September, 2000



Live At The Roxy Theater

BRIAN WILSON - Live At The Roxy TheaterBeach Boys founder and musical hero Brian Wilson wowed audiences in his home town for the recordings featured on his new double disc set. The follow up to his ‘98 classic Imagination, Wilson has wisely taken it upon himself to finally issue what devoted fans have long clamored for. Described by one in attendance as being “like a Star Trek convention but with Hawaiian shirts instead of Spock ears”, the double CD set compiles live recordings made April 7th and 8th 1999 at Sunset Strip’s famous Roxy nightclub. Spotlighting the same entourage that he’s been touring with for the past year, Live At The Roxy Theater captures Brian and company in peak form. For these special recordings Brian digs deep in his prolific back catalog and the net result is a rocked out and moving set of classic pop and rock sounds only a master like Wilson could bring forth. Wilson’s recent concerts have been garnering rave reviews and Live At The Roxy Theater is a fabulous souvenir, revealing a rejuvenated Brian Wilson performing classic after classic before a devoted crowd of fans. Special mention music go to Wilson’s solid backing band including Jeff Foskett (guitars, vocals), Paul Mertens (sax, flute) Jim Hines (drums, vocals) and key members from the terrific L.A. band The Wondermints. Everybody surely has their favorite Beach Boys and/or Brian Wilson song and Live At The Roxy Theater goes to great lengths to please just about everybody. Kicking off with the Beach Boys ‘65 jewel “The Little Girl I Once Knew”, Brian leads his pop orchestra through the paces of “This Whole World”, “God Only Knows”, “Good Vibrations” and “California Girls” to name just a few. There’s plenty of rarities on hand as well including two instrumentals originally from Pet Sounds, songs from Surf’s Up and Sunflower along with two never before heard tracks, “This Isn’t Love” (a new version with words) and “The First Time”. The 28 track disc set adds in momentous liner notes from long time Wilson confidant David Leaf topped off by effective cover art. Initially being made available through Brian’s web site, Live At The Roxy Theater should finally quench any remaining doubts about Wilson’s revitalized presence as a contemporary artist, performer and composer, and most importantly as a pop innovator spanning multifold generations of music fans. 


Hall Of Fame
(Threshold / Ark 21)

THE MOODY BLUES - Hall Of FamePerhaps no other band brings out the spirit of progressive rock better than The Moody Blues. Even back during their mid ‘60s British Invasion days, when keyboardist / conceptualist Mike Pinder founded the band with soon to be Wings member Denny Laine, The Moody Blues couldn’t be topped for their unique approach to pop and rock. It’s been well over 20 since Pinder recorded the exalted “Classic 7” with them. Yet, anyone who’s followed their career during the ‘80s and the ‘90s will tell you that The Moody Blues have recorded some excellent albums and in concert the band can still rock out with the best of them. Still featuring four of the five original “Classic 7” members, Hall Of Fame is a fitting souvenir from their 2000 live show, capturing the group just this past May 1st, 2000 back home at The Royal Albert Hall in London. Decade spanning hits like “Nights In White Satin” (‘60s), “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” (‘70s) and ‘80 smashes like “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” are delivered with with seasoned precision, but it’s really the three live tracks from their ‘99 album Strange Times that presents the current four man line-up at their finest. One of the best songs from Strange Times is the sensational John Lodge composition “Words You Say”. One of the current band’s greatest live moments, the track is tastefully revived here with comparable intensity. On the astutely titled Hall Of Fame the group finds some felicitous support from The World Festival Orchestra arranged and conducted by Larry Baird. The band’s current keyboard tech and engineer Danilo Madonia also appears in the CD credits. In the spirit of their now classic Live + 5 album, recorded in 1969 at The Albert Hall, Hall Of Fame revives a number of past glories and future classics from John Lodge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge including “Legend Of A Mind” (Timothy Leary) “Isn’t Life Strange” and “The Story In Your Eyes”. Now if only Ark 21 (known to pull off some amazing feats) could bring Mike Pinder back in for (at least) one for old time’s sake. Currently making the rounds on public television stations nationwide, Hall Of Fame appears in November on VHS and DVD. 


(Varese Sarabande)

THE WONDERMINTS - BaliPerhaps the best way to gauge the value of any new 21st Century pop album is to ask how well would it have held up 25 or 30 years ago. Putting it to the test, the answer arrived at is that Bali is one of the finest pop albums released over the past 30 years. Slated for a late ‘99 release by the band’s prior U.S. label and then inexplicably bumped, L.A.-based Varese Sarabande thankfully picked up the rights and has just released it on CD in time for late Summer 2000. For those unfamiliar with them, The Wondermints are Brian Wilson’s house band, staying the course of his 1999/2000 tours. Wilson had earlier stated that if The Wondermints had been around 33 years ago he might have taken his late, lamented masterpiece Smile on the road. What a pity that the ‘Mints weren’t even in grade school back then! The bands second full length magnum opus, Bali is loaded with towering pop anthems, solid guitar and keyboard work, prominent cover art, lyrics and a slew of unusual ‘60s instruments. Taking cues from mid-period Beach Boys albums like 20/20 and Sunflower, as well as Wilson’s late ‘80s solo debut, Bali rocks with catchy pop hooks and arrangements that would make Wilson himself proud. Group members Darian Sahanaja, Nick Walusko and Mike D’Amico are joined by top players including Probyn Gregory (guitar) and L.A. session great Carol Kaye. In the spirit of The West Coast’s finest ‘60s and early ‘70s pop albums, Bali arrives like a tropical breeze from a nearly forgotten time in musical history and as such shouldn’t be missed. 


Lightbulb Sun

PORCUPINE TREE - Lightbulb SunFearlessly, Porcupine Tree reappear with a great new album. There isn’t much that misses the ear of PT leader Steve Wilson, who shines on his latest project both as a singer-songwriter and trendsetting guitarist. Imagine a group of musicians that can conjure up Hollies-like harmonies expertly layered into songs that at various times rethink The Eagles or The New Riders and Pink Floyd at their most cosmic. Add in some Hawkwind quarkness, a bit of Gregorian modality, U.K. dub and ambient exotica and you come away with the moods of Lightbulb Sun. Wilson is ably abetted by Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Chris Maitland (drums) and Colin Edwin (bass) while adding to the stellar sound is XTC alumni Dave Gregory who provides string arrangements. Like Porcupine Tree albums before it, Lightbulb Sun is enhanced by incredible concept art and packaging. If you long for the days of classic rock albums like Wish You Were Here or Hunky Dory then Porcupine Tree is the group for you. 



Sky With Stars
(RPM / Columbia)

MICHAL - Sky With StarsSigned to Columbia Records two years ago at the ripe old age of 17, singer-songwriter Michal Towber finally unleashes her CD debut. An ambient composite of pop and folk-rock sprinkled with New Age classicism, Sky With Stars delivers a solid sound that digs even deeper with it’s cutting edge lyrics. Merging the sassy vocal mannerisms of Debbie Harry with the breathtaking range of Enya, the NYC-based Michal proves that she knows the worth of a memorable pop hook. Produced by Tony Shimkin and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and mixed by Michal’s long time idol Chris Lord-Alge, Sky With Stars showcases numerous fine musicians including outstanding guitarists of all persuasions. With the hear today, gone tomorrow logic of the music biz it’s hard to predict where Michal will be a year or two from now. Despite that sobering fact, Sky With Stars is a most auspicious intro to a bright new talent. 


Samantha 7
(C2 / Portrait)

SAMANTHA 7Best known as the lead guitarist with the group Poison, Brooklyn-native C.C. Deville steps centerstage with the release of the self-titled album debut from his new band Samantha 7. Debuting as both lead vocalist and lead guitarist, Deville proceeds to blow the roof off with some powerful punk pop guitar riffing built into a ‘70s bubblegum sound. In Deville’s own words, “This is bittersweet pop. The songs are simple but intense, simple but no less important.” Driven by influences like Phil Spector and rock groups like The Sweet or T.Rex, Samantha 7 is further fueled by Krys Baratto (bass, vocals) and Francis Ruiz (drums, vocals). Touring with Poison on their current concert tour, Deville, once considered the bad boy of rock and roll, has really cleaned up his act. The proof is in the unrelenting energy and wild abandon of the Samantha 7 sound. 


Into The Blue

MARK DAVID - Into The BlueFor his solo debut, Seattle-based Mark David hits the bull's eye with a potent collection of provocative, psychedelic-tinged techno pop. Having worked in the past with performance artist Laurie Anderson, David now reveals himself as a talented pop composer in the spirit of songwriting icons like John Cale, Eno and the three Lennon’s. Primarily a one-man-band recording, Into The Blue kicks things off hard and fast with “Human” and “Safe Haven”, which really set the tone for the rest of the album. Listen along with the lyric sheet and you’re sure to find more cool sounds, especially the two album closing cuts “In The End” and “Another Sun”. A fine songwriter, David also shines here as a vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. On the music scene as a member of various bands for years, David is well on the way to establishing himself with Into The Blue.  or /  


Allow Me

JULES SHEAR - Allow MeDescribing the gist behind what many are saying is his finest album to date, Jules Shear replies, “Because my last record was kind of downbeat and mellow, there was a natural reaction for me to want to rock more, so we did.” A first rate singer-songwriter / guitarist who broke on the scene with a superb Todd Rundgren-produced early ‘80s solo debut, Shear has acquired quite a reputation as a solo singer-songwriter live and on record during the past several years. That said, it’s quite a relief to hear him return to form with a rock-based, folk-tinged pop outing that equals his best work to date. Comparisons from Roger McGuinn to Marshall Crenshaw have always been mirrored Shear’s best work. Several of the CD’s acoustic based tracks offer a reflective lull but it’s really the hard-rocking tracks such as the opening “Hard Enough”, the bluesy “Love With You” and “May The Hard Road” that capture Shear at his best. With Mark Egan (bass), Sammy Merendino (drums) and guitarists Stewart Lerman and Steuart Smith adding fuel to the fire, Allow Me stakes it’s claim as one of Shear’s most defined efforts to date. The 11-track set was recorded in a small studio on 14th St. in Manhattan run by producer and longtime collaborator and guitarist Stewart Lerman, who previously worked with Shear on the albums The Great Puzzle and Between Us. Add in Susan Cowsill, Vicki Peterson and Suzzy Roche sprucing up the background vocal scenery and you come away with an album no long time Shear fan should miss. 



ELEVEN - AvantgardedogThe two founders of Eleven, guitarist-vocalist Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider (keyboards, vocals) made headlines last year with their co-production of Chris Cornell’s fabulous 1999 solo album Euphoria Morning. That album was a triumph of spacious pop and rock and in the same spirit the fourth album from Eleven delivers the goods with startling ease. Filled out with the top drumming of long time Eleven fan Greg Upchurch an eclectic pop sound prevails, no doubt enhanced by the diverse background of both Johannes (he’s part Mexican/part Swiss) and Shneider (she’s a classical prodigy who began at age 3 in her native Moscow). A rising name on the L.A. music scene since ‘75, Johannes really shines here as both a singer and electric guitarist. Avantgardedog (with matching album art!) rocks from start to finish, even including a couple instrumentals. With Johannes and Shneider coming up with a solid bunch of cosmic rockers, the album is a great introduction to a cutting edge rock group on the brink of greatness. 


The ConstruKction Of Light

KING CRIMSON - The ConstruKction Of LightSo just how does guitarist and KC founder Robert Fripp describe the latest chapter in the ongoing activities of the newly revived King Crimson? “King Crimson is, as always, more a way of doing things. When there is nothing to be done, nothing is done: Crimson disappears. When there is music to be played Crimson reappears. If all of life were this simple.” Five years after the release of their acclaimed THRAK album, King Crimson return with one of their finest efforts to date, a set aptly described by Fripp as “ a Double Duo and/or a Quartet. It is also four soloists, four trios and six duettists.” Joining Fripp on The ConstruKction Of Light are none other than Trey Gunn (touch guitar) and pop icon Adrian Belew (guitar, lead vocals). But, perhaps the most overt modification in the latest Crimson chronicle is the emergence of Pat Mastelotto, who replaces long time Crim percussion master Bill Bruford. Mastelotto meets that challenge head on with a most worthy drumming performance. Also missing from the latest KC lineup is bass/stick wiz Tony Levin (apparently off with Bruford planning the next BLUE CD). After years of solo albums and numerous sessions featuring all the Crimson members and, of course, the coming to prominence of Fripp’s label Discipline Global Mobile, The ConstruKction Of Light emerges whole as nothing less than a spectacular musical revelation. Dipping into the the Crimson musical gene pool, the 11 track CD merges and reshapes just about every aspect of KC’s eclectic brand of cutting edge progressive art rock and sundry instrumental musics. Of the many great musical moments here is a three part instrumental opus called “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV” (strangely echoing the title track of KC’s ‘74 album Red ) which fearlessly spirals into the album’s harrowing epicenter (part IV?) entitled “Coda: I Have A Dream” complete with indelible lyrics and a tour-de-force vocal performance from Belew. The ConstruKction Of Light then vanishes into thin air with a mesmerizing set-closing instrumental from the new line-up’s experimental alter existence ProjeKct X. 


Say It Is So
(Sonny’s Pop)

TIM FINN - Say It Is SoSplit Enz founder and brother of Crowded House founder Neil Finn, the legendary Tim Finn returns with his finest solo album to date. Produced by guitarist Jay Joyce, Say It Is So clearly outshines anything yet recorded by Finn as a solo artist and in that sense the CD hearkens back to Finn’s first recordings with Split Enz, years before they entered the world of mainstream pop. The spirit of adventure that permeates Say It Is So is linked with Finn’s lack of interest in recording under the onerous A&R and marketing preconditions set by most major labels. The album is a most unique sounding undertaking, yet Finn’s trademark talents as a singer-songwriter also runs rampant on Say It Is So. Another interesting footnote is that the album is the first release on the Nashville-based Sonny’s Pop label. Apparently the freewheeling spirit of the upstart label caught the attention of Finn and so the album was born. Once Finn arrived for the sessions in Nashville he teamed with up-and-coming producer Jay Joyce and the two clicked. According to Finn, “I’ve always followed my instincts. Jay was the producer I had been searching for.” Far from the upbeat, MTV-friendly pop of the early ‘80s Split Enz, Say It Is So has more in common with some of David Bowie’s darker late ‘70s vibe. Assisting Finn and producer/guitarist Joyce are Ken Coomer and Giles Reaves (drums) and Chris Feinstein (bass). One of the year’s most phenomenal pop comebacks, Say It Is So is exactly the album you always hoped and somehow knew Tim Finn would deliver. 


Odd Fellows

THE SPONGETONES - Odd FellowsThe term ‘Beatles-inspired pop’ has been bandied about so much since the late ‘90s that you’d think we were again living in the golden years of the ‘60s British Invasion! While there has surely been a revival of the Beatles sound since the mid-90s, few bands could match the rare genius that the Fab Four radiated together as a band or as solo artists in their own right. Since their early ‘80s albums Beat Music and Torn Apart and later, with cool mid ‘90s albums such as Textural Drone Thing and Oh Yeah, guitarist and singer-songwriting ace Jamie Hoover and company have been linked in spirit and style with some of the finest Beatle-esque pop in recent memory. Just how Beatle-sounding is the latest Spongetones CD? Well, in addition to a peachy palette of hummable Spongetones pop originals, it seems as though singer-songwriter and guitarist Jamie Hoover and company have unearthed a rarely heard song composed by none other than Beatles mainman himself Paul McCartney. Written by Macca for an ‘80s comeback album by veteran ‘50s rockers The Everly Brothers, “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” is a great rediscovery for Beatles followers and The Spongetones do the song justice even adding in some great Byrds-inspired harmonies. Almost as cool is the ‘Tones lead off original “You’ll Come Running Back”, which hearkens back in mood to the Beatles Rubber Soul cut “Run For Your Life” or even “Lies” by The Knickerbockers. Whatever genre of pop gets you through the night, you’ll surely find it and many more noteworthy sounds on Odd Fellows. 


Live In Detroit
(CMC International)

PETER FRAMPTON - Live In DetroitA rock and roll legend since the mid-60’s, Peter Frampton staked his claim to fame with a series of well crafted studio albums and several wildly successful, high energy live efforts. Starting out in the mid ‘60s as a member of The Herd and later as founding member / lead guitarist in the trendsetting U.K. rock band Humble Pie, Frampton’s one-of-a-kind guitar prowess and vocal skills propelled him towards a superstar status often dreamed of yet rarely achieved. Case in point remains Frampton’s 1976 double L.P. Frampton Comes Alive!, which, although not nearly as intriguing as his early solo works and his phenomenal studio albums with Humble Pie, became the biggest selling live album of all time, selling some 16 million copies in the process. In the ‘90s, Frampton kept a relatively low profile, although he lived up to his well-earned status as a seminal guitar figure returning with a vastly underrated self titled studio album in ‘94 and an attempt to mirror his most prosperous concert album with Frampton Comes Alive II. The late ‘80s and ‘90s also found him playing on various album sessions with David Bowie and Rolling Stones’ bass icon Bill Wyman, the latter being the man Frampton still credits as the one who started him out in the music business. Years of touring as a member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band has kept Frampton’s guitar and vocal skills white hot, and for his first release of the new millennium Frampton, not surprisingly, returns with a new live album. Captured as a live concert on both DVD and CD, Live In Detroit finds the guitar legend effortlessly performing some of his best known songs before an adoring crowd at the Pine Knob Music Theater in Detroit back on July 17, 1999. Reflecting back on a career that has spanned four, going on five decades, it’s safe to say that Frampton’s most popular albums have been his live ones. First with Humble Pie’s now classic Rockin’ The Fillmore and in the ‘70s as a solo artist with the mega-popular Frampton Comes Alive. It might not be the long awaited studio album that some long time fans are still hoping for, yet Live In Detroit is nevertheless proof positive that the classic Frampton sound is once again ready, willing and able to take center stage. 

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