Record Label and Music Spotlight 

JANUARY /
FEBRUARY 2005

  

 


SIMON DUPREE
AND THE BIG SOUND
on EMI

 


DION
on Image Entertainment


THE PORTER PROJECT
on Kriztal

 

JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2005
MUSIC & RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT


A PRIORI RECORDS - Combining folk, New Age, acoustic, jazz and World Music, Drifting Into Oblivion is the fifth independently released CD from Nashville-based, Alabama-bred fingerstyle guitarist John Danley. With his Taylor acoustic guitar Danley weaves quite a spell on the twelve track CD. Almost cinematic in scope and further inspired by painters Dali, Ernst and Chagall as well as composer Philip Glass, the all instrumental CD achieves rare levels of sonic depth and reflection. The follow up to Danley’s 2002 CD, Cemeteries, Missed Trains & Blue Skies, the 2004 release of Drifting Into Oblivion echoes the spirits of Leo Kottke and Tommy Emmanuel while also making a unique statement and presence of it’s own. www.johndanley.com

ANGEL AIR
- Over in the U.K., Angel Air Records continues giving some music legends long awaited retrospectives. One the label’s best in 2004 is a reissue of a 1988 release entitled Why Not Now by U.K. guitarist Ray Russell. An atmospheric and expertly recorded album showcasing Russell on electric and acoustic guitars, classical and tenor guitars and guitar synth, the 12 track CD features accompaniment by some great English session players including Mo Foster (bass), Tony Hymas (keyboards) and Simon Phillips (drums). Also making several appearances on Why Not Now are Mark Isham (on trumpet, flugelhorn and keyboards) and the late, great Gil Evans (on Fender Rhodes). Mostly recorded in England, with further recording done in NYC and L.A., the all instrumental album is very much in the spirit of Isham’s work with Group 87 and further solo works and makes for a splendid jazz-rock album with spatial overtones. Other Russell related remasters on Angel Air includes Centennial Park and Live At The Venue 1982 by RMS (a 1982 set featuring Russell with Mo Foster and Simon Phillips), Rock Workshop and The Very Last Time by Rock Workshop (two early ‘70s albums pairing Russell and the late, great singer-actor Alex Harvey) and last but not least Ready Or Not (a 1977 jazz-rock date with Phillips, Foster, Hymas, Andy MacKay (on sax) and the string arrangements of Gavin Wright). In addition to fine liner notes and artwork, each Ray Russell CD remaster on Angel Air is filled out by ample bonus tracks. www.rayrussell.co.uk

BACKBEAT BOOKS
- Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first number one Beach Boys hit (“I Get Around”), and the 2004 CD release of Smile, Backbeat Books released a vital book entitled The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary Of America’s Greatest Band On Stage And In The Studio. Regarding the 2004, 400 page soft cover edition, no less than Brian Wilson has commented, “It’s great to see the details of the best years of our career collected with such love in one place.” Detailing just about every move made by The Beach Boys during their fabled heyday—1961-1976—author Keith Badman has left no stone unturned. This authoritative guide covers a song by song index, a Smile recording index, as well as detailed studio logs from classic recording sessions, long lost press reviews and an array of archival photos and interviews with band members and their close associates. Badman has written a modern masterpiece on America’s greatest pop band. www.backbeatbooks.com

CAMBRIA
- Before his work with Mary Ford, The Les Paul Trio, his solo albums and his legendary work shaping the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording, Les Paul came into his own during his tenure on the Fred Waring radio show. Between 1937-1941, Les worked exhaustively on live performances and radio broadcasts with Fred Waring and his orchestra, the best of which is recalled on a 2004 archival CD release on Cambria Master Recordings entitled Les Paul: The Legendary Fred Waring Broadcasts - Historic Live Performances 1939-1941. As this CD points out, a decade before anyone called it be-bop Les was inventing a new style of jazz guitar influenced by everything from Django-style licks to classical and country and western hillbilly licks. Sure he was only in his mid 20’s, yet on this CD you can hear the seeds of the greatness that was soon to follow. A vital historical CD from the original pioneer of the electric guitar, The Legendary Fred Waring Broadcasts recaptures a fascinating period in American music history. Featuring 26 tracks of pure Les Paul magic, the CD comes with a 20 page CD booklet filled with background on the music and all the players featured on these timeless tracks. www.cambriamus.com

