Record Label and Music Spotlight 




on Harp Guitar Music



on YepRoc Records


on Angel Air Records

2008 / 2009

Pop & Rock

ANGEL AIR - Angel Air are in a league of their own when it comes to bringing English rock legends back into the spotlight, especially with new live albums from Stackridge and also in 2008 they have a new live CD from the group Fire. In late 2007 the original four piece group reunited to play their 1969 recording of The Magic Shoemaker. Before he went on to join The Strawbs as lead guitarist and vocalist, Dave Lambert served as the guitar and vocalist in Fire. Revisiting Fire’s early work, Lambert’s early progressive rock and pop influences foreshadowed his work in Strawbs as well and is a solid testament to the vast amount of high quality rock and folk-rock coming out the England circa 1970.

- Starting off with a place setting spaghetti western instrumental, Greg Kamp soon settles into the same radio friendly pop groove he crafted as the guitarist in Smash Mouth. Camp covers lots of ground on his 2008 CD Defektor, handling guitars, bass and vocals while backed by drummer Mitch Marine and select players on various tracks. Staking his claim among the musical spirits of classic rockers like Elvis Costello, Sting and Madness through to current pop faves Fountains Of Wayne, Camp weaves a wealth of influences on Defektor— all the while deftly combining ‘60s pop, rock ‘n’ roll and new wave with hints of funk, reggae and dance music.

EAGLE ROCK - Earlier in her career, Tracey Ullman rocked the music world as an exceptional singer who could cover all manners of pop music. Moving on as an actress, her resume is now quite varied. Eagle’s 2008 DVD captures five episodes of her show, Tracey Ullman’s State Of The Union. Described as Ullman’s look at ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Absolutely Ridiculous,’ State Of The Union is a side splitting, satirical look at the state of America today. Ullman is amazing as a singer and equally brilliant as a comic actress and impersonator. Two plus hours of classic Ullman, Tracey Ullman’s State Of The Union comes with loads of extras including bloopers, out takes, screen tests, commentary and deleted scenes. Impeccably filmed, State Of The Union will crack you up and beautifully filmed, it’s a joy to watch.

EAGLE ROCK - Following the release of Old New Ballads Blues in 2006 and Close As You Get in 2007, Gary Moore returns in 2008 with Bad For You Baby.With a resumes that includes having worked with George Harrison, Thin Lizzy, Greg Lake, Jack Bruce and innumerable guitar icons, Gary Moore continues to be England’s ambassador of the blues. Featuring Moore’s midas touch in the studio on guitar and vocals, Bad For You Baby spotlights Moore in prime form backed up by a solid band including Sam Kelly (drums), Vic Martin (keyboards) and Pete Rees (bass). Moore has a solid catalog with and with a classic album cover art, Bad For You Baby makes a fine addition. If you like the blues you’ll like this CD.

- Jules Shear has the rock thing down but when he gets all sentimental and spacey no one can touch him. Just ask Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty—two pop masters who’ve covered Shear’s music. One of the highlights of Shear’s 2008 CD More, entitled “We Said Goodbye” sounds like something that could have been on Shear’s 1983 Todd Rundgren produced Watchdog debut Lp. 25 years later, the song just kills, combining an Eno inspired spatial touch with the musical insight of Brian Wilson circa Surf’s Up. There’s a couple more equally poignant moments like that on the 2008 CD release of More released on the AZ.-based Funzalo, while the rest is Jules giving in to some pretty heavy rock angst at the close of these dubya double oh’s. With Jules on lead guitar and vocals backed up by a number of top players, More covers a stunning range of pop and rock tracks.

- A mind blowing mix of swampy blues and all sorts of out there rock sounds, Slo Leak features guitar legend Danny Kortchmar paired with fellow rock guitarist Charlie Karp. Kortchmar has worked with the best in the biz including a long stint with James Taylor starting the late ‘60s before moving on to work with Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt and many more. Karp on the other hand played guitar and toured with Buddy Miles for years, as well as working with Meatloaf and others. New Century Blues is an action packed CD filled with an awesome range of sounds. Slo Leak is fittingly described in the liner notes by Jackson Browne as ‘ultra contemporary, deeply grooving and wickedly funny.’

- Some of the biggest names in rock music get together behind a common purpose on Les Paul & Friends: A Tribute To A Legend. Produced by Bob Cutarella, the ten track CD is a mostly bluesy, hard rocking album that features guitar heroes such as Joe Bonamassa, Richie Sambora, Jeff Golub, Johnny Rzeznik, Joe Perry, Slash, Peter Frampton, the late Hiram Bullock and more all paying tribute to the great Les Paul. 93 years young and still a music icon, Les Paul himself appears on several tracks adding in some of his patented guitar stylings. A rocking tribute to Les Paul—the man, the guitar and the sound that turned on generations of guitarists and guitar lovers, Les Paul & Friends features liner notes by Slash sheds light on the vast influence Les Paul has had on guitarists of every musical persuasion.

LIME RECORDS - With Yes on hiatus, in 2005 and 2006 Chris Squire toured and recorded and made one brilliant studio album and a pretty good DVD with The Syn. Compared to the progressive beat-prog sound of the Syn, Squire’s latest solo studio album is a rewarding album of electrified hymns and other yuletide classics for rock band and choir. Featuring a dozen full length religious rockers, Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir features the famous Yes bass great paired with keyboardist Gerard Johnson, drummer Jeremy Stacey and prog guitar ace Steve Hackett. Steve never steals the show, favoring to season Squire’s hymnal rockers with tasteful acoustic and electric work. Squire sings a couple leads but mostly the CD features the players supporting the vocals of The English Baroque Choir. As the bio blurb states, though no actual Swiss choirs were used or harmed in the making of this album, don’t try saying “Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir” three times. One essential track here is bonus track 13, the CD closer of Squire’s rare 1981 holiday track, “Run With The Fox.”

MPL / ATO - 2008, The Fireman rushes in with their third CD. The brainchild of Apple Records a&r boss Paul McCartney and the producer known as Youth, Electric Arguments is the most rocking installment yet by The Fireman. This time McCartney eschews a mostly ambient / dub instrumental setting for a scaled back Band Of The Run type eclectic rock affair. Some tracks even seem like Paul is reminiscent for the Beatles white album era ‘68 sound. Late ‘60s Beatles, Band On The Run D.I.Y. and even a dose of ‘50 rock and roll collide on a CD that is proving to be McCartney’s most free form and uplifting album in quite a while. As great as Macca’s Fireman tracks are, one wonders if Paul would ever go back as a solo artist to record further instrumental rock works in the spirit of, say his rarely heard mid ‘80s Press To Play era “Hanglide” B-side. Whatever style of McCartney turns you on, there’s plenty to dig and get into on the new Fireman CD. The hidden track ending of “Don’t Stop Running” provides a surreal finale with some cosmic flamenco mellotron crescendos.

- Still sounding inspired by Peter Gabriel era Genesis, the legendary British quintet Marillion owes a lot to ‘70s era prog-rock yet they capture a sound of their own with 2008’s Happiness Is The Road. Featuring a sprawling double CD studio set, there’s no shortage of pop driven prog atmospherics that would appeal to fans of mid era Traffic and Pink Floyd. Celebrating 30 years, Marillion formed back in 1978 by guitarist Steve Rothery and singer Fish. Rothery is an ace player in the spirit of contemporaries like David Gilmour and Alex Lifson. Renewed with the 1989 arrival of current lead singer Steve Hogarth, Marillion have been going strong and in 1999 they formed and released a CD called signaling the band’s business model. No doubt the 2008 release of Happiness Is The Road should please long time fans and newcomers alike.

MGM - By bringing Anthony Snape out on his 2008 U.S. tour as his opening act, guitar god Tommy Emmanuel isn’t the only one now singing his praises. Working for years in his native Australia, Snape is making waves in the pop world with the 2007 CD release of his debut CD Disappearing Day, and American listeners are starting to pick up on Snape’s solid approach to pop and rock guitar based songs. With this auspicious debut, Snape sounds like a modern day Tim Finn in Split Enz. With Snape’s guitar and vocals backed by a hot band and a great studio sound, Disappearing Day rocks and goes deep with the folk-rock moments that Snape excels in.

MEAN BUZZ RECORDS - Offering their own post modern mix of power pop meets glam-rock, the Nashville based Pink Spiders burst on the scene with their first album, produced by Ric Ocasek. That 2006 album, Teenage Graffiti is now followed by the 2008 CD release of Sweat It Out. Stacked with one catchy rocker after the next, Sweat It Out offers a modern take on the sound of Cheap Trick. The Pink Spiders features the lead vocals of front man Matt Friction, who has also recently release his first solo album. Produced by Brendan O’Brien, Sweat It Out is just the ticket to bring The Pink Spiders to the forefront of the modern music scene.

