Record Label
and Music Spotlight









429 RECORDS - The 2014 CD release of the self-titled debut CD by Circa Zero is a totally rocking album by famed guitarist Andy Summers and singing bass player / drummer Rob Giles. Apparently things went well following a meeting of the two, and the result is the first Circa Zero album. Thanks to his trademark guitar sound, some might think of Summers’ work in The Police as a reference point but clearly there’s a new kind of pop vibrancy in play here and with a palate of dazzling fretboard moves, Summers’ guitar work sounds completely renewed. In a similar way that Mike Oldfield, another English guitar hero, found a fresh vocal collaborator in singer Luke Spiller, Andy Summer recharges his progressive rock vision with vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Rob Giles. Guest drummer Dan Epand appears on a few tracks but for the most part this is all Andy’s and Rob’s baby. Commenting on the name of the project, Summers points out, ‘It’s an edgy name that literally means ‘about nothing’. Our music is all about starting with a clean slate and seeing what happens.’ Pop-rock fans looking for a vital and refreshing pop-rock album will be in for a pleasant surprise upon hearing Circa Zero and their supercharged debut album. /

A-MAZE RECORDS - An independent release from Australian pop-rockers, The April Maze, Two is filled with harmonious alt-folk influenced pop with a definite country rock influence. Featuring the duo of Sivan Agam (vocals and cello) and Todd Mayhew (guitars, vocals), the 12 track Two is book ended by a pair of Beatles tunes—“I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “Two Of Us”—and those songs kind of set the table, so to speak, for the rest of the album. The mix of male / female vocals is appealing and the CD has a congenial air that will find a home amid fans of unplugged country pop-rock tunes. The April Maze proudly proclaims on their CD cover art: "An Independent Release - Made by the People for the People". Nice to see indy artists taking charge of their music by releasing such appealing folk-pop sounds that are so attractively packaged.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - In 2006 Angel Air reissued many of the original classic albums by U.K. rockers Stackridge. In fact, Angel Air also has a number of Stackridge related releases and you can add in the 2014 CD by The Meanies. Appropriately entitled The Meanies Cover Their Tracks, the 2014 Meanies’ CD features a number of musicians including James Warren—a key member of the original Stackridge band as well as the Korgis, another Stackridge related band. The subject matter on this first Meanies CD is actually covers of classic pop songs that have just about been forgotten in the manic heyday of the 21st century music world. James Warren is an expert of classic Beatles era pop and rock and he gets solid backup and support from his Meanies band mates including John Baker (keys), Glenn Tommey (guitars), Andy Marsden (drums) and more. The CD booklet is filled with history of all the musicians taking part in this first ever Meanies CD. With Meanies’ covers of “Listen To The Music” (Doobie Brothers), “Surfin’ USA” (Beach Boys), “Reelin’ In The Years” (Steely Dan), The Meanies Cover Their Tracks is basically a party album, all about having fun and believe it or not, The Meanies makes you happy again to be a fan of rock music. There's even a cover of the Four Seasons “Oh, What A Night” but that song can also be enjoyed in a stress free Meanies look back on love. Not to be compared to the sublime, serious art-rock of Stackridge, The Meanies takes classic rock back in time and the results are a lighthearted look back at a kinder and gentler time in pop history.

- Continuing onwards reviving rock legends from the 1970’s, Angel Air has a 2014 live CD entitled Live In Stockholm from rockers Tyla Gang. Formed from the ashes of 1970’s rockers Ducks Deluxe, the original Tyla Gang band broke up in 1979 but reformed in 2010 and, appearing in Stockholm Sweden on March 13, 2013, they recorded this fine live CD. Featuring lead singer Sean Tyla and company in rare form, Live In Stockholm rocks up a storm and starts off in style with a killer track called “Cannons Of The Boogie Night”, a track that gives a good indication of what this legendary band are still capable of. In addition, pretty extensive 2014 liner notes by Joe Geesin places the Tyla Gang legacy into perspective. Commenting on this live comeback CD from Tyla Gang, lead singer Sean Tyla adds, “Live albums need two vital ingredients, a great audience and a great engineer. This recording wasn’t dragged into the studio and edited to death. It is what it is - gory and good as great rock ‘n’ roll should be’. Rock fans wondering what happened to Tyla Gang will be in for a pleasant, rockin’ surprise with Tyla Gang Live In Stockholm.

BEDROOM SUCK RECORDS - Australian record label Bedroom Suck remains on the cutting edge of 21st century pop with the 2013 release the self titled Peak Twins album by the band Peak Twins. The Peak Twins CD is all original except for a cover of the legendary Fred Neil song “The Dolphins” which was actually written by Neil and first brought to the masses thanks to the 1970 cover of the song by It’s A Beautiful Day. The album was produced by Jack Farley with all the songs written and performed by Joel Carey and Liam Kenny. Several guests appear but overall, Peak Twins is a very intimate, pop-friendly CD of 21st century post modern rock.

BGO RECORDINGS - One part rock-opera, one part science fiction soundtrack, the 2014 CD release of Beyond Time is the best album yet from futuristic American rockers Bubble Gum Orchestra. If there’s one type of music you like, you’d be hard pressed not to find it on Beyond Time. Group founder Michael Laine Hildebrandt and his trusty cohort and brother, Douglas Hildebrandt once again delivers the goods on a full length CD extravaganza that crosses musical borders with the ease of an interstellar space ship zooming mach speed across the universe. If alien beings could, perhaps tune into the power of Earth rock, then surely Bubble Gum Orchestra would be high on their list. Although the multitalented Michael Hildebrandt handles all the vocals here, there’s certainly no shortage of fantastic musical ideas thanks, in no small part, to his uncanny ability to pair memorable, melodic hooks together with dazzling, progressive keyboard / guitar based rock arrangements with ease. Some prog traditionalists may argue that BGO isn’t really progressive rock and certainly not fusion. However, in the spirit of The Beatles and ELO before them, BGO proves the best pop and rock is music that features stay in the head melodies and—then if that’s the criteria for a great album, (as it still is for so many pop fans)—Beyond Time more than fits the bill. Commenting on the 2014 July 2014 CD release of Beyond Time, Michael adds, “I had always envisioned writing a concept album somewhere and sometime in my lifetime and felt after doing the first three BGO albums that now was the right time to do it. Beyond Time is different from the first three BGO albums in regards to the music. It's heavier, more synth oriented but still has that BGO "feel" to it.” Several guest artists appear, including one time Wings horn man Steve Howard, yet for the most part, Beyond Time is the brainchild of Michael Hildebrandt and, together with his brother / guitarist Douglas, they’ve created yet another BGO CD masterpiece. Rock fans with a penchant for both catchy pop and wide screen progressive rock ideas that incorporate sci-fi concepts, should give Beyond Time a good spin. Music fans looking for something new and exciting in 2014, listen up: Beyond Time is the future of rock music today.

BUMPS OF GOOSE - Recorded deep in the woods in a cabin by a lake in central Sweden, Shine Out is the 2014 CD by Jonathan Segel. Having played violin, keyboards and guitar in the band Camper Van Beethoven for the past 30 years, Segel decamps on this solo effort and the end result sounds like a mix between Van Dyke Parks singing Brian Wilson originals with Swedish space music icons Bo Hansson and Kenny Håkansson added in. Is he a fan of the late great Bo Hansson? Segel explains, "First off, yes: Bo Hansson. I love it. The whole Swedish prog thing is incredible, a lot of it is very political as well. I love Träd, Gras och Stenar, they're one of my absolute favorites. One of the bands I have sat in with here is Gösta Berlings Saga, who are an instrumental prog... well, complicated music band. They are incredible, great players and really cool music." Coincidence or not, that classc Swedish instrumental prog influence runs throught the heart of this amazing album. Although Segel’s bass is prominent in the mix, often times adding in a very vivid depth and sonic counterpoint, Shine Out is also a prime showcase for Segel’s unique and intriguing electric guitar work and vocals. Through the art of studio overdubbing, Segel has created a 21st century space-rock music classic. Sanna Olsson adds some appealing backing vocals but for the most part, the well conceived Shine Out further establishes Jonathan Segel as a bona fide, 21st century progressive pop-rock original. /

CHERRY RED RECORDS / BRAIDE PRODUCTIONS - U.K, based Cherry Red keeps pumping out the music with Fifty Dollar Planets And Twenty Cent Stars, the 2014 CD by L.A. based singer songwriter Chris Braide. The U.K. bred Braide’s 2014 release is actually his third solo album. Braide, who has written and produced songs for artists such as Lana del Rey, Christina Aguilera and Beyonce was formerly a member of the band Producers, which also featured Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson. The press release says Braide was influenced quite a bit by Marc Bolan & T. Rex (the final track “Agent Wilde & The Speedway Dancers” comes close) but Fifty Dollar Planets And Twenty Cent Stars sounds, for the most part, more like modern post 1980's era pop compared to the innovative, chugging glam-rock sound of T. Rex. That said, the eleven track Fifty Dollar Planets And Twenty Cent Stars maintains a solid rock edge. The CD is well packaged and the studio sound and overall production is first rate too.

