and Naomi Star provides an interesting sound while sharing the vocal spotlight with Verheyen on several tracks here. Much has been written about Verheyen’s chameleon like approach to rock and fusion and he lives up to his legacy with Trading 8s. A good example of Verheyen’s eclectic approach to rock can be heard on the CD’s only cover, a new version of George Harrison’s “Taxman” which features Verheyen’s vocals with a definite Police / Sting influence while the two part “Henry’s Farm” offers a candid snapshot of Verheyen’s virtuosity as an instrumental composer. With so many great guitarists appearing as guest artists on various tracks here, there’s an abundance of musical spotlights but that’s what in part makes this album so appealing. A veritable guitar diplomat, Verheyen’s track by track 2009 liner notes places Trading 8s into perspective.

DECCA RECORDS - A joint venture between Schema Records and the U.S. based Emarcy label, and distributed by Decca Records U.S. here in NYC, Rituals introduces the U.S. market to Italy’s guitarist Nicola Conte. Conte’s bag combines big band jazz fusion with horns and winds ablaze while always featuring some gifted vocalists. Back in Europa, Conte had a couple of critically acclaimed releases. On Rituals, his sounds features a kind Flora Purim meets Sade style vocal sound with the spotlight on female singers Chiara Civello and Alice Ricciardi. A cover of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” gives a good idea of Conte’s writing and arranging influences. Although he plays guitar throughout the album, only a few tracks spotlight guitar and obviously the music is really more geared around Conte’s orchestral / tropical / Nu Jazz big band vision. With so many singers, trumpets, trombones, alto and baritone sax and flute on hand it’s sure hard to get that guitar in! Even writing the lyrics for the quartet of singers here, with Rituals Conte exudes a rare aura of compositional confidence of musical vision.

DECCA LABEL GROUP - Fresh off their 2009, Celtic Thunder released their new CD/DVD Take Me Home. Described as the Fab Five of Celtic pop, Take Me Home features brand new songs along with covers of “Every Breath You Take” along with hits originally made famous from Josh Groban, the Proclaimers and more including covers of “Wichita Lineman” and oldies like “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Lately they performed on St. Patrick’s DAy for President Obama and Ireland’s Brian Cowan. With their solid Celtic approach to pop and rock, along with a sprinkling of instrumentals—check out their “Belfast Polka” / “Pennsylvania Railroad”—Celtic Thunder combine Irish music with a fondness for the legacy of classic pop and rock.

- Formerly Koch Records, E1 released a hot new dance pop CD from pop singing sensation Erika Jayne. The 2009 CD release of Pretty Mess is heating up clubs and dance floors worldwide. Back in the ‘80s the pop world had hot singers like Stacy Q, and in a similar spirit Ms. Jayne combines pop smarts and dance music grooves to great effect. The Atlanta born and now L.A. based Jayne is poised for international super stardom with her Pretty Mess CD. In addition, Pretty Mess features some hot percussion work from the great Sheila E. Speaking about her many influences, Erika cites Madonna, The Doors, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi and the Stones!

EAGLE VISION - Released by Eagle Vision on both DVD and Blu-ray, Diana Krall Live In Rio finds the jazz-pop chanteuse in primo form performing before a throng of devoted Brazilian music fans. Performing cuts from her recent Verve release, Quiet Nights, the 135 minute DVD features Krall on Steinway grand piano backed up by her quartet including Anthony Wilson (guitar), John Clayton (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums). Mixing in a number of jazz standards with the samba and bossa nova fare from Quiet Nights, the DVD also features a bonus track called “Conversations,” featuring an intimate portrait of Krall and her band during their stay in Rio de Janeiro as well as a new video—filled with captivating beach scenes—of “The Boy From Ipanema.” The Blu-ray disc adds in “The Rooftop Sessions,” with four additional tracks filmed in Rio. Krall’s singing and piano work is excellent throughout the DVD. Clearly Live In Rio is a fantastic choice for Krall fans as well as pop / jazz fans and fans of the time-honored bossa nova. Eagle Vision continues on with a number of key DVD releases during the Summer of 2009 including Mr. Rock ‘n Roll - The Alan Freed Story. For those who need a reminder, Freed was the top DJ in the country when Rock & Roll first took hold in the '50s and he was in tight with all the key artists and record execs in the country. A modern take on the Freed story, Mr. Rock ‘n Roll takes you right back to the dawn of the birth of rock and roll. The movie tells the tale of Freed from a human perspective set against the music of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and more, all played here by top actors and unknown artists. With Freed played by Judd Nelson, the movie also features key performances by Madchen Amick and Paula Abdul. Although these aren’t the actual artists, the movie makes you feel like you’re right there in NYC during the rock and roll mania of the late ‘50s.

Eagle’s slate of top draw releases into 2009 also includes CD/DVD career retrospective from guitarist and singer-songwriter Zakk Wylde and his group Black Label Society. Available, as usual from the ever versatile Eagle Rock, in CD, DVD and CD/DVD combo formats, Skullage is filled with the band’s best videos, live sets and some acoustic stuff too and an interview with Zakk while the CD draws on various kick-ass album classics spanning their ten year career. Keeping in line with their devotion to high quality rock, Eagle also have a double CD set from Black Crowes, featuring the rock brothers Robinson. Essentially a live concert of the 2008 War Paint album, War Paint Live should be right up the alley of long time fans. A live DVD of the concert show is planned for 2009 release.

EMARCY / DECCA- On his 2009 CD Piety Street, jazz guitarist extraordinaireJohn Scofield returns with a rockin’ album of tried and true gospel covers. Revered in the jazz world for his many fine solo albums—as well as his work with giants like Charles Mingus, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and more—Scofield makes a rare and unusual move with Piety Street. Commenting on his 13 track CD for the Emarcy label—distributed by Decca Records in the U.S.—Sco adds, ‘I launched a personal search for musical inspiration beyond the standard 12 bar blues and found it in “old time gospel” music. My search led to countless songs that really move me. Of course, it will be Gospel done my way—all the arrangements are mine.’ Accompanying Scofield’s burning guitar leads are singers Jon Cleary and John Boutté, drummer Ricky Fataar and George Porter, Jr. (bass). Scofield squeezes a range of emotions out of his Ibanez guitars and Vox amps. Produced by John Scofield and Mark Bingham, Piety Street is the jazziest, bluesiest, funkiest guitar-based Gospel album you’re ever going to hear!

- Solid countrified style pop/rock in the spirit of groups like Kentucky Headhunters and even Savoy Brown with a solid bluesy kick-ass edge and a tip of the hat to early rockers like Elvis and Carl Perkins, The Radio Kings strike pay dirt with their self-titled 2009 CD. Excellent guitar work from Michael Dinallo and lap steeler Steve Sadler and company back up with vocals and harp of Brian Templeton. Quality kick-ass rock, that’s well recorded, The Radio Kings deserve your ears.

- The music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David is timeless. One new CD bearing out that thought is the 2009 CD release of the Burt Bacharach Songbook from singer Carol Duboc. Assisted by some fine players, including flute legend Hubert Laws, Joe Cartwright (piano), Danny Embrey (guitar) and more, Duboc comes up a winner on a fine collection of memorable pop classics from the pen of Bacharach and his lyricist Hal David. Recorded in L.A. and Kansas City, MO., highlights include new covers of songs most people grew up with back in the ‘60s. A number of Bacharach songs were originally written with singer Dionne Warwick in mind and on that front Ms. Duboc has it covered on her renditions of “The Look Of Love,” “Close To You,” “Say A Little Prayer” and nine others. Posing on the cover with Hubert Laws just behind, Duboc looks like she’s right at home here and from the sound of her CD, clearly it sounds like she is too.

- Produced and recorded in Nashville with T Bone Burnett, the 2009 CD release of Secret, Profane And Sugarcane is a mostly acoustic CD that finds one time New Wave music hero Elvis Costello in a real mellow mood. With Burnett also appearing in his band, Elvis goes Nashville on a 13 track CD that rarely raises the decibel level into the red but still kicks up some dust now and then. “My All Time Doll” sounds like the old Elvis with a pumping, solid blues-punk riff played by a Dixieland band! “Hidden Shame” sounds like the vintage Elvis writing lyrics with Paul McCartney back in ‘89. Throughout the CD, Elvis gets top backing from greats like Nashville Dobro king, Jerry Douglas, harmony vocals from Jim Lauderdale along with other top players. In addition to writing much of the entire set, and handling lead vocals, Elvis also plays a number of classic acoustic Martin and Gibson guitars.

ISLAND DEF JAM - Celebrating 50 years of musical legacy, Island Records and sister label Def Jam released the much anticipated return by soul and R&B singing icon Lionel Richie. The 2009 CD release of Just Go finds the superstar in the company of producers like StarGate and Akon, the latter especially did a great job writing and co-producing the title track. Richie may have turned 60 recently yet he sounds totally in sync with today’s current generation of slick, R&B dance music specialists. In light of the BeeGee’s retirement from recording (at least for now) and the sad passing of R&B pop great Michael Jackson, Richie’s legacy as a modern R&B icon comes full circle and is well worth investigating again on the appealing soul-pop friendly grooves of Just Go.