NACIONAL RECORDS - The creation of Chile based German producer DJ Uwe Schmidt, also known as Señor Coconut, Around The World is like a global tour through a collection of Latin flavored tributes to club hits. Bridging the space between Latin and techno music, there’s plenty here to marvel at. Señor Coconut’s tropical flavored Latin big band music is a real hoot, sometimes coming off like Ricky Ricardo on acid. Cosmic lounge music, the sound of Around The World is firmly entrenched in the ‘60s. The wonderful way the album is recorded makes it a stereo showcase and dig that crazy echo on Señor Coconut’s Latin club version of Prince’s timeless hit “Kiss,” sung by the Austrian Frank Sinatra, Louie Austen. Anyone who turned on to the lounge music craze of the mid ‘90s will dig the kitschy, retro approach of Señor Coconut. Other highlights include an electro bossa nova vocal cover of Jobim’s “Corcovado” and a cha-cha style “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”. In addition to Around The World, Señor Coconut also released El Baile Alemean. Señor Coconut’s tribute to Kraftwerk, the CD adds textures like maracas, congas, shakers and vibes-a-go-go that seduce and rearrange the menacing Kraftwerk electronic vibe. Either way, check out that fab cover art and let Señor Coconut take you on his appealing sound journey around the world.

- Commenting on the release of his second full length CD, singer-songwriter Nick Pagliari adds, ‘This is a people album. It’s about my life, the lives of my friends and the characters I’ve developed to tell different stories about struggle and romance and desire and change.’ Whew! Please And Thank You finds that Pagliari has all his bases covered on an album that blends the twang of Nashville with the spirit of Memphis. Pagliari is a gifted songwriter who was clearly influenced by both the sound of Stax and the great soul / pop bands that emanated from Nashville like Big Star and The Box Tops. Although he cut his latest CD in Memphis, Pagliari has great things to say about Nashville adding, ‘Everywhere you look in Nashville, there’s great music and great musicians.’ Backed up by a solid band, including guitarist and co-producer Scott Hardin, Pagliari delivers the goods with Please And Thank You.

Back in late ‘60s, The Beatles and Pink Floyd in Englandand The Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield in America were having an enormous impact on countless pop bands from both continents. The Aliens counter with a proposition for pop evolution in the 21st century with their 2008 CD Luna. This whole album is a modern psych-pop masterpiece. The single off Luna that’s been floated throughout the U.K. pop media, an up to the minute Brian Wilson style collage / experiment called “Theremin” pays tribute to the instrument that Wilson introduced to modern pop fans in 1966 on “Good Vibrations.” “Theremin” is a pop masterpiece that pools some incredibly insightful pop chops and takes the genre a giant leap forward.

- NYC based singer-songwriter Steve Wynn recorded his 2008 CD, Crossing Dragon Bridge in Slovokia. Working along side co-producer Chris Eckman, the sound of Crossing Dragon Bridge sounds like a more modern Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. There’s a definite Richard Thompson / Al Stewart singer-songwriter kind of vibe but the songs, especially “Manhattan Fault Line” are lushly orchestrated with Wynn’s Dylan-esque lyrics neatly fitting in the song cadences. Both Wynn and Eckman are fine guitarists and track three, “Love Me Anyway” features some fine Neil Young inspired electric work from both while other tracks feature notable players who help flesh out Wynn and Eckman’s production. Wynn seemed to strike a musical nerve with the 2008 release of Crossing Dragon Bridge. Wynn’s slightly Euro flavored songs drift across the sound stage and leave you wanting to hear it again.

SHOUT! FACTORY - Pop maverick, guitarist Matthew Sweet made his big breakthrough back in the mid ‘80s with the Golden Palominos and since, as singer-songwriter he’s gone on to record a number of solid pop solo albums. His 10th studio album, 2008’s Sunshine Lies is one of his best. Enlisting a top backing band—including guitarists Richard Lloyd and Greg Leisz and backing vocalist Susanna Hoffs—Sweet calls his music ‘power-pop-folk-rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff. According to Sweet, ‘When it rocks, it rocks its ass off,’ and echoing his big influences, the Beach Boys, Beatles and Byrds, Sweets delivers another sonic burst of pop artistry of his own with Sunshine Lies.

SIX SHOOTER - In the spirit of fellow countryman Neil Young, Canadian rocker Luke Doucet creates a neat balance between raw rock energy and solid guitar rock. A showcase for his top guitar work, the title track of his 2008 CD Blood’s Too Rich strikes a modern pop nerve. From start to finish the album is a testament to Doucet’s work as a band leader, a singer-songwriter and a guitarist. Doucet writes music and plays guitar the way Neil Young and guys like John Fogerty do—rock solid and built to last. Anyone over 60 will need glasses to read the artwork and lyrics but the CD packaging is so cool who cares.

- German guitar god Uli Jon Roth started out back in the early 1970’s, even temporarily joining The Scorpions, replacing Michael Schenker who had left to join UFO. Selling millions with The Scorpions, Roth went on to form Electric Sun. During the ‘80s Roth commissioned the building of his Sky guitars—a custom electric guitar with six octaves and 32 frets. With the 2008 CD release of Under A Dark Sky, Roth has clearly reached a new level in his star-studded career. Inspired by his own creative approach to composing symphonies, concertos and sometimes performing with orchestras throughout Europe, Roth’s Under A Dark Sky is neoclassical hard rock at its best. With Roth performing all the guitars, he’s joined by a wide array of vocalists, a full band and what he calls his Sky Orchestra and Sky Choir. Hard rock neoclassical metal fans will be amazed by the comprehensive and sweeping orchestral mix of both vocal and instrumental sounds.

STONY PLAIN - Described as a true messenger for the blues, singer / guitarist Rory Block was only 15 when she met blues icon Son House and in 2008 she released her Son House tribute CD, Blues Walkin’ Like A Man. Commenting on what an influence Son House is on her music, Rory adds, ‘Backstage at the Village Gate in 1965, Son House virtually radiated a golden light. I learned a deep lesson about the power of the music which became an inseparable part of me. Later I had a chance to play for him. I will never forget his amazement as I played Willie Brown’s “Future Blues.” He was asking people, ‘where did she learn to play like this?’ Released on the Canadian Stony Plain label, Blues Walkin’ Like A Man benefits from support by Dick Waterman, who managed Son House till the singer’s passing in 1988. Backing up Rory’s vocals and guitars on the 13 track CD is rock legend John Sebastian contributing harmonica. Praised by contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block lives up to her legacy with Blues Walkin’ Like A Man.

- As a young boy at the dawn of the ‘60s, I was amazed by Chubby Checker. The first major R&B rock singer of the ‘60s, Chubby (born Ernest Evans) swept the country with “The Twist.” The Twist dance craze swept the country before the Beatles changed it again with “Twist And Shout” in ‘63. Now at age 67, Chubby is back better then ever with a new single “Knock Down The Walls”, replacing his twist beat with something more along the Euro-pop lines of Sting or Genesis. Featuring Chubby backed up by a number of players—including guitarist Roger Filgate—the CD release features 8 different mixes of the track including the pop mix, the dance instrumental and the TV instrumental pop mix versions. The style may be a little freaky for the oldies crowd, but it’s great to hear Chubby’s voice in 2008.

UMBRELLO - One of the highlights of 2005 was the return of the SYN. The British art-rock legend that featured singer-songwriter Steve Nardelli, late great keyboard icon Andrew Jackman and Yes guitarists Chris Squire and Pete Banks, SYN arrived during the same era as the 1967 Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and served as a logical forerunner to the dawn of the progressive rock era of YES. Now in a logical extension of their now classic 2005 Syndestructable comeback CD comes an amazing 2008 track created by SYN vocalist Steve Nardelli entitled “Reasons And Rituals”. Created as a virtual e-mail song collaboration, with contributions from great players such as guitarist Brent Kull and YES keyboardist Tom Brislin, and woven together by singer Nardelli in the studio, “Reasons And Rituals” is right up there with the best of Syndestructable as well another great SYN favorite from ‘06, “Armistice Day.” As fans await the upcoming SYN Big Sky album, “Reasons And Rituals” is an excellent snapshot of Nardelli in action. Well worth it if you can get the link from Steve! /

U-WATCH / DKE RECORDS - Commenting on his second solo album, the 2008 CD release of 1000 Miles Of Life, guitarist and singer-songwriter John Oates claims, ‘It was a wake-up call for me. I’ve never written songs like this. I was on an inspirational roll. There was an urgency to it.’ Co-produced by Oates and Jed Leiber, son of rock and roll icon Jerry Leiber, 1000 Miles Of Life has the trademark R&B / pop sound that Oates featured in Hall & Oates. Cut in Nashville, Aspen and L.A., 1000 Miles Of Life features Oates backed up by seasoned studio hands such as Steve Cropper, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Dan Dugmore and others. The famous blue eyed soul sound of Hall & Oates is never far off and as a solid pop and rock CD, 1000 Miles Of Life works like a charm. Commenting on stepping out of Hall & Oates for recording the CD, Oates adds, ‘Doing this album is good for both of us. When we do come back together, we bring those experiences to what we do. But this is a very personal record for me and, without a double, the highlight of my recording career.’

