Record Label and Music Spotlight 

NOVEMBER /
DECEMBER 2003

  

 


SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
on XL


PROCOL HARUM
on Repertoire


BOB BROZMAN
on Running Man

 

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2003
MUSIC & RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT


AMERICAN / LOST HIGHWAY - When country music superstar Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003 the world lost one of the great musical minds and inspirations of the 20th Century. His physical presence may be gone, but Cash left behind a legacy of of recordings that places him in the hall of fame of country music greats including Elvis and Roy Orbison. Cash—who’s health had been failing for the past several years—released his fourth Rick Rubin-produced album for American Recordings at the close of 2002. That album, entitled American IV: The Man Comes Around is a monumental, 15 track CD that encompasses everything that made Cash the great singer and musical interpreter he will always be. Recently discussing the The Man Comes Around, Cash claims, “I firmly believe that it’s the best record I’ve done for American. It goes in so many different directions, but they all come together in a oneness with me”. Spotlighting unique Cash interpretations of Paul Simon (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), The Beatles (“In My Life”), The Eagles (“Desperado”) and Depeche Mode (“Personal Jesus”), the album also features some great new Cash originals, including the album’s title track. Inspired by a dream, the lead off title track “The Man Comes Around” remains one of his most potent songs ever. Cash explains, “I dreamed I was in Buckingham Palace and Queen Elizabeth said, ‘Johnny Cash, you’re just like a thorn tree in a whirlwind’. I never had a writing project that I put in as much time, as much writing as I did that song. I knew I was overwriting, but I had to get it out.” Assisted by producer Rubin and a number of fine musicians—including keyboardists Benmont Tench and Billy Preston and guitarists Mike Campbell and Smokey Hormel—Cash overcame the potency of his life-sapping illness in time to realize and release The Man Comes Around, and his fans will be forever grateful for that. On a final note, Cash adds, “I worked on this album in spite of everything. I found strength to work just to spite this disease. There are tracks I recorded when that was the last thing in the world I thought I could do, and those are the ones that have the feeling and the fire and the fervor and the passion - a great deal of strength came out of that weakness.” www.johnnycash.com

ANGEL AIR - Dubbed Mott The Hoople on June 12, 1969 by producer legend Guy Stevens, Mott released their famous self-titled debut album—with the M.C. Escher cover art—on Island Records in England at the end of November 1969 and in the U.S. in the spring of 1970 on Atlantic. Kicking off with a sonically driven instrumental of The Kinks classic “You Really Got Me” the whole album was the perfect showcase for the electric guitar work of Mick Ralphs as well as introducing vocalist Ian Hunter who had joined the band just in time to perfect the debut Lp. U.K.-based Angel Air has done a superb job restoring the original eight song album with a well researched CD booklet plus two bonus tracks—a Ralphs-penned instrumental called “Find Your Way” and a unique Mott cover of Neil Young’s fabled protest song “Ohio”. One of the definitive FM radio album classics from the Summer of ‘70, for some, the highlight will always be the way the instrumental “Rabbit Foot And Toby Time” blends so perfectly into Mott’s all time classic “Half Moon Bay”. www.angelair.co.uk

ART OF LIFE - Years before they formed an integral part of rock legends The Band, bassist Rick Danko and drummer Levon Helm backed jazz guitar prodigy Lenny Breau on his first professional jazz date. Recorded on November 28, 1961, the original analog masters featured on The Hallmark Sessions were (finally) remastered in 24 bit and reissued in 2003 on CD by Pennsylvania-based Art Of Life Records. He was barely 20 years old, yet Breau’s pioneering guitar work and overall early grasp of the jazz medium is completely convincing throughout the 19 tracks of Breau originals and choice covers. In addition the sessions with Helm and Danko, the CD also features several tracks displaying Breau’s crisp solo flamenco work. Liner notes written by Breau’s early manager George B. Sukornyk—dated July 31, 2003—add further gleam to Breau’s enduring legacy as a guitar master who’s life was sadly cut short. Another essential Breau related title on Art Of Life—The Complete Living Room Tapes—compiles 23 tracks Breau recorded with clarinet player Brad Terry back in the late ‘70s. Recorded as Terry describes, “a very informal gathering in my mother’s living room with the tape running,” the album portrays two jazz masters clearly enjoying themselves playing new stuff and standards by the biggest names in jazz lore. www.artofliferecords.com