MEROKE SKY RECORDS - A new label based out in L.A., Meroke Sky released a great various artists sampler CD called The United States Of Consciousness in 2009. Encompassing blues, folk, pop and roots music, highlights of the 20 track CD includes a new track called “Men Of Blood” from rock and pop innovator Gerry Goffin and blues-rock icon Barry Goldberg. Goldberg has a released a 2009 solo CD on Meroke Sky as well. Hearing the song “Men Of Blood” from rock and roll inventor Gerry Goffin is a true revelation and pairing with Goldberg is a great turn of fortune for music fans. Goffin has been pretty quiet since his amazing comeback Back Room Blood released in 1996 with both Bob Dylan and Barry Goldberg. Goldberg also teams with singer Bonnie Parker on the CD’s rocking leadoff track “I Believe.” Overall, the US of C CD features an impressive bunch of up and coming rockers, poppers and bluesy folk singers on a wide variety of different yet appealing songs. Singer-songwriter Carla Olsson makes a splendid showing with her track and another singer on the CD, Robin Q. Tayler turns in a modern folk-rock protest classic called “Code Red, White And Blue.” In fact, the theme throughout here is one of protesting war and the way Bush II years polluted America’s karma with it’s preemptive war, all leading to the economic collapse and near depression of 2009. Early in 2009, America woke up again after a long dark slumber, but the karmic road back is long and hollow. I hope we make it but the future is very uncertain as we close out the decade of disaster and disappointment. Meroke Sky founder and CD producer Mike Giangreco, who did a great job assembling the tracks states, ‘This album was born not only out of necessity to help voice the feelings of many in the music community, but also to give validation to this feeling beyond the live performance. On this album, you will hear not only some musical greats with resumes one could only wish to aspire to, but also those of the young and innocent.’ As long as there’s been wars, there has also been brave singers and songwriters looking to right the wrongs in society and a bunch of them make that vision perfectly clear on The United States Of Consciousness. One of the great various artists collections of the early 2000’s, this CD captures the fleeting spirit of peace and love in the gift of song. www.MerokeSkyRecords

- Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I used to love to watch Fred Frith perform on his guitars in Manhattan. Awe struck by Fred’s work in avant rock pioneers Henry Cow, I used to invite him down to my dad’s restaurant, the Chambers Deli on 6th Avenue and 58th street, just to enjoy his presence. This was especially true after Fred’s famous 1979 Gravity album with Swedish RIO king Lasse Hollmer and Samla. Where was I....ah, yes, the art of noise of the guitar—the sounds made famous from rock in opposition guitarists like Fred, Hans Reichel and Zamla’s Eino Haapala—continues on in the 21st century with NYC’s downtown guitarist Elliott Sharp. In the spirit of Frith and Haapala, Sharp has carved out quite a name for himself over the last decade as a daring, experimental, electric 'avant' guitarist, and he continues on in peak form on the 2009 Moonjune Records CD release of Protoplasmic. Actually a duo release from Sharp and Italian singer Boris Savoldelli, Protoplasmic combines Savoldelli’s bizarre vocal loops and layerings and overall sense of improvisational anarchy with Sharp’s extended concepts of merging jazz, improvisation, electronica and a primitive rock and roll into a sound that is best described as ‘downtown.’ The sound of the CD is excellent, and while this cup of tea might not be for everyone, there’s a sense of musical integrity and wide screen fascination to surely make it of interest among fans of the musical avant garde. And yes, Fred Frith would approve.

MOTÉMA - Released in 2009, Painted On Water is a cool little 14 cut CD of wildly inventive World Beat style jazz from Turkish artists—singer Sertab Erener and guitarist Demir Demirkan. The duo’s World Beat Fusion groove owes a lot to mainstream American jazz-rock groups such as latter day Return To Forever and combines a wealth of jazz and pop sounds as well as influences from their native country Turkey. Sertab’s vocals are reminiscent of jazz legends Gayle Moran (from Music Magic era RTF) and Flora Purim, who also appeared on the 1972 RTF classic Light As A Feather. Sertab’s English sung lyrics receive excellent support from Demir’s solid electric guitar work. With his solid grasp of fusion guitar styles, Demir is something of a legend in Turkey having released six albums in addition to various film scores. A number of key players back up both Turkish musicians on their CD, including guitarist Al DiMeola, drummer Dave Weckl and percussionist Trilok Gurtu. Sertab and Demir should be given a lot of credit for bringing their exotic Turkish jazz-rock sound over to the U.S. for American music fans to open their ears and appreciate.

NETTWERK -It’s Swedish pop music 101 with the 2009 release of Colonia from the group known as A Camp, featuring singer Nina Persson from The Cardigans. Using ABBA as a reference, this album wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Sweden back in the early ‘80s.The country with the coolest subway station in the world, not to mention some great guitarists, continues to be fine exporter of pop music. Persson, her husband / bassist Nathan Larson and guitarist Niclas Frisk have brought their alt-rock sound over to NYC where, backed by several drummers they recorded Colonia. Swedish pop collides with West Coast pop making A Camp worth it for fans of Persson’s lush vocals with the Cardigans.

REPRISE RECORDS - Forty years ago I had my Blind Faith tickets safe in my room. Me and my camp buddy Skipper Wilbach were perched to set forth as we entered the Madison Square Garden arena to witness the coming of Blind Faith on July 12, 1969. A diehard Cream and Traffic fan, I almost had to pinch myself that this concert was really happening. With an incredible summer ‘69 album of their own out in the U.S. on A&M, Free were amazing as the lead off act on the 1969 Blind Faith tour while taking the stage right after as the center of the bill was Delaney & Bonny with Dave Mason. Taking the FM radio airwaves by storm, Blind Faith were set to release a brilliant first album which stunned both the blues rock set and the newly established progressive rock sound as spearheaded by Cream and Traffic. Missing of course from the February 25, 26 and 28, 2008 reunion concerts at Madison Square Garden featuring Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton, were Ginger Baker, with the noted absence of the late, great Blind Faith bass and violin player, Ric Grech. Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Blind Faith, Clapton and Winwood are once again on tour Summer 2009, bolstered by the spring 2009 CD/DVD release of Live From Madison Sq. Garden. The CD sound is first rate with two discs combining 20 tracks. As expected, the anthem of summer ‘69 “Had To Cry Today” kicks off the CD, which goes on to combine not only Blind Faith songs, but also Traffic and Winwood / Clapton catalog hits with covers of J.J. Cale, Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ray Charles. A number of Winwood classics are sprinkled throughout and it’s interesting to hear Clapton adding in licks to the Traffic material. Sure it would have been nice to have Ginger Baker behind the skins once again... but backed by drummer Ian Thomas and rock session monsters Willie Weeks (bass) and Chris Stainton (keyboards), Clapton and Winwood secure their legacy with their classy 2008 Blind Faith CD and DVD reunion.

ROUNDER RECORDS - Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith released The Loving Kind on Rounder in 2009. Featuring a batch of new tracks and four covers, the 13 track CD spotlights Griffith on vocals and acoustic guitar along with top assistance from guitarist Thomm Jutz and drummer Pat McInerney, both of whom also co-produced the CD. Among the many fine players appearing is Fats Kaplin on pedal steel and mandolin and folk legend John Prine also appears. Fans of giants like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Emmy Lou Harris are recommended to give a listen to Griffith’s first album of new music since 2005. Highlights include an impressive Griffith cover of the Gale Trippsmith classic “Money Changes Everything.” Suitably the CD is dedicated to Griffith’s mentors including the late, great song writing genius John Stewart and music legends Townes Van Zandt and Odetta.

SAGUARO ROAD - For a dose of rocking country music take a listen to the 2009 return from Country & Western music songstress Tanya Tucker. Revolving around her deep love for traditional C&W and pop, My Turn features fresh and appealing covers of classics made famous by giants like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Eddie Arnold, George Jones and others. A fresh Tucker cover of a 1922 vaudeville classic most associated with Hank Williams’ classic hit version, “Lovesick Blues,” is fantastic and, by reversing the gender of Hank’s original lyric, Tucker puts a new spin on one of Country music's greatest standards. Produced and arranged by guitarist Pete Anderson at his L.A. studios, and featuring a number of top sessioners, the 12 track My Turn puts Tucker once again on the cutting edge of country music. Commenting on the album Tanya claims, ‘I picked the songs my daddy always wanted me to sing. This is really a tribute to him because he was with me throughout my entire career. He’s now with God above but I know he’s watching over me still and loving these songs and this record.’ Anderson, whose country picking guitar leads sound great here also states, ‘I always knew Tanya was a great singer, but not until she went up against the classic country songs and singers of all time did I realize that she is one of the greatest alive...she made these songs her own.’ Only 13 when her “Delta Dawn” became a top ten hit, back when she was fondly called “The Texas Tornado, Tucker brings back the best of the classic Country & Western spirit on My Turn. Interestingly, the Virginia based Saguaro Road Records has done a great job reviving Tucker’s career with My Turn, just as they did with their outstanding 2008 comeback CD/DVD from rock & roll pioneer, Dion on his Heroes release. With classic cover art, the CD is capped off by new liner notes by C&W legend George Jones.

- Some of this is a bit over the top, for instance Susanna Hoffs’ breathy vocals on “All The Young Dudes” and “Go All The Way.” Still that doesn’t take away too much of the fun factor here. On their latest pop tribute extravaganza, Under The Covers Vol. 2, singer / guitarists Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs—calling themselves Sid n’ Susie—team on a fresh, 16 track batch of time proven pop standards, with each adding in their particular pop traits that have endeared them to their respective fan bases. Starting off with an unusual choice of the Grateful Dead classic “Sugar Magnolia,” the CD proceeds onward with an eclectic choice of pop tribute classics. Picking to cover an artists’ most popular song might not have been the most creative way to approach this but the L.A. based Shout! Factory has done a quite professional job on their latest Sweet / Hoffs venture. Other favorites tackled by the pair here include a couple Beatles related takes on the 1970 George Harrison classic “Beware Of Darkness” and the recently re-ignited John Lennon politico rock diatribe “Gimme Some Truth,” complete with some blazing George Harrison inspired lead work. “Maggie May” may be a less than optimum choice for a Hoffs lead vocal while a Sweet / Hoffs cover of the Yes rock madrigal “Your Move / All Good People” is unusual and works thanks in part to this cover featuring Yes guitarist Steve Howe on electric and acoustic via the internet from England. Sweet takes the lead on the Todd classic “Hello It’s Me” and with solid backing makes it work. Other surprise guests include George Harrison’s son Dhani Harrison, who adds guitar on “Beware Of Darkness.” With the core band including drummer Ric Menck and lead electric and pedal steel guitar from Greg Leisz, Under The Covers 2 features very cool digi-pak artwork and photo filled booklet with track by track notes from both Sweet and Hoffs. Can’t wait to hear what Vol. 3 holds in store.

/ LEGACY - Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Stone Roses debut album, Legacy released a cool Legacy Edition of the Stone Roses album. Neatly slipcased with 2 CDs and 1 DVD, Legacy’s Stone Roses reissue features the original album newly remastered along with another CD called The Lost Demos, featuring unreleased material. The set also comes with a DVD with a legendary August 1989 concert plus six additional video clips. Featuring the vocals and music of front man Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, the group’s kinder gentler form of Brit-pop might have gone overlooked by some back in 1989 but its worth revisiting now. Another selling point of Legacy’s pop classic is a 28 page booklet detailing comments by Brown, producer John Leckie along with rare photos of the band. A precursor to ‘90s bands like Oasis? Possibly one of the great U.K. rock albums since Revolver? Give the Stone Roses a listen and find out why their story continues.

