Record Label
and Music Spotlight








ALCHEMY RECORDS – American guitarist / composer Jon Durant has proven to be one of the most diverse and versatile musicians on the 21st century progressive music scene. His solo albums on his self-owned label Alchemy Records have always been highly regarded as are his rock-fusion albums with bassist Colin Edwin in their side project called Burnt Belief. In early 2019 Jon pleased music fans with his experimental New Age instrumental album Alternate Landscapes, which blended guitars, synths and a range of subdued and mysterious moods. During that time, Jon also began working with Colin again, bringing in a singer from Ukraine called Inna Kovtun. The results of that project finally materialized in late 2019 as the self-titled album called Edwin Durant Kovtun. Thanks to Inna’s soaring vocals, sung in Ukrainian language, the 12-track, 60-minute album has gained acclaim among World Music fans as well as experimental hard rock fans. Adding to the album, powerhouse drummer Robert Gualdi brings in a strong beat. The recorded sound is superb and features equally potent sonic grooves to those that Jon and Colin brought to the Burnt Belief albums, while the exotic Ukrainian language vocals from Inna offers another layer of sonic intrigue. The CD cover art with the bridge is kind of symbolic in that the sound here is similar to a bridge that spans guitar-centric avant-garde rock fusion with World Music. Jon further adds that, “Ukrainian music is sadly underrepresented around the world and we tried to bring some of these wonderful ancient melodies to a new life using modern production and creative ideas, all the while keeping the song forms accessible.” For rock fans looking for a familiar musical signpost, the sound and style of music draws somewhat of a comparison to alternative rock bands such as Dead Can Dance and The Cocteau Twins. With its stunning amalgamation of Ukrainian and Slavic folk music, balanced by guitar-centric electronica and deeply atmospheric progressive rock, this first album by Edwin Durant Kovtun is an epic culture-spanning moment that merges modern and ancient music.

BLIND OWL RECORDS – The late 1960s and early 1970s was a historic era for rock music. When The Band showed up in 1968 it was then their signature song “The Weight” took over the airwaves. So here we are 50+ years later and a band of undaunted young musicians called Mrs. Henry decided to do a remake of the Band’s swan song concert called The Last Waltz. Taking place on Thanksgiving day in 1976, the original concert called The Last Waltz was filmed and recorded and featured a who’s who of rock superstars including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Ringo Starr and a never ending list of iconic musicians appearing with Robbie Robertson and the original members of The Band. Bidding farewell to The Band at the time wasn’t easy, and as such The Last Waltz went down in music history as a turning point event. So it is that, 41 years later Mrs. Henry has done a remarkable job reenacting the entire concert live in concert in San Diego as a triple vinyl album set and a double CD too. Released on Blind Owl Records, the 2019 version of The Last Waltz features the Mrs. Henry Lineup of Jody Bagley (keys, vocals), Dan Cervantes (guitars, vocals), Blake Dean (bass, vocals) and Chad Lee (drums). Also featured are some of the San Diego-based band’s friends. Even the album cover art looks remarkably like the original album. Commenting on the incredible reenactment of this historic event, Dan Cervantes explains that, “The Band holds a special place in my heart. If it wasn’t for The Band, you wouldn’t have Mrs. Henry. I couldn’t have imagined performing The Last Waltz concert but we did it. It happened, and now we have a record of it.”

BLUE ÉLAN RECORDS – Detroit native, singer-songwriter Janiva Magness has released several albums on the L.A. based Blue Élan label and in 2019 she tackles the fabled songbook of Creedence Clearwater Revival main man John Fogerty. The resulting album, Change In The Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty is a fitting revival of Fogerty’s music during the CCR era. The only problem with this album is the fact that the music of Creedence, at least in the mind of someone who grew up during their heyday, is that it’s forever linked to the fabled 1968 to 1972 period and, bringing it into the 2020 era is a challenging effort at best. The magic of Creedence was that it was truly a period piece in time; Nixon, Vietnam and the major influence of early FM radio was raging at the time and Fogerty and Creedence was very much part of it. Some of the tracks work better than others. “Have You Every Seen The Rain” was originally a very bouncy, stately pop track when it came out but Janiva tears it down to a slow blues, losing much of the Top 40 pop edge the song originally intended. One track that does work great on Change In The Weather is the lesser-known track “Someday Never Comes”, originally featured on the Mardi Gras album from 1972, the final CCR album before their sad, acrimonious split. That track sounds very much like Fogerty trying to write like Harry Nilsson and, looking back it sounds a bit like Nilsson’s 1968 classic “Mournin’ Glory Story”, yet, in the capable hands of Ms. Magness it’s a misty-eyed reminder of a CCR song that never got its proper due. The timeless message of “Fortunate Son” is given a proper cover here and is another highlight. Several guest artists appear, including blues legend Taj Mahal and Ms. Magness and her tight band are superbly recorded in the studio. Track by track liner notes by Janiva underscores her personal connection to the music of CCR. Does the pop-centric, early FM radio groove of Creedence work well in a hard-edged, bluesy, 21st century rock tribute album setting? Listen to Change In The Weather and you decide.

BLUJAZZ RECORDS – Chicago-based Blujazz strikes pop-cabaret gold once again with the 2019 CD release of The Fourteenth Confession- The Songs Of Laura Nyro by singer MaryJo Mundy. Back in the late 1960s, NYC singer-song Laura Nyro was setting the music world on fire writing songs that ended up being huge pop-rock hits for The 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night and Blood Sweat & Tears. A live in concert tribute to the late Laura Nyro, MaryJo’s album was recorded live in concert in L.A. in April 2018. Backing up MaryJo on The Fourteenth Confession are a number of skillful musicians, including music director / pianist Ross Kalling and electric guitarist Tony Mandracchia. Topped off by cool painting cover art with in-depth liner notes by MaryJo, Richard Knight, Jr. and the album’s producer Hillary Rollins, the album is a memorable concert tribute to both Ms. Nyro as well as MarjJo’s passionate vocal skills. MaryJo really rises to the occasion on the eleven track album, which also features a bonus track called “The Cat Song”. MaryJo has been covering the music of Laura Nyro since 2016 and she finally seals the deal on The Fourteenth Confession.

CHERRY RED RECORDS – Singer-songwriter and keyboardist Dave Kerzner might not be very well known in the 21st century prog-rock scene yet, while flying under the radar for a number of years, he’s built up both a devoted fan base tuning into his various album releases. For a good overview of Dave’s music, give a listen to Breakdown: A Compilation 1995 – 2019. A 2019 double CD set that compiles 21 of his tracks, including rarities, unreleased out takes, alternate studio tracks and live tracks, in one succinct 2+ hours package, on Breakdown, listeners can check out a sampling of Dave’s various music with bands he works with including Continuum, Sound Of Contact, Mantra Vega as well as a live track from 2017 that was originally made back in 1995 during Dave’s time in a band Thud, featuring the late Kevin Gilbert. Musicians taking part on the various Breakdown tracks including music great including Steve Hackett, Francis Dunnery and many others including Dave’s guitarist Fernando Perdomo. Produced by Dave, the 2-CD set is accompanied by a detailed color booklet with discography information, pics and more. Prog-rock fans will totally dig Dave Kerzner’s Breakdown.