DGM
- A 2004 4 CD box set reissue by Discipline Global Mobile, The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson is a timely audio retrospective spanning the fabled early studio and live works by England’s most formidable progressive rock group. While mid ‘80s CDs of the very first King Crimson album from 1969—In The Court Of The Crimson King—sounded terrible, that problem is completely eradicated thanks to the recent discovery of original master tapes. For this final word on the early King Crimson, all the music here has been ‘digitally re-mastered, edited and assembled from the best source tapes available.’ Broken down into four CDs—including In The Studio 1969-1971, Live 1969-1972, In The Studio 1972-1974 and Live 1973-1974The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson draws upon a number of King Crimson album classics including In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969), In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970), Lizard (1970), Islands (1971), Epitaph (live 1969) Ladies Of The Road (live 1971-1972), Earthbound (1972), Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (1973), Starless & Bible Black (1974), Red (1974), USA (1974), The Great Deceiver (live 1973-74) and The Night Watch (live in Amsterdam 1973). Released with a seal of approval no doubt by legendary KC ringmaster Robert Fripp, through DGM and it’s newly formed U.S. counterpart Inner Knot, The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson features excellent sound, packaging, booklet and graphics and can be considered the final word on the early King Crimson lineups. Coinciding with the box, a 2004 DVD release on DGM/Inner Knot, Neal And Jack And Me combines a pair of concerts from the ‘80s lineup of King Crimson featuring Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and Adrian Belew. Pairing Three Of A Perfect Pair: Live In Japan 1984 and The Noise: Live In Frejus 1982, the DVD tags on a range of extras including a 1984 promo video for KC’s “Sleepless” single, a fab booklet and road photos from Tony Levin. www.disciplineglobalmobile.com

DAVE HILL MUSIC
- A relaxed album of contemporary jazz guitar sounds, Two Seasons was released in 2004 by L.A. based guitarist Dave Hill. Citing influences like Pat Metheny and John Scofield as well as jazz pianst Vince Guaraldi, Hill strikes a fine balance between melodic and improvisational instrumental jazz. In Hill’s own words, “I enjoy bridging the gap between jazz purists who like really daring performances and newcomers to jazz who simply enjoy great songs played by musicians who know how to both groove and entertain.” Recorded between 2001-2003, the eight track Two Seasons features Hill’s expert guitar work backed up by a range of fine players including keyboardist Gregg Karukas. www.davehillmusic.com

EPIC
- A gifted pop band who’ve amassed sales of over 8 million units since ‘96, Travis released a best-of collection in 2004. A compilation of their singles releases, the 18 track Travis: Singles offers a fine intro to one of England’s best new bands. In addition, the CD booklet features complete discography information. Simultaneously released is a companion DVD compilation of Singles. Although you don’t need to see these songs to understand how good they are, the 17 track DVD presents an amiable video companion to the Singles CD, the only difference being that the CD boasts a new Travis song, “Walking In The Sun”. In addition to all of the band’s videos for the songs, the DVD also tags on unseen footage, home videos, live footage and a VH1 clip. Keep an eye out in 2005 for the band’s fifth and follow up studio album to their critically acclaimed 12 Memories. www.travisonline.com

EMI
- Over in London, EMI Records continues plumbing the vaults with intriguing artifacts the heyday of London back in the swinging ‘60s. Look no further than a 2004 double CD set from the fabled ‘60s pop ensemble Simon Dupree And The Big Sound entitled Part Of My Past. Of course, there was no Simon Dupree, instead the group was actually a springboard for three brothers, Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and Phil Shulman. Although they changed their group name to Gentle Giant in 1970, rising to incredible success as progressive rock innovators, here and abroad, early on the Shulman brothers kicked things off with a mid ‘60s cabaret sound with an R&B / psychedelic style used so successfully by other rock groups of the era including Small Faces and even the early Procol Harum band, The Paramounts. 55 Simon Dupree tracks spread over two discs—including an impressive booklet with hard to read text—make it clear that even pre-Gentle Giant the Shulman brothers were right up there, rocking out with the best of them. www.blazemonger.com/GG/

EMPYREAN RECORDS
- From the San Diego area, Silver Sunshine are making waves with a 2004 self-titled CD on the Empyrean label. These guys live up to the hype on a moody set of effective psych-pop rockers that blend the best guitar-centric elements of early Move and Pink Floyd, mid-period Kinks and Emitt Rhodes. On their way to the toppermost of the poppermost, the quartet of up and coming rockers flash back to the ‘60s with 11 toe-tapping, mop-topping, paisley-popping vestiges, evoking that proverbial kinder, gentler time in music history. www.silversunshine.com

EXOTIC AQUATIC
- New York-based guitarist Scott Helland cites influences such as Blackmore’s Night, Jethro Tull and New Age songstress Loreena McKennitt, and on his sixth solo album he has devised an entertaining acoustic guitar masterpiece. Helland’s earlier releases combined a wealth of guitar influences and on the 2004 CD release of Brocade he continues combining rock, pagan folk, metal influences and neoclassical styles into an instrumental acoustic guitar-based format. His 2000 CD, Space Age Tranceology was likened to ‘Brian Eno meets The Cure’, yet on Brocade, Helland flavors his acoustic guitar instrumentals with a medieval flavor and movie soundtrack mystique spurred on by stark, layered acoustic guitar melodies and rhythms. Although he confesses, "I'm into the big majestic sound of metallic and classical music and the intensity of punk," Helland breaks new ground with the intriguing acoustic guitar visions of Brocade. www.scotthelland.com

