Record Label
and Music Spotlight









- The group known as Blue Cartoon have been making albums since the 1990’s and they hit yet another new height with their 2013 CD entitled Are You Getting On? Getting on as has to do with getting older and wiser? That may be true as today’s baby boomers slip into the sands of time. Even though we all may be getting on, there’s a wealth of experience us older types can still bring to the world. There’s a wealth of sonic experience on this latest Blue Cartoon album, that superbly mixes pop, progressive rock and even 1960’s paisley pop sounds complete with tremolo guitars. Some astute writers have compared Blue Cartoon to some of Todd Rundgren’s music (not to mention Neal Morse, Ambrosia and even Strawberry Alarm Clock) and there is that catchy type of pop groove on display here, on various tracks I might add. Expertly produced by the band’s bass ace Lee Elliott (and the band itself), the album features a range of great musicianship from all the players here while lead vocalist David Loren rises to the occasion with some tasty vocals. Pop fans who remember the 1960s and prog-rock fans open to catchy melodies will enjoy the wide range of music in play on this latest Blue Cartoon masterpiece.

- Progressive rock - pop has been around for decades but the beloved genre takes a turn for the better with, Airborne, the 2013 CD from the Belgium based band known as Fish On Friday. The band is centered around the talents of its two prime movers—Frank Van Bogaert (keyboards, guitars, vocals) and his song writing partner William Beckers (keyboards, percussion), both of who are superbly backed by a full band including Marty Townsend (guitars), Marcus Weymaere (drums), Bert Embrechts (bass) and a pair of backing singers. Calling the Fish On Friday sound sumptuous would be an understatement. The wide screen FoF sound takes some of its cues from Dark Side era Pink Floyd and even some of the music of Alan Parsons. Frank Van Bogaert is a most effective singer and on a number of tracks here—such as the title track “Airborne” and the lead off track on the CD, appropriately entitled “Welcome”—the sound just soars. Lyrics, written and sung in English (of course) by Frank are displayed here in a superbly designed CD booklet which accompanies the album packaging. Belgium might not be that well known as a progressive rock stronghold but with this second FoF CD, it's put on the musical map in a big way. Best part of the Airborne CD are the soaring melodies and arrangements, Frank’s vocals and the fantastic studio sound which captures the Fish On Friday sound down to a tee. Progressive rock and adventurous pop fans will fall hook, line and sinker for Fish On Friday.

ALARIC RECORDS - Mexico has a thriving rock scene and one need look no further than the 2013 debut CD release of Refraction from the rock band Reacta. Although they started as an instrumental band, with the addition of American singer Merrit Williams Reacta turned into Mexico’s version of U2. Described as a mix of 21st century Alternative and Alt-pop, Reacta pull out all the stops on the ten track Refraction. Central to the Reacta sound is guitarist Chencho Gutierrez, who has ample guitar chops and does his best impersonations of The Edge, while driving on his fellow band mates. It’s cool to know there are bands this rocking in the country of Mexico. Moving into 2014, Alaric plans to unveil more albums including the March 2014 debut CD from singer-songwriter Aria Knight.

The 2013 CD by singer - composer Kristin Amarie is being heralded as one of the best New Age vocal albums of the year. Filled with Kristin’s lush, multilayered vocals, Notes From A Journey was superbly produced and recorded in New York by Alex Salzman, who also contributes keyboards, guitars and programming to the CD. Also on hand are several other contributing musicians, including New Age maven David Lanz, who adds in his patented keyboards here. Kristin is being compared to acclaimed New Age singing goddess Enya, although dare I say, Kristin’s music is even more symphonic in places. Coming from Norway, Kristin’s music has a kind of worldly effect and at times on some tracks she uses her voice more like an instrument rather than complicate the album’s orchestral effect with a lot of words. The Enya comparison aside, there’s plenty of amazing New Age symphonic sounds in play on Kristin Amarie's excellent album.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - One of the greatest blue-eyed soul soul singers to ever come out of the U.K., Jackie Lomax passed away at age 69 on September 15, 2013. Jackie came to the attention of music fans in late 1968 thanks to his album Is This What You Want? produced by George Harrison of The Beatles. Although he didn’t have a lot of albums out later in his life, Angel Air did release a great album called The Ballad Of Liverpool Slim in 2009. Unknown to his fans, just before he died, Jackie had just finished a completely new CD called Against All Odds. Recorded mostly in England, Against All Odds features a number of musicians including co-producer Brian Jones, Dave Goldberg (keyboards), Adam Goldberg (drums) and Davy Dover (bass). It’s just amazing how great Jackie’s voice sounds on these new tracks and his underrated guitar work is spot-on. The cover art is pretty cryptic while the album at features new liner notes, complete discography and lyrics and recent color and b&w pictures of Jackie.

- Over in Israel, the band known as Rockfour continues breaking new ground for rock and progressive pop with their 2013 CD entitled Too Many Organs. That’s a pretty cool title for a CD but Rockfour, as is expected of them, come through the fire with shining colors. The first three tracks on the CD, the title track, followed by “Don’ Shoot The Messenger” and “Two Miles” sounds like the Israeli version of Velvet Underground or Bowie circa 1978. Band front men Baruch Ben Izhak and Marc Lazare still sound like the futuristic Byrds with Roger McGuinn sounding permanently psychedelic, which of course was too much to ask of him back in 1968. That said, Baruch and Marc have put together another solid effort also featuring the rhythm section of Issr Tennenbaum (drums, vocals) and the Wakeman / Kaye inspired keys of Yaki Gani. As per their albums with English vocals, Too Many Organs is vital follow up to the band’s 2007 classic, Memories Of The Never Happened.

BRIZMUZIK - Tom Brislin of course is a major American keyboard talent and he returned in a big way with his 2013 solo album called Hurry Up And Smell The Roses. One of the rare non-English members of YES circa 2001, Brislin can always be counted on for a catchy pop hook and driving keyboard etched prog-pop arrangements. He never received hi just rewards for his work with the band Spiraling. I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 years since Tom was a short-lived member of the 2009 line of Steve Nardelli’s SYN band for the Big Sky CD. Tom’s first solo album, aside from his many fine albums with Spiraling, is called Hurry Up And Smell The Roses. As a futuristic technophile, Brislin is nobody’s fool and his futuristic sound and vision remains in tact with his latest epic release. The eleven cut CD is very much in the Todd Rundgren, one man band style of recording and Tom acquits himself on just about every instrument imagininable—from his native keyboards to, drums bass, guitar, programming... You name it, Tom plays it. Maybe his days in YES and the SYN are over, but with the 2013 CD release of Hurry Up And Smell The Roses , Tom Brislin lives up to his legacy and then some. As cool as the CD starts off, the CD culminates during the last three cuts—track 9, the Brian Wilson influenced “I Hold A Candle”, a Bacharach style pop soundtrack-y instrumental called “Visitor” before heading off into the stratosphere with the of the CD closing, late ‘90s YES inspired track called “Microphone”.

CANDYRAT RECORDS - Best known for their acclaimed instrumental guitar albums, Candyrat continues on with a surprisingly good pop-rock vocal album entitled Play With Fire from the Buffalo, N.Y. / now NYC based band The Reign Of Kindo. The five piece band features singer-lyricist / guitarist Joey Secchiaroli backed up by his band mates. The songs are very melodic and the playing is uniformly good throughout the 12 track CD. Perhaps the most unique thing here are the band’s harmony vocals, which embellish the songs to a high degree. The Reign Of Kindo sound is also kind of reminiscent of 1960’s bands such as The Association, whose trademark were their wall of sound harmony vocals. It’s hard to believe this is the third full length ROK CD. Where these guys have been hiding is anyone’s guess, but now that Candyrat is thankfully making it to find out about them, rock fans are advised to hunt down this unusual yet highly satisfying pop-rock masterpiece.

- Based up in the Edmonton, Alberta region of Canada, singer-songwriter Carrie Day is making waves with her 2012 CD, Life Is Like This. The CD is very derivative of the folk music genre of the late 1960s and early ‘70s that spawned geniuses like Joni Mitchell. If you like Joni you’ll equally enjoy Carrie Day. Some of the songs are somewhat more folk-rock based as opposed to simply folk music based. There’s hardly a loud guitar solo in sight so the accent is right on Ms. Day’s sparkling vocals. The title track is a catchy pop ditty that features a driving folk-rock beat with a solid hook. The CD features a range of musicians backing up Ms. Day’s fine vocals and song writing. Life Is Like This was smartly produced by Stew Kirkwood, who also engineered the CD and co-arranged the songs with Ms. Day. A most enjoyable spin, Life Is Like This is 21st century folk-rock music at its finest.

CHIMERA MUSIC - The 2013 CD release of Take Me To The Land Of Hell from Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band is nothing short of a musical masterpiece. The album starts off menacingly enough with “Moonbeams” and lyrics like “People are planets, Their souls are suns...” Take Me To The Land Of Hell is filled with fantastic musicianship featuring Sean Lennon on guitars and all manners of Lennon-esque magic. Guitarists Nels Cline, Lenny Kravitz and Julian Lage, along with a wide range of Japanese guitarists, add much sonic wizardry to the mix while the CD is bursting at the seams with a wide range of musicians, engineers and more. Also here is long time Len-Ono collaborator Yuka Honda of the band Cibo Matto. A keeper here, “Noodle Town” is a wistful look into life in New York City. It’s a mix of the cultures of both the John & Yoko world of the early 1970’s and the NYC that Sean Lennon will inherit. The title track “Take Me To The Land Of Hell” harks back to the desolation of 1981. That place where rivers of blood meet in the universe. A haunting song praising the passing of lives that speaks of reincarnation in the “nowhereland of the universe”. Among the most remarkable songs here, “Watching The Dawn” is the centerpiece and possibly the most important song of Take Me To The Land Of Hell. This is the orchestral rock side of Yoko that so effectively graced Double Fantasy and Milk & Honey. “Watching The Dawn” is a perfect showcase of Yoko’s one of a kind vocal with Sean Lennon so gracefully accenting the haunting melody of grand piano while backed only by a string section. If there’s one album you should hear to fully appreciate the magic Yoko Ono it’s got to be Take Me To The Land Of Hell. If she never made another “rock album” again, this album would be the one to place her underrated legacy up on the sonic pedestal it rightfully deserves.

Back in 2010, singer-songwriter / pop legend Walter Egan released a well received album called Queens’ English, recorded with The Malibooz, his pop-rock band with fellow guitarist and songwriter John Zambetti. A few years later, in 2014 Walter is back in the solo artist spotlight with a most welcome CD of new songs called Myth America. From his 2014 interview with, Walter Egan explains, 'I think our country, and probably the world, is in some very tenuous times these days. Perhaps the somewhat somber nature of Myth America is a product of these times, it’s hard to say. A songwriter sees the world, digests it and then attaches it to a catchy tune. All artists are a product of their times in one way or another. I didn’t write these songs, do this album as some kind of diatribe though. Myth America is very much my personal journey living in the now (and then).' In the spirit of The Malibooz, Walter’s Myth America features a broad range of sweeping 21st century pop-rock anthems infused with a solid Americana music edge. Recorded in Tennessee, Myth America represents the best aspects of Walter’s pop-rock approach, packed with a few solid sonic surprises. Featuring Walter performing a number of fretboard instruments, backed up by drumming ace Ron Krasinski, Myth America sounds very much on par with the classic pop-rock realm inhabited by legends like Roger McGuinn, Warren Zevon and Tom Petty while the lead off track “Faith Comes Crashin’ Down” sounds true enough to be a track on Roger McGuinn’s 2004 Limited Edition CD. (Listen up Roger!) An eclectic pop spin start to finish, Myth America is tastefully written, produced and recorded with Walter Egan’s pop-centric imagination front and center.

CLEOPATRA RECORDS - L.A. based Cleopatra Records continues to consolidate their position as the chief protagonists for 21st century progressive rock. The label’s resident producer and musical organizer Billy Sherwood has recently been involved with a number of album collections including Epilogue by The Prog Collective. In the spirit of Sherwood’s prolific works on Cleopatra, the album features a wide range of artists including just about every member of YES, then and now, as well as U.K. prog giants like Nik Turner, Larry Fast, Alan Parsons, Steve Stevens, Gary Green (of Gentle Giant) and the list goes on. Also recent on Cleopatra is Phoenix Rising, a joint collaboration by Rove & System 7. System 7 of course is the sonic project by Gong guitar legend Steve Hillage and Gong synth chanteuse Miquette Giraudy. Rovo is a Japanese prog-rock collective and the effort is like a marriage made in instrumental prog-rock heaven. filled with a mix of electronica and jazz-rock fusion, Phoenix Rising is rightfully described as a ‘dose of trance music with strong prog-rock filled with epic moments.’ Sherwood also has a hand in producing Cleopatra’s latest prog-rock epic entitled When We Changed You by the group known as XNA. The group was formed by singer David Hussey of the Genesis tribute band Gabble Ratchet, and keyboardist Adam Malin, who was behind the original Star Trek convention. Rounding out the XNA lineup is Scott Connor (drummer of Sherwood’s band CIRCA) and guitarist Danny Bryle. Commenting on the band producer Sherwood explains, ‘The XNA project is amazing in both concept and performance. They asked me on board to produce / mix and it was an instant yes.’