BACKBEAT BOOKS
- S.F.-based Backbeat continues with new books to wet the taste of players and mavens alike. Spread out with over 200 full color images and containing insightful essays, commentaries and breathtaking photography by Brian Pickell, A Guitar Makers Canvas - The Inlay Art Of Grit Laskin examines Canadian luthier Grit Laskin and his impeccable reputation for making guitars that not only play superbly but look spectacular as well. For more then thirty years Laskin has been designing and building dazzling flamenco, classical and steel string guitars for players as diverse as Paco Pena and Rik Emmett. The whole concept of mixing guitars that play well with the innovative design of inlay art is thoroughly explored in this quite impressive 132 page full color hard back book. www.backbeatbooks.com

BILLBOARD BOOKS / WATSON-GUPTILL PUBLICATIONS - Back in the ‘60s everything was big. Cars were huge and well vinyl LP's, made music truly seem larger than life itself. In the post-80s digital age, genre-ization has been dissected and trisected to death. Therefore one has no sympathies for anyone that tries to make sense of that much ‘bigness’ all that now 50 years later. It continues to be done and Billboard books gives it a good shot with The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Music. Subtitled, From Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blues, and Hip Hop to Classical, Country Folk, World, and More, the 448 pg. hardcover book weighs a ton and get it’s point across by detailing and genre-typing more than 12,000 musicians. Paul De Noyer, of the U.K. music magazine Mojo, obviously spent a ton of time on this, enough to inspire Beatles producer legend George Martin to put pen to paper for the book foreward. Speaking of the Fab Four a bit more, Billboard Books also have a splendid hard cover book of Paul McCartney photos entitled I Saw Him Standing There. This 176 page coffee table classic features the photography of Jorie B. Gracen, who’s been shooting Macca since 1976. A splendid way to relive the adventure that Paul and Linda and company brought to ‘70s pop all the way through till 1999, the book not only features Gracen’s exclusive photography of McCartney, but is also filled with essays and recollections of the numerous concerts and photo shoots. www.watsonguptill.com

BLUEBIRD / BMG - 2003 has seen a widespread revival of the blues and celebrating one hundred years of the blues BMG have released a number of blues collections and compilations from the biggest names in blues history. First off, the 16 track Worried Life Blues assembles assorted tracks recorded in the ‘30s and ‘40s from legends such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Sleepy John Estes, Arthur Crudup, Memphis Slim, Leadbelly, “T.” Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. With several tracks from Bessie Smith and Alberta Hunter dating back to the mid ‘20s, Worried Life Blues provides a solid introduction to blues lore. On the other hand, BMG’s Every Day I Have The Blues compiles 15 cuts highlighting more contemporary artists interpreting blues classics over the past 30 years including John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Taj Mahal, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy. A fine companion to the intrinsic blues sounds on Worried Life Blues, Every Day I Have The Blues underscores the fact the blues will be around for many years to come. Both BMG collections feature illuminating liner notes from blues historian Colin Escott. Further celebrating one hundred years of blues history, BMG have issued single disc, history-jammed compilations from blues pioneers Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (Rock Me Mamma), Sonny Boy Williamson (Blue Bird Blues), Leadbelly (Take This Hammer) and Blind Willie McTell (Statesboro Blues). Also released by BMG in 2003 is a compilation from ‘60s country blues-rock legend Taj Mahal. The 20 track Blues With A Feeling - The Very Best Of Taj Mahal distills the best music—with several tracks featuring Eric Clapton—from various albums the blues great recorded for Private Music during the ‘90s. www.yearoftheblues.org

