Record Label
and Music Spotlight









33 JAZZ RECORDS – As he proves on his 2016 CD, The Bopped And The Bopless, London-based pianist Benet McLean is a most unusual artist and composer. An outstanding pianist, composer-arranger and vocalist, Benet really comes alive on his 2016 release for the 33 Jazz label. The album mixes both original and covers, most notably a stirring cover of “I Waited For You” co-written by jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie. The album features Benet’s vocals and piano backed up by key players such as Jonathan Harvey (bass), Saleem Raman (drums), David Gamble (percussion), a full horn section and more. With hardly a note out of place, even the most ardent jazz fan will have to admit that Benet McLean’s album The Bopped And The Bopless is one of the most original sounding and most adventurous jazz vocal albums of 2016.

– Brazilian music label AAM is making fans happy with the release of Carolina by Brazilian chanteuse Carol Saboya. With many of the songs performed in her native Portuguese, the sound of Carolina is breezy and sultry. Ms. Saboya has a solid band of players behind her, including album producer Antonio Adolfo (piano), Rafael Barata (drums) and Leo Amuedo (guitars) and the sound is quintessentially Brazilian in both feel and sound. Kicking off the album with a cover of “Passarim” (“Little Bird”) by Jobim, the ten track CD also features a highlighted cover of the Beatles classic “Hello Goodbye” that really adds a breezy Brazilian touch to it as does a cover of Sting’s “Fragile”, the latter two both sang in English. Carol Saboya keeps the spirit of jazzy Brazilian pop alive and well on Carolina.

– Based in New Jersey, the progressive rock band called Advent recently released their 3rd CD called Silent Sentinel. The 79 minute album is a splendid testimony to Advent’s sweeping progressive rock vision. Mixing a variety of inspirations, the band recalls various prog legends such as early 1980s YES, early 1970s Gentle Giant and much more. The band’s core features Alan Benjamin (guitars), Henry Ptak (keys), Mark Ptak (keys), Greg Katona (second guitar), Joe D’Andrea (drums) and Brian Mooney (bass). The Silent Sentinel CD is superbly recorded and the packaging includes all the lyrics to the music which was mostly written by Henry Ptak with the exception of several instrumentals written by guitarists Alan Benjamin and Greg Katona. The CD closes out with a mighty twelve minute instrumental called “Romanitas” that was written by Henry Ptak, so as far as progressive music goes, there’s plenty of variety throughout the album. With the 2015 CD release of Advent’s Silent Sentinel, the spirit of U.K. progressive rock is alive and well and living in New Jersey. Progressive rock fans lucky enough to hear this album will take notice of the impressive sonic vision of Advent.

AXON-NEURON MUSIC – A fine new band from the heartland of America, Axon-Neuron is making waves with their 2016 album Metamorphosis. The double CD set clocks in at over a hundred minutes but it hardly wears out its welcome. Spearheaded by the music and lyrics of guitarist Jeremey Poparad, Metamorphosis draws on instrumental rock and progressive rock and the six piece band really comes up with some novel musical ideas. The sound is somewhere between Mahavishnu Orchestra, California rockers Blue Shift and late 1970s progressive U.K. rockers National Health, with singer Barbara Gaskin. The key signatures boggle the mind yet there’s also a hefty dose of solid rock energy involved in this third Axon-Neuron album. The band’s main composer and guitarist, Poparad is ably assisted throughout by his band including Ryan McDermott (six string electric guitar), Amanda Rankin (vocals), Steven Miller (keys) and Dylan Gomez (drums, percussion). Sounding more like an English prog-rock band from the late 1970s, who would believe these guys are from Ohio in 2016? Either way, progressive rock fans looking for a spectacular new find in 21st century music should give a listen to Metamorphosis by Axon-Neuron.

BELLA UNION – Rhode Island prog-rockers Arc Iris are making sonic waves touring the world with their 2016 CD Moon Saloon. 21st century pop-rock at its most daring and inventive, the band centers around lead vocalist Jocie Adams (guitars, keys), Zachary Tenorio-Miller (keys, samples) and Ray Belli (drums), backed up by other guest artists. The sound mixes progressive rock touches with a harder edged sound that benefits from excellent studio mixing by David Wrench. Taking the center spotlight with her effective voice and stage presence, Ms. Adams makes for a fine front person. With lyrical influences from the retro-sounds of Dylan and Leonard Cohen, as well as Bowie influenced 21st century artists such as Radiohead and Bjork, Arc Iris brings their music to the final frontier of 21st century sounds with Moon Saloon.

BLUE CASTLE RECORDS – A founding member of British invasion favorites The Hollies and Crosby Stills & Nash, Graham Nash returned in 2016 with a new studio album called This Path Tonight. Recorded in L.A., the album is one of Graham’s best studio albums and maybe his finest since his first Songs For Beginners, from way back in 1971. It’s been a while since he released Songs For Beginners yet This Path Tonight has Graham’s musical trademark sounds all over it. Assisting him on this 2016 CD release is Shane Fontayne, the guitarist that also co-wrote and produced the album. The beauty of the album is that it truly encapsulates all of Graham’s sounds and styles—from folk-based pop to a full-blown progressive rock edge that evokes his work in CSN&Y. A number of musicians appear, including keyboardist Patrick Warren and drummer Jay Bellerose and other fine players, yet it’s the songs that will keep you coming back for more. At age 74, rock legend Graham Nash has turned in his finest solo album yet with This Path Tonight.

BLUE IRIS MUSIC – The English have always had a great reverence for American Broadway shows and tin pan alley songs. That spirit of mixing American cabaret and pop with English reverence can be appreciated on On A Clear Day, the 2016 CD by Steve Rushton’s Rare Orchid Featuring Louise Cookman. Taking its title and lead off track from the Alan Jay Lerner classic and a renowned 1965 movie theme song, On A Clear Day also features covers of Charlie Chaplin, Jim Morrison, Alan Jay Lerner, Irving Caeser and much more. The coolest thing is that the album is recorded in a great sounding 1960s era UK pop style with much emphasis on the word swinging. Great musicians abound, including Steve Rushton and his drumming and vibes and Ms. Cookman is the perfect foil to mix and match the cool, jazzy, ‘60s pop style and sounds. Recorded in London and on Long Island in New York, the fourteen track CD also mixes in a couple instrumentals that shines a light on Rushton’s impressive drumming / band leading duties. The best here includes a swing vocal version of “Tea For Two” (the Irving Caeser song) and a uptempo cover of “Moonlight Drive”, the first Doors song credited solely to Jim Morrison. ‘60s pop fans, jazz fans and broadway / cabaret fans will want to hear Steve Rushton’s Rare Orchid.

BMG – Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson worked so well with music producer Joe Thomas on the 1998 Imagination album so it’s cool to see Joe listed as producer / director of the 2016 CD/DVD release of Brian Wilson And Friends. Expertly filmed and recorded, Brian Wilson And Friends was captured live at The Venetian Theater in Las Vegas. The CD features 19 tracks and the DVD features 24 cuts with 2 additional videos presented as bonus tracks. Several tracks are exclusive to each disc and not repeated on the CD and DVD but overall, the sound and spectacle on the CD and DVD makes for an excellent chance to catch Brian’s latest musical presentations. Besides a smattering of the biggest Beach Boys hits—and several unexpected classics—Brian Wilson And Friends features Brian with a solid backing back, including long time Beach Boys member Al Jardine as well as Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar from the mid 1970s Beach Boys lineup. Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko from The Wondermints are here as are a number of great session players. Highlights are many including Brian’s great SMiLE era smash “Heroes And Villains”, several instrumental tracks featuring Brian with New Age horn man Mark Isham as well as many of the guest vocalists who appeared on Brian’s 2015 solo album No Pier Pressure. Liner notes by Kingsley Abbott puts the entire event into timely perspective, making the CD + DVD of Brian Wilson And Friends one of the best live in concert releases of 2016.

CHERRY RED RECORDS / ESQUIRE MUSIC RECORDS Back in the late 1980s, circa 1987, before many artists even had a CD out, singer-songwriter Nikki Squire released the first album with her band Esquire. Featuring Nikki’s songs and lead vocals, the self-titled Esquire album also featured supporting roles by her then husband, YES cofounder, the late Chris Squire, drummer Alan White and Nikki’s long time musical collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Nigel McLaren. Years flew by and Nikki and Chris parted yet Nikki and Nigel kept at it and released a second Esquire album, Coming Home in 1997. Now, almost 20 years after Coming Home, Nikki and Nigel are back in the spotlight with the long awaited third Esquire album called No Spare Planet. The good news is the nine-track album is a bona fide masterpiece of inventive and meticulously recorded progressive rock music brimming with fresh original tracks written and played by Nikki and Nigel. The bad news is that Nigel unexpectedly passed away in June 2015, just after the album was recorded but not mixed. How tragic is it that Chris Squire also died that month. So in 2015, Nikki lost both her original muse and her co-creator in Esquire. As Nikki says in the following interview, recorded on November 27, 2016, Nikki completed No Spare Planet as a music tribute to her best friend, the late Nigel McLaren. Although underrated for 30 years, Nikki Squire always had one of the great voices and, as this 2016 Esquire album proves, her song writing is also still in peak form. Prog-rock fans and YES fans will bask in the glow of No Spare Planet.

DOMINO RECORDS – Just because some of us are getting a bit older doesn’t mean we can’t at least try to enjoy a range of younger artists creating unique sounds in 2016. Case in point is the NYC group called Blood Orange, led by singer-songwriter Devonté Hynes. On the 2016 CD release of Blood Orange, Devonté is joined by a range of sultry sounding female vocalists, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Nellie Furtado, Zuri Marley and Bryndon Cook, and the net result is a stunning and pleasurable mix of modern soul, R&B and hip-hop grooves. There’s no lyrics included but the booklet is fascinating to look at with page after page of unusual artwork and pics. Devonté himself plays piano, bass, synths, drums and drum machines and recording with a number of vocalists the music is quite fresh and even alluring to listen to. Mixing vintage soul sounds with a modern mix of big beats and high tech wizardry, Blood Orange will leave your head spinning but mark my words, you’ll be back for more.