- A legend of the folk-rock scene of Greenwich Village from the early ‘60, Richie Havens is an American musical hero. The conscience of the pop music world, Havens has recorded well over 25 albums since the ‘60s and in 2008 he keeps his legacy moving forward with Nobody Left To Crown. Whether writing his own songs or putting a fresh spin on classics written by masters like Lennon & McCartney and Dylan, Havens is never at a loss to express himself. Commenting on his unique song writing interpretations, Havens openly adds, ‘I’m not in show business; I’m in the communications business. That’s what it’s about for me.’ Although 2008’s Nobody Left To Crown kicks off with two new Havens originals, he quickly shifts gears with folk-rock covers of Pete Townshend’s Who classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” along with covers of Andy Fairweather Low, Jackson Browne, Peter Yarrow and even Trevor Horn. Havens is always amazing solo, but on Nobody Left To Crown he’s backed by a tight band including Walter Parks (guitar), Shawn Pelton (drums) and more. A Brooklyn native who moved to the Village and made history all those years ago, Havens remembers, ‘My albums are meant to be a chronological view of the times we’ve come through, what we’ve thought about, and what we’ve done to grow and change.’ Aside from giants like Dylan and Neil Young, few singer-songwriters combine words and music as effectively as Richie Havens.

- Described as a band being on the vanguard of a new American psychedelia, Mercury Rev have come a long way since their 1992 debut album. Interestingly, the band that recorded the 2008 CD release of Snowflake Midnight still evolves around the core lineup of Jonathan Donahue, guitarist Grasshopper and Jeff Mercel. For the follow up to 2005’s The Secret Migration, Mercury Rev took on a slightly different approach for the recording of Snowflake Midnight. Mercel adds, ‘We wanted to let go of familiar and comfortable ideas of sound and ways of working,’ with Grasshopper stating, ‘We tried to work in different ways and on other instruments. I didn’t even touch a guitar for several months.’ Produced by the legendary Dave Fridman, Mercury Rev continues to blow minds with the wild, avant-rock psychedelia in play on Snowflake Midnight.



ARTHUR CIRCLE MUSIC - Not too many guitarists can compose and record 24 instrumental guitar pieces, transcribe and record them and then present them on CD with written notation for each piece in book form. However, that’s exactly what NYC based guitarist Ken Hatfield has done on his 2008 release Etudes For Solo Guitar In 24 Keys. No less a guitar expert than Gene Bertoncini has described Hatfield as ‘The modern day Fernando Sor,’ adding ‘His Etudes For Solo Guitar In 24 Keys are really beautiful melodic and harmonic pieces.’ Released as a combined book and CD set and sold together, as well as a separate CD, Hatfield’s Etudes CD is a real boon for guitar lovers and musicians alike. While non-players might not be able to perform the transcriptions, they can clearly enjoy Hatfield’s guitar mastery—a sound that incorporates all manners of guitar genres, from classical and ragtime / folk to a more avant gard, prodigious style that must be heard to be appreciated.

- A virtual one man band, Colorado based Brandon Campbell goes all progressive on his 2008 CD Trilogies. Recording guitars, bass, keyboards and drum programming in his studio, the effect is monumental yet cohesive. Campbell’s multilayered electric guitar instrumentals may be inspired by Blackmore and Malmsteen but the sound owes more ‘70s cosmic Euro music makers like Bo Hansson and Jarre than to the acoustic Windham Hill New Age era of the ‘80s. Campbell may be new on the scene yet his meditative, healing rock should make quick inroads with New Agers and the hard rock instro scene as well.

BH TUNES - Imagine if The Beatles were a bunch of pickers and fiddlers from Appalachia or the Irish countryside? Well that’s how mandolin player Brian Hebert portrays John, Paul, George & Ringo with the 2008 CD release of Any Time At All - A Session Picker’s Tribute To The Beatles. Released on BH Tunes, the 26 track CD features Beatles classics instrumentally redone as jigs, marches, polkas, reels, airs and hornpipes. Credited to Brian Hebert & Friends, Any Time At All is a fine choice for Beatles fans and those who like celtic style bluegrass covers of classic rock.

U.K. born guitarist Carlos Bonell—who studied with classicist John Williams—gives a new meaning to the term classical rock with his 17 track tribute to the rock group Queen with his 2008 CD, Queen Guitar Rhapsodies. A couple years back, Bonell released a comprehensive DVD entitled Classical Guitar Performance—complete with a multi-angel one hour performance and instructional chapter. Bonell tempers his fondness for the classic rock of Queen with some magnificent guitar swells reinventing the music of Freddie Mercury and Brian May. If you didn’t know better, you could easily see Bonnell’s music being lauded in 19th Century Victorian England. The CD also features production from the CD’s executive producer David Young, who can be found once or twice a week playing guitar in the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” in London's West End.

- Guitarist Vernon Neilly is a big Stevie Wonder fan and he gets to prove it with the ten track 2008 CD release of A Tribute To Stevie Wonder by Vernon Neilly And Friends. Kicking off with a smokin’ instro of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” with some fine guitar interplay by Neily and guitarist Greg Howe, the disc features Neilly and friends serving up a balance of instrumental and vocal covers of Wonder’s famous R&B and soul music favorites. Other highlights include tracks featuring guitarist Kiko Loureiro, singer Christopher Clark, all backed by a hot band with a solid groove throughout.

Washington state based Double Crown Records is one of the finest instrumental rock and roll imprints in the world and one of their coolest CD releases of 2008 is the second album from Bonney & Buzz featuring guitarist Pete “Buzz” Miller and Fender bass ace Bill Bonney. Recorded in 2007/08 Bang It Again! finds the R.I. duo pulling out all the stops on an instrumental rock and roll album that recalls Miller’s early travels as a guitarist in England back in the ‘60s. Back in his homeland Miller grew up around giants like Hank B. Marvin of The Shadows and was equally influenced by U.S. groups such as The Ventures and early instro rocker Duane Eddy. Miller’s guitar sensibilities are right on throughout the 17 track Bang It Again! Highlights include rock instros of beautiful music classics like “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” “The Breeze And I” and even Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk,” a jazz classic given the Miller guitar treatment here. Shades of early Hank and the Shadows abound though clearly, after hearing this excellent CD, Miller is overdue for some name recognition himself. All in all Bang It Again! revives the guitar instro sound with a fresh perspective and solid playing by Miller, Bonney and all the fine players backing them up.

- Back around late ‘85 / early 1986, just when the CD format had first blossomed, U.K. guitar great Mike Chapman recorded an electro-acoustic instrumental guitar album for England’s burgeoning Coda label. Mike shared the spotlight then with debut Coda CD releases by guitar favorite John Themis, incredibly recorded wordless vocal albums by Claire Hammill and various Rick Wakeman piano releases, Chapman’s Coda disc, Heartbeat was one of the first long guitar pieces that spun close to an hour on the then quickly developing CD format. As a contemporary of Roy Harper, Chapman had earlier established himself in his native England and even recorded with guitar hero Mick Ronson on his 1970 Lp Fully Qualified Survivor for the legendary Harvest label. More weathered and time worn, though still qualified, Chapman’s 2008 CD Time Past & Time Passing combines the best of his folk jazz sound while demonstrating his clear mastery of the instrumental acoustic folk jazz guitar realm.

FAVORED NATIONS - Last year, in 2007 Favored Nations released a double CD set of Center Stage from Tommy Emmanuel and now in 2008 they follow up with a single disc DVD mirroring the CD set. Tommy’s many fans will tell you the only way to truly appreciate his guitar playing is to watch him perform live in a concert setting. Featuring the same live show from his 2007 Chico, CA. show, the Center Stage DVD is a great companion piece for the CD and is simply, one of the great live in concert DVD's of the decade. The nearly two hour live in concert DVD features Tommy, solo center stage performing some of his classic tracks including his “Beatles Medley,” his Lenny Breau tribute, “Lenny Bro’,” his cover of the early ‘60s Japanese pop classic “Sukiyaki” and his incredibly atmospheric sound collage called “Initiation,” which takes you right into the heart of the Australian outback. Bonus features include Tommy talking about meeting Chet Atkins and Lenny Breau, making this CD the ultimate introduction to Emmanuel’s instrumental guitar magic.

- Much of the great era of sonic blues rock guitar experimentation began in 1967 with Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower. It sure sounds like guitarist Chris Schreiner has listened to both of those giants before recording his 2008 CD Only Human, by his alias The Guy. There’s plenty of hypnotic groove, neo-soul and R&B instrumental guitar twists and turns. Only Human falls into the postmodern instrumental fusion camp and will also appeal to fans of both Satch / Steve Vai and Metheny. A Berklee grad who has recorded with drumming legend Kenwood Dennard, The Guy is backed up on Only Human by fine players like Tyger MacNeal (drums) and Dave Livolsi (bass).