BLUE NOTE RECORDS - Regarding his new Blue Note CD, Think Tank jazz guitar icon Pat Martino states, “The majority of this project became a dedication to John Coltrane. I never gave any conscious thought to it but the ‘Trane references emerged time and time again. Making the album taught me alot about myself and my interests.” Recording his 2003 Blue Note release at Sony Recording studio in Manhattan, Martino is joined by a crack band including Joe Lovano (sax), Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Christian McBride (bass) and drummer Lewis Nash. The comparison to Coltrane’s early ‘60s free jazz sound is hard to escape, but with Martino’s freewheeling electric guitar garnering of the spotlight, there’s also some cool new jazz vibes on Think Tank as well. Martino solidifies the Coltrane aura by covering “Africa” adding, “the only reason I chose it is that it’s one of my favorite Coltrane melodies.” The follow up to Martino’s 2001 organ-fueled trio classic, Live At Yoshi’s, the guitarist’s latest, Think Tank, is contemporary swing jazz at it’s best. www.bluenote.com

CLEAR STEER - Commenting on his 2003 self-produced CD, guitarist Rich Stein adds, “Unspoken definitely sets a new level of achievement for me as a composer and performer. I am particularly proud of the range of timbres and textures on the CD. From classical guitar to traditional and prepared acoustic guitars to E-Bow and electric to orchestral strings, this recording reflects my sonic universe.” Influenced by great players like John Fahey and Leo Kottke, as well as eclectic electric masters like Zappa and Robert Fripp, Long Island-based guitarist Rich Stein covers an impressive spectrum of guitar timbres on Unspoken. The 12 track instrumental CD features a mostly acoustic palate of instrumental sounds that’s further embellished by several other players who add to the mix. Reflective, atmospheric sounds abound on Unspoken, making it clearly of interest for anyone who appreciates refined instrumental guitar music. www.clearsteer.com

CORDELIA RECORDS
- Hearing The Beatles reconstructed in 2003 by U.K. guitar instrumentalists The Thurston Lava Tube is time well spent for both Beatles and surf-rock fans. Somewhat inspired by the guitar based Ventures/Shadows style, the 20 tracks Me Ka Nahuka has British sensibilities written all over it. Guitarist Alan Jenkins and his Tube mates conjure an intriguing mix of dreamy almost surreal instrumental versions of Beatles covers including a few oddball choices and the liner notes are perfectly Rutles-inspired. There’s a Beatles Vs. Shadows vibe in play and the Sgt Pepper’s-inspired cover is straight out of the twilight zone. Lava Tube guitarist Jenkins has three solo albums on Cordelia. http://homepages.stayfree.co.uk/lavatube/

CUNNING JAM PRODUCTIONS - A major find for fans of electric guitar combinations with lap steel guitar, Dubious Tones is the 2003 release from New York native Steve Cunningham. After his solo debut, Travels in ‘95, Cunningham focused his efforts on his lap steel work and moved to the Atlanta area. Influenced by the styles of David Lindley, western-swing great Tom Morrell, and Sacred Steel player Aubrey Ghent, Cunningham has carved out a new musical niche on his latest CD. Blending a variety of instrumental guitar styles—from jazzy rock to classical, Hawaiian guitar, R&B and western-swing—the accent here is on diversity. Assisting Cunningham are the fine drumming skills of the versatile Mike Haid along with Brian Hall (upright bass) and Randy Hoexter (keys). The spirit of Duane Allman is well served on the scorching “Backtalk” while a spirited cover of the Thelonious Monk classic “Rhythm-a-ning” gives new meaning to the term jazz-rock. No matter what your guitar taste, Cunningham has got it down on Dubious Tones. www.stevecunningham.com