FRIDAY MUSIC
- Following the departure of guitar great Robin Trower from the ranks, Procol Harum reformed with guitar ace Mick Grabham for their 1973 album Grand Hotel. The album following the band’s last Trower-fueled album—an eclectic, rocked out affair entitled Broken BarricadesGary Brooker, Keith Reid, B.J. Wilson and Chris Copping reemerged, Trower-less with Grand Hotel, a bonafide classic rock album that still impresses 30 years on. Friday Music have done a fine job on their 2004 Grand Hotel CD remaster, adding in liner notes by Friday Music mogul Joe Reagoso, complete lyrics sheet and original album artwork. As grand sounding as Grand Hotel still does, Procol hit even greater heights with their 1974 album Exotic Birds And Fruit. Spotlighting the same Grand Hotel lineup—including rookie bassist Alan CartwrightExotic Birds And Fruit rocked from start to finish and was an exemplary showcase for another round of Brooker / Reid classics graced with the pioneering (and sorely missed) rock drumming from veteran thumper, the late, great B.J. Wilson. Friday Music is touting more Procol Harum remasters in 2005 and along with this first round of Procol CD reissues, Friday has also released Within Our House—a 1996 recording from The Gary Brooker Ensemble. Essentially a Brooker solo set first released in England, the 16 track CD finds Brooker with sparse yet effective backing from U.K. rockers, including guitarist Robbie McIntosh and Dave Bronze (bass), offering up stately, live Procol covers of “A Salty Dog”, “Nothing But The Truth” and “The Long Goodbye”. Brooker rounds things out with an array of gospel-flavored, bluesy standards such as “Peace In The Valley” and “Jesus On The Mainline”, while closing out the live festivities with the all time Procol classic, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” www.fridaymusic.com

HANAOLA RECORDS
- A historical release of historic Hawaiian music treasures, The Wandering Troubadours captures 17 tracks from Andy Cummings & His Hawaiian Serenaders. Best known for his signature tune, “Waikiki”, Cummings developed a huge following in the Island State back in the ‘40s and his 2004 anthology release on Hanaola relives the magic. Considered a Hawaiian music supergroup back in the ‘40s, the ensemble featured Cummings on guitar and vocals along with other notable players including Gabby Pahinui—the premier exponent of Hawaiian slack key guitar. Digitally restored from 78 RPM, this timeless music is well represented by a fascinating booklet filled with background notes and vintage photos of Cummings and company. www.cordinternational.com

HIP-O SELECT
- On March 24, 1975 Peter Frampton took his band into the Record Plant in Sausalito for an ‘in the studio concert’ that was broadcast on KSAN Radio in San Francisco. Featuring Frampton backed up by a band consisting of Bob Mayo (keyboards), Andy Bown (bass) and John Siomos (drums), that concert foretold the coming successes of the soon to be released Frampton Comes Alive, a double album also interestingly recorded in San Francisco later in 1975. Now nearly 30 years after the Sausalito concert, Hip-O Select have released a limited edition CD of the show entitled Peter Frampton - Live In San Francisco March 24, 1975. Drawing on material from Frampton’s first four A&M albums, the 12 track live in the studio concert CD offers a tasteful mid ‘70s snapshot of Frampton’s mid ‘70s sound, topped off by excellent remastered sound and new liner notes by Joel Selvin. www.hip-oselect.com

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
- When he began back in the ‘50s, his contemporaries included Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and many others who passed away much too early. Luckily, Dion DiMucci survived and he lives to tell the tale once again on an 2004 DVD titles from Image Entertainment called Dion Live. Looking pretty jazzed on this post 9/11 gig in Atlantic City, Dion runs through oldies hits you know like the back of your hand—”Runaround Sue”, “Ruby Baby” and “Abraham, Martin And John”—with a band featuring a range of competent talents, on par with yet clearly in awe of the master of doo-wop pop. Bonus tracks include a lip-synched b&w clip of Dion’s all time classic, “Ruby Baby” from an early ‘60s American Bandstand and a one on one history lesson—with one guitar and the guy who was there at the beginning. Another 2004 DVD out on Image is The Players - Live In Nashville. This original TNN broadcast features Nashville session legends like drummer Eddie Bayers, guitarists Brent Mason (lead) and Paul Franklin (pedal steel) backing up Shawn Colvin, Peter Frampton and Vince Gill. A killer rhythm section is further fueled the sax mastery of the great Jim Horn. A moody blue kind of set mixing studio expertise with twangy pop, The Players - Live In Nashville is enhanced with in depth video interviews from The Players. As cool as these Image DVDs are, rock fans surely won’t want to miss a live in concert 2004 DVD from The Doors Of The 21st Century—or rather the great Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger joined by Ian Astbury, who turns in a fantastic job impersonating Jim Morrison. Further assisted by (bass) and (drums) Manzarek and Krieger mercifully get to relive their daring ‘60s jazz/pop vision as The Doors Of The 21st Century. If you dug the fabled ‘60s Doors albums or even those hard to find, yet intriguing post-Morrison Elektra Doors albums, you’ll catch a retro ‘60s buzz here. Kreiger’s guitar work is in excellent form, tastefully reenacting the guitar licks that turned on a whole generation to a truly innovative musical source. The whole shebang is a little creepy indeed, just the way Morrison would have liked it. www.image-entertainment.com