DOETLEUKMEE PRODUCTIONS - It’s not easy breaking new ground for pop and rock music in the 21st century but the Holland-based band called A Cure For Siri gives it quite a go with their 2013 CD entitled Methods Of Truth. Apple computer fans might know “Siri”—who is the voice of the Apple iPhone. Siri can tell you anything you need to know but what about a cure for Siri? Siri (he or she) will find hi-tech solace on the debut CD from A Cure For Siri. With a number of highly memorable tracks, the Methods Of Truth CD is sonically revolutionary, both in its musical style and recording style. As described on the band’s Facebook page, A Cure For Siri makes music with the aid of machines and the result is an ingenious mix of wild, high-tech sounds with human voices in the form of both pop songs and electronica-based instrumentals. With such a bold bag of sonic tricks up their collective sleeve, A Cure For Siri might just be the Art Of Noise of the 21st century. Methods Of Truth is just so diverse sounding that, while often veering from hippie rock to disco in the blink of an eye (or ear), A Cure For Siri is also not afraid of performing deep, swirling synth / electronic instrumentals that would make Kraftwerk blush, while on their vocal numbers, A Cure For Siri sounds like a futuristic Velvet Underground from another planet. Methods Of Truth is truly an experimental CD, but the music created by A Cure For Siri still maintains a human edge over the onslaught of the technological madness known as the 21st century. /

DOMINO RECORDS - A rising star of the UK underground music scene, Anna Calvi breaks through the sound barrier with the jarring and jolting sonic mayhem of her 2013 CD One Breath. Reminiscent of Diamond Dogs era Bowie or Bryan Ferry for that matter, Ms. Calvi can write, sing and play a mean guitar. Her choice for dramatic sonic seasonings places her in the David Lynch school of strange sounds and visions. Ms. Calvi gets solid support from her backing band including some strange ambient strings and orchestral sounding keyboards from Mally Harpaz, that sometimes takes the music far away from rock into a kind of Ennio Morricone meets the Sex Pistols in the San Fernando Valley. Track 9, “Carry Me Over” is stunning and will blow your mind with its bizarre mix of orchestral meets punk rock. Ms. Calvi of course is from England but she sounds quite international at the same time. Fans of The Velvet Underground & Nico would also get a buzz of Anna Calvi’s offbeat alt-rock approach.

FRANCIS DUNNERY MUSIC - It was a bit shocking to see Francis Dunnery in The Syn back in 2009 and then just as quickly, end that and shoot out a great double solo album later that same year. Now in early 2014 Francis is back with an album he recorded last year, Frankenstein Monster: Stitched Back Together. The album was produced by Dunnery and features Tony Beard (drums), Paul Brown (bass), with additional guitars by John Dunnery. Featuring a number of songs written by Dunnery’s big brother “Baz” (who passed away in May 2008 and to whom this CD is dedicated), Frankenstein Monster is an amalgam of prog-rock, pop, rock and blues-rock sounds, with some imagery and inspiration drawing on sound of the late 1960s. Dunnery’s calling card has always been his underrated electric guitar playing, yet as the 14 cut Frankenstein Monster CD proves, as a vocalist and a producer, Francis is in a league of his own.

GOLDMINE RECORDS - Although she grew up in the Northeast of the U.S., singer-songwriter Diana Jones always felt something for the folk based music sound of the American Appalachia region. Diana’s musical epiphany came about after reconnecting with her grandfather, who was a guitar player that actually worked with Chet Atkins at one time. Commenting on being exposed to her early roots for the first time by her grandfather, Diana explains, ‘This ancient mountain music was completely in his blood. I suddenly came to realize, it was in mine too.’ On her 12 track 2013 CD, Museum Of Appalachia Recordings, Diana has crafted an amazing range of acoustic songs that sonically distills the isolated wonders of the American Appalachia region. From her liner notes in the CD artwork, Diana explains ‘These songs had been waiting patiently for a quiet room with old time musicians to gather to let their simplicity shine in real time. Bringing them to the Museum Of Appalachia, sanctioned by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, guardian of the recordings that had changed my musical life, was a full circle for me.’ There’s a good reason why this latest CD by Diana Jones is being heralded as one of the top Americana / folk music albums of 2013. /

HEAR NO EVIL / CHERRY RED RECORDS - Guitarist / songwriter Rob Cottingham hit a home run with his 2013 solo album Captain Blue and in late 2013 Rob returns with Oceans Of Time, a fine new album with his band Touchstone. Featuring Robb’s keyboard pyrotechnics and the vocals of group lyricist Kim “Elkie” Seviour, Touchstone is balanced out by a well rehearsed band including Adam Hodgson (guitars), Paul “Moo” Moorghen and Henry Rogers (drums). The sound of Touchstone mixes hard rock with prog-rock to great effect. The sound is very heavy with a marked contrast thanks to Ms. Seviour vocals. She sounds like a young Annie Haslam when she’s not rocking hard. Even with such a hard rock backing, Kim sounds quite cool in her role as the jewel in the crown of Touchstone. Touchstone's Oceans Of Time CD is superbly produced by John Mitchell and the artwork by Adam Hodgson is also quite intriguing. Hard rockers and proggers take note of this 21st century prog-rock classic from Touchstone. /

- Australia has always had a major impact on the development of 20th century pop and rock. One band keeping that tradition alive and well are The Saints, who strike pop-rock gold with their 2013 CD entitled King Of The Sun. At the heart of the Saints’ sound is singer-songwriter Chris Bailey, who keeps the Saints sound moving forward 30 years after the band started. A sizable cast of musicians fill in the sonic spaces. The music of The Saints is almost country rock in places but there’s also a nice kind of Split Enz like, melodic alt-rock sound in play here to give it a needed rock edge. The songs on King Of The Sun are breezy and catchy and move along at a fine clip, while the CD is filled out with a second CD—essentially a best of collection of later period Saints music—entitled Songs From The Stash. Melodic pop and rock fans will be in for a nice surprise upon hearing King Of The Sun.

- U.K. psychedelia is alive and well on False Lights, the 2013 CD from Glasgow pop band Soft Hearted Scientists. The 14 track CD borrows heavily from a mix of Pink Floyd and Roy Harper—spacy but with a more Syd Barrett / Roy inspired vocal sound. For a band that wasn’t born till the 1980s, Soft Hearted Scientists are psychedelic, but psychedelic in the way that The Kinks were were back in 1968 during the first Village Green era. The sound of SHS is centered around the songs and voices of Nathan Hall and his band including Dylan Line, Paul Jones and Michael Bailey, who are each talented multi-instrumentalists covering a wealth of sounds. Extra credit to producer / drummer Frank Naughton, who superbly tweaked the studio sound for maximum psyche-pop fun and games. 21st century pop-psychedelia is alive and well in the sound of Soft Hearted Scientists.

- Intriguing 21st century progressive rock from the Czech Republic, Jeseter may sing in a foreign language, yet there’s plenty of well crafted musicianship to appreciate along the way. Jeseter's latest album, entitled Promena (called Transformation in English) combines progressive rock with a unique kind of jazzy prog-fusion sound in the spirit of Camel and YES. Guitarist Jan Gajdica gets a very clean guitar sound while vocalist David Tobiasz adds a solid presence to the recordings. Adding to the group sound are other talented musicians, including Martin Simícek (bass), Robert Hejduk (keyboards) and Luká Krejcí (drums) No doubt, one of the reasons these guys sound so good is that in a tribute to YES, Jeseter performed a cover of “Close To The Edge”. Clearly, Jeseter have the musical chops to revive that magnum opus! Guitarist Jan Gajdica gets an excellent guitar sound and plays electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars. Speaking about some of the inspiration for the musical approach of Jeseter in his interview, Jan Gajdica explains, 'For me personally, it’s the composition that’s more important than a sound. We started the band because of “Close To The Edge”... this symphonic approach to the music is my goal.' Even with the vocals sung in Czech, international fans of prog-rock and rock fusion will be in for a rewarding sonic experience with this excellent sounding and hard rocking Jeseter album.

- With the 2013 CD release Dirty Word, the New Orleans-based Dumpstaphunk arrive with the funkiest R&B album of 2013. Featuring the vocals of Ivan Neville, Dumpstaphunk are fleshed out by some great players including Ian Neville (guitars). The musicianship of the five piece band is first rate and the funk is coming right atcha so if this is your cup of tea so to speak, you won’t find a funkier R&B rock album to groove along with. Commenting on the album, Ivan adds, ‘We always keep the spontaneity going, that’s something I love about this band. We can funk it out with the best of them, but we also like to showcase how all sorts of music can come together and push the boundaries of what funk music is.’ These guys clearly can play and overall, Dumstaphunk offer a solid blend of funk, soul, blues, rock and good old dance music grooves. Sly Stone move it on over, Dumpstaphunk has arrived.

- Part of the Magna Carta Records group, Magnatude strikes sonic gold with the succinctly titled Yep, the 2013 CD from guitarist Michael Lee Firkins. Featuring his blistering electric guitar work, Michael’s 11 track CD was recorded in Nashville and features an all-star band lineup, including keyboard legend Chuck Leavell, Andy Hess (bass) and Matt Abts (drums). With Mike’s guitar up front in the mix, Yep sounds like a long lost Allman Brothers Band album. The sound of the superbly recorded CD is accented by a blistering, hot mix and true to form, the album is being described as a hard hitting mix of “ballsy blues, shit-kickin’ rock, Cajun boogie, blues rock and country twang.’ Commenting on the CD, Firkins add, ‘What you hear is exactly how they played it. They didn’t punch in and do weird overdubs. It’s just those three guys playing together from beginning to end, together live.’ Fans of Chuck Leavell’s work with the Stones will totally dig the guitar-centric Firkins approach to barnstorming 21st century blues-rock. /

- Even today young kids still want to rock and so many do it right including singer / guitarist Tom Keifer, who strikes classic rock gold with his solo CD called The Way Life Goes. Best known as the guitarist and vocalist in the Philly based blues rock band Cinderella, Tom’s 14 track CD draws comparison to classic rock bands, from Cheap Trick to Bon Jovi and the Stones and much more. Several guest artists appear but for the most part, this is Keifer’s baby and it’s been a long time coming. Commenting on the CD, Tom explains, ‘The idea for a solo record started in the nineties when the band parted ways and we left Universal. I wrote for it for many years and the songs just kept going on the pile and I never got around to actually making a record. It’s done and we went through some crazy stuff and mixed and remixed and reworked things over and over but finally got it where we were all happy with it, so here it is.’ All in all, The Way Life Goes is Tom Keifer's rock solid musical statement filled with crunching power chords, great guitar playing and songs that fit the bill.

/ 359 MUSIC- Stateside, Music Video Distributors is working with 359 Music, a new label set up by the esteemed Alan McGee. McGee has been described as a legendary indie music mogul responsible for signing legends like Oasis to his Creation label as well as setting up the legendary Poptones label in the late 1990’s. New CD titles on 359 Music includes Blood Hot by singer-songwriterTess Parks. Tess is making music that is being described as “lo-fi alternative drones with a hypnotic vibe", alternatively described as ‘scuzzy, downbeat psychedelia.’ Commenting on her album Tess adds, ‘I was brought up on Bob Dylan, Nirvana, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Zeppelin.’ Also out on 359 / MVD is the 2013 self-titled album by Gun Club Cemetary. Gun Club Cemetary makes music that is being called good old-fashioned, down and dirty guitar bar / club music in the spirit of The Faces and The Stones. Also on 359 is the CD called Rolling Stone by Scottish singer Pete Macleod. Alan McGee adds, ‘My vision for 359 Music is a launch pad for new talent and some ignored older talent.’ Fans of 21st century alt-rock should give a listen to the venerable Alan McGee and the big plans he has for 359 Music. /

PARADOX LOST MUSIC - Film composer / and guitarist Christopher Libertino has released 3 EP CDs and in 2013 he released his first full length CD of songs. The album, entitled Traveller is described by the artist as being an art-rock travelogue. The album is moody and mysterious and his full of Libertino’s influences which clearly include Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Kate Bush and David Sylvian. If you enjoy those artists, chances are you’ll equally enjoy Libertino’s music on Traveller. Like Bowie, the Brooklyn based Libertino plays a number of instruments and the sound of the CD is expertly presented thanks to the mastering of Andy Miles. Apparently, Libertino’s specialty, in addition to his moody approach to film music, is his unique ability in creating atmospheres and textures that are often not immediately identifiable as guitars. The songs may be a touch ephemeral and atmospheric for some, but Libertino’s electric guitar work and immaculate studio sound is completely original and quite inventive. Bowie, Eno and Gabriel fans could do a lot worse than spending some time with Libertino’s progressive sounding, nocturnal emissions.

- The music of Cole Porter has remained a never ending source of tribute material for musicians of all stripes and with the 2013 CD release of So In Love: Sings And Plays Cole Porter, you can add the name Perry Beekman to the list of Porter disciples. Woodstock, NY based Beekman has jazz guitar chops aplenty and, placed among the instrumental selections are songs with Beekman taking lead vocals, all performed artfully with his trio. Hard to say who Beekman sounds like, maybe George Benson channeling Frank Sinatra? Guitarists will want to hear Sings And Plays Cole Porter for Beekman’s solid attempts at the great American songbook while Porter fans of the old New York, now long gone, will marvel at Beekman’s solid grasp of Porter’s timeless songs and lyrics.