- I remember when Seymour Stein started Sire Records and then signing his big prog-rock influences like Stackridge and he even signed Swedish composer Bo Hansson, famous for his huge Lord Of The Rings album. Without breaking either Stackridge or Bo Hansson here in the U.S. of course Stein would eventually make it big much closer to home with Talking Heads in the late ‘70s and then striking it even more rich with Madonna in late 1983. I don’t know if old Seymour even listens to music much these days but his label Sire did release the 2009 album from Soviet born / NYC bred Regina Spektor. Interestingly, on the 13 track Far Spektor draws on both the progressive influences of Stein’s (and many of his disciples’) youth, while keeping alive a kind of Madonna-esque, or more likely Tori Amos type image and element in her music. On Far, Spektor teams with a number of producers including ‘71 era Move brain trust / turned ELO champ Jeff Lynne. Anyone who remembers (there’s got to be a few!) Lynne’s amazing recording sound techniques from Move-era Message From The Country or more likely, his eclectic, quicksilver productions with ELO and George Harrison might very well dig Spektor’s edgy, slightly claustrophobic pop mix. Although somewhat uncharacteristic of his previous works in the past, Lynne’s four Far productions feature him on both guitar and bass with added orchestral programming from Lynne’s accomplice Marc Mann. With Spektor’s main instrument being acoustic grand piano, there’s not too much guitar here but her singing is quite fabulous and her songs evoke a new classic pop sound for the 2000’s. Now if only Phil Spector, who’s Spektor family also became Spector here, was around to more carefully structure some of Spektor’s next producer openings! She could use a little more rock focus to her work though. Make her listen to Message From The Country Jeff! Too bad about Phil though...

SMILIN’ CASTLE RECORDS - Austin-based Del Castillo offer up their fourth album. The self-titled Del Castillo combine Latin rock fusion with “Mex-Americana” roots. The 13 track CD features excellent harmony vocals from guitarist brothers Rick del Castillo and Mark del Castillo.

TEAM LOVE RECORDS -Back around 1977 there was this amazing band from France called Wapassou that blended bizarre electronics with lush females vocals that bordered on the other worldly to say the least. Now in 2009 a new group from London called Joker’s Daughter cut a CD called The Last Laugh that is almost as amazing as a 21st century Wapassou! Comprised of singer-songwriter Helena Costas and multi-instrumentalist Danger Mouse, the 14 track Joker’s Daughter CD is ethereal, cosmic music that veers straight across folk-rock into electronic music and beyond. With Danger Mouse complimenting Ms. Costas, and acting as songwriter, producer and musician, the sound of The Last Laugh is lush and full of memorable and melodic twists and turns. The Last Laugh also features the horns of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Scott Spillane and the string arrangements of frequent Danger Mouse collaborator Daniele Luppi. The comparisons to both Wapassou and Pink Floyd notwithstanding, Joker’s Daughter has really turned in a first rate cosmic rock recording just at a time when the music world needs it most.

- Famed U.K. music journalist Allan Jones of Uncut magazine in London gave this one 5 stars. What has Allan been smoking? Featuring the three Felice Brothers, their 13 cut CD, Yonder Is The Clock certainly has a professional sheen to it with a rock ‘n rootsy mix of Tom Waits and The Band. Coming out of the Catskill Mountain area there’s certainly that woody sounding Woodstock vibe to their sound. Come to think of it, as he’s proven over the past 35 years, Allan is rarely wrong. Thanks Allan.

TELARC INTERNATIONAL - Blues singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Otis Taylor returns in 2009 with Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs. Taylor’s music is raw and dark and his haunting vocals and stirring guitar riffs on his latest CD is accompanied by Irish blues-rock guitar icon Gary Moore and jazz/hip-hop piano man Jason Moran. Even Taylor’s love songs aren’t exactly happy but, assisted by top players—including lead vocals on a track here by Taylor’s daughter Cassie Taylor—the essence of his unique approach to jazz and blues-rock rises to the top. Commenting further on the CD Taylor adds, ‘This is a different kind of endeavor for me. I found myself saying ‘what can I do after making a banjo album’?’ My answer was love songs. I think it’s one of my best works because it has such unusual elements.’

V-12 - Following up on the wild success of his Seven Moons album with Cream superstar Jack Bruce, guitar icon Robin Trower gets down to business with his 2009 solo album What Lies Beneath. For this CD, Robin supplies his own lead vocals as opposed to the works of early Trower collaborator Davey Pattison. Like his great tracks on the early ‘70s albums with Procol Harum, Trower proves a fine and effective vocalist on his own, although the spotlight here in right on his groove action guitar sound, which is still very much in the Hendrix realm. For What Lies Beneath Trower successfully teams with album bass player Livingston Brown—who album added string arrangements and produced the CD—along with Sam Van Essen (drums) and Roger Cotton (organ). Anyone who dug Robin’s fantastic comeback CD with Jack Bruce will get a charge off What Lies Beneath, which is filled with his trademark electric guitar sound and soulful moody, bluesy rock vocals. The eleven cut CD also adds in several new atmospheric guitar and quite heavy rock instro tracks which add fuel to the white hot atmospheres in play. And dig that crazy avant gard cover art Robin!

- Back in the ‘60s, Vanguard Records was the vanguard of the folk and jazz music world. Since Lawrence Welk’s son and the Welk Music Group bought the label out back in the ‘80s, they’ve been releasing an abundance of great new folk-rock and pop releases. High on the agenda for 2009 is a new Vanguard tribute CD to the Texas Tornado, rock great Doug Sahm. Although he left the planet back in 1999, Doug Sahm’s legacy lives on in the grooves of Feed Your Soul, A Tribute To Doug Sahm. Liner notes from son Shawn Sahm and even more in depth notes from album co-producer Bill Bentley gives rise to the occasion with the CD including tracks from Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedeo, Jimmy Vaughan, Dave Alvin, Delbert McClinton, The Gourds and many more. Sahm’s presence permeates the CD artwork and booklet and his spirit rocks on these paid on time tributes to his compositional repertoire with Sir Douglas Quintet. Also up and out on Vanguard this Spring 2009 is a fresh CD from The Alternate Routes entitled A Sucker’s Dream. Back in the ‘60s many albums were lucky to have a hit single and on A Sucker’s Dream there’s at least two or three possible single tracks that would sound great on the radio. These more pop blessed tracks sound inspired by Apple pop group Badfinger with “Just A Dream” sounding like a Straight Up out take! Great playing and excellent CD artwork and packaging makes this CD a solid pick.

VICTOR RECORDS - Electric guitar hero Derek Trucks expertly revives the spirit of the early Allman Brothers sound with his sixth album with The Derek Trucks Band, Already Free. Recording in his Jacksonville Florida studio, Trucks lays down a set of smokin’ bluesy rock originals and covers including a lead off take of Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Flood, from the Bob’s famous Basement Tapes album. Close nephew of founding Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, Derek Trucks is a bona fide new millennium cross of Clapton and King while professing a legacy towards early Allman Brothers albums that his uncle added and continues to add so much to. With a solid groove all it’s own, Already Free is a suitable mix of well recorded countrified Southern blues rock. With a fine band, including singer Mike Mattison (sounding here a lot like Gregg Allman), the CD also features guest shots from Doyle Bramhall II and Trucks’ wife, guitarist Susan Tedeschi. Trucks was superb at Eric Clapton’s recent Crossroads concerts and Already Free lives up to Clapton’s noteworthy vision of Trucks as the second coming of Duane Allman.

WHALING CITY SOUND - Although best known for their state of the art jazz instrumental releases—including the last albums from jazz guitar ace Joe Beck—Whaling City Sound have been branching out with a number of jazzy, funky pop albums in 2009. Among the label’s 2009 CD releases, Toys For Chaos introduces music fans to the New England based pop outfit Grand Army. Sort of funky, jazzy pop, Grand Army features the multi-tracked vocals of singer / lyricist Alicia Racine, who is backed up on the ten track CD by a number of gifted players including drummer Adam Colucci, keyboardist Jude Kingston with Jupin on bass. Sort of sounding like the Go-Go’s meets the late ‘70s vocal version of Return To Forever, the Grand Army sound is further fleshed out by a number of support players including guitarists Mozus, Gregg Savage and Brian Cass. Grand Army is a good choice for pop fans with an interest in jazz or jazz fans who enjoy bouncy upbeat techno pop. Jazz or pop? Either way Grand Army has it covered! Although he passed away on July 22, 2008, jazz guitar giant Joe Beck was able to release one final pop jazz album—a 16 cut duets album with singer Laura Theodore. The 2009 Whaling City Sound CD release of Golden Earrings finds both Beck and Theodore in primo form on album that initially was conceived as a tribute to pop music icon Peggy Lee and her guitarist / husband Dave Barbour. This casual meeting of two like minded musicians makes for a spontaneous album of depth and warmth. With just Beck’s guitar and Laura’s voice controlling the sound stage, a lot of the spotlight is clearly on the palate of songs they chose to fill the grooves, including amazing rarities from the pen of Peggy Lee and husband Dave Barbour, along with other jazzy favorites from icons such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Victor Young and more. Pop fans into rock icons such as Paul McCartney should take a listen to Joe Beck and Laura Theodore’s Golden Earrings as these songs are tracks that greatly influenced McCartney’s muse early on. Excellent liner notes from noted jazz historian Bill Milkowski sheds light on this historic album release. After hearing Golden Earrings, jazz guitar fans will want to take a listen to Beck’s other albums on Whaling City Sound, including his excellent 2007 Coincidence CD, recorded with fellow jazz guitar icon John Abercrombie. More bluesy and rocky than the jazzy groove of their Beck / Theodore release, Whaling City Sounds’ release of Under The Bones Of The Great Blue Whale introduces the music world to the sound of Sarah Brooks And Graceful Soul. Kicking off with a cover of the Sam Cooke classic, “Bring It On Home To Me," the 11 track CD features a bluesy mix of classic originals from writers like Cooke, Bacharach, Lennon & McCartney, Harry Warren, Don Covay and more. Backing up the vocals of Ms. Brooks are top players such as guitarists Jim Robitaille and Bob Schlink, sax man Marcus Monteiro and the rhythm section of Bill Miele (bass) and Ken Hadley (drums). Brooks is a soulful singer and the top players she’s chosen to back her on a set of time honored music classics makes for a sterling set of jazzy, bluesy pop covers.

- Steven Van Zandt is a busy man. As the owner of Wicked Cool Records, he hand picked each of these tracks for inclusion on his label's 2009 CD release of Infinite Soul - The Best Of The Grip Weeds. During the better part of this decade—and with several key album releases to their credit—The Grip Weeds have remained a favorite cult band among music fans that cite U.K. bands like The Yardbirds and The Who as big influences. Featuring Kurt Reil (vocals, drums) and brother Rick Reil (guitars, vocals), the two are joined by long time Grip Weeds guitarist Kristin Pinell and Michael Kelly (bass). Drawn from a trio of albums the Grip Weeds recorded for the prestigious Rainbow Quartz label—while adding in a new remake track called “She Brings The Rain—Infinite Soul features excellent multi-panel psychedelic artwork that does justice to 16 tracks that also call on the spirit of the ‘60s for some solid, vintage paisley pop vibes.