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - In 2012 guitarist Eli Cook released his CD, Ace, Jack & King to great acclaim in both the rock world and the blues-rock world. Highly rated among the new breed of American blues-rock guitarists / composers / vocalists making waves in the early 21st century, Eli Cook carries the spirit of the blues forward with his 2014 album entitled Primitive Son. As excellent as Ace, Jack & King is, Eli’s Primitive Son album is even more commercially accessible, no doubt inspired by guest appearances from big name artists such as fellow guitarists Leslie West, Sonny Landreth, Pat Travers, Harvey Mandel and Tinsley Ellis as well as drummer Vinny Appice and many other fine players. Even with such a star-studded lineup of artists enhancing the festivities, Eli also gets solid support from his core rhythm section of Rob Richmond (bass) and Wade Warfield (drums). For a younger musician, Cook raises the roof and gets excellent mileage out of his guit-arsenal throughout the CD. With its wide ranging selection of driving, electric blues-rock numbers, Primitive Son is Cook’s first album on Cleopatra Records, a label well known for teaming up artists on various albums, tributes and compilations. Eli’s implementation of Cleopatra’s super-session logic puts a glossy shine on an album that sonically blasts blues-rock deeper into the 21st century. /

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - Producer / guitarist Billy Sherwood adds another feather in his cap with his fantastic production of the 2014 CD release of the latest album from legendary L.A. rockers Missing Persons. Key to the ten track Missing In Action album is an excellent performance from the band’s original vocalist Dale Bozzio. Ending with the album highlight, track 10, “Crises In Overdrive”, Missing In Action closes out the festivities with pair a couple of bonus cuts, including an acoustic version of the early Missing Persons’ hit “Walking In L.A.” As has been noted, the Missing Persons 1980’s era synth pop sound helped pave the way for future artists including Madonna and later Lady GaGa and others. Billy Sherwood’s deft production touch in the studio adds a lot to Ms. Bozzio’s impeccable performance on this first Missing Persons album in 25 years. The 1980’s will never be the same but you can relive some of the greatness of that incredible era with Missing In Action.

DAYLIGHTING / PIAS - Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne in the U.K., Maximo Park are part of the new wave of younger glam rock bands. Even the cover art of their 2014 CD, Too Much Information has a cutting edge look. The band sounds a bit like The Rolling Stones and even Tears For Fears and clearly they sing and play well. There’s definitely a Bowie-esque kind of vibe here and clearly all the great rock artists of the past have had an impact on today’s rock bands, Maxiomo Park included. Guitarist / bass player Duncan Lloyd wrote a number of tracks, along with lyricist / singer Paul Smith, but what’s interesting is that the five piece band all write the music so there’s a definite group effort underway here. The music clicks making Maximo Park a solid choice for post modern rock fans

FAT POSSUM RECORDS - The record company called Fat Possum, based in Oxford Mississippi, released the full length debut CD called Sun Structures from the rising U.K. progressive pop band Temples. Currently all the buzz in England, the album is simply the 21st century version The Zombies and a touch of McCartney circa 1968. The sound is first rate but you wonder if the bar was set too high back in England in the late 1960s but have no fear. These guys have their hearts and their heads in the right place and the album is all the more better for it. Produced by group member James Bagshaw, the album is pretty mysterious and the CD packaging doesn’t say who’s playing what. But whatever it is, the Temples’ Sun Structures is time well spent for progressive pop fans with a bent for 1960s flair.

FISHBONE MUSIC - The record label and publishing company may say Fishbone Music but the group’s name is Bonefish and in 2014 they’ve released an excellent album of pop and rock. The self-titled Bonefish album features a fine performance by Bie Karlsson (guitar, vocals) and his Bonefish band mates. The Bonefish sound ranges from a more rural type of pop-rock mix between The Band and Little Feat and a more electric rock and blues rock sound that mixes in various Beatles / Stones / Neil Young influences. Speaking about the 2014 Bonefish CD, group leader Bie Karlsson tells, “We worked a lot with the arrangements of the songs, bringing in horns and female backing vocals as well as a lot of keyboards. Still maintaining a sound that’s easy identifiable as Bonefish.” Even with powerhouse rockers like track 2, “As Her Soul” showing the group in fine form, the mellower stuff seems to win out but it’s all done so well you’ll wonder where these guys have been before. The music on the 12 track Bonefish CD was written by Bie Karlsson, who also skillfully handles the production as well. The 2014 self-titled Bonefish CD offers a fine mix of stomping rockers and more nuanced and introspective Americana pop and folk-rock sounds.

GEP - The timeless sounds of progressive rock are alive and well on the 2014 CD release by the U.K. based band known as Synaesthesia. The self-titled Synaesthesia CD kicks off with an impressive 6 part, 22 minute opus called “Time, Tension & Intervention” so you know these musicians mean business. Mellotron sounds and soaring synth played by lead vocalist Adam Warne link forces with dueling electric guitars and a taught rhythm section that brings this 5 piece band to a whole new level of prog professionalism. Interestingly, the album was released in the U.K. on the GEP (Giant Electric Pea) label who have worked with prog-rockers such as IQ, Big Big Train and the legendary Spock’s Beard. The sound is truly top notch, and though perhaps the band should concentrate on creating even more authentic melodies next time around, the sound and vision of this album has the smarts to impress prog-rock fans the world over. Clearly, the two part, CD closing “Life’s What You Make Of It” is a definite highlight. Extra points for the excellent CD packaging, featuring full lyrics, as well as the excellent studio sound of the CD. Whatever your taste is in prog, clearly Synaesthesia are off to a smashing start with their self-titled masterwork.

KSCOPE MUSIC - Throughout his 46 year career with Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson has constantly changed while pushing the sonic envelope. For some original fans, Tull’s earliest albums like Stand Up and Benefit will always be the most exciting, probably because the melodic invention of the music was more important then even understanding the words. Backed by a solid band of musicians, Ian’s chops and vision are in full array on his 2014 solo album Homo Erraticus. Anyone looking for an easy spin will be bowled over as the album is quite involved lyrically and the CD booklet features flawlessly written essays, anecdotes and libretto style lyrics by Anderson that follows history from 7000 BC through W.W.II and the failed space race. Dishing out flashes of brilliance in copious amounts, on Homo Erraticus Anderson literally redefines the role of venerable rock musician as poet. Ian Anderson has come a long way since his instrumental cover of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Serenade To Cuckoo” on Tull’s 1968 debut. If anything Homo Erraticus proves that Anderson’s writing has really sharpened in his senior years. There’s no shortage of valid lyrical and musical ideas or ideals on Homo Erracticus, thus making his Kscope debut another welcome chapter Ian Anderson’s long and winding career. www.KscopeMusic/artists/iananderson/

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

PURPLE PYRAMID / CLEOPATRA RECORDS - L.A based Purple Pyramid are back in the spotlight with the 2014 release of Time Machine, the 2013 album from progressive rock legends Nektar. Staring out back in the early 1970s, Nektar continues on in a similar vibe while staying true to their prog roots on Time Machine. Still featuring the songs, vocals and guitars of Nektar mainstay Roye Albrighton, the ten track, 67 minute Time Machine evokes the lush progressive pop-rock sound of Alan Parsons yet clearly, Nektar have their own well established rock sound. Time Machine features some fine production and bass work by YES legend Billy Sherwood and the CD definitely benefits from his studio expertise. Fans looking to find out more about this English rock band who first made their name in Germany, give a listen to Cleopatra’s 2011 Nektar box set entitled Retrospektive 1969 - 1980. The double disc, 30 track CD box features a fine cross section of tracks from a number of Nektar albums, mostly from the 1970s as well as rare tracks from Albrighton’s early works. The double CD Retrospektive comes with a 50 page color booklet, a Nektar poster and even a button. When you think Nektar, think Cleopatra Records.

RPM RECORDS - Since the passing of George Harrison in November 2001, it’s been harder to find new classic albums by rock legends. In 2014, Harrison’s buddy Dave Edmunds released Dave Edmunds...Again on the legendary U.K. classic rock label RPM. Several tracks date back to the early 1990’s, including Dave’s rarely heard 1991 cover of the Elvis Presley favorite “Return To Sender”, a pair of impressive instrumental tracks and one hit after the next. The newer tracks reintroduce Edmunds as an accomplished yet often overlooked singer-songwriter, sort of John Fogerty producing a McCartney or Buddy Holly for that matter. The eclectic nature of the album makes it kind of Beatles inspired in some places. The CD sounds great and, playing every instrument and vocal track, Dave Edmunds makes the art of pop sound easy. The 2013 recordings sound as cool as the classics, including a tear-jerker instrumental cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” and Dave tackling a Brian Wilson inspired “Georgia On My Mind”. With 15 tracks of timeless rock and roll, Dave Edmunds covers all the bases on Again.