INSIDE OUT MUSIC
- An instrumental jazz-rock album packed with one potent musical punch after another, the 2004 Inside Out Music CD release of Mythology finds keyboard great Derek Sherinian backed by some of the greatest fusion aces on the current scene. Before he joined Dream Theater on keyboards in late ‘94, Sherinian even thought about turning his attention to the guitar (“I’d always loved the instrument”) but after 200 live shows with Dream Theater his fate was sealed. Clearly among the finest keyboard virtuosos on the U.S. scene, Sherinian has composed some of his most atmospheric pieces on his finest solo CD to date. One look at the credits should be enough to convince you of the musical greatness here. For the guitar slot Sherinian receives stellar support from Steve Lukather, Steve Stevens, Zakk Wylde and Alan Holdsworth while the legendary drumming skills of album co-producers Simon Phillips and Brian Tichy drives the music with exceptional intensity. Mythology proves Sherinian has few competitors when it comes to combining the finest elements of heavy metal, hard rock rock and jazz fusion The CD booklet also features a “Bandology” cataloging Sherinian’s illustrious musical lineage. www.insideoutmusic.com

JU
- A one man band album that really rocks, Straight Ahead introduces the guitar talents of Jeff Urso. Raised in the Chicago area on the music of Kiss and Van Halen, Urso displays a knack for writing atmospheric hard driving rock instrumental tunes in the spirit of modern masters like Satriani and Vai. Urso sets himself apart from the pack with some soaring guitar tracks that also bring to mind the cinematic soundscapes of the greats like Jan Hammer. Among the many fine tunes on the ten track 33 minutes CD is a cool clocker called “Warm Day” to which Urso adds, “this song is best consumed w while listening in a quick sports car on a mid-summer afternoon with the windows down, sunroof open, convertible top down.” Perfect action movie music or simply rip-roaring stuff to kick back and marvel at, Straight Ahead is a solid effort from a rising guitarist. www.jeffurso.com

KM-GUITARSLINGER.COM
- Minnesota-based guitarist Keith Miller is receiving lots of well earned praise for his two recently released self-produced CDs. Comparisons to Joe Satriani, Metallica and even the Galactic Cowboys aside, with the release of Groove Train (2003) and Chalk (2004) Miller is staking out some unique musical territory all his own. A virtual steamroller of hard-rock guitar instrumental guitar sounds, Miller wrote, recorded and mixed all the sounds on both CDs, demonstrating impressive guitar skills as well as his expertise in the studio. Among the guitars Miller features on the CDs are a variety of Carvin models as well as a pair of Switch models and a Cordoba classical. Although both CDs fall into the hard rock instrumental realm, Miller comes through with some dazzling guitar tones and techniques to further assure his guitar stature. www.km-guitarslinger.com

KRIZTAL
- Having worked with and having inspired the best in the biz—including Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Miles Davis, Annie Lennox and Iggy Pop—the late great Cole Porter remains an icon of 20th Century popular music. Some of today’s best new talent from the chillout, downtempo, Nu Jazz, Smooth Jazz, reggae and drum and bass realms have banded together for the 2004 release of The Porter Project. More than just a sampler CD acknowledging Porter’s legacy, the 16 track CD is brilliant, cohesive mix of cutting-edge modern sounds. The ultimate romantic, lounge music soundtrack, The Porter Project features a wide range of fine musicians and vocalists including Charlotte McKinnon and album producer / guitarist Billy Paul Williams, the latter who turns in a dazzling vocal performance on “Miss Otis Regrets.” Recorded in Miami Beach, The Porter Project is the perfect soundtrack for your next real or imagined musical rendezvous. www.kriztal.com

LOADED GOAT - Back in the ‘80s, guitarist Jamie Hoover cut a bunch of great sides with gifted people like Marti Jones and Don Dixon. A member of the renowned power pop outfit, The Spongetones, Hoover has also released some excellent pop based solo CDs and you need look no further than his 2004 CD, Jamie Hoo-ever for some excellent sounds. A tribute album, the surreptitiously titled album features cool covers of icons like George Harrison, Bobby Fuller and Bob Lind to name a few and Hoover spices it up with an instro take of long forgotten classics like “A Summer Place” and he convincingly sings in Japanese on “Sukiyaki”. A self contained accapella version of the We Five ‘65 classic “You Were On My Mind” further demonstrates Hoover’s unyielding affection for these much revered songs. Track by track notes from the man sheds more light on the genesis of these power-packed pop nuggets. www.jamiehoover.net