BD / LD MUSIC - Released by BIG DOG / LITTLE DOG MUSIC in 2008, The 5th Venture, from Ventures guitarist Bob Spalding is a neat CD of tracks that are clearly inspired by his work in the band but also offer insight into Spalding’s unique guitar abilities. “Blue Dawn” is the lead off track while “Walk Don’t Run” is low key but Spalding's solo version does the track proud. If anything is askew here it might be the low tech studio sound and programmed drums. That doesn’t take away from Spalding’s amazing sense of timing and style but the sound is definitely more DIY than say the bigger budget of Rocky!, the 2008 CD from The Ventures that also featured Spalding’s lead work on several tracks. Ventures’ founders Bob Bogle and Don Wilson have their say and add in a page of liner notes. Perhaps now with 2009’s sad passing of Bob Bogle, Spalding becomes the 4th Venture! Either way, Spalding is a phenomenal guitarist and The 5th Venture is a treat for Ventures and instrumental fans.

BILL ROSE MUSIC - There’s so much fine guitar work on the 2008 CD release of Leap Before You Look from Newfoundland, Canada guitarist Bill Rose. From the opening notes of his cover of the surf-rock anthem “Pipeline” to a workout of the Kenny Burrell classic, “Chitlins Con Carne,” Rose has both ends of the instrumental guitar world covered. In between his interesting original cuts, Rose puts his spin on an instro take of the Van Morrison classic, “Moondance” as well as George Geshwin’s “Summertime.” Jazz guitar fans will dig Rose and surf-rock instrumental fans will also appreciate the humorously titled Leap Before You Look, a title that is good advice for guitarists and guitar fans looking for something different and exciting yet is also clearly well played and expertly conceived. Backing Rose—who handles all the guitar work as well as lap steel—throughout his ten track album are some fine players including singer Shirley Dalton, who appears on the CD’s only vocal cut.

- For Serenata, his 15th solo album on his self-owned Bolero Records imprint, guitar wizard Armik continues to find new and inventive ways to express his guitar talent and techniques. Recording with his special Maldonado / Armik flamenco guitars, Armik just burns through another set of daredevil, cross-culture flamenco etched guitar-based instrumentals. Recorded at his Bolero studios in California—with mixing and engineering handled by Armik’s partner Annette DashchiSerenata will impress long time fans of Armik’s incredible fretboard wizardry while bringing in a whole new circle of guitar lovers lucky enough to hear this great CD, as well as his 2008 CD also on Bolero—the nuevo flamenco collection, Fuego Gitana.

CAPRI RECORDS - Seven albums in, L.A. based guitarist Joe Potenza serves up a dish of upbeat and uptempo jazz that takes a look back at the wide depth of the genre on his ten track 54 minute 2009 CD, Old, New Borrowed And Blue. With fine backing from guest artist Holly Hofmann (flute), Joe Bagg (organ) and Steve Barnes (drums), Potenza serves double time as guitarist and vocalist. The studio sound is great with very little distortion and a live feel permeates the groove. In his astute liner notes, Potenza goes into detail behind the significance of these new arrangements of some venerable standards. On the mostly instrumental album, “Ode To Billy Joe” gets a new treatment as a funky blues groove and likewise Potenza and Co. stir up a faithful rendition of Wes Montgomery’s ‘60s hit “Road Song.” One of two tracks, featuring Potenza’s vocals, “I’m Walkin” (a late ‘50s hit written and performed by Fats Domino) displays a keen fusion edge and the band plays the song quite uniquely. The set closing cover of Carol King’s “You’ve Got Friend” sounds like a visit with an old friend. The song works great as an instro and Potenza’s keen sense of timing does the song justice. A protégé of jazz guitar legend Joe Pass, Potenza sounds like a grad from the same music school as singing jazz guitarists like John Pizzarelli and even Birelli Lagrene—two famous guitarists, coming from different parts of the world and each with a great love of guitar and the music of singers like Frank Sinatra. With a unique guitar jazz sound and a keen jazz insight into the workings of a great song, Potenza and his cool jazz sound is just the ticket for today’s hip, mainstream jazz audience.

CONCORD JAZZ - Known for his electric bass work with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and Akoustic Band, John Patitucci has also worked with Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard and Stan Getz to name a few. For his eleventh solo album, Remembrance, Patitucci puts together a jazz trio and here he teams with with sax master Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade. A fresh sounding set of vintage jazz vibes, the sound is purely swinging, and sometimes avant gard jazz. The CD has that live jazz sound and if you close your eyes, you could swear you were sitting at a table down at the Village Gate on Bleecker Street in NYC. Patitucci weaves his sumptuous bass sound in and around Lovano’s predominant sax leads with drummer Blade sounding like a modern Art Blakeley. Overall, Remembrance is a set of warm sounding jazz. Commenting on working with this trio Patitucci adds, ‘I've been waiting for years to make a trio record like this. I wanted it to sound organic and let the bass bleed into other things Joe and Brian were doing. Plus, my bass sound was able to be a little bigger, broader and warmer.’ Funky in all the right places, mixing straight ahead uptown jazz with classical vibes too, Patitucci’s Remembrance is a living, breathing tribute to the origins of the classic jazz sound.

- I first heard vibe master Gary Burton play with guitar ace Pat Metheny upon the 1975 Lp release of Dreams So Real, a massively influential album that was a tribute to avant garde composer Carla Bley. That groundbreaking album was followed of course by the first Pat Metheny Group album on Manfred Eicher’s German-basd ECM and the rest is history. Renewing their musical partnership again, Burton and Metheny released Quartet Live on Concord Jazz during the summer of 2009. Recorded at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California on June 10-11, 2007, Quartet Live features Burton and Metheny backed up by the rhythm section of Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Antonia Sanchez (drums). The eleven track CD features a number of fusion classics penned by Chick Corea, Duke Ellington, Keith Jarrett in addition to originals from Burton, Metheny and Swallow. These guys are so well seasoned and professional in their musical interplay with each other that saying they share a musical ESP would be an understatement. Psychedelic album artwork from ‘60s graphic artist Peter Max is a real hoot. Just about the only thing askew here are the prolific CD liner notes as written by each of the players here. For us aging baby boomers—you know, the original fans—they’re way to small to read! One or two point sizes bigger on perhaps the addition of one or two more pages to accommodate that request would have made a big difference in the legibility! But then again, this music is so good and so well played fixing that quibble would just be additional icing on the cake.

CRUSH GUITAR - It sounds like hard rock jams all the way, but on the 2009 CD release of Auditiva Cosmica, Mexico based guitarist Crush sounds like he’s channeling the wah-wah flecked spirit of Jimi Hendrix. With his free form approach to sonic rock guitar, Crush literally crushes his way through eight instrumental rockers that should appeal to fans of Hendrix and even BTO guitarist Randy Bachman. Like Carlos Santana did 40 years ago, Crush sends a solid guitar sound from south of the border. The recording quality is good but very much do it yourself, yet, for fans of hard rock instrumentals, Auditiva Cosmica is well worth the time to give a listen to.

- The 2009 CD release of Strad To Strat II heralds the return of hard rock guitar maestro Kevin Ferguson. The 17 track CD features an unusual combination—Ferguson’s classical heavy metal guitar approach to the music of classical music legend Vivaldi. On Strad To Strat II, Ferguson makes classical sounds for hard rock guitar music fans. In his astute liner notes, Ferguson notes that even Bach studied some of Vivaldi’s hundreds of concerto works before writing his own violin concertos. Although Vivaldi is best known for his most famous work from 1723, The Four Seasons, his many fine concerto works get a spirited work out 3 centuries later by Ferguson’s stirring approach to classical music and metal guitar. Ferguson’s multi-tracked electric guitars and harpsichord / orchestral touches put a new and interesting spin on the time honored classical sound of Vivaldi. The CD cover art with Vivaldi holding an electric guitar is truly outrageous! Also released in November 2008, at the same time as Strad To Strat II is his 12 track CD, Pure Fractals. This companion CD also showcases Ferguson’s love of organ based classical music. While some consider him a guitarist, Ferguson also thinks of himself as both a music theorist and composer first. Pure Fractals bears out Ferguson’s complex approach to instrumental and neoclassical music.

- Decca Records continues into the far reaches of new jazz with the 2009 CD release of Sounding Point from guitarist Julian Lage. Commenting on his first CD as a solo artist, Lage adds, ‘I really wanted to approach recording my first album from a holistic point of view, and everything came together. It was a great group effort.’ A child prodigy now in his early 20’s, Lage served time backing vibes legend Gary Burton and keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, so he’s well primed for his anticipated solo instrumental debut CD. On the 13 track Sounding Point, Lage’s guitar sound pays respect to the jazz realm and soundtrack music of yesterday and brings it a giant step into the future. In between his originals compositions, Lage and his group also reworks music of Miles Davis, Elliott Smith and Neil Hefti. Sounding Point was expertly produced by Steve Epstein—famous for his classical-crossover albums with Chick Corea, Billy Joel as well as Lage’s favorite, The Punch Brothers. Lage’s unique guitar style and his approach to jazz, classical and avant gard music merge together quite well on Sounding Point.

DHARMA LAB - Back during the summer of 2001, featured a (then) new CD from Minnesota guitarist Randy Casey called Say No More. That album featured among a number of originals, Randy’s cover of the Led Zep classic “Bron-Yr-Aur.” Flash forwarding to 2009, Randy is back with two new CDs, including a new instrumental album for the ages. For his latest instrumental project, Polly’s Global Walk, Casey and his group provide the music for Polly's Global Walk—an enlightening and entertaining human interest story about the first woman, Polly Letofsky, to successfully walk around the world. She did it in the name of breast cancer awareness, raising a hefty donation for her cause in the process. Although he’s gaining a reputation for his theme music and commercial jingles, Casey’s all instrumental CD makes the most out of the opportunity to put together an acute array of sensitized New Age kind of Americana / jazz-rock fusion that no doubt works as a film score, but for guitar fans, Polly's Global Walk must be heard to be appreciated. Turning in a prolific year of recording, Casey also released a rock album in 2009. Casey’s 11 track Late Bloomer puts together a solid rock sound with Casey turning in a fine performance on guitar and vocals backed up by players and singers.