- Roots rocker Mike Stinson returned in 2013 with what some are calling his best CD to date. Recorded in Austin, Texas, the 11 track Hell And Half Of Georgia CD was tastefully produced by veteran music man R.S. Field. With Stinson handling all the the vocals and rhythm guitars, the album also features contributions from Matt Johnson (drums), Mark Riddell (bass) and Lance Smith (lead guitar) as well as a number of other players. Stinson may be deemed country music or honky tonk by some, but, fueled by musical passion, he kicks up a sonic storm on several tracks here, most notably on the lead off track “Late For My Funeral” which sounds like Neil Young jamming with the Stones. More rock than country by a longshot, Hell And Half Of Georgia is filled with hard rocking country guitar twang at its finest.

The brainchild of Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood, the band known as Edison’s Children are back in a big way with their 2014 CD entitled The Final Breath Before November. Definitely falling into the progressive rock camp, the CD is superbly packaged and is broken down into 16 tracks, with the majority of the tracks incorporated into the massive, 13 part suite called “Silhouette”. Interestingly, The Final Breath Before November features a number of mixers, including Jakko Jaksyzk and Mike Hunter, involved in attaining the sonic perfection. The sonic vision is quite gothic in places while the CD booklet is filled with lyrics to all the tracks. Trewavas and Blackwood are both excellent guitarists, vocalists and multi-instrumentalists and they get solid support throughout by a number of musicians and sonic masters, including Henry Rogers (drums), along with special guests Steve Rothery (guitar), Mark Kelly (voice, keys), Steve Hogarth (voice) and many others. The Edison’s Children sound is dark and haunting but progressive rock fans will marvel at the high levels of sonic perfection implemented throughout the album. Edison’s Children seems to excel in this gothic brand of prog-rock and overall, The Final Breath Before November is a most welcome follow up to the band's 2011 CD In The Last Waking Moments. www.Edison’

- With song titles like “Fuck Off And Die” it’s hard to say how the band Crimson Chrysalis will be accepted in progressive rock circles. The track is actually a powerful, hook-laden prog-rocker of a song and one of the many highlights from the 2013 CD release of Crimson Passion Cry—a wide ranging and excellent album featuring the talents of Crimson Chrysalis leader and vocalist René van den Berg, who shares song writing credits with the band’s lyricist Esther Slabbert. Not only does Ms. van den Berg possess tremendous vocal skills in the spirit of Ann Wilson of the group Heart, but (after enjoying their “Fuck Off And Die” video on you tube), she’s also clearly a competent guitarist as well. In addition to Rene’s and Esther’s memorable songs, the Crimson Passion Cry album also benefits thanks to the stellar guitar and bass work of Cobus Schutte, drummer Franschois Lessing and a host of other backing vocalists—the sum total of which is brought further into focus, thanks to the ultra tight arrangements, keyboards and strings of Elben Schutte. Crimson Chrysalis come from South Africa and you can sense there’s also some unique and exotic elements in their sound. Singing in English, the band possesses the ability to attain a comprehensive global musical appeal. Crimson Chrysalis has a solid rock edge and their orchestral arrangements place them quite rightly in world of 21st century hard rock meets progressive orchestral rock.

REAL MUSIC - Sausalito, California based Real Music will make a lot of New Age music fans happy with four new CD titles from the Australian based Sacred Earth. Released by Sacred Earth on Real Music in January 2014 are four distinctive CD titles: bhaktí, Breathing Space, Inyan and The Way Home. As part of their Sacred Earth campaign, Real Music is releasing all four titles simultaneously. When you look at the CD packaging for each title, you’ll see the name Sacred Earth and just underneath you’ll also see the words “music for inner peace”. If there was ever a motto for this band and the label they are on, it’s those four words. Sacred Earth are the perfect soundtrack to your relaxation downtime, meditation or yoga experience. All four albums are somewhat similar in that they each feature performances by Jethro Williams (flutes, whistle, and guitars) and Prem Aliyah Williams (vocals, keyboards and dulcimer). Prem’s female vocals are very Enya like in the sense that the lyrics serve to color the notes of her voice. The Breathing Space album is all instrumental while the other three CD titles features a mix of meditative synth keyboards, flutes, guitars and female / male voice. Jethro’s guitar and flute sounds are well recorded and the whole sound clicks in a positive way. The Sacred Earth sound is truly enchanting and the meditative nature of the sound places this unique group clearly into the healing music genre. All four albums are quite sonically satisfying and overall, Sacred Earth are quite an asset to Real Music’s ever growing catalog of New Age magic.

ROUNDER RECORDS - Rounder is the preeminent folk and roots music label in the U.S. Rounder pays a tribute to its own legacy with the 2013 release of Three Chords And The Truth by folk / bluegrass singer / guitarist James King. King has been described as a “bluegrass storyteller” and on his 2013 CD he’s chosen to cover a number of country music classics from legends like Hank Williams, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, Waylon Jennings and more. Like most great country music albums, classic and modern, King features some great players to frame his vocals as well as featuring the backing vocals of Dudley Connell and Don Rigsby. Fans of the latest country music will be on cloud nine after hearing the latest album from James King. Also up and out on Rounder in 2013 is a new live album from music legend Allen Toussaint entitled Songbook. Toussaint was inducted into the rock hall of fame back in 1998, having previously been covered by or worked with Glen Campbell, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and others. Performed solo by Toussaint live on piano in stripped down form, these songs sound amazing and while they might not leap out at you, the all have a certain class that almost sounds like an old friend playing songs for you. For instance, who knows that Allen wrote that great doo-wop classic from 1961 called “Mother In Law”? Is there a cooler song from 1961? And he even throws in a few bars of the song here. That’s just the tip of the musical influence iceberg Toussaint brings to the fore here. Did I mention his impeccable piano chops? The album was recorded live at Joe’s Pub in NYC’s Greenwich Village before an appreciative crowd who really get what Toussaint was and is. Sounding like an R&B version of Randy Newman, Allen Toussaint, now age 75 is an American music hero and you can easily hear why on this definitive unplugged live Toussaint CD. A DVD is available on the deluxe edition.

/ PIAS - One of the best CD soundtracks of 2012 / 2013 has to be The Snowman And The Snowdog. The 12 track CD features the music of soundtrack composer Ilan Eshkeri and pop singer Andy Burrows. The music is lighthearted orchestral with a definite New Age rock underpinning. Some of the music is reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s early 1980’s sounds, at least compositionally, as it’s very symphonic too. Where did these guys come from and who is the Snowman And The Snowdog? Apparently, the music is the soundtrack for the animated movie of the same name. In addition to the great symphonic instrumental orchestral score of the soundtrack, The Snowman And The Snowdog also features some fine pop vocals presumably sung by Andy Burrows, who also has a new CD out under his own name. Symphonic progressive pop and rock fans and soundtrack buffs will love The Snowman And The Snowdog. /

- The band known as Tiles has long been a favorite in the world of progressive rock music. The group celebrates 20 years of superbly produced prog-rock music with Off The Floor, their first official live album. Even though Off The Floor is live, it’s actually a kind of best-of cut live in the studio. Coming out of the Detroit area, Tiles defines the spirit and independence of the D.I.Y. progressive hard rock sound by combining a mix of complex prog-rock, garage rock, heavy metal, a Motown pulse and even some jazzy underpinnings. Describing the Tiles sound, guitarist Chris Herin explains, "Everything is grounded in a progressive rock aesthetic; which to us means anything goes within a 'rock' format. We certainly don't claim to be breaking new ground, and we don't labor over how to change our music. It tends to morph as we change as people, develop new interests and become better musicians and songwriters." Fans of top-tier rock bands such as Rush, YES, Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult and others will enjoy Tiles. Superbly produced by Tiles and Bob Phillips and mixed by the legendary Terry Brown (Rush), Off The Floor is a solid showcase of the band’s history and features great performances from long time Tiles members Paul Rarick (lead vocals), Jeff Whittle (bass), Chris Herin (guitars) and Mark Evans (drums). Tiles fans should note that Off The Floor will soon be followed up (in early April 2014) by Off The Floor 2, a companion album (which will include a bonus disc of select tunes from the band's 2005 Tiles appearance at the "Rites Of Spring Festival".

- Pop superstars Super Furry Animals are known for their impeccably produced albums, especially their universally acclaimed album from 2007 entitled Hey! Venus and all of that album’s various b-sides. One fifth of SFA, the group’s keyboardist, guitarist and composer Cian Ciarán has a solo career and in 2013 he released They’re Nothing Without Us, which is the follow up to his 2012 debut solo release entitled Outside In. Anyone familiar with Super Furry Animals will enjoy Cian’s solo album projects. Filled with a similar kind of vibe as SFA, Cian’s solo CD’s are melodic, atmospheric masterpieces that reap sonic rewards spin after spin. One would only wonder why SFA didn’t use some of these tracks on a new album by the band. The protest song messages ingrained in the hard-hitting, guitar-centric rock energy of They’re Nothing Without Us are offset by the sheer beauty of the somewhat more melodic, keyboard based music on Outside In, although both albums are quite well done and fit into the SFA model. With Cian handling all the writing and production, both solo CD releases are well worth the time to pick up and check out, especially among long time SFA fans.

SYZYGY MUSIC - Described as symphonic hard rock meets progressive rock, the Ohio-based band known as Syzygy released a triple live 1 CD / 2 DVD set in 2013 entitled A Glorious Disturbance and it’s a must for their fans. Decked out in plush multi-disc packaging, the first DVD features 2 hours of two different Syzygy concerts from 2009 and 2010, recorded in 5.1 surround sound. The CD features 72 minutes of live Syzygy music, including new versions of classic Syzygy music, while the second DVD features an in depth interview with Syzygy guitarist and group lyricist Carl Baldassarre, in addition to a detailed look at the making of their album Realms Of Reality. Another intriguing aspect of the DVD is an interview with Syzygy vocalist Mark Boals, topped off by a band roundtable with Syzygy members Sam Giunta (keyboards), Al Rolik (bass) and Paul Mihacevich (drums), featuring lots of additional footage. Commenting on A Glorious Disturbance, guitarist Carl Baldassarre adds, ‘We feel this is the definitive perspective of Syzygy from past to present. It frames our careers to this point and clears the palette for the new music which is to come.’ For fans of Rush, Deep Purple, Kansas, Genesis and other prog-rock legends, A Glorious Disturbance by Syzygy is essential listening and viewing.

- Based around the story of a woman called Eunice “Goody” Cole, who was convicted of witchcraft in a small New England town in 1656, The Legend Of Goody Cole is the second full length album from the band known as Telergy. Headed by New Hampshire based composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung, Telergy pulls out all the stops on their second full length CD release. The focus of Telergy is on the dynamic interplay of music that draws on progressive rock, classical, jazz and world music as well. For their Legend Of Goody Cole album, McClung and Telergy have enlisted the aid of world renowned musicians such as Colin Edwin, Ryo Okumoto, Nik Turner, Joel Hoekstra, Ty Tabor, Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider and a whole lot more. The CD features a number of guest vocalists who retell the tale of the legendary Goody Cole, while McClung himself wrote all the music and lyrics while also admirably performing a variety of instruments including guitar, bass, violin and keyboards. The overall CD sound is excellent and, as you might expect from the high caliber of musicians on hand, the musicianship is first rate throughout. Without a doubt, The Legend Of Goody Cole is one of the finest prog-rock concept albums of the 21st century and is a solid choice for all prog fans looking for something truly unique sounding.

WESTERN VINYL - Western Vinyl has a winner on their hands with the 2013 CD release of My Friend Fish by the unusually named band called Diane Coffee. Very unique sounding pop meets rock, the ten track CD sounds at varying times like Velvet Underground meets The Monkees. The CD is very peculiar and is a great example of the 21st century schizoid sound of pop music. Central to Diane Coffee is the band’s multi-instrumentalist leader (and drummer with the band Foxygen) Shaun Fleming. A gifted pop pundit in his own right, Fleming has a kind of androgynous voice in the realm of Syd Barrett meets Lou Reed. Several players drop in for drum-cussion and synth / keyboard add-ons, but for the most part this is Fleming’s baby. He and Diane Coffee make a lovely couple.

- Progressive rock keeps on growing and expanding with the 2013 CD from Norway’s recent musical heroes, The Windmill. Norway is, and has always been an excellent country for music—from jazz to rock and classical—a fact that has been proven time and again especially in recent years. With The Continuation, the second album from The Windmill, that fabled Scandinavian prog-rock sound resounds big time. The Windmill’s expertise exists within the framework composite of catchy, melodic pop-rock with more complex, extended prog-rock tracks—some of which range in length from ten minutes up to 25 minutes. Some musicologists have compared The Windmill to the smooth prog-rock of Camel or even the in-depth, extended track sound of Genesis for example, but there’s also an intriguing originality in play on The Continuation. The songs of vocalist / keyboardist Jean Robert Viita are often right on target and the band’s harmony vocals add a nice touch as does the guitar work of both Erik Borgen and Stig Andre Clason. The Continuation is well recorded and the eye-popping album artwork is first rate. In fact, the whole band—also including Sam Arne Nøland (drums), Arnfinn Isaksen (bass) and Morten Clason (flute, sax)—contributes a wealth of musical colors and flavors. The best way to appreciate the sound of The Continuation is to listen uninterrupted several times to fully appreciate the vast amount of musical ideas in play here. Sonically, compositionally and conceptually, The Windmill is clearly moving in the right direction with their second full length album release.