CROW VS. LION MUSIC – Contemporary country-rock with an edge, The Heart, The Time, The Pen is the 2019 CD release by Pennsylvania-based band called Crow vs. Lion. Featuring the music of singer-songwriter Dan Gallagher, the album is divided into three sections as delineated in the album title. While there may be a country music side to it, the 13-track CD is very much a rock-based album. A wide range of musicians assist Dan’s music and vocals including keyboardist Raphael Cutrufello, who also handles the co-production along with Dan. Electric guitarist Brad Hinton also adds in lap steel giving the songs a country twang effect while a couple drummers add muscle to several tracks here. Dan’s sons, Danny and Dylan also appear on talking and singing on some tracks. The CD is superbly packaged and the CD booklet features all the song lyrics and a range of b&w pic of Dan and his family. There’s very much of a homespun type effect, yet there’s a number of sonic effects added so the songs work on a number of levels. Although rooted in the 21st century anti-folk movement, fans of Dylan and late period Byrds / Burrito Brothers, as well as a number of contemporary pop-rock artists will find this 2019 album by Crow vs. Lion to be a most deeply personal listening experience.

ELIZABETH GEYER MUSIC – Renowned for her recent recorded works with New Age composer Paul Adams—including the 2019 album release of their second joint venture Deeper Imaginings—Australian musician Elizabeth Geyer is actually a triple threat artist in her own right. With several solo albums to her credit, Elizabeth’s 2016 album, The Bridge is an overlooked gem of an album that is just being rediscovered now by newcomers that found her music by way of the Deeper Imaginings album. Recorded and produced by Elizabeth Geyer and Paul Adams, the 13-track album was actually inspired by her traveling to Illinois, where she and Paul crafted the The Bridge. Compared to Elizabeth’s and Paul’s recent album, the all-instrumental New Age Deeper Imaginings, Elizabeth’s most recent solo album, The Bridge is an unusual sounding album that mixes jazzy pop melodies and arrangements with a unique singer-songwriter approach highlighting her vocals, songs, flugelhorn and piano work. For his part, Paul adds in guitar and a range of instruments he’s famous for as well as having mixed and mastered The Bridge as well. Musically, The Bridge is as far away as possible from being your traditional sounding jazz or pop album. Before his untimely passing, Elizabeth's music was praised by Bruce Lundvall, the great jazz maven and latter day period head of Blue Note records. Paul Adams has compared her voice to pop artists like Natalie Merchant, Nora Jones and Sara McLachlan, while to these ears The Bridge sounds very influenced by pop composer Laura Nyro. Another sonic signpost worth noting, Elizabeth’s train of thought vocals and her way with mixing words and music is not as far away as you might think from the overlooked late 1960s orchestral pop albums by the late 1960’s protest singer Phil Ochs, such as Rehearsals For Retirement and Pleasures Of The Harbor. A modern day music classic worth hearing, Elizabeth Geyer's The Bridge is an artful merger of pop and jazz that makes for a very rewarding listening experience.

S.A. HARRIS MUSIC – Here’s a real, odd and genuine blues album for you. Doing time in jail, guitarist and singer-songwriter recorded Blues From Cell Block D: The Best Of S.A. Harris at the Oregon State Penitentiary and the album was released in 2019. One of the first inmates to release an album while serving time in prison, the 12-track CD was made on a small digital track recorder with Harris writing and recording all the guitars, bass and drums himself. Several musicians assisted him in the making of the album, yet it’s pretty much his baby. Guitar heroes Peter Green and Billy Gibbons are both cited in Harris’ credits. Green’s guitar influence can be felt as well on the instrumental tracks here while Harris’ sad, sobering tale is recounted in the album liner notes. An effective album that truly gives a new meaning to the blues, Blues From Cell Block D: The Best Of S.A. Harris is a wake up call from the big house.

MULTI-POLAR MUSIC – Israel born / Amsterdam-based musician Lonny Ziblat made waves with his albums with Modest Midget and in 2019 he returned with a fine new solo album called Dream Hunting. There’s hardly a pop or rock genre not touched up but the fact that he self-produced the album, playing everything, puts him up in the pantheon with pop icons like McCartney and modern day music wunderkind Jason Falkner. That said, in addition to his songs featuring his work on guitars and keyboards, a few musicians do appear including drummer Sven Fictivesen who excels on track four, “Lost & Found” —track that combines prog elements ala Gentle Giant with the catchy rock riffs that remind me a lot of Emitt Rhodes. Some of the ten tracks are more low-key, ala McCartney, but the whole thing clicks and overall makes for a rewarding pop-rock experience.

ORENDA RECORDS – A good example of genre-stretching 21st century music, the band Voxfire released their Fontis album on the L.A. based Orenda label in 2019. Best described as a mix of gothic, Gregorian style chanting and vocalizing, sung in foreign tongues, backed up by 21st century rock instrumentation, the 13-track, 60 minute Fontis was recorded in California and is one of the most unusual sounding albums of the decade. Three female singers blend religious sounding music that would have fit right into the churches of Spain and France in the Middle Ages. Even stranger is the addition of synths, harmonica, keyboards, accordion and other live effects and processing performed by Voxfire composers and producers Ross Garren and Nick DePinna. Most of the vocal arrangements are by Susan Judy and she shares the Gregorian style singing with Christen Herman and Samela Aird Beasom, who also add in instruments such as marimba and harmonium. Occasional sax, flute, trumpet and percussion, performed by assisting artists add to the Voxfire mixture of strange and beautiful music. Part religious, part spiritual sounding vocal music brought back from the depths of time and into the 21st century, Voxfire shines a light on their sublime and timeless musical vision with the haunting sound of Fontis.

PARAPLY RECORDS – In 2019, record label guru and singer-songwriter Joakim Lövgren finally released the album debut with his band Mudfish. No relation besides entertaining pop-rock, to another Swedish band called Bonefish, yet both bands are from Sweden and share a great exuberance for the joys of modern day 21st century rock with a edgy pop side. Joakim gets fine support from his Mudfish cohorts and with nine tracks clocking in around 33 minutes, the four piece band never overstays their welcome. As owner of the internationally acclaimed Paraply label, Joakim is hardly a newcomer to the Swedish pop scene and he carries that same quality approach forward on his 2019 album debut with Mudfish.

RIVER DRIVERS MUSIC – I had to do a double take after hearing this as I thought the band called River Drivers was an Irish folk band from Derry. That’s not far off as the Philadelphia-based quartet is described as an Irish / Americana band that has many connections and a heritage as it relates to Ireland and of course the music from that country. Clearly influenced by music greats including Billy Bragg, Christy Moore as well as Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan, the music on the ten-track 32 minute River Drivers 2019 album Big Oak Road is equally captivating and engaging. The band features the music of Mindy Murray (vocals, guitars, lap steel, bass, banjo) and Kevin McCloskey (vocals, mandolin, guitars, banjo), as well as multi-instrumentalists Meagan Ratini (fiddle, whistles, Irish flute) and Marian Moran (whistles, concertina, melodica, bodhran). The River Drivers feature the strong vocals and harmonies of Mindy and Kevin. To my ears Kevin’s robust voice brings to mind the late great Phil Ochs while the subject matter is also quite socially relevant—influenced by heartfelt stories portraying the plight of working men and women and their search for social justice. Kevin was also greatly influenced by U.S. / Irish history as well as his performing Irish standards with his father, Irish tenor Tommy McCloskey. Speaking about the message and content of the socially-charged lyrics, Mindy Murray explains, “We really try to perform and record songs that have a purpose other than purely entertainment value. Many of our songs are about hardworking folks and social issues. I wrote two of the songs using verbal history from my Dad about him growing up on Big Oak Road in Bucks County Pennsylvania (“Big Oak Road”) and about his parents losing their farm for back taxes on the eve of the great depression (“Going Once”). “Children's March” was written about Mother Jones as she marched through our hometown to fight against child labor and for the unions. “Si Se Puede” is about the formation of the United Farm Worker's Union and the grape boycott of the late 1960s. “Cumann na mBan” is about the role of the women who fought for Ireland's independence but then were lost to history until quite recently. The other songs, though not originals, were chosen because they reflected many of these same themes… and they are great songs!” The liner notes offers a glimpse into the band’s mindset as they blaze through this strongly socially relevant album. Riveting lyrics, soaring melodies and penetrating vocals helps separate River Drivers from the wealth of traditional modern day Irish folk music.

SPIRAL RECORDS - Belgium-based rockers, The Monotrol Kid are making waves with their 2019 album called Exhale. Right off-the-bat you can hear a kind of R.E.M. music influence thanks to the effective vocals and music of group leader and guitarist Erik Van den Broek. The band excels in a kind of 21st century mix of folk music meets Americana rock spirit while the band cites Wilco, Billy Bragg and The Jayhawks among their chief influences. The band’s Bob Dylan influence is also cited in the CD booklet. The lead off track “The Northside” is the perfect track to introduce Erik vocals. Written and produced by Erik Van den Broek, the album is co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by group keyboardist Luc Weytjens, who excels on piano, Hammond and other keyboards. The solid electric lead guitar work of Dries Vanhove sounds very Neil Young inspired and Exhale also features his fretboard skills on acoustic guitar, mando guitar, lap steel and baritone guitars while the band is further fortified by the rhythm section of Bart Strubbe (bass) and Philip Mathuis (drums) with additional keyboards from Vincent Pierins. The only drawback is the lyrics aren’t printed in the CD booklet. Fans of 21st century pop-rock from a Euro-centric band absorbed in all things Americana will flip for The Monotrol Kid.




BANADE RECORDS – American keyboardist / composer Alejandro Santoyo is one of the top New Age artists from North America. His 2019 album Dreams For A Better Tomorrow is filled with a majestic mix of instrumental piano and electronic music that is as uplifting as it is musical. With the age of sampling and do-it-yourself recording in the 2020 era, the self-contained artist has a vast arsenal of computerized recording gear at his disposal and Alejandro makes the most of it on Dreams For A Better Tomorrow. Influenced by a range of music and artists such as Yanni, Vangelis and more recently acclaimed recording artists, such as film score composer Hans Zimmer, Alejandro’s diversity shows throughout the 18 tracks album. Like Vangelis, especially during his Chariots Of Fire album from 1982, Dreams For A Better Tomorrow features a mix of full-bodied instrumental music that blends dynamic crescendos and full orchestrations to more stately and sedate keyboard based sounds. On Dreams For A Better Tomorrow, keyboardist / composer Alejandro Santoyo covers a range of sonic timbres.

CGT RECORDS – The finest experimental acoustic guitar trio in the US today, California Guitar Orchestra has played with the best artists over the past 20 years and on their 2019 album, In A Landscape they join forces with Montreal Guitar Trio for and album recorded in Montreal Canada. CGT mainstays Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards are each excellent composers and they’re credited with writing and arranging a couple of tracks while a number of tracks are composed by MGT guitarist Glenn Levesque with Sebastien Dufour. Also appearing on guitar and electric bass, Marc Morin makes it the sixth guitarist on this unique interweaving of acoustic guitars with. The lead off track by Sebastian sounds like a long lost John Barry movie theme played instrumentally by six gifted guitarists. Glenn Levesque proves a competent lead singer, adding his vocals on a CGT/MGT version of the Bowie classic “Space Oddity”. From meditative to classic covers to progressive guitar instrumentals in the spirit of King Crimson, is a union of experimental acoustic guitar creativity.

DAN CHADBURN MUSIC In 2017, one of the shining lights on the early 21st century contemporary solo piano scene, Dan Chadburn released Held In The Light—a collection of traditional, sacred hymns, some dating back to the 1800’s and all reinterpreted in Dan’s instrumental piano style. Bringing his music to yet another level, in 2019 Dan dazzled the music world with a new offering called Love Themes For Solo Piano, a CD of all new material released on his Dan Chadburn Music label. Dedicated to Dan’s husband, music partner / co-producer, and singer-songwriter Tom Nichols, the 45-minute, 13-song Love Themes For Solo Piano was recorded by mixing / mastering engineer Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven recording studios in Sedona, Arizona. A most worthy continuation of the sonic spirit captured on Dan’s other recent album releasesincluding his 2016 album Beyond Words and the previously mentioned Held In The Lightthe 2019 release of Love Themes For Solo Piano features 13 newly recorded tracks with the focus upon Dan's improvisational piano styles, and drawn from a collection of New Age, easy-listening, yet totally modern sounding, neoclassical arrangements. As always, Dan’s calling card is his flowing piano style, with improvised piano-centric patterns merging with exquisite compositional ideas. Some of Dan’s tracks on Love Themes For Solo Piano were improvisations first that were later transcribed by John Zechiel and then re-recorded by Dan with other tracks on the CD composed by Danone as far back as 1998. Speaking to about the story behind some of the individual songs, Dan says, “Many of them were improvs and given names only after the recording session. I wanted the album to represent love. A few have stories; “Shalom” was improvised in memory of my Mom; “Unconditional” was borne while watching our dog Molly sleep on the couch; “Timeless” was a composite ‘Theme’ of two different pieces — one composed on March 21, 1998 - right as Tom and I were getting ready to release my first album, Solo Piano, and the other… unintentionally; coincidentally? … on March 21, 2017.” Dan further adds, "There are a couple other videos on YouTube that you might also find helpful / useful. As I mentioned, several of the album's tracks originated first as improvisations in concerts, then were transcribed by John Zechiel, and then re-recorded in the studio for the album last June. Here are two of those - This is now "Gentle Touch" on the Love Themes for Solo Piano album and this is now "Reminisce" on the Love Themes for Solo Piano album." Also, regarding the very effective and colorful front cover photo of Dan performing at the piano, he says, "The cover art was photographed by Julie Nevue. Julie is married to David Nevue, the founder of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. The photo was taken in Costa Mesa, California at the Whisperings Solo Piano Radio Awards Concert in January, 2017. My album, Beyond Words was among the nominees for Whisperings Album of the Year." As mentioned above, the final track on Love Themes For Solo Piano, called “Shalom”, is endearingly dedicated to Dan’s mother, who sadly passed away in early 2019. Dan says that “Shalom was created at the piano in memory of my Mom, while looking out at Sedona’s beautiful landscape beyond Piano Haven’s studio window.” Arriving at a place in time when the terms instrumental New Age and meditation music are universally referred to and accepted, Love Themes For Solo Piano is a magical album of original, instrumental music with the spotlight on Dan Chadburn's signature piano sound. /

DMAC MUSIC – Master jazz-guitarist Doug MacDonald pleased jazz fans no end with his View Of The City album, recorded in NYC in 2016 and released on BluJazz in early 2019 and he’s back in late 2019 with a double CD set of all new recordings called Jazz Marathon 4: Live At Hangar 18. Credited to Doug MacDonald And The Tarmac Ensemble, the 16-track double CD features a cross-section of originals and covers. A clear highlight is the CD1 lead-off track “San Fernando Blvd”, a track perhaps reflecting the fondness the guitarist feels for his adopted hometown Los Angeles. A range of players assist including Charlie Shoemake (vibes), Joe Bagg (piano), John B. Williams (bass) a pair of drummers and a range of horn players. There’s plenty of highlights and standout tracks, including a MacDonald cover of “Pennies From Heaven” (from the 1936 movie with Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong) and Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”, (title track of Herbie’s 1965 album on Blue Note). Recorded live at Hanger 18 at the LAX Marriott on July 18th, 2019, Jazz Marathon 4 goes the distance and will satisfy the appetite of classic jazz and jazz guitar fans far and wide.

FORWARD MOTION RECORDS -– I had the chance to meet singer-songwriter and guitarist Fernando Perdomo at the fabled Colony Theater in Miami Beach when the Florida-born musician opened for Jon Anderson in November 2013. Fernando’s notable guitar work and his dedication to prog has extended to many artists over the years, yet an unexpected treat comes by way of a 2019 all instrumental album he released as a tribute to prog-rock legends King Crimson. The twist here is that The Crimson Guitar is a 10 track, 29 minute all-instrumental classical guitar tribute to the music of Robert Fripp and Ian McDonald, especially drawing from the 1969 Court Of The Crimson King album. Known for it’s mix of unforgettable pop melodies and groundbreaking prog-fusion, the first King Crimson album will forever remain a classic and on The Crimson Guitar Fernando offers unique glimpses into the evergreen melodies from songs like “I Talk To The Wind”, “Moonchild” and other tracks from the first four Crimson albums. A few surprises ensue but breaking down these classics into bite-size, melodic excursions for acoustic solo guitar is a breathtaking and unforgettable experience, just like it was hearing them in the Fall of 1969, for the very first time. Excellent recorded sound and truly insightful liner notes from Fernando makes The Crimson Guitar an album to relish.

IN AND OUT OF FOCUS RECORDS – The Dutch have a rich tradition of merging progressive rock and instrumental jazz-rock. The current bassist in the band Focus, the most illustrious name in Dutch prog, Udo Pannekeet steps out of the Focus fold for his 2019 solo CD called Electric Regions. The lead opus on the 5 track – 50 minute CD, simply entitled “Electric Regions” runs over 23 minutes and is a modern day “Close To The Edge” for electric fusion fans, it’s a side long masterpiece of state of the art 21st century progressive instrumental music. Current Focus guitarist Menno Gootjes and former member of Focus, Eef Albers (drums) also appears and together the group sparks and they sound like a post-jazz meets power prog fusion band. Layer upon layer the tracks build, creating a whirlwind of sonic majesty. With Electric Regions, Udo Pannekeet takes his place as the premier jazz-fusion bassist / composer in Holland today.

JUST MUSIC – One of the most acclaimed ambient / electronic acts in the U.K. and for that matter the world, Marconi Union return in 2019 with Dead Air. With a most foreboding sounding album title if there was one, the music on hand is solemn, sedate and… serious. The 2012 album from MU, Different Colours was reviewed in (Summer 2012 News & Notes) and now in 2019, the 10th M.U. studio album, Dead Air stays the course with another strong collection of mesmerizing, instrumental electronica that maintains its influences by electronic music pioneers such as Brian Eno and his ambient cohort Harold Budd. Speaking about the ‘ambiguous’ sounding album title for Dead Air, M.U. cofounder Richard Talbot explains that “It not only has the radio connotation but it also hints at some kind of ominous, environmental issue. That phrase has a certain atmosphere to it that was very attractive to us.” Putting irony aside, Dead Air certainly carries the impeccable Marconi Union reputation for superbly crafted electronic forward into 2020 with much aplomb and zeal.

LAKEFRONT PRODUCTIONS - Renowned for his impeccable instrumental albums, composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Adams reunited with music collaborator Elizabeth Geyer for the 2019 CD release of Deeper Imaginings. On the long-awaited follow-up to the duo’s 2015 album Imaginings, these two gifted musicians pick up from their last album left off. Although considered under the instrumental New Age banner, on the eleven track Deeper Imaginings, Paul and Elizabeth have crafted a modern day music classic that also brings in elements of World Music, Americana, Native American music along with elements of free jazz and even experimental progressive rock. Commenting on the variety of sounds on what is ostensibly being called a New Age album, Paul says, “I wanted the instrumentation to be what one is not used to hearing together. For example dobro, Native American flute, electric sitar, Bansuri flute... This integration included a number of the instruments that were made by myself when I was a luthier, including guitar, electric sitar and dulcimer. Their unique timbre helped to allow the work to gel on its own coloration.” As mentioned, Paul’s talented collaborator here, Elizabeth Geyer is a most creative jazz musician from Australia. Bringing her skills on piano, vocals and flugelhorn to the sound of Deeper Imaginings, Ms. Geyer is a perfect collaborator to expand upon Paul’s wide-ranging sonic approach. Paul’s most recent release, 2019’s Deeper Imaginings is being compared to albums by Peter Gabriel, Paul Winter and Ravi Shankar. There is a definite ethereal and meditative nature to the Deeper Imaginings album and there’s also a wide range of gifted musicians to aid Paul and Elizabeth, including a surprising contribution on a pair of tracks, from fabled U.K. native / now U.S. based, founding Gentle Giant guitarist Gary Green along with Alp Akmaz on Balabon (Duduk), India’s Pravin Godkhindi (Bansuri flute) and David Hoffman, a former trumpet soloist for Ray Charles. After playing the album a good number of times, one thing that stands out is the organic feel of the overall sound on Deeper Imaginings. Some musicologists have spoken about the album’s approach of Eastern music meeting Western music and there is a lot of truth about that. The mix of Paul’s electric sitar, guitars, occasional spoken word poetry and Native American flutes with Ms. Geyer’s deeply resonant flugelhorn and elegant piano sounds, colored by her background in both jazz and ethnomusicology, gives this captivating album an ambitious and cool sounding groove. Even though the album sound is very much steeped in the traditions of Native American music and meditative New Age as well late-night beat-jazz music, Deeper Imaginings is very much an album made in the Global Groove spirit of 21st century instrumental music. /

MASCOT LABEL GROUP - Any time master guitarist Jan Akkerman releases a new album is a cause for celebration. The guitarist who jump-started the guitar-centric European progressive fusion scene back in the early 1970s, Jan is in fine form on his 2019 album—his first on the Mascot label. The 12-track, 65 minute Close Beauty was inspired by Jan winning the 2018 European guitar award and the album came together quickly after that. Close Beauty took over a year to complete and created with much musical finesse, it’s filled with just about every style of progressive guitar instrumental music imaginable. Some progressive music purists may complain that it’s too jazz and some jazz purists may say it’s too progressive yet after listening, it’s safe to say Close Beauty strikes a fine balance between both jazz and progressive rock. In choosing this original sounding name for the title Jan explains “Close Beauty is inspired from a simple notion, that when you are too close to an object you cannot see the real value.” Backing Jan’s music and electric and acoustic guitar work are Marijn van den Berg (drums), David De Marez Oyens (E-Bass and C-Bass) and album producer Coen Molenaar (keys). Complete with a stunning album cover painted by Michael Cheval, Close Beauty is a fascinating spin start to finish.

MULTIPHASE RECORDS – This has been a very good decade for San Francisco Bay-area guitarist / composer Carl Weingarten. Lucky for music fans that in 2018, Carl released This Is Where I Found You, an album that some are calling his best yet. For those music fans in the know, Carl’s music output dates back to the 1980s with his guitar work in the band Delay Tactics and reviewed his solo album Blue Faith in the November 2000 instrumental section. In their archives, has a number of other albums of Carl’s that were released in the first decade of the 21st century. In this soon to be over decade Carl released some excellent albums including Panomorphia (2012), Life Under Stars (2014), and An Endless Premonition (2016). As cool as those albums are, perhaps This Is Where I Found You is a most worthy follow up. Very easy on the ears without a hint of avant-garde or rock energy, the all-instrumental album features a sublime mix of heavenly instrumental music that blends New Age and electronica held together by Carl’s searing electric guitar work. A number of find players join Carl in the studio, including Kit Walker (piano), Pat Duffey (acoustic guitars), Ulrich Schnauss (keys, synths), Michael Manring (bass), Celso Alberti (drums), Jeff Oster (trumpet), Peter Calandra (keys, synths) and other players, including wordless vocals on the lead-off track “Sing Like Water”, by Tate Bissinger. For his part Carl, in addition to composing and producing This Is Where I Found You, performs a wide range of guitar sounds including acoustic and electric gitars, ebow, slide guitar, electric slide guitar, dobro and traveler guitar. Recorded between 2011 and 2018 at Multiphase Studios in Alameda California, This Is Where I Found You is quite rightly Carl Weingarten’s finest moment as a solo recording artist.

OA2 RECORDS – Here’s an odd candidate from the usually sonorous Origin label, albeit on their OA2 offshoot. The 2019 CD release of Phantasmagoria is an unusual sounding album recorded in Arizona by Bob Ravenscroft & Inner Journeys. Essentially Bob on piano and synth, assisted by the rhythm section of Dwight Kilian (bass) and Rob Moore (drums, synths), the 62 minute CD features 21 fairly short tracks that veer from free-jazz, accented on the acoustic piano, to Bob’s free-from synthesizer extrapolations that are sometimes quite intriguing sounding. Bob’s press page suggests a kind of freeform acoustic jazz meets ethereal electronica and it’s not a bad description even though the segues between tracks are sometimes jarring. Rob Moore’s jazzy drumming is fine, even if it sounds slightly out of place on some tracks. Even so, the atmospheres and compositions / improvs are mostly entertaining and plus, with that kind of diversity on one album, both jazzers and prog–watchers will be captures by Bob Ravenscroft and Phantasmagoria.

OA2 RECORDS – Origin Records offshoot label OA2 released coming home from vibist / bandleader / composer Lolly Allen. A NY native living in L.A. covers the classics and adds in some of her own on her 2019 album Coming Home. Not the most original album title ever, the music is a total gas. Recorded in L.A. in 2016, the ten tracks CD finally sees a release on OA2, establishing Ms. Allen as a formidable band leader and composer. Horace Silver, Johnny Mandel, Luiz Bonfá, AC Jobim and Dizzy Gillespie all receive the covers treatment while, a pair of Allen originals also shine here. The band assembled to record the album is first rate with Paul Kreibich (drums), Larry Koonse (guitar), a pair of pianists and a full horn section is also featured here. Straight ahead instrumental jazz with a fondness for the classics, Coming Home is a most welcome album filled with positive, timeless vibes (literally and figuratively!)

ORIGIN ARTS – Best known for his guitar books and tutorials on Mel-Bay, guitarist Corey Christiansen returns in 2019 with a new CD on Washington state Origin Arts. Although he still sounds quite inspired by his home turf in Utah and the wide open spaces of the great Pacific West, on Corey’s 2019 CD, La Proxima his sound is also influenced by music from Africa and Cuba. That splashy, Afro-Cuban groove makes for some inspired listening on the seven track, 48 minute CD and supporting Corey on La Proxima are some top flight musicians including Dave Belove (bass), Michael Spiro (percussion) and Colin Douglas (drums and percussion). The percussion sounds on the album gives it that exotic, indigenous Afro-Cuban coloration, while Corey’s electric guitar, and occasional acoustic guitar work tracks the music into some friendly, familiar fusion terrain. Recorded in Provo, Utah in 2019, La Proxima is a solid, jazz-friendly effort by the versatile guitar sound of Corey Christiansen.

ORIGIN ARTS – No sooner had Dan McCarthy released his early 2019 release Epoch, then he returned again in late 2019 with a follow up album on Origin called City Abstract. Where Epoch, recorded in NYC, was kind of a star studded affair, complete with appearances of guitarist Ben Monder and bass legend Steve Swallow, the May 2019 recording of City Abstract finds Dan back in his home turf of Toronto Canada recording with his own band. Backing Dan’s excellent vibraphones and tracks on City Abstract is the rhythm section of Pat Collins (bass) and Ted Warren (drums). Even with such a strong rhythm section, the main attraction for fusion fans is the sizzling electric guitar work of Ted Quinlan, who sounds very inspired by Pat Metheny, offering some excellent leads and improvs of his own. Three covers here penned by Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett and Carla Bley sheds light on Dan’s musical intent. Also telling is the liner notes with dedications to Carla Bley and of course Dan’s main influence, vibraphone master Gary Burton. Fans of Burton and Bley should not miss City Abstract by vibes maestro Dan McCarthy.

REVERBARAMA ULTRA RECORDS – Fans of classic instrumental surf-rock will want to give a listen to the 10-track, 25 minute CD release of By Way Of Rosarito, the 2019 album release by Maine-based Los Pengüinos. Maine you say? Well, by way of Southern California! Even though there are some penguins on the cover of the album, this album really heats things up, and the bikini-clad gal standing next to the surfboard underscores the beach theme of this music. With the band adopting stage names like Diego Fedora (guitars), Eddie El Minon (drums) and Raul Julio Franco (bass), the accent is on the band’s all original fare, which cites influences like Dick Dale, The Ventures, Hank Marvin, Link Wray, and Los Straitjackets. Some tracks feature a Latin music connection ala Herb Alpert, another self-proclaimed Los Pengüinos influence – although minus the trumpets! The sound is as trebly as possible and the band all but cracks a whip as the sound of surf barrels out of your speakers. With one killer track after the next, By Way Of Rosarito is a superb introduction to the hard-hitting surf-rock sound of Los Pengüinos.

RHOMBUS RECORDS – Texas-based guitarist Bernie Mora blasts out of the blues for his 2019 album on the California-based Rhombus label. Credited to Bernie Mora & Tangent, the nine cut No Agenda is just that – an album that moves from jazz to jazz-rock fusion with taste and finesse. Assistnig Bernie’s well-recorded elecgric guitars are a range of players including Charles Godfrey (drums, percussion), Daniel Becker (bass, 12-string acoustic guitar), Doug Webb (sax, flute), Corey Allen (keys) and Lee Thornberg (trumpet, trombone). A full-bodied, all-instrumental set, No Agenda is instrumental jazz-rock fusion at its finest. Fans of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana and Hendrix will dig this diverse album. The album is dedicated to Bernie’s drummer Doc Anthony, whose drums were used in the recording. There’s way too many highlights to single anything out but No Agenda moves with ease through a range of jazzy, rocky, fusion and even Latin music styles to please just about everyone.

RHYTHMUS RECORDS – Renowned as a session musician, in 2019 guitarist / composer Ray Obeido released Carousel, his 9th solo album and third on his self-owned Rhythmus Records. The nine cut Carousel features an upbeat mix of Latin / Brazilian music grooves featuring some of the finest jazz musicians in the Northern California area. With its added mix of funk and R&B grooves there’s something here for all jazz fans. For Carousel, Ray’s acoustic / electric guitars, keys and occasional vocals are backed up by music greats including jazz icon Toots Thielemans (harmonica), Bob Mintzer (sax) and Andy Narell (steel pan drums) along with a number of drummers and percussionists, including Peter Michael Escovedo and Tower Of Power drummer David Garibaldi, that gives the album sound a very rhythmic feel. If the winter time blues get you down, give a good listen to the positive, uplifting vibes of Carousel by groove master guitarist Ray Obiedo.

RICHHEART MUSIC - When he’s not doing his thing as a New Age recording artist, multitalented Richard Shulman can be seen and heard making jazzy, instrumental sounds with his band, The Richard Shulman Trio. Richard’s seventh jazz album, entitled Waltzing Out Of Town was released in 2019 on his Richheart Music label. Backing up Richard’s deft acoustic piano music are Zack Page (bass) and Rick Dilling (drums). With its inherent peaceful sounds, there’s a very upbeat vibe about Waltzing Out Of Town and parts of the album sound a bit like McCoy Tyner or even Vince Guaraldi’s cinematic piano instrumentals, although much of Waltzing Out Of Town is quite original sounding in its approach. The cover art and overall animated packaging is very colorful and enhances the overall listening experience. Richard’s track-by-track liner notes offers further insights into his musical background and he cites major influences like Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea. As Richard also says in the notes, he wants his music to bring the listener much joy and peace. With Richard Shulman’s elegant acoustic piano trio album Waltzing Out Of Town he’s clearly done just that.

RIVERSIDE RECORDS – Guitar fans wondering about the current whereabouts of guitarist / composer Kurt Fröberg, leader of Sweden’s great surf rock band The Ryders, might want to check out the 2019 CD release of The Guitar Sounds Of… by The Lenny Clerwall Band. For those that might not be aware of the Swedish guitar instrumental scene from the past 40 years, Lennart Clerwall is a true legend of that musical genre. A gifted guitarist in his own right, on this CD Lenny handles the electric bass and leaves the lead guitar work to Kurt. Lenny first came to my attention as a chief composer on the 1981 Lp release by the Swedish band 1961. Both Lenny and Kurt are hardly newcomers to the music scene, with Lenny born in 1944 and Kurt in 1951 respectively. Joining forces on the 2019 The Guitars Sounds Of The Lenny Clerwall Band, these fine guitar-centric composers don’t disappoint. Very much in the spirit of England’s great hit makers, The Shadows, the 20 track CD features a stellar mix of Clerwall originals, along with covers of early 1960s Shadows favorites as well as tracks penned in the 1960s by giants like Michael Carr, Jerry Lordan, Lee Hazelwood, Norrie Paramor and others that are each played with much finesse and sonic devotion. To top it off, the sound quality is as good as any of the underrated, latter period CDs released by The Shadows during the late 1980s while the album cover is very Shadows / Ryders inspired. As the detailed liner notes indicate, on this album Lenny and Kurt are joined by Steve Longden (rhythm guitars) and Dave Eyre (drums). Guitar instrumental fans seeking state of the art guitar instrumental albums made in the 21st century must give a good few listens to The Guitar Sounds Of… by The Lenny Clerwall Band.

SHARAWAJI RECORDS – A must hear for 21st century surf-rock fans of all ages, The Baleful Sounds Of: Black Valley Moon Vol. 1 is a fine instroducction to a lesser known yet rising instrumental trio from the Treasure Coast of Florida. There’s a definite Ventures, Link Wray, Shadows, Dick Dale and Davie Allan element in play yet there’s also some very unique instro guitar sounds, and besides the music on this CD is all-original. Featuring the electric guitars, music and engineering of Sam Williams, The Baleful Sounds Of CD is highlighted by appearances from a range of players including John DiMambro (bass) Jason Parrish (acoustic guitar), Hunter Oswald (drums) and more. What the band lacks in originality is made up by their diverse approach to instrumental guitar music. Clocking at just over 28 minutes, the 12-track album from Black Valley Moon is an exciting fresh take on state of the art rock instrumentals.