DOONE RECORDS – New York based rock band IZZ made music fans quite happy with their 2015 album Everlasting Instant and they’re bound to make those same fans happy with a 2016 CD release entitled Ampersand Volume 2. The 12 cut CD comes in a simple cardboard sleeve yet the music is quite effective and represents the progressive rock spirit of Izz. In a way, Ampersand Volume 2 is a collection of rarity tracks that have been left off official Izz studio albums to which the band says on their current press release,“Ampersand Volume 2 is the perfect vehicle for these songs because, until now, they have been orphans. Just as the tracks on the first volume of Ampersand did not find a home on any previous IZZ album, these songs have been biding their time, waiting for the moment. Now they have it.” IZZ fans who enjoyed 2015’s Everlasting Instant and the 2016 CD solo release The Witness, by Izz guitarist Paul Bremner will find much great music on Ampersand, Volume 2. IZZ represents the spirit of 21st century American progressive rock.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – One of the definite highlights of 2016 was the March 25th, 2016 concert event by The Rolling Stones in Havana Cuba. Who would have thought that 50 years after their heyday, the Stones would be so popular in Cuba? But there they were, on stage performing a wide range of hits, misses and some new stuff too. Captured on film by film director Paul Dugdale, the 2016 CD/DVD release of Havana Moon features the Stones in Havana, Cuba putting on a free live concert, not too coincidentally the same week, President Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, were in really fine form that night and the show really demonstrates just how well the Stones have aged, considering these guys are now in their mid 70s. Kicking off with “Jumping Jack Flash”, the two hour DVD and double CD set features 18 Stones classics with a heavy accent on their mid to late ‘60s hits like “Paint It Black”, “Satisfaction”, “Sympathy For The Devil” and more. A definite highlight, especially on the DVD is a version of “Out Of Control”, a lesser known 1988 Stones song from Bridges To Babylon that is truly mind-boggling. The CD/DVD booklet is filled with color pics from that night in Havana along with liner notes by Jonathan Watts. One would have hoped for “19th Nervous Breakdown”, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” or “Mother’s Little Helper” but “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”—another song, one of several from 1969’s Let It Bleed, is featured here. /

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT -– The first three studio albums from California rock legend Santana were major milestones in rock music history so fans were blown away when the original Santana band reformed in 2016 for Santana IV. The studio album, Santana IV has given way to a new 3-disc set called Santana IV: Live At The House Of Blues. Just prior to the studio album release, Carlos Santana and company took to the stage at the Las Vegas HOB and the results can be fully enjoyed on Eagle’s 2 CD / 1 DVD Santana set, recorded and filmed live in on March 21st 2016. This current Santana lineup features Carlos in the company of keyboard / vocal legend Gregg Rolie, Santana 3 guitar ace Neil Schon, drummer Mike Shrieve and other great players. The DVD is expertly filmed and really captures the excitement of this stellar band, while the two live CDs feature all the music on the DVD. With this much music history on the table, the music is mostly a mix of the first three Santana albums with a cross-section of the 2016 Santana IV studio album. There’s 45 years of other Santana lineups missing in between but as Santana IV Live At The House Of Blues proves, the original Santana band is still a vital musical force to be reckoned with.

ESP-DISK – The 2016 double CD set by the NYC band called The Delegation, called Evergreen {Cancelled World} is quite meticulously arranged and recorded and it’s a fantastic trip into the land of totally new music. Featuring the talents of Gabriel Zucker, the album features a number of musicians, horns, strings and more, and overall Evergreen (Cancelled World) comes across as a kind of hybrid, 21st century neoclassical avant-garde instrumental extravaganza. It’s hard to know where the avant-garde element ends and the free form jazz element begins but that’s what makes The Delegation so surprising and much fun. Zucker himself is quite adept as a composer and a bandleader and he acquits himself admirably on a range of instruments including piano and all forms of electronics. Of note are the female vocalists, including Lorena del Mar, that adds in an additional element of surprise. Recorded in 2014 and 2015, The Delegation’s Evergreen (Cancelled World) is a most adventurous trip into the realms of paranormal 21st century jazz.

JESSE JOHN MUSIC – When Ian Hunter burst on the rock scene with the first Mott The Hoople album back in 1969, it was a great moment in music history. That golden summer of ’69 comes back into focus with the 2016 solo album by Ian called Fingers Crossed. Credited to Ian Hunter & The Rant Band, the ten-track CD has all the hallmarks of a great rock album. The CD features Ian in the studio backed up by excellent players, including guitarists James Mastro and Mark Bosch, drummer Steve Holley and more. Recorded in New Jersey, and co-produced by Ian and Andy York, the CD also features a booklet with complete lyrics and musician credits. Critics and fans are raving about Ian’s tribute track called “Dandy”, dedicated to the late great Bowie, who fell from grace in January 2016. At 77, Ian Hunter may be an elder statesman of rock, yet as Finger’s Crossed proves, he still has that kick-ass attitude that made Mott The Hoople such a timeless rock power all those years ago.

MEDIEVAL RECORDS – The group Lyrian takes you back to the days of Olde England with their 2016 CD called The Jester’s Quest In The City Of Glass. Sounding influenced by Rick Wakeman and the whole mythological era of old England, the CD mixes narration and vocals with often soaring progressive rock vibes that echo Wakeman and even some of early Genesis or King Crimson’s pre-prog, folkier side. Anyone remember Fruup? At the heart of Lyrian are the songs of Paul W. Nash (keyboards, vocals) and John Blake (guitars, vocals) backed up by the rhythm section of Edgar Wilde (drums) and Alison Felstead (bass, vocals). Much of Lyrian’s music mixes progressive rock with wild, story book type lyrics that makes for quite entertaining fare. The lyrics book puts the songs into interesting perspective and the entire album is excellently recorded. A number of the tracks stretch out nicely to around ten minutes making Lyrian an entertaining choice for fans of 21st century progressive rock.

MOSHI MOSHI RECORDS – On her 2016 album Varmints, Scotland-based composer keyboardist Anna Meredith strikes a blow for unique musicality. Some of the tracks contain your standard post-punk rock vocal tracks but the majority of the songs on the eleven track CD are hair-raising instrumentals that sound like Wendy Carlos playing in a rock band. Backed up by Gemma Kost (cello), Jack Ross (guitar, vocals) and Sam Wilson (drums, xylophone, vocals), Ms. Meredith’s music is truly original and inspiring to say the least. As a vocalist, the classically trained Ms. Meredith does have some redeeming qualities but the instrumental tracks really help to separate her from the pack. From the opening bursts of the lead off track, “Nautilus”, it’s clear the keyboard-friendly sounds of Varmints is quite a sonic revelation. /

MUTE – Mute is one of the most adventurous rock record labels in the world and they live up to their reputation with the 2016 CD release of Delirium Tremens, by pop protagonist Mick Harvey. This is actually the third in a series of tribute albums by Harvey in praise of the music by the late, French pop legend Serge Gainsbourg—the first two being released during the 1990s. With his popularity renewed during the mid 1990’s Exotica music revival, Gainsbourg’s French “chansons” music has over time gained a true legendary status among generation X-ers who missed him first time around. On the 12 track Delirium Tremens Harvey really rocks up Gainsbourg’s atmospheric, stately and melodic French language originals, pairing it with English translations and solid rock rhythms that feature him backed up by a number of musos including J.P. Shilo (guitars), several drummers and much more. If you’ve never heard Gainsbourg’s French pop music before, listening to Mick Harvey do these new rock versions, is quite a unique way to go. The sound is superbly recorded and Harvey keeps the melodies in focus while doubling down on his hard rocking visions that also blend elements of Velvet Underground and even early ‘70s Bowie into the the mix. The music may say Gainsbourg, but the sound and vision of Delirium Tremens is pure Mick Harvey.

– The spirit of country-rock is alive and well on the 2016 CD release of Young In All The Wrong Ways by singer-songwriter Sara Watkins. Featuring her fiddle playing, songs and vocals Young In All The Wrong Ways features a number of well-known musicians including Jay Bellerose (drums) and Benmont Tench (keys) along with lesser known players including guitarist Gabe Witcher (guitars). With such a stellar band in tow, the main stars of the album are Sara’s memorable tracks. Witcher’s guitar skills are equally enhanced by his admirable production chores which gives Young In All The Wrong Ways a most solid shine. Young In All The Wrong Ways is a fab introduction to the country-pop sound of Sara Watkins.

NONESUCH RECORDS – The 2016 CD by the NYC band Lake Street Dive was released on the famous Nonesuch Records. I almost had to do a double take, as Nonesuch is famous for their avant-garde and neoclassical jazz albums and Lake Street Dive are possibly the first R&B, dance music band signed by the label. The good news is that LSD’s album Side Pony is fueled by an upbeat, catchy R&B groove that just won't stop. The 12 track CD features a range of slick sounding dance music tracks composed by a number of composers and the band features excellent female vocals by Rachael Price and Bridget Kearney with other songs written by band members Michael Calabrese (drums) and guitarist Mike Olson, composer of the outstanding track “Spectacular Failure”. Recorded in Nashville, and produced by Dave Cobb, Lake Street Dive takes 21st century soul-pop music into new and interesting territory with the irrepressible groove of Side Pony.

PARTISAN RECORDS – Brooklyn-based Partisan has a 2016 CD called Ambulance, out by Swedish prog-rock band The Amazing. At their best they sound somewhat like late 1970s Pink Floyd circa Animals. The Gothenberg-based band features guitarist Reine Fiske from the band Dungen and contains a number of positive musical vibes. The vocal arrangements are excellent but the most amazing thing is the impeccable recording quality and subsequent mastering that gives the CD a splendid uniformity of sound that is most impressive. Gothic pop that mixes in liberal doses of progressive rock, on Ambulance, The Amazing takes the modern day recording art-form to amazing places.

PERHAPS CONTRAPTION MUSIC – The U.K. based entourage known as Perhaps Contraption released an ultra strange album in early 2016 called Mud Belief. The 12 track CD features a wild mix of avant gard rock music layered with extended instrumental bits and pieces that truly boggles the musical imagination. At the core of this wild ensemble is the oddly named Squier Squier (guitars, vocals, flute) and Jinny Hinge (vocals, sax, violin) and both get backing from a full band including percussion and a full horn section. The album is quite disconcerting to first behold yet with repeat plays the music really springs alive with a wild assortment of sound that fits more into avant garde jazz-rock fusion than rock or jazz alone. Hard to find a hit single here but track 4, “Draining Refrain” is a cool little track with swirling medieval sounds. Also, the CD is quite appealingly packaged with ultra bizarre cover art that fits the music to a tee. Perhaps Contraption takes avant gard rock in some mighty strange directions with the fascinating sound of Mud Belief.

REBEKAH EDEN MUSIC – New Age vocal music makes a comeback with the 2016 CD release of Rowing In Eden, by singer-songwriter Rebekah Eden. Ms. Eden’s music has been called Celtic, classical and New Age and she blends them all together for a most unusual and delightful blend of stately pop on Rowing In Eden. While most of the music tracks here are originals, sometimes with poems by famous authors, put to music, Ms. Eden doesn’t forget her pop roots with a New Age version of “Ramble On”, making this song a rare New Age tribute to Led Zeppelin—featuring backing by a full symphony orchestra. Featuring Ms. Eden’s vocals and piano, the album showcases contributions by numerous musicians including guitarist Thad DeBrock and sound designer Harvey Jones. All in all, Rowing In Eden is a most pleasant sonic surprise by New Age chanteuse Rebekah Eden.

RIDGE RECORDS – Released in 2016 by Ridge Records The Story is a solid introduction to the music of Scottish pop-rock band Runrig. Hard to believe the band goes all the way back to the early 1970s but there’s no denying their expertise. Featuring the songs of band leaders / brothers, Rory Macdonald (guitars) and Calum Macdonald (drums), the sound of The Story sounds influenced by another brother band called Dire Straights. There’s just enough folkloristic bent in their music to give it a folk edge but these guys can rock out with the best when they want to. The six piece Runrig also features solid production from producer / engineer and keyboardist Brian Hurren and the guitar work of Malcolm Jones, who joined Runrig back in 1978. Also of note is the excellent album packaging which features the CD encased in a hard cover book. Recorded in Glasgow and mastered in Tennessee, Runrig’s 2016 album The Story is modern day folk-rock at its finest.