- Certainly one of the most celebrated Dutch composers of the past 40 years, Ton Scherpenzeel released a CD in 2013 called The Lion’s Dream and it’s really great. What else would you expect from the leader of KAYAK—one of the great progressive rock bands from the European continent. Back in the early / mid 1970’s Kayak were making classic albums like Royal Bed Bouncer and The Last Encore and although Ton wasn’t having his music in Kayak readily available in the U.S. after that, he kept the illustrious band name alive and well with a wealth of Kayak releases in Holland. Ton is best known as Kayak’s composer and keyboardist yet on The Lion’s Dream he takes on the lead vocals as well while receiving backing from several musicians. The album sound is great and very clear. One thing different here is that instead of the progressive Euro-rock sound of Kayak, there’s a gothic and more celtic or medieval rock sound...did someone say funereal? If European rock was 300 years old, then Ton would be the Mozart of the 18th century. But that’s old news to Kayak’s core constituency. What’s new news is that The Lion’s Dream is a bold new step forward for the direction of the Kayak composer’s 45 year career as the leader of Holland’s most important progressive rock band. Maybe it has something to do with the death of long time Kayak drummer Pim Koopman in late November 2009, but there’s something very deeply hermetic about this new music from Ton Scherpenzeel. In addition to the all new music here, there’s also a pair of Kayak covers—”Dead Bird Flies Forever” and “Relics”—two late 1970’s classics, with Ton’s vocal taking Max’s place. There’s also an excellent prog-rock instrumental by Ton that offers another side to the album. Perhaps gone are the days of the classic Kayak lineup with Max Werner, Pim Koopman and guitarist Johan Slager but long time Kayak fans will enjoy Ton Scherpenzeel’s magnificent sounding wide screen vision on The Lion’s Dream.

/ MVD - A solid album of soulful, smooth pop-jazz, A Sunshine State Of Mind is a good introduction to The Soul Of John Black. John A. Bigham is John Black and his soulful croon gets solid support from a full band including drummer Oliver Charles. Black himself is a fine vocalist and his guitar work is quite on target too. Filled with soulful sonic sunshine, A Sunshine State Of Mind is kind of what Sly & The Family Stone should have sounded like had they kept going. Fans of Al Green’s melodic soul-pop will also enjoy Black’s soulful croon. Apparently, John wanted to keep that summer in L.A. vibe alive all year round. Good thing he isn’t living in Montana! A Sunshine State Of Mind really captures that good time feel of L.A. all year round, making The Soul Of John Black one of the hippest, coolest proponents of 21st century R&B fueled soul-pop. /

- San Francisco based Zip Records keeps their hand on the pulse of new music with the 2013 CD release of the debut album from the Amsterdam, Holland trio known as Snowapple. Centered around the vocals of three gifted singers—Fanny de Ruiter, Laurien Schreuder and Una Bergin, the Snowapple sound is kind of similar in style to the music of the sisters act The Roches. Like the Roche sisters, Snowapple harmonize beautifully together. The gals sing mostly in English but they’re not adverse to adding in some Dutch vocals on a track or two. There’s kind of a cabaret style, old European vibe in play throughout the CD. In addition to the sumptuous vocal harmonies, the Snowapple ladies play a number of instruments between them including guitars, mandolin, ukulele, violin and accordion. Snowapple’s music borders on folk, pop and cabaret / theatrical music, so there’s just about something for most pop fans on this impeccably produced Snowapple CD. Zip is also working with legendary singer Colin Blunstone on a U.S. pressing of his 2013 CD entitled On The Air Tonight. Released Stateside on Zip Records, Colin’s ten track CD was superbly produced by Jon Sweet and features a number of musicians. Also out on Zip in 2013 are new CDs by The Virtues, entitled Yesteryears and a 2013 CD by Race Car Hearts entitled Silent Momentum.


Although he’s been defined by various theistic imagery in his music, keyboardist / composer Jeff Johnson is also renowned for his excellent instrumental recordings in recent years. On the 2013 CD release of Winterfold, Jeff is joined by Brian Dunning (flutes, whistles) and Wendy Goodwin (violin). That core trio sound is rounded out on CD by Tim Ellis (guitar), Phil Baker (bass) and Mike Snyder (percussion). Clearly flourishing within a progressive Celtic instrumental realm, Winterfold tastefully accents elements of New Age and neoclassical music. As is the case with Johnson’s recorded collaborations with guitarist Phil Keaggy, (Frio Suite and WaterSky) the sound of Winterfold is also by nature reflective and meditative. On Jeff Johnson’s latest CD you can almost sense the dying of the light as the year draws into the depths of winter, at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the reflection and darkness of winter is upon us, the introspective nature of Winterfold is almost redemptive in nature. Johnson’s reverent domain rises to the fore on Winterfold and the music is almost prayer like in tone and style making the album an excellent choice for fans of radiant instrumental music.

- Best known as the guitarist for Norah Jones, Jim Campilongo has an excellent CD out in January 2014. The 12 track Dream Dictionary features a vocal track by Ms. Jones but other than that, it’s mainly a foray into the art of 21st century guitar noir magic. Jim is a veritable mainstay on the downtown NYC guitar scene, and by guitar noir I mean there’s that stark sense of NYC street smarts pulsating through the album’s grooves. Jim gets solid support from his band including Chris Morrissey and Josh Dion. Superbly produced by Andy Tommasi, the Dream Dictionary sound is quite stark at times, evoking the dark underworld of New York City glitz and glam. In Campilongo’s best guitar case scenario, less is more. Picture the stark desolation of parts of Tribeca or walking around the World Trade Center at the dawn of the 1990’s on a frigid sunny sunday winter afternoon and seeing no one in sight. Much like his new CD title, Dream Dictionary, Jim Campilongo is masterful at creating sonic hallucinations—a kind of sonic sleight of hand. As mesmerizing as the FDR drive after midnight, Dream Dictionary is the ultimate soundtrack for the guitar-noir side of New York City.

- An electrifying album of high powered instrumental jazz-rock, Shiny Metal Objects is a great introduction to the music of the six piece band called The Elec Tet. Led by drummer / producer Ben Scholz, The Elec Tet blast off into the sonic stratosphere with Shiny Metal Objects. Sure, there’s a definite jazz sensibility in play, but in the spirit of musical legends before them, including Return To Forever and Bruford with Allan Holdsworth, The Elec Tet are in fine form on this amazing CD. Ben Scholz gets great support from his sextet, here including Israeli guitar hero Oz Noy, who sparkles on several tracks here. The CD was well produced by Greg Spero, who also adds in some excellent keyboard sonics on piano and various electronic keyboards. Music fans pining for the fast and furious days of the mid to late 1970s, when the level of musicianship in the jazz-rock world was at its height, will truly appreciate and understand the complex, captivating sound of The Elec Tet. Jazz-rock fusion fans don’t miss the Elec Tet.

- The sound of fusion takes hold on the 2013 CD by The Aristocrats, entitled Culture Clash. The 9 track all instrumental CD really features some musical aristocrats of rock fusion, including Guthrie Govan (guitars), Bryan Beller (bass) and Marco Minnemann (drums, percussion). Each of these musicians has an proven track record when it comes to recording and writing jazz-rock music and they put their collective talents to good use on this CD. Above all, on Culture Clash The Aristocrats rock and rock hard. All the stops are pulled out on an album that blends, jazz, rock, heavy metal and instrumental rock. Being all instrumental, the CD sonics veer and vary all over the musical map. Produced and written by The Aristocrats, Culture Clash is essential listening for music fans who like their instrumental jazz-rock played hard and fast. Extra points for the cool and somewhat hilarious CD cover art.

- Scandinavia, especially the country of Sweden, has a rich history of progressive instrumental music going back decades. Rock, jazz, folk, classical, avant garde—you name it, it’s thrived in Sweden. One of the rising, new breed of multi-instrumentalist musician / guitarists coming up with new and intriguing ways to present the guitar in an innovative, instrumental rock/jazz setting is Swedish bred / Denmark based guitarist Samuel Hällkvist. An eclectic musician with a wide-screen musical imagination, Hällkvist cites influences such as King Crimson guitarist / stick man Trey Gunn and famed avant jazzer Ornette Coleman among his big music influences. Recording his album in Berlin, Germany, Hällkvist is center stage throughout the CD, which also features some key contributions from several musicians including drummers Morgan Ågren as well as King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto. Complete with all forms of sonic “treatments” and MIDI programming, Samuel Hällkvist’s richly varied sonic palette may be more freeform jazz as opposed to rock—but that won’t stop both jazzers and instrumental rockers from the King Crimson and Ornette Coleman camps from enjoying Samuel Hällkvist’s Return To Center.

- The 2013 CD release of Life’s A Movie by The Inventions Trio features some fine all around playing from Marvin Stamm (trumpet / flugelhorn), Bill Mays (piano) and Alisa Horn (cello). The playing is superbly orchestrated and almost comes close to note perfect instrumental chamber jazz at times. Bill Mays is the central to the group sound in some ways and his four part title track, “Life’s A Movie - 4 Cues In Search Of A Film” is a definite highlight of the CD. Released on the esteemed Chiaroscuro label, Life’s A Movie also features fine group versions of the famous Rodrigo “Concierto De Aranjuez” and “Spain”, the world famous jazz standard by Chick Corea. Also here is a three part tribute to Thelonious Monk called “Monk Tribute”. The Inventions Trio are a smooth instrumental jazz unit indeed. Classic acoustic jazz fans will love the refined approach of this group. Liner notes by Doug Ramsey go into detail about this renowned yet highly overlooked trio of gifted jazzers. Audio buffs looking for a easy on the ears instrumental mainstream jazz CD need look no further than Life’s A Movie by The Inventions Trio.

- You won't find many jazz-rock fusion bands without a front man / guitarist that sounds as cool as the group known as Kneebody. L.A. based Concord Records does a great job with the release of the fourth Kneebody album entitled The Line. The line may be drawn but Kneebody observes no musical lines or sonic borders here, instead drawing on a number of instrumental jazz and rock formats and influences including bop jazz, jazz-rock, improvisational minimalism and even neoclassical fusion. Clearly, Kneebody expertly blurs the sonic boundaries of what you think is jazz-rock and instrumental rock with the release of Line. The group has no guitars up front in the mix of The Line per se but instead the studio sound focuses on the myriad of keyboard sounds of Adam Benjamin, who is ably assisted by Shane Endsley (trumpet), Kaveh Rastegar (bass / guitar), Ben Wendel (sax) and Nate Wood (drums). Echoing the work of fusion pioneer Mark Isham, the trumpet is great way to front the band’s sound and the variety of sounds Kneebody achieve with this lineup is truly staggering. The CD packaging is excellent too, with the colorful album art featuring track by track notes by each band member. Although the band cites jazz influences such as Bill Frisell and Miles Davis, there’s really something indescribable and vital in play on the colorful and multidimensional sound of The Line.

- Recorded in Florida, Uproar is the 2013 CD from acoustic guitar masters The Cook Trio. Featuring the guitar team of Jason Cook and Ian Cook and double bass player Kyle Jones, Uproar is yet another dazzling album of instrumental Gypsy Jazz style guitar playing. Fans of Django Reinhardt and all his modern disciples will find much to like about Uproar. Django would have loved this CD which starts off on a high note with a Cook Trio Gypsy Jazz instrumental cover of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes”. The CD sound and cover art is great and there’s still plenty of great guitar action on The Cook Trio’s Uproar.

Described as ‘a journey through the night’, Nocturnes is a sublime sounding solo piano album from Oregon-bred, Washington, D.C. based Dan Chadburn. Commenting on his album, Dan adds, ‘Night has always been a special time for me. Much of my piano playing is done late at night and most of these pieces were composed at night.’ There is a somber eloquence in Chadburn’s music, almost as if these pieces were meant to be listened to at night as well. Nocturnes is Chadburn’s fourth solo album and overall it’s a fine introduction to his masterful piano work. Although Chadburn’s grand piano is front and center here, there is some light accompaniment from several other musicians on strings and English horn, while Chadburn also adds in several other keyboard like sounds. Commenting on his latest solo album, Dan further explains, 'For quite some time, several close friends had been encouraging me to create an album of music to "inspire, soothe, and heal." After the deaths of several good friends in a span of less than six months, I turned to the recording studio as a means of dealing with the loss. In its own way, spending time at the keyboard was very healing for me. Over a period of about a month, I recorded the piano improvisations which ultimately became the foundation for Nocturnes.' Fans of esteemed New Age keyboard icons like Suzanne Ciani and Spencer Brewer are advised to track down and enjoy the blissful piano sounds on Dan Chadburn’s Nocturnes.