- Inspired by Stephen Siktberg’s Mel Bay book, Christmas Music For Acoustic Guitar and John Fahey’s popular Christmas albums, acoustic guitar ace Richard Gilewitz released his own CD of holiday classics arranged for guitar, cello, violin, mandolin, banjo and piano. The 15 track, 2008 CD release of Strings For A Season fuses together the Gilewitz style of classically inspired Baroque guitar with a fondness for the “American Primitive” style of acoustic guitar playing made popular in the ‘60s by guitar giant John Fahey. In support of his guitar inspired vision of these Yuletide classics, Gilewitz has surrounded himself with top players including fellow guitarist Tim May (resophonic guitar) and the album’s engineer / mixer Tim Roberts. Gilewitz is renowned for his live concerts, and his mastery of the guitar translates quite nicely on his Christmas classic Strings For A Season.

HACKTRAX - Steve Hackett is best known as both guitarist of the original Genesis and an innovative solo artist and in 2008 his brother John Hackett steps forth with his latest solo album. Prelude To Summer For Flute & Guitar is an exquisite, modern classical acoustic influenced instrumental music CD featuring John Hackett on flute and guitar with assistance from guitarists Steve Hackett and Chris Glassfield and added keyboards from Nick Magnus. There can be no denying the melodious nature in John Hackett’s instrumental music, yet the cutting edge quality of progressive music is never far away. The Hackett brothers made a major impression with their Sketches Of Satie CD and Prelude To Summer follows in a similar direction with emphasis on the all original 18 track lineup. Liner notes by John Hackett offer insight into the lighthearted childhood the brothers shared while the CD also features stellar painting artwork by father Peter Hackett.

HARP GUITAR MUSIC - Huge in the ‘80s thanks to the advent of the CD and big name labels offering a new ambient and meditative sound such as Windham Hill, New Age music is making a comeback in the millennium thanks in part to the 2008 CD release of Harp Guitar Dreams. Produced by harp guitar enthusiast Gregg Miner and featuring a wide range of outstanding guitarists such as Alex de Grassi, Muriel Anderson, Andy McKee and others, the 13 track Harp Guitar Dreams is a sublime musical experience for guitar enthusiasts and listeners looking for an intelligent and well produced instrumental, acoustic-based guitar CD to just chill out with. Even with the advent of downloading and file sharing, it’s nevertheless worth it to pick up the actual CD of Harp Guitar Dreams as it features excellent artwork and packaging with a full color booklet filled with track by track interviews with each artist discussing their love of the harp guitar. For guitar lovers who might not know, the harp guitar was a big deal at the turn of the 20th century and several players here perform on instruments that were actually made in 1912! That’s a fact that you‘d never realize as Miner and his fellow harp guitarists have made an album that transcends time and leaves an ethereal magical effect on the listener. Don’t forget to take a look at the label’s excellent web site which features a number of Harp guitar releases along with a range of good old regular six string guitar CDs.

CLUB / ZONIC - An American music legend, the late great Jimmy Carl Black—who passed away on November 1, 2008—was a key member and drummer of the original Mothers Of Invention, appearing on classic Mothers albums like Absolutely Free. Mothers Of Invention founder Frank Zappa sadly passed away back in 1993 but Jimmy Carl Black rocks on in 2008 with a number of releases under his own name and he’s paid the highest honor by Norwegian guitarist / composer Jon Larsen on a double CD set entitled The Jimmy Carl Black Story. Larsen’s guitar work is exemplary here and backed by a number of talented Norwegian players, he’s crafted an amazing instrumental album that sounds inspired by the avant gard instrumental tendencies of the early Mothers. Some cuts on the mostly instrumental CD feature Jimmy Carl Black on spoken word vocals. A second CD included in the double CD set features the Jimmy Carl Black Story as told by Black himself. As fabulous as Larsen’s Zappa-esque instrumentals are on disc one, Black comes alive on the second CD retelling a number of classic Mothers tales of the ‘60s involving Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Hendrix and much more. While guitarist Larson may be best known for his albums with his legendary Django Reinhardt ensemble Hot Club de Norvge, which he founded way back in 1979, his tributes to the late Jimmy Carl Black adds yet another chapter to his musical repertoire.

INNER KNOT - No band of guitarists interprets the classics—rock, jazz and classical—better than the California Guitar Trio. On their follow up to their 2004 album, Whitewater, CGT come up with another winner with Echoes, this time fusing classic instrumental covers of Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Beethoven, Queen and even Lynyrd Skynyrd. Recorded in Kentucky in May 2007, Echoes makes for yet another stellar instrumental CD from guitarists Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams. The two lead off tracks—covers of the surf rock classic “The Cruel Sea” and “Music For A Found Harmonium” (by Simon Jeffes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra) properly sets the foundation for what could very well be the greatest CD yet from the brilliant California Guitar Trio.

- On the scene since his days in the mid to late ‘70s as the keyboardist in the group Porcupine Tree, Richard Barbieri has had a long career. In ‘93 he joined Porcupine Tree, releasing Fear Of A Blank Planet in 2006. For Stranger Inside, his second solo CD, released in 2008, Barbieri joins forces in the studio with his Porcupine Tree band mate Steven Wilson, double bass player Danny Thompson and others. Sounding inspired by avant rock legends like Eno and Tangerine Dream, the all instrumental album features a awesome sonic spectrum that combines a sonic rock sound with world beat and prog fusion.

KINGDOM OF ROCK - A CD of vastly expansive instrumental rock, Magnified Existence by U.K. guitarist Graham Elks sounds like Black Sabbath (at times) or Genesis (at other times) if they had gone for a progressive instrumental rock sound. Elks soars and rightly so has been compared to giants like Satriani, Hackett, Schon and Schenker. Performing all the guitars, bass, keyboards and programming, Magnified Existence is the latest and maybe greatest in a series of classic instrumental rock albums from the prodigious, gifted Elks.

- Cosmic country instrumental music of the highest caliber, Glide marks the return of Jerry Douglas following 2005’s The Best Kept Secret. In between recordings, Beard Guitars released the Jerry Douglas Signature Resonator Guitar. While primarily instrumental, Glide does feature two vocal tracks featuring country music singing legends Rodney Crowell and Travis Tritt. Few American instrumental artists can combine elements of bluegrass, country, rock, folk, Celtic, Scottish and New Orleans-inspired music as well as Douglas and to help realize that, Glide features guest appearances from Earl Scruggs, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, Tony Rice, Carmella Ramsey and members of Jerry’s touring band, including drummer Doug Belote, bassist Todd Parks, violinist Luke Bulla and guitarist Guthrie Trapp. After working with Eric Clapton at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago, being on tour with his band opening for Paul Simon (Fall 2006) and appearing live on A Prairie Home Companion, Douglas reinvents his studio sound with the modern Country Americana vibe of Glide.

- The enormous influence of Gypsy Jazz giant Django Reinhardt continues unabated in the millennium. 60 years after Django's heyday, guitarists of all persuasions can be founding listening to, practicing and recording Django’s classic guitar works from the WWII era. Over in England, Le QuecumBar and Brasserie is regarded as the premier venue for Gypsy Swing in Europe. A great idea of the bar was to start a record label and in 2008 Gypsy Jazz lovers can enjoy their latest double CD of instro guitar sounds entitled Stars Of Gypsy Swing from Le QueCumbar’s Le Q label. Who would have thought of guitarist Hank B. Marvin playing Gypsy Jazz? But here’s the one time Shadows rock instro giant amazing guitar lovers with two tracks of vintage Gypsy Jazz greatness featuring the bespectacled one backed up by some fine players at his Australian studio. Will wonders never cease? Other guitar giants contributing a pair tracks a piece here include John Jorgenson, Stephane Wrembel, John Etheridge, Andreas Öberg and a host of others. Excellent guitar sounds all around and a fine booklet with profiles of all the players and of the Le QuecumBar and Le Q Records make this swinging Gypsy Jazz CD set an out of the box winner.

From over in England, guitarist Peter Williams sent over his CD of holiday music entitled Especially For You: Instrumentally Christmas. Coming out of the Shadows school of electric guitar instrumentals, Williams kicks off his Xmas album with a vintage Shadows number from the ‘80s to set a spiritual tone and proceeds to hit all the big holiday classics—from “Jingle Bells” to “Auld Lang Syne.” Playing those great melodies on his guitar, while adding in percussion and keyboards, Williams proceeds to remake these holiday classics sound great as guitar instrumentals. An authority on classic guitar instrumental music Williams has a number of instro albums to his credit, including his 2007 CD Lone Rider: Great TV & Movie Western Themes.

MT - Strong on both substance and style, McKay Tebbs released his CD, The Way in 2008. Tebbs excels here, putting together a solid instrumental rock mix while adding in a few vocals along the way. The CD is well recorded and a number of fusion influences appear including Santana and Steve Morse. Best described as adventurous smooth jazz with folk edges, The Way is a solid introduction to this Berklee grad, backed up here by a number of fine players.

- In his liner notes for the 2008 Richard Bennett CD, Code Red Cloud Nine, guitar icon Duane Eddy writes, ‘I believe these jazz flavored tracks might reflect the real ‘heart and soul’ of Richard Bennett. Of course, I think that about everything I hear him play, whether it’s jazz, blues, country, pop or rock and roll.’ Duane is right on the money on a CD that finds Bennett delving into the spirit of his early guitar mentor Al Casey, the guitar legend who passed away in 2006. Casey was a supreme session guitarist who worked with everyone from Sinatra to The Beach Boys. Featuring his guitar solos backed up by fine players, including Ted Tredhak (drums), David Hungate (bass) and rhythm guitarist Mike Noble, Bennett ties his generation to Casey’s guitar legacy with 12 Bennett originals that provides a wide range of instrumental guitar sounds and styles.

- This is the kind of album people used to buy just because the cover art looks so great. Austin based John Inmon is getting rave reviews in the guitar world for his instrumental classic from 2008. Featuring Inmon backed up in the studio by a top band, Songs For Heavy Traffic straddles the borders between Americana, smooth jazz and instrumental pop. Inmon’s originals fit tastefully between a Pat Metheny and Steve Morse guitar sound, but where Inmon really really shines is on his choice of covers. There aren’t many guitarists who could disagree on covering time proven classics like “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” and “In My Life” and Inmon does both Vince Guaraldi and The Beatles proud with his instrumental versions. Inmon’s cover of “Sukiyaki” tastefully enshrines this melodic jewel. The musical antidote after being pummeled on the freeways of life, Songs For Heavy Traffic is a select late night set of tasty guitar tracks.

PRESENCE RECORDS - The music of Finland has produced some of the greatest Euro-rock legends of the modern rock era. Carrying the torch lit by Finnish masters such as the late, great Pekka Pohjola and guitar icon Jukka Tolonen, Finland's Presence Records label have excellent instrumental 2008 CD albums by Time Traveller and Kataya. Featuring guitarist Juhani Nisula backed up by a solid band, the Time Traveller CD explores the depths of the Finnish musical psyche. With ten tracks, Chapters 1 & 2 by Time Traveller, combines instrumental jazz-rock, sometimes with a more Finnish traditional instrumental coloration. Featuring lush and seductive wordless female vocals on three cuts, the twelve track Kataya CD, entitled Canto Obscura is even more adventurous and with repeat listens yields some great musical revelations. While mostly instrumental, the interplay of guitarist Sami Sarhamaa with keyboardist Matti Kervinen echoes great U.K. prog-rock legends like Caravan laced with a cutting edge modern repercussion. With the Presence CD release of the excellent Jeavestone CD, Spices, Species & Poetry Petrol the label is clearly establishing itself in the spirit of the classic Finnish Love Records label and Sweden's Silence imprint. Those are nobel aspirations but these three 2008 albums are nevertheless an excellent introduction to the Presence sound of Finland.

- Cool cover art, cool liner notes and ultra cool space age guitar sounds come together on the second full length CD by Canadian instro rockers The Reverb Syndicate. Filled with upbeat, driving instrumentals, the 11 track Sputnik A-Go-Go finds the Reverb Syndicate reveling in the great tremolo guitar sounds of legends like The Ventures and Shadows. Recorded in late 2007, the all original album features fine song writing and musicianship all around especially the twin guitars of James Rossiter and Mike Bradford. www.TheReverbSyndicate.Ca

- From the land of the midnight sun, Sweden, comes The Ryders. Instro rock legends The Shadows are huge in Scandinavia and fittingly, the 2007 CD from The Ryders is entitled In The Shadows. Kicking off with the title track, written by guitar hero Martin Cilia of The Atlantics, In The Shadows features 16 tracks of guitar instrumental magic that covers classics by The Shadows, The Ventures, Sweden’s great composer Lenny Clerwell, Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis of The Crickets and even a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow,” here as one of the CD’s two vocal cuts. A fine quartet of gifted instro rockers, The Ryders feature some excellent lead guitar from Kurt Fröberg. In The Shadows is a top choice for fans of classic guitar instrumental magic.

THE GUITAR LABEL - For his first solo album in five years, Scottish guitarist Martin Taylor has recorded a guitar duets album, featuring only himself. Taylor has worked with the best artists of his generation including Chet Atkins, Steve Howe, Joe Pass and Jeff Beck. Commenting on the release of Double Standards, Taylor comments, ‘I’ve recorded duets before using overdubbed guitars, I even did it once with 22 guitars. This is the record I have wanted to make for ages and it’s even better than my expectations.’ A harmonious, lush sounding solo jazz guitar CD, Double Standards features Taylor dueting with himself on a dozen of the most famous jazz classics ever written including “Bluesette,” “Alfie,” “Someone To Watch Over Me” and “Triste.” In his liner notes for Double Standards Taylor goes on at length about the recording process and credits his sound engineer, Stuart Hamilton and mix / mastering engineer Andrew Tulloch for helping Taylor hear the other guitar he had playing in his head.

TOMPKINS SQUARE RECORDS - The acoustic guitar—both the steel string and classical nylon string—are among the two most important musical instruments ever invented. A portable orchestra with 6 and sometimes 12 strings, both guitars have given us all a wealth of music over the past three hundred years. NYC based Tompkins Square Records continues doing a great job annotating and releasing new and historic recordings of the finest acoustic guitar instrumentalists. Instrumental folk guitarist Peter Walker recorded for the Vanguard label back in the ‘60s and in 2006 Tompkins Square released A Raga For Peter Walker—his first new album in 40 years. In 2008, they follow up with a Walker’s latest album entitled Echo Of My Soul. Although Walker's sound is entrenched in the John Fahey school of primitive acoustic instrumental, Walker’s Echo Of My Soul reflects his fascination with Spain’s flamenco guitar style. Commenting, Walker adds, ‘The music on this CD was reviewed and acclaimed in Andalucia by some of the “old guard” who have encouraged its release. These Spanish-inspired pieces reflect my passion for this musical rubric.’ Recording up in Woodstock, N.Y., Walker remains a mesmerizing exponent of the postmodern acoustic guitar world. Walker is not alone on the Tompkins Square label and in 2008 the label also released their latest CD sampler entitled Imaginational Anthem Volume Three. Tompkins Square label producer Josh Rosenthal has done an excellent job assembling acoustic guitar instrumentals featuring a number lesser known, yet equally deserving guitar figures including Richard Crandell, Ben Reynolds, Greg Davis and eight other guitarists. A mesmerizing foray into acoustic guitar land, Imaginational Anthem Volume Three is overflowing with the legacy and spirit of the acoustic guitar. Rosenthal’s informative liner notes fills in the historical fact and figures behind the music.

VISIONLAND MUSIC - German based guitarist Klaus Brendel is making waves with a pair of CDs he recently released on his Visionland label. The 2007 release of Shine On Blue Moon and the 2008 release of Midnight Taxi establish the prolific Brendel as a guitarist who can do just about anything within the instrumental guitar realm. From the Dickie Betts inspired Americana instrumental sound of Shine to the pop and smooth jazz instro sound of Midnight Taxi, Brendel establishes his guitar credentials with a pair of solid, easy on the ears instrumental sounds. Backed up by solid instrumentation, both CDs should appeal to guitar fans worldwide.

VIZZTONE LABEL GROUP - A new label dedicated to releasing instrumental jazz and rock music, Vizztone picked up the 2007 CD from fast-rising guitarist Matthew Stubbs. On his CD, Soul Bender, Stubbs sounds like he’s channeling the guitar sound of the great Stax soul guitarist Steve Cropper. Stubbs may only be 25 years young but he sounds like he’s been around and there’s plenty of R&B, blues, jazz and rock instrumentals on Soul Bender and Stubbs keeps the fretboard action moving and grooving. Vizztone also have a new 2008 CD from keyboardist Bruce Katz entitled Live At The Firefly. Katz tours with Gregg Allman and on his Vizztone CD, he pairs his keyboard skills with a hot backing group.

WHALING CITY SOUND - Guitarist John Stein has a number of CDs out on Whaling City Sound and in 2008 he released Encounter Point. Four Stein originals rub elbows with several classic covers including several Jobim originals. With his nine track CD spotlighting keyboardist Koichi Sato (from Japan), legendary bassist John Lockwood (from South Africa) and drummer Ze Eduardo Nazario (Brazil), Stein has assembled world class quartet that further enables him to achieve some remarkable musical telepathy.

- A peer of the late, great Chet Atkins, guitar icon Jerry Reed passed away in September 2008 but his spirit lives in the grooves of the 2008 CD release of guitarist Darrell Toney. Joined by a number of top Nashville cats—including Brent Mason (guitar) and Eddie Bayers (drums)—Toney taps into the Reed’s guitar repertoire on Jerry Reed...Revisited, a CD that covers the best of Reed and more. Reed is considered the gut-string finger style guitar equivalent of Jeff Beck and in the words of David Hungate, who plays bass on the CD, ”Like Django, Chet and a few others, Jerry Reed created a unique style of guitar playing.” Toney grew up listening to Chet and Jerry and had this to say about Reeds influence on his formative years, ‘Back in 1967, I saw Jerry Reed perform on television and was completely blown away. It wasn’t just the fact he could play fast, it ws so musical, soulful, laced with genius and totally original. I knew I had to learn to play like Jerry.’ Considering that Toney has done such a stellar job on these fourteen country-jazz inspired instrumentals, somewhere Reed must be smiling down from guitar heaven.

2008 / 2009


ACE RECORDS - Produced by guitarist Mike Vernon of the Austin based instro rockers 3 Balls Of Fire, Hot Rod Twangin’ compiles 24 tracks from studio / session guitar icon Jerry Cole. He may have just recently passed away, but Cole’s guitar sound is as vibrant as ever and fans of his many albums will thrill to this 2006 compilation of his 1960’s Crown Records instrumentals. A guitarist’s guitarist, Cole played on Pet Sounds, on Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night” and added 12 string on the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” to name just a few. With voluminous liner notes by producer Vernon—in addition to historic notes by Cole and a number of photos and memorabilia—the Hot Rod Twangin’ CD features the cream of Cole’s hot rod and surf-rock instrumentals, all composed by Cole.

- Arguably the most talented and most tasteful pop duo to emerge in the U.S. during the first British invasion, Chad & Jeremy are one of several key artists from the ‘60s to be chronicled by the Acrobat Music label. The 18 track Yesterday’s Gone compiles all their big ‘60s hits under one roof. Bad management aside, Chad & Jeremy have had numerous compilations over the years, and Acrobat’s CD sounds very good and features liner notes of these ‘60s sides complete with interesting production credits. Who knew Shel Talmy produced “A Summer Song”? In addition, Acrobat has also released a number of vintage recordings on their CD Premier Collection series including Ike & Tina Turner Sing The Blues. Drawing on 18 sides blues guitar great Ike Turner and singer Tina Turner cut for Blue Thumb in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the CD is classic blues based featuring the famous couple covering giants like Jimmy Reed, Otis Redding, B.B. King and many more. Acrobat’s B.B. King And His Orchestra Live features one hour of classic King cut live in Cannes in 1983. Acrobat likewise offers Glen Campbell, featuring the Rhinestone Cowboy himself caught live at a rare 1981 concert recorded in Dublin. The classic Jefferson Airplane lineup with singer Grace Slick is featured on the 18 cut Jefferson Airplane Cleared For Take Off. Recorded live from Winterland over three days in March 1967, Cleared For Take Off, sounds like a cool Airplane CD bootleg with adequate sound quality and liner notes that painstakingly retell the history of these fabled concerts.

ANGEL AIR - Back in 1971, guitarist Phil Cordell had a Top 5 record with the song “I Will Return” in England with his group Springwater. In 1984, U.K. rock and rollers The Shadows recorded their famous instrumental cover of the song on their Guardian Angel album. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer, who could do it all, Cordell passed away in 2007 and in 2008 Angel Air put his story into focus with the CD release of Hearts On Fire. Cordell’s anthology features 22 tracks including “I Will Return,” a number of vocal tracks provided a fine showcase for Cordell’s one man band studio approach that seem to echo rock giants like Roy Wood and early Bowie.

CHERRY RED RECORDS - Since the 1970’s R. Stevie Moore has remained a cult hero recording out in New Jersey. The famous radio station WFMU out in West Orange featured Moore’s music throughout the ‘80s back when he started the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club, and till today Moore continues selling home made recordings to curious collectors. Leave it to England’s Cherry Red label to release a 2008 silver disc compilation of Moore’s homespun pop and rock tracks. With a cover spoofing the first American Beatles Lp cover, the music on Meet The R. Stevie Moore! - An Introduction To The Godfather Of Home Recording is not unlike some of Paul McCartney’s homemade sounds. With dozens of albums of his own, Moore has had a several releases out on other labels over the years. Featuring voluminous liner notes and great front, back and inset CD artwork, this 24 track Cherry Red collection spans some of Moore’s rarest home recordings made between 1974-1986.

CHERRY RED RECORDS - Over in the mother country, Cherry Red Records is doing a simply smashing job of reissuing classic and rare rock albums from the North America and England. The English have proven to be incredibly astute annotators of archival rock albums and case in point is Cherry Red’s 2008 CD remaster of Danseparc from Canadian rockers Martha And The Muffins. Back in the mid ‘80s, while I was running my label Breakthru’ Records, I invited Martha Johnson and Mark Gane and they actually came up and visited me in my work space at Lincoln Center. I was a huge fan of their band and of course had aspirations of expanding my roster of mostly instrumental guitarists from Sweden and Finland! I still marvel at the band’s first self titled classic from the summer of 1980, yet Danseparc, a pop masterpiece in the same spirit from 1983, is not without its own charms. Gane’s guitar work and monotone vocals made him a brilliant cross between Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno while Martha’s vocals made room for a thinking man’s Blondie. Also appearing on the CD is fellow Canadian and producer great Daniel Lanois. Martha And The Muffins were the masters of moody, ambient pop with progressive overtones that had its day back in the ‘80s, and now Cherry Red's CD makes for a fine keepsake with this first ever remaster of Danseparc.

CUNEIFORM - Back in the mid 1970’s jazz-rock was really taking off. On both side of the Atlantic, instrumental power fusion bands were all the rage. Stateside of course, Chick Corea and Mahavishnu Orchestra were selling millions while in Europe and specifically England a new breed of instrumental fusion bands were hot. Forming the band Isotope, guitarist Gary Boyle was a new name to watch in ‘74. Featuring Boyle and jazz-rock bass ace Hugh Hopper, Isotope recorded some blistering instro fusion albums and in 2008, the band is recalled on a new CD entitled Golden Section. Featuring six tracks recorded in 1975 for Radio Bremen, studio tracks recorded in NYC in 1975 and other cuts make in London in July ‘74, Cuneiform’s Isotope CD features a number of rare photos of this powerhouse fusion ensemble along with an in depth interview with Boyle and Hopper.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - Eagle Rock continues to demonstrate why they’ve earned their reputation as kings of the DVD revolution. Eagle released George Benson Absolutely Live during the summer of 2008. Filmed and recorded in Ireland in 2000, the 105 minute, 17 track show features the jazz guitar icon in concert backed up by keyboard great Joe Sample, The BBC Big Band and member of the Ulster Orchestra. All the key elements of Benson’s jazz guitar legacy are here—his mix of cool jazz and straight ahead jazz improv and inimitable vocals. Also included on Eagle’s DVD is a mini documentary entitled “The Making Of Absolutely Live,” biography and photo gallery. Also out on Eagle in 2008 is Lynyrd Skynyrd Sweet Home Alabama. Capturing two concerts recorded for the German TV Rockpalast series, the two hour DVD combines a complete 14 cut Skynyrd show from June 23, 1996 with three songs from a 1974 show featuring the original Lynyrd Skynyrd featuring original band member, the late great Ronnie Van Zant. With both the ‘96 and ‘74 shows never before released on DVD, Sweet Home Alabama is a fitting tribute to these rock ‘n’ roll hall of famers. Eagle Rock’s “Classic Albums” series continues in ‘08 with their documentary DVD on the making of Rio by U.K. rock superstars Duran Duran. Originally released in 1982, Rio established Duran Duran as major players and tracks like “Hungry Like The Wolf” were heard everywhere back then. In addition to new interviews, vintage clips, new and archival footage, the 90 minute rockmentary of Rio also features new performances filmed in Boston exclusively for this program. Fans of blues rock superstars Led Zeppelin will learn much about where that band’s impetus came from with the 2008 DVD release of Down The Tracks: The Music That Influenced Led Zeppelin. Although they had an enormous impact with the teenybopper rock crowd back in 1969, Led Zeppelin’s roots were greatly impacted by well known blues icons like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, and somewhat lesser known yet equally influential blues masters are among the musical giants featured on Eagle’s 93 minute DVD. Down The Tracks: The Music That Influenced Led Zeppelin back the roots and influences that helped shape the wide screen sound and vision Led Zeppelin. Also featured here are some of England’s legendary music journalists along with interviews and in performance footage from U.K. and U.S. music giants like Davey Graham, Son House, Bob Brozman, John Renbourne and Bukka White.

FANTASY RECORDS - Back in 1968, Creedence Clearwater Revival burst onto the rock and roll world with a barrage of catchy Top 40 singles while the Lps that followed between ‘68 and ‘71 established them as true rock and roll innovators. Unveiling their 40 Anniversary Edition 2008 Reissues of the original Creedence Clearwater Revival albums, the band’s first label, Fantasy Records has remastered all six CCR albums from the original tapes, each one complete with rare and unreleased bonus tracks and detailed liner notes. Perhaps the coolest thing for fans who must already own one or more of the various Creedence CDs reissued over the years is Fantasy’s colorful and appealing digi-pak packaging and expanded booklets. With their ‘08 CCR remasters, each CCR CD now sports a wealth of rare photos from each album photo shoot and in depth liner notes that chronicle the history of each of these six CCR classics.

- Guitar fans will be both amazed and entertained by Classic Electrics - A Visual History Of Great Guitars. Put together by guitar expert Walter Carter, the 370 page soft cover book features in depth profiles of the most historically significant electric guitars that shaped the music of the rock and jazz world over the past 50+ years. A renowned expert on vintage guitars and guitar companies, the Nashville based Carter has written many books on the subject of all things guitars including illustrated histories on Gibson, Epiphone, Ovation and Martin guitars. Described as ‘a comprehensive pictorial history of the genuine classics to have emerged during the first 70 years of the electric guitar,’ Classic Electrics follows the histories the hollow bodies of the ‘40s and ‘50s to the classic solid body electric's of the modern rock era. With loads of pictures and information, Classic Electrics is a vital and detailed resource on the greatest guitars of the 20th century.

LEGACY - Sony Legacy continues on a roll with the 2008 CD release of The Clash Live At Shea Stadium. Back on October 12 & 13th, 1982, The Clash opened for The Who at NYC’s Shea Stadium. Amazingly, the Clash set was recorded by famed producer Glyn Johns and Legacy’s 16 track digipak CD captures the second night’s performance of the Clash in its entirety. The tapes from the show were discovered by the late Joe Strummer and regarding the shows Strummer was quoted as saying. ‘We played Shea Stadium with the Who and it was fun to play “Career Opportunities” in a place like that, when six years earlier we’d written it in Camden Town.’ Coinciding with the Clash Shea Stadium CD is a 2008 autobiography entitled The Clash By The Clash. Officially authorized by the band, the book features in depth interview with Strummer and his band mates. Another Legacy release sure to make waves in late 2008 is Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition. An archival release, Legacy packs their latest Cash reissue set with two CDs—a 65 minute CD from the first show with seven bonus cuts and a second 75 minute CD from the second set with more unreleased tracks—plus a DVD featuring a new documentary on the album including interviews with Merle Haggard, Rosanne Cash, Marty Stuart and even former inmates who watched Cash in concert as it happened at Folsom Prison back on January 13, 1968.

- A look back at a 1987 concert featuring Lovin’ Spoonful founder John Sebastian and fellow guitarist David Bromberg is innocently nostalgic. Sebastian’s claim to fame were his great song productions with the Lovin’ Spoonful on Kama Sutra and then his solo debut on Reprise and lastly in his post “Welcome Back Kotter” phase after which he failed to generate big sales. On Eagle’s 2008 DVD entitled John Sebastian - Welcome Back with David Bromberg Live At Iowa State University, Sebastian sticks with the hits. The DVD adds on a bio and a backstage interview. MVD are also working with the Germany based Inakustik label and among their latest is a 2008 DVD from Living Colour featuring guitarist Vernon Reid entitled Living Colour - The Paris Concert. Caught live at the New Morning in Paris July 2007, the 17 track DVD was filmed in high definition. Although he ended up playing huge stadiums, Cat Stevens got his start in cabaret and in 2008 MVD unveils Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman Live. Filmed in L.A. for a June 1971 show at KCET radio studio, the the eight track live in the studio film captures Cat Stevens at the very start of his star studded ascent to the top of the folk-rock world here in the U.S. Backing up Steven’s guitar and vocals is his longtime cohort guitarist Alun Davies with the bass and congo of Larry Steel. The intimate setting makes this a special look back at Cat’s early days. The MVD DVD of Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney is a pretty silly but amusing movie involving a pretty well known newscaster Ruth Anson, who met Paul McCartney back in NYC when the Beatles arrived in 1965 and during an interview Paul, jokingly I’m sure, asked to marry her. Anyway 40 years later Ruth seeks “closure” as she embarks on a personal quest to meet the Beatle and she milks it for what its worth on this 84 minute movie. In addition to this full length movie, the MVD DVD also features a alternate live video soundtrack featuring a dozen original Beatles sounding video clips from a great Rutles sound alike band that in itself is worth the price of the DVD! Texas guitar slinger Johnny Winter is given the DVD treatment by MVD with Johnny Winter - Live Through The ‘70s. The 111 minute DVD feature archival Winter performances from the ‘70s including clips from Danish TV (1970), three tracks from the Royal Albert Hall (1970), Beat Club (1970), Rockpalast (1979) and Musikladen (1974) performances from German TV, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert (1973) and Soundstage Blues Summit from Chicago (1974). The Johnny Winter DVD on MVD features complete performance discography and in depth liner notes. Prog-rock supergroup Yes released a fine DVD called Yesspeak several years back. That in depth look at the circa 2003 reunion of the classic Yes lineup of Howe, White, Wakeman, Anderson and Squire is complemented by the 2008 DVD on MVD entitled YES - The New Director’s Cut. The double disc DVD features two complete YES performances from their 35th anniversary Summer 2003 tour along with rare behind the scenes footage of the classic Yes lineup. Honoring the legacy of prog’s most advanced ‘70s group, MVD’s double DVD set features 4+ hours of classic YES on film.

POLYDOR - In 2008 UMe started up their 3CD Playlist Plus series with 3CD sets on the Polydor label by The Velvet Underground and The Moody Blues. Featuring late ‘60s recordings with the lineup with Lou Reed and John Cale, the V.U. package features 38 tracks. Polydor’s 36 track Moody Blues Playlist Plus spans tracks from 1967 through to 1999’s Strange Times and the 2003 December album. Polydor also overhauled Still On Top - The Greatest Hits by singer-songwriter Van Morrison. The original Still On Top from 2006 is expanded now with three CDs including a range of Morrison’s solo output from the 1964 release of “Gloria” with his group Them through to his 2005 album Magic Time.

- The vocals and guitar of Russ Ballard was the key to the sound of Argent back in 1971. The core four piece original Argent lineup is still the definitive one and Ballard is also remembered for his solo releases with the 2008 CD release of Russ Ballard Anthology on Renaissance Records. Renaissance is a CD collector’s dream come true featuring a catalog with rare and obscure classic rock masterpieces from Esquire, City Boy and a staggering range of big hair singers from Eastern Europe and Russia no less. For their Ballard anthology, Renaissance draw on nine different Ballard solo albums, beginning with his self-titled 1974 Epic album through to The Seer from ‘93.

- When you think about the incredible roster of Reprise Records back in 1970, it simply boggles the mind. Although Frank Sinatra founded the label back around 1960, by 1970 they had the best. One artist who made his Reprise debut in 1970 was guitar legend Ry Cooder. Although I don’t believe Ry ever recorded with or played guitar for Brian Wilson, I know for sure he worked lots with Wilson’s song writing partner Van Dyke Parks, who’s production concepts and piano work is featured all over Cooder’s early albums. Leave it to Rhino to put Cooder’s extensive back catalog into a logical double CD set. Packed with a booklet that chronicles Cooder’s rock albums and his famous instrumental acoustic guitar soundtrack work with full credits and excellent period piece photos, The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed, spotlights 34 tracks, spanning 28 years up to and including a track from Cooder’s 2008, I, Flathead album. Like Van Dyke and producers Lenny Waronker, Cooder recorded meticulously in the studio, and that classic production shine gets dusted off and shines on this remastered double CD set.

- ZZ Top already had eight albums by the time the band released Eliminator way back in 1983. The birth of MTV and a barrage of smash hit singles and memorable videos helped turn Billy F. Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard into international superstars and the words ZZ Top into household words. Among the first albums to chalk up sales of ten million copies, Eliminator is ZZ at it’s most iconic. Singles hits and subsequent videos of “Legs,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Sharp Dressed Man” are permanently imbedded into the consciousness of those music fans lucky to remember when MTV focused on actual music. Rhino and Warner Brothers records celebrate 25 years of Eliminator history with a 2008 18 track collector’s edition of Eliminator, featuring the original pressing, unreleased live tracks, remixes and a second disc—a DVD with those now historic videos and rare television performances. With Rhino deluxe packaging always means rare photos topped off by lyrics and detailed liner notes, this time by ace musicologist Bob Merlis.

RHINO - Following the massive successes of the first two CSNY albums, the group’s U.K. ambassador Graham Nash took out time to record his fabled first solo album, Songs For Beginners. Featuring anti-war anthems like “Military Madness” and “Chicago,” the CD was an instant FM radio hit when it came out back in 1971. In 2008, Rhino reissued the CD as a double disc set featuring a new stereo mix of the original eleven track album plus a DVD featuring a 5.1 surround sound mix, an advanced resolution mix, lyrics plus a new video interview with Nash. The CD always sounded great and the 5.1 mix on the DVD is a boon for audio buffs, but even more revealing are the new liner notes which feature Nash retelling the tale of making the album. With great songs that hark back to CSN and his early career with The Hollies, Songs For Beginners featured Nash in the studio backed up by music legends like Neil Young, drummer Johnny Barbata, Rita Coolidge and from the Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh. Clearly Songs For Beginners was Graham’s everyman attempt at spreading peace and stopping war and on that (from the CD liner notes) he adds, ‘Is a part of what I have always brought to CSNY—humanity and patience. I think it’s very plain that this album was made by a human being, one that has experienced everything that everyone else goes through.’

Although he died on September 20, 1973, singer-songwriter Jim Croce lives on with three 2008 CD reissues on Rhino’s Encore series. The Philly-born Croce released his first breakthrough album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim in 1972. Produced by production legends, Terry Cashman and Tommy West, Croce’s 1972 ABC Records debut spawned several huge hits including the famous title track, “Time In A Bottle” and “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)”. 1973’s Life And Times spotlighted Croce’s number one hit single “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and the album was still high on the charts when Croce’s plane went down in Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1973. One of Croce’s greatest songs, “I Got A Name” was also the title of his final album, I Got A Name. The album was released shortly after Croce’s untimely end. In addition to the excellent title track, I Got A Name also featured the equally brilliant “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song.” After many years of forgotten memories, in 2008 I heard “I Got A Name” on the Delilah’s nationally syndicated radio show and it really stunned me that Croce’s music still sounds so vital and innovative. 35 years after his end, Croce’s music is ripe for rediscovery. /

RHINO - By early 1970, the ‘60s were truly over and the prog wars were in full bloom. Ground zero for the dawn of prog-rock was London and following the innovations of the Beatles and then Moody Blues and Traffic, England began cultivating genius rock groups including King Crimson Yes, Jethro Tull, Van Der Graf, Strawbs and tons of great bands. Although they didn’t make the same impact as Yes or Tull, Genesis have a legion of fans that are going strong till today. Featuring the first five Genesis albums, remastered and each paired with a DVD, Genesis, In The Beginning 1970-1975 spotlights the classic lineup with singer and front man Peter Gabriel and guitar icons Anthony Phillips, who basically co-founded the band and was replaced by supremely gifted guitarist Steve Hackett, who joined Genesis in time for Nursery Cryme in 1971. Of course all three went on to fabled solo careers that continue on. With the axis of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks carrying on the Genesis sound in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that band—now featuring Collins, Rutherford and Banks, guitarist Daryl Steurmer and drummer Chester Thompson—achieved unbelievable success only dreamed about by the original 1969 and early ‘70s band. With each DVD featuring recent interviews with the original 5 piece lineup and other goodies, perhaps the best thing about this 2008, 7 CD / 6 DVD box set is a bonus CD/DVD filled with a CD of rarity Gabriel era tracks that seem to click and a DVD with an intriguing video documentary on the band featuring interviews with all as it relates to the history of Genesis. With Rhino having previously released box sets of Genesis, 1983-1998 and Genesis 1976-1982, Genesis, In The Beginning 1970-1975 completes the trilogy.

- Back in the ‘60s for folk and then folk-rock music it was Dylan and Donovan. The amazing story of folk-rock icon Donovan Leitch is the stuff of legends. England’s answer to Dylan’s overpowering folk-rock image in the ‘60s, Donovan pioneered a number of pop genres, much of which is explored on the best yet DVD biography about him yet, entitled Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan. A fascinating three hour film by Hannes Rossacher, Sunshine Superman features the film on DVD1 with a second two hour DVD featuring extended versions, TV appearances, music videos, video of four new 2008 unreleased songs, a chapter called “The Private Donovan” and vintage and recent concert footage including a new video track for “Season Of The Witch,” taken from a 2008 jam in NYC. Truly the finest ever video documentary on the Donovan story, Sunshine Superman is a region 0 DVD so thankfully everyone on Earth can watch this outstanding work.

- Universal / Chronicles continue on with their Deluxe Edition rock classics and 2008 brings double disc CD remasters of the first two Elton John albums. Actually Elton had been recording for a while but his self-titled 1970 Elton John was a huge breakthrough. The ten track album’s centerpiece, “Your Song” was described by John Lennon at the time as being the best thing since the Beatles happened. Expanded on from it’s original 40 minutes to running over 110 minutes, the Deluxe Edition Elton John features the original album on CD one with a second 20 cut CD consisting of demo tracks, incomplete band demo tracks, rare singles and BBC sessions. Much the same can be said for the 2008 Deluxe Edition of Elton’s 1971 Tumbleweed Connection. Expanded from the original 47 minute album to an expanded 108 minutes, Universal’sTumbleweed Connection adds in more demo cuts, BBC tracks as well as the original nearly nine minute version of “Madman Across The Water”—this version featuring the late, great Mick Ronson on electric guitar. Both Elton Deluxe CD sets feature original artwork, lyrics, 2008 liner notes and complete lyrics sheet. Now going by the name Yusef, Cat Stevens was a contemporary of Elton John and in fact they recorded together before they hit the big time. Universal have released the second and third Cat Stevens albums made for A&M Records as expanded double CD Deluxe Edition remasters. Both Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat were immensely popular when they came out circa 1971. Reissued as double CD Deluxe sets, both are filled with bonus tracks (several recorded in 2006), lyrics and 2008 liner notes by Yusef, guitarist Alun Davies and Paul Samwell-Smith—original Yardbirds bass player and Cat Stevens producer. /

UME / GEFFEN - Bo Diddley passed away in June of 2008. The Beatles’ generation of music listeners probably heard Bo’s influence on The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. Even Buddy Holly, who so influenced The Fab Four, was influenced by Bo, covering his first “Bo Diddley” song early on in the mid ‘50s. My own personal favorite reworking of Bo Diddley was a Quicksilver Messenger Service cover of “Mona” from 1968. With the exception of two tracks from 1964 and 1966, the 41 track, double CD 2008 release features classic Diddley from 1955-62. Bo Diddley Gold captures the essence of Bo Diddley’s rare combination of rock and the blues. Great cover art and track by track dates and personnel with classy liner notes from Bill Dahl.

VARESE - One of America’s greatest commercially brilliant songwriters, John Phillips is remembered on the 2008 CD release of Pussycat. Produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard—as well as featuring contributions from guitarists Ron Wood and ex-Stones member Mick TaylorPussycat was recorded in NYC and London in ‘76 and ‘77. Promptly shelved into obscurity, the album’s original masters were rediscovered in 2003, two years after Phillips died. The sound exudes that classic post Wall & Bridges, NYC Beatles style pop of that fleeting, last innocent era. Phillips, best known for his classic singing and song writing with The Mamas & The Papas, is in great form throughout the original ten track album, which is accompanied here by bonus tracks with new mixes and a couple out takes from Phillips’ recording sessions for the Nicolas Roeg film The Man Who Fell To Earth.

- Singer-songwriter David Bowie has enough great songs to fill up a number of best of collections and in 2008 he’s assembled a CD collection featuring a dozen of his own favorite recordings from his career. iSelect: Bowie starts of with “Life On Mars” from 1971’s Hunky Dory and follows with a number of tracks from album classics such as Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, Lodger and more. Also included is a rare Bowie track called “Some Are”—a rare track from the Low sessions—and a new remix of “Time Will Crawl” from the mid ‘80s CD Never Let Me Down. In his lengthy CD liner notes Bowie adds, ‘There are a host of songs that I’ve recorded over the years that for one reason or another I’ve often wanted to re-record some time in the future.’ Regarding this new remix of “Time Will Crawl” Bowie adds, ‘This track from Never Let Me Down is one of those. I’ve replaced the drum machine with true drums and added some crickey strings and remixed. I’m very fond of this new version with its Neil Young of Shortlands accents.’ Closing out iSelect: Bowie is a live version of “Hang On To Yourself” taken from the 2008 CD
release of Live Santa Monica ‘72.

- Laika & The Cosmonauts burst onto the world scene in a big way in the mid ‘90s, just when the music world was finally rediscovering the timeless legacy of maestros like Les Baxter, Ennio Morricone and Martin Denny and while surf rock giants like The Shadows and Duane Eddy saw their sound copied and sometimes even improved upon by countless bands taking part in the wave of retro nostalgia. Of course coming from Finland, birthplace of symphonic instrumental prog and the land of the tango, Laika & The Cosmonauts wasted no time in distilling and serving up silverdisc platters featuring a wide and varied instrumental rock. Back when Glenn Dicker and Chris Cote started Upstart Records, their specialty was bringing to light great instro guitar bands like Laika and Teisco Del Rey. Dicker is top man at YepRoc now and he pays tribute to Laika & The Cosmonauts with Cosmopolis, a 27 track 2008 CD on the YepRoc label that sheds light on a few ‘88-89 cuts, mostly primo late ‘90s material and a bunch of new songs recorded between 2003 and 2007.

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