SETH MUSIC – L.A. based Seth Swirsky isn’t that well known but his 2016 CD, Circles And Squares goes the distance to increase his standing in the pop world. Swirsky is an interesting character in that he wasn’t yet born during the ‘60s Beatles era yet he’s able to retain that sense of Beatle-esque wonder in his catchy pop tracks. Backed up by no one, thanks to the incredible studio advances, he’s able to track himself on most instruments, including some well wrought Byrd’s sounding twangy guitar ala some lush sounding twelve string electric. Add in some guest friends like Probyn Gregrory (trumpet) and Nelson Bragg (drums on “Table”) and mix in the best elements of McCartney with Tom Petty and you come up with the distinctly catchy, chiming retro pop groove of Seth’s Circles And Squares.

SHOOGLE RECORDS – In 2014, featured a CD called Menagerie, by Scottish singer-songwriter Kaela Rowan. Now in 2016, Kaela is back with The Fruited Thorn. Once again produced by Kaela and her long time associate James Mackintosh, the eleven track CD features a stellar mix of Scottish folk and pop mixed up with Scottish and English lyrics. As on Menagerie, the music on the 2016 CD release of The Fruited Thorn is a fantastic showcase for Kaela’s mastery of Scottish, Gaelic and Irish music. The production by Kaela and James Mackintosh is sublime to say the least. Even those who can’t speak the ancient tongues and lyrics of this album will marvel at Kaela’s musical mastery and overall, The Fruited Thorn is an album to play and replay. Kaela and Mackintosh—along with Ewan Macpherson—form the core musicians along with added contributions from a number of players adding in folkloristic instruments like Uilean pipes, whistles, fiddles, cello, harmonium and more. Those music fans who enjoyed Donovan’s great folk-centric albums in the 1960s will enjoy Kaela Rowan and her 2016 album, The Fruited Thorn.

SUMMIT RECORDS – Brazilian jazz doesn’t get any better than the 2016 CD release of Brasil L.I.K.E. by The Ron Carter Quartet & Vitoria Malonado. Legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter and his quartet form a fine platform for Ms. Maldonado’s effective Brazilian vocals. Featuring Brazilian jazz interpretations, sung in English, of jazz standards written by the Gershwin brothers, Jobim, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, the 13 track CD is offset by several Brazilian vocal tracks and also a set-closing track written by Carter and Ms. Maldonado. Perhaps the kicker here is the addition of the sumptuous strings of Ruria Duprat’s Brasilian Orchestra conducted perfectly by Brasil L.I.K.E. producer Ruria Duprat. Brasil L.I.K.E. is a timeless album of sultry Brazilian jazz featuring Ron Carter and singer Vitoria Maldonado. Another singer recently receiving accolades for her vocals is Cheryl Bentyne and her 2016 Summit Records album, called Lost Love Songs. Ms. Bentyne wasn’t a founding member of Manhattan Transfer but her 1979 entrance into that fabled band is legendary. Her 2016 Summit CD Lost Love Songs is actually a compilation of music recorded and released on three different albums released in Japan—The Lights Still Burn (2003), Moonlight Serenade (2003) and Songs Of Our Time (2011). Spread over the course of twelve tracks, the Lost Love Songs CD features some of the great jazz players of the times including Grant Geissman (guitars), Van Dyke Parks (accordion), Corey Allen (piano) and many more. With each of these excellent albums featuring singers Vitoria Maldonado and Cheryl Bentyne, Summit has their fingers on the pulse of 21st century vocal jazz.

SUPER TINY RECORDS – Supporting singer – songwriter Suzanne Vega on her October 2016 UK tour, English folk-rock band called My Girl The River released This Ain’t No Fairytale. Mixing folk rock and roots rock Americana will strike a chord among country rock fans. Kris Wilkinson Hughes sounds inspired by Joni Mitchell and Lucinda Williams. The CD features fine singing and writing by Ms. Hughes and she gets solid backing from a full band including Joe Hughes (bass, vocals), Will Kimbrough (electric guitars, mandolin) and much more including her viola and string arrangements.

TALITRES – Released on some obscure French label, They Moved In Shadow All Together is a fabulous album by California-based singer-songwriter Emily Jane White. With her songs, vocals, keyboards, and guitar supported by Shawn Alpay (cello, bass) and Nik Ott (drums), the album achieves a rare sonic level of sophistication of atmospheric pop. For some reason, her music sounds more like European cabaret pop ala mid ‘80s Anna Domino yet there’s also a semisolid psychedelic aura that permeates the sonic setting. On They Moved In Shadow All Together, Emily Jane White’s songs and vocals are truly memorable and the CD packaging with the photography and lyrics make the CD quite eventful.

TAPETE RECORDS – Germany-based Tapete released Cosmonaut, the 13th album out by U.K. music legends The Monochrome Set. The ten cut CD is a kind of masterpiece of post-punk rock filled with yearning and burning songs of angst and lust. Long time members, lead singer Bid and Andy Warren are rare form throughout, the band rocks up a storm and there’s plenty of wild instruments like Theremins and mellotron flutes to further capture your imagination. There’s hardly a genre of music that goes untouched on this remarkable album. With the band’s legacy going back to the late 1970s, The Monochrome Set continue releasing fascinating rock albums and you can put Cosmonaut straight up into the mix.

VERY RECORDS – Synth pop was huge in the 1980s and it makes a kind of comeback on Buchla And Singing, the 2016 CD by Reed & Caroline. Featuring the vocals of singer Caroline Schutz and synthesis Reed Hays, the 13 track CD includes several remix tracks. Recorded on a device called the Buchla Electric Music Box, ( - the owner Don Buchla actually died in 2016), the music is quite experimental and exploratory but Ms. Schutz has a very appealing, synth-friendly voice and the album is well recorded. It is mainly available as a download but there is a CD available. With track titles like “Electrons”, “Harmonic Generator” and “Henry The Worm”, the album will be much applauded by synth music fans as well and electronica / dance music enthusiasts.

– Sounding influenced by the airy spacial-ness of Neil Young and even more proggy alt rock guitar manipulations of Thurston Moore and Sonny Sharock, the Chicago-based band called Health & Beauty released No Scare in 2016. Lead guitarist Brian J. Sulpizio also takes the lead vocal spotlight with the aid of Ben Boye (keys) and Frank Rosaly (drums). Several guitarists, including pedal steeler Matt Schneider also appear, as does female vocalist Gillian Lisee and the sonic manipulation of Dan Wyche. The album is well recorded and well presented on CD with tasteful packaging and lyrics booklet. Fans of eclectic music makers like Neil Young and Sean Lennon will take to Health & Beauty.

WISE DOG RECORDS – U.K. based singer-songwriter Hattie Briggs is turning heads with her 2016 CD called Young Runaway. The eleven track CD features Ms. Briggs in the studio with backing from a full band. The album is a tasteful mix of pop and Nashville style country-rock. Produced by Peter Waterman, the album also features solid contributions from a number of players including guitarists Jack Cookson and Henry Fraser with pedal steeler Matt Park and fine drumming by Stuart Lawson. It’s all very light and breezy and fans of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell will get a positive charge from the U.K. flavored country twang of Hattie Briggs and Young Runaway.

YEP ROC – Even in 2016 people still crave quality pop and proof of that can be located on Look Park, the 2016 debut self-titled CD by the band of the same name. That wistful Traveling Wilburys period of the late 1980s created by George Harrison and Jeff Lynne for Warner / Reprise legend Mo Ostin gave rise to a lushly recorded brand of Americana pop and with that in mind, it’s worth noting that Look Park has created a well-honed pop testament worthy of mention. These guys aren’t exactly newcomers as the core of the band features Chris Collingwood from pop protagonists Fountains Of Wayne, on guitars and esteemed album producer and keyboardist Mitchell Froom, topped off by the tight rhythm section of Davey Faragher (bass) and Michael Urbano (bass). Froom’s production of the Look Park album is first rate and, for this memorable set, Collingwood has penned a series of pop tracks truly worthy of the repeat button.

ZOLTAN RECORDS – Cabaret / pop singer Florence Joelle turned heads around with her 2012 Florence Joelle’s Kiss Of Fire and in 2016 she’s back again with a ten track album of new music called Life Is Beautiful If You Let It. Florence once again makes some cool musical moves with her retro lounge pop groove and she’s got a great band backing her up here. As Sylvie Simmons says in her liner notes, Florence is hardly a newcomer to the pop / cabaret music scene. In fact, the title of the album was a quote that cabaret singer Jimmy Scott used to tell her and when Jimmy passed away in 2014, Florence wrote the title track for him. Sylvie adds that Life If Beautiful, If You Let It is Ms. Joelle’s jazziest album yet in the spirit of great bluesy jazz singers like Billy Holiday and Eartha Kitt. With seven originals, sung in English and three covers, sung in her native French, Florence Joelle’s Life If Beautiful, If You Let It is a sublime musical feast by a true original of today’s jazz vocal scene.


4AD – One of the most adventurous recording companies on the planet, 4AD released a 2016 CD soundtrack album from Walker Brothers founder Scott Walker. The 18 track, 31 minute album, Childhood Of A Leader is an intriguing instrumental music soundtrack to a movie that was also released this year. In fact, Childhood Of A Leader is as far from the 1960s pop sound of The Walker Brothers as you can get. Filled with swirling string arrangements that leads to dizzying Bernard Herman type climaxes, the album is a fitting look at instrumental music in the 21st century. Gone are the radio friendly pop hooks of the 1960s and in place is a world of fear and loathing that translates well to Walker’s symphonic soundtrack visions. Recorded in London and co-produced by Peter Walsh, Childhood Of A Leader is not the kind of album pop oldies fans might want or expect from the pop star that sang “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” 50 years ago. But let’s face it, everything’s different now and Scott Walker would probably be the first one to tell you so.

A1A AUDIO PRODUCTIONS – Florida is a peninsula surrounded by water so it’s surprising there aren’t more surf-rock bands in the Sunshine State but Dawn Patrol might just change all of that. With a penchant for 1960s surf-rock classics, Dawn Patrol’s 2016 CD Boogie Board is filled with eleven guitar-based instro tracks that fans have known and loved for decades. Live, Dawn Patrol must go down gangbusters, especially with their driving covers of The Ventures, Henry Mancini, John Barry, Del Shannon, Joe Meek and PF Sloan. The P.F. Sloan / Steve Barri ‘60s anthem, “Secret Agent Man” closes out a fun ride of surf-rock classics by Dawn Patrol. Surf-rock fans will admire Dawn Patrol’s Boogie Board CD.

ADVENT MUSIC – Based in New Jersey, the progressive rock band called Advent recently released their 3rd CD called Silent Sentinel. The 79 minute album is a splendid testimony to Advent’s sweeping progressive rock vision. Mixing a variety of inspirations, the band recalls various prog legends such as early 1980s YES, early 1970s Gentle Giant and much more. The band’s core features Alan Benjamin (guitars), Henry Ptak (keys), Mark Ptak (keys), Greg Katona (second guitar), Joe D’Andrea (drums) and Brian Mooney (bass). The Silent Sentinel CD is superbly recorded and the packaging includes all the lyrics to the music which was mostly written by Henry Ptak with the exception of several instrumentals written by guitarists Alan Benjamin and Greg Katona. The CD closes out with a mighty twelve minute instrumental called “Romanitas” that was written by Henry Ptak, so as far as progressive music goes, there’s plenty of variety throughout the album. With the 2015 CD release of Advent’s Silent Sentinel, the spirit of U.K. progressive rock is alive and well and living in New Jersey. Progressive rock fans lucky enough to hear this album will take notice of the impressive sonic vision of Advent.