- It’s one thing to listen to the CD of Jeff Beck Performing The Week...Live At Ronnie Scotts but watching the DVD of the show is another thing entirely. In fact, it’s a most preferable option indeed! It’s almost hard to capture all that the Beck DVD has to offer on CD. The CD came out last year and the Spring 2009 release of the CD on DVD has been worth the wait. Beck of course was an architect of rock guitar going back to '60s pop legends The Yardbirds. On Live At Ronnie Scotts, Beck just dazzles, backed up by a band including bass prodigy Tal Wikenfeld, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and the keys of Jason Rebello. Kicking off with his famous trademark track “Beck’s Bolero,” the DVD sound and vision is clearly state of the art. Guest artists include Eric Clapton and singers Joss Stone and Imogen Heap. Mostly instrumental jazz-rock played with power and pizzazz, the DVD—as well as the aforementioned CD of the show—features Beck group covers of John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Stevie Wonder, Charles Mingus and, of course a fresh take on Beck’s historic Beatles cover of “A Day In The Life.” The video quality is superb throughout the DVD, which also features bonus video interviews with Beck and the band members. Following their Jeff Beck DVD, Eagle Rock come back strong with another jazz-rock DVD of 2009, from Chick Corea and his ‘70s group, reincarnated in 2008, Return To Forever. Like Jeff Beck, Corea and RTF basically defined instrumental fusion back in the ‘70s and in honor of their 2008 reunion, Eagle follows in 2009 with a DVD of Live At Montreux 2008. Earlier in 2009 Eagle released a double CD of the 2008 RTF Montreux concert and just like their Jeff Beck DVD, the Return To Forever concert captured on Return To Forever Returns is a real boon for fans of the original ‘70s lineup with Corea, Stanley Clarke (bass), Al DiMeola (guitars) and Lenny White (drums). In depth liner notes and a number of color pics from the show adds to the experience. Even though it’s been 30+ years since the last RTF studio album, all the major RTF hits are performed flawlessly on Return To Forever Returns, including “Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy,” “No Mystery,” “The Romantic Warrior” and more, while further video tracks from the band’s 2008 Clearwater Florida show include solo spots from each of the players here.

JOYOUS SHOUT - Twelve Tones Of Love is the newly recorded 2009 CD from jazz master and percussionist / drummer Chico Hamilton. In the spirit of master drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, Hamilton works wonders in a large ensemble American jazz and Twelve Tones Of Love takes it’s place in Hamilton’s prodigious 50+ discography. Twelve Tones Of Love features mostly instrumental works, but the CD does feature several vocal spotlights. Now in his ‘80s, Hamilton worked with Tony Bennett recently and his Twelve Tones album CD features a fresh version of Tony’s song “Lazy Afternoon,” sung Jose James, while the 7+ minute Charlie Parker Suite is a fitting homage to sax giant Bird. Musicians backing Chico include guitar, bass and various horns. Of special note to jazz fans here is Hamilton's acknowledgment of bop as an inspriation, while capaturing Charlie Parker's melodic aspect of playing on the 7+ minute highlight "The Charlie Parker Suite." In addition to this new album, Chico is busy writing his autobiography while also planning another album and teaching at the New School University jazz program.

H.M.R. RECORDS - One of the great instrumental rock and roll guitar bands to come out of Spain—and the entire European continent for that matter—Los Jets geared up for nearly 50 years of guitar instrumental albums with the 2007 CD release of Latin Breeze. Produced by long time Los Jets drummer Eduardo Bartrina, the release of Latin Breeze finds the group covering Latin music and Brazilian music classics such as “Amapola,” “South Of The Border,” “Desifinado,” in addition to covering Clapton, Benson and a couple of Perez Prado tracks. In addition to Bartrina’s always tasteful drumming, Latin Breeze benefits from some excellent lead guitar work from Michael Martinez. In the spirit of the band’s Spanish Blood album from 2004, Latin Breeze is a great way to spend an hour of listening to some high quality guitar instrumental music in the spirit of ‘60s music from The Ventures and The Shadows. Other recent CD releases from the always prolific Los Jets include their long awaited 2008 Los Jets 50th Anniversary double CD set. Drawing on the heritage of their Spanish music roots, 50th Anniversary features 19 guitar instrumentals that almost seem timeless. It’s a blast to hear Los Jets rocking out with covers of tracks like “Bang A Gong,” “Take Five,” “Venus,” “Maggie May,” along with lesser known yet equally thrilling instrumentals. Again, the double CD 50th Anniversary features a great performance from Bartrina, Martinez and the entire Los Jets band. While we’re on the subject, fans may also want to hear 40 Degrees N - 3 Degrees W, a 2006 CD release from Los Jets featuring a number of original cuts as well as covers of instro classics from years past. Los Jets: Live - 1st October 2005 was recorded in Germany at a Cliff Richard And The Shadows tribute concert. The 17 track CD fittingly features a number of Shadows covers, with a accent on the Spanish music connection in the Shadows music. Last but not least, Christmas In July features ten Christmas related songs performed instrumentally by Los Jets, highlighted by the lead off cover of John & Yoko’s “Happy Christmas, War Is Over.” Although it’s been 50 years since brothers Jose Maria and Santiago Gonzales founded Los Jets back in Spain back in the ‘50s, hat’s off to Eduardo Bartrina, who resurrected Los Jets back in 1981, for continuing on and releasing one great instrumental Los Jets album after the next.

HOWLING WOOD RECORDS - He’s shared stages with guitarists like Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, Peter Frampton and Vince Gill and on his 2008 CD Bridging The Gap, Nashville guitarist Doyle Dykes sets a new standard of guitar excellence. Fans of Chet and even Frampton’s recent instrumental CD will find much to cheer about on Doyle’s CD. The CD is quite an eclectic affair, filled with acoustic guitar masterpieces, finger picking ragtime guitar and jazzy fusion workouts all capped off by guest appearances by guitar legends Eric Johnson and Phil Keaggy. Doyle’s son Caleb Dykes and several other players, including Johnson’s drummer Tommy Taylor add further sparkle to the already impressive fretboard wizardry of Bridging The Gap. Doyle and Keaggy work instrumental guitar magic on track 12, “On The North Road,” while the track here pairing Doyle with Eric Johnson will either leave you in a sublime state of wonder or slack jawed wondering, ‘How in the heck did did they do that?’ Recorded in Austin, Beverly Hills, Nashville and Knebworth, England, the 15 track all instrumental CD is packed with detailed track by track liners from Doyle with yet another full page written by Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars who, regarding Bridging The Gap, adds, ‘I have never heard a better collection of guitar songs than I hear on this album.’ Fans of Chet and Keaggy take notice with an additional recommendations for fans of legendary guitar multi-taskers like Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Howe and John Jorgenson.

LA HUIT / WIENERWORLD - With a family heritage that goes back to his grandfather who was a rabbi in Minsk, guitar legend Marc Ribot fit in perfectly in the downtown Manhattan music scene. A member of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards back in the mid ‘80s, Ribot has worked with an abundance of famous artists including Chuck Berry, Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett, Alan Toussaint, Allen Ginsburg and many others. A recent documentary on Ribot’s guitar presence in NYC is recalled on a 2003 DVD from film maker Anaïs Prosaïc, entitled La Corde Perdue / The Lost String, released by the French label La Huit, now handled by Wienerworld in the U.K. In addition to the extensive documentary on Ribot, the 82 minute DVD also features five solo live recordings from the Banlieues Bleues Festival. The DVD is a fine introduction to Ribot’s unique avant gard approach to the guitar and is packed with excerpts from his presence on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, his European tour, archival footage and conversations and best of all some scenic color photography of Ribot’s beloved downtown Manhattan.

LEFT COAST CLAVE - A more relaxing completely instrumental album of jazzy tropical sounds you’d be hard pressed to find! Performing the music of Brazilian Composer Moacir Santos, the sound of Mark Levine And The Latin Tinge, takes Brazilian music to a unique musical head space. Levine is a master of the acoustic piano and backed up by his ensemble, The Latin Tinge, he introduces the music of an ingenious yet unheralded composer. Backing up Levine are the rhythm section tandem of Paul van Wageningen on trap drums and Michael Spiro on hand percussion, bassist John Wiitala and Brazilian-jazz veteran Mary Fettig on flute. Commenting on this audio expose on the music of the late, great Moacir Santos, Levine adds, ‘This is something I've wanted to do for 35 years. Moacir is the greatest Brazilian songwriter of the 20th century, and he is emphatically not just about bossa and samba. In fact, the new album is Brazilian music played with an Afro-Cuban slant. A lot of the arrangements are pure rumba clave.' There is an exotic feel to Levine's interpretations of Moacir's music and with the accent on Brazilian bossa / samba, Afro-Cuban and jazz sounds, you feel like you’re in some exotic local soaking up the sun. You can almost hear the echoes of Rio and the bossa nova groove of A.C. Jobim in Moacir’s music, much of which was also written in the 1960’s. Recording the music in the studio between April 13-15, 2009, Levine has done a wonderful job on the CD packaging, adding in lots of info on Moacir’s music and history. Off & On is musical history brought into the sound of now.

LION MUSIC - I actually told Coste Apetrea that I was so surprised his new CD was such a hard rock affair, but then I remembered his new CD is actually called Surprisingly Heavy. Sorry Coste! For those who don’t know, Coste Apetrea is possibly, currently the greatest electric guitarist in Europe, and has been (at least in the top ten) since 1970! Coste recorded some of the greatest instrumental rock fusion albums of the early ‘70s with Swedish wunderkind sensation Samla Mammas Manna before going on to record a number of albums with Finnish guitar wiz Jukka Tolonen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Coste was also the first electric guitarist to record with now late, great Finnish composer fusion genius Pekka Pohjola—playing what ever guitar there was to be found on Pekka’s 1975 B The Magpie album. Is there anything Coste can’t do? Well, he hasn’t made a ton of solo albums, preferring to keep his producer credits in check. Recently, since 2005, Coste has recorded several albums for the Finnish Lion Music label. His latest, (not surprisingly titled!) Surprisingly Heavy finds him handling all the guitars, bass, keyboards and (occasional) vocals with drumming handled by Wilgot Hansson. Recorded using Protools, the sound is very much digitized yet, the claustrophobic nature is what puts it so in your face! A 21st century boom box classic? Lion Music is quite a hard rock label, yet Coste—a guitarist known for impeccable fusion credentials and even his acoustic guitar wizardry—seems to fit right in with this CD. Combining his patented daredevil fusion guitar techniques, pioneered with Samla with a new, 21st century approach to hard rock music as played by a jazz-rock virtuoso, Coste comes up a winner with the wildly eclectic rock vibes on Surprisingly Heavy. There’s even a couple vocal cuts that display Coste’s love of rock music, echoing perhaps his recordings with Jim Pembroke back in the mid ‘70s? A must for fans of Coste’s work with Samla and Tolonen, Surprisingly Heavy should also be a nice little wake up call for fans of the hard rocking Lion Music imprint. Will the kids listen? Will they even get it? Who knows, but long time Svenska fusion buffs will eat this one up.

LO RECORDINGS - The whole lounge music / exotica phenomenon goes unabated with the 2009 CD release of A Psychedelic Guide To Monsterism Island. The CD features 27 instrumental cuts from 27 semi unknown acts, at least in the USA. That said, a few big names do appear including Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Luke Vibert, who's worked with U.K. pedal steel legend B.J. Cole in recent times. Most of the tracks are short snippets under two minutes yet all work well as mood enhancing ditties that could equally dabble as film cues or mood swings on TV or radio. The bio says these tracks span monstrous rock fry ups, electronic exotica, psychedelic folk and spooky kraut rock. Definitely a weird, wild charm soaked trip into mondo audio land yet one bound to fry a few synapses and leave a smiley face on your mug.

- As was noted on some album of kitchy R&B instrumentals from the ‘60s, one artist today that borrows from the wealth of funk and frenzy of the ‘60s but mostly the ‘70s, is Oz Noy. Sounding inspired by greats like Steve Cropper and Curtis Mayfield, these instrumentals are infused with the spirit of the big Stax beat but brought into the future as a new kind of instrumental guitar fusion. On his 60 minute, nine part CD, Schizophrenic release on the Upstate New York Magnatude label, Oz Noy’s guitar sounds way improved, and clearly developing some cool fretboard moves over these past five years, the Israeli native’s CD features plenty of guitar styles and genres to sample. A batch of top sessioners assist Oz including drummers Dave Weckl and Anton Fig, and more as well as bass titan Will Lee with special appearances featuring fellow fusion guitarist Steve Lukather. Funk, fusion, jazz, soul, Stax... call it Schizophrenic but for guitar fans it’s more like nirvana!

- A musical distribution company clearly on the cutting edge of new music, Forced Exposure is distributing a number of wildly adventurous labels and artists and case in point in their 2009 handling of Neo Dada by Norwegian composer Jon Andreas Håtun, also known as Jono El Grande. A composer, musician, conductor and experimentalist, Jono cites Frank Zappa as big influence yet he sounds equally at home citing inspirations from other head honchos such as Henry Cow and Gentle Giant. One can also hear elements of groups such as Magma and Sweden’s Von Zamla, Art Zoyd among other Rock In Opposition enclaves. Theatrical, art-rock, fusion are all words to describe the wildly adventurous sounds Jono spins in the grooves of Neo Dada. Supporting Jono’s guitar and vocals are a number of excellent Scandinavians including drummer Terje Engen. Mostly instrumental with Jono’s sometimes wordless voice adding even more weirdness to the mix, Neo Dada is music based in the ‘70s but with a wildly confusing 21st century edge that will enthrall music lovers who enjoy taking their sonic curiosity to extremes. /

SELECTONE RECORDS - The late great Chet Atkins had an impact on all guitarists and all forms of guitar playing—from early rock and roll to country to surf style instrumentasl. In a word, Chet was the ultimate C.G.P. That term, “Certified Guitar Player” was a name Chet bestowed on four guitar players, including Steve Wariner C.G.P.A disciple of Atkins and a Nashville guitar hero in his own right, Wariner delivers the ultimate praise to his mentor with the eleven track My Tribute To Chet Atkins. For his Atkins tribute, Wariner has penned a batch of originals that each touch on something special about Chet including “Producer’s Medley”—a five part song that recalls the days when Wariner toured with Chet. Track by track liner notes by Wariner really hone in on the friendship and musical inspirations that flowed between both guitarists. The mostly instrumental CD also adds in a few of Wariner’s vocals. The studio sound is top and likewise for the CD packaging and booklet, which adds in excellent guitar art and pics of Wariner with Chet.

- Back in the late ‘60s Swedish guitarist Kenny Håkansson started recording andproducing albums with his group Kebnekajse. In between recording a series of now classic ‘70s albums with Swedish psychedelic rock icon Bo Hansson, Håkansson also broke new ground with the psychedelic World Beat, Svenska polska sound of Kebnekajse. Recording on the Silence label back in the ‘70s, Kebnekajse has amazingly reformed in time for a new 2009 studio album. On the boards—just like on those classic albums form the ‘70s—is expert Swedish sound man Anders Lind, who recorded the 2009 self-titled Kebnekajse comeback at his fabled Silence studios deep in the woods of western Sweden. The perennial all around cosmic guitarist—and a true guitar hero in his native Sweden—Håkansson is in rare form on this fantastic album of electric Swedish instrumental folk-jazz fusion. Featuring Håkansson backed up by his Kebnekajse bandmates—all top players from the progressive Swedish music scene—the recordings may say 2009 but the vintage sounds here bring back memories of 1977! Thankfully, New England distributors Forced Exposure have picked up the CD distribution for North America. /

VOICEPRINT - A well respected sax player who’s worked with a number of top acts, Theo Travis is completely center stage on his 2008 Voiceprint Records CD Double Talk. On a CD that’s quite well recorded, Travis makes instrumental jazz fusion that draws on progressive rock as it’s original source of information. Case in point is the CD cover of the Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd chart topper “See Emily Play,” here given a quiet storm, saxy jazz format. Syd would have loved it. Elsewhere Theo is joined by lots of fine players including guitarist Mike Outram and former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, who appears on three tracks here. Ever the prog-rock experts, Voiceprint strikes gold on a CD that sounds equally inspired by dark Nordic jazz to a more upbeat, sonic groove that should appeal to crossover jazz fans of Charles Lloyd and John Coltrane. Pink Floyd fans will surely catch a buzz here, especially on “See Emily Play.”


A&M RECORDS / HIP-O SELECT - This joint venture between A&M Records and Hip-O Select results in the long awaited CD reissue of the 1984 Difford & Tilbrook album, first released on A&M. Following years of working together in the group Squeeze, singer-songwriters / guitarists, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford reappeared with their new duo project and the results are clearly as cool as anything Squeeze ever made. 20 years out of print, (is that possible?) the ten track Difford & Tilbrook features Tilbrook’s usual McCartney-esque, blue-eyed soul approach and, track for track, the album makes for a most memorable pop experience. Armed with a great band, including Knopfler keyboardist Guy Fletcher, the CD is even bettered thanks to the production of the legendary Tony Visconti, who also adds in his patented string and brass arrangements. The booklet misses the chance to include historical notes, but it does feature original album art, complete lyrics and recording credits and reissue credits, all backed up by the Hip-O seal of approval. Anyone who enjoyed Tilbrook’s fantastic 2009 comeback album, Pandemonium Ensues will find much to enjoy on this soon to be rare Hip-O catalog item. Try to find Difford & Tilbrook soon before it goes out of a print for another 20 years!

- Back in the ‘80s, just after the CD was introduced to, and subsequently conquered, the American music market, England’s great pop group XTC took their sound into a brave new and quite amazing musical direction. Calling themselves The Dukes Of Stratosphere, XTC members Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and David Gregory released two CD’s of truly ‘60s style psychedelia for the ‘80s! Enlisting famous Abbey Road producer/engineer John Leckie, the Dukes could do know wrong—one minute sounding like the Move and the next like the Electric Prunes or the Count Five. “Psychotic Reaction” anyone? The Dukes music was really authentic ‘60s style stuff and really fooled anyone, including this writer, expecting XTC. With the three musicians adopting pseudonyms, the Dukes released an EP called 25 O’Clock in 1985 following by the album release of Psonic Psunspot in 1987. Too long out of print, the group’s Ape House label have reissued both as two separate releases, in 2009 with loads of demo tracks and out takes. Looking back on the reissues, XTC guitarist David Gregory states, ‘It’s within the realms of possibility that XTC would not have survived beyond the 1980’s without the cathartic effect this fun side-project engendered. That so many others found it amusing and entertaining adds to the joy we derived from its creation.’ 25 years later, both of these Dukes CD’s sound fresh as ever while the sonic remastering adds a new sparkling of the sound.

AUDIO FIDELITY - Back in the ‘90s, Mobile Fidelity started by the late, great Herb Belkin, pioneered the advent of the audio gold CD, making sonic improvements to the standard aluminum silver disc. One label that gave Belkin a run for his money was the DCC Compact Classics label started by Marshall Blonstein. DCC was renamed Audio Fidelity several years back in the early 2000's. Following the years of success as DCC, the Audio Fidelity label is once again making inroads with the gold CD. High of the list of Audio Fidelity's 2009 releases is a gold disc reissue the 1984 album from Boston rockers The Cars called Heartbeat City. Just like they did back in the ‘90s as DCC, Audio Fidelity wisely enlists the talents of expert remastering engineer Steve Hoffman. Brought to life with Hoffman’s worthy hands, this remaster sounds amazing, with just about every frequency sparkling and sounding clear as a bell. This album classic, featuring the voice and music of Ric Ocasek backed up by guitarist Elliot Easton and company, sounds as good as new with Audio Fidelity’s 2009 gold disc remaster of Heartbeat City. Audiophiles from the dawn of the CD era as well as today’s sound concious crowd will have loads of sonic enjoyment from Audio Fidelity's new gold CD classic.

- The early 1960’s was a great magical time in 20th century pop music. With fantastic sounds coming out of NYC and LA and all points in between, America was truly the United States, and anything could and did happen musically. Following The 4 Seasons from New Jersey for example, Jay & The Americans burst out of the Queens Rockaways part of NYC and, with enormous staying power, went on to score some hugely impressive top 40 hits before and after Beatlemania. Discovered by Leiber & Stoller, Jay & The Americans amassed a series of unbelievably influential tracks including “Only In America,” “This Magic Moment,” “Cara Mia,” “Come A Little Bit Closer” and dozens more great singles released during the 1960’s. Fans have been asking for it so in 2009 Collector’s Choice assembled all the band’s singles under the title The Complete United Artists Singles. All the Jay & The Americans mono mix 45 rpm releases—A sides and B sides—are sequenced in chronological order starting with the group’s cover of Leonard Bernstein’s “Tonight” in 1961 and ending with their 1971 cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” Amazing stories behind the making of these evergreen pop hits and an vital portrayal the band’s history are told with insightful accuracy by writer Ed Osborne. According to these liner notes, who knew Jay & The Americans recorded “Shanghai Noodle Factory”—a track written by Traffic and produced by Jimmy Miller—with their 1967 single release predating the Traffic version by over a year? Astute fans may note Jimmy Page adding a guitar lick to the group's self-penned 1966 single "Livin' Above Your Head." With 3 CDs containing 66 tracks, The Complete United Artists Singles offers amazing insights into the world of American pop music during the ‘60s and is the best overview of Jay & The Americans to date.

EAGLE VISION - Also released by Eagle during the summer of 2009 is Deep PurpleHits, History & Highlights. A double DVD set, Hits, History & Highlights chronicles early years of classic rock, 1968-1976. Featuring guitarist Richie Blackmore and keyboardist Jon Lord, Deep Purple burst on the scene with their cover of “Hush” and moved into the ‘70s with classic albums such In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head. The 287 double DVD set features the “History” of Deep Purple between ‘68 and ‘76 with the “Hits’ part featuring vintage, eye-opening video performances and TV clips from back in the day, featuring four different Deep Purple lineups. Disc 2, “Highlights,” adds in bonus performances and interview clips and a November 1975 documentary. The DVD set clearly portrays Deep Purple as hard rock innovators during the dawn of rock and classic rock. In addition to nearly five hours of vintage video and documentary footage, the double DVD set also feature a colorful DVD booklet with liner notes, period piece pics and complete track information, making Hits, History & Highlights the best Deep Purple DVD package yet. Another major artist given the Eagle Vision DVD treatment, late great guitar hero Rory Gallagher is fondly remember on Live In Cork. The 78 minute DVD chronicles Rory’s return to Ireland in 1987, when he played the Cork Opera House. Originally aired on Irish television, the DVD combines the live portion—originally released on VHS as Messin’ With The Kid: Live At The Cork Opera House—with a “Rough Guide To Rory’s Cork,” a scenic portrayal of landmarks of the city Rory came from. Released in 2009, Live In Cork is the latest Eagle Vision DVD from Gallagher and follows Live At Montreux (2006), The Definitive Montreux Collection (2006) and Live AT Rockpalast (2007). In addition to the DVD, the package features an in depth DVD booklet filled with key color pics and in depth notes by Rory’s brother and the DVD executive producer Donal Gallagher.

EXPRESSION RECORDS - The founding guitarist in Roxy Music, Phil Manzanera is also renowned for his excellent recordings—both solo and with the group Quiet Sun. One of Manzanera’s most popular albums was the famous 801 Live, featuring Phil backed up by illustrious players such as his partner in Quiet Sun, Bill MacCormick (bass/vocals), Eno (synth/vocals/guitar/tapes), drummer Simon Phillips and more. In 2009 Manzanera’s Expression label reissued the original 801 Live album as a double "Collector's Edition" CD set featuring the original September 3, 1976 concert in England along with a second CD of rehearsals for that concert recorded at Shepperton studios on August 23, 1976. The rehearsal CD is actually a mirror CD of the original concert album which featured various tracks from the Quiet Sun album, Eno’s Another Green World along with live in the studio versions from Phil’s mid ‘70s albums. Still featuring that famous iconic cover art with MacCormick’s bass, one of the most famous live albums from one of England’s greatest electric guitarists just got a little better. Manzanera watchers should also take note of other recent Expression Records releases including 801 Live @ Hull (from 1977), 801 Latino (from 1999) and another 801 CD release entitled 801 Manchester (also from the 1977 801 UK tour). /

GEFFEN / HIP-O SELECT- For a charge dating back to 1959, and after numerous appeals and mistrials, Chuck Berry was actually put in jail in America on February 19, 1962 for 20 months in the early ‘60s. All of this happened because he had some underage girl working for him as a hat check girl in his St. Louis nightclub. Thankfully when Chuck came out of jail on October 18, 1963 he did so with a bunch of new songs written in jail, the best of which are part of the 2009 Hip-O Select 4 CD box set entitled You Never Can Tell / The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966. With Buddy Holly gone and Elvis in the army en route to Vegas, Chuck Berry was (and still is, knock on wood) the last vestige of pioneering American rock and rollers. Funny enough, during his time in an American jail, across the sea The Beatles were perfecting a number of Berry tracks and luckily had a chance to record a number of them on their ground breaking pop albums. Of course that list includes two of Chuck’s most famous compositions, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock And Roll Music.” And who can forget John Lennon’s still ultra cool take (with the Beatles, live on the BBC) of Chuck’s version of the Peter Joe Clayton song “I Got To Find My Baby,” which is one of the first tracks on disc one of Chuck’s 108 track, Geffen / Hip-O box set. An essential rock primer on arguably the most significant innovator of American rock and roll music back in the ‘50s and early '60s, Hip-O’s second and most recent Chuck Berry box, You Never Can Tell features 18 unreleased tracks, including a 45 minute live concert from October 1963, original stereo versions, singles mixes, alternate mixes, album cuts and numerous instrumentals including 20 minutes of way cool, instro guitar jams with Bo Diddley. Produced by long time MCA / UMG musicologist Andy McKaie, You Never Can Tell features a 24 page booklet authored by Chuck Berry biographer / discographer Fred Rothwell that is filled with an abundance of historical data and discography information about Berry final ‘60s recordings with Chess—a label he would return to after a three year stint on Mercury Records by the early ‘70s. But that’s another story for another box set. In the meantime, You Never Can Tell is a compelling cross section detailing the genius of Chuck Berry.

HELIUM RECORDS - Over in the U.K., producer and percussion wizard Chris Hughes did a spectacular job producing the 2009 Stackridge CD, A Victory For Common Sense. It’s more than cool to rediscover a CD Chris recorded for Mercury Records back in 1994 called Shift. A reworking of compositions from avant garde jazz composer Steve Reich, Shift featured Hughes on percussion with added playing by Shift co-producer Paul Ridout on kalimba and bell samples along with harp samples from Maire Brennan. Looking back 15 years, the music of Shift is very much Reich-inspired avant and New Age at the same time and with it’s shape shifting, hypnotic sounds, it still makes for fascinating listening. From the liner notes of Helium reissue of Shift, Hughes adds, ‘On the 4th of February 1972 my father took me to the first full version performance, outside of the USA of Drumming by Steve Reich at the Hayward gallery, London.’ Clearly inspired by Reich and his music, Shift is a welcome reissue from Hughes and his Helium imprint. Chris Hughes plays a big part as the producer of the 2008 CD from The-Quartet called Shattering. Like Stackridge, The-Quartet recorded Shattering at Ashley Manor in Wiltshire outside London. For fans interested in this instrumental release, it’s a modern day homage to England’s fabled Canterbury jazz-rock sound from the heydays of early ‘70s Soft Machine and even mid ‘70s Gong. A full on fusion group, The-Quartet features a number of players, including electric guitarist and composer Jack Hues not to mention some fine drum work from Dave Smith. The-Quartet also have a earlier Helium release entitled Illuminated, also featuring the crafty studio production of Chris Hughes.

/ UMG - Released January 2009 on CD, Now That’s What I Call Motown offers a 25 cross section of Motown’s finest moments. Culled from the early days up to 1981, every track here is an American R&B / pop classic. Of course with the passing of Michael Jackson, its worth noting the CD inclusion of “I Want You Back” cut by The Jackson 5 back in 1969. Other artists here include Gladys Knight & The Pips, Barrett Strong (with the 1960 original of his hit “Money”,) The Miracles, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, and the list goes on! Colorful pics of all the artists and wild cover art adds to the coolness factor.

PAST & PRESENT - Leave it to the record label distributor Forced Exposure to find this wild and zany tribute to the kitchy instrumental music of the ‘60s. One of the coolest things about the ‘90s was the re-emergence, after a long dark sabbatical, of Lounge music and the exotica craze of ‘50s and early ‘60s geniuses like Les Baxter and Martin Denny with Henry Mancini and Lalo Shiffrin too. It was par for the course back then and of course, by 2010 it’s a long lost art form. The colorful cosmic cats and kittens of the U.K. based Past & Present Records label do justice to the instrumental pop and psychedelic instrumental soundtrack of the ‘60s with their Mindexpanders Vol.2. You mean there’s another killer volume of this zany army of cosmic kitsch commanders! Somewhere between Joe Meek rock instrumentals and the swinging London of George Martin, the 17 cut CD features relatively unknown artists performing a staggering range of soundtrack style instrumental rock and pop music with some tracks bordering on soft porn soundtracks. Acker Bilk steps into paisley psych territory with his “Acka Raga” while The Soulful Strings cover the George Harrison Sgt. Pepper classic “Within You Without You.” Brimming with swirling sitars, strings, Hammond organ and fuzzed out guitars, Mindexpanders is like a trip back into the psychedelic ‘60s.

- He penned the song classic “Sixteen Tons,” but the great Merle Travis is mostly remembered for his excellentfinger-picking country guitar. In 2009 Raven Records reissued two of Merle’s most famous albums as a 2 on 1, 39 track CD remaster. Released in 1955 by Capitol Records, The Merle Travis Guitar features 12 guitar instrumentals written by Travis, along with a few covers, while the 22 track Walkin’ The Strings features more instrumentals and a few added vocals. Five bonus cuts from the ‘50s and early ‘60s round out the 39 track single disc set. Merle’s unique mix of instrumental country and jazz guitar sounds was a big influence on Chet Atkins and till today Merle’s Travis picking guitar sound is carried forward by guitar icons like Tommy Emmanuel and Yes guitar king Steve Howe. Packed with excellent liner notes and complete track info, Raven’s 2009 Travis compilation is must hear for fans of the most influential 20th century guitar greats. That Merle Travis guitar sound provides signposts regarding where it came from and Merle continues to provide inspiration for guitarists today.

RAVEN RECORDS - Downunder, Australia’s Raven Records have a double album 2 on 1 CD reissue of Indian Reservation (from 1971) / Collage (1972) from ‘60s pop innovators The Raiders. Starting out as Paul Revere & The Raiders, the band had a slot of the daily TV show “Where The Action Is” and a string of huge top 40 hits including “Just Like Me” and “Kicks.” Kicking off with the title track “Indian Reservation,” (written by the esteemed John D. Loudermilk) the 23 track CD features the original two albums along with two bonus tracks. Produced by long time Raiders vocalist Mark Lindsay, with Paul Revere on keyboards and Keith (of “98.6” fame) on bass, the albums represented the height of their commercial success yet by 1975 they would call it quits. Revere continues on the road with a revival band of the Raiders music. Raven has done their typically excellent job with this CD compilation, adding in two bonus cuts from the 1972 album Country Wine, produced by Lindsey and arranged by John D’Andrea, who also arranged the Indian Reservation album. This 2009 Raiders set on Raven takes it’s place alongside the label’s excellent Paul Revere & The Raiders compilation Kicks! 1963-1972.

RENAISSANCE RECORDS - One of the great American rock bands of the late ‘60s, The Nazz featured Todd Rundgren on lead guitar. Writing much of the material on the group’s only 3 known albums, Rundgren built his solo career on the ashes of The Nazz. There have been several Nazz collections over the past 5 years and lo and behold, just when you think there would never be another, Arizona based Renaissance releases a new Nazz retrospective entitled 13th & Pine. The CD consists of out takes, newly unearthed masters and interesting undubbed instrumental versions of classic tracks featured prominently on the first two Nazz albums from 1968 and ‘69. With their strong Yardbirds / Who influences, the Nazz never really caught on, yet as this compelling collection points out, they were a force to be reckoned with. Interesting that with Rundgren just wailing on guitars, the group’s presence was truly cemented by the very Carl Wayne inspired vocals of Nazz keyboardist Robert Antoni, who went by the group name Stewkey. Newcomers would do better to hear the original Nazz remasters, but for fans and the already converted this edition speaks volumes about the band’s way gifted founding fathers.