RIGHT HONOURABLE RECORDS / CHERRY RED RECORDS - A founding member of prog-rock legends Curved Air, violinist Darryl Way is back in the spotlight with his 2014 album, Children Of The Cosmos. Released on the U.K. based Right Honourable label, Children Of The Cosmos is being heralded as Darryl’s first progressive rock album in over twenty years. Although best known for his impeccable electric violin work, on Children Of The Cosmos Darryl also acquits himself as a fine vocalist and multi-instrumentalist on the 12 track CD. Commenting on the CD he adds, ‘With Children Of The Cosmos I have tried to recreate the spirit of experimentation that led to the progressive rock movement of the late 1960’s and early ‘70s. As I did in the early days of Curved Air, I have tried to integrate my classical background with rock music to create soundscapes that are hopefully both exciting and innovative.’ The 2014 CD release of Children Of The Cosmos follows Darryl’s 2012 solo album Ultra Violins, which features classical music adaptations and a re-recording of the Curved Air hit “Vivaldi”.

ROCKADILLO RECORDS - Finnish guitarist Jarmo Saari rose to fame thanks to his being signed to the Pohjola Records label owned by the late great rock fusion legend Pekka Pohjola. Back in the late 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000's, Jarmo’s band XL released a number of fine albums on Pohjola Records and in 2014 he released a new album by his latest band, Jarmo Saari Republic. The music on this Jarmo Saari Republic album is quite different from XL in that it incorporates a very eclectic mixture of fusion, yes but also pop, funk, rap, African rhythms, and even avant garde jazz. Track 3, “Planet Red” sounds like Ginger Baker jamming with Hatfield & The North, while track track 5, “Soldiers Of Joy” mixes in some hip-hop / rap vocals on top of a King Crimson type poly-rhythmic backdrop. There’s a hidden pop element on the track that mixes things up with some pretty daredevil fusion music. Jarmo’s band here is first rate with a pair of drummers, including current Finnish jazz-rock favorite Olavi Louhivuori. Many of the guitar parts are buried in the mix in a Zappa like manner, while throughout the album, Jarmo more than acquits himself on baritone guitar, mini-moog, bass, percussion, theremin and even trombone. Although he’s not Pekka Pohjola, (there will never be another) Jarmo Saari keeps the spirit of Finnish progressive rock and jazz alive and well on this first (but hopefully not the last) Jarmo Saari Republic album.

SPACE ELEVATOR - I have seen the future of album oriented rock and it may very well be in the hands of U.K. based Space Elevator. Releasing their first full length debut CD, the self-titled Space Elevator, the band proves masterful at coming up with catchy pop hooks, expertly paired with driving, crunching guitars, soaring synths and skillful group interplay. At the core of the Space Elevator sound are the vocals of The Duchess and the electric guitars of David Young. Also in the band are bass ace Neil Murray, Brian Green (drums) and Elliot Ware (keyboards). Owing to the splendid vocals of The Duchess, some may draw comparisons to groups like Blondie and even ABBA, (did someone say Queen?) but there’s also something uniquely appealing behind the Space Elevator sound. Guitarist Young and Brian Greene have played with Curved Air and others, while Neil Murray has played with some of the great prog and rock bands bands of the 1970’s, and his excellent bass work provides a solid anchor for the soaring vocals and crunching electric guitar work here. Imagine the voice of Deborah Harry fronting Queen and you can get some of the gist behind the Space Elevator sound. With their self-titled CD debut, U.K. based Space Elevator carries the spirit of anthemic stadium rock to a whole new level of sonic expertise.

STRATOTESTER RECORDS - U.K. based drummer / keyboardist Paul Simon is making waves in the synth-rock world with the latest CD, The Secret Door, released by his group AjantaMusic. The band also features his brother Robin Simon (guitars) and Gina Watson (vocals) along with several guest artists. The Secret Door is an excellent spin and is filled with a very upbeat synth-pop sound in the spirit of William Orbit’s early solo work as well as his late 1990’s productions with Madonna. Both brothers are credited with co-writing the tracks here and Ms. Watson’s vocals are quite alluring to match the sound. A good example where it all comes together is on track 3, called “T.V. Sky”. Several guest artists appear on The Secret Door including members of fabled synth rock bands such as Magazine, Visage and Public Image Limited. Interesting to note that the first AjantaMusic album from 2006, And Now We Dream was completely instrumental and in 2007 the brothers joined forces with Ms. Watson, who clearly brings a lot to the synth-rock edge. Fans of U.K. rock will also note that Robin Simon was a member of both Ultravox and Magazine while Paul Simon gained famed with artists such as John Foxx. Fans of William Orbit, Kraftwerk and other cutting edge post punk synth rockers from the U.K. will enjoy the solid synth-rock interplay on The Secret Door.

SUNNYSIDE RECORDS - A low key yet atmospheric pop album that redefines the “great American songbook”, Genevieve & Ferdinand was released in early 2014 on the NYC based Sunnyside Records. The album features the vocalist / guitarist duo of Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz. Recorded live in a North Carolina studio in front of an audience, the 11 track album finds the the duo covering the music of Paul Simon, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerstein, Charlie Chaplin and more. Despite the daunting challenges, these two musicians are more than up to the task and the appreciative audience makes that clear. Combining folk and pop influences in the context of a low-key, jazzy setting, Genevieve & Ferdinand makes for a genre free album that might be low key but nonetheless effective. Music fans in the know will note that McGarry has five acclaimed solo albums to her credit while guitarist Keith Ganz has worked with a number of artists, including Harry Connick Jr. and Kurt Elling. Music fans into jazz and pop should give a listen to the pleasant, upbeat groove of Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz.

TIH RECORDS - Over in the U.K. The Idle Hands are keeping the blues-rock sound front and center on the 2014 CD release of Feeding The Machine. When you first spin the 12 track Feeding The Machine you may wonder if it’s really the summer of 2014 and not the summer of 1969! Fans of vintage blues rock legends like Free, Taste, Savoy Brown and even Ten Years After will get a charge from the high powered retro rock sound of The Idle Hands. The group’s front man, vocalist Phil Allen sounds positively supercharged throughout the CD, almost like a younger Paul Rogers. The group keeps the beat strong with the excellent guitar work of Dave Robinson, who cuts loose with some fine electric guitar leads on a number of tracks here along with the tight rhythm section of Paul Heydon (drums) and Jamie Burns (bass). Commenting on the tight-knit relationship the band has, Phil Allen told, "We ve been together so long and seen each other grow and develop. We're a proper band, mates, brothers, a team and we've been together almost forever! There are no hired hands or prima donnas, we're all equal and we do this as one for the same reason and end goal - the love of music, belief in The Idle Hands music and to share it with as many people as possible!" Feeding The Machine is well recorded and the colorful album packaging is first rate. Boogie beats, rockin’ blues and hard hitting rock ‘n’ roll combines for an electrifying sonic blast on Feeding The Machine by The Idle Hands.

UNCHAINED RECORDS- Back in 2012 featured a review of the Buford Pope album Matching Numbers. Now in 2014, the acclaimed Swedish rock and roll band is back in action with a fine new album called Sticks In The Throat. Like its predecessor, Sticks In The Throat is a solid, hard-hitting set filled with catchy, anthemic pop-rock gems. The band’s singer and songwriter Mikael Liljeborg, now officially going by his stage name Buford Pope, continues on in fine form and Buford gets solid support from his band mates, Pelle Jernryd (electric guitar, slide and lap steel guitars), Jörgen Lindström (bass), Mattias Pederson (drums, percussion) and Amir Aly (piano, hammond, wurlitzer). Played with much verve and youthful aggression, the new songs on Sticks In The Throat actually evokes a kinder, gentler time in pop-rock history and to these ears at least, one can imagine fans of Bad Company and even The Rolling Stones getting into Buford Pope’s rock grooves. The title track is a definite highlight on an album that gets better with each spin. A fine follow up album to the critically acclaimed Matching Numbers, Buford Pope’s Sticks In The Throat rocks up a storm.

VIBRO-PHONIC RECORDINGS - L.A. pop mavens The Jigsaw Seen can always be counted on for making a tasty pop album. Even with such a note-perfect repertoire of releases in The Jigsaw Seen back catalog, no one was expecting this much solid pop goodness on their 2014 album Old Man Reverb. Reverb will never get old and to prove the point, The Jigsaw Seen cranks their amps to nine and delivers ten future pop classics. The songs of group vocalist Dennis Davison really spring to life on this album and Dennis gets solid support from his band mates Jonathan Lea (guitars), Tom Currier (bass) and Teddy Freese (drums). There's a number of potential hit singles here but every track has something to offer on what will surely be looked upon as one of the best pop albums of the decade. Both Davison and Lea chalk up some impressive production work here and both are master instrumentalists, with Lea handling all manners of electric guitars including vibrato guitar, tremolo guitar, baritone guitar, leslie guitar and e-bow guitars, while Davison adds even more color to his songs with all types of keyboards including mellotron and chamberlin and clavinet. Another amazing thing here is the Old Man Reverb album packaging, which is far-out and unexpected and fits in quite well with the band’s other CD package designs. One of the best 21st century pop albums in the finest spirit of late 1960s psych-pop classics from Lee Michaels, The Byrds and Love, Old Man Reverb is certain to be on every music critic’s list of best pop albums of 2014. Somewhere in heaven Arthur Lee is smiling down on The Jigsaw Seen.


AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC - Based in NYC, guitarist Bob DeVos earned a stellar reputation in the guitar world thanks to his work with the legendary Hammond B3 based organ groups of Richard “Groove” Holmes, Charles Earland and later with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco and others. An in demand guitarist, Bob has also appeared on guitar as a sideman on over 100 studio recordings and he’s also played with both “Screamin’” Jay Hawkins as well as Frank Sinatra. On Bob’s 2014 album, Shadow Box, he’s joined by his trio including Dan Kostelnik (Hammond B3) and Steve Johns (drums), and, on this CD Ralph Bowen (sax). The majority of Shadow Box tracks are originals but there are a number of cover tracks here that work well as instrumental jazz tracks including the album's standout—a cover of the 1963 Burt Bacharach track “Wives And Lovers”. Bob explains, ‘We’ve been playing “Wives And Lovers” for a while. My arrangement has evolved, especially in terms of the harmony. I love the interplay Steve and I have on tunes in 3/4.” Also covered on Shadow Box are other tracks by Wes Montgomery, Percy Mayfield, Mel Torme and Clare Fischer. The CD is well recorded and features excellent packaging and design topped off by informed liner notes by Bob. If jazz guitar and instrumental jazz is what you enjoy, then give a listen to Bob DeVos and his excellent Shadow Box CD.

For those who’ve never been there before, Finland is a guitar lovers paradise. With a small population that hovers around the 5 million mark, the Finns have produced, per capita, finer musicians, especially guitar players, than just about any other country in the civilized world. A relative newcomer to the instrumental Finnish guitar scene is Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang. Upon hearing SST’s 2014 debut CD entitled Hale’s Pleasure Railway, the instrumental guitar noir genre comes to mind although, as the band cites on their in English website, the SST instrumental sound also combines Hawaiian guitar influences, blues, western swing, jazz and even touches of progressive rock. Central to the band sound is Ville Leppänen, who in addition to playing the electric, lap and pedal steel guitars, also wrote much of the music here. Ville gets ample backup from his SST band mates including JP Mönkkönen (bass) and Tero Mikkonen (drums). Instead of focusing exclusively on West Coast surf-rock and Hawaiian guitar sounds, Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang also adds in a whole lot of Nashville style instrumental jazz-guitar sounds and combines influences from guitar greats like Chet Atkins and Danny Gatton to modern steelers like Greg Leisz. Country jazz, surf-noir and a wealth of other steel and lap steel guitar sounds collide in a sonic paradise on this first Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang CD.

CLEAN-FEED RECORDS - Louisiana born / NYC based double bassist and composer John Hébert is making waves in the music world with his 2013 CD Floodstage. Featuring The John Hebert Trio—with Benoit Delbecq (piano) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)—the sound of the eleven track album is atmospheric post modern jazz with a definite avant garde edge. Pianist Delbecq not only exhibits and fine touch on piano but he also adds in some otherworldly electronica on a couple tracks adding to the diversity of the album. A master of the double bass and a fine composer, Hébert was influenced by the late great bass ace Jaco Pastorius, and like Jaco, Hébert seems to speak his mind through the magic of instrumental music. In his own words Hébert adds, ‘Jazz is a conversation. You always have to think about how things are blending.’ Apparently on Floodstage, the tone is king and Hébert displays a fine rapport with his trio band mates.

CORD INTERNATIONAL / HANA OLA RECORDS - More like a sonic revelation rather just another instrumental guitar album, Sacred Slack & Steel Guitar is a splendid return to form by Hawaiian born / California based Ken Emerson. In the appealing looking CD artwork and packaging is the story of Ken and how he grew up in Hawaii and learned all about slack key and steel guitar playing from the masters while also studying from rare 78 rpm Hawaiian recordings. The real beauty of Ken’s Sacred Slack & Steel Guitar CD is in his choice of music to cover here. Included on the 15 track CD are Ken’s newly recorded instrumental slack and steel flavored versions of vintage gospel classics like “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho”, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “Amazing Grace”, the perennial that closes the CD. The music is a fantastic showcase for Ken’s one of a kind guitar skills and, being all instrumental, Sacred Slack & Steel Guitar really allows this timeless music to breathe in its own right. Track by track liner notes fill the listeners in on the history of these timeless songs and melodies. From the liner notes on the back cover of the Sacred Slack & Steel Guitar Ken explains, ‘Many of the classic American spirituals came out of the ‘Deep South’. I have always wanted to record an album of old spiritual songs and feature the distinct sound of my vintage National Resophonic guitars. I have also desired to blend the Hawaiian slide and slack key styles back with musical genres that are in many ways offshoots and heavily influenced by the Hawaiian slide guitar, mainly country steel guitar, bluegrass dobro and blues bottleneck slide guitar, particularly Delta blues.’ A highly diverse and sonically pleasurable CD of timeless guitar instrumentals, Sacred Slack & Steel Guitar features Ken Emerson taking the classic music of the past deep into the future with brilliant results.

EESTI MUSIC - Estonian guitarist Toomas Vanem has a winner on his hands with the 2014 CD release of his self-titled album. The Toomas Vanem CD features eleven hard hitting rock instrumentals that expertly combines both heavy metal rock and electric jazz-rock fusion to great effect. Rockers with a penchant for instro jazz-fusion will love this CD. To these ears anyway, there’s also a slight influence from the late great Finnish fusion maestro Pekka Pohjola on some of the more melodic tracks here. Clearly, Toomas isn’t squeamish about being melodic and romantic while setting his guitars on fire. With Toomas handling the guitars and music composition, he gets excellent back up from his band including Henno Kelp (bass) and Andrus Lillepea (drums). Bass legend Stu Hamm also appears on a track here. Another neat thing here is the packaging of the CD, which is first rate and features track by track stories of each cut here, some of which are quite amusing. Words are meaningless on this album that speaks a six string lingo that transcends borders and nationalities. With guitars ablaze and a group of instrumental tracks which flow seamlessly into each other, Toomas Vanem redefines the essence of 21st century instrumental rock fusion. Hard rock fans and fusioneers, give a good listen to Estonian guitarist Toomas Vanem.

FOCUS MUSIC - You know you’re getting old with the 1970’s fusion band Focus resorts to doing oldies. (lol) Oh well, it’s not too bad and the results can be heard on a new best of studio album reworking Focus classics called (wait for it), Golden Oldies. Guitarist Jan Akkerman is long gone but Focus cofounder Thijs Van Leer is firmly in command along with a new guitarist called Menno Gootjes, who ably reworks a number of classics from the Focus repertoire including “Hocus Pocus” (co-written by Van Leer and Akkerman back in 1972) and Van Leer’s most acclaimed composition “Sylvia”—a timeless instrumental prog-rock classic that refuses to die. These are all new studio recordings so, it’s certain to be a fun ride for long time Focus fans and newcomers to the Focus legacy, which is enormous, as is Van Leer’s highly prolific solo career. With Les Paul guitar blazing, Menno breathes new life into Akkerman’s searing electric guitar parts and the band also features long time Focus drummer Pierre van der Linden and bassist Bobby Jacobs. Some choice moments from the 1970’s catalog of Focus are given a solid overhaul on Golden Oldies.

HIDRIA RECORDS - Hidria Records is the label known for the Finnish rock fusion band known as Hidria Spacefolk. A relatively recent ban, that started out in 1999, Hidria Spacefolk are gaining accolades galore for their most recent album entitled Astronautica. With references to the Argonauts Odyssey in ancient Greek mythology, the album is totally fascinating to listen to. There’s plenty of original ideas in play here but astute music fans will compare Hidria Spacefolk to the 1970’s band Gong, post Daevid Allen, and more recently to cosmic instrumental music space rockers Ozric Tentacles. There’s even a touch of Tubular Bells era Oldfield on track four here, “Endymion”. At the core of the band is guitarist Mikko Happo, while the CD was superbly produced by the band’s other guitarist Sami Wirkkala. Yet, clearly the entire six piece band more than pulls their own weight throughout the album. Best listened to as a complete album experience, start to finnish, Astronautica is a fascinating introduction to the cosmic instrumental rock fusion sound of Hidria Spacefolk.

HOUSE MASTER RECORDS - Who is Alan J. Bound and what kind of music does he make? Well for one thing, in early 2014 the Germany based guitarist has released Cosmology—a stunning CD featuring twelve gigantic sounding, guitar-centric instrumental tracks that, when taken as a complete musical experience, conjures a dark, spellbinding, early 1970’s Pink Floyd sort of prog rock sound, at least from back in the day when Floyd used to record instrumentals. Adopting an English sounding stage name, Bound coaxes some fine cosmic sounds from his electric guitars, while keeping the beat strong and clear is the rock solid drumming of German music legend Jaki Liebezeit. Also, on the CD closing "Aldara" is the violin sound of Klaus der Geiger. Fans of classic 1970’s era Teutonic rock will remember Jaki Liebezeit as the co-founding drummer of the group Can and then drummer for Michael Rother. At 75 years young Jaki still gets a mighty powerful drum sound and those sounds, together with Bound’s spacy Floydian influenced guitar sound, makes Cosmology a most impressive sounding album. Adding to the cosmic experience, Bound adds in some of his own cameo vocals for an even more spine-chilling effect on several tracks. The instrumental, guitar-centric sound of Alan J. Bound's Cosmology makes for a most enjoyable sonic joy ride into the heart of deep space.

HUBRO - Brooklyn meets Iceland via Norway on Hindsight Bias, the second instrumental album by the trio known as Bly de Blyant. The band features three core members—Øyvind Skarbø (drums), Iceland based Hilmar Jensson (guitars) and Brooklyn based Shahzad Ismaily (bass, keys, programming). The sound of Bly De Blyant is quite eclectic, just as we have come to expect from the adventurous Norway based Hubro label. The sound Bly de Blyant make on Hindsight Bias is jazz but with a rock edge, balanced out with a sense of soundtracks and even traces of New Age / surf-jazz kind of sentiments, not unlike Explosions In The Sky but with a more avant garde edge. Commenting, drummer Skarbø adds, ‘With Hindsight Bias, I wanted to create a more integrated album, with fewer and more concise songs.’ The sheer eclectic nature of Hindsight Bias will leave some scratching their heads while others will marvel at the experimental diversity of an album that breathes new life into the 21st century world of global instrumental rock based music. As per the case with Hubro’s CD releases, the sound of Bly De Blyant’s Hindsight Bias is fantastic and the artwork is suitably bizarre, adding to the overall fun experience of the music.

KD RECORDS - California based guitarist Kay Das continues making excellent albums with the 2014 CD release of Hawaiian Shadows. Issued on Kay’s own KD Records label, the 18 track Hawaiian Shadows CD is filled with wonderful instrumental tracks, all featuring Kay on his renowned 8 string Steel-o-caster guitar which so tastefully blends the sound of the steel string / lap steel guitar with a more rock friendly Stratocaster guitar sound. Clearly, Kay is a huge fan of both Hawaiian music and the guitar centered instrumental sound of Hank Marvin and The Shadows and he splits his musical interests in a very equitable manner on Hawaiian Shadows. Even the title of the album makes it clear, Kay runs it right down the middle between the two genres. The Hawaiian Shadows CD features 18 tracks that are strategically assembled into six parts of three songs each, as Kay describes in the CD booklet. Even though there’s plenty of classic Hawaiian friendly music here, there’s also a number of Steel-O-Caster cover versions of songs The Shadows made famous in both the 1960s and the 1980s. These include songs such as “Three Times A Lady” and “The Power Of Love” (from the late 1980s), “A Place In The Sun” and “Chu Chi” (both from the 1960s) only surpassed by a memorable Kay Das cover of John Barry’s greatest composition, “You Only Live Twice” (made even more historic by Hank Marvin in the year 2000 on Marvin At The Movies). Also of note here is a rarely heard instrumental of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul favorite, “Girl”, given a sublime Kay Das steel guitar treatment that yields excellent results. On Hawaiian Shadows lesser known tracks effortlessly merge and join forces with the better known tracks, making for another fantastic guitar experience by Kay Das. Fans of the greatest songs of the 1960's, and beautiful Hawaiian melodies as played on steel guitars, will love this latest masterpiece from guitar hero Kay Das.

KEITH MEDLEY MUSIC - Guitarist and Kentucky native Keith Medley came to the attention of thanks to his appearance on a fantastic guitar collection simply called The Guitar. That track “Father Red Tail” is one of the tracks on Keith’s latest solo CD, Ride. Like his track on The Guitar, all of the instrumentals on Ride are fantastic, atmospheric, acoustic based guitar guitar journeys that strongly feature his 27 string guitar sound. Even though the CD was released a couple years ago, it has an elegant, timeless sort of vibe to it that should appeal to guitar fans the world over. Commenting on the musical inspiration behind the Ride CD in the following interview, Keith told, “Music isn't some far off mindset segregated from everything else in my normal everyday life. It's all connected together which provides me with plenty of creative emotional takeaways I can capture and release it in a form of music that has some chance of being related to.” Ride isn’t filled with a lot of synth wizardry but Keith's guitars are tastefully accompanied by some electronic backing. It’s Keith Medley’s guitars and the way his album was recorded, mixed and mastered that will make Ride of interest to guitar fans.

LIBRA RECORDS - Newly released on Taiwan based Libra Records are a pair of CD titles by the husband and wife team of pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and trumpeter-composer Natsuki Tamura. The most recent title is Shiki by Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York. The music on Shiki features some of the finest jazz innovators on the NYC music scene. The music is very intense free jazz and is highlighted by the 37 minute title track. Satoko explains, ‘This New York orchestra is like a miracle for me. These great musicians give me such inspiration to compose and they contribute their own creativity as well.’ It’s hard to compare the music as it has such a unique originality, yet fans of free jazz experimentalism will enjoy the daring sound of Shiki. Tamura’s album DuDu features the fifth album by his Gato Libre outfit. Somewhat more mellifluous sounding than Shiki, the Gato Libre album is a perfect showcase for Natsuki and his excellent trumpet work. Natsuki is joined by a lineup that features his trumpet backed by trombone, guitar and accordion, making it also a completely unique sound. Both CDs are well recorded and feature very appealing packaging and cover artwork. Instrumental modern music fans will enjoy these challenging yet influential jazz releases.

MACK AVENUE - One of the best jazz instrumental album of 2014, Evolve is a solid introduction to the music of jazz sax ace Jackiem Joyner. Highly regarded as a saxophonist, flutist, composer and producer, Jackiem is set to make waves with the eleven cut CD which mixes classic instrumental jazz with cool hip-hop beats and even cinematic sounding music that really gives the CD a wide-screen sound, especially on the lush sounding “See Through Me”. Amazingly, in addition to the sax work, Jackiem also plays just about every other instrument here, although in the album credits, Jackiem gives credit to a number of musicians, engineers and other influences including Keiko Matsui, who adds in some keys on a track. Of note are the impeccably multi-tracked horn sounds which effortlessly combine an R&B effect to several tracks. Although there’s several influences here, overall, Evolve is a completely original and authentic sounding album of 21st century contemporary jazz.

MATTEO PALMER MUSIC - Produced by guitar legend Will Ackerman and featuring guest appearance from bass ace Tony Levin, Out Of Nothing is a fine introduction to the guitar sound of Vermont based Matteo Palmer. Matteo may still be in his teens yet with Out Of Nothing he shows great promise as a guitar instrumentalist and rising guitar hero. Although the sound of Out Of Nothing is clearly in the New Age realm, there’s plenty here for fans of the guitar and instrumental music in general. Commenting on his protégé, Will Ackerman adds, ‘Matteo Palmer possesses a broad range of technical skills while having a profound and unique voice as an artist. He has a great deal to say.’ With Out Of Nothing, Matteo is well on his way with a promising solo career as a guitar instrumentalist. Matteo's music is very influenced by the sound of Windham Hill and and guitarists who came out of that scene, including Ackerman, Alex DeGrassi and Michael Hedges to name a few. That said, the CD sound is fantastic, as you’ve come to expect from a Will Ackerman production and the CD packaging and artwork is first rate. Clearly, Out Of Nothing is a most promising first album from Matteo Palmer.

MORPHIC RESONANCE MUSIC - Southern California guitarist David Pritchard is sometimes referred to as the Phillip Glass of the acoustic guitar. Although he’s played with jazz greats like Gary Burton, Pritchard was always most at home on his stunning and hypnotic solo albums, which often blend a linear tapestry of acoustic guitar sounds. Pritchard’s 2014 album Among The Missing continues onwards in a similar realm as his critically acclaimed 2009 album Vertical Eden. Although complex musically, the sounds Pritchard makes with his guitars are simultaneously meditative and relaxing. Pritchard’s 2009 album, Vertical Eden featured second guitarist Kevin Tiernan and on Among The Missing, Tiernan returns along with yet another guitarist, Ioannis Markoulakis, as well as Leif Woodward (cello, viola da gamba), Steve Anderson (electric bass) and Christopher Garcia (percussion). The sound of Among The Missing, is brimming with interweaving guitars and the addition of strings adds another quite intriguing layer to the sound. Although highly atmospheric, Among The Missing is much too enchanting to be described as being avant garde. Fans of Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges will also enjoy the all instrumental nature of Pritchard’s unique mosaic of guitar music while the album will also find a home among jazz fans with a penchant for exotic sounding neoclassical and 21st century experimental instrumental guitar music. Ethereal, hypnotic guitar music at its finest, David Pritchard's Among The Missing takes the listener to a magical place where words fail to describe the wonders of sound.

OKEH-RECORDS - The recently revived OKeh Records label—now part of the Sony Masterworks line of recordings—is still getting accolades for their 2013 CD release of A Different Time, from keyboardist / piano virtuoso John Medeski. If there’s one meditative and contemplative solo piano album you should hear, give this CD a spin. Medeski claims the album was meant to be listened at night but clearly anytime you’re stressed or want to chill out, this brilliantly recorded CD is the perfect sonic antidote. Although Medeski is a Steinway piano recording artist, for A Different Time he’s chosen to record on a 7 foot 1924 Gaveau piano, which he claims feels different from any pianos being made today. It’s simply amazing just how clean and clear the recording sound is and to top it off, the album was recorded at Waterfront studios, the recording studio of album producer Henry Hirsch that is actually built within a 19th century church in the scenic Hudson Valley of Upstate New York. In contrast to the freewheeling, jazzy, jam band sound of his group Martin, Medeski & Wood, John Medeski’s solo piano album, A Different Time is one of the most relaxing albums of sublime solo piano music you’ll ever hear. Interestingly, A Different Time also marked the return of the legendary OKeh label. One can only wish the label much success as they revive a classic record label with high quality releases such as John Medeski’s A Different Time.

ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC - Back in 1979, Mike Oldfield put the music of Philip Glass on the map among prog-rock fans with his rendition of “North Star”. Now in 2014, a new breed of guitarists are covering the music of Philip Glass. The album is simply called Perform Philip Glass and the artist is the group known as The Dublin Guitar Quartet. Coming out of the fair city of Dublin, Ireland, the DGQ have, in the past, performed the music of other minimalist composers, including Steve Reich and Arvo Part. Featuring a number of Glass string quartet transcriptions, the DGQ’s 18 track Performs Philip Glass CD was superbly produced by group member Brian Bolger, who also did the recording and mix of the album. The music of Philip glass was always an intricate amalgam of classical music and an unusual assortment of minimalist and neo-electronic music that had a big impact on a whole generation of avant garde artists and instrumental music makers and, so transcribing his music for 4 classical guitars is a boldly fascinating move. Commenting on the DGQ CD, Glass himself says, ‘This is a very special arrangement. Arranging for guitars is a very tricky business and you really have to know what you are doing, so I have never done it, but Dave Flynn and Brian Bolger have made these arrangements and they’re really quite beautiful.’ Interesting to note that following their Philip Glass album, the DGQ also plans to use electric guitars in their next project. One can only hope they one day tackle guitar transcriptions of the music from the late great Finnish fusion pioneer Pekka Pohjola, who is by far, the most important composer of post-modern 20th century instrumental rock music.

PROSTHETIC RECORDS - Music fans looking to rejoice in the legendary B-3 organ based music of greats like The Nice and ELP should give a listen to the 2013 CD by the group known as Niacin. The band’s latest on the Prosthetic label, entitled Krush is a tour-de-force of instrumental jazz-rock filled with sonic twists and turns. At the core of Niacin is keyboardist John Novello, bass ace Billy Sheehan and drumming great Dennis Chambers. The Niacin sound kind of evokes that famous jazz-rock keyboard based sound of Keith Emerson, but clearly Niacin takes the keyboard heavy sound in a whole new direction bound to please jazz-rockers and jazz fans with a penchant for hard hitting rock instrumentals. Even though Niacin have a heavy sound, this is by no means a sonic slugfest. Niacin, and specifically their sonic masterpiece Krush is a stunning merger of jazz and rock that will blow your roof off. Heavy metal jazzers don’t miss Niacin. Another recent all instrumental CD sure to make waves with fans of the Prosthetic roster of artists is The Migration by the band known as Scale The Summit. Much heavier in sound, say compared to Niacin, Scale The Summit, co-produced by Jamie King, features the dueling 7 and 8 string guitars sound of Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier backed by the rhythm section of Mark Michell (bass) and Pat Skeffington (drums). Blending daredevil hard rock with a sure-footed jazz-rock foundation, Scale The Summit is yet another good example of the powerful combination of instrumental hard rock and jazz-rock.

RIP CAT RECORDS - In 2014 sax master Ron Dziubla returned with another instrumental masterpiece. A follow up to his critically acclaimed, eleven track 2011 CD called Some Strange Blues, the 2014 CD release of Ron Dziubla’s Nasty Habit features Ron’s music and sax backed up by notable players like guitarists R.J. Ronquillo and James Intveld. Also on Ron Dziubla’s Nasty Habit is Pete Curry, who plays drums and shares co-production chores. Musically, Dziubla has his music positively set in the late 1950’s and early 1960's. Fans of guitar king Duane Eddy may remember Ron for his work with the guitar great. Speaking about Ron from his second interview with Duane recalls, ‘Ron knows all the old stuff and does it just like the old records so we can recreate the old hits on a show with no problem.’ The cool thing is that most of the tracks on Ron Dziubla’s Nasty Habit are all originals, the exceptions being new covers of “Harlem Nocturne” and “Night Train”. Combining slick and sinewy guitar leads, solid rock ‘n’ roll drumming and rave up sax solos, Ron Dziubla’s Nasty Habit is a rare, hybrid treat for fans of instrumental rock ‘n’ roll music. Start to finish, Ron Dziubla’s Nasty Habit is a rockin’ stereophonic collection indeed.

RNA MUSIC - For an excellent cross-section of state of the art acoustic New Age instrumental guitar music, give a listen to The Guitar: The Best Of Reviews New Age. The CD was compiled and produced by Seville, Spain based musicologist Alejandro Clavijo, who is the proprietor of the online music zine / record label Reviews New Age, which features CD reviews and releases of the biggest names in the New Age music world. The 17 track CD called The Guitar features some of the most illustrious names in the New Age guitar instrumental world including Will Ackerman, Alex De Grassi, Max Goldston, Todd Boston and 13 other proponents of the guitar. The names of some of these guitarists may be unknown to the masses but their music will help spread the word! The mood of the CD is very contemplative and woody, especially as all the guitars performed on the CD are acoustic. Amazingly, despite sourcing the material from no less then 17 different albums, some dating back to the 1990’s, the CD sound is balanced, seamlessly sequenced and nearly perfectly engineered and mastered with much attention to rich sonic detail. The CD is attractively packaged with the booklet containing a wealth of information about each of the musicians here. In addition to The Guitar, Alejandro has also produced another album for his Reviews New Age label called The Piano, which is essentially a companion release to The Guitar CD. A number of lesser known, yet deserving artists appear. Among the better known piano proponents on The Piano are David Lanz, Peter Kater and Danny Wright. The 17 track CD, The Piano is once again tastefully packaged, looking very much like the companion CD to The Guitar, with a wealth of information about each artist contained in the CD booklet. Alejandro Clavijo and his Reviews New Age web site and record label offers further proof that music, especially instrumental music is indeed the international language. Both The Guitar and the Piano are stellar examples of the power and the glory of instrumental New Age music.

ROCKADILLO RECORDS - Finnish guitarist Jarmo Saari rose to fame thanks to his being signed to the Pohjola Records label owned by the late great rock fusion legend Pekka Pohjola. Back in the late 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000's, Jarmo’s band XL released a number of fine albums on Pohjola Records and in 2014 he released a new album by his latest band, Jarmo Saari Republic. The music on this Jarmo Saari Republic album is quite different from XL in that it incorporates a very eclectic mixture of fusion, yes but also pop, funk, rap, African rhythms, and even avant garde jazz. Track 3, “Planet Red” sounds like Ginger Baker jamming with Hatfield & The North, while track track 5, “Soldiers Of Joy” mixes in some hip-hop / rap vocals on top of a King Crimson type poly-rhythmic backdrop. There’s a hidden pop element on the track that mixes things up with some pretty daredevil fusion music. Jarmo’s band here is first rate with a pair of drummers, including current Finnish jazz-rock favorite Olavi Louhivuori. Many of the guitar parts are buried in the mix in a Zappa like manner, while throughout the album, Jarmo more than acquits himself on baritone guitar, mini-moog, bass, percussion, theremin and even trombone. Although he’s not Pekka Pohjola, (there will never be another) Jarmo Saari keeps the spirit of Finnish progressive rock and jazz alive and well on this first (but hopefully not the last) Jarmo Saari Republic album.