SPOTTED PECCARY – Since the mid 1990’s Spotted Peccary has had impeccable taste in electronic music. Why stop a good thing? That’s what I thought after hearing two recent SP titles released in 2019, 20+ years after the label’s early releases. Rudy Adrian released Woodlands, his latest on SP in mid 2019. The music on the 13-track, 67 minute Woodland’s was inspired by the natural wonders of the great outdoors in Rudy’s native New Zealand, and there’s plenty of excellent sounding synth sounds and various electronic instrumental music to make it of interest for fans of the genre. Very peaceful and pastoral and not at all harsh or percussive, the sound of Woodlands varies between pure electronica and pastoral New Age instrumental. Classical music for electronic fans? You decide. Occasional flute appears and clearly created for electronic music fans, Woodlands is a most reflective and totally serene album by New Zealand-based synth music maven Rudy Adrian. Also out in 2019 by Spotted Peccary is 21 Pulse Eclipse from Bart Hawkins. More synth-based than the Rudy Adrian album, Bart’s 8-track, 73 minute album sounds more inspired by the Berlin School of Tangerine Dream and other German synth pioneers. Created on August 21st, 2017, during the full solar eclipse in the state of Oregon, the album is best described as a “deep dive into the world of modular synthesis and pure electronic sound-shaping”. The sonic view may be slightly harsh in scope yet, but 21 Pulse Eclipse is clearly a masterful sounding album of modular synthesizer magic. Hard to believe there are no traditional keyboards on the album but even a cursory glance at the bizarre looking modular synth in the CD booklet will convince you of the totally unique nature of Bart Hawkins and his way-out synth music.

TONE CENTER – Continuing his explorations of the electric guitar within the framework of Latin music, jazz guitar ace Steve Khan released Patchwork in 2019 on the Tone Center label. Steve’s recent albums including Backlog (2016), have earned him the title “the voice of the guitar in Latin jazz”. With only one Khan original on the 9-track, 77 minute CD, the bulk of Patchwork centers on Khan covers of classics penned by music legends including Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett and more with, all the tracks imbued with a jazzy Latin accent. Speaking about the title and album art for Patchwork, Steve tells, "Firstly, Medio Mezclado actually refers to the process of the Michel Granger artwork for the cover. I think of this series of paintings as a "mixed medium" process - whereby he has blended actual plants and foliage with painting techniques and, of course, his ever-present earth/globe - as all of his work is dedicated to "saving the planet"! However, there are those who speak Spanish who feel that you could interpret the subtitle in other ways - which is true - but, I am telling how I viewed it. It really isn't supposed to be a literal translation of "patchwork" which would have led me in a different direction. But titles like: collage, amalgam, mélange, or others are all so overused. I discovered Michel Granger's early body of work around the same time that I was discovering Jean-Michel Folon's work - going back to the mid-1970s. I have always loved the colorful nature of their artwork - beginning with their airbrush technique which, for both has developed and evolved. They each are very globally conscious artists with a great desire for world peace, understanding, and saving this glorious planet of ours ...which pretty much describes what each tune that I chose to interpret means to me. Like all the tunes that I have been interpreting over all of these years, they all pretty much come from the mid-'60s, generally speaking - which falls right around my college years @ UCLA and a great period of discovery for me. I wouldn't play any of them unless I had a deep feeling for them. Much of the Latin influence can be felt thanks to the percussion of Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende, who add in some exotic sounding sounds on conga, bongo, timbale and assorted percussion. The band Steve uses on Patchwork is top rate too, including Rubén Rodriguez (baby bass and electric bass), Dennis Chambers (drums) and Rob Mounsey (keyboards), who brings in orchestrations. Horn sounds from Randy Brecker and Bob Mintzer appear on a couple tracks as does the keyboards / arranging of Jorge Estrada. Liner notes by Rafael Vega Curry offers a glimpse into Steve Khan’s musical concepts. A very cool album filled with Afro-bolera and cha-cha rhythms, Patchwork is a globe-spanning album of instrumental guitar tracks seasoned with the World Groove sound of Latin musical vibes.

Two Parts is the third album by the Indiana-based group The Tucker Brothers, featuring the instrumental jazz-based music of Nick Tucker (bass) and Joel Tucker (guitar). Released in 2019, the nine track Two Parts album also features Sean Imboden (sax) and Brian Yarde (drums) as well as a host of guest artists. The album starts of quite sublimely with an Erik Satie inspired instrumental featuring the entrancing wordless vocals of Elena Escudero, yet it quickly settles into a solid, all instrumental jazz-fusion mode. The music of The Tucker Brother is described as being rawly emotive, deeply expressive and curious and true to form, the music on Two Parts presents a dynamic counter balance of compositional and improvisational sounds. Produced by The Tucker Brothers and Jake Belser, Two Parts is just the ticket to bring their music to the eyes and ears of jazz music fans worldwide. /

KIT WATKINS MUSIC – The music business has changed so dramatically over the past 40 years that it staggers the imagination. Following his tenure as a key member of the 1970s progressive rock band Happy The Man, keyboardist / composer Kit Watkins went on to release a number of critically acclaimed solo albums since the early 1980s. Despite a number of his albums being released by now defunct labels such as East Side Digital, One Way Records and even his own Linden Records, Kit Watkins has soldiered on and lo and behold, Kit returned once again, in 2019, for the CD release of Field Of View. With Kit handling all the keyboards, vocals and percussion, Field Of View also features Forrest Young (drums, percussion), Bill Smith (percussion) and Greg Moreau (ebow guitar). As usual, Field Of View is yet another sonic masterpiece by Kit Watkins—an album that can proudly take its place alongside past albums such as his all-time classic from 1985 - In Time. With all tracks composed by Kit—except the leadoff track “Spirit Of The Water”, composed by the late great Peter Bardens—Field Of View is a most satisfying album of spacey, mostly instrumental tracks, bound to please progressive rock fans no end.

WEISHU MUSIC – Based in New Mexico, the band called Mystic Journey released a very cool New Age instrumental album back in 2017 called Kingdom Of Mountains. In 2019, the two key members Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy released an album called Autumn Monsoon. Very much steeped in the New Age meditation music sound of Mystic Journey, the ten-track, 48 minute Autumn Monsoon is the perfect backdrop for Suzanne’s Native American flutes and Gilbert’s percussion, synths and guitars. The sound is very acoustic in nature and joining the duo on Autumn Monsoon are their cohorts in Mystic Journey, Joe Ossman (diruba) and Dean Torres (guitars). The album cover art is brilliant, capturing the swirling essence of the mystical sounds featured throughout the album. Autumn Monsoon is clearly one of the top instrumental New Age and meditation music albums of 2019.



