Record Label and Music Spotlight 




on Universal Music


on Quantum Leap

on Lightning Land Records


A&M / UNIVERSAL - One of the all time classic rock tours was caught forever during the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour, which received the 35th anniversary royal reissue treatment from Universal. First released as a double Lp in 1970 on A&M, the set featured Cocker spurred on by a range of great artists including his then producer / mentor Leon Russell. Russell is one of the all time great rock singers and piano players but for the Mad Dogs tour he turned the keyboards over to Chris Stainton and instead cut loose with his Les Paul on lead and rhythm, sharing guitar chores with the late great Jesse Ed Davis. The double CD on A&M / UME is still worth checking out but you’d be way better off to witness A&M’s simultaneously released DVD of the entire event. With Cocker & Co. strutting their stuff and Leon in such rare form for the cameras, you could hardly go wrong. Word is, A&M is actually planning an expanded DVD edition of Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour coming in 2006.

- One of the top folk-rock labels in the U.S., Appleseed has released albums by Roger McGuinn and tributes to Pete Seeger. Appleseed keeps their pop standards high with the 2005 CD release of A Beach Of Shells by legendary U.K. guitar troubadour and folk poet Al Stewart. On his 13 track Appleseed set, Stewart receives fine production and the electric and acoustic guitar skills from former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber. Juber and Stewart have mellowed nicely over the years and they make good use of their kindred spirits on the sumptuous sounding A Beach Of Shells. Anyone who dug Stewart’s ‘70s classics like “Year Of The Cat” will find much to like here. Another folk-rock classic, The Kennedys also had a 2005 release on Appleseed. Still echoing their Byrds meets The Everly Brothers, Half A Million Miles is the latest release from the husband and wife team of Pete & Maura Kennedy, who initially met at Buddy Holly’s grave site.

Perhaps Terry Reid will be best remembered as the guy who was forced to turn down the offer to fill the lead vocal slot in Led Zeppelin. Not only did Reid have to turn down the Zeppelin front man slot, but he ended up introducing Zep guitarist Page to the band’s future front man Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham. Far from being just a footnote in the Led Zeppelin encyclopedia, Reid is feted on a 2005 compilation on Astralwerks. A stellar showcase for Reid’s amazing vocal and guitar skills, Superlungs draws on Reid’s famous first two albums, released circa ‘69, on Epic as well his original of “No Expression”, covered by CSN&Y on their box set plus Reid originals covered by Cheap Trick and Marianne Faithful. Despite his seemingly missed chance at rock stardom Reid remains as upbeat as ever today adding, “I play every Monday night at this club called The Joint in Beverly Hills with Waddy Wachtel. Robert Plant dropped by recently and we did “Season Of The Witch. People say I’m the unluckiest man in rock, but it doesn’t feel like that. Come down to The Joint next time you’re in L.A. and you’ll see how I love what I do!”

- Having studied with both Sophocles Pappas at age 16 and three years later with Andres Segovia, classical guitar maestro Larry Snitzler released a CD retrospective in 2003 entitled Remembranza: Concert, Broadcast and Studio Recordings From Washington & Paris 1966-1988. In the interesting liner notes Snitzler speaks about the origins of the 24 tracks on the CD, for instance finding a tape of a concert he gave in Guatemala City in 1966 while the inset has a b&w of Snitzler meeting Segovia also in 1966 in Spain. Musically, Snitzler’s choice of classical favorites covered includes music of Segovia, Manuel Ponce, Fernando Sor, Erik Satie and more. Recorded over a 22 year period, the CD varies in recording technique and quality, but like Segovia, Snitzler’s classical guitar sound reveals fresh impressions with repeated listening.

- A veteran of the music biz and guitar world, renowned L.A. session player Michael Thompson. Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and now L.A. based, Thompson has played guitar with Cher, Joe Cocker, Animal Logic and producer David Foster to name just a few. With his diverse expertise as a backdrop Thompson released a fine instrumental rock guitar album in 2005. Entitled M.T. Speaks, the 15 track CD features a great cross-section of fusion instrumental sounds in the spirit of guitar greats like early Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and even some of Mike Oldfield’s more rocking harmonies The CD is a pleasant surprise and fans of guitar rock sounds will be blown away by Thompson’s classic approach to the genre. Among the fine artists assisting Thompson are Stanley Clarke, Vinny Coliauta, Nathan East, and newcomers Nathaniel Morton (drums) and Sean Halley (bass).

Those great late ‘60s / early ‘70s albums from Santana not only had the radio hits, but they created a new latin inspired jazz-rock instrumental sound that has not been surpassed. In fact, guitar hero Carlos Santana continued to refine his diverse chemistry of pop and jazz sounds on Santana III, a sound that served as a springboard that continues till this very day with the late 2005 Santana album, All That I Am. The first two Santana albums had killer artwork that bordered on pornographic and that continued with the fascinating cover of Santana III. Hits you ask? How about the fact that the album reached #1 on Billboard and you could hardly flick an FM station without hearing “No One To Depend On” the fusion-y dance groove of “Everybody’s Everything.” Columbia / Legacy’s superb sounding 2005 double CD reissue of Santana III pairs the original nine track ‘71 album with four previously unreleased studio cuts with disc two mirroring the studio set through a cleverly sequenced eleven track live set at the Fillmore West on July 4, 1971. Relive the magic during those magical ‘69-72 sounds created together by Carlos Santana, singer/organist Gregg Rolie, jazz rock master Mike Shrieve, future fusion guitar ace Neal Schon.

CRE-8-SOUND - Mix one part driving rock instrumental and one part Hank Marvin inspired majesty and you come close to the new CD by Australia-based guitarist Darrel Humphris. On The Music Within, assisted by drummer Tim Ingram, Darrel handles all the electric and acoustic guitars, bass and keyboards. Darrel’s action packed guitar hits hard but with none of the excess associated with heavy metal. In the spirit of the renowned West Coast guitar rocker Gary Hoey, Darrel’s music quite tastefully focuses on melody as well as style, and listener is amply rewarded with repeat plays.

- An evocative masterpiece of instrumental guitar sounds, Working Titles is the best album yet from Boston-based Allen Devine. Devine was quite impressive on his 2003 CD, Hmmm...and with the 2005 release of the 18 track Working Titles he adds yet another winner to his repertoire of instrumental music releases. One of Devine’s specialty is atmospheric film music and several of the tracks here clock in around 2 minutes and would make great soundtrack music. Other tracks combine a synthesis of country-rock, jazz fusion and rock. In fact Devine explores a multitude of music genres on the varied and highly listenable Working Titles. Recording in Boston, Devine tackles all the guitars, bass, percussion and keys with skillful precision.

- Centered around the heyday of Beatlemania, 1963-1966, The Beatles: From Liverpool To San Francisco was released on DVD in 2005 by Eagle Rock. In a hundred years, when billions of people, ages removed the 20th century ask the question—just who were these Beatles all those years ago—they could do far worse than to check out this illuminating 104 minute documentary. Even without playing a note of original Beatles music, From Liverpool To San Francisco captures the essence of the Beatles magic as spoken by The Fab Four themselves through vintage news footage and archival TV interviews with the band. Of particular note is the inclusion of the bonus section entitled “Beatles Across America”, which takes a frightening look at the bible belt’s rabid reaction to the taken out of context comments John Lennon allegedly made about Christ and...well, you know it ain’t easy, but it’s all here kids, studied warts and all.

- Hungarian born, Hawaii based guitarist Gyula Schreiber combines the most appealing elements of European and Island based guitar sounds on his 2005 CD, Headway. A number of players back up Schreiber and company on this colorful acoustic-electric guitar-based CD of instrumental smooth jazz recorded in Honolulu.

- The genre is called ‘spag-west’—as in Clint Eastwood, Hang ‘Em High and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly—is the realm of instrumental music the group known as The Moe Greene Specials revel in. Hank Marvin and Ennio Morricone may be most responsible for creating the Euro-based surf-guitar soundtrack of the ‘60s, but the Dutch based group puts it all together on their self titled 2005 CD filled with a dozen evocative guitar instrumentals. Adding to the authentic Tex-Mex vibe the group flavor their guitar-based sound with some effective trumpet performances. All round the world, guitar instrumental music is huge right now with a number of spy-surf, spaghetti western and surf-rock labels cranking out the latest sounds and fittingly, the Greece-based Green Cookie label have a number of recent CD releases including a great new CD from the U.S. West Coast group Insect Surfers. Featuring guitarist Dave Arnson the band still offer definitive sounding instrumental rock in the spirit of The Ventures and Link Wray. Also in 2005 from Green Cookie is the latest from Greek instro rockers The Star & Key Of The Indian Ocean entitled Vintage Soup.

- In his track by track liner notes for his 2005 finger style solo acoustic guitar album, Acoustic Dreams, guitarist Kev says a lot about his musical influences. Childhood memories in Minnesota, his love of Spanish Flamenco and Irish folk music as well as great acoustic guitar version of “The Mountain King,” written by Edvard Grieg shape Kev’s acoustic guitar vision. One man, one guitar, Acoustic Dreams features fine straight forward performance (no overdubs) by Kev on his Taylor 712C guitar.

- The Beatles were becoming white hot when they ditched their first drummer, Pete Best in favor of Ringo Starr. Such moves are the stuff of history, the whole summation of which is recalled on a most informative 2005 DVD release on Lightyear Entertainment. Entitled Best Of The Beatles, the DVD is subtitled Pete Best: Mean, Moody And Magnificent. Best’s workmanlike drumming on various Beatles recordings, live and, in the case of the fabled Decca Sessions, in the the studio pre ‘61/62, remains quite interesting. Clearly Ringo Starr was the ultimate choice to assist their rise to the top, yet as this essential DVD points out Best’s involvement with The Beatles was also crucial to their early success. The DVD runs nearly three hours and with loads of vintage footage gives the lowdown on just how resourceful those lads from Liverpool really were. Balancing out the vintage stuff with John, Paul, George and Stu is all new interviews with Best and various sidekicks, including early Beatles / Quarrymen accomplice Ken Brown, all who remain deservedly basking in the glow of that evergreen early ‘60s era known as Beatlemania.

- Lead guitarist and songwriter in Twin Cities based Gilman’s Crossing, guitarist Ray Gilman flies high with his new solo album Altitude. It ain’t your attitude, it’s your altitude with Gilman echoing the glory days of his ‘70s and ‘80s jazz rock heroes. The guitarist explains, “I have always wanted to do an instrumental CD. I am influenced by artists like Jeff Beck, Weather Report, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Rush, and Todd Rundgren to name a few. I try to start with a good melody and build it from there. I really enjoyed making this CD". A self-produced solo studio project all the way and a fine example of the D.I.Y. spirit, Ray Gilman’s sonic progressive New Age instrumental rock takes the scenic route with some intriguing twists and turns.

- Before he moved into the realm of sonic pop on now famous Wigwam albums recorded for Virgin Records during the mid ‘70s, Jim Pembroke was a truly quirky singer-songwriter. Moving from London to Finland in ‘65, Pembroke made musical waves early on with outstanding late ‘60s albums recorded with Blues Section and Wigwam—two bands he co-founded. In 1972, Pembroke released his first solo album, Hot Thumbs O’Riley (Wicked Ivory) with his Wigwam band mates, including late, great drummer Ronnie Österberg and soon to be rising fusion bass ace Pekka Pohjola. Just as eccentric, in a cool way, as early Wigwam albums like the Kim Fowley produced Tombstone Valentine and Fairyport, Hot Thumbs / Wicked Ivory was the first in a series of brilliant solo albums from Pembroke, who continues in the 2000’s with Wigwam. Jazzy, bluesy, progressive, and all sort of Euro-tinged pop-rock abounds on Hot Thumbs. Kicking off with the Zappa-esque, turn on a dime melodies of “Warm Rumours”, and ending with a kind of demented epoch tribute to Pembroke’s quintessential British-ness entitled “The Decline Of The House Of Lords”, Hot Thumbs remains one of the wildest, most eclectic rock albums made anywhere in 1972. Kudos to Pembroke’s original record label, Love Records, who did a splendid job on their 2005 Hot Thumbs CD reissue.

- When they started their illustrious group legacy back in the late ‘60s, The Strawbs were mainly a folk-based group. Spearheaded by singer-songwriter and guitarist Dave Cousins, The Strawbs really started rocking on their 1971 classic Grave New World, and have, ever since maintained a very high level of musical integrity. Blending English folk sounds with a hybrid rock sound, Cousins really started to experiment with rock at the dawn of the ‘70s following the entrance of keyboardists Rick Wakeman and John Hawkin and the appearance of guitarist Dave Lambert, who is one of the fine musicians on the group’s 2003 album Blue Angel. Distributed in the U.S. by the Audio Fidelity label, Blue Angel may have been an overlooked ‘sleeper’, but after a good listen it appears that overall the CD is a stellar blend of the more irrefutable aspects of the band’s sound with a fresh kind of hybrid U.K folk-rock sound. Many one time group members appear here including Dave Lambert, guitarist Brian Willoughby, keyboardist Blue Weaver as well as both long time drummers Richard Hudson and Rod Coombes. With his haunting gothic folk essence, Dave Cousins is a textbook lesson in musical creativity and his usual dominance as one of England’s greatest singers of a generation, is enhanced on Blue Angel by occasional back-up vocals from Mary Hopkin and Maddy Prior. Anyone who enjoyed dynamic, rock-based Strawbs classics like Hero And Heroine and Bursting At Seams should check out Blue Angel. Audio Fidelity is also making available quite a few Strawbs related titles in their U.S. catalog including their 2004 album Déja Fou. Excellent but not quite as rockin’ as Blue Angel, the CD features the same cast with John Hawken on keyboards. Another Cousins related title worth hearing his 2002 duo album with Rick Wakeman, the 13 track Hummingbird. / /

- Borrowing from both techno and fusion, guitarist David G. Risley puts his arsenal to the test on the first, self-titled CD from Lip Silent Assassin. Performing all the instruments himself, Risley has made a great sounding CD that spans a cross-section of instrumental rock and atmospheric jazz-rock sounds. Featuring Risley inspired in part by guitar giants like Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth, Lip Silent Assassin is quite dynamic combining just the right amount of intensity and intellect. Extra credits for the stunning sounding production and cool cover art.

- Classical guitar fans will enjoy the 2005 CD from Randall Avers. Entitled Puerto Viejo: Music Of Spain, the 13 track CD finds Avers in a solo setting, performing the legendary music of Spain’s classical guitar giants. Recorded in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania, the overall sound has just the right touch of depth and echo with hardly a trace of saturation. In other words Avers has recorded a fine sounding classical album filled with technical wizardry and matching artistic temperament.

QUANTUM LEAP- One band that had U.S. releases but never really made it here were English classical art-rockers Sky. Best known for their classical arrangements for a rock group, Sky were blessed with two fine guitarists, world renowned classical virtuoso John Williams and Aussie prog-rock guitar ace Kevin Peek. Having the great Francis Monkman on keyboards, a great drummer in Tristian Fry and bass legend Herbie Flowers in the group only added to their greatness. The band’s heyday was the period in between their 1979 debut into the mid ‘80s, after Williams left the band. With their impeccable guitar-based approach to instrumental classical rock, Williams and Peek made a formidible guitar team. Both can be seen in peak form on a 2005 DVD, simply called Sky. Released on the U.K. based Quantum Leap, the expertly filmed hour long DVD captures the group live in 1980 from a German TV show. Featuring tracks from the first three Sky albums, the DVD is an excellent opportunity to revisit one of England’s great unheralded classical rock outfits.

/ WSM - Though the original lineup of The Who ceased to exist with the passing of both Keith Moon and John Entwistle, both Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue releasing rare and live Who archival material. The 2005 Rhino triple DVD release of Tommy And Quadrophenia Live With Special Guests pairs a ‘97 live Quadrophenia with a live Tommy filmed in 1989. The third DVD features Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle performing a veritable best of set as filmed live on their ‘89 and ‘96/97 US tour. Bonus features abound on each DVD including photo gallery, MX DVD interactive visual commentary with Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend, “The Quadrophenia Story,” deluxe 8-panel DigiPak in Slip Sleeve and booklet with extensive liner notes. /

- Equal parts of The Raspberries, The Nazz, Brian Wilson and the fab four, Big Star were a little late in coming yet by the mid ‘70s had managed to carve out a niche with the teenyboppers who just missed those earlier legends. Cult status ensued over these years, and in a stroke of luck, two original Big Star members and two mega-talented current pop guys have retooled the Big Star sound on a CD that contains a dozen cuts filled with rare and appealing pop sensibilities. A legend of both ‘60s pop greats The Box Tops and Big Star, Alex Chilton needs little in the way of introduction to most pop fans and together with original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, the pair reunite here with pop pundits Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow for the 2005 CD release of Big Star In Space. ‘60s pop, Stax R&B vibes and a cool pop-Beatles nostalgia prevails over the course of a dozen pop classics. There’s even a way cool post punk, pomp-rock guitar instrumental.

- Few singers have the depth and vision of the great Eric Burdon. Burdon and The Animals were one of the greatest bands of the 1964 British Invasion. Giving both The Beatles and Stones a run for their money back when, The Animals made great singles and albums that have stood the test of time. On the scene for years, Burdon isn’t one to rest on his laurels and on his 2005 SPV album, Soul Of A Man he sounds strong and true to his roots. A great rock, blues and gospel singer, Burdon rises to the occasion on 14 track CD that ranges from driving rock and funky boogies to his love of the blues of Howlin’ Wolf and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Commenting on his latest album, Burdon adds, “I’d go even further and credit blues with a healing effect, if you study it deeply enough.” Backed by a tight band—including guitarists Carl Carlton and Johnny Lee Schell—Burdon reemerges with a fine album that clearly lives up to his renowned legacy.

- Teaching guitar since he was 16, guitarist Jason Sadites recently moved from his native Ontario, Canada to move to South Florida. He has also just released a fine CD debut album, Orbit and if there’s any justice left in the guitar world, listeners will pick up on Sadites’ vibrant, pulsating guitar instrumental sound. On the surface Sadites reminds of players like Jeff Beck, Vai and Satriani although he’s still fresh and doesn’t play over heads, yet like the bigger names. Backed by some fine players like drummer Kevin McMahon, Sadites layers his multi-tracked guitar approach with an appealing sonic edge while making good use of his Fender American Ash Strat with Kinman pickups.

- Inspired by his journeys through Europe, acoustic guitarist Ken Baldwin has created a fine 12 track album in the spirit of the rustic-souding instrumental guitar music of Pentangle founder John Renbourn. Also featuring Logan Baldwin (light percussion) and David Wilson (violin, cello, mando), the humorously titled Bones Of Saint finds Baldwin weaving an organic web of finger style acoustic ramblings inspired by the likes of Renbourn and Stefan Grossman with the blues influence of Jorma Kaukonen. Baldwin makes good us of his Taylor 814C and co-producer’s Jerry Williams Martin D-41 and please, no apologies for that cool CD cover art sending up the famous Edvard Munch anxiety painting “The Scream.”

- A Mozart for the 21st Century, Mike Oldfield released a double CD of all new material entitled Light + Shade in 2005. Continuing on as a self-produced artist, Oldfield’s constant vision is further rewarded in a sumptuous studio setting with not too many surprises. Borrowing on pastoral themes from the past, Oldfield summons a varied sound weaving his various guitars with a panoply of hi-tech studio sounds that Trevor Horn would approve of. Guitar fans will no doubt be interested in the choice of guitars featured on the 2005 set including 1963 Fender Strat, 1990 PRS Signature, 1974 Ramirez classical and 1964 Fender Precision bass.

- The 2005 CD from Baton Rouge-based Always The Runner, entitled An August Golf is filled with shimmering instrumentals of guitar-based rock music. A quartet that expertly veers between surf rock and ambient New Age guitar sounds, Always The Runner features the guitars of Garrett Matthew Morley and Eric Matthew Dills. A solid rock energy keeps the band’s drive right up there and gives it a solid edge that instrumental rock guitar fans will admire.

- The two albums Bill Bruford made with prog electronic keyboard icon Dave Stewart changed the course of rock fusion. Released in 1977 and 1978, Feels Good To Me and its follow up One Of A Kind took jazz rock to new heights. Complimenting the lineup was guitarist Alan Holdsworth and bassist Jeff Berlin. It was too good to last but Bruford did manage to pull off one his finest post-Yes band concerts with a rare historic live show at My Father’s Place in Roslyn Long Island, on one of the hottest days in New York history, July 12, 1979, a show that was captured forever on the album The Bruford Tapes. The guiding light of FM radio at that time, the crew of WLIR FM broke the news that day of the show made radio history broadcasting the show live to startled fans over the airwaves. As one of the fans in the crowed that night I can tell you Bruford, Stewart, Berlin and filling in for the AWOL Holdsworth, guitarist “the unknown” John Clarke (the cat in Clark’s clothes?) were more than brilliant and they lived up to the stature this classic live album. More amazing is that fact that the once not so great sounding sound quality is much improved on this 2005 Voiceprint CD reissue The Bruford Tapes, bringing a clarity to the live concert mix not before heard. Bringing Yes to its earliest heights and doing it again with the Stewart, Holdsworth and Berlin quartet was to be Bruford's last major romp in the prog rock arena, but who knows what the master of all things percussion might do next. How about an album with Mike Pinder, Mike Oldfield and Pekka Pohjola? hmmm...

- David Bowie used to do selective covers on his albums, with one of the coolest appearing on his ‘71 Lp Hunky Dory. It was on this now celebrated album that Bowie covered a Biff Rose song called “Fill Your Heart.” An eclectic musical genius in his own right, Rose is feted on this long overdue and first ever two-fer reissue of his two 1968 Tetragrammation Records classics The Thorn In Mrs. Rose Side and Children Of Light. An essential reissue of two historic albums, original artwork and all, the 24 track CD on Water features two bonus tracks and in depth booklet.

- One of the best bands to come out of Brooklyn in recent memory, Closenuf released their self-titled CD debut in 2005 on their own Wreckords imprint. Blessed with a convincing lead singer in Anthony J. Foti, the five piece also spotlights guitarist Ron Pitkin and keyboard player Adam Vicelich. Musically, Foti and company revel in a hard rocking wide screen panoramic early ‘60s inspired vision of a sound Phil Spector would have approved of. The crack rhythm section of Trey Roper (drums) and Henry McDonagh III (bass) round out the group lineup. Reminiscent of The Cars, with a retro touch of Vanilla Fudge and Velvet Underground, the Closenuf album is well recorded and rocks on an artful musical level.

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in and 20th Century Guitar. Send to CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249 e-mail:



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