DK PUBLISHING - Described as “an amazing amalgam of facts, anecdotes and pictures” detailing the history of American rock pioneers The Grateful Dead, Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip is an incredible, nearly 500 page hardcover book that serves as both a visual encyclopedia and a chronology of the Dead from their roots, to the death of guitarist / songwriter Jerry Garcia in 1995, all the way to the current version of the band in 2003. The Grateful Dead are almost synonymous with the rise of the West Coast psychedelic music scene back in the mid ‘60s and the book brilliantly connects the dots, so to speak between the Dead and just about every major player, living and gone, who helped shaped the course of rock music over the decades. This incredible visual journey is perhaps best summed up in the words of long time Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally who adds, “every picture you ever saw, every picture you haven’t seen yet is in the Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. It’s an amazing amalgam of facts, anecdotes and pictures.” http://us.dk.com/Book/BookFrame/0,1007,,00.html?id=0789499630

DEJA VOODOO MUSIC - Over on Oahu in the lovely island state of Hawaii, guitarist / singer Doug Stillwell released his new CD Souler Flare. The album expertly merges melodic rock guitar instrumentals with an inspired, fusion-based pop-rock sound influenced by Santana and blues-rocker Steve Miller on the pop-rock side with guitar influences coming from modern masters such as Steve Morse and Eric Johnson. In the words of Stillwell, “this is a very personal compilation of songs. These particular tunes seem to sit well with each other. They are my favorites of about 26 songs that I recorded recently.” Released in 2003, the 16 track Souler Flare establishers Stillwell as a fine singer-songwriter and the memorable quality of his originals mixes well with his impressive fretboard mastery on both electric and acoustic guitars. There’s plenty here to like. www.guitar9.com/soulerflare.html

DEVDISC - Boston-based guitar ace Allen Devine released his latest CD in 2003. The 13 track Hmmm...clocks in under 37 minutes yet there’s a wealth of electrifying guitar sounds in play on this all instrumental set. Composing a colorful array of captivating bluesy, jazzy and ambient soundtrack sounds, Devine performs all the instruments himself and the full-bodied studio sound comes across like a well-oiled ensemble. More important, Devine’s songs hold up quite well with repeat spins. Tracks like the driving lead off track “Spontaneous” and the album’s Hank Marvin / Ventures ‘60s-flavored “Loungette” are excellent examples of Devine’s compositional gift. As far as guitar heroes, Devine mentions icons like Roy Buchanan, Jeff Beck and Adrian Belew among his big influences. With the oddly titled Hmmm... Devine is on the right track towards furthering his own name among guitar aficionados. www.allendevine.com

DREAMWORKS RECORDS
-Featuring the guitar work and vocals of Christopher Conley and guitarist David Soloway, Saves The Day release their major label debut, In Reverie in 2003 on L.A.-based Dreamworks. Commenting on the N.J.-based quartet’s fourth full length CD, guitarist Soloway adds, "every other record felt like we were rushing and struggling to get everything on tape, but this time the recording was a great experience. We got to try different ideas and explore more sounds.” The group modernizes a number of electrifying pop styles—from White Album-era Beatles to Bowie and younger bands like Green Day and Weezer. Great studio sound and the band’s promising grasp of ‘70s guitar style pop-rock set them apart from many other bands recording in a similar vein. www.savestheday.com

GAIA’S LIGHT
- Florida-based guitarist Steve Reel grew up listening to Yes, Tull and later John McLaughlin and Return To Forever. It’s interesting that Reel’s latest solo CD, Celtic Knights, echoes some of the more pastoral instrumental acoustic guitar work of both Ian Anderson and Steve Howe. Reel adds, “Back in the 1970’s, I loved Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention, while more recently I’ve really like the music from Riverdance and it’s spinoffs.” Reel’s recent live concerts—featuring Irish jigs, original tracks as well as Bach classical pieces—were so well received by local Florida audiences, that he set about recording the Celtic flavored Celtic Knights. Reel adds, “The main goal was to blend Celtic melodies with more contemporary rhythms and production. Celtic Knights is mostly overdubbed, with me playing all the parts. Many of the guitar melodies I played on the Martin, and then overdubbed the same note for note on the Variax modeling a 12 string acoustic.” Commenting further on his use of the Variax guitar, Reel adds, “I used the 2003 Line 6 variax mostly for the 12 string models. I would record the part on one track, then play and record the same part on a second track, but adjust the tone control on the variax. The electric rhythm guitar tracks are the variax modeling a Fender Strat. Very little EQ-ing was done on any of these tracks.” Other guitar featured on Celtic Knights include a Yamaha FG-75 and a 1976 Travis Bean electric. Featuring Reel performing all the parts—including percussion, synths, banjo and dulcimer—Celtic Knights is a true work of joyous musical art that is expertly recorded. www.reelsmusic.com