CHRYSALIS RECORDS / RHINO – To my utter astonishment at that time, in his liner notes for the 2016 Steven Wilson remix box set for the second Jethro Tull album Stand Up, Ian Anderson claimed he was putting down John Lennon in the song "Living In The Past", a Tull single, although totally different from anything on Stand Up, from 1969 and bonus track on the same Stand Up box set, because Lennon (as Ian then saw it per this specific "Revolution" track) was a super-rich rock star that shouldn't be involved in the politics that Lennon was becoming more and more part of. To his detriment, in those same Stand Up liner notes, Ian also needlessly insulted Yoko Ono. One can understand Ian's frustration (back then) with Lennon's intense mix of rock and politics during the Vietnam war era or at least on that one special Beatles track. I could almost imagine Ian's expression upon his then hearing Lennon tracks like "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" and "Mind Games"! Somehow, after worshipping Lennon as a young musician in the mid '60s, Ian I suppose was somehow hurt by Lennon's abdication of The Beatles where upon starting his politically motivated anti-war leanings. Maybe he felt, Lennon should have been more careful about the people that would eventually dispose of him, and on that one Ian would be 100% right but that's another story... It's all true, believe it or note, as I pointed out in my review of the 2017 Steven Wilson remix / box set for Songs From The Wood, the truth be told, at that revolutionary time in music history, many of Tull's fans between 18 and 35 were all bitter from the drastic loss of life and also scared of getting drafted, as I was when I received my draft notice in early 1972. I dealt with "it" when I walked like a man, into the draft board office where I was interviewed by the military officers there, and where I was photographed and given my "draft card". Following the Steven Wilson 2018 remix box set of Heavy Horses, all is forgiven and ostensibly clear again on the Tull front thanks to a brilliant Steven Wilson remix box set for Tull's final album of the 1970s, from November 1979, Stormwatch. After their tenure as the leading arena rock innovators between 1970 and 1979, Tull were still so far ahead of the pack that it would actually and quite ironically take the assassination of John Lennon in the months that unfolded at the end of 1980 to drag down the entire corporate rock structure, which would to my utter astonishment only be propped up again owing to the German / Japanese invention / invasion of the compact disc in 1983 and to a much larger degree, the year of the savage roar, 1984: the year I bought my first CD (Ziggy Stardust). Like the rest of the world, at the time of Stormwatch I distinctly remember most that the U.S. was going through an insane energy crisis, mostly due to the infamous Iranian revolution of 1979. Gas lines 50 cars back, price gouging for gas and fear of not being able to drive (anyone remember odd / even license plates in NYC?) My Dad, God bless him, because he drove so much, had decided to shift to using "diesel", the fumes of which eventually poisoned me. This tragic energy crises between the US and Iran drove the country far to the right as witnessed by the rise of the Reagan / Bush era, which in fact would last twelve long years. So, it's no wonder, Stormwatch started with the politically supercharged track “North Sea Oil” which was Ian's desperate plea (then) for oil from the North Sea to alleviate England’s energy crises. There's no more bitching and moaning here and to Ian's credit, he's really in a good mood as he rambles through his meticulously detailed recollections in the massive booklet of Rhino’s 2019 box set Stormwatch - The 40th Anniversary: Force 10 Edition, which includes the original album remixed by... you know who! To his credit, in addition to remixing the original Stormwatch for CD, Steven Wilson has collected a wide range of unreleased / underrated music from that 1978-79 period of Tull and is remixed and represented here in incredible CD sound. Even so, song lyrics, a full double CD of a live show from March 16th, 1980 in Holland and two DVDs are also encased with a wide array of features for the DVD audio crowd. Way too many brilliant moments to mention in a mere review - even a Steven Wilson remix / box set review - but check out the ten-minute version of the album’s stand-up track "Orion" on the associated recordings disc. Even Tull fans who overlooked Stormwatch 40 years ago will be bowled over by the Stormwatch: Force 10 Edition remix box.

MULTIPHASE RECORDS - In 2018, guitarist / composer Carl Weingarten released This Is Where I found You, possibly his greatest studio album. Around the same time, Carl went back into his musical vault and came up with a double CD reissue featuring two previously released albums—Escapesilence (2002) and Local Journeys (2005). In light of the success of This Is Where I Found You, it’s clear these two albums don’t sound dated a bit and, despite being out of print for a while, they each provide a welcome replay. Described by in 2002 as being “a soundtrack for your own private movie”, the 13-track Escapesilence features a number of talented backing musicians, including Michael Manring (bass), Alex DeGrassi (acoustic guitar), Robert Powell (pedal steel guitar) and Brian Knave (drums / engineer). This double CD set also features a second CD including Carl’s 2005 album Local Journeys, which again includes Carl’s tried and trust rhythm section of Manring and Knave along with a string of backing musicians, including three cellists. Although Carl’s 2004 compilation, called Hand In The Sand – A Collection 1990-2004 captured a number of classic moments from his early solo albums, there’s so many stellar moments on this double CD package to warrant full investigation of Escapesilence and Local Journeys.

SUMMERFOLD RECORDS – Fifty years ago in 1969, Bill Bruford became the founding drummer of the prog-rock band YES and the world has never stopped thanking him for it. Hard to believe he left YES in 1972 to join King Crimson and Alan White has remained the YES timekeeper ever since. Despite his short but influential tenure as a founding member of YES, Bill has constantly sort out ways to exert his unparalleled influence in the music world. Clearly the jazz influence in YES was thanks to him and following the heady early 1970s period, Bill went on to make his mark as a solo artist, later founding his acclaimed jazz band Bill Bruford’s Earthworks back in 1986. The band had a long and winding career, complete with a string of successful studio albums and live concert recordings, although it ended around 2006. Long story short, condensing the band’s 20+ year history, in 2019 Bill’s label Summerfold released a 20 CD / 4 DVD box set called Earthworks Complete. Bruford and jazz music fans looking for a more distilled perspective of Bill’s box set should check out Heavenly Bodies – The Expanded Collection. The expanded version of a single CD Earthworks collection from 2000, this 2019 version Heavenly Bodies features 2+ hours of finely wrought instrumental jazz, on two CDs, that owes more to acoustic jazz legends like John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck than it does to YES or King Crimson. In his informative 2019 liner notes, Bill sheds light on why he left the rock world to go back into the freethinking world of improvisational acoustic jazz. A number of musicians back up Bill throughout the Heavenly Bodies collection. Featuring the early Earthworks era with Bill and band in the studio, co-produced by Dave Stewart and David Torn, through till live Earthworks recordings from the early 2000’s, the sound was always crystal clear and well-produced. Many musicians participated in the Earthworks band and they’re all noted in the detailed CD booklet. Packed with detailed information and excellent CD booklet art, Heavenly Bodies is a great way to sample and hold the highlights of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks.




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