NHCD
- Honing his craft on sessions for Bo Diddley, The Platters and The Lawrence Welk Orchestra guitarist Jon Novak steps out with a 2004 jazz date from his group, Novak & Harr. Spotlighting Novak in the studio with bassist Mark Haar, A Summer’s Carol also features percussionist Joey Guluzia. Jazz guitar buffs will dig where Novak & Haar are coming from on A Summer’s Carol. Novak displays his compositional expertise on his own title track, while other treats here are instrumental covers of some much loved songs and jazz standards. Mixing timeless, jazzy covers of “On Green Dolphin Street” and “All The Things You Are” with newer pop classics like “Black Magic Woman” “Wichita Lineman” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance” proves to be a stroke of genius. A renowned guitarist teacher, Novak’s guitar chops are in fine form while Haar’s spirited string bass work rounds out this very appealing jazz guitar CD. www.novakandhaar.com

NO HAIR - High Octane instrumental fusion played with skill and pizzazz, Caffeine Racer, by U.K. born / San Diego based guitarist Taz Taylor hits hard and fast with some mighty impressive fretboard maneuvers. Taylor handles all the guitars—and assisted by drummer Calvin Lakin—also tackles the bass and keyboards while sharing production chores with Richard Livoni. Recorded in his adopted home of San Diego, Taylor combines his love for the Euro-tinged pomp and circumstance of Yngwie Malmsteen and the jazzy compositional mastery of Joe Satriani while injecting his own fluid guitar style and ideas into the mix. Also influenced by metal rock pioneers Richie Blackmore and Michael Schenker, Taylor’s Caffeine Racer is an excellent first step from a rising guitar talent. www.taztaylor.com

RF
- Although he’s best known as a chicken-pickin’ Tele master who’s done sessions with Nashville’s best, including Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs, U.K. native Ray Flacke released a superb self-produced solo acoustic guitar album in 2004. Recorded in Nashville, Songs Without Words is a masterful ten track CD filled with Ray’s expert playing on his Guild D-60 flat top acoustic guitar. The packaging of Songs Without Words is great and filling in some missing pieces, in the liner notes, Flacke credits guitar heros such as Hank B. Marvin, Ritchie Blackmore, Big Jim Sullivan and or course the late, great Chet Atkins, who recorded one of Ray’s classic tracks, “Tahitian Skies” both with Mark Knopfler and again with the Irish band, The Chieftains. Inventive, meditative and highly listenable are just a few adjectives used to describe the guitar craft in play on Songs Without Words. www.rayflacke.com

RANBACH / MAXIMUM JAZZ
- Rock icon Randy Bachman is most remembered for his pioneering albums with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, yet on the other hand he’s also a solid jazz buff who spends a good deal of time towards reissuing the music of his first guitar mentor, the late, great Lenny Breau. Breau might not have been a huge fan of the grunge rock sound of BTO yet he’d be at home on Bachman’s 2004 solo CD Jazz Thing. Backed by some fine musicians, Bachman summons his best jazz vocal performance to date, conjuring images of singers like John Pizzarelli, Mel Torme and Mose Allison. Subdued, dimly lit cocktail jazz at it’s most sublime, the eleven track Jazz Thing works best when Bachman’s guitar takes charge like on a smokey version of the Johnny Cash classic “I Walk The Line” or the swingin’, uptempo “Dead Cool”. Through the power of modern technology, jazz icon Lenny Breau even makes a return from the great beyond, appearing in the guitar slot on Bachman’s revival of the Gershwin classic, “Summertime”. www.randybachman.com

RESONATOR RECORDS
- Australian guitar master Roland Chadwick released his latest solo album, One, on the U.K.-based Resonator Records. Hailed by a range of guitar masters—including fellow Australian Tommy Emmanuel (“thrilling compositions)—Chadwick steps into the light on One, his first solo CD of contemporary classical guitar. A gifted composer / performer equally adept on steel string acoustic, Dobro and electric guitar and guitar synth as well as nylon string classical, Chadwick readily establishes himself as a classical fretboard master with 2004 release of One. The well rounded Chadwick is also featured on the 2004 release of Surider Sandhu's critically acclaimed world beat CD, Saurang Orchestra also available on Resonator Records. www.rolandchadwick.com

REPRISE
- Best known for a string of acclaimed blues rock albums beginning with his ‘95 debut, Ledbetter Heights, guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd returns in 2004 with The Place Your In. Inspired early on by the blues, Shepherd’s latest on Reprise Records ushers in a harder rock / pop sound enhanced by Shepherd’s new found presence as a lead vocalist. Earlier Shepherd albums featured Noah Hunt who returns here on a couple tracks, yet for the most, the spotlight is on Shepherd’s vocals and white hot guitar chops. According to Shepherd, “Once I had the musical direction and the confidence to sing what I had written, it was like nothing could stop us.” Moving to L.A. and hooking up with producer / bass ace Marti Frederiksen (“he just stepped back and let it happen”), Shepherd takes his bluesy rock vision to the next level on The Place Your In. www.kennywayneshepherd.net / www.repriserecords.com

RHINO HOME VIDEO
- A celebration of the groundbreaking music Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton made back in the ‘60s Strange Brew is a fascinating DVD retrospective / biography of the rise and fall of Cream. From a historical perspective, Cream was England’s first and foremost rock power trio supergroup. Originally filmed back in 1991, the hour long Strange Brew features a fine crosssection of live video clips of Cream in action, as well as revealing interviews with Baker, Clapton and Bruce. Rounding things out are further segments with blues icon John Mayall, guitarist Robert Cray and more. Although Cream held sway over the pop world for a fleeting time frame, between 1966-68, there’s no denying that the impact they made on all musical genres will last eternally. And it’s all here, warts and all, on the fittingly titled Strange Brew.
Another classic RHV DVD retrospective worth checking out, ZZ Top - Greatest Hits combines 12 classic video clips including made for MTV classics like “Legs”, “Gimme All Your Lovin” and “Velcro Fly”. ZZ Top are still giants among American rock bands and tune in here to find out exactly where all that jazzy gumbo originated from! Liner notes from publicity legend Bob Merlis gives a succinct commentary on these tracks that really changed the way we viewed music videos in the ‘80s.
35 years ago in 1969, Steve Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash formed the first American pop supergroup of the ‘60s. Crosby Stills & Nash need know introduction although the 2004 Rhino Home Video release of The DVD Collection is a great introduction and a great way to recall the group’s heyday. The center piece of this 3 DVD box set is never before released documentary of the band entitled Long Time Comin’. Pairing classic live performances, TV appearances, recording sessions and interviews, the DVD also adds in historical footage from the three’s early work with The Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and The Hollies. Rhino’s triple CSN DVD box is rounded out with the inclusion on The Acoustic Concert (CSN live in San Francisco 1991) and Daylight Again (live 1983 in L.A.) www.rhino.com

ROCK & GROOVE RECORDS
- A new label making waves with some serious pop collectables, N.J.-based Rock & Groove Records reissued four new CD titles in 2004 bound to make collectors quite happy. Perhaps the most significant R&G reissue, the self-titled debut from ‘70s U.K. folk-rock ensemble Tranquility is a fitting reminder as to just how good they were. Featuring the songs and vocals of Terry Shadick, Tranquility made some sizable inroads at the start of the ‘70s with a couple of critically acclaimed albums released Stateside on Epic Records. One of the great undiscovered bands from the heyday of the early ‘70s, Tranquility made a pair of excellent albums, and Rock & Groove have just released one. Further plumbing the Columbia / Epic vaults, Rock & Groove have also reissued the self-titled pop effort from Bell & Arc. Featuring the vocals of Graham Bell, this Rock & Groove reissue features guest drumming spots from Alan White and Mike Tait. Rock & Groove have also reissued Live ‘N’ Kickin’, a 1974 live set from ‘70s power trio supergroup West, Bruce & Laing. Leslie West and Corky Laing were two thirds of the great Mountain and their early ‘70s works with Cream founder Jack Bruce are still prized by collectors. Finally from Rock & Groove, Tales Of The Exonerated Flea, finds fusion drummer Horacee Arnold paired with musical icons such as Jan Hammer, Rick Laird, guitarists John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner and more on a reissue of a Columbia Records classic from 1974. Keep your eyes on Rock & Groove for more reissues in 2005. www.rockandgrooverecords.com

S3L GROUP
- One of the gifted new acoustic guitarists making waves out of Rome, Italy, Forastiere released his 13 track CD Rag Tap Boom during 2004. Trained classically, but obviously inspired with the infinite possibilities the acoustic guitar offers, Forastiere merges an affinity for lilting Brazilian folk music, ‘60s jazz and minimalist music, measured out by the teachings of the late great Michael Hedges. Inspired by the celebrated Hedges approach to instrumental guitar performance, Forastiere augments his acoustic work with various techniques like tapping, muting, hammer on / off, the percussive use of the guitar’s wooden parts and various tunings. Recorded without overdubs or special effects, Rag Tap Boom is a fitting showcase for Forastiere’s superb acoustic guitar approach. www.forastiere.it

SANCTUARY
- Free-form freaky jazz executed with depth-defying speed and precision, the third Banyan CD teams Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins with ace fusioneers Mike Watt (bass) and Nels Cline (guitar). Further buoyed by Willie Waldman (trumpet), Live At Perkins’ Palace makes for a harrowing set of experimental instrumental fusion that sometimes sounds like an eccentric Middle Eastern wedding band on hallucinogenics. Cline—an electric guitar virtuoso who recently joined the avant-pop group Wilco—sounds right at home on this masterful conflagration of electrifying rock, jazz and improvised free form sounds from another galaxy. www.hootpage.com/hoot_banyan.html

Having beaten cancer and a heroin addiction, one time member of Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros, Peter DiStefano released an excellent pop CD in 2004 on Sanctuary. In his own words, “This album is the story of my life. It’s therapy!” On Gratitude, DiStefano cuts loose on ten tracks that rock with a range of memorable hooks. “Poisoned” is a veritable, modern pop classic. Backed by the tight rhythm section of Michael Blue (bass) and Shawn Coullahan (drums), DiStefano’s songs are further accentuated by his nimble electric guitar fretboard work while and his vocals come off unique and sincere—sort of a modern hybrid of Lou Reed meets David Bowie. www.peterdistefano.com

SHRAPNEL RECORDS
- Assisted by a crack band featuring greats like Billy Sherwood (bass, lap steel) and drummers Graham Ward and Jay Schellen, guitar maestro John 5 blazes away on his 2004 all instrumental CD Vertigo. One listen to the blistering lead-off track, “Needles, CA.” and it’s clear that 5 has a great respect for hard rock and heavy metal, but he also demonstrates some well rounded guitar versatility on the Steve Morse-inspired fusion workout entitled “Sugar Foot Rag” and there’s even a cover of “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Inspired by a ‘sitting in’ session with guitar hero Les Paul who encouraged him to put out his own kind of record, 5 saw the light and began work on a guitar album that showcases styles as diverse as bluegrass, heavy metal and twangy jazz. Years of working with rock icons such as David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest and even K.D. Lang has seasoned 5 quite nicely and results are paid off on the appropriately titled Vertigo. www.John-5.com

SIX DEGREES RECORDS
- Guitarist Steve Tibbetts and his longtime percussionist Marc Anderson have a unique history of making pioneering acoustic electronic instrumental music dating back to the ‘70s. A 2004 release on Six Degrees, Selwa is the second collaboration between Tibbetts and Anderson and Tibetan Buddhist nun Chöyling Drolma, whose organic Buddhist chanting was recorded at a school for nuns that she founded in Nepal. According to Tibbetts, “Some of her takes left me and Marc somewhat stunned. She’d finish the song. I’d quickly save the recording file on the laptop.” Manipulating the tapes back in Minnesota—adding in acoustic and electric guitars, shifting drones and subtle hand percussion—Tibbetts and company have crafted a fascinating disc of ambient electronica and world music that brings the ancient into the present. www.sixdegreesrecords.com

SONIC WHEEL RECORDS
- Back in the ‘60s Paul Revere & The Raiders were one of the greatest Top 40 pop bands. With 16 hit singles and 7 gold albums to their credit, the Raiders were everywhere in addition to being a mainstay on the popular daily music show “Where The Action Is.” Decades later, in 2004 the group’s original bassist, Phil “Fang” Volk released a cool tribute album to the Raiders sound entitled Fang Reveres The Raiders. Described by the original Raiders manager, Roger Hart as “the best remake of the Raider discography I’ve ever heard”, the 18 track CD from Fang & The Gang features Fang on lead vocals and bass reworking Raiders hits like “Just Like Me”, “Hungry”, “Kicks”, his own brilliant “In My Community” (from Spirit Of ‘67) plus a range of rock and roll standards. A solid CD from a guy who lived and breathed the greatness of ‘60s pop, Fang Reveres The Raiders features a 24 page booklet adorned with memorable photos of his old band and all the great players who helped him record this long overdue solo album. www.philfangvolk.com

STEIGER PRODUCTIONS
- Backed up by some of the hottest players in today’s fusion world, guitar terminator Ken Steiger takes his electrifying instra-metal rock sound to new heights on Defiance. While the release of this 2004 Project Steiger CD does feature a couple tracks with his touring band, the surprise here are the appearances of seasoned studio players like keyboard ace Derek Sherinian, drummer Virgil Donati, Jimmy Page bassist Tony Franklin topped off by a guest spot from surf-metal guitarist Gary Hoey. Musicians of this caliber are perfectly suited for Steiger’s street smart approach to the hard rock instrumental guitar genre and Steiger’s fleet-fingered shred metal guitar mastery seals the deal on this intense sonic feeding frenzy. www.projectsteiger.com

SUNDAZED -
Although he’s still going strong with his symphonic guitar albums, back in the ‘60s Jan Davis recorded a batch of sides that demonstrated an affinity for The Ventures and The Shadows. Sundazed has compiled 20 of the best of Davis’ ‘60s sides on Boss Guitar! The Best Of Jan Davis. Sundazed is a veritable treasure trove of ‘60s and ‘70s reissues and in keeping with the label’s tasteful reinstatement of the entire back catalog of The Byrds, they now offer 2004 reissues from Byrds founder Roger McGuinn. Up and out on Sundazed is McGuinn’s 1975 CD called Roger McGuinn & Band. Highlighted by covers of Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” and “Born To Rock And Roll”, the 2004 Sundazed remaster features the original Columbia masters, fresh interviews with Roger and live bonus covers of “Wasn’t Born To Follow” and “Chestnut Mare”. Admittedly rejuvenated following his stint on the 1975 Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Tour, McGuinn teamed with Bowie guitar icon Mick Ronson for the 1976 release of Cardiff Rose. One of McGuinn’s finest albums ever, Cardiff Rose is best remembered for McGuinn’s cover of the Joni Mitchell classic “Dreamland” and fittingly that track is reprised as a live bonus track along with another bonus cut of McGuinn covering the Ronson-era Bowie classic “Soul Love” topped off by further new notes by the still high-flyin’ McGuinn. www.sundazed.com

TERMINUS RECORDS
- A way cool musical experiment blending instrumental alternative rock, in the spirit of early ‘80s group Love Tractor and Zappa-esque rock energy, the second CD from Slang features expert production from Layng Martine III and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. Sort of what might happen if Herbie Hancock and Brian Eno sat in for a jazzy electronica jam, More Talk About Tonight features a number of great players and guitarists including Knox Chandler and Eric McFadden. Also appearing on the mostly instrumental set with a cameo vocal is both Lori Carson and Vic Chestnutt. Instrumental rock is a growing phenomenon yet Slang hit the nail right on the head with the effervescent, groove based instro sound of More Talk About Tonight. www.slang2.com / www.terminusrecords.com

THREE DOTS MUSIC
- After years backing music legends like Wanda Jackson, Freddie Cannon, Eric Amble and others, Brooklyn-based keyboardist Jim Duffy released his own CD Side One in 2004. Backed by some truly great players including Dennis Diken (from Smithereens on drums), Lance Doss (guitarist from John Cale’s band) and the strings of the Flux String Quartet, Duffy channels the spirits of Burt Bacharach and late, great piano man Vince Guaraldi on a short but sweet CD that would make a great soundtrack to a Peanuts cartoon. The 11 track instrumental CD makes a splendid argument for the wonders of the 88 key piano, a noble, vintage instrument that’s just about been forgotten in this age of high tech wizardry. From Ray Charles style grooves to ‘60s retro and soundtrack sounds, Side One is a joy from start to finish. jimduffy@3dotsmusic.com

UNDERHILL JAZZ
- A guitar duo dream team featuring veteran jazz master John Abercrombie and John Basile, Animations is simply one of the finest instrumental guitar-based jazz duet albums of 2004. In his liner notes Basile tactfully compares Abercrombie’s guitar playing to that of a rubber band—’flexible, open to change, but returning back to its original shape.’ Both Abercrombie and Basile are masters at improvising inventive guitar patterns. Overall, the CD is an excellent follow up to their earlier collaborations on Abercrombie’s instructional video, Jazz Guitar Improvisation as well as Basile’s ‘96 Frank Sinatra tribute entitled Frankly Speaking. A tasty sonic showcase featuring Abercrombie’s Brian Moore and Brian Madsen guitars and Basile’s Godin and Tom Doyle guitars, Animations is one of those rare guitar CDs that you can constantly savor as their ‘in the moment’ improvisations and musical ideas retain their sparkle spin after spin. www.underhilljazz.com

WARNER BROS.
- 13 albums later, all in just over twenty years, R.E.M. continues in the tried and true pop-rock formula that’s brought them to the top of the pops. Kicking off with a near classic R.E.M. hummer called “Leaving New York”, Around The Sun cooks right on with a range of memorable tunes packing the grooves. Recording their 2004 release in Vancouver and Miami, Michael Stipe, and guitarists Peter Buck and Mike Mills receive fine support from top players including Scott McCaughey, pop pundit Ken Stringfellow and even rapper Q-Tip. Stipe, Buck and Mills may already be well on the way with yet another new album yet long time R.E.M. watchers should just stop and smell the roses and marvel at the pop presence in play on Around The Sun. www.remhq.com

WINDHAM HILL
- The first in a new music series on Windham Hill, Appalachian Picking Society features a select mix of instrumental Americana music performed on acoustic instruments such as dobro, flat top acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and dulcimer. Although mostly based on American folk music, many melodies here can be traced by to traditional music emanating from Ireland, England and even Sweden. The place where bluegrass and country and western instrumentals meet the future, Appalachian Picking Society showcases performances by a number of top pickers including Béla Fleck, Bryon Sutton, Dan Tyminski, Rob Ickes, Chris Thile and a whole lot more. The 17 track 2004 CD captures an impressive spectrum of traditional American acoustic music while the booklet puts it into perspective, listing every player and make and model of every vintage instrument. www.windham.com / www.appalachianpickingsociety.com



Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in www.mwe3.com and 20th Century Guitar. Send to CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249 e-mail: rss54@mwe3.com



 
   

 


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