GOLLY GEE RECORDS
- One of the finest surf instro and rockabilly music labels on the U.S. scene, Golly Gee released Return Engagement from retro guitar rockers The Torquays in 2003. A superb collection of tracks from the band’s 1998 album A Date With The Torquays and their 2000 CD Road Trip, the 25 track single CD set is rounded out by six recent live tracks. There’s a solid modern Ventures guitar sound in play here and the all-original set maintains an upbeat pace from start to finish. The group features a number of fine guitarists including Steve Soest, Armin Brown, Don Parra, guitarist / drummer Duff Paulsen, Los Straitjackets member Pete Curry and Torquays founder / guitarist Jerry Gordon. Injecting an authentic, vintage sound to their original music, The Torquays tastefully revive the fabled instro guitar beat of the ‘60s on Return Engagement. www.gollygeerecords.com

HAPI SKRATCH RECORDS
- Run by media honcho Morris Beegle, brother of guitarist Dave Beegle, Colorado-based Hapi-Skratch not only oversees the entire Dave Beegle / Fourth Estate CD catalog, but they also represent a number of fine Colorado-based guitar instrumental artists. Hapi-Skratch recently released a 2003 studio CD from guitarist Dave Villano entitled The Power Of One. Half of the great rock/smooth jazz combo Dave & Davis, Villano performs a variety of instruments on his solo set. His upbeat guitar-based sound is quite full bodied while the instrumental sound is further bolstered by Villano’s strongly held religious beliefs. Dave Villano’s dazzling acoustic guitar work echoes the spirit of major fretboard influences like Dave Beegle, Phil Keaggy, Eric Johnson and more on Power Of One. Also on Hapi Skratch is an excellent 2003 CD from the Colorado-based Gashead, entitled Land Speed Record. Propelled by the blazing electric guitar work of Mike Lopez and the drumming of Nate Scofield, Gashead’s metal-rock instro sound is further filled out by a number of players including guitarist Dave Beegle, who also co-produced the 9 track instrumental set with Lopez. The booklet even features a cool photo of guitar great James Mankey while the liner notes claim the Cd was “written while listening to near fatal doses of Chris Poland’s Return To Metalopolis, RacerX and George Lynch.” In the spirit of guitar great Joe Satriani, Gashead really smokes and the CD features excellent cover art to boot! www.HapiSkratch.com / www.gasheadmusic.com

HIDING PLACE RECORDS
- A good choice for fans of the jazz rock extrapolations of early John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola, Deepin The Mystery is the CD debut from Upstate New York guitarist Robert DiMaio. Various players admirably assist further sketching out the sound and there’s even a neat pop vocal track featuring singer Hannah Curtis. Commenting on the making of his 2003 CD, the guitarists adds, “Deepin the Mystery is a pretty diverse statement about what I think the guitar can do. Each song is a different philosophy of how the guitar can function in a composition. I tried to touch on as much as I could, so later I could elaborate on each idea in more depth.” DiMaio makes the most of his stock PRS Custom 22 guitar—which was used throughout the making of the CD along with a Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan mini humbuckers. DiMaio cites Jeff Beck and Eric Johnson among his influences and the eclectic nature of the ten track Deepin the Mystery will be of interