Record Label
and Music Spotlight









- The new wave of bands from England sound like the old New Wave American bands from the late 1970s. Case in point is a 2012 CD EP from Knifeworld, entitled Clairvoyant Fortnight. While only 3 tracks clock in here at about 19 minutes, it’s a bit on the short side but the music, deftly performed by a gifted six piece band, evokes a whole range of styles—including late ‘70s groups like the B-52’s, represented here by the the shared vocals of Kavus Torabi and Melani Woods. Excellent electric lead guitar work from Kavus gets solid support from his band mates. Add in a bit of early Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and a kind of YES meets Zappa amalgam as influences and Knifeworld offer up a groundbreaking 21st century sound.

- As the lead singer and keyboardist in the original lineup of jazz-rock legends Chicago, Brooklyn-born Robert Lamm was responsible for some of Chicago’s best known tracks including “Saturday In The Park” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”. Those songs, and other Chicago classics are given the mashup / remix treatment on the 2012 CD release of Robert Lamm Songs: The JVE ReMixes and the results are mixed but always entertaining and sometimes even amusing. Remixed by producer John Van Eps, who describes the CD as “quirky and fun”, the sound is pretty experimental, and while not really dance music style remixes, on The JVE ReMixes Van Eps keeps Lamm’s familiar vocal sound upfront. It seems to work, even with all the layered electronica that dissects and dissolves the once familiar Chicago sound into a modern, experimental Chicago tribute. Apparently, the more avant gard and “out there” Eps got with these experimental reworkings, the more enthusiastic Lamm became. Using the original tapes, Eps captures and remixes original performances from Lamm, and Chicago alumni Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane (trumpet), James Pankow (trombone), Walt Parazaider (sax) and others including guitarist Hank Linderman.

- The 3 Åkesson brothers—Simon Åkesson (keyboards), Pontus Åkesson (guitars) and Sebastian Åkesson (vocals)—are once again joined by Petter Sandström and John Westerlund (bass) for the 2012 double CD set from their band Moon Safari called The Gettysburg Address. Actually recorded in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the Rites Of Spring Festival on May 20th, 2011, the CD features tracks from the group’s album releases including their acclaimed 2010 album Lover’s End. In a live setting in the U.S. Moon Safari shine on their first live album and with fine attention to sonic details, it’s a good showcase for their stunningly rich sound which combines an aesthetically pleasing progressive rock sound layered and encased with their patented 5 part vocal harmonies. In September 2012 Moon Safari are planned to head out on a European tour along with stops in the U.K. too.

- Since breaking through with her 2002 album Come Away With Me, singer-songwriter has consistently released genre busting albums and her 2012 CD Little Broken Hearts is another pop music dream come true. Produced by Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), the twelve track CD features Norah singing over a fine band including guitarist Blake Mills, who gets a fine guitar noir tone from his electrics, while Burton adds well placed electronics and synth work. The rhythm section of Joey Waronker (drums) and Gus Seyffert (bass) adds in the finishing touches on this excellent 2012 album from Ms. Jones. Also released on CD by Blue Note in mid 2012 is Dreamer In Concert from jazz vocalist Stacey Kent. Since releasing her 1997 debut Close Your Eyes, Ms. Kent has appeared on many best of the year jazz album lists from the top jazz mags. Recorded in Paris in 2011, the 14 track Dreamer In Concert features Kent on vocals and acoustic guitars backed up by her group performing jazz standards composed by Frank Loesser, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, Rogers & Hammerstein, Serge Gainsbourg and others. The intimate Parisian night club setting offers the optimal venue to experience Ms. Kent’s sublime jazz sound.

- 50 years ago, The Beach Boys arrived and millions of car stereos found a new musical icon. The Beach Boys were hardly off the air between 1962-1969 when AM radio became FM and the ‘Boys went from surf-rock pop heroes to FM radio underground favorites on album classics like Surf’s Up and Holland. With its breezy, carefree pop-rock vibes, 2012 CD release of That’s Why God Made The Radio harks back to mid ‘70s Beach Boys’ favorites like The Beach Boys Love You. The title track “That’s Why God Made The Radio” is really haunting in the way it kind of pairs that descending cascading melody from the fabled John Barry “Midnight Cowboy” theme with a whole new bunch of Wilsonian musical twists and turns. The good news here is that the Boys hardly get in the way of Beach Boys’ mastermind Brian Wilson, who does in fact get solid support from cousin Mike Love, former dental student turned rock star Al Jardine, original Beach Boys rhythm guitarist David Marks and long time member Bruce Johnston. Commenting on the theme of the Beach Boys celebrating their 50th anniversary with a whole album of new material Mike Love adds, ‘“I got a lot of my appreciation for all of the creativity in the world, in terms of music, through the radio. When we were kids, we’d sneak out of the house and go and sit in Brian’s car and listen to the local radio stations on his car radio.” In addition to the studio work of expert musicians here, recording wise, That’s Why God Made The Radio features the work of studio ace Joe Thomas, who did such a great job with Wilson’s 1998 Imagination album. A billion car radios later, The Beach Boys hit the half century mark. Hallelujah.

/ MVD - Progressive rock fans will surely want to give a listen and a look at a series of new CD/DVD live in the studio releases from the biggest names in U.K. music including The Zombies, Van Der Graaf Generator (2CD/1DVD), Caravan, Bill Nelson (2CD/1DVD), Barclay James Harvest and Roy Harper. Each CD/DVD set features a complete live in the studio concert along with detailed 12 page color booklets filled with liner notes and eye catching packaging and artwork. As stated in the press release, the purpose of this series is to have legendary bands performing in front of a small audience in “a unique and ambient setting”. Filmed in HD and recorded in 5.1 surround sound, the CD part of each title will sound great on sophisticated equipment or a portable boom box. Case in point, the Zombies DVD/CD was filmed and recorded in January 2011 in front of 120 guests and features Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Jim Rodford and company performing classics from the songbooks of both The Zombies and Argent, while the DVD is filled with interviews featuring Argent and Colin along with the video of the entire concert. Each one of these titles is beautifully packaged and filmed complete with top sound quality. Progressive rock music fans can’t go wrong with these classic live comeback CD/DVD retrospectives.

- Over in the U.K. the group known as The Imagined Village is causing quite a stir with their 2012 CD Bending The Dark. A folk-rock supergroup of sorts, The Imagined Village features a crew of fine vocalists and multi-tasking musicians including Eliza Carthy (fiddle, vocals), Martin Carthy ( guitar, vocals), Simon Emmerson (cittern, guitars), Andy Gangadeen (drums), Sheeman Mukherjee (sitar, vocals), Jackie Oates (fiddle, vocals), Simon Richmond (keyboards, electronics, vocals) and more top players. The sound is ostensibly folk music but there’s such a wide range of exotic sounding music, the album borders on rock, instrumental fusion, World Beat—you name it it’s on The Imagined Village. With so much musical greatness going on here it’s no wonder that music critics and experts are quite rightly heralding The Imagined Village as “A joyous celebration of English and global culture.”

EDEN RECORDS / LE CHANT DU MONDE - In 2010 the multitalented Clara Ponty released an instrumental album called Echoes which was followed up in 2012 with Into The Light. While the all instrumental Echoes primarily focused on Clara’s keyboard and composing styles, the Into The Light album is very much singer-songwriter based. Still a good showcase for her piano skills, the sound is the quiet storm jazz of Joni Mitchell meets the cinematic sound of Carole King circa 1968. Being the daughter of renowned jazz fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, Clara’s genetic lineage is no doubt reflected in the wide screen sonic visions portrayed in her music. Among the choice musicians taking part in her recording band include her illustrious dad with the CD enhanced by the tastefully enacted studio production and guitar work of Stuart Bruce.

- Handled Stateside by MVD Audio, Expression Records is home to progressive rock guitar pioneer Phil Manzanera. While Manzanera fans await his next solo album, Phil keeps listeners happy with the 2012 CD release of Anna Le Does Poetry / Phil Manzanera Does Music - Nth Entities. With Anna reciting her politically charged manifesto type poetry over Phil’s scenic, almost soundtrack like instrumental guitar jams, the sound is good if you like socially conscious poetry while the attractive, oversized package, with lyrics / layout and looks like a real book with a CD showcasing Anna's spoken word poetry intriguingly backed by Phil. No sung melodies per se but the sound is good and Nth Entities makes an interesting Manzanera curio for long time fans.

/ CONCORD RECORDS - Once again working with famed music producer Tony Visconti, singer-songwriter and guitarist Alejandro Escovedo released Big Station on June 5th 2102. No doubt swayed by his renowned producer’s work with David Bowie and T. Rex, Escovedo clearly sounds influenced by the very people Visconti helped establish 45 years before. Backing up his very deep and Dylan-esque songs with some serious guitar work of his own, Escovedo’s band (dubbed The Sensitive Boys) includes guitar hero David Pulkingham, Karla Manzur (keyboards), Gina Holton (vocals), Bobby Daniel (bass) and Chris Searles (drums). A totally original and fascinating sounding artist for the 21st century, Alejandro Escovedo promises and delivers a big bold sound on Big Station.

- The country of New Zealand is known for many things, including the great Flying Nun record label. Home to many great rock and pop artists on that other side of the globe, Flying Nun released a long awaited comeback album from pop-rock stalwarts The Bats. Described as a ‘sweet, lovely and connective’ bunch of pop songs, the group’s eighth album, recorded in 2011, Free All The Monsters was recorded just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand and was produced by Dale Cotten. Musically, the sound is quite New Wave like, not unlike fellow New Zealanders Split Enz, in places, with some added Velvet Underground type dark and light added in. Headed up by the guitars, vocals and songs of Robert Scott, The Bats click big time on Free All The Monsters—a release that’s already being heralded as their best album yet. Also up and out in 2012 from Flying Nun is a fascinating retrospective of the early Flying Nun label called Time To Go - The Southern Psychedelic Moment 1981-86. Time To Go is a fascinating look back at the early history of Flying Nun—comprising a ‘heroic period’ of lo-tech recording, handmade covers and extended play 45’s.

- Pronounced “Triple X”, the 2012 release of XXX celebrates 30 years of the band called ASIA. Guitarist Steve Howe continues to be the most prolific of all the founding prog-rock guitar pioneers and after a few spins the sound of the band ASIA starts working its super slick prog-pop magic. Lead singer John Wetton continues on as one of the most versatile of the legendary prog-rock vocalists. Sort of tailor made stadium prog rock, that will sound as cool in a live rock show setting as well as blasting on the car stereo or boom box, XXX was released Summer 2012 as a CD and a 2 CD/DVD with DVD extras. With Howe and Wetton joined by original members Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes, ASIA continues on as the preeminent made for MTV video era band from the early 1980’s. Celebrating 30 years as a band with XXX, Asia’s 30th is also brought to bear with a new for 2012 reissue of their 1982 self-titled ASIA album. A double disc version comes with a CD of the original ASIA album plus a second CD of rare live tracks, while also available is a DVD entitled ASIA - 30 Years On all topped off with new Roger Dean artwork.

- With fine progressive rock labels like Inside Out and Frontiers Records continuing to release anarray of new product, it’s no wonder younger prog-rock bands continue rising through the ranks to further the cause of 21st century prog. Case in point is the 2012 Frontiers release of The Old Man And The Spirit from astute German rockers Beyond The Bridge. Beyond The Bridge mix Queen-like power rock surges with the nimble musical dexterity of say, early ‘80s YES and modern groups like Dream Theater and Vanden Plas. Featuring some power chord rock guitar work of Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg, the seven piece group mix male/female vocalists to great effect with Degenfeld’s guitar maxing out the sound with rock solid power chords.

- A fine new album featuring the songs and vocals of Josh Haden, the 2012 CD release of The Soul Of Spain from the group called Spain makes for some pretty amazing listening. Haden sort of embodies the spirit of rock Americana in 2012 and some of these tracks echo the greatness of Neil Young, Randy Newman and even Van Dyke Parks. Spain has recorded a number of albums going back to the mid ‘90s and there’s plenty of excellent tracks on The Soul Of Spain to pique the interest of long time fans and newcomers alike. Backing up Haden’s songs, vocals and electric bass work, there’s also some very Neil Young inspired electric guitar work from Daniel Brummel as well as a host of players appearing including Haden’s sister Petra Haden. As a sideman, Haden has appeared on a number of albums including the acclaimed 1996 album from Donovan called Sutras and he’s also appeared on projects involving his dad, jazz bass icon Charlie Haden. To find out just how cool Spain is and what you’ve been missing for the past 15+ years, check out The Soul Of Spain.

- On their 10th album, What Comes After, pop icons The Honeydogs return to the successful power-pop style that made them a critic's favorite on their 2000 Here’s Luck album. The 12 track 2012 release of What Comes After features more resourceful pop posturing by Honeydogs creative force Adam Levy, whose singing and song writing get excellent backing from his six fellow Honeydogs, including some fine fretboard work from Brian Halverson. There are hints of Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson and even the somber pop of Nick Drake on the sonically diverse pop in play on What Comes After. Track 9, “Devil We Do” is a solid example of Levy’s fine song writing and Halverson’s electrifying guitar leads.

- Recording 13 albums over the past 12 years, blues-rock guitar hero Joe Bonamassa is back in action with his 2012 album Driving Towards The Daylight. Returning to Las Vegas for the recording, Joe is once again joined by rock producer great Kevin Shirley and a host of fine players to light the fire under Joe’s proverbial blues muse. Described in the liner notes by Joe as a ‘return to my roots and an exploration at the same time’, the album doesn’t mess with the formula yet the sound is somewhat new and exhilarating at the same time. A number of players assist throughout including producer / guitarist Kevin Shirley, Anton Fig (drums), additional guitarists Pat Thrall, Blondie Chaplin and Brad Whitford, Carmine Rojas (bass) and many more. With Joe’s searing electric lead guitar and vocals once again catching fire, there’s plenty of blues-rock action to recommend Driving Towards The Daylight to even the most ardent blues-rock fan.

- Described as World Beat and Mediterranean music, East And West features the sound of singer-songwriter Ljuba Davis. Exploring the roots of early Jewish music, Ms. Davis remembers the words of her paternal grandmother that, ‘Never forget that your family are Sephardim. That you came from Spain.’ That music which explores that “Ladino” roots of Sephardic music and melodies, both secular and liturgical, are explored on the double CD set called East And West. The release is a double CD set divided into two halves, both with Ljuba’s Spanish and Hebrew language vocals and a second CD, without her voice and with occasional male backing vocals, that's primarily instrumental. East And West combines for an album of her uniquely heartfelt renditions and the stunning melodies of the Ladino tradition. In addition to the Middle Eastern vibe, some of the music here also evokes the time honored Klezmer music sound. For her ensemble, Ms. Davis has assembled a wide mix of World Beat musicians, including players from Greece, Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Brooklyn. The work of guitarist Nadav Lev, on Spanish guitar, is quite interesting as is the way he interacts with the excellent musicians taking part in this cross-continental musical experiment. Commenting on such a diverse group of musicians, Ms. Davis adds, ‘What brought us together was the music.’ Exotic sounding World Beat music, East And West is superbly packaged in a most appealing CD artwork / layout.

- U.K. based Lojinx delivers the pop goods with the 2012 release of Soundshine by Stockholm Sweden based David Myhr. I had to do double takes as much of Myhr’s 12 track CD sounds quite similar to the sound and vision of Badfinger and ELO for starters. The Swedes have always been among the most musically resourceful people on the planet and Myhr’s pop excavations are downright uncanny. Myhr’s band, including the drums of album co-producer Andreas Dahlbäck and guitarist Anders Pettersson is first rate and he backs himself up. Mix up late ‘60s era Beatle-esque pop, mid ‘70s ELO, ‘80s Brian Wilson style production with some ABBA like harmonies and you come with the sunny pop vibes of Soundshine. The packaging is so cool too that you can’t help but dig David Myhr’s good vibrations.

- A legend of the downtown NYC music scene going back to the late ‘60s, Garland Jeffreys released a fine comeback album in 2012. The 2012 CD release of The King Of In Between is a fine R&B style pop album that echoes the early ‘70s works of legends like Bruce Springsteen and Buzzy Linhart. As long time fans will tell you, Garland is sort of the NYC version of Arthur Lee with a touch of Lou Reed. There’s plenty of the jivey, catchy pop feel of Love and Buzzy and Lou’s early ‘70s stuff. With Steve Jordan on drums and guitarists Junior Marvin, Duke Levine and Larry Campbell on electric guitars, Garland is free to do his thing as only he can do. Co-produced by Campbell and mixed by studio great Roy Cicala, The King Of In Between harks back to early Jeffreys' classics like Ghost Writer from 1977 and at times it also looks back on his childhood growing up in Coney Island. Commenting on The King Of In Between, Garland adds,I’m at a wonderful point in my life. I couldn’t be happier with the new record. It’s completely true to me, a real reflection of everything I stand for.’

MLM - The 1960’s never died and proof in point is the 2012 CD from The Corner Laughers entitled Poppy Seeds. More like the seeds of California pop, Corner Laughers embrace the vision of original ‘60s jangle pop bands like Love, The Monkees and Mamas And The Papas, leading up to 1980’s retro rockers The Bangles, so there’s something for all West Coast pop fans on their 12 track ‘12 release. That Bangles flavored essence is no doubt reinforced by the vocals and ukulele of Karla Kane, who gets solid pop support from her band mates throughout while the CD is also enhanced by producer Allen Clapp and guest spots by various artists including Anton Barbeau (vocals / keyboards). Clapp’s production is crystalline and oozes studio shimmer while he also adds in his own performances on various keyboards / percussion. Retro pop fans should check out The Laughing Corners.

- Back in early 2006, 21st century pop took a giant step forward when Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder produced Jupiter Falls—the first of two CDs by The Pinder Brothers. Bringing to life a renewed sonic vision of that world famous Pinder-esque progressive pop-rock vibe that their father was so renowned for in the original Moody Blues, the singing, song-writing dynamic duo team of Michael Lee Pinder and brother Matt Pinder join forces once again on their third official release—the 2012 CD release of Speeding Cars. While only 5 tracks, Speeding Cars is a tasty representation of the Pinder Brothers sound and these cuts are deep and well worth a listen. Track 1 on Speeding Cars, “The Last Days Of Summer” makes a fine opener, harking back to best prog-pop of Jupiter Falls and its follow-up 2008’s Ordinary Man—yet there’s also a touch of Crosby Stills & Nash here. Track 2, “Driving You Home” is a yearning love song with the sonic complexities and long and winding twists and turns of classic mid ‘80s McCartney. Track 3, “Hollywood La La” is among the finest tracks yet by the Pinder Brothers. Almost soundtrack like, Mike Lee Pinder’s lead vocal stakes out a spiritual tone as it deals with the subject of Hollywood stardom. Track 4, “Crash Down” is just that—a sonic roller coaster that makes you want to get up and play some air guitar. Filled with yet more classic Pinder Brothers melodies that cascade around the pop spectrum, the 5th and final track here, “Dark-Eyed Angel” is a memorable way to end this short but sweet sonic journey. A destination well worth visiting after Jupiter Falls and Ordinary Man, 2012’s Speeding Cars is just the ticket to bring the Pinder Brothers story up to date and into focus.

- Rock and roll legend Jack Bruce is no stranger to the superstar syndrome. Whether it be Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams or Ginger Baker for that matter, the company of greatness comes naturally to Jack. Case in point is the 2012 self-titled debut CD from his latest band, Spectrum Road. Joining Jack on this new Spectrum Road recording project is rock fusion guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana and on organ is John Medeski. Consisting mostly of classic jazz fusion cover versions, the music of Spectrum Road features newly remade versions of music composed by Tony Williams, Carla Bley, Larry Young, John McLauglin and Jan Hammer, including a CD opening “Vuelta Abajo”, from the 1970 Turn It Over album on Polydor that Jack Bruce recorded with veteran jazz drummer Tony Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin and organ supremeo Larry Young. Reid’s Spectrum Road guitar tracks are superbly performed and recorded, while commenting on the making of this album, Reid states, ‘The band takes the electrifying music of Tony Williams as its starting point and turns it into something totally its own. There's a vibe from beginning to end, a certain type of force and ambiance that I’ve never experienced before as an artist.’ While some of this album echoes pioneering instrumental jazz rock from the heyday of Tony Williams and Mahavishnu, there’s still plenty to marvel at, including several Bruce vocals. Among the many highlights is a classic remake of “Coming Back Home”, composed by Jan Hammer for the 1978 Tony Williams album The Joy Of Flying as is a CD closing version of “Wild Life”, from Tony’s 1975 Believe It album. In addition to the excellent packaging, the multi-panel digi-pak CD layout features liner notes from all the musicians involved. The chemistry Bruce, Blackman, Reid and Medeski on Spectrum Road is truly something to marvel at. From jazz-rock to fusion and free jazz, Spectrum Road brings the music of Tony Williams into style again, in the 21st century.

- L.A. based Rainman offers up the 2012 album from rock guitar legend Alvin Lee. The 13 track Still On The Road To Freedom is a fine follow up to Alvin’s 1973 album On The Road To Freedom. Alvin’s 2008 album Saguitar pleased long time fans and likewise Still On The Road To Freedom taps into Alvin’s ceaseless devotion to the blues and, specifically blues rock. Of course he’s more seasoned now, compared to the young Alvin who blew minds with albums from Ten Years After—including Ssssh. and Cricklewood Green in 1969 and ‘70—but that voice and that guitar, even today, is a reminder of one of rock’s great heritage artists. The recorded sound of Still On The Road To Freedom is quite good throughout with Alvin getting solid support from a number of musicians. Among the players here, one time King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace appears while the expert sonic mastering of Jon Astley puts the finishing touches on Alvin Lee’s 2012 CD masterpiece.

- Hearing Neil Young backed up by Crazy Horse singing “Oh Susannah” on his 2012 CD Americana is a real thrill. The song, stripped bare of its original childlike innocence comes alive in a new way. In fact, each of the eleven cuts here are classic folk music gems that benefit in some way by Young’s musical midas touch. As Neil indicates in the CD liner notes, while “Oh Susannah” was composed by Stephen Foster back in 1847 it was once again interpreted in 1964 by Tim Rose and Neil cites Rose as one of the pioneers of folk-rock. And so it goes through the other cuts here—including “Clementine”, “Travel On”, “High Flyin’ Bird”, “This Land Is Your Land” and more. The CD closing “God Save The Queen” morphs into “My Country Tis Of Thee” and the results are really startling and very Neil Young at the same time! Citing the original composers and the artists who brought them to a whole new audience in more modern times, Young brings these songs safely into the 21st century. Young’s fabled Crazy Horse band—Ralph Molina (drums), Billy Talbot (bass) and Pancho Sampedro (guitars)—are still awesome sounding. Even though most everyone knows these classic American folk songs as they were ingrained in the psyche of generations past, hearing Neil Young & Crazy Horse play Americana classics is a sonic revelation.

- The original Wigwam was a supergroup of sorts. With Jim Pembroke, Pekka Pohjola and drummer Ronnie Österberg, Wigwam was complete with keyboard genius Jukka Gustavson, who has released his 2012 masterpiece entitled Root & Stalk & Flower Music. Featuring Jukka Gustavson Organ Fusion Band, the ten track album combines for a pleasurable mix of instrumental music and other tracks with Jukka’s vocals. Between the compositional mix of Pohjola, Pembroke and Gustavson, Wigwam was clearly among the most interesting of all the Finnish rock bands in the 1970’s. Gustavson’s Hammond organ and vocals were patterned after Steve Winwood’s sound in Traffic and on Root & Stalk & Flower Music Gustavson still has the power to move musical mountains. A number of musicians back Jukka up here including guitarist Pekka Nylund with strings arranged and conducted by Esa Onttonen. Considering the 11/27/08 passing of Wigwam innovator Pekka Pohjola, some parts of Root & Stalk & Flower Music are truly haunting, evoking the magic Jukka and Pekka during the Wigwam heyday.

- Based in Montreal Canada, Secret City released the third album from progressive pop rockers Plants And Animals. The 2012 CD release of the 11 cut The End Of That picks up from where their 2008 Parc Avenue CD and 2010 La La Land CD left off. In the spirit of late ‘70s Bowie and even the guitar driven sound of U2, there’s some excellent progressive pop and rock in play on The End Of That, featuring a fine performance from Warren C. Spicer (vocals), Nicolas Basque (guitars) and Matthew Woodley (drums) who are visited in the studio by a number of musicians. Recorded in Paris, The End Of That is superbly engineered and mastered, while the unassuming, classy CD packaging seals the deal on this hard rocking, smart pop CD.

- Singer Debbie Clarke released her debut solo album Manhattanhenge in 2012. Debbie kind of echoes the work of Annie Haslam of Renaissance fame and there’s even a well wrought cover of the Strawbs hit from 1972, “Lay Down”. The CD sounds great and it comes as no surprise that the album features another stellar production from rock icon Tony Visconti. Those who remember Visconti’s classic pop production work with Mary Hopkin will enjoy Debbie’s CD, which includes upbeat folk-rock covers of classic Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Janis Ian, Dave Cousins, Jagger/Richards and more, including Debbie’s own original music as well . Tony’s liner notes regarding the CD are really illuminating and the players appearing in supporting roles sound totally in sync with Debbie’s 21st century folk-rock vision. Warner Brothers records in Germany had the good sense to release this CD so one can only hope Debbie brings Manhattanhenge to the entire planet.

/ DECCA RECORDS - Although she’s been recording albums for over twenty years, Rebecca Pidgeon is hardly a household word. That issue of artistic indifference is dealt a severe blow with Rebecca's sixth album, the 2012 CD release of Slingshot. Released on the Toy Canteen label through the esteemed Decca label, Slingshot was produced by music producer veteran Larry Klein, who has worked with Ms. Pidgeon before. The CD features excellent contributions from session veterans like Dean Parks (guitars), Patrick Warren (keyboards), Jay Bellerose (drums) and much more. Also featured here is a song writing contribution from pop maestro Freedy Johnston, while the only cover of the album is a take on the Warren Zevon classic “Searching For A Heart”. Mixing Sarah McLaughlin like introspection and Aimee Mann inspired pop, all centered around Ms. Pidgeon’s real knack for crafting a majestic and melodic pop-jazz hook, Slingshot slow dazzles its way to singer-songwriter nirvana. She may sound soft and reserved along the way, yet Slingshot is a solid pop spin from start to finish.

- For his 2012 CD, I Want To Move Out In The Daylight! singer-songwriter Warren Zanes teams with pop studio aces Daniel Tashian and Brad Jones and the result is another brilliant Zanes album classic. Commenting on the recording of I Want To Move Out In The Daylight! Warren adds, ‘We made this high fidelity recording over a period of ten days in Nashville. For the majority of that time, it was three men in close quarters. Imagine a ship’s hold. A team assembled. I thank these remarkable guys for their generous style and ability to give shape to raw materials.’ A man of many talents indeed, Warren Zanes is at his best on this on this new for 2012 CD release. Earlier releases from Zanes, including People That I’m Wrong For and Memory Girls were critically acclaimed pop albums and, with one memorable cut after the next, I Want To Move Out In The Daylight reaches the same level of pop sophistication. Of course, as Beatles fans will tell you, Zanes also did a great job working on the Martin Scorcese movie on Beatle George Harrison. The album features some tasteful production work from Brad Jones and, with Zanes cleverly sounding like a one man version of The Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison fans will surely want to hear I Want To Move Out In The Daylight.

- Interesting name for a record company but then again Twin cities based Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles are a pretty interesting group. Ostensibly alt-rock and pop, complete with a brazen sonic aesthetic, Lucy and company break through the genre cage with the wide ranging sound of their 2012 CD Heat. Throughout the ten track CD, recorded in Brooklyn, NYC, Lucy’s songs, baritone uke, piano and vocals get solid support from the various musicians on hand topped off by the deft production Matt Boynton. Among the other guest artists, guitarist Christopher Graham adds some electrifying fretboard work to various cuts here, especially the sizzling “Undone”. Overall Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles show some serious spunk and gumption on the sparky, red-hot sound of Heat.

- Best known for working with The Band, Woodstock, N.Y. music superstars Professor Louie & The Crowmatix follow up their 2010 album Whispering Pines with the 2012 release of Wings On Fire. Produced by Professor Louie himself, Aaron L. Hurwitz, and dedicated to their musical mentors—Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band—Wings On Fire features key performances by Professor Louie (vocals, keyboards), Miss Marie (vocals), Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass) and Josh Colow (electric guitar). Also on hand are key players, including guest spots by Michael Falzarano (guitars) and more. Placed among the new Professor Louie originals are fresh covers of the George Jones hit “Color Of The Blues” and the classic Van Morrison and The Band Cahoots favorite “4% Pantomime”—recorded in honor of guest guitarist John Plantania and his tenure with Van and Louie’s years with The Band. With the passing of Levon Helm in 2012, Wings On Fire is a great way to get closer to and celebrate the time honored classic late ‘60s Woodstock rock sound.


ABSTRACT LOGIX - There’s so many great Israeli musicians, and guitar players especially, and you can count Oz Noy among the great 21st century fusion aces. Case in point is Oz Noy’s 2012 CD Twisted Blues Volume 1 released by the fusion-centric Abstract Logix label. A stunning amalgamation of jazz-fusion, funk, instro rock, blues and R&B, Twisted Blues finds the guitarist in fine form, smoking the stuff out of his guitar. Released at the end of 2011, the 9 track CD finds Oz in the company of top players including Anton Fig and Vinnie Coliauta (drums), Will Lee (bass), John Medeski (organ) along with guest spots from Eric Johnson (guitars) and the legendary Allen Toussaint (piano). Rightly, Twisted Blues Volume 1 comes off as a superstar session. Amped with sonic boom, enough to blow your roof off, Oz Noy’s Twisted Blues Volume 1 is essential listening for fans of of Hendrix, Beck, Scofield and other pioneering rock fusion guitar aces.

AUDIO MONTAGE - Based in Tel Aviv Israel, Boom Pam actually opened for instro surf-rock legends The Ventures out in California but don’t let that lure you into thinking these guys are strictly guitar instrumental. On their 2012 CD Alakazam there’s plenty of off the wall guitar noir and ecstatic Mediterranean type sounds in play. Sometimes sounding more like John Barry meets Duke Ellington then The Ventures and king of West Coast instro cool Dick Dale, the instrumental tracks are offset by several Talking Heads style experimental pop. Perhaps the strangest thing, as evidenced by the instrumental numbers is that instead of bass, the bass parts are actually play on Tuba by Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov with the drums deftly handled by Itamar “The Kid” Levi. The guitar sound of Uri Brauner Kinrot is really intriguing—one minute he’s all ‘50s retro instro and next he’s sounding like the Israeli Steve Howe. There’s some creative tension in this band’s chemistry that really gives it a unique musical sound.

BLUE FOREST RECORDS - The thrill of hearing Dave Brubeck and his amazing piano will never be equaled. Brubeck’s 1959 group recording of “Take Five” is still the stuff of musical legends and his sons—Chris Brubeck (bass, trombone) and Dan Brubeck (drums)—join forces with several players for the 2012 CD release of Lifetimes by The Brubeck Brothers Quartet. Balanced out by Mike DeMicco (guitar) and Chuck Lamb (piano), the BBQ bring back the vintage Bebop Jazz sound of the early 1960s and them some on the 2012 CD release of Lifetimes. Reinforcing the classic spirit here, a number of the songs chosen here are choice covers of vintage Dave Brubeck while both DeMicco and Lamb turn in a couple fine original compositions as well. The expressive cover art also feature a picture of Dave, age 90, on the back while liner notes from Chris Brubeck sheds further light on the proceedings. Fittingly, the CD closes things out with a near eleven minute album finale cover of “Take Five”. The classic Brubeck vintage jazz sound lives again on Lifetimes.

BRANDIT - From the beautiful country of Portugal, the band known as No Smoking On Board aim to convince a whole new generation of ‘60s surf-rock fans with their 2010 CD Boards And Bikinis. We’re talking boards as in surfboards and bikinis as in, well just take a look at their CD cover. The style of West Coast surf-rock music pioneered by The Ventures and The Beach Boys never died so it’s fitting that the style be carried on far and wide. With their sun-streaked mix of instrumental and vocal sides, No Smoking On Board makes the ‘60s fun to listen to again. Some may just buy this CD for its eye-popping, racy cover art, yet after you tear off the outer packaging, a few spins later, you’ll be bopping like Bo Diddley on a long board off Laguna Beach. /

CANYON RECORDS - Canyon Records was formed way back in 1951 by sonic pioneers Ray and Mary Boley who also founded one of the first recording studios in Arizona in 1948. As far as releasing the finest in Native American music, Canyon is considered the last word and they stay true to their roots while also breaking new musical ground with the 2012 CD release of Waking From The Roots by Coyote Jump. The creation of several musicians including Colin Farish (keyboards, guitars) and John-Carlos Perea (Native American flutes), the sound of Coyote Jump is mystical and modern New Age at the same time. A number of players assist including Glen Velez (frame drum, triangle, buzz stick, percussion) and Glen Moore (bass) with other guest musicians filling up the soundstage on this modern Native American instrumental music masterpiece. Track by track liner notes by Colin and John-Carlos reveals the details about the origins of this music while stellar album artwork makes the whole experience even more rewarding. Described as a “love song to Mother Earth”, the blissful sound of Waking From The Roots offers a hypnotic, yet quite meditative instrumental music experience. You’ll find yourself leaving your CD player on repeat spins and finding something new and exciting with each replay.

GITA RECORDS - Described as an uplifting and inspiring instrumental acoustic world fusion sound, Touched By The Sun is the 2012 CD release from guitarist Todd Boston. Produced by Windham Hill guitar legend Will Ackerman, Touched By The Sun finds Todd Boston in the studio once again backed up by a number of top musicians adding in various touches on cello, violin, drums, bass, tabla and more including guest spots by music legends Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass) and more. On Touched By The Sun, Will Ackerman’s production is flawless as usual and the studio sound enables Boston to get the most sonic mileage out of his captivating instrumental World Fusion / New Age guitar sound. All in all, Touched By The Sun is a fantastic follow up to Boston’s 2010 Alive album.

- One of the great Gypsy Jazz guitar advocates currently walking the Earth, Lollo Meier is back in action in 2012 with a CD entitled Plachterida. Released by Lollo Meier and his cousin, and fellow Gypsy jazz guitarist, Fapy Lafertin, the 16 track, instrumental Plachterida features tracks written by Fapy, Lollo, Django Reinhardt, Harry Warren and more. Also playing on this elegant studio album are Bram Van Es (rhythm guitar) and Henry Schuller (double bass). As some astute guitar fans will note, Lollo has also recently been seen in the company of fellow Gypsy Jazz fan and Shadows founder Hank Marvin. Hank’s fans, who’ve wondered why Hank is such a Gypsy Jazz fan, should track down Lollo’s Plachterida CD, which is filled to the brim with exciting instrumental, acoustic based Gypsy Jazz guitar music in the finest spirit of Django Reinhardt. Hank can also be seen on the 2011 DVD from Lollo Meier entitled Le Chemin De Django. Also on hand on this hour long live DVD recorded in part near the birthplace of Django in Liberchies, Belgium are fellow Gypsy Jazz players including Hank Marvin, Stochelo Rosenberg, Fapy Lafertin and much more. These titles are guitar nirvana for Gypsy Jazz fans.

- Norway continues to amaze instrumental jazz-fusion fans with the 2012 CD release of Wired, the debut album from improv trio Cakewalk. You can almost hear the Scandinavian folk music influence in the mix, which presents a very raw, almost primal sonic view. Shining a light on the performances by Stephan Meidell (guitars, bass), Øystein Skar synths) and Ivar Loe Bjørnstand (drums), Wired is a stellar mix of avant-garde instrumental free jazz-rock fusion with daring electronic overtones that should have wide crossover appeal among adventurous music listeners.

- Sometimes you need to slow down and smell the roses and a nice way to do that is with the music of multi-instrumentalist Jeff Gold. Released in 2012, the 12 track Simple Treasures is filled with relaxing sonic soundscapes that serves as a showcase for Gold’s fine piano, guitar and light electronics backup. Gold’s forte is clearly New Age based instrumental music and as such his CDs have been used in all kinds of settings including music therapy, yoga, massage, scenic drives and meditation. It kind of sneaks up on you but there’s plenty of stately, circular classicism to compare Gold to Eno (during the Discreet Music period) and other meditative music masters like Krishna Das and Deva Premal. Slow down and catch your breath with the music of Jeff Gold.

- Label home to U.K. artists including gifted guitarist Leo Abrahams, Just Music have a fine electronic music album release from Marconi Union. The 2012 Marconi Union album Different Colours captures every thing imaginable and that’s imaginative from this English instrumental electronic music ensemble. Featuring MU founders Richard Talbot and Jamie Crossley, Different Colors also features contributions from group newcomer Duncan Meadows who adds in some piano sounds. On Different Colours the dynamic sound is pierced in places by the occasional sound of ambient electric guitar all embellishing the down tempo non-classical, chill-out sounds, dub-jazz and hushed vocals. Commenting on Different Colours, Richard Talbot adds, ‘You don’t need to be into electronic music to enjoy what we’re doing. I think there’s something abut the music that you can tell it’s been made by people who’ve been around the block a few times.’ The sixth Marconi Union CD, Different Colors sounds very influenced by the work of cinematic ambient music masters such as Brian Eno and Harold Budd yet, Marconi Union takes that late 1970s ambient electronic sound and brings it further into the 21st century. Fans of Eno’s “Disc-reet Music” era works will not be not be disappointed by Marconi Union’s Different Colors CD.

- Guitar fans have been waiting a long time for an all instrumental album from singer-songwriter and guitarist Sonny Landreth and they have their wish with the 2012 CD release of Elemental Journey. A must for guitar fusion fans, the eleven track CD features Landreth in the studio with his band as well as featuring key guest spots from Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and a number of players including strings from The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra. In describing the sound of Elemental Journey you’d have to encompass Southern blues ala Duane Allman, the dynamic guitar fusion sound in the realm of Steve Morse and the jazz-rock sensibilities of Pat Metheny and fans of those players will love Elemental Journey. Among the many standouts, track three here “Heavy Heart Rising” has a Beatles type beat with some of Sonny’s Harrison-esque slide work breaking through the excellent chord changes. Although Landreth may be known by some for being John Hiatt’s guitarist, his solo albums were always worth a listen and now with the focus purely on his instrumental Americana jazz-rock fusion sound, Elemental Journey is a stellar sonic discovery for guitar watchers.

- Back in 2009, Australian guitarist Glenn Cannon released an instrumental jazz-rock masterpiece called Clockwork. After several years of working with his other free-jazz group called Logic, Cannon & company released a 2012 CD/DVD set called Logic Live in 2012. More fusion and free-jazz then the well scripted Clockwork, and released as a follow up to the 2010 Logic studio album, The Hierarchy, the Logic Live double CD set was recorded at the end of a 2011 tour of Asia and, it explores the jazzier side of Cannon’s musical temperament. In his earlier interview with, Cannon claimed guitar influences like Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz, Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and Scott Henderson and fans of those guitar greats will find much to like about Logic Live. As is evident on the double live CD/DVD set, Cannon gets solid support from his band, including Ben Vanderwal (drums), Dane Alderson (bass) and Tim Wilson (sax).

- Founder of Loudhouse Records Booka Michel has produced a number of albums as well as having performed with legends like Doug Sham, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Arthur Brown and more. On his 2012 CD with his group Booka And The Flaming Geckos—entitled The Not So Meaningful Songs In The Life Of Jeremy Fink—Booka is aided and abetted by a number of musicians including Cindy Cashdollar (steel guitars), Kenny Franklin (guitars), Marcia Ball (piano) while Booka’s steady drum beat driving the sound forward. Over the course of the 14 track The Not So Meaningful Songs In The Life Of Jeremy Fink, Booka and company strut their stuff on an amazing array of acoustic / electric instrumental music including Americana guitar heroes Ry Cooder and John Fahey, with a touch of surf-rock style rock egged on by a wild neo-progressive bluegrass rock mix ala instrumental Hot Tuna, here with the fiddle of Dennis Ludiker taking center stage with the odd vocal thrown in for good measure. Co-produced by Booka and Sam Seifert, The Not So Meaningful Songs In The Life Of Jeremy Fink is capped off by 2011 liner notes from Booka himself.

- The Germany based Luna Blanca turned heads around with their 2010 Provence album and they bounce back even better with their 5th album, the 2012 CD release of El Dorado. Guitarist Richard Heck has written some great songs that sound ostensibly like Nouveau Flamenco guitar-based instrumental but dig deeper and there’s all kinds of musical influences—from New Age to jazz and even surf music. True there’s no actual drumming but the guitar work of Heck is quite percussive and he receives solid support from fine players here including Helmut Graebe (piano), Bino Dola (rhythm guitar) and Clemens Paskert (bass, percussion, keys). Almost soundtrack like in places, El Dorado is quite a colorful, energetic album of imaginative acoustic-based instrumental guitar music. The cover art is also quite a treat and adds to the sound and vision here.

/ ELEKTRIK PYJAMAS - Mad Guitar label boss Roo Chapus is causing quite a stir in the progressive leaning, melodic hard-rock instrumental guitar world with the 2012 CD release of In Motion by Mr. Fastfinger. The CD packaging is brilliant and quite amusing and backing it up, Mr. Fastfinger has assembled a staggering cross section of instrumental jazz-rock and shred metal rock based music's amped to the max by guitarists who can and do deliver the instro rock goods. The invention of Finnish guitarist Myka Tyyskä (pronounced toos-kéh), the tracks on In Motion click and aiding the mysterious Mr. Fastfinger here are top players including Mr. Fastfinger’s band along with guests including Jordan Rudess (keyboards), Thomas Blug (guitar), Finnish instrumental jazz-prog guitar wiz Timo Kämäräinen and a whole group of players called “The Guitar Demons” are also credited. Encompassing a wide range of instrumental guitar styles, the entire CD really has a nice flow and with this much fretboard dynamics on In Motion, let’s hope Mr. Fastfinger presses forward with more e guitar action. /

- With a history of recorded music going back 30 years, guitarist Carl Weingarten returns in 2012 with one of his most illuminating recordings to date. The seven track instrumental Panomorphia is a supergroup of sorts, with Carl recording his guitars, slide guitars, looping and e-bow in the studio, backed up by New Age / Fusion virtuosos including Michael Manring (fretless bass), Jeff Oster (trumpet, flugelhorn) and drummer Celso Alberti. Interestingly, Weingarten cites guitarist Sonny Landreth, Miles Davis and Brian Eno among his big influences and you can hear all that and much more on Panomorphia. Recorded over a four year period, 2008-2012 in Northern California, Panomorphia captures all that is best about Weingarten’s unique brand of ambient space jazz guitar sonics. Solid, hypnotic guitar extrapolations from a well respected, progressive guitar icon, Panomorphia comes complete with some praiseworthy, and totally accurate liner notes by Andy Garibaldi,the gist of which perfectly sums up Weingarten’s unique approach to the instrumental ambient electric guitar genre.

NAVONA RECORDS - What do you get when you put science, math and rock music together? Well you might get what you hear on the 2012 CD release entitled Method Music from English composer and scientist Lawrence Ball. Fans of rock legend Pete Townshend will want to hear this double CD set as it was not only co-produced by Pete but the style and content kind of echoes back to Townshend’s fascination with the moog synthesizer during the Who’s Next to Quadrophenia periods of the early 1970’s. Townshend’s moog intro to “Baba O’Reilly” is the stuff of legends and fittingly Lawrence Ball’s use of random programming of moog like instrumental music makes for some adventurous and quite sonically pleasing music. The eleven tracks on disc one here are entitled Imaginary Sitters while disc 2, entitled Imaginary Galaxies, features three 20+ minute instrumentals dedicated to Syd Barrett, Hugh Hopper and György Ligeti. Describing how he based this production upon inspirations dating back to his famous but ill-fated Lifehouse concept that was never fully realized, Townshend himself wrote some pretty illuminating CD liner notes included here, discussing his “Lifehouse Method” and what he wanted Ball to do musically on this album. Fans of instrumental legends like Ron Geesin, Terry Riley and sonic pioneers like Varese and Zappa will want to give a listen to Ball’s cutting edge synthesized euphoria. /

- California based Real Music was started by New Age music aficionado Terrance Yallop over 20 years ago and since they started they’ve released one great instrumental album after the next. Many artists had their start on Real Music and as far as lesser known, yet equally compelling artists go, it doesn’t get much better than Stellar Connection, the 2012 CD release from electronic space music artist Thierry David. Commenting on the CD, David adds, ‘I have strived to create an imaginary universe where ambient sounds merge with rhythmic patterns and where harmonic sequences weave with pulsating melodies.’ Recorded in his studio in Paris, Stellar Connection was created, performed and arranged by David and features a co-mingling of of synthesizers, piano, percussion, wave drum and programming with additional percussion and guitar added for effect. Overall, Stellar Connection is the perfect soundtrack for your next sonic meditation. Also out in 2012 on Real Music is the latest in their Distant Horizons Series entitled Mediterranean from England’s Amberfern. The brains behind Amberfern is Clive Brooks, who creates meditative music enhanced by gentle Spanish guitars and a whole slew of instruments including keyboards, bells, flutes, drums, synths and a whole lot more. Going for more of the exotic New Age sound, Divine Dimension - Bansuri Flute Meditations features the music of Rajendra Teredesai, who is considered one of India’s leading classical bamboo flute players. Rajendra’s flute playing is offset by some very Indian flavored backing from tambura, keyboards and percussion. Speaking of exotic music, Real Music released the 2012 CD Echoes Of Love from keyboardist Omar Akram. Backing up Omar’s acoustic piano are a number of musicians including Charlie Bisharat (violin), Gregg Karukas (keyboards, percussion programming) and many more. A mainstay of the Real Music label for years, Kevin Kern released Enchanted Piano in 2012. Commenting on the album, Kern adds, ‘As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to record a solo CD. Just me, along with the piano.’ Performing solo on his Steinway piano, Kern fulfills his musical ambitions with his Enchanted Piano album. Another New Age artist on Real Music Frank Steiner, Jr. released Into Forever in 2012. Commenting on Into Forever, the Germany based Steiner adds, ‘I wanted to create an acoustic perfume, a soft musical fragrance to help listeners relax and unwind.’ A master of the New Age idiom, Steiner’s music is supremely relaxing while the sonic spectrum should appeal to casual electronic music lovers and audiophiles alike. All the above Real Music albums feature excellent sound and colorful album artwork and packaging.

- A movie abut retirees moving to India, the 21 track soundtrack for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was composed by Thomas Newman. A respected soundtrack composer who has scored over fifty feature films, Newman is in his prime on the Marigold Hotel soundtrack. Some reviewers have noted that this soundtrack can stand on its own without the movie and they are quite right. A mix of orchestral sonorities and Indian music motifs, the sound of Newman’s CD soundtrack combines a sublime mix of otherworldly and exotic strains that makes for a most appealing World Beat kind of soundtrack. A number of multi-taking musicians assist in realizing Newman’s soundtrack and overall these players mix in well with the orchestrations—including John Beasley, George Doering and Steve Tavaglione—while a couple vocalists also appear in places on the mostly instrumental music soundtrack. Slightly similar in feel to the instrumental orchestral sounds the Beatles were going for on their mid to late ‘60s soundtracks—especially note the Indian / classical instrumentals on the Help! soundtrack—The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will find a place in the music collections of both New Age and World Beat music fans.

- The whole purpose of surf-rock instrumental guitar music is to have fun right? Images of the early ‘60s California guitar pioneers are imbedded in our collective imagination. Fans of the great guitar icons of California will relive greatness again with the 2012 CD release of Blue Avalanche by The Takeoffs. Based out in Kekaha, Hawaii, the concept of instrumental surf music from Hawaii works. Led by guitarist Ron Rhoades, the album was co-produced by Dennis Dragon and the album is a fine showcase for all the fine players showcased here. The upbeat West Coast guitar instro rock sound of The Takeoffs is very Ventures influenced. Interesting that among the all original fare on the 14 track CD, there’s a cover of the great Jerry Lordan “Diamonds” track that ex-Shadows Jet & Tony had a huge hit with in 1963 and also here, Vintage Guitar’s own Teisco Del Rey is feted with a fresh Takeoffs rendition of his “Pier Pressure”. The Takeoffs make surf rock instrumentals fun and fresh again.

- Their motto is “panoramic music for panoramic people” and in 2012 Ultimae make good on that proxy with the CD release of Comfortable Void by SYNC24. Featuring Swedish composer Daniel Segerstad—who has already released a couple Ultimae titles with his other group Carbon Based Lifeforms—the SYNC24 CD continues onwards with ten tracks of crispy, instrumental electronica complete with ambient, floating sonic atmospheres and pulsating digital bass lines. Sounding influenced by early progressive electronica masters such as Edgar Froese and Jean Michel Jarre, Segerstad stakes out some unique electronica all his own with the 2012 CD release of his latest solo effort with SYNC24. In addition, like most of the Ultimae titles, the sound is first rate and the CD packaging—complete with multi-panel digi-pak artwork and colorful 16 page booklet—is also quite attractive. /

- Inspired by Gypsy Jazz guitar icons including Django Reinhardt, Brooklyn-based, French born guitarist Stephane Wrembel strikes guitar gold with the 2012 CD release of Origins. Best known for his ability to create daring acoustic guitar arrangements that combine rock, jazz and folk guitar elements, Wrembel with Origins, has crafted a modern day instrumental Gypsy Jazz studio album classic. Guitar fans might recall Wrembel’s contribution to the 2008 Vicky Cristina Barcelona soundtrack. On the superb sounding Origins, Wrembel has crafted an album of impeccable guitar music and it’s fully fleshed out on the 14 track Origins album which also features a fine backing performance from Wrembel’s band—Dave Speranza (bass), Roy Williams (rhythm guitar), Nick Anderson (drums) and David Langlois (percussion). Fans of modern day Gypsy Jazz guitar heroes such as John Jorgenson and Bireli Lagrene will find much to admire on Stephane Wrembel’s Origins album.

- To inquire about the smoothest sounds of the smooth jazz guitar genre, Paul Brown would be the man to turn to for advice. Back in 2009 Brown amazed his fans with a collaboration with like minded guitarist Marc Antoine and the net result was Foreign Exchange. As a follow up to his last solo album Love You Found Me, Brown once again turns heads around with his 2012 CD The Funky Joint. Working magic with his Gibson L-5 guitar, Brown is truly in fine form on The Funky Joint, amazing long time fans with his classic instrumental soul-jazz and deep grooving R&B and light funk guitar sounds. In addition to the instrumentals, Brown also cuts loose a couple vocal tracks. A number of great players assist including Marc Antoine on nylon string, drummer B. Gordy and much more. The CD sounds great and the packaging is first rate.

XL RECRODS - One of those type of albums that crosses musical barriers with ease, the album Valtari is a 2012 CD release from the band known as Sigur Rós. One minute progressive Pink Floyd style, the next influenced by avant gard musicians like Wendy Carlos, Philip Glass and the Eno brothers, Sigur Rós have a lot of sonic tricks up their collective sleeve. Hailing from Iceland, the sound is mostly instrumental with some vocals used almost like instrumental sounds that accompany the group ethic. It’s all decidedly Icelandic, with the sonic travails sounding like glacial movements. Metaphors abound on the 2012 Sigur Rós album Valtari.

- Some may cite modern ambient instrumental rock guitar groups like Explosions In The Sky whilst others may cite Fripp & Eno as influences but on their 2012 CD, The American Dollar boldly go where many fear to tread. With a name like The American Dollar you better be bold and on Awake In The City, the multi-instrumentalist team of John Emanuele and Richard Cupolo strike ambient-instro gold. The Awake In The City CD is quite harrowing and downright scintillating in the way it pairs industrial grade guitar muscle with sizzling sonic ambient electronica but that shock and awe is also what makes Awake In The City such a vital and vibrant musical experience. No words are needed as the American Dollar’s instrumental ambient rock will lift you up and put you over the top. Play this one loud for maximum sonic impact.


ANGEL AIR - If there was any justice in the music world, singer-songwriter Jeff Christie would be a huge name. Best known for heading up the 1970s pop band Christie, Jeff and his band mates in Christie are remembered in a 2012 double CD set from Angel Air Records entitled No Turn Unstoned. Compiled by Jeff Christie and put together in his studio, the 40 track double disc set compiles a number of Christie tracks and serves as a fine introduction to the band as well as being a great collectible for long time Christie fans. No Turn Unstoned serves as a fine companion release to the 2008 Christie double CD set, also released by Angel Air, entitled Outer Limits. Angel Air also have a number of CD reissues from the group Red Jasper. Formed in 1987, Red Jasper released several albums and their last released Anagramary, released in 1997 was reissued by Angel Air in 2012 complete with new liner notes and bonus track. Another group given the Angel Air treatment, Affinity are bestowed a new prominence with the 2012 CD release of The Baskervilles Reunion: 2011. 46 years ago, Baskervilles were the precursors to Affinity and for this 50 anniversary reunion, the group features a number of classic U.K. players including guitar icon Ray Russell, bass great Mo Foster and drummer icon Gary Husband, appearing here on keyboards. With this album featuring the group working out on a number of classic 1960’s favorites, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

- During the summer of 2012, Angel Air released a fine compilation from paisley pop band Ruperts People. The 18 track 45 RPM And Beyond, takes a look into their all too brief pop career with the band recording these tracks between 1966 and 1972. Mostly studio tracks with a couple surprising covers, this really fits in well with fans of bands like The Fox, Spencer Davis Group and The Zombies. There’s a connection between Ruperts People and The Beatles as is also indicated in the colorful history of Ruperts People retold in the quite lengthy liner notes and booklet filled with loads of color and b&w pics. Retro ‘60s rock fans of that classic “Freakbeat” sound will find much to appreciate here. Another artist featured in the Angel Air catalog is U.K. based singer-songwriter David Courtney. Courtney is best known for his song “One Man Band”, a hit for Leo Sayer, and that track is among a new remakes on The Show Must Go On, a 13 track cross section of Courtney’s music from 2012 that spans from the ‘70s till modern times. The newer re-recorded tracks are interesting musically while the added vintage tracks, a couple featuring guest spots from Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, still sparkle. 2012 liner notes from Nick Dalton shines a light on Courtney’s impressive catalog of pop classics. Fans of the original 1964 British invasion may want to give a listen to a vintage classic from Gerry And The Pacemakers entitled 20 Year Anniversary Album. Released in 1982, the 20 track album celebrated lead singer Gerry Marsden and the group’s then 20th year and fittingly, the album includes 1982 remakes of “Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey”, “How Do You Do It” and other classic tracks from that magical period of Merseybeat and ‘60s U.K. pop as recast in 1982. There’s even Gerry's remake of “Whiter Shade Of Pale” that is simply brilliant. Guaranteed to send chills up your retroactive spine, 20 Year Anniversary is an awesome Gerry And The Pacemakers album with a very Phil Spector-ish sound that sounds like it could have really been made in 1963!

APPLE RECORDS / CAPITOL RECORDS - Following the release of the famous Beatles white album in late November 1968, there was a part two punch from the Fab Four with the early winter 1969 release of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack Lp on Apple Records. A mix of current Beatles and throwbacks to both the white album and the ‘68 “Lady Madonna” era sessions, four new Beatles tracks were cut for the Lp along with other favorites, including the famous title track sung by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, and a whole side of George Martin soundtrack orchestral instrumentals. Of course central to all of this was the Yellow Submarine movie which, decades before the DVD age, actually came out during the summer of 1968 in England. 43 years later EMI celebrates Yellow Submarine with a 2012 DVD remaster of the movie, a blu-ray version and a remaster of the 1999 songtrack on Capitol Records, which featured the original versions of the songs featured in the movie, minus George Martin’s instrumentals which are only on the original soundtrack version. Included in the 2012 DVD and blu-ray version are numerous extras, some of which also appeared in the 1999 DVD and CD releases, including interviews with some of the surviving people involved in the making of the movie and a host of extras. One thing is clear is that the movie Yellow Submarine and the wealth of music included in the movie, soundtrack and songtrack hasn’t aged one bit and the whole Yellow Submarine song and movie era '66-69 remains as groovy as ever.

BANANASTAN - Compiled by Van Dyke Parks himself, the 2011 CD release of Arrangements, Volume 1 features 15 tracks written and recorded by Van and a host of his arrangements for other artists. Kicking off with a very enjoyable Parks inspired arrangement of “Donovan’s Colours”, from his 1968 solo debut Song Cycle, Arrangements Volume 1 makes for a most enjoyable trip down memory lane. Ever since The Beach Boys recorded “Heroes & Villains” in 1967, the name Van Dyke Parks has remained high on the list of Brian Wilson related news. Any one who likes SMiLE and who might have heard early Parks classics such as Discover America will like this CD, which features early Parks including his own version of his originals “Come To The Sunshine” and “Farther Along” and what has to be one of the great Van Dyke Parks arrangements for ”Valley To Pray”, a song written and recorded by Arlo in 1970, yet clearly this Arlo track sounds more like a very Brian Wilson type production. Also appearing besides Van and Arlo on Arrangements Volume 1 are Sal Valentino, Bonnie Raitt (from 1973), Ry Cooder, Dino Martin, The Mojo Men, Lowell George, Little Feat and a host of supporting musicians and producers all benefiting from the arranging genius of Van Dyke Parks.

BGO RECORDS - One of the oldest and most established of all the great CD reissue labels from England, BGO has a splendid 2012 on tap for music collectors. First off is the long awaited reissue of the 1987 Duane Eddy CD by the great, one and only Duane Eddy. Back in 1987 great things were happening musically. The Shadows were just cranking out one great instro album after another on Polydor while Duane magically reappeared with his brilliant ‘87 self titled album on Capitol Records. Also featuring historic performances from George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Art Of Noise, Ry Cooder, James Burton and more, the 1987 Duane Eddy album sounds great again thanks to some fine remastering. It's crisp, clean and clear as a bell, and Duane will no doubt appreciate the sonic details of this freshly rolled out ‘80s instrumental rock masterpiece. Also out on BGO in 2012 is a double CD reissue of three different albums from New York doo-wop pop group Jay & The Americans. The three albums include Sands Of Time, Wax Museum and Capture The Moment—all recorded and released in 1969 and 1970. Kicking off with their all time biggest late period hit “This Magic Moment” the double set is a fine collection of ‘60s style oldies. Detailed notes—as is par for the course with BGO reissues—brings the Jay & The Americans story up to date. Speaking about New York oldies pop legends, BGO also has a 2012 double CD from the great Neil Sedaka. The 2012 BGO double CD pairs The Tra-La Days Are Over (made in 1973 with ‘70s UK pop group 10cc and featuring songs with Sedaka’s then song writing partner Phil Cody) with Sedaka’s 1975 album Overnight Success. Also on BGO in 2012 is a CD remaster of 1973's Star Spangled Springer, the first solo album by Phil Everly following his departure from The Everly Brothers. Kicking off with Phil's remake of the Hollies’ favorite “The Air That I Breathe, the ten track Star Spangled Springer was produced by Duane Eddy himself and features arrangements by Warren Zevon. BGO celebrates the garage / psychedelic band SRC with a double CD set featuring three albums recorded between 1968-1970—SRC, Milestones and Traveler’s Tale. These album releases by the Michigan band were critically lauded and sound somewhat like Pink Floyd, Grand Funk and the Amboy Dukes at the same time. Although this band broke up after their third and final album, there’s plenty of music history in play on this fine SRC retrospective on BGO.

CONCORD MUSIC GROUP / ROCKINGALE RECORDS - The answer to what was Carole King doing between 1977 and 1980 can be found on a quartet of 2012 CD reissues on King’s own Rockingale Records distributed by Concord Records. These are straight reissues with no additional tracks or liner notes but there’s plenty of classic Carole King here. Bursting out of her song writing duo with Gerry Goffin, Ms. King may have been the hippest songwriter of the early ‘70s and these later 1970’s albums, including the first two made with then songwriter and husband Rick Evers, aren’t without their charms. Included in these 2012 CD remasters are Simple Things (1977), Welcome Home (1978), Touch The Sky (1979) and Pearls - Songs Of Goffin And King (1980).

/ VIRGIN RECORDS - When David Bowie took the stage at Carnegie Hall on September 24, 1972, it was truly the culmination of 8 years of intense, assiduous musical workmanship. A few months before that, in June 1972, RCA Records released Bowie’s now fabled, rock music masterpiece The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Back in 1969, some young Americans were lucky enough to hear Bowie’s apre-2001 (the movie) smash “Space Oddity” but as far as easily being able to find a Bowie album in 1969—the age of Woodstock—forget it. In 1970, Mercury, under the auspices of Lou Reizner released The Man Who Sold The World—the U.S. L.P. pressing of which didn’t even have a picture of Bowie on it! The mystique of The Man, coupled with the 1971 album release of the theatrical Hunky Dory, truly set the stage for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust moment. Earlier in 1972, movie producer Stanley Kubrick and soundtrack master Walter Carlos, worked magic together on the movie and soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange. That movie and even more importantly, the Carlos soundtrack were crucial to the vibe and aura surrounding Bowie’s lush, Sci-fi vision of Ziggy Stardust. Despite (temporarily) losing the guidance of producer Tony Visconti, Bowie’s vision of Ziggy Stardust was much aided and abetted by legendary Abbey Road engineer Ken Scott and more importantly, Bowie sidekick and rock guitar god, the late great Mick Ronson, whose orchestrations and brilliant guitar work were so important to Bowie’s enormous rise in international popularity during 1972. Clearly, with the enormous success of Ziggy Stardust, the instinct and vision of early Bowie believers like Visconti, Ronson and Ken Scott were rewarded and vindicated and, by the time Aladdin Sane was released in early 1973, Bowie was a household name—among early U.S. believers and the remaining 99 percent alike. So, looking back at 1972-2012, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust was released yet again here, as a 40th anniversary edition CD remaster and, for those vinyl purists, or anyone who might have missed it 40 years ago, on a limited edition black vinyl L.P. including the 2012 remaster with a 5.1 mix on high resolution DVD audio. Ziggy continues to play for time.

- Having single-handedly changed both the World Beat / classic music world and the rock music world—thanks to his affiliations with George Harrison and The Beatles—Indian music guru Ravi Shankar is feted with a fascinating double CD set simply entitled The Very Best Of Ravi Shankar. Kids today might know of Ravi thanks to his daughters, pop chanteuse Norah Jones and World Beat icon Anoushka Shankar, but dig deeper and you’ll find a historic figure in Ravi Shankar—who turned 92 in 2012. EMI released The Very Best Of Ravi Shankar in 2010 in honor his 90th birthday and, listening again, it’s a fine set indeed including collaborations from his distinguished West Meets East with violinist Yehudi Menuhin as well as documenting live recordings from his 2000 Carnegie Hall concert with Anoushka Shankar. It’s hard to understate Shankar’s influence on rock musicians like George Harrison simply because before 1965, most pop fans, especially the teenyboppers who thrilled to early Beatles music, had never heard the sitar before. The double CD of course includes the recent 2000 music from New York City but it also includes a wealth of music Shankar recorded in the 1960’s and, of interest here are early recordings made for the World Pacific label featuring then aspiring New Age musician Paul Horn. Two CDs distilling the best of Shankar’s EMI recordings, The Very Best Of Ravi Shankar captures an intimate, close-up sound view of a life changing musician.

- As long time drummer of the 1990’s King Crimson, Pat Mastelotto has an impeccable percussion credentials and he puts them to good use on his 2012 CD Recidivate, released on Trey Gunn’s 7d Media label. Featuring a number of rarities, out takes and assorted highlights recorded over the last twenty years, the 2 CD set features Mastelotto working within various King Crimson related groups and projects. The 1990’s King Crimson was nothing to sneeze at and that epic instro prog-rock feel permeates the tracks on Recidivate. Among the musicians a appearing on different tracks here are Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Steven Wilson, Terry Bozzio, Roine Stolt, Ian Boddy and more on a cool CD set of Crimson-esque instrumental rock.

- A label from the U.K. that is devoted to the music of the 1950’s and early ‘60s, specifically the music of the late great Elvis Presley, Memphis Recording Service is on a roll with the 2012 CD release of the King’s 1961 album Blue Hawaii - The Expanded Alternate Album. Released as an expanded version of the Elvis Blue Hawaii Original, the 33 track CD looks like a hardback book complete with the CD. The original 14 track Blue Hawaii album was a huge hit for the postwar Elvis and was a fine souvenir of the then popular Blue Hawaii movie. One of the highlights of the movie and soundtrack was the big hit off the album “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, and there’s the original alternate version plus seven additional takes of the song. For the soundtrack, Elvis had a crack band with him including long time guitarist Scotty Moore and support guitarists Hilmer J. “Tiny” Timbrell and Hank Garland, along with D.J. Fontana, Hal Blaine, sax giant Boots Randolph and steel legend Alvino Rey among many others. Released on October 23, 1961, Blue Hawaii went on to sell a million copies. Millions of Blue Hawaii Lp’s, cassettes, 8 tracks and CDs later, the album still retains its magic while Memphis Recording’s 2012 50th anniversary edition offers yet another way to experience Elvis Presley’s early ‘60s Blue Hawaii masterpiece. The 40 page booklet built into the package seals the deal on this essential Elvis remaster. Also up and out on Memphis Recording service in early 2012 is Such A Night In Pearl Harbor. The King’s last concert in March, 1961, before returning the stage eight years later, the concert was a tribute to the servicemen who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Included in the concert was 15 tracks, including the title track, “Hound Dog”, “I Got A Woman” and “A Fool Such As I” along with a 30 minute radio broadcast that preceded Presley’s arrival. Also included in the package is a 100 page book detailing the show and the whole Elvis in Hawaii phenomenon. With these two latest additions, Memphis Recording Service continues unearthing fascinating artifacts from the Elvis Presley archive.

- One of the Summer 2012 CD / Lp remasters from Sundazed, Heaven Is In Your Mind is actually a rare mono mix of the first American release from Traffic called Mr. Fantasy. There are notable differences between the stereo mix and the mono mix of the famous Mr. Fantasy, and there were even more differences between the American version of the album and the U.K. pressings. Suffice to say, the first American only release on United Artists remains a sonic pinnacle from 1967 and single handedly made Traffic a household name in the U.S. What a great job Sundazed has done with their mono mix CD and vinyl Lp versions of the much revered Mr. Fantasy. The same can be said about the 2012 Sundazed stereo remasters of the first two albums from Soft Machine. Back in 1968 and ‘69 The Soft Machine and The Soft Machine Volume 2 introduced American ears to the music of future jazz/rock giants including Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge and there is no better way to experience the legendary Soft Machine then with their all time classic first two albums from the dawn of progressive rock.

- Surf-rock fans will be in orbit with the Summer 2012 CD remasters from West Coast instro rockers The Ventures. The latest on CD from Sundazed by the legendary guitar band are The Ventures On Stage (originally released on Dolton Records 1965), Wild Things! (originally released on Dolton Records 1966), Super Psychedelics (originally released on Liberty Records 1967) and Hawaii Five-O (originally on Liberty Records 1969). Reissued with their original artwork, in appealing digi-pack artwork, each of these latest Sundazed CD remasters from the Ventures are stereo mix versions and were remastered for CD by Sundazed founder Bob Irwin at Sundazed studio south in Nashville. Throughout their great 1960’s albums on Liberty and Dolton, distributed by Capitol Records, The Ventures were masters at reinterpreting the biggest chart hits of the day and were instrumental in putting the guitar on the map thanks to their early ‘60s hits, including “Walk Don’t Run ‘64”, which are given quite a workout on their ten track 1965 album The Ventures On Stage. Sundazed does right by instro surf-rock kings with their ongoing CD remasters series from The Ventures.

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