- Fans of rock keyboard giants such as Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson will want to hear the 2013 CD by Three Monks. Newly released on the Italian record label Drycastle, The Legend Of The Holy Circle features organ maestro Paolo “Julius” Lazzeri and bassist Maurizio “Bozorius” Bozzi (aka Boz) backed up by a pair of solid rock drummers. Julius plays a soaring neo-gothic organ (accompanied by his synthesizers) and, accompanied by the depth of Maurizio’s bass registers, the sound Three Monks achieve on this latest masterpiece is not unlike walking into the mighty halls of the Sistine Chapel. That sense of instrumental prog-rock energy accompanied by the gargantuan organ sound is just what makes Three Monks such a near religious, or make that heavenly musical experience. Drycastle is a label well worth checking among fans of prog-rock and rock music. Also worth hearing on Drycastle are a number of albums by keyboardist, and Steve Hackett collaborator, Marco Lo Muscio, whose Hackett tribute CD, entitled New Horizons is yet another excellent example on Drycastle of state of the art 21st century prog instrumental in action.

- Heavy metal is a pretty aggressive guitar style. There's a lot of angst in the world and what better way to take out your anger than cranking the volume up to ten. That’s what Dallas based James Williams does on his 2012 instrumental extravaganza entitled Eclectic Shred. The ten cut album is truly eclectic in the sense that Williams is totally down with heavy metal guitar sounds in the same way as Yngwie and Steve Vai are yet, performing all the instruments including drums himself, he also has a eclectic palette of instrumental guitar styles and sounds that veers into prog and fusion guitar styles as well. Several other players emerge as sidemen on various tracks. In his liner notes, Williams rails against abortion and fascist dictator Adolph Hitler and true to form, track 5 here, “Auschwitz” is a somber metal dirge. Central to the CD is the ten minute closing track here called “Journey To Andromeda”, which travels a gamut of instrumental guitar styles, from New Age rock to space music to hard rock and back again. Worth checking out, James Williams is truly eclectic metal instrumental and he puts his chops to good use on Eclectic Shread.

- The final song on this CD (“Nocturnia Moon Goddess”) sounds like a dead ringer for The Shadows classic “Man Of Mystery” but overall this CD makes for a most enjoyable guitar instrumental album. We’re talking about Easton Island by Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods—the latest solo project from guitarist of The Cars, rock icon Elliot Easton. Going back to the late 1970’s, Easton’s work in the Cars has always been exemplary but who knew he was such a huge fan of 1960’s style instrumental guitar rock in the spirit of The Ventures, Hank Marvin and John Barry? Apparently, the instro guitar gods are indeed smiling down on Easton, who breaks all the rules and comes up a winner on a CD that finds him recording in the company of fellow guitarist Nick Walusko (he of Wondermints fame, who also adds in sitar and percussion), Chris Reccardi (bass) and Todd Jaeger (synth, keys, theremin). Several other musicians, including other members of Brian Wilson’s band cameo, adding further sonic colours to an already colorful album. Not only is this debut CD by Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods derivative of 1960’s era instro guitar music, but there’s also quite well placed accents on influences like Brian Wilson’s orch-pop approach, a dose of soundtrack flavored exotica ala Les Baxter, a slice of steamy L.A. jazz ala Wes Montgomery and beyond. After years of adding his guitar sound to great pop albums with The Cars, Elliot Easton explores the exotic side of his guitar sound with Easton Island.

- Looks like the world renowned Fantasy label has been stretching out into the world of jazz-rock fusion. Sounding influenced by Al DiMeola and Jeff Beck, the group known as Volto! are making waves in the music world with their 2013 CD Incitare. At the fore of the group sound is guitarist John Ziegler and he gets fine support from his band mates, including the rhythm section of Danny Carey (drums) and Lance Morrison (bass), joined by keyboardist Jeff Babko. The group mentions that the 9 track CD was recorded, mixed and mastered in analog, which for those of you born after 1983, means recording to tape and you can really hear a difference in the CD sound as it was very much meant to be. As the CD cover notes indicate, the compositional approach in Volto! is very much a group affair and you can

There’s an innovative form of 21st century instrumental guitar music coming through the airwaves now that breaks the rules and invents a new sound in the process. Case in point is There’s Shag On Jupiter, the 2013 CD from Field Trip. Guitarist Ryan Fleming is fairly well known in the hear the way these musicians play off and enhance each other in a complimentary way. There’s a reason Volto! ends their name with an exclamation mark and the answer is to be heard on Incitare. Boston area and, together with his band members—Graham English (keyboards), Nadjim Kebir (drums) and Tim Paul Weiner—Field Trip arrives on the scene with a sonically rewarding CD. Ryan Fleming’s guitar work is solidly inventive and he’s written some challenging music that make good use of it. Displaying a wide palate of electric guitar moves, Fleming comes across on record as a cross between Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. On this debut CD, Fleming takes the Field Trip sound way out there, adding a host of fab sounding studio effects in the mix. There’s Shag On Jupiter is superbly recorded and the CD artwork—as hilarious as it is—somehow suits the serious layers of sound. If you mixed progressive instrumental rock with a shot of jazzy Booker T. type instro R&B soul, you’d come close to the wildly eclectic sound of Field Trip. Make no mistake about it, Field Trip makes 21st century music and heads up a new generation of instrumental jazz-rockers.

- Back in the mid 1970s there was a fantastic instrumental Neoclassical, folk-music band in England called Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Led by the late great Simon Jeffes, PCO specialized in sublime, pastoral and very English acoustic music. So relaxing was their sound that they no doubt inspired a whole new generation of musicians who have attempted to carry on the work of Jeffes. In that group of musicians you can list a great new band from England called Three Cane Whale, who have just released a second album called Holts And Hovers. The Three Cane Whale sound is equally pastoral and in fact will very much appeal to fans of Jeffes and his PCO band. A three piece band produced by Rob Harbron, TCW features a trio of fine musicians including Paul Bradley, Alex Vann and Pete Judge, who between them play a wealth of instruments—from acoustic guitars, harp and zither to trumpets and harmoniums to bouzouki, lyre and concertina. If you enjoy picturesque, easy on the ears instrumental music that tastefully combines scenic folk sounds, neoclassical and even imaginary music soundtracks, you won’t find a better album than Hovers And Holts by Three Cane Whale. Also take note that this latest Three Cane Whale CD is superbly packaged and in general is impeccably recorded and produced.

- One of the best surf-jazz guitar instrumental bands in Germany, The Razorblades features the talents of guitarist Martin Schmidt, who goes by the name Rob Razorblade here, along with drummer Ralph Razorblade. With the release of Snapshots From The Underground, the sound is quite full bodied, with the guitars sounding inspired by both Jimi Hendrix and The Ventures. Track ten, “The Trail To The Big Black Nothing” sounds kind of progressive instro fusion in scope. With the majority of tracks zeroing in on Martin’s long-standing affinity for the Shadows style guitar sound, made all the more popular by countless great bands from the European continent, Snapshots From The Underground is a fine choice for fans of 1960’s style instrumental rock guitar.

- A good indication of how rock music will be played in decades and, dare I say, centuries to come, the 2013 CD release of Playing The History is fine all around set featuring pipe organ master Marco Lo Muscio, John Hackett (flutes), Steve Hackett (guitars), Carlo Matteucci (bass / guitar) and others. A true maven of progressive rock, Marco Lo Muscio has several albums to his credit including his Steve Hackett tribute CD entitled New Horizons. A fine solo artist in his own right, John Hackett and his esteemed prog-rock guitar legend brother Steve Hackett once again join forces with Marco on Playing The History. Featuring John Hackett as executive producer of the album sessions, the 17 track CD features instrumental reworkings of classics from the time-honored repertoires of ELP, Genesis, King Crimson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, George Martin, Pink Floyd along with several originals. The sonic focal point is once again on Marco’s monumental pipe organ sound along with the flute of John Hackett and the classical / electric guitars of Steve Hackett. Recorded in Rome during 2013, Playing The Classics has a very introspective and sometimes somber feel to it, bordering on funereal in places which only heightens the dramatic sound and effect of this music. Hearing George Martin’s famous instrumental track, “Theme One” featuring Marco’s huge pipe organ is a real sonic thrill and to add to the history, original Van der Graaf Generator horn legend David Jackson also appears on the track, as he did on the original Van der Graaf cover of this song back in the early 1970’s. Additionally, the CD packaging is first rate, with each track receiving a dedicated booklet page featuring full credits and eye-popping artwork. Is Playing The History the wave of the future for classic progressive rock? After experiencing Marco, John, Steve and company reworking these magical songs and arrangements, the answer is clearly yes.

- God bless the piano player who can join forces with guitarists of all persuasions and come up with an album that’s truly different and magical. Case in point is pianist / guitarist Brad Hoyt, who came to light thanks to his work with harp guitarist Gregg Miner on Gregg’s illustrious Harp Guitar Music label. Well, that same label has a new for 2013 CD out by Brad entitled Far Away From Everyday. Produced by Brad and Gregg, the 14 track all instrumental CD falls somewhere between the wide range of instrumental New Age and Americana folk-jazz. On board on Brad’s latest musical venture are a number of great musicians including guitarists galore. In addition to his piano work, Brad also plays a mean harp guitar. When we talk about harp guitar, we’re talking extended range guitars that sometimes border on 30 strings per guitar. Hence, the harp comparison. The number of musicians contributing to Far Away From Everyday is truly impressive, including those who’ve already played on albums released by Gregg’s HGM label. In addition to the amazing harp guitarists here are American jazz-rock guitar hero Phil Keaggy, harmonica wiz Howard Levy, fretless bass ace Michael Manring and of course harp guitar master Gregg Miner himself. Far Away From Everyday sounds great and offers a sublime and truly relaxing musical experience that fits in perfectly with Miner’s harp guitar philosophy. In addition to full color pics of the various artists participating, the CD booklet also features track by track notes and detailed liner notes by Brad Hoyt. As far as meditative instrumental guitar albums go, it doesn’t get much better than Far Away From Everyday by the multitalented Brad Hoyt.

Back in 2009, just after the release of One Way Ticket, by Harvey Band, guitarist and Harvey Band founder Harvey Possemato was threatening (both his neighbors and the music world) to unleash a fully blown all electric CD next time around. Well, with the 2013 CD release of Living On Six Strings, Harvey’s promise is well kept. In a word, Living On Six Strings is a solid, ten track, all-instrumental rock album that not only features Harvey’s unique, one of a kind guitar approach but also features several self-styled tributes to his guitar heroes, however surreptitious they may seem. For instance, track ten, “Tribute To George” is a slide filled, Harvey band original instrumental that George Harrison would appreciate, while the CD closing “Last Guitar Solo” is very Hendrix influenced. Throughout, the album features Harvey’s diverse guitar sounds and he even plays drums and keyboards making the tracks sound very much like a full band at times. Some tracks feature Harvey’s acoustic guitars intertwined with his electric guitars, giving the album a multi-textured, guitar-centric effect. Borrowing from jazz-rock, prog-fusion, rock instrumental, Americana folk-jazz and much more, Living On Six Strings is another wildly diverse and completely enjoyable CD from the multitalented, guitar-driven mind of Harvey Possemato and the Harvey Band.

- Back during the heyday of 1970’s prog-rock, it was unheard of but these days, the idea of a one man instrumental prog-rock orchestra is not unheard of. The age of the internet and the rise of the do-it-yourself rock orchestra has brought a new, previously unattainable level to rising 21st century artists. Case in point is Sentience by U.K. based guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Ivan Verrastro. Living and working in the U.K. rock scene, in the Birmingham / Midlands scene, Ivan’s solo debut proves he has a fertile musical imagination and impressive electric guitar skills. The nine track CD covers a wealth of moods that runs the gamut from experimental music to instrumental rock to jazz-rock fusion. Ivan cites his guitar influences such as Shawn Lane and Marty Friedman and there’s plenty of hard hitting metal prog instrumental sounds to keep your interest peaking throughout. For a self-produced project, Sentience is a most impressive debut CD from U.K. guitarist Ivan Verrastro.

- One of the rising keyboard players in 21st century jazz, Harold López-Nussa strikes a blow for quality music with the 2013 CD release of New Day. Coming out of the Cuban music scene, the 30 year old pianist / keyboardist is currently being described as one of the brightest lights on Havana’s thriving jazz scene. Related to several famous musicians in his native Cuba, Harold López-Nussa is joined by a number of fine musicians on his 2013 New Day album including Gastón Joya (double bass), Ruy Adrian López-Nussa (drums, and Harold’s dad) and Mayquel González (trumpet). Calling Harold’s music eclectic would be an understatement. Imagine a young McCoy Tyner, fueled by 21st century keyboard sounds including grand piano and an array of synth keyboards, while also infused with colorful Cuban musical sounds, and you come close to the wealth of great instrumental music on hand here. Fans of Cuban jazz and instrumental jazz piano music should pick up on the dazzling sonics in play on New Day by Harold López-Nussa.

/ ARTISTRY MUSIC - Saxophone maven Steve Cole breaks new ground for the world of 21st century jazz with his 2013 Mack Avenue Records CD entitled Pulse. The 10 track CD is filled with ultra smooth jazz instrumentals fueled by Steve’s sublime sax work. The CD features some excellent playing from Steve’s studio band and the co-production work by Steve and David Mann is first rate too. Commenting on his latest CD, Steve adds, ‘Pulse is about finding an audience and really honoring them. I have a voice and an instrument, but my job is to entertain. My work is about moving people. If you can figure out how to do that, the rest falls into place.’ For breezy, laid back jazz perfection and sparkling sax-based sonic grooves, it doesn’t get much better than Steve Cole’s Pulse.