ALFI RECORDS – Australia-based jazz guitarist Albare released Dreamtime in 2016. Made for fans of 1960s movie / television soundtracks, Dreamtime covers a wide selection of movie themes, like The Magnificent Seven, Exodus, The Good The Bad And The Ugly and many more. There’s even a cover that nearly closes the album of the theme from Schindler’s List, to bring the movie covers idea more into a current focus. The key to the album is Albare’s swinging jazzy interpretations of these well known songs that owes more to smooth guitar-based jazz than to orchestral sounds or even instrumental rock versions. A number of musicians back Albare as well as a complete string orchestra. In Albare’s hands these songs are paid due respect, making Dreamtime a good choice when it comes to the topic of smooth jazz and instrumental movie soundtracks.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS – Under the A&R auspices of the great Don Was, Blue Note continues releasing great sounding 21st century jazz albums and you can add Shift by sax master and composer Logan Richardson to that list. Richardson has assembled a fine band on Shift, which also features guitar icon Pat Metheny, Jason Moran (piano) and the rhythm section of Nasheet Raghavan (drums) and Harash Raghavan (drums). With a number of earlier album releases to his name already, Shift is Richardson’s first Blue Note album. The sound is sure-footed and superbly recorded making Shift one of the most auspicious Blue Note best jazz albums of the year.

– One of the great living jazz legends, sax / flute pioneer Charles Lloyd rose to fame in the 1960s. Although not in the same level as say John Coltrane, Lloyd became involved with the TM movement and went on to play on Surf’s Up by The Beach Boys. A highlight of the first Beach Boys concert at Carnegie Hall in 1971 was Lloyd’s flute fantasies accompanying on “Feel Flows”, which he also did on the album Surf’s Up. Of course, Carl Wilson and the others appeared on Lloyds’s Waves album. So much has changed in 45 years but Lloyd released a great album of new music in 2016 called I Long To See You. Kicking off with a haunting instro cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War”, the CD quickly changes gears and the spacy, jazzy sound that Lloyd is best known for is rampant throughout the ten track CD, which closes out with a 16+ minute track called “Barche Lamsel”. Overall, I Long To See You is very much steeped in Americana Jazz and as such, breaks new ground for 21st century jazz. On I Long To See You, Lloyd has assembled a fine band featuring ace guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel favorite Greg Leisz, along with Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). The mostly instrumental set features a pair of vocal cuts that showcase Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, with the latter evoking heartfelt sentiments on a cover of “You Are So Beautiful”, written by the late Billy Preston. There’s hardly a note out of step here. Fans of Charles Lloyd and his impeccable discography will totally enjoy I Long To See You. /

BOMBORA RECORDS – Long time guitarist in Australia’s surf-rock legends The Atlantics, Martin Cilia keeps making great solo albums and in 2016 he released a five track EP called Sleep Walk, featuring his remake of the 1959 Santo & Johnny classic, along with four other originals including a rare cover of “Surf Explosion” by Michael Simic. Also recent by Martin Cilia is his 2015 surf-rock Christmas album called Electric Christmas. Featuring Martin on guitars, bass and keys, the album also features drums and percussion by Bill Kezelos. The 14 track all instrumental CD kicks off with “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and goes on to cover many Yuletide classics as well as including three Cilia originals, including the humorously titled “Christmas In July” and fine original called “Christmas Stomp”. With these two latest releases, Martin Cilia demonstrates why he is still considered one of Australia’s great guitar heroes.

CUNEIFORM RECORDS Barry Cleveland was the editor with Guitar Player magazine for years as well as a recording artist who debuted way back in the late 1980s. Barry returned in 2016 with a new CD called MU featuring French guitarist Richard Pinhas along with Michael Manring (bass) and Celso Alberti (percussion). Musically, the album is quite an extensive affair, featuring four extended tracks with one clocking in at 25+ minutes. Back in the day, Pinhas was a master of the shock and awe sound of French experimental music with his 1970s band Heldon and MU borrows from quite a bit of that classic late '70s sound. Listened to on the whole, Mu is quite harrowing and very experimental sounding. Produced, recorded and mixed by Barry Cleveland in his Northern California studios, Mu is an intriguing foray into the sonic netherworlds of 21st century art-rock meets ambient, electronic and avant-garde jazz.

DAN CHADBURN MUSIC Virginia-based piano virtuoso Dan Chadburn has really enlightened music fans with his great instrumental albums over the past decadeincluding his masterpiece from 2015, Keys Of Light. Looking back on his interesting career as a New Age-based, modern classical piano tastemaker, Dan released Beyond Words, a 2016 collection of newly recorded piano instrumentals that he composed over the past 30 years. Calling Chadburn's music reflective would be an understatement, as each track on Beyond Words is filled with haunting reveries that translate moods perfectly to these grand piano visions. Speaking about Beyond Words, Dan tells, "This past winter, I sat down with my husband and longtime musical partner, Tom Nichols, and we talked about the idea of recording an acoustic solo piano album; unplugged, if you will. Aside from Whispers The Falling Snow, my 2013 holiday release, it had been nearly twenty years since we recorded and released Solo Piano, my only other all-piano album. Each of my other albums has included orchestration such as strings, horns, flutes, and woodwinds. We both liked the idea of me “returning to my roots” as a solo pianist." The 14 track Beyond Words is a fitting title to describe Dan’s music on an album that uses instrumental music to shine an emotional light on the joys and sorrows that follow each of us. Case in point is track six, “Tears Of Angels”, which was composed in memory of those murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Florida on June 12, 2016all this musical emotion by an artist who can so skillfully entertain you with his piano magic. Performed entirely by Dan on acoustic piano, Beyond Words is solo piano music at its finest.

DAVID FELDMAN MUSIC – Pianist / composer and producer David Feldman came to the attention of through his production and keyboard playing on the 2016 album by Guilherme Dias Gomes. Likewise, Feldman’s own album, Horizonte is a masterpiece of Brazilian instrumental jazz. Influenced by the great Brazilian jazz legends of the past, the ten track Horizonte combines Feldman originals with the addition of covers written by Oscar Castro Neves and Brazil’s guitar icon Toninho Horta—the latter adding his nylon string guitars to a pair of tracks here. Even though the music is very much rooted in Brazilian jazz, several of the tracks, such as track 2, “Melancolia”, sounds influenced by Bach, albeit in a jazzy context. André Vasconcellos (acoustic bass) and Marcio Bahia (drums) form the core of the sound here. Fans of Brazilian jazz and piano-centric instrumental jazz will find much to applaud about the elegant jazz sounds on David Feldman’s Horizonte.

DESTINY RECORDS – Flying under the radar for way too long, guitarist Cameron Mizell might not yet be a household word, yet he will please many music fans with Negative Spaces. There’s hardly anything negative about his music and on his fifth album he joins forces with Kenneth Salters (drums) and Brad Whiteley. With his positively brilliant Negative Spaces, the 36 year old Brooklyn-based Mizell is shaping up to become one of the driving forces of the electric guitar in the early 21st century. Mizell excels in combining improvisational music with a sturdier type of progressive jazz-rock sound to which he adds, “The idea with a lot of improvised music is to see how far out you can get. But with this album I wanted to rein it in, create singable melodies and allow room for music to happen around them.” Instrumental fusion music can get pretty out there but on Negative Spaces guitarist Cameron Mizell has found a near perfect balance and there’s nowhere to go but up for his promising guitar craft.

DRAG CITY / BLUE CHOPSTICKS – Flying under the radar for too long, and with a dozen albums out under his own name and/or collaborative efforts, U.K. guitarist David Grubbs returns in 2016 with a six track EP called Primrose. A duo outing features Grubbs on electric guitar and Eli Keszler (drums, percussion), Primrose is an album of experimental, minimalist guitar instrumentals that never wears out its welcome. Although mostly eschewing melodies and time signatures, Primrose makes a great soundtrack or backing for some atmospheric story. Primrose also features a track written for avant garde experimentalist Tony Conrad, who worked with the German group Faust in the 1970s. Fans of Faust and other recent guitar explorers Explosions In The Sky would do well to check out David Grubbs and his Primrose album. David Grubbs and his 2016 album Primrose takes the electric guitar in some very sonically intriguing directions.

EPITONES MUSIC – Dr. Stuart Cosgrove, is the band leader / composer of England's 21st century instrumental rockers The Epitones. With Hank Marvin semidetached and living in Australia and the Shadows 25+ years out of their prime, Dr. Cosgrove honors the greatness of The Shadows with a 2016 CD called Eclectric Guitars, featuring all new material—mostly cover versions of songs well known to fans of U.K. pop and world wide rock instrumentals as well as a heaping helping of virtually unknown songs, including rarely heard music written by Tony Hatch, Tom Springfield, Beth Hart, Richard Hawley, Brian Setzer, Rogers & Hart and loads more. The 19 track CD is accompanied by a second CD featuring the same songs minus lead guitar—making the album kind of a music-minus-one learning assignment for training guitarists looking for some good playing fun. On Eclectric Guitars, the Epitones band solidly backs Dr. Cosgrove’s effective lead guitar work as he leads the band through some very scenic musical destinations. email:

GROOVE DAWG RECORDS – Guitarist Duffy King released his album Acoustically Speaking in 2016. The album has a great look and feel and the sound quality is first rate. Blending a range of Flamenco / Jazz fusion and acoustic guitar sounds, the eight track CD speaks the language of guitar. By blending some Flamenco, a taste of Brazilian jazz, percussive fretboard tapping and fast rhythm flat picking influences from Tommy Emmanuel and beyond, the CD creates a varied acoustic guitar palate. Duffy is equally at home flying solo although the CD also features key backing by a range of bass players and drummers. Solo or with a band sound, Duffy King sounds most impressive on Acoustically Speaking.

/ MGL MUSIK PRODUCTION – Gypsy jazz guitar fans will want to pick up Guitar Heroes by Joscho Stephan. Released in 2016 on the Inakustik label in Germany, the 16 track CD features Joscho in the studio with real guitar heroes, including Tommy Emmanuel as well as Bireli Lagrene and Stochelo Rosenberg. Each of these guitarists brings a lot to the table with their excellent soloing, but at the center of it all is Joscho’s mighty Gypsy Jazz guitar work. Also featuring other musicians on rhythm guitar, double bass and percussion, there’s plenty of swinging jazzy grooves to please the most stringent Gypsy Jazz fan. Joscho and Stochelo also composed a number of tracks here and there’s also a range of well known covers of pop and jazz classics penned by Django Reinhardt, George Harrison (“Something”), Billy Roberts (“Hey Joe”), Bobby Womack (“Breezin”), Luiz Bonfa (“Black Orpheus”), Benny Goodman & Charlie Christian, Carlos Santana and more. Joscho impresses both with his originals and his choice of covers makes Guitar Heroes is a splendid choice for most guitar fans of Gypsy Jazz and even classical guitar too.

JELLYMOULD JAZZ – Danish born / London based jazz guitar Kristian Borring brings his sound to the fore with the 2016 CD release of Silent Storm. The album features Borring’s guitar backed by Arthur Lea (piano), Mick Coady (double bass) and Jon Scott (drums). The album features a mix of Scandinavian style fusion with the right melodic accents merged with a more American style jazz ethic. Must be the Nordic connection but some of the songs accent the groove of Finnish jazz bass legend Pekka Pohjola and there’s even a track here called “Everyman”; funny that Pohjola’s 1983 album of the same name was a Nordic masterpiece. Although he died in Novembe 2008, Pekka would have liked Borring’s guitar-centric jazz ethic. That place where true jazz meets 21st century art-jazz, is where you’ll find Kristian Borring and company.

JUNGLE STRUT MUSIC – Guitarist Andrea Balestra released his album Painting On Silence back in 2013 and in 2016 he returned with a four cut CD called Lucid Dreams. Even with just 4 tracks, the CD is a good indication of Balestra’s mastery of the jazz-rock and fusion guitar sound. Balestra’s guitar sound mixes funk, jazz and rock and the results are often entertaining. With a pair of new originals, the CD ep features a range of players including drummer Alejandra Arellano and guest vocalist Tiffany Lantello on a funky, upbeat version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime”. Demonstrating Balestra's knowledge of jazz, the CD closes out with a instro cover of Jerome Kern’s jazz chestnut “All The Things You Are”. Fans of Balestra’s jazzy grooves will find much to like about his short, but sweet Lucid Dreams CD.

KEVIN KERN MUSIC – Long revered for his many fine New Age albums, including his 2014 album Always Near, Kevin Kern returned in 2016 with When I Remember. On the 12 track, 59 minute CD, Kern departs New Age for a more subtle album of solo piano music that evokes his fondness for masters like Mozart, Gershwin, Ellington and even Italian soundtrack king Ennio Morricone. It’s not to say, fans of Kern's more overtly New Age music won’t like When I Remember, yet the cosmopolitan and jazzy solo piano sounds might just open him up to a whole new market of music lovers. Kern’s liner notes are quite revealing, with the composer adding, ‘In composing the pieces for this collection, I wanted to reach back to my roots and draw on the richly diverse influences that played such an important part in guiding the development of my musical voice.’ Long time Kevin Kern fans and anyone who enjoys superbly recorded solo piano music will derive much musical enjoyment from When I Remember.

LEW TABACKIN MUSIC – American jazz legend Lew Tabackin worked with jazz icons such as Maynard Ferguson and Donald Byrd as well as working for many years with Japanese pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. Tabackin’s sax and flute work remains in peak form on his 2015 CD Soundscapes with The Lew Tabackin Trio. Featuring Lew backed up in the studio by Boris Kozlov (double bass) and Mark Taylor (drums), the sound of the eight cut Soundscapes is very much in free-form jazz with the accent on Lew’s highly improvised sax and flute work. Commenting on the free-flowing, spontaneity of musical ideas on the Soundscapes album in his liner notes Lew states, “Most of the tunes require little explanation; I was just trying to retain some of the more traditional jazz values in an open, communicative way. Not much was preset.” At 76, Lew Tabackin is no youngster although we’re all getting older, no doubt about it. That said, Soundscapes has plenty of jazz fire running throughout its grooves, enough to prove that Lew Tabackin has plenty of worthy musical ideas left inside him.

MOONJUNE RECORDS – NYC based Moonjune continues their reputation as a global music force with Pasar Klewer - a 2016 double CD set by Indonesian pianist / composer Dwiki Dharmawan. A mix of Indo-jazz and contemporary jazz-rock instrumentals, the double CD set features Dwiki’s pianos and keyboards backed up by fine musicians including guitarists Mark Wingfield and Nicolas Meier, as well as Yaron Stavi (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums) and much more. Several guest vocalists appear, including female vocalist Peni Candra Rini, notably on disc 2, track 1 “Lir llir” while also featuring two covers penned by Robert Wyatt. Pasar Klewer is filled with an intriguing mix of instrumental jazz-rock fusion and 21st century bop jazz from keyboard ace Dwiki Dharmawan.

MOSHI MOSHI RECORDS – On her 2016 album Varmints, Scotland-based composer keyboardist Anna Meredith strikes a blow for unique musicality. Some of the tracks contain your standard post-punk rock vocal tracks but the majority of the songs on the eleven track CD are hair-raising instrumentals that sound like Wendy Carlos playing in a rock band. Backed up by Gemma Kost (cello), Jack Ross (guitar, vocals) and Sam Wilson (drums, xylophone, vocals), Ms. Meredith’s music is truly original and inspiring to say the least. As a vocalist, the classically trained Ms. Meredith does have some redeeming qualities but the instrumental tracks really help to separate her from the pack. From the opening bursts of the lead off track, “Nautilus”, it’s clear the keyboard-friendly sounds of Varmints is quite a sonic revelation. /

– San Francisco Bay area electric guitar icon Carl Weingarten has taken the guitar to some strange and beautiful places these past 30+ years but none more strange or beautiful than on his 2016 CD, An Endless Premonition. On An Endless Premonition, Weingarten’s guitar is wonderfully captured on CD and the mastering by Myles Boisen is most impressive. Paired with Michael Manring on two tracks, on the 54 minute, five part An Endless Premonition, Weingarten paints some truly metaphysical and sonically-induced guitar soundscapes in a futuristic sounding setting. Speaking about his new CD, Carl tells, 'My intention was to explore a new direction, at least from my last few releases. I had been thinking about a solo electric guitar project for a few years, but I’d been reluctant as there are so many artists using loop pedals now. I didn’t want to approach a project like this until I was confident I had something new to say. The title is a reference to the call and response going on within the music. Every note I play echoes back as an orchestration, rather than a clone of the original phrase. I respond to that and the music just keeps developing.'
Some sonic references might be to Eno’s famous work Apollo, with guitarist Dan Lanois—especially as Carl's latest CD features his lonesome sounding guitar wailing in the cosmos. A renowned photographer and a legendary guitar innovator / composer, Carl Weingarten presents five fascinating sonic snapshots of his current musical life on An Endless Premonition.

NEW EARTH RECORDS – New Earth Records remains one of the finest New Age instrumental music labels in the world today. Named after a healing plant that has helped humanity for ages, Immortelle was released by New Earth in 2016. Speaking about his latest musical masterpiece, the artist known as Deuter explains, “Nature has always been an inspiration for me. Its influence can be heard directly on my CDs when I have included the sounds of bird songs, crickets, mountain streams and ocean waves. The title of the CD as well as the title of the individual tracks are all names of plants and flowers which have, with their healing powers, helped humans for thousands of years.” Based in New Mexico in the U.S., the German born Deuter has been on the cutting edge of instrumental New Age or space music for decades. One can go back to his early 1970s releases but the fact is, he has remained constant and true to his original sonic vision. Playing keyboards, guitars, flutes, cello, sitar and all kinds of exotic sounding instrumentation, Deuter uses a wide variety of instruments much like a painter would use a palette of colors and in fact Deuter has described his own music as like “painting with sound.” The true beauty of Immortelle is in the way no matter how many times you spin the disc, there’s always some new sonic treasures to unearth. Underlining his mission here Deuter says, “My Immortelle album is an expression of gratitude to the nature of our planet with the understanding that the smallest flower may have healing powers.”

NEW FOLK RECORDS – Minnesota-based New Folk continues on the cutting edge of Irish and Celtic flavored instrumental music with the 2015 CD release of Heigh Ho, The Green Holly: A Celtic Christmas Collection. Actually it doesn’t matter if this music was made in 2016 or 1816 because the subject matter is seasonal holiday music for Christmas time. Some tracks are well known, like “Greensleeves”, “Joy To The World / I Saw Three Ships”, “Jingle Bells” and more but many more are lesser known. Produced by Laura MacKenzie (who adds in her own flutes, whistles, concertina and pipes), the 15 track CD features a range of musicians including a number of guitarists including Dean Magraw and a host of fiddlers, Celtic harpists and even horns. Laura MacKenzie’s Heigh Ho, The Green Holly: A Celtic Christmas Collection makes a fabulous addition to your Christmas holiday music collection.

– In 2010, Little Muddy released their classic guitar covers album Door 15 and in 2016 they released Future City. With eleven tracks, the album focuses on group originals written and arranged by the band’s lead guitarist Rich Goldstein, backed up by Mark Abbott (drums) and Jeff Obee (bass) with several other bass players and added keyboardist. The sound is less Americana and with the added B3 and mellotron of Adam Rossi, Future City is more swinging jazz, albeit from a guitar-centric POV. Be on the lookout for a cover of the “Andy Griffith Theme” television theme song, with some cool B3 comping and Cropper-esque guitar work that also sounds influenced by John Scofield. A noted rock instrumental guitarist, Goldstein’s acoustic work is also on display here as is his resonator and mandolin work. There’s plenty of keen sonic surprises on Little Muddy’s diverse sounding Future City.

Oklahoma-based guitarist / composer Terry Ware is firmly rooted in the spirit of 1960s guitar bands like The Shadows and The Ventures and he continues breaking new ground for the guitar with his 2016 CD Man With Guitar And Amp. The follow up to his 2011 CD, Reverb Babylon, the twelve track Man With Guitar And Amp features Terry at work in the studio with the aid of several fine musicians including Michael McCarty (drums) and Jim Hoke (pedal steel, vibes, bongos). Speaking about his 2016 album, Terry tells, "I got to work on the new one right after Reverb Babylon. I'm always writing and recording. Yes, I've been on some other albums since Reverb Babylon, including Joel Rafael's Baladista and Smokey and The Mirror's Thin Black Line. I also released an album with another Normanite, Gregg Standridge, who I've been writing with for the last seven or so years. It's called Everybody's Got One. It's an album of vocals, which Gregg and I both sing." The coolest thing, besides Terry’s impressive electric guitar sounds are the all-original songs which blend influences from every era of classic guitar instrumental music. Guitar fans will find sonic signposts throughout this immensely influential album, which closes things out with Terry Ware’s fab instro cover of the 1960s pop classic “To Sir With Love”. Guitar fans into the classic twangy guitar beat sound of the 1960s, must give Man With Guitar And Amp a few spins around the block. /

ORIGIN RECORDS – Washington State based Origin Records is one of the most prodigious music labels in the world today. Constantly coming up with music that offers a new spin on 21st century modern jazz and various instrumental music art forms, Origin delivers Impulsive Illuminations, the 2016 CD by Washington State based musician Tom Collier. Tom is a gifted composer, vibraphonist and marimba player, a solo artist, and part of the duo Collier & Dean, and on Impulsive Illuminations he steps out in style on a kind of neo-avant garde instrumental CD that features a range of excellent musicians including Bill Frisell (guitars), Cuong Vu (trumpet), Ted Poor (drums) and others. Liner notes by the artist puts the album into a fitting perspective. Collier describes his latest music on as being abstract and complex, yet the mastery these musicians have over their instruments keeps Impulsive Illuminations spinning perfectly in its sonic orbit.

POHJOLA RECORDS - Had he lived, Finland’s greatest 20th century composer Pekka Pohjola would have been 64 in 2016. Nearly 35 ago, Pekka started Pohjola Records with the release of his 1982 Lp Urban Tango. Pohjola’s long time record label partner Tapio Korjus is keeping the Pohjola Records imprint alive and well with the 2016 CD release of The Third Frontier by the band known as Utopianisti. Later in his career, in fact on his final album, Pekka recorded a jazzy and unusual track called “The Red Porsche” that featured hip lyrics by Charles Bukowski and a Zappa-esque aura and that spirit, although instrumental in nature, is essentially, exponentially expanded upon here. The band featured on this first Utopianisti CD features a number of players, including main composer and horn player Markus Pajakkala, who is assisted by Antero Mentu (guitars), Rolf Pilve (drums) and many other Finnish players. The whole sound is rather unpredictable in a Zappa-esque way and the album manages a Pohjola-esque dynamic with Zappa-esque moves. The album is mainly instrumental and will clearly appeal to fans of progressive fusion and all jazz-rock instrumental fans looking for a new and intriguing sound. With Pekka Pohjola now gone 8 years this year, it’s good to know that his label imprint is still releasing high quality, dynamic progressive music.

PONDER DUST PUBLISHING Texas-based New Age music composer Bill Wren returns in fine form with his 2016 CD Road To Chiang Mai. For those who don’t know, Chiang Mai is a major city in Thailand, and fittingly, the music here is quite adventurous and quite exotic sounding. The album was recorded at the studio of Hans Zimmer so the sound is quite dramatic and first rate. The music borders on soundtrack sounds and while, there’s no movie yet, the musical scenary of Road To Chiang Mai makes for a fine imaginary soundtrack. Speaking about his sonic mission on the album, Bill tells, "The production approach to Road To Chiang Mai was similar to that of a film or television soundtrack. There is usually a demo that is recorded, then an arrangement is written and scored, followed by the creation of an orchestral mock-up. Finally, live musicians replace or enhance parts of the mock-up. All musicians on this record are highly accomplished. I would encourage you to Google their names as many of them have a a big digital footprint." The music on Road To Chiang Mai was composed by Bill Wren and his collaborator Frank Rallswith the latter also adding in drums, keyboards and orchestral programming. Also on hand are a range of players including Micah Gilliam (guitars) and John Gibson (bass). Topped off with first rate CD mastering by renowned studio expert Bernie Grundman, Bill Wren’s Road To Chiang Mai is a masterpiece of cinematic New Age music.

POSI-TONE RECORDS – L.A. based Positone has a cool straight ahead jazz CD out in 2016 called Out & About, by Brooklyn-based guitarist Will Bernard. The album is very much rooted in hard bop jazz with lots of chord comping by Bernard and free flowing sax work by John Ellis. Balancing out the five piece band are Brian Charette (organ), Ben Allison (bass) and Allison Miller (drums). Produced by Marc Free and recorded in Brooklyn, N.Y., the eleven track CD features some intriguing soundscapes, especially the tracks that feature Charette’s spooky organ sound. With a solid background in the jazz world, including stints with Peter Apfelbaum, Charlie Hunter and Stanton Moore, Will Bernard is hardly a newcomer and he proves his worth as both a guitarist / bandleader and composer on the colorful, jazzy instrumental grooves of Out & About.

PURPLE PYRAMID – L.A. based Cleopatra imprint Purple Pyramid strikes space rock gold with Space Fusion Odyssey by Nik Turner and his Interplanetary Orchestra. Turner rose to fame as the sax / flute player in space rock icons Hawkwind and his 2015 CD Space Fusion Odyssey is truly a modern day classic of free-form and post-psychedelic instrumental music. Featuring Turner’s truly innovative sounding sax and flute and the moog / mellotron of Jürgen Engler, the album goes on to feature some true legends of space rock and psychedelia including a stunning range of guitar heroes like Steve Hillage, Robby Krieger, Chris Poland and John Etheridge, with Billy Cobham, Rick Wakeman, Jimmy Haslip, Jerry Goodman and Gong singer Gilli Smyth—who joins together with Gong guitarist Steve Hillage and company for the album’s lone vocal cameo. The spirit of the late great Ms. Smyth, who passed away soon after her cameo role here, permeates the entire album. Incredible vintage sounding electronics by Engler and Klaus Henatsch as well as the drums of David Eagle and Billy Cobham that lays down a carpet for these famous soloists and the sound is flawless. As cool as the download will probably sound, Hawkwind fans and instrumental space jazz fans will want to see the incredible artwork and poster that comes with the CD. Space Fusion Odyssey is one of the great space rock recordings of the decade.

RATSPACK RECORDS – The Japanese have always had a special fondness for The Shadows and The Ventures—the two main bands responsible for the massive popularity of the early 1960s instro / surf-rock revolution. Bands all over the world are keeping their Strats turned up and you can add the Japan-based band The Surf Coasters to that list. With an impressive catalog of album releases to their name, on their 2016 CD, Rising, the three piece Surf Coasters pay tribute to the time-honored surf-rock tradition with ten tracks—featuring originals penned by guitarist Shigeo Naka along with fresh covers of music written by Peter Green, George Martin, Richard Wagner / Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms. The classical covers are a gas and the originals are most worthy of the attention of any self-respecting surf-rock devotee. There's hardly a note out of place and the Surf Coasters cover of “The Wedding Song” will leave you smiling.

RAVCON MUSIC – Multi-instrumentalist Mike Brown is the main man of the North Carolina based music project The Man From Ravcon. Brown plays a range of instruments on the 2016 CD release by The Man From Ravcon called Strange Universe. Brown’s fascination with movie soundtracks and all things horror, sci-fi and even spaghetti westerns aside, Strange Universe is just a great album filled with imaginative, spiraling instrumental music. Brown’s background is a love of the early progressive rock pioneers like The Moody Blues and YES and while they weren’t instrumental bands, they were among the first rock bands to extensively feature keyboards like the mellotron in a substantial way. Brown’s first band was The Ravelers so it’s interesting that for his post Ravelers music he would pick the name Ravco, yet that only adds to the fun of his music. Even more keyboard dominated than the 2014 CD release of Skyscaper, the 2016 CD release of Strange Universe is very much a product of a mind that is fully steeped in soundtrack music and in the ethos of progressive instrumental rock. As can be heard on Strange Universe, The Man From Ravcon once again fills in the missing links between sci-fi soundtrack music, guitar instrumental music and keyboard dominated progressive music.

REMU RECORDS – Virgina-based guitarist Tyler Reese is turning on acoustic / electric jazz instrumental fans with his fourth full-length CD called Reminiscence. The ten track 2016 album includes a radio version of the lead off album track “Moving On”. Featuring a full band sound, the CD mixes stellar acoustic tracks with a more eclectic electric jazz-fusion sound that owes some influences like Steve Morse and Eric Johnson and even Dicky Betts of the Allman Brothers. In fact, co-producer Jeff Silverman has worked with the Allmans before. Tyler Reese puts his classical training and solid jazz background to good use on the high-powered jazz-rock instrumental music in play on Reminiscence.

RIVERWIDE RECORDS New Age music trendsetter and famed studio engineer / producer Tom Eaton made more than a few ripples in the music world with his early 2016 album abendromen and he follows up near the close of 2016 with another album of all new material called indesterren. With its surreal soundscapes and hypnotic electronica, indesterren is kind of a sister album to abendromen. This is not electronica in the spirit of late 1970s Euro-flavored synth-rock but instead, Eaton is fully versed in the art of beguiling, nocturnal sonic imagery that is, at times, gothic sounding in nature. As he states on the back of the CD, indesterren is the second album in the abendromen series, so, clearly both albums are interconnected, musically and recording wise. Speaking about releasing two albums during the same year, Tom tells 'abendromen (evening dreams) came first, and once the wheels were turning, indesterren (into the stars) showed up pretty quickly. Over the years I’ve kept videos of piano improvs I’ve done, and so I had a well of material to draw from once I was in record making mode, and new ideas just kept coming.' Even though the twelve track indesterren CD is near weightless, like air, Eaton puts it all together with his acclaimed studio mastery on a number of instruments that he plays throughout the CD, including piano, synthesizers, guitars, fretted and fretless bass, accordion, omnichord and acoustic and electronic percussion. Several guest artists appear including flugelhorn master Jeff Oster, who appears on a track here but it’s really to Eaton’s credit that the instruments are so immaculately woven into the overall sonic tapestries that you can’t often discern one from the other at times. Tom Eaton has created a name for himself as a producer and engineer for some of the most acclaimed New Age and jazz artists recording today. With so many fascinating musical ideas brought forth on both abendromen and now indesterren, let’s hope Tom Eaton furthers his musical legacy on future solo albums. /

SCISSOR TAIL RECORDS – Oklahoma-based Dylan Golden Aycock is making waves in the acoustic guitar world with his 2016 CD, Church Of Level Track. The seven cut CD clocks in around 36 minutes and is filled with meandering and highly atmospheric music that echoes the works of great Americana acoustic guitar icons like John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Toulouse Engelhardt. That in itself is a compliment and as icing on the cake, Dylan’s CD sounds quite unique in its own regard. The CD packaging and product look of Church Of Level Track is very much a do-it-yourself type of project yet the music is professionally recorded and the net result is a thoroughly hypnotic and engaging album of spectacular acoustic guitar reveries.

SOTTI ENTERTAINMENT – One of the top jazz guitarists on the scene today, Fabrizio Sotti released his trio album Forty in 2016. A trio date with Peter Slavov (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums), the ten track album features all Sotti originals along with a cover of “How Insensitive” by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The all instrumental fare moves through all kinds of musical moods—from deeply introspective to swinging bop jazz. Whatever styles Sotti chooses to play, the music is always on track. His jazzy, electric guitar sounds is warm and rich and has a great tone and there’s hardly a note out of place. Fabrizio Sotti’s Forty is time well spent for jazz guitar enthusiasts.

SOUND OF TASTY – The Scandinavians love the big beat sound of both The Beatles and The Shadows, and coupled with their intrinsically melodic Scandinavian music, the guitar magic continues on in the 21st century. A good example is the Norwegian band called Tasty, who released their 2016 CD called Tasty Special. The 13 track CD is an excellent example of guitar instrumentals in these early years of the 21st century. Guitarists Daniel Vidarson Gullien and Rune Moe receive great backup from the rhythm section of Jan Halvorsen (bass) and Øivind Karlsen (drums). Produced by Anders Gjelsvik and Sondre Kile Andersen, the album sounds great and features a mix of originals as well as covers of The Shadows, The Beatles, The Spotnicks, Buddy Holly and Leiber & Stoller. Mostly instrumental with a couple vocals, there’s hardly a note out of place and the whole album is a whole lotta fun. Guitar instrumental fans and fans of the fabulous Fifties, (the 1950s that is), will get a positive sonic charge from the rockin’ guitar sounds of Norway’s Tasty band.

STICK MEN MUSIC – One of the most intriguing sounding albums of 2016 has got to be Prog Noir, by progressive rockers Stick Men. Stick as in the “Chapman” Stick, and prog as in Tony Levin. Levin brought the stick to untold height with his work in King Crimson and Prog Noir features him in a band with Pat Mastelototo (drums, percussion) and Marcus Reuter (Touch Guitars). The sound, including vocal rock featuring Tony’s vocals, then morphs into a stunning instrumental trio of true masters echoing the musical ghosts of the 20th century. Recorded in Berlin Germany, Austin Texas, and Kingston N.Y., the ten track album is masterfully recorded and produced and sounds amazing. The onsite production of musicians in different countries, recording with each other via the internet as we approach 2020, makes for truly amazing music, in this case especially. Additionally, the Prog Noir CD cover art is quite effective too with its ghostly images.

STINGRAY SOUNDS – The twin guitars of Rob Day and Chris van Keir seize the moment and deliver a fine rocking set called Mavericks with their band The 427’s. With the rhythm section of Andrew Nugara (bass) and Geoff May (drums) laying down a sold beat, the eleven cut CD takes you back to the spirit of 1960s instro surf-rock by a band coming from a 21st century musical perspective. The recorded sound is first rate as is the CD packaging, which is truly eye-popping, beyond words. All the genres are here: surf noir, spaghetti western, surf-rock and much more, including a range of early 1960s Ventures type rockers. All in all, The 427’s tastefully pay a fitting musical homage to the spirit of the swinging ‘60s with the rocking sounds of Mavericks.

TONE ROGUE RECORDS – Many foreign-born musicians are flocking to both NYC and California in an effort to spread their wings and spread the word about their music. A good example is Brazilian born / NYC guitarist Ricardo Grilli, who released his 2016 CD 1954. Even though 1954 was the year that rock ‘n’ roll was born, it was also a big year in jazz. Looking back on some of the mystical jazz sounds from that golden era, 1954 merges bebop music styles with a harder edge type of jazz-rock that became the sonic language of the baby boom generation. On the 9 track 1954, Ricardo joins forces with contemporary, like minded musicians including Aaron Parks (piano), Joe Martin (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Rather than create something new, on 1954 Grilli has composed an assortment of tracks that takes the best of what was then and brings it front and center into the what is now. What is, is always now and, despite its look back over the past 60 years of jazz instrumentals, 1954 is very much a product of today’s younger musicians paying homage to the not so distant past. Jazz instrumental fans will enjoy the seasoned sounds of Ricardo Grilli’s 1954.

TRATORE / GDG MUSIC Brazilian music is back on the international scene with the 2016 CD release of Leste by trumpet maestro Guilherme Dias Gomes. The eight song CD features Guilherme in the studio with some of Brazil’s finest jazz musicians, including Leo Amuedo (electric guitar), Rodrigo Bonelli (drums) and many others, toped off by the album's musical director / pianist David Feldman. With an upbeat CTI Records approach to modern instrumental jazz, Leste kind of echoes the historic jazz sounds of the late great Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s—extremely colorful and full of wild, swinging Brazilian grooves, complete with a full string section. Speaking about his impressive catalog of album releases, Guilherme tells, "I made 6 records in my career. Each one reflects a moment of my life and the influences of the era. Milhas e Milhas (1988), the first one, is fully inspired by the Miles Davis album Tutu. Jazz Brasileiro (1995) goes in the same direction, it's more like fusion than jazz. In Camaleão Urbano (1999) I was influenced by the Hip Hop sound of the era and took it this way. On L'Amour (2004) I tried to make a more jazzy record. There’s a place in Rio called Satchmo and I use to play every Saturday with my quintet for more than one year, so we were really together! I had to seize this moment with them. Autoral is like a L'Amour 2, but as the name says all compositions are mine. The same team playing with the addition of a trombone on some tunes. More mature than the previous one, I think. Then came Leste." Having released his first major solo work back in the late 1980s, Guilherme is hardly a newcomer to the jazz music scene. Fans of Brazilian jazz will get a positive musical vibe from Guilherme Dias Gomes and the swinging orchestral fusion sound of Leste. /

VALIANA MUSIC AND MEDIA – One time Return To Forever guitar wunderkind Al Di Meola returned in 2016 with a fantastic instrumental fusion workout called Elysium. Hypnotic in nature and scope, the 14 track CD is a superb showcase for Al’s acoustic guitar prowess even though there are moments involving some pretty dazzling electric guitar workouts too. Recorded in New Jersey, Elysium features Al in the studio with a great band including three different keyboardists, percussionist Rhani Krija and drummer Peter Kaszas. For an album that is primarily a showcase for Al’s scintillating fretboard prowess, the overall sound of Elysium is quite pleasing to the ears and will no doubt win over new fans and delight longtime disciples of this legendary jazz-rock guitar ace.


ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Simply put, producer extraordinaire Mike Hurst is one of the greatest pop music of the 1960s. His main achievement, in addition to being a founding member of The Springfields, featuring a young Dusty Springfield, was bringing Cat Stevens to the attention of the pop world with his first two albums, Matthew & Son and New Masters, both featuring Hurst’s immaculate pop productions. Hurst was also involved with the early sound of Marc Bolan, later of T. Rex fame as well as U.K. music pioneers like the Move, Manfred Mann, etc. Angel Air continues with their latest Mike Hurst retrospective entitled Producers Archives Volume 4: 1966 – 1980. Although not as prolific a producer in the 1970s as he was in the ‘60s, Hurst nevertheless worked his producer magic on a number of artists compiled here, including Fancy, Fingertips, Billy Fury, The Bachelors, Ray Fenwick among other features on the 22 track Volume 4. Also included is one of Hurst’s fine instrumentals with The Mike Hurst Orchestra, who have a number of CD retrospectives already out on Angel Air. Mike’s illuminating track-by-track liner notes adds the finishing touches on a compilation that helps to chronicle the many production talents of one of England’s great pop producers of the 1960s. /

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Flashback to mid 1976. I remember sitting on my living room couch reading in Melody Maker that Keith Relf had just died of some type of electrocution. Lead singer and visionary singer-songwriter of The Yardbirds, Relf was a hero to many, including the late David Bowie and even guitar figures like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Clapton, guitar heroes who made their names and entered the pop music world as Keith Relf’s guitarists. After Cream and Led Zeppelin stole his thunder, Relf regrouped with founding Yardbirds drummer and co-songwriter Jim McCarty for the first album by progressive rock pioneers Renaissance. That fabled first Renaissance album from 1970 is still the stuff of legend and in fact, after thousands of spins and numerous reissues, it has never worn out its welcome. If The Yardbirds were pioneers of blues-rock and pop-psychedelia, then Renaissance was truly a pioneering progressive rock band in their own right. Remembering that vital force of the original Renaissance, U.K. based Angel Air released Renaissance: Live At Fillmore West 1970. Although the tape is just above average sounding for a bootleg, the performance within truly captures the excitement and vision of the original Renaissance. Featuring Relf and McCarty and the core Renaissance group with Jane Relf (vocals), Louis Cennamo (guitars) and John Hawkin (piano, keys), the album includes four live tracks, including a rarity called “No Name Raga”, with the second half of the CD spotlighting four rarely heard studio demo tracks from that period. All in all, Renaissance: Live At Fillmore West 1970 revisits the musical magic of rock genius, and the still missed Keith Relf.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – The great Angel Air label in London continues releasing classic U.K. pop from the gold days of the late 1960s and mid to late 1970s. Case in point is AA’s 2016 CD release of The Original Cast & Friends: The Ones That Got Away. AM radio flavored pop never sounded so good and, featuring the music and vocals of David Martin, Tony Burrows and singers Sue & Sunny, the album features a range of music that borrows from the sounds of classic AM radio bands like Edison Lighthouse, The Brotherhood Of Man and much more. Totally innocuous sounding in a pleasing way, the music on the 20 track CD features songs sung by the above artists, that were penned by some of England’s greatest songwriters including Greenaway & Cook, Geoff Stephens and the song writing team of Arnold / Martin / Morrow who penned the 1974 Tony Burrows song “Have You Had A Little Happiness Lately”, one of the key tracks here. Very much rooted in that ABBA like sound of the ‘70s, The Original Cast & Friends: The Ones That Got Away is a very cool moment of memorable retro-pop brought to you by the musicologists at Angel Air.

APPLE RECORDS – With John Lennon murdered in cold blood in front of his home by nefarious forces, now 36 years ago, Apple Records (or what is left from the original label bought out by Universal Music Group), has found a new way to reissue the Beatles original 1977 Lp release Live At The Hollywood Bowl. This new CD reissue is a tour de force for Lennon fans as it features many of his best Beatles-era lead vocals including “Ticket To Ride”, “Help”, “Hard Day’s Night”, “You Can’t Do That” and many other Beatles originals co-written by Lennon’s then song writing partner and Beatles cofounder Paul McCartney. With splendid performances by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the Live At The Hollywood Bowl album also features Beatles covers of music by Little Richard, Larry Williams, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Bert Berns, co-writer of “Twist And Shout”, the 1962 Beatles song that ended their first album and that opens Live At The Hollywood Bowl. The twist here is that this 2016 re-reissue of Live At The Hollywood Bowl is the supposed soundtrack for the Ron “Opie” Howard movie Eight Days A Week. The audio sound quality of these mid ‘60s Beatles concerts is still a nightmare but to its credit the CD release of Live At The Hollywood Bowl features plenty of liner notes, including original 1977 notes by George Martin (son Giles Martin did a new remix for this release) along with plenty of amusing b&w pics of the Fab Four from the original 1964 and 1965 Hollywood Bowl concerts in Los Angeles.