ROPEADOPE RECORDS - Guitar jazz continues to bloom as a still growing musical art form and for fans of the genre, Out Of The Blue is a fine 2014 release from guitarist Adam Smale. On the nine track Out Of The Blue, Adam pairs his 7 string guitar sound with a fine crew of musicians and the results make for an upbeat album of bop-friendly, guitar-centric instrumental music. Adam cites fretboard heroes like Lenny Breau, Chet Atkins, Pat Martino and Pat Metheny among his big influences and before he moved to NYC, Adam even got to work with Lenny Breau sideman, bassist Don Thompson. Some of the Out Of The Blue tracks, especially track five “Night Drive”, are somewhat rock oriented while track three, “Yes Or No”, by Wayne Shorter, is the only cover on the all original track lineup here. Commenting on living in NYC, Adam tells, "There is so much great talent funneled into the New York scene, you can’t help but be inspired. Plus, there is something about being here in NYC that changes your playing. I can’t explain it. You absorb both the sounds and energy, and some music history when you’re here long enough." In the CD packaging Adam provides a track by track account of the album song list while extensive liner notes by Bill Milkowski features interview quotes from the guitarist that takes you on a guided tour of his guitar history. If you enjoy modern instrumental jazz guitar with a number of diverse influences and styles, give a listen to Adam Smale’s Out Of The Blue.

SONY MASTERWORKS - A successful attempt to recreate Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring for acoustic piano-based jazz trio makes for a solid CD from the NYC based group called The Bad Plus. Of course, that much dissonance makes this album sounds like Rick Wakeman playing Vince Guaraldi in places but the album hangs together like a Miro painting, a theory hinted at with the amazing album artwork. An endless fascination with all kinds of sonic twists and turns, make The Bad Plus sound like a 21st century version of the late Dave Brubeck. At the core of The Bad Plus is pianist Ethan Iverson, who is backed up by the rhythm section of Reid Anderson (bass) and David King (drums). Despite having played together 25 years ago, it wasn’t until 2000 that The Bad Plus reformed and the result is this wonderful CD of free jazz meets Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky’s time-honored work has been described as “A complex score fraught with revolutionary experiments in rhythm and meter, tonality and dissonance.” Despite the inherent sonic complexities of The Rite Of Spring, The Bad Plus brings Stravinsky’s early 20th century masterpiece into the 21st century with renewed vigor and a whole lot of sonic gumption.

SOUTHERNMOST RECORDS - The best instrumental jazz guitar albums are the ones that take the most chances and cover the most ground musically. Case in point is A New Dawn, the 2014 CD release from the South Florida based group The Lindsey Blair Quartet. Perhaps on this debut CD from his quartet, Lindsey Blair takes some cues from the ever versatile Pat Metheny because there’s so much guitar goodness here. On A New Dawn, Lindsey Blair’s original compositions are alternatively upbeat and thought provoking. A subdued cover of the Beatles’ White Album classic “Julia” is a definite highlight on A New Dawn with Lindsey bringing out all the haunting melodic nuances that made this Beatles song so memorable in the first place. There’s also a CD closing instrumental cover of the traditional blues song “House Of The Rising Sun” played in a funky West Coast jazz way ala Wes Montgomery that is also a lot of fun. Speaking to about the eclectic nature of his CD, Lindsey explains, “I wrote or arranged things that I find interesting. That is the only criteria. I am an eclectic musician, I honestly enjoy all kinds of music. I knew I was making a jazz album, but I didn’t want to narrow my parameters to fit a specific style. If it defies category, I think that is an honest statement coming from me, because I don’t really fit neatly into one box.” Throughout the album, Lindsey gets ace support from his quartet including Nicky Orta (electric bass), Carlomagno Araya (drums) and Clay Ostwald (keyboards). The interplay and near sonic ESP among these fine players is also noteworthy. Jazz guitar watchers, lend an ear to the Lindsey Blair Quartet.

STRIKEZONE - Jazz fusion guitar ace Dave Stryker returns in fine form with the 2014 CD release of Eight Track. Yes, that’s 8 Track as in the now ill-fated late ‘60s / early 1970s form of recorded music product. But in his look back on that era, Dave hits on some sonic signposts with jazzy covers of Curtis Mayfield, Jimmy Webb, Galt McDermott, David Gates, Pink Floyd and more—all performed instrumentally played with a most fitting hindsight. Assisting Dave are jazz cats like Stefon Harris (vibes), Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). If you didn’t know better you’d swear this was made in the late 1970s. Commenting further, Dave adds, ‘In 1975, like many people, I had an 8 Track player in my van, where I remember sneaking out of class to listen to music. Now 8 Tracks didn’t last that long... but to me they represented the ‘70s - a time where there was a lot of great pop music going on as well as jazz.’ With Eight Track, Dave Stryker gives the pop classics of the past a bright, jazzy future indeed.

VINTAGE GROOVE - Japanese guitarist Kenny Sasaki has a 2014 album out called Bird Island with his band Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys and it’s an excellent follow up to his 2010 Island Slumber album. In tact are all the sonic exotica and Hawaiian music touches Kenny’s become well known for, but some of the tracks on this new album really swing. Kenny's music is not quite jazz but it is very influenced by Exotica music legends like Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Bird Island also maintains a subdued yet definite surf music edge, particularly on tracks like “Surfin’ With The Devil” and “Jet Set Girl”, the latter being a John Barry flavored track that closes out Bird Island. On Bird Island Kenny keeps his cutting edge guitar sound front and center, while playing all the instruments, making his album sound like a full band. Whether your taste runs to 1950’s style exotica ala Martin Denny and Les Baxter or whether you’re a 1960’s surf music fan, you can’t go wrong with the eclectic, instrumental, guitar-centric sound of Bird Island.

ZOHO MUSIC - Any jazz guitar CD that starts off with a cool instrumental version of “I Hear A Symphony” (yes, the 1960’s Supremes hit) can’t be all bad. We’re talking about Big Boss, the 2014 CD by Charlie Apicella & Iron City. The eight track CD features guitarist Charlie Apicella backed up by his Iron City group, including Dan Kostelnik (organ) and Alan Korzin (drums). The guitar / organ / drums trio sound is not new but in Apicella’s hands, the timeless sound springs to life again on a CD that breathes new fire into a revered jazz art form. In addition to the instrumental jazz version of The Supremes hit, there’s also an instrumental cover of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and a pair of CD closing covers written by jazz guitar great Grant Green. Also sure to be of interest here are four new Apicella originals that underscores his abilities as a jazz composer. The CD booklet features a number of color and b&w pics along with informative notes by WBGO on-air host Sheila Elaine Anderson.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Arriving on the scene with their jazzy brand of rock in 1972, U.K. prog innovators Greenslade might have been overlooked in the U.S. during the mid 1970’s yet there’s no denying their influence and cred. Formed by Colosseum founders Dave Greenslade (keyboards) and Tony Reeves (bass), the two took in another keyboardist Dave Lawson, who also sang and one time King Crimson drummer Andrew McCulloch. After breaking up Greenslade back in the later 1970’s, the original band reformed for a fine album in 2000 called Large Afternoon. That album was pretty much overlooked in 2000 but thanks to a 2014 CD remaster by Angel Air, fans can check it out again. The music on Large Afternoon is very cool mix of instrumental and prog-rock flavored vocal tracks with a definite pomp-rock edge in place, thanks to the incredible sounding keyboards of Greenslade. Fans of U.K. prog-pop bands Camel and Stackridge will get a buzz from Greenslade’s overlooked 2000 masterpiece.

BGO RECORDS - Over in the U.K. BGO has a number of great reissue CDs bound to please collectors. First off is a double CD set from British invasion era legend Billy J. Kramer. Thanks to the sheer onslaught of great music during that 1964 and 1965 era, Beatles and Stones notwithstanding, Billy J. Kramer might have been overlooked by music buyers. That said, Billy is probably best known for having The Beatles write a number of his biggest hits, all of which are featured on his BGO double. The 2 CD set features four original albums—Listen..., I’ll Keep You Satisfied, Little Children and Trains And Boats And Planes—and has no less than 40 British invasion classics all played with that classic beat group era sound pioneered by The Beatles. In depth March 2014 liner notes by writer Bob Solly puts the music into historic perspective while the CD also features original album artwork and original liner notes that appeared way back in 1964. Also on BGO is a another classic British invasion reissue featuring four mid 1960’s albums by the legendary Herman’s Hermits. Although best known for “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, Herman’s Hermits went on to score numerous Top 40 hits, many of which are features on BGO’s 45 track double CD set that combines four separate mid 1960’s Herman’s Hermits albums—the self-titled Herman’s Hermits, Both Sides Of Herman’s Hermits, There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World and the Allen Klein produced soundtrack to a Hermit's related film called (wait for it), Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter. Once again, BGO’s Herman’s Hermits reissue is packed with insightful liner notes by John Tobler and original notes by Hermits producer, the late great Mickie Most as well as an abundance of photos and original album art. BGO will make smooth jazz guitar fans very happy with their latest reissue by guitar great Earl Klugh. BGO has a number of Earl Klugh remasters and their 2014 features three early 1980’S Klugh albums on two CDs including—Late Night Guitar (1980), Two Of A Kind (1982, recorded with Bob James), and Nightsongs (1984). Once again, the sound is first rate and 2013 liner notes by Charles Waring puts Klugh’s legendary guitar recordings into a clear, concise perspective. BGO also reissued a double CD set by San Francisco psychedelic soul rockers Sons Of Champlin. Featured are three albums the band released on Capitol Records between 1969 and 1971—including Loosen Up Naturally, The Sons and Follow Your Heart. With their distinctive horn section and funky brand of psychedelia, Sons Of Champlin were more Chicago or Lighthouse than Quicksilver or the Airplane, yet there’s some pretty heady sounds on BGO’s double set from Sons Of Champlin, which as par for the course with BGO, features in depth liner notes and excellent design and sound quality.

EAGLE VISION - The story of Alice Cooper—the rock band and the man behind it—is retold in stunning clarity on the 2014 DVD release of Super Duper Alice Cooper Released on DVD and Blu-ray by Eagle and produced by Bangor Films, the 2+ hour DVD takes the viewer way back to the 1960s and early years with early band like the pre-Alice band called The Spiders. The original Alice Cooper band, featured throughout the DVD, were signed by Frank Zappa for his Straight Records roster. Run out of L.A. by Bill Graham no less, ((lol)), the band found a home in Detroit where and when Iggy Pop and the MC5 were breaking down the musical walls of the Motor City. Alice triumphed and returned to L.A. as kings on the Warner Bros. Records label. From start to finish Super Duper Alice Cooper is a stunning work of documentary film making, editing and information, although it strangely ends in the mid 1980’s when Alice finally made his big come back, healthier than ever. Maybe there’ll be a part II as there’s plenty of fine Alice albums that followed the past thirty years. The rockumentary Super Duper Alice Cooper is highly entertaining, not just musical but also from a human interest perspective. I mean, how many people really know the inside skinny on Vince Furnier, who morphed as a skillful rock star wannabe in Phoenix, all the way to Alice Cooper, rock superstar? All the big names appear, from The Beatles, to Zappa to Elton. Complete with an excellent booklet filled with pictures of Alice and company and new liner notes, Super Duper Alice Cooper makes for a fascinating glimpse into the world of one of the most enigmatic rock stars of the past 50 years.

MVD VISUAL / EMPEROR MEDIA - In many ways, the story of the blues is the story of the great B.B. King. The life and times of B.B. King is well represented on a fascinating 2014 documentary called B.B. King: The Life Of Riley. Of course, Riley is B.B.’s real first name name and the 2 hour movie takes the viewer back to the world of the American South of the 1920’s when B.B. was born and raised in Mississippi. Despite enduring hardships and racial strife during his early life, B.B. stuck with it and overcame the pitfalls of those early times to become the preeminent spokesman for the blues. What was always understood was the enormous amount of respect B.B. had and continues to garner among the giants of the U.K. rock scene and, included in the the film are no small contributions by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono of U2 and a whole lot more. With B.B. as the central focus throughout the movie, this Jon Brewer directed film is structured and directed in such a way as to make B.B. look human, yet at the same time it also portrays him as the blues legend he truly is. There’s also key contributions, including candid interviews about B.B. with Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Leon Russell, Carlos Santana, John Mayall, Dr. John and others including actor Morgan Freeman, who supplies the narration. Also here are interviews and insights with B.B.’s long time manager Sid Seidenberg. There’s plenty of interview clips, old and new, from B.B. himself as well as a lot of performance footage, but the film never sets out to become just a collection of video clips. The two hour documentary also includes bonus features with extended interviews from many of the artists listed above as well as a recent live in concert set by B.B. singing songs from his latest CD One Kind Favor at the fabled Royal Albert Hall in London. The Life Of Riley is a fascinating documentary about the man who invented electric blues rock, B.B. King.

MVD VIDEO - His father was Richard L. Simon, who founded Simon & Schuster publishing and his sister is rock singer Carly Simon. We’re talking about Peter Simon, whose amazing life as a photojournalist is well chronicled on the double DVD set entitled Peter Simon’s Through The Lens, subtitled Celebrating 50 Years Of Personalized Photojournalism. Although he’s released a number of books to date, Through The Lens is Simon’s first DVD and for pop culture fans it’s a good one. The double DVD finds Simon going through his archives with a fine tooth comb and a penchant for reliving his fond memories complete with off the cuff banter that will make the staunchest rock fan green with envy. Simon’s photography appeared numerous times over the decades in Rolling Stone, the New York Times and numerous other print venues and it’s pretty incredible to hear him discussing the history behind many of his most famous photographs—from The Beatles and Stones, The Doors and the Grateful Dead to historic photographs he took of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. The double DVD set runs about four hours and not only features Peter discussing his photographs of the biggest names in the rock world, but overall the DVD set serves as Simon’s personalized photo-pictorial video / movie encapsulating the coolest moments of the entire pop culture world of the 1960s and 1970s. /

POHJOLA RECORDS / ROCKADILLO - The 1980’s was time of great upheaval in the music world and the world in general. As if to usher in the brave new world of that decade, John Lennon and The Beatles were simultaneously destroyed on the corner of 72nd street and Central Park West. The compact disc was around the corner and by 1985 would all but paralyze, albeit temporarily, the independent American music scene due to the monopoly, early on, of this pioneering technology by the Germans and Japanese. Sounds familiar? Even amid all this technology turmoil, Finland’s greatest composer, master musician Pekka Pohjola released some of his greatest albums during the first half of the heady 1980’s. In fact, following a brilliant decade in the 1970’s that witnessed Pohjola defining the world of fusion with his unique blend of instrumental jazz, rock and classical, the 1980’s are still considered truly the heyday of Pohjola’s one of a kind sound. Following his five 1980’s era solo albums, Pekka ostensibly seemed to retreat from the instrumental rock world with the 1986 album release of Yesterday’s Games—a collaboration album between Pekka and The Espoo Big Band, conducted by Martti Lappalainen. Arriving in the wake of the heavy jazz sound of his 1986 album Flight Of The Angel, the original vinyl release of Yesterday’s Games seemed to be a look back at the big band sound of Pekka’s 1975 classic B The Magpie. Yet, flashing back to 1986 in 2014, Yesterday’s Games is not without its own unique sonic charms. The album can be once again be completely enjoyed thanks to this superb sounding, first ever 2014 reissue of the Yesterday’s Games album on Pekka’s Pohjola Records label, distributed by Rockadillo. Featuring all new music composed by Pekka, the CD features a solid performance by The Espoo Big Band, joined by a number of musicians, including Pekka on electric bass and soon to be Pohjola band member, guitarist Markku Kanerva. Overall, the music on Yesterday’s Games is extremely upbeat and even uplifting. Even though it was overlooked by Pekka’s jazz-rock fans at the time, looking back, Yesterday’s Games was clearly a masterpiece that is well worth revisiting again. The now five part, 60 minute 2014 reissue of Yesterday’s Games features the original album artwork, complete discography information and a bonus cut featuring the Espoo Big Band performing Pekka’s music live in Australia that also features guitarist Jarmo Saari. Even though Pekka sadly died on November 27, 2008, Yesterday’s Games has never sounded better and, thanks to this first ever reissue, is a most welcome reexamination of his overlooked big band jazz masterpiece. Even with so many wonderful albums in his catalog, Pekka Pohjola’s many fans will want to reexperience this rarely heard and under appreciated instrumental classic.

REAL MUSIC - Sausalito, California based Real Music continues on in their Namasté series with the 2014 CD release of Namasté Yoga—an hour plus of exotic sounding, distraction free instrumental music suitable for yoga or any other stress free activity such as meditation or reading. Some people may also find this genre of music helps them work as concentration is actually enhanced by this cosmic type of New Age instrumental music. The fantastic thing about Real Music is that they have such a wide ranging selection of artists and releases in their catalog, dating back to the 1990's that it’s almost impossible for them not to come up with an astounding collection of celestial music to fit any New Age kind of mood. Although the music on Namasté Yoga is mainly instrumental, several artists here feature vocals that combine a mixture of dream like Sanskrit-like words, as in the case of track five here, “Bhakti Heenam” by Australia’s trance music specialists Sacred Earth. Also appearing on Namasté Yoga are other artists well known in Real Music’s New Age music circles including Karunesh, Buedi Siebert, Kiran Murti, Ben Leinbach and Rajendra Teredesai. With their mix of instrumental and dreamlike vocals that combines a unique language of ancient prayers and English, Sacred Earth actually appears on three different Namasté Yoga tracks. Once again, key to Namasté Yoga is the meditative, trance inducing moods that flow together seamlessly to create one fantastic mood.

SHADOKS RECORDS - The German music label Shadoks Records specializes in reissuing rare collectible rock CDs, many of which not even astute rock fans know of. Case in point is the 2014 CD reissue of the 1973 Lazarus album. New liner notes by group guitarist Peter Glatzl, sheds some light on this 40+ year old masterpiece. Hailing from the country of Austria and featuring their lyrics sung in English, the five piece Lazarus specialized in a kind spacey psychedelic music like early Quicksilver or even Jefferson Airplane with male vocals. The songs click and the CD mastering and in depth liner notes make it an excellent choice for collectors of rare European psychedelic rock albums.

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