RENAISSANCE RECORDS - Based out in Arizona, Renaissance Records have become synonymous with high quality progressive rock and pop CD remasters. You can trace just about any lineage of prog and Renaissance has an offshoot or original CD in their catalog. Case in point is the 2009 CD reissue of the first, self-titled album from Art In America. Noted for the keyboards of T. Lavitz of the Dixie Dregs, the CD boasts the production of Eddie Offord, a producer legend who, back in the early '70s was considered by some as the sixth member of Yes. A cosmic sound authority and overall great guy, Offord's sound stamp is all over the self titled Art In America CD. Featuring the merged talents of the Flynn clan—Chris Flynn (vocals, guitars), Shishonee Flynn (vocals, string harp) and Dan Flynn (drums)—the CD is further fueled by Lavitz, bassist Jim Kuha as well as a guest appearance from Dregs founder, guitarist Steve Morse. As the producer of Yes from The Yes Album through Tormato, Offord was rarely off and his production work on Art In America will naturally appeal to Yes fans. In addition to the original Art In America album, this Renaissance remaster also features a number of additional rare bonus tracks and unreleased live tracks. Originally released by Epic Records in the early '80s, Art In America makes a welcome addition to the Renaissance roster. Another artist well represented by Renaissance is one time Argent guitarist / singer-songwriter Russ Ballard. Of note to anyone who missed him back around 1974, the self titled Russ Ballard remains one of his best and most durable statements. A U.K. rock legend from the '60s, featured in his own in depth interview on, Ballard is best known for his work in Argent and on his 1975 album Russ Ballard he pretty much handles all the drums, piano, bass and guitar work with just a touch of help from sax and strings players. Ballard's drum sound on this album has an amazing Ringo Starr like quality and is as impressive as his guitar and piano work. Recorded during July and August of 1974 at CBS studios in London, Ballard's first ever solo album offers some keen insight into his special talent as a pop superstar and guitar hero. Out on Renaissance are a number of Ballard CD reissues, from this first through to and including his 1985 release The Fire Still Burns. It's sad that no label in the U.S. has released Ballard’s most recent Book Of Love CD, leaving one to think that America is basically written off the map for all but the biggest U.K. acts or superstar acts. That said, Ballard is still a rock force to be reckoned with and picking up his Renaissance releases is a good move for rock fans. Easily in a league with Ballard's amazing pop legacy, Dutch rockers Kayak have an excellent Best Of compilation on Renaissance. Entitled Phantom Of The Night, The Very Best Of Kayak features tracks from the first Kayak release See See The Sun from 1973 through till their late '80s singles. As an introduction, by late 1974 Kayak were considered one of the top Euro rock bands from the '70s and certainly the most ingenius rock band to ever come out of Holland. Interestingly, there's never been a release of Kayak leader Ton Scherpenzeel's famous late '70s instrumental masterpiece, his instrumental classical rock tribute to Carnival Of The Animals, which over the years has become one of a number of mysteriously overlooked classic instrumental rock albums that has never received proper recognition.

RENAISSANCE RECORDS - The late great Kelly Groucutt passed away in early 2009. Fans of classical rockers ELO will remember Kelly’s singing and bass playing, backing up Jeff Lynne on stage and studio. It’s a real shame that Kelly ended up suing ELO following his abbreviated appearance on the 1983 Secret Messages album. Also mostly unknown to long time fans is his 1982 solo album simply called Kelly. Although there’s no Jeff Lynne, the CD does feature ELO members Bev Bevan on drums along with orchestrator Louis Clark. Perhaps the most amazing thing here is just how much this sounds like what ELO was doing back then—perhaps a fitting tribute to Jeff Lynne’s genius ability to make people sound like him! Also, the production is real souped up, Phil Spector inspired in places. Kelly is an interesting side project from this late, great ELO alumni. This 2009 Renaissance remaster features original artwork and liner notes.

ROLLERCOASTER RECORDS - England’s Rollercoaster Records has a killer compilation, that believe it or not was put out in 2000 from drumming genius Bobby Graham. Graham of course was the famous session drummer on most of the Dave Clark Five smash hit 45’s. Even Graham’s work as the session drummer on the first Kinks hit “You Really Got Me” was surpassed by his massive amount of session work with so many U.K. music giants. Crazy Drums Crazy Drummer features early ‘60s Shadows inspired sides, some ‘70s tracks that touch of jazzy soundtracks and jazzy trio, live instro sides, including a stellar “She’s Not There” cut in 1999 with Rod Argent and Jim Rodford of Argent. Sounding influenced also, by all eras of esteemed Shadows drummer Brian Bennett, Graham has a unique approach to instro rock and big band rock / jazz drumming. Mostly instrumental, the CD is enhanced by a unique cover of Nilsson’s “Morning Glory Story” which actually features enduring vocals by Graham himself. Appearing in places are a wide range of session legends including guitar aces like Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan as well as Argent. With fantastic packaging and detailed booklet, Crazy Drums Crazy Drummer is a good introduction to Graham’s historic drum ability. From “Teensville” to “Bach Prelude No.1”, Graham’s drumming has it well covered.

- Another import brought to the U.S. by Forced Exposure, Ten Claps And A Scream brings to light the music of South Africa’s freaky blues rock band Otis Waygood. Released in 1971 on the South Africa division of EMI Parlophone Records, the CD is sort of reminiscent of 1970 era Mick Abrahams and Bloodwyn Pig, although this record is really an anomaly for it’s time. Interesting cover art and liners might make it of interest to completists of all things 1971. It was a very good year. Interesting that the CD has come out on the Shadoks label with a catalog that is teeming with rare psych-pop and rock releases from the four corners of the world. Another relic released by South Africa Parlophone Records, the 1971 release of Time To Suck, from South African rockers Suck was reissued by the Shadoks Music label in 2009. Handled in the U.S. by Forced Exposure, the CD is a balls to the wall rock reissue from a band that covered Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath, Donovan and King Crimson on their one and only, and now extremely rare 1971 Lp. Not much info in the liner notes however fans of early ‘70s U.K. rock might cop a buzz off the frantic, hard rock sounds of Suck.

SHOUT! FACTORY / WIENERWORLD - With John Lennon’s headlining performance at the 1969 Toronto Peace Festival paying tribute to his roots, it’s more than a little coincidental that supporting Lennon's Plastic Ono Band at Toronto were a number of his rock and roll pioneer heroes. And one of them, Little Richard, is feted by Shout! Factory and Wienerworld with the 2009 U.S. / U.K. DVD release of Little Richard Live At The Toronto Peace Festival 1969. It must have been a hoot to see Lennon singing “Money,” “Yer' Blues” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” in the company of these rock and roll pioneers and on his own DVD from the Toronto festival, Little Richard doesn’t disappoint. Richard’s surreal set truly captures him in rare form, backed by a solid band, performing huge hits such as “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and more. Director D.A. Pennebaker is renowned for his filming of Monterey Pop and Don’t Look Back and likewise his filming of Lennon and here, Little Richard is both sublime and shocking. With nine tracks, the DVD only runs 27 minutes yet it's a brilliant expose of Little Richard in peak form on vocals and piano. If in fact Pennebaker filmed the entire festival show, his Lennon film is beyond brilliant, then can we also expect future Wienerworld DVD’s featuring the other acts at Lennon’s rock and roll revival at the Toronto Peace Festival? That list includes Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent along with newer bands such as Chicago, the Doors and Alice Cooper. Excellent DVD liner notes fills in the blanks. Hats off to Shout! Factory in the U.S. and Wienerworld in the U.K. for releasing this essential live DVD release of Little Richard in action. /

- Since taking over Vanguard Records back in the ‘90s, the Welk Music Group has done a great job releasing new music as well as plumbing the vaults. Case in point is Vanguard’s music reissue series entitled Vanguard Visionaries. Back in the 2001, Vanguard released a 3 CD set entitled The Out Sound From The Way In! from electronic music pioneers Perrey & Kingsley. Honoring the dynamic duo’s legacy, Vanguard released a Visionaries CD from Perrey & Kingsley. The 1960’s was an amazingly inventive period for pop music and Perrey & Kingsley’s unique instrumental music was influenced by the inventive thoughts and themes of innovators such as the late great Joe Meek and Bob Moog as well as the quirky electronic sounds of Walter Carlos, who worked with Moog so closely on the classic Switched On Bach from 1969. Of course, Perrey & Kingsley were much more about pop art and intellectual commercialism rather than the classical stance of the, then soon to be Ms. Carlos. Just take a listen to P&K's hilarious, moogy send up cover medley of “One Note Samba” with “Spanish Flea.” The Visionaries inclusion of their song “Passport To The Future” is a great way to look back and revel in the magic of the ‘60s. Completists will want Vanguard’s 3 CD set but Visionaries is a great sampling of P&K’s early electronic music magic. Other artists recently given the Visionaries treatment by Vanguard include folk singers Joan Baez, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Doc Watson and Eric Anderson, blues legends Skip James, Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Big Mama Thornton along with jazz legends such as Sandy Bull and Larry Coryell along with many many more on the way. Visionaries is a great way to sample some of the magic contained in the vaults of the legendary Vanguard Records.

- While not quite as much of a sonic revelation as the Winterfold remaster of The Bruford Tapes, the 2009 CD release of In Tokyo features a rare Japanese performance by Bill Bruford and Pat Moraz. Recorded in Tokyo Japan on July 4, 1985, the ten cut CD is a fitting showcase for two of the greatest musicians of the modern rock era. Although Bruford and Winterfold has reissued the Moraz Bruford studio albums, the 63 minute In Tokyo is the only legit CD remastering of their live work. 1985 was the turning point in the development of the CD and Bill and Pat wasted no time capitalizing on the wide, pin drop audio scope the CD offered. Looking back, Bruford and Moraz were two of the greatest things that happened to the Yes group. Bruford of course was the backbone of the original Yes sound while Moraz, joining the band late in 1974, offered a jazzier, world beat spin to Rick Wakeman's more classical rock based keyboard sound. In other words, Bruford and Moraz could not only play rock but they were equally at home in the jazz and even neoclassical progressive music worlds. What a thrill, more than 25 years later to hear just how in tune these two players were to each other’s unique musical depth and perceptions. How many more CD remaster and live music surprises will Bill Bruford unleash in the future? Stay tuned but, for now Bruford, Yes and Moraz fans will find the release of In Tokyo an essential, fascinating listening experience. /

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