BFI – The British Film institute reissued the 1959 movie Expresso Bongo in 2016. The nearly two hours long movie was a great showcase for rising U.K. pop star Cliff Richard, who plays Bert Rudge (a/k/a Bongo Herbert) in the movie. Cliff is sometimes referred to as England’s version of Elvis Presley. Elvis rose to fame with a great band featuring guitarist, the now late great Scotty Moore and likewise Cliff had Hank B. Marvin and The Shadows who also appear in the movie backing Cliff’s musical contributions in the movie. Also important here is the music production of the great, Shadows producer Norrie Paramor, the head of A&R at EMI and the man responsible for the direction of pop and rock music in England at the start of the 1960s. A film by Val Guest, Expresso Bongo was a fab showcase for film stars Laurence Harvey and Sylvia Syms. Simply put, the movie looks stunning in high definition and standard definition. The DVD and Blu-ray features the original full-cut version from 1959 and the DVD features a number of fascinating bonus features, photos and in depth liner notes discussing the importance of this historic U.K. movie. In fact, Expresso Bongo helped pave the way for The Beatles and their first big movie A Hard Day’s Night. Also, with its satirical look at the pitfalls of the music industry and the star-making machine, Expresso Bongo had to be a huge influence on the mid 1980s Bowie movie Absolute Beginners as well. Cliff Richard, solo artist and Hank Marvin & The Shadows, the groundbreaking and highly influential guitar / instrumental band would go on to much higher highs but for a magical moment back in 1959, the music world of English pop went sky high with the still immensely influential movie Expresso Bongo.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – Following the assassination of John Lennon at the end of 1980, by then unforeseen forces of evil, the corporate rock music world was in tatters. With The Beatles wiped from our memories, (pre-CD of course) things were never gonna be quite the same but rock legend Pete Townshend was doing the best he could and, following a couple of comeback albums with The Who, Townshend reconvened once again to promote his White City album in 1986. Taking his music on the road, Townshend joined forces with David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, and long time associates John “Rabbit” Bundrick (keys), Billy Nicholls (backing vocals), Simon Phillips (drums) and many other fine players. Filmed live on January 29th, 1986, the entire proceedings are finally presented on the 2016 CD/DVD of Face The Face, by Pete Townshend’s Deep End. Gilmour and Phillips shine in this setting as Townshend leads his Deep End band through a myriad of classics by The Who and various solo albums including Only The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass. On behalf of the WDR TV “Rockpalast” show, the German film crew did a spectacular job on the entire film making process and it’s so vivid you almost feel like you’re at the concert. Liner notes by long time Townshend associate Matt Kent puts the entire concert into a 21st century perspective. A spectacular look into the mind of rock’s greatest pop music architect, Face The Face brings back stunning memories of the Who’s Pete Townshend during the crazy mid 1980s.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – As John Lennon was leading The Beatles to a new era of socially cutting edge subject matters, Brian retreated from The Beach Boys as a touring band and the net result was his studio masterpiece at that time Pet Sounds, an album that would one day prove, decades after its initial release, to be a vintage pop masterpiece. Things were going well for Brian Wilson and the fans as “The Little Girl I Once Knew” came out to widespread adulation in late 1965 and then in late March ’66, “Sloop John B” came out as a 45 rpm single. So it was nevertheless a disappointment for some teenyboppers when Pet Sounds was released on Lp in May 1966. This was not the teenybopper friendly music of “Little Girl” and even the knees up novelty sound of “Sloop John B”, which was strangely enough, actually on the album. Instead, back then it sounded mostly like soul-searching, often frustrating grown-up soundtrack music created by a composer starting to become fed up with following the orders of inferior talents and a clueless record company. When Capitol Records released The Beatles album Yesterday And Today—an album that mixed in three groundbreaking, then new John Lennon Revolver tracks with classic Beatles singles, just a few weeks after Pet Sounds came out—it was basically game over for the Beach Boys. It would take nearly 5 long years years until music business genius and head of Reprise Records, Mo Ostin stepped in and made Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys relevant again. That late 1965-66 period of Beach Boys history is revisited again, 50 years later on Eagle’s DVD / Blu-ray documentary on Pet Sounds. It’s true that the album Pet Sounds was initially more popular in the U.K. than in America yet by now most music fans, young and old, have now caught up with this vital slice of American pop music history. Eagle’s DVD / Blu-ray features an additional thirty minutes of video footage over and above the initial broadcast version of the documentary, and fittingly, throughout, there’s tons of interview clips with Brian Wilson and Al Jardine as well as Brian’s Pet Sounds song writing lyricist Tony Asher and Capitol’s A&R guru Karl Engemann and a host of others including Beatles protégé, U.K. pop star Helen Shapiro, progressive music antagonist Mike Love, and the still much missed, late great Dennis Wilson. The 1960’s are gone—lost in the tomb of time, never to return—yet watching Brian Wilson speaking enthusiastically about the creation of Pet Sounds, 50 years later is a sobering, yet ultimately rewarding experience.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – Featuring in depth liner notes by Esoteric Music founder Mark Powell, the 2016 CD / DL of All The Way released by Eagle Rock puts Justin Hayward’s solo career into somewhat of a perspective and it’s truly an ear-opening collection. The 15 track CD starts off with a fantastic track called “Blue Guitar” that Justin recorded with members of 10cc back in 1974, making it the first such solo effort by any member of the then Moody Blues. Featuring a cross section from nine different Hayward solo albums, All The Way even features remakes of his big Moody Blues hits “The Story In Your Eyes” and of course “Nights In White Satin”. Mike Pinder said Justin Hayward was a guitar / songwriting genius back in 1967 and, as All The Way proves, he still remains one in 2016.

ESOTERIC RECORDS – The Austrian artist known as Gandalf has released many of his 21st century albums on the New Age label Real Music but back in the early 1980’s Gandalf started out as an progressive instrumental rock artist. Some may say by the late 1980s, progressive rock had branched out into New Age, especially in Europe. Back in 1983, Gandalf was quite prolific and released two albums—To Another Horizon followed by Magic Theatre. To Another Horizon is finally being recognized as being a forerunner of the New Age part of progressive rock. Recorded in 1982 and released in 1983, the album is no doubt inspired by both the Oldfield / Jarre field of arena rock and for fans of both of those legends, these two 2016 CD remasters on Esoteric Records are well worth hearing. Both Esoteric CDs feature new liner notes, interviews and full discography info. There was even a single release from the To Another Horizon album called “Cosmic Balance”. Both albums feature Gandalf’s multilayered guitars, synths, trons along with flutes by Robert Juliann Horky and percussion backed up by a full band. A good catch up for fans of Gandalf’s more recent albums—including his 2016 album All Is One * One Is AllMagic Theatre is even more Oldfield-esque and To Another Horizon makes for an intriguing New Age musicology class 101. /

GREAT VOICES OF THE CENTURY – Over in England in 2016, a relatively unknown label called Great Voices Of The Century released a 32 track, 77 minute CD by The Shadows called Extended Play… Extended play of course is a reference to the “Extended Play” EP releases The Shadows released mostly in the early 1960s. Eight Shadows’ EP vinyl releases (with four tracks each) are compiled chronologically and goes on to recapture the magic of guitarists Hank B. Marvin and Bruce Welch and company. Various members came and went, although by 1962, drummer Brian Bennett assumed the drumming chores until the Shads called it a day in 1990. The CD has a misprint on the back cover – there are 32 tracks, not 33 as indicated and the CD cover art features all eight Eps in their mono sleeves, although the CD is clearly in stereo. It would have been great to have a mono companion to compare. That said, the cover art is cool, the liner notes are okay and the CD sound, even for stereo, is quite good. /

RPM RECORDS – British Invasion superstars Chad & Jeremy are given the royal treatment by Cherry Red Records imprint RPM with the 2016 double CD set Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember & World Artists Recordings. One could imagine that when Chad Stuart co-wrote “A Summer Song” back in the early 1960’s little did he realize then the impact that song would still have nearly 55 years later. In fact, this 57 song, double CD set features several different versions including the original mono single mix version. CD 1 features 29 stereo mix tracks from the first two Chad & Jeremy albums, Yesterday’s Gone (1964) and Chad & Jeremy Sing For You (1965) and six tracks from Live Folk From The Mayfair Theatre, which were culled from a 1965 Ember Records various artists album collection. With 27 tracks, CD 2 features “The Mono Singles” and a mix of out takes, alternative takes and stereo mixes. Liner notes by Lorne Murdoch are exhaustive and exemplary and the booklet also features a wealth of rarely seen pics of Chad & Jeremy with lots of information on John Barry and Shel Talmy in London and Jimmie Haskell in NYC—the three early producers of Chad & Jeremy. Although Chad & Jeremy would switch to Columbia Records, and later in 1967 go on to forge an alliance with the early psychedelic / pop music of the West Coast, these early recordings compiled on Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember & World Artists Recordings haven’t lost any of the young and innocent magic Chad & Jeremy gave to the fans during the amazing Beatlemania years of the early-mid 1960s.

SUNDAZED – Back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Sundazed were at the forefront of the CD revolution, so, in the unholy year of 2016, it’s a little odd to see Bob Irwin and company going to vinyl remasters in such a big way. Which isn’t to say that Sundazed is abandoning the mighty CD, case in point being the label’s 2016 best of CD entitled Mercury Singles, by NYC-based early psychedelic / garage rock luminaries The Blues Magoos. Amazingly, the Blues Magoos reformed in 2016 with original members Ralph Scala (keys, vocals), Peppy Castro (guitar, vocals) and Geoff Daking (drums) for a new CD called Psychedelic Resurrection. Even so, Mercury Singles collects 16 early Blues Magoos tracks that recaptures the vibe of their early music magic. Revisiting their Mercury Records years, the CD presents all the A and B sides, including song classics like “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” and lesser known minor Blues Magoos hits like “Gotta Get Away” and there’s even a cover of a great song by The Move called “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” (culled from the third Mercury album called Basic Blues Magoos). The Blues Magoos would make a comeback again in 1969 with a huge FM radio hit (released on ABC Records) called “Never Goin’ Back To Georgia”, but that’s another story for hopefully another Sundazed CD. Featuring new liner notes and fantastic mono sound, Mercury Singles recaptures the power and glory of the original Blues Magoos and their brief but still influential chart topping reign. /

VOCALION / KPM MUSIC – The late 1970’s, between 1975 and 1978, are often referred to as a golden time in U.K. progressive music history. The sheer amount of classic rock and otherwise adventurous instrumental music coming out of the U.K. during that time period still boggles the imagination. Although not in favor at the time, musicians and bands associated with Hank Marvin and The Shadows were making some incredible music during that time, including guitarist Hank Marvin and Shadows drummer Brian Bennett. Another U.K. session musician and keyboard virtuoso and cofounder of the band Sky, Francis Monkman had worked with both Brian Bennett and the Shads, as well as working with more of the better known prog-rock bands of the era including Curved Air and Phil Manzanera’s band 801. Little was known of Monkman’s solo output of that era, pre-Sky, yet U.K. based Vocalion aims to rectify that with a fascinating 65 minute, 37 track, 2016 double album on one CD entitled Classical Concussion & Predictions. Originally released circa 1979 on the KPM label, (and specifically the KPM 1000 series) both albums are combined to offer a stunning example of Monkman’s incredible work as both a keyboard / synthesist and composer. Bordering on soundtrack work, and featuring Monkman backed by a range of rock and classical musicians, the music on Classical Concussion & Predictions fits perfectly into the genre of ‘library music’, meaning music that was often recorded to be used in various television and movie soundtracks of the era. Monkman’s album is described on the cover art as “innovative themes and underscored combining classical, electronic and contemporary elements.” Fans of historic U.K. composers and soundtrack kings such as George Martin will admire the majesty of Monkman’s then glorious instrumental music and perhaps more importantly, the incredible professionalism involved making the recording itself. Complete with cool cover art and very informative liner notes by Vocalion’s Olly Lomax, the 37 track Classical Concussion & Predictions is an essential spin for Monkman fans, Sky fans and fans of classic U.K. soundtrack music.

VOCALION MUSIC – U.K. based Vocalion will make instrumental music fans happy with their 2016 CD reissues by country-jazz guitar legend Chet Atkins. First up, the 23 track Solid Gold ’68 and Solid Gold ’69 features Chet in the studio performing classic instrumentals of the biggest pop hits from those two classic years in music history. Paul Simon, The Beatles, The Doors, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Galt MacDermott and other classic songwriters are the perfect musical fodder for Chet’s guitar orchestrations. Backed up by orchestral strings and light pop backing, the albums are warmly recorded and sound quite lush, even nearly 50 years after they were recorded. Vocalion has another 2016 2 albums on 1 CD 23 track remaster by Chet Atkins called Yestergroovin’ and Lover’s Guitar. Recorded in Nashville in 1969 and 1970 both albums rely less on the pop tunes covered on the Solid Gold albums and more upon classic jazzy pop standards like “How High The Moon”, “Cherokee” and even classical forays into jazz like the CD closing “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by classical guitar icon Tarrega. No detailed liner notes but each of these albums are superbly remasterd from the original master tapes by Vocalion owner Michael J. Dutton. Chet Atkins fans can’t go wrong with Vocalion’s 2016 CD remasters of these four timeless Chet Atkins albums featuring his great instrumental guitar music from the late ‘60s / early ‘70s.

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