- In the spirit of guitar masters such as Ry Cooder, Jerry Douglas, Bill Frisell, David Lindley and other fine players, Virginia-based Michael Barry-Rec strikes guitar gold with his 2014 CD, his third, entitled Continuum. Speaking of great guitarists and guitar advocates, George Winston appears on Michael’s CD along with guest appearances by JD Foster (bass), Johnny Hott (drums) and Adrian Olsen (mellotron, keyboards). In the spirit of George Winston, (both his solo albums and his guitar productions on Dancing Cat Records), Michael Barry-Rec’s music is highly atmospheric. Throughout the CD, Michael's lap steel guitar sounds and acoustic guitars break through the sonic stratosphere like a butter knife slicing through cosmic clouds at high altitudes. Filled with all manners of guitar-centric sounds, Continuum is all instrumental so there’s no words to get in the way of Barry-Rec’s sonic intentions here. Like Cooder, Frisell and Douglas, Barry-Rec’s lonesome guitar sounds echo the wide open spaces of the American heartland. Fans of instrumental Americana and guitar-centric New Age instrumental music will thoroughly enjoy Michael Barry-Rec’s Continuum CD.

MESA / BLUEMOON RECORDINGS - When you think guitar, think two words, and those two words are Tommy Emmanuel. A great guitarist and a great human being, Tommy joins forces with another guitar giant, Martin Taylor for the 2013 CD release of The Colonel & The Governor. Released in the U.S. on the legendary Mesa / Bluemoon Recordings, the 14 track studio CD features Tommy Emmanuel CGP (Certified Guitar Player) and Martin Taylor M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire) trading licks and literally forming a guitar alliance on an all new acoustic instrumental guitar album that combines a number of cover songs with a batch of originals. The concept behind The Colonel & The Governor was simple: to find songs both guitarists loved and in the process come up with arrangements that would allow them each to basically “fly their own kites”, while also having a blast in the process. Commenting on the album Tommy admits, ‘It was fun and challenging to record. It’s honest and in your face playing!’ It would be impossible to single out one track over the next here but there are splendid, sublime sounding covers of giants like Irving Berlin, George Shearing, Benny Goodman, Hoagy Carmichael and even folk singer Don McLean. Martin Taylor’s original tracks played in duo form here are quite interesting as well and demonstrate exactly why he’s considered “The Governor” of the modern day jazz guitar. All in all, The Colonel & The Governor is time well spent among jazz guitar enthusiasts. Tommy Emmanuel fans can’t go wrong with this impeccably recorded and produced instrumental CD. While we’re on the subject, Tommy Emmanuel has another interesting addition to his catalog with the 2013 CD/DVD release of Tommy Emmanuel CGP: Live And Solo In Pensacola, Florida. Recorded live in early 2013, the CD/DVD features 17 tracks of Tommy performing live, solo and acoustic. Commenting on the album Tommy adds, ‘I loved recording this show because it was intimate, raw, yet I felt like I could take my time and try to play thoughtfully... it was a night to remember!’ /

- Moonjune continues finding great instrumental music based bands from the most remote corners of the world. In the 21st century, with the advent of the internet, bands and artists are able to span the globe in a matter of seconds. Case in point is Joged Kahyangan, the 2013 CD release by Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. In 2012, Moonjune released Dewa’s album Dawai In Paradise and it’s also a fantastic instrumental album of jazzy instrumental rock fusion sounds. This time, Dewa features a number of well known artists in the studio backing him up including Larry Goldings (keyboards), Jimmy Johnson (bass) and Pete Erskine (drums). Jazzy singer Janis Siegel (of the original Manhattan Transfer) appears on the album’s only vocal track, singing and writing lyrics. Pete Erskine, of course was the drummer in world renowned fusion band Weather Report, and some tracks here sound just as adventurous as Weather Report, albeit from a guitar-centric point of view. Imagine Allan Holdsworth jamming with Weather Report and you get a good comparison. The instrumental guitar-esque music of Dewa Budjana, and specifically the sublime sounding Joged Kahyangan is most welcome addition to the world of international jazz-rock fusion.

- Chicago based trumpet master Pharez Whitted released his solo album For The People in 2013. Co-produced by Pharez and guitarist Bobby Broom, the 11 track CD is filled with a wide range of pleasing jazz instrumentals. Backing Pharez and Bobby are top players such as Eddie Bayard (sax), Ron Perrillo (keys), Dennis Carroll (bss) and Greg Artry (drums). As far as mainstream jazz in 2014 goes, it doesn’t get much better than For The People. It’s not smooth jazz but on For The People, there’s hardly a note out of place. Pharez has the golden touch on trumpet and, as the composer on this all original, all instrumental CD, he lets his band do their thing without overtly dominating the sessions. Bobby Broom is renowned both as an electric guitarist and a recording artist and, as co-producer here, he’s a willing accomplice on a CD that just sounds better with each successive spin. Jazz buffs and trumpet fans will love this CD.

RAV CON - With six albums in their discography, North Carolina-based The Man From RavCon continues onwards and upwards with their 2013 CD Skyscraper. Much like earlier releases, the 9 track Skyscraper draws upon all manners of instrumental guitar-centric rock—from prog, to New Age, to surf-rock to experimental and beyond. The brainchild behind The Man From RavCon is guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Mike Brown. Commenting on the making of the Skyscraper CD, Michael Brown tells, ‘Skyscraper is my sixth Man From RavCon release. When I started this project back in the late 2000's, I didn't really have a mission. I was in the midst of a huge DVD collecting phase and didn't really listen to pop music at all. All of these cool films were being made available affordably for the first time, and I was exposed to some fantastic music as a result. I began writing and recording stuff influenced by the most interesting work I was discovering - scores for 1960s/'70s/and '80s cult cinema - spaghetti western, blaxploitation, spy and horror films.’ Although many guitar instrumental fans continue raving about The Man From RavCon, perhaps the lynchpin to the sound is Brown’s use of mellotron, which is featured quite liberally throughout the album. Fans of Mike Pinder’s Moody Blues, Robert Fripp and even Hank Marvin and The Shadows will find much to appreciate about The Man From RavCon’s do-it-yourself, yet highly effective and well done albums. Guitar buffs and instrumental prog-rock fans should give a good listen to The Man From RavCon’s Skyscraper. www.ReverbNation/TheManFromRavcon

- Sausalito, California based Real Music will make a lot of New Age music fans happy with their four new CD titles from the Australian based musical group Sacred Earth. Released by Sacred Earth on Real Music in January 2014 are four distinctive CD titles: Bhaktí, Breathing Space, Inyan and The Way Home. As part of their Sacred Earth campaign, Real Music is releasing all four titles simultaneously so there's plenty of great sounds to pick and choose from. When you look at the CD packaging for each title, you’ll see the name Sacred Earth and just underneath you’ll also see the words “music for inner peace”. If there was ever a motto for this band and the label they are on, it’s those four words. Sacred Earth are the perfect soundtrack to your relaxation downtime, meditation experience or yoga work-out. All four albums are somewhat similar in sound in that they each feature near perfect performances by Jethro Williams (flutes, whistles, and guitars) and Prem Aliyah Williams (vocals, keyboards and dulcimer). Prem’s female vocals are very Enya like in the sense that her lyrics mainly serve mainly to color the notes of her voice. The Breathing Space album is all instrumental, while the other three Sacred Earth CD titles feature a magical mixture of meditative synth keyboards, flutes, guitars and female voice. Jethro’s occasional vocal, as well as his guitar and flute sounds are superbly recorded and the whole sound clicks in a positive way. The Sacred Earth vision is truly enchanting and the meditative nature of their sound places this unique group clearly in the forefront of the entire healing music genre. All four Sacred Earth albums are quite sonically satisfying and overall, Sacred Earth are quite a vital asset to Real Music’s ever growing catalog of New Age magic.

There’s some elegant and tasteful piano magic on the 2013 CD release of Distant Sun by Eamonn Karran. Based in Derry, Northern Ireland, Eamonn’s CD was released on the Northern California-based Real Music label. Judging by the meditative musical magic on Distant Sun, subtitled Transcendental Piano, the CD should be yet another one of Real Music’s most popular titles well into 2014. Throughout the 11 track, 56 minute Distant Sun CD, Eamonn tailors his piano magic with an added light touch of synth keyboards which expand upon the music at critical moments. Amid the Celtic style keyboard instrumental tracks, there’s even touches of Gregorian chanting and Uilleann pipes which adds some haunting sonic imagery to the mix. As far as influences go, Eamonn cites Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Yanni and Phil Coulter among the major ones. Eamonn has an interesting story in that after 25 years playing keyboards for artists and bands, in 2011, after surviving a serious car accident, he then decided to dedicate his life to playing spiritual New Age instrumental music. Eamonn describes his music as soothing music consisting of soft piano compositions and relaxing rhythmic tracks backed up by his trademark piano. Distant Sun has an element of healing magic in the mix and to bolster the fact, there’s also an abundance of celestial, New Age sonics throughout the album. As far as enlightening Celtic instrumental piano goes, it doesn’t get much better than Distant Sun by Eamonn Karran. oesn’t get much better than Distant Sun by Eamonn Karran.

REAL MUSIC - Sausalito, California based Real Music will make a lot of New Age music fans happy with four new CD titles from the Australian based Sacred Earth. Released by Sacred Earth on Real Music in January 2014 are four distinctive CD titles: bhaktí, Breathing Space, Inyan and The Way Home. As part of their Sacred Earth campaign, Real Music is releasing all four titles simultaneously. When you look at the CD packaging for each title, you’ll see the name Sacred Earth and just underneath you’ll also see the words “music for inner peace”. If there was ever a motto for this band and the label they are on, it’s those four words. Sacred Earth are the perfect soundtrack to your relaxation downtime, meditation or yoga experience. All four albums are somewhat similar in that they each feature performances by Jethro Williams (flutes, whistle, and guitars) and Prem Aliyah Williams (vocals, keyboards and dulcimer). Prem’s female vocals are very Enya like in the sense that the lyrics serve to color the notes of her voice. The Breathing Space album is all instrumental while the other three CD titles features a mix of meditative synth keyboards, flutes, guitars and female / male voice. Jethro’s guitar and flute sounds are well recorded and the whole sound clicks in a positive way. The Sacred Earth sound is truly enchanting and the meditative nature of the sound places this unique group clearly into the healing music genre. All four albums are quite sonically satisfying and overall, Sacred Earth are quite an asset to Real Music’s ever growing catalog of New Age magic.

ROLLER RECORDS - Norway’s Berdon Kirksaether is one of those rare breed of guitarists that can do it all. Earlier releases, including Ray Of Light from 2011, bordered on meditative guitar centric New Age and atmospheric rock instrumental while 2012’s Blues was straight up rock with a nod to ZZ Top / Rory Gallagher sounds with Berdon taking lead vocals. 2014’s Latenighters Under A Full Moon is another kettle of fish completely. Describing the musical mission on his latest release, Berdon explains, “It struck me one day, what if I set out to make some kind of a "concept" album, mainly in the blues/swing territory, bringing in traces of agent/surf guitar and a little bit of Tom Waits, Freddie King and some Latin, for good measure? Once I started thinking about it, it all came together real quick.” Sounding as if he's channeling the spirit of Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and Jimi Hendrix rolled into one, the 11 track album, credited to Berdon Kirksaether & The Twang Bar Kings, is an all instrumental feast of jazz/blues packed with some nice surprises. Backed up by the Twang Bar Kings, including Olaf Olsen (drums) and Stein Tumert (bass) (along with range of guest musicians), Berdon Kirksaether really swings the blues for instrumental rock. Fans of Freddie King, Ry Cooder, late 1960’s Fleetwood Mac and even Booker T. & The MG's will enjoy the soulful, bluesy guitar instrumental sounds of Latenighters Under A Full Moon.

/ PIAS - One of the best CD soundtracks of 2012 / 2013 has to be The Snowman And The Snowdog. The 12 track CD features the music of soundtrack composer Ilan Eshkeri and pop singer Andy Burrows. The music is lighthearted orchestral with a definite New Age rock underpinning. Some of the music is reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s early 1980’s sounds, at least compositionally, as it’s very symphonic too. Where did these guys come from and who is the Snowman And The Snowdog? Apparently, the music is the soundtrack for the animated movie of the same name. In addition to the great symphonic instrumental orchestral score of the soundtrack, The Snowman And The Snowdog also features some fine pop vocals presumably sung by Andy Burrows, who also has a new CD out under his own name. Symphonic progressive pop and rock fans and soundtrack buffs will love The Snowman And The Snowdog. /

TEMPORARY RESIDENCE - Although they’re best known for their unrelenting, hard-rocking instrumental guitar rock sounds, the band known as Explosions In The Sky tone down their amps for the 2013 CD release of Prince Avalanche: An Original
Motion Picture Soundtrack. A collaboration between EITS and soundtrack composer David Wingo, the 15 track Prince Avalanche CD is filled with wonderfully atmospheric instrumental vignettes that blend a seething undercurrent of phased and looped guitar sounds with a subtle form of instrumental rock and a more introspective type of 21st century chamber music that blends classical, Eno-esque ambiance and much more. The soundtrack to the film of the same name, Prince Avalanche was filmed at the scorched landscape of the state park in Bastrop, Texas. It’s hard to say what it all means (having not seen the movie!) but the Prince Avalanche soundtrack works great as a stand alone musical statement. Explosions In The Sky and David Wingo really rise to occasion on this impeccably produced and recorded soundtrack CD. Extra points for the fantastic artwork and CD packaging, which comes with a cool looking poster and a decal. Fans of Explosions In The Sky will love this cool disc.

THE LIVING - Canadian rockers The Living are raising the dead with their 2013 CD entitled The Jungle Is Dark But Full Of Diamonds. A sonically satisfying experience, The Living CD features the lead vocals, keyboards and electric guitar of Mike Bell. Mike gets excellent sonic backup from his band mates including a three piece string section, David Spidel (bass) and Samuel Cartwright (drums). The Living sound has been rightfully compared to a host of sonic influences ranging from Muse and The Mars Volta to Queen and even Mahavishnu Orchestra. To put it mildly, The Living sound is rightfully described as exotic symphonic rock. Fans of those legends should check out the Vancouver based band. Also one can only add further praises about the packaging of The Living CD. The Jungle Is Dark But Full Of Diamonds is a most opportune sonic experience start to finish. Adventurous rock and pop fans should check out the sonic highlights of The Living.

- It’s easy to make fun of this kind of music, which can be described as being something along the lines of Vince Guaraldi on speed but it’s pretty serious stuff in fact. We’re talking about Infernal Piano Plot... Hatched! by the group known as The Claudettes. Described as a ‘fanatical fusion of blues, jazz, soul, space-echo and punk energy’, The Claudettes features the barrelhouse piano sound of Johnny Iguana paired here with drummer Michael Caskey. There’s no time frame here, meaning this 13 track all instrumental set could have been recorded in 2013 or 1953. Even though the CD sound and even the packaging may border of spoof, these guys can really play. Iguana cut his teeth playing with blues man Junior Wells and touring with Otis Rush while Caskey earned credits playing with everyone from Koko Taylor to Chuck Mangione’s band. Another name mentioned while discussing this unusual CD is the name Raymond Scott, whose cosmic cartoon instrumental music from the 1950’s has even been featured in Ren & Stimpy cartoons. To quote the press release for Infernal Piano Plot... Hatched!: File under: post-burlesque? Neo vaudeville? Cosmic cartoon music? You’ve never seen an instrumental duo like this.

- World renowned jazz guitarist John Stein is no stranger to challenging musical sounds and as proof he steps out in style with his 2013 album called Emotion. A solid showcase for John Stein & The Mingotan Project, the ten track CD is filled with a blissed out array of guitar-centric Afro-Argentinian sounds, colors and various rhythms as found in Latin dance music such as tango, milongo, candombe, chacaera, samba, chamamè, huayno, lando, festejo and more. So even if you don’t know anything about those exotic sounding South American rhythms you can still enjoy John’s latest all instrumental jazz-fusion masterpiece. The CD is immensely enjoyable and from start to finish is filled with vital contributions from John’s musical collaborators—including Matias “Mingo” German (drums), Rebecca Kleinmann (flues), Evan Harlan (accordion), and John Lockwood (acoustic bass). The Emotion CD is decked out in eye-catching artwork and the CD booklet is filled with color photos of the players and is topped off with insightful liner notes by John Thomas—author of the acclaimed book Kalamazoo Gals. John Stein & the Mingotan Project is proof that by combining musical cultures musicians can arrive at a unifying sonic global vision.

WHALING CITY SOUND - Even for pre-teen kids who grew up, 50 years ago, during the Beatles years of the 1960’s, the discovery of American instrumental jazz and all its rich history really brought everything back home for so many in the mid to late 1970s. One name that was consistently being spoken of in the music world during those memorable mid to late ‘70s days was jazz bass great Ron Carter. The 1970’s was a prolific era for Carter and his legacy is at the root of Thrasher Dream Trio, the 2013 album release by Queens NYC drummer Gerry Gibbs. As it turns out Gerry’s dream of playing in a jazz trio with Ron Carter and another of his icons, jazz pianist Kenny Barron becomes a reality on Thrasher Dream Trio. Growing up a big fan of both Carter and Barron, Gerry Gibbs knows all the terrain that goes along with that swing-bop groove jazz style like the back of his hand, and the result is an album that finds Gibbs (nicknamed “Thrasher”) on the instrumental jazz equivalent of cloud nine. Among the many highlights here are very smooth and studied trio covers of “Promises, Promises” by Burt Bacharach and “The Shadow Of Your Smile” by Johnny Mandel. Amazingly one of the pages in the excellent CD booklet is filled with quotes from an array of musicians, sort of mini-reviewing the CD, and there’s also a quote from Mandel praising Gerry’s work as well. Thanks in part to his musician dad Terry Gibbs, his son, who was ten in 1974, got to meet these jazz legends at an early age so it’s more than rewarding to find Gerry Gibbs in such fine form in the studio, making state of the art 21st century jazz with two of his musical heroes.


APPLE / CAPITOL / UMe - Back in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, up to 2005, the music of The Beatles was all the rage in bootleg CD stores in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Somehow (during the above time frame) some crafty pirates in England managed to get hold of a staggering range of rare Beatles tapes including music the Fab Four recorded for the BBC. In the wake of the American record companies being “blind-sided” by the Germans and Japanese in the wake of the CD revolution of 1984, silver disc CDs of bootlegged Beatles music, studio and live, started coming out in pretty dam high quality sound from some pretty strange sources. In fact, thanks to the work of these crafty bootleggers, “The Beatles On The Beeb” was documented on at least ten CDs of the at least 275 live Beatles songs (88 songs with various renditions) recorded by the group for BBC radio in England between 1963 and ‘65. So great was the demand for these heretofore unreleased historic recordings, that Capitol Records finally released their first 69 track Beatles Live At The BBC, in 1994 and fittingly, 20 years later, Capitol released On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2. Interspersed among these “upgraded” early Beatles live on the radio tracks are some of the group’s finest early material, enhanced by the usual accompanying BBC pantomime and assorted banter from all the Fabs. In addition, these 63 On Air tracks, spread over two CDs, include an additional 30+ minutes, in four segments, of four “Pop Profile” BBC interview tracks of all four Beatles.

- Back in the 1990’s, when the CD really achieved truly groundbreaking audio status, the famous DCC label was pioneering the making of 24k gold CDs as well as following that with the SACD format which is compatible with all standard CD players. The label that used to be DCC, L.A. based Audio Fidelity does the SACD thing right with a 2014 SACD pressing of Olias Of Sunhillow by YES founder Jon Anderson. Anderson's first ever solo album, Olias was originally released on Atlantic Records back in early 1976. That Christmas of 1975 was truly magical with each member of YES releasing solo albums and last but not least was Anderson’s Olias. As ever, Jon's debut album was magical and mystical. You didn’t need to understand the words, only listen as syllables become musical mantras under Anderson's sonic spell. What was even more amazing was that the album was played by him alone, compared to first albums by the other YES members. Anderson was always a few steps ahead of the other guys anyway. Being the closest to god, Anderson was also the first YES man to get sick and be forced to have to leave the band because of that but, as he proves in his 2013 solo show, Jon still has his unique musical powers intact. A fine tribute to one of the great progressive rock albums in history, Audio Fidelity’s SACD of Olias Of Sunhillow, remasterd by Kevin Gray, is a near perfect sonic masterpiece. All the original artwork is included, but purists will want AF's CD of Olias for the ultra smooth audiophile sound quality. Many of those same sonic high marks could also be applied to Audio Fidelity’s 2014 SACD pressing of the very first album by the band America. The self-titled America album from 1971 introduced the team of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell and the late Dan Peek. One of the biggest successes ever at early 1970s FM radio, this first America album from 1971 is still influential today and Audio Fidelity takes advantage of that popularity with a fine sounding SACD mastered by AF's Mr. Ears, Steve Hoffman. Audiophiles will marvel at the smooth SACD sound of AF's America album which honors the work of the album's original engineer Ken Scott of the fabled Trident studios in London, where the album was recorded. “Horse With No Name” never sounded better than on this Audio Fidelity SACD masterpiece of sonic remastering.

/ RHINO ENTERTAINMENT - American music mogul Mo Ostin can take a bow for signing U.K. music icon Jethro Tull to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records. After two great albums on Reprise, in 1970 Tull released Benefit—an album that some still claim was their best ever. Tull's Benefit album has a rich history, the essence of which is meticulously revisited and encapsulated on a three disc set on Chrysalis / Rhino. First, the entire original U.K. version of Benefit album and every related track from that period are superbly remixed for maximum audio perfection by Steven Wilson, who has rightfully received accolades for his remix / remaster reissue CDs for King Crimson, YES and most recently his 2013 remix of Tull’s Thick As A Brick. For this 2013 reissue, Benefit has returned to the Warner / Reprise stable, especially when reconsidering / comparing it to the Capitol Records CD reissue from 2001 which was missing important tracks. That CD remaster was very good but this new remix of Benefit is probably definitive. With the original ten track U.K. studio album featured on disc one—including five bonus tracks including “Teacher”, which wasn’t on the original UK Lp version but was (thankfully and in place of “Alive And Well And Living In”) on the first U.S. Lp. A second CD on this triple threat Benefit features more “associated recordings” from late ‘69 and ‘70 including various mono / stereo versions of U.S. and U.K. single releases. The DVD here features 58 tracks in 5.1 surround sound, including the new Steven Wilson remixes of the CD as well as “flat transfers” of the original versions of both the U.S. and U.K. Lp versions of the album. Of interest here are excellent liner notes and very easy to read interviews (with actual text you can see) conducted by Martin Webb with the original Tull Benefit lineup—Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, Clive Bunker and Glen Cornick. Reading these historic, track by track interviews with these master musicians discussing a sizable slice of music history is a humbling experience for original Tull fans. After all, this dissertation of Benefit is kind of like revisiting holy grounds. Actually, the only thing missing here (that you can probably find online) are the Benefit lyrics, which for the time were truly revolutionary and illuminating at the same time. Ian even puts himself through the critical wringer as he dissects all the various Benefit era tracks that some of which, looking back, he now feels weren’t worthy of his then burgeoning genius. Even so, Wilson’s new remixes alone on the two CD’s here make this 2013 triple disc Benefit a sonic marvel of 21st century technology. As if it’s necessary considering all the hell vinyl put music lovers through in the 1970’s, there’s also a U.K. vinyl version of Wilson’s remix with a U.S. vinyl version coming as well. It's really a testament to the long standing musical magic of Jethro Tull that Benefit truly benefits from this close up look at an album that clearly changed rock music history for the better.

- Back in the 1970’s, Chrysalis Records could do no wrong. Having been the record company force behind the success of Jethro Tull, Terry Ellis and company also helped establish a number of other artists. Looking back on the heyday of the 1970’s, Chrysalis turn their attention to three acts who helped provide the sonic soundtrack to the heady days of stadium rock. One of the founding guitarists of the progressive rock scene thanks to his pioneering guitar work in Procol Harum, Robin Trower went solo at the start of the 1970s and he’s recalled once again with the 2013 Chrysalis double CD reissue of State To State: Live Across America 1974 - 1980. As Procol Harum sort of fell from prominence with the masses, Robin Trower maintained an incredibly high profile and the results can be heard on State To State, which chronicles Trower’s incredible rise to fame as he toured across America. The 24 track double CD set features tracks from a series of Trower’s American concerts from that heady mid 1970’s period. Although guitarist Alvin Lee sadly passed away earlier in 2013, he and his band Ten Years After are remembered on another 2013 double CD set on Chrysalis entitled Ten Years After - Recorded Live. Recorded on the European continent over the course of four nights during January 26-29, 1973, Recorded Live has been described as the “official Ten Years After bootleg”. The double CD set features 21 tracks, including several unreleased tracks. Although not quiet as huge as TYA and Robin Trower, the German hard rock band UFO are remembered on a double Chrysalis CD set entitled Hot ‘n’ Live - The Chrysalis Live Anthology: 1974-1983. Divided into two halves - The Michael Schenker Years: 1974 -1978 and The Paul Chapman Years: 1980 - 1983, the double CD set features 30 tracks recorded in the US and the UK back during the heyday of the 1970s and early ‘80s.

- It’s true, he hasn’t made a ton of solo albums, but Mike Pinder can take credit for starting The Moody Blues back in 1964 and guiding them straight from Top Of The Pops to top of the progressive rock world. The Moodies, with guiding light Mike Pinder at the helm, were the band that just about single handedly invented progressive rock. One of the most significant electronic keyboard pioneers of the 20th century music world, Mike turned The Beatles on to the Mellotron, an instrument he worked closely with as early as 1962. Who would have thought back in 1962 the ‘tron would go on to spearhead the entire prog-rock movement The Beatles officially initiated with “Strawberry Fields Forever” back in February 1967. Mike left England in 1974, and after living in Hawaii for a while, Mike finally settled in Los Angeles and that’s where he recorded his first solo album, The Promise, released in 1975, and after a near 20 year wait, a second album called Among The Stars in 1994. Those two albums are disc one and two in a three disc box set called The Promise / Among The Stars. The third disc in the box is actually a DVD filled to capacity with a series of Mike Pinder interviews conducted by Mike Pinder / Moody Blues aficionado Ross Mehan in 2008, June 2012, November 2012 and June 2013. The 3 disc set is tastefully packaged with a booklet featuring new liner notes by Mike, complete discography with track info, of who plays what and all the song lyrics. There’s even some Pinder post cards with the booklet back panel featuring a fine painting of Mike Pinder & The Pinder Brothers as done by the great English painter Kevin Parrish. Of note is the excellent new remastering on both The Promise and Among The Stars. Long time fans who have both original studio albums will appreciate the care given by Esoteric as to the sonic remastering. Even so, perhaps something that will be regarded as coolest thing here by Pinder-philes, are a pair of tracks featuring the band started by two of Mike’s three sons The Pinder BrothersMichael Lee Pinder (guitars, vocals), Matt Pinder (bass, vocals), who are assisted by Mike Pinder (Mellotron), Ray Thomas (flute) with the boards handled the late great Moody Blues producer Tony Clarke. The Pinder Brothers have a number of excellent songs to their credit but these particular two tracks which are segued together here—”Waves Crash” and “Empty Streets”—fit in well and kind of sound like a natural progression for the Pinder sound following Among The Stars. There’s also another bonus track here—an upbeat love song sung by Mike called “If She Came Back” that will be of interest to fans. Both Pinder Brothers tracks have been redone here with Moody Blues cofounder Ray Thomas adding in his patented flute sound. With Tony Clarke producing both Pinder Brothers tracks, also featuring Mike and Ray, this I guess is as close to an original Moody Blues reunion as you’re gonna get, unfortunately. A couple of Mike Pinder rarities may have been overlooked (Mike’s single “Shining Lights” and perhaps a track or two from Mike’s various spoken word albums for children that feature his great Mellotron and one of a kind voice.) A fine gift for fans of Mike Pinder, the 2013 Esoteric Recordings reissue of The Promise / Amongst The Stars is a sound investment for fans of the man who gave the world so much great music in his life.

- With all the fallout involving Jon Anderson leaving YES five years ago, people forgot what a great solo artist he still is. Jon also made some acclaimed albums with Vangelis Papathanassiou and their group Jon & Vangelis. Released when YES was on temporary hiatus in 1991, Page Of Life is Anderson in fully fledged New Age rock mode. Partnering with Vangelis was pretty serendipitous and, newly remastered and reissued by England’s Esoteric Records label, the album is quite a revelation. The packaging is first rate while the excellent remastering is topped off with a bonus track called “Sing With Your Eyes”. Anderson’s 1994 solo album Change We Must was also reissued in late 2013 by Esoteric. In 1994 YES was fully formed on their album Talk but, released on EMI Records at the same time, Change We Must is very much Anderson’s baby. In a similar way to which Anderson worked with sweeping orchestral strings back on the 1970 YES album Time And A Word, 1994’s Change We Must also features Anderson’s “orchestral “ vision of YES music as he calls it, with the album featuring Anderson with the London Chamber Orchestra. There’s even an orchestral version of the 90125 track “Hearts” and a version of the Jon And Vangelis track “State Of Independence”. Two bonus tracks include an audio interview with Anderson and a single version edit of the title track. Each of these CDs offers a renewed presence and a sizable reappraisal of Jon Anderson’s authentic musical vision.

/ SONY LEGACY - The amazing story of Jimi Hendrix at May 1968 Miami Pop Festival is retold in sound and vision on the 2013 CD / DVD release of Miami Pop Festival by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. What surely must have been a big deal in the north Miami area of South Florida, the MPF featured a wide range of bands including Chuck Berry, Frank Zappa and Jimi who was backed up here by original 'Experience' members Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. The year that Richard Nixon reclaimed the White House for Republicans, 1968 was truly a year of turmoil in America. The wildly psychedelic sound of The Jimi Hendrix Experience became the soundtrack for America in the first half of 1968. The CD mostly features tried and true versions of songs from the band’s 1967 debut but the inclusion of “Tax Free”, written by the late great Bo Hansson, demonstrates why that instrumental was one of Jimi’s favorite live numbers. Don’t tell me Hendrix didn’t have Swedish blood in him! The CD packaging for Miami Pop Festival is uniformly excellent and includes insightful liner notes by Bob Santelli, who notes that day, that Eddie Kramer was on board as sound engineer. The CD sounds great and is a filling tribute to the timeless Hendrix legacy.

- The French have always loved American culture—specifically jazz and movies (think Jerry Lewis) but that in and of itself doesn’t stop one of the best French record labels from from paying homage to the great American pop culture of the 1950s and ‘60s. That tribute this time comes in the form of a three CD set called Road Songs. Subtitled Car Tune Classics 1942-1962, the 3 CD set features timeless songs, from younger and more innocent times, centered around America’s seemingly endless fascination with the combustion engine and car songs made famous by great American artists (and others) like Chuck Berry, Nelson Riddle, Lowell Fulsom, Bo Diddley, Nat King Cole, Howlin’ Wolf, Duane Eddy, Ray Charles, Vince Taylor, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Billy Strange & Speedy West, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg and a whole lot more. Of course the standards are there—four different versions of “Route 66” (by the original artists) with nearly every other song associated with American car culture dating back to the 1940s. Fremeux has done a great job compiling their 66 track Road Songs album. Featuring the original artists performing their original tracks, the CD is superbly mastered and the eye-popping CD set features an in depth 28 page CD booklet, with detailed discography information plus liner notes in French and English written by musicologist Bruno Blum. A fitting tribute to the heyday of American car culture and the music the went along with it all, Road Songs spans the history of rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, pop and a whole lot more of the best road songs ever cut to vinyl.

- In a year that saw YES nominated to the rock hall of fame for the first time, Steve Howe also released his 2013 solo album entitled Homebrew 5. After a couple spins, Steve’s fans and YES fans will say, ‘what’s not to like” as just about every track here features Steve’s patented guitar-centric approach to crafty instrumental music. Like his other Homebrew albums, 5 features track by track liner notes that chronicles and revisits tracks that Steve wrote for YES, Asia and solo projects. The CD is mostly instrumental but there’s a couple vocal tracks including track eight, “Hiding From The Sun”, which was later transformed into a co-written composition with John Wetton and that ended up on the Asia Omega album. Another impressive thing about Homebrew 5 is the nine demo tracks recorded at the studios of Howe collaborator Paul Sutin and that eventually ended up on Steve’s Spectrum CD. Although the CD liner notes say these demo tracks were recorded in 2008, the Spectrum album (on Inside Out Music) was actually released in 2005, so it would be nice to clear that up! Either way, Hombrew 5 is yet another solo CD masterpiece compilation from Steve Howe and is an album most worthy to be in record collections of long time YES fans.

- Back in 1969, progressive rock legend YES set out to pioneer the entire progressive rock genre by signing with Atlantic Records. The string of full length albums released by YES on Atlantic between 1969 and 1987 is the stuff of history and you can relive that entire history with the 2013 box set release of YES: The Studio Albums 1969 - 1987. Instead of picking and choosing tracks and getting all artsy on you, Rhino has actually taken all 12 YES albums released during those years and reissued the entire collection—the 12 complete studio albums in their original album jackets—in a dozen mini-LP style album covers housing the CDs. Even with the bare bones packaging and poster that accompanies this latest YES box set, where else could you get the 12 YES albums on Atlantic for a reasonable price? Included in the new YES box set are: Yes (1969), Time And A Word (1970), The Yes Album (1971), Fragile (1972), Close To The Edge (1972), Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973), Relayer (1975), Going For The One (1977), Tormato (1978), Drama (1980), 90125 (1983) and Big Generator (1987). Each CD, packaged in a mini-replication of the original album cover / artwork, features the same mastering and bonus tracks as the acclaimed 2003 YES remasters on Rhino but the album packaging only reflects the original LP cover art and not the remastered versions with the bonus tracks / information. Even without touting that fact on each CD cover, the box set does include all the original tracks on all the albums plus the 62 bonus featured on all the albums combined. Even without all the detailed information describing the rich history behind each YES album, the bonus cuts plus the CD sound of each album is excellent. Overall, YES: The Studio Albums is a great choice for diehard YES fans as well as being a suitable way for the newcomer to the YES experience to fully capture and appreciate (under one roof) all the wondrous stories of the band’s first 20 years of greatness.

- Based in Germany, Shadoks Music continues to unearth and reissue rare masters on CD. Up and out on Shadoks in 2013 is a rare, self-titled album from American rock band Farm, whose album from 1971 has continued to be of interest to world wide music fans and collectors. A combination of instrumental rock with some tracks featuring vocals, the Farm sound has been compared to The Allman Brothers, Canned Heat and even Santana in places. Fans of ZZ Top will also enjoy this long out of print boogie rock classic. Shadoks' Farm album combines a crunchy beat with dual guitar driven numbers to help make it an all around winner for rock fans to enjoy once again. Also reissued on Shadoks in 2013 is a rarely heard, self-titled album from Danish rockers The Old Man & The Sea. Released in 1972 on the Sonet label, the group’s album has been called one of the best underground rock albums from Scandinavia. With their extensive back catalog, Shadoks obviously has their finger on the pulse of some rare reissue music from around the world, and they tastefully package their CD reissues with top remastering and detailed attention to album packaging and extensive liner notes.

SUNDAZED - Described as “an essential purchase for 1960’s surf completists”, Breakthrough is a timely, 20 track CD retrospective showcasing the talents of Adrian And The Sunsets. High energy, drum-driven rock ‘n’ roll, the sound of Adrian And The Sunsets was primal teenage rock and roll with a slice of instrumental surf-flavored sounds that echoed then popular band like Dick Dale and The Ventures. There’s plenty of cover songs here, including Adrian’s instro versions of “Pipeline” and “Wipe Out” yet there’s also vocal covers of Richie Valens’ “Donna” and there’s even some drums only tracks featuring the talents of band leader Adrian Lloyd. The first twelve tracks on the CD are the actual Breakthrough album, from the summer of 1963, while the CD adds in eight bonus cuts. The Breakthrough CD is superbly mastered, demonstrating the uncluttered approach of many surf-rock bands, both vocal and instrumental, of the era. A fond look back at the entire history of Adrian And The Sunsets is highlighted in the eight pages of liner notes written by surf-rock musicologist John Blair, while the colorful CD packaging is also first rate. 1960’s completists may also want to invest in the 180 gram “swirly” vinyl release.

- The legacy of The Mamas & The Papas is furthered on a pair of 2013 CD reissues released by Sundazed. Sundazed was one of the first CD reissue labels from back in the late 1980’s and Bob Irwin remains one of the top label guys / musicologists in the US today. Bob’s Sundazed label has done a great job with the second and third studio albums by The Mamas & Papas—the self-titled The Mamas & The Papas (1966 mono mix) and Deliver (1967 stereo mix). Reissued by Sundazed on CD and black vinyl Lp, the CDs look and sound great. Each CD features appealing wallet style packaging with each disc packed in inner sleeves, which is a nice trend for collectors. Both CDs feature in depth liner notes by Scott Schinder about the band during that magic era in early rock history. The various mixes on each CD yields impressive results, making these two 2013 releases by America’s most popular singing group of the 1960s well worth the time for collectors. Also reissued on CD (and vinyl) in 2013 by Sundazed is a mono mix of Safe As Milk—the 1967 debut album by Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band. Legendary in the music world, and a one time collaborator with Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart’s band on this debut was stellar too, with Ry Cooder on guitar. Sundazed’s 2013 reissue of this Captain Beefheart classic features the rarely heard mono mix of the album and both the CD and Lp features new liner notes by David Fricke.

TALKING ELEPHANT - Following their 2012 CD release of Change Of Address, Talking Elephant goes deep with a 2013 CD release of Life In The Jungle—the 1982 studio album from The Shadows. Following the tragic destruction of the Beatles with the December 1980 assassination of John Lennon, at the dawn of the 1980’s many pop fans found sonic solace in the retro tinged and highly underrated sound of Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett—3 brilliant musicians who formed the core lineup of The Shadows since 1963. 1980 was also the year that found the Shads label hopping from EMI to Polydor. To its credit, Polydor did a great job with all the great Shadows albums from 1980 to 1990, the final decade they recorded new music together. What more could be said about Life In The Jungle? Brilliant album that featured everything great about guitar legend Hank B. Marvin and the Shads with the addition of the great Cliff Hall (keys) and long time Shads bassist Alan Jones. A batch of ten memorable instrumentals and two superb vocal tracks, all mixed up together, gave Life In The Jungle its long lasting appeal. The title track “Life In The Jungle” is one of the best originals The Shadows recorded during the 1980 to ‘84 period—a haunting and completely authentic melody harking back to orchestral prog-instro classics from the 1960s, heightened with synthesized effects that signaled the quickened pace of life of 1982. Shadow-ized covers of classic music from Dimitri Tiomkin, Leiber-Stoller, Vangelis and unknown composer Martin Jenner were great but even better were the Marvin-Welch-Bennett originals. The CD sound of this Talking Elephant reissue is very good and even surpasses the original CD that came out on Polydor in the early 1990s. No liner notes but the bonus tracks addition of two rare singles only tracks from the same early 1980s period seals the deal on this classic Shadows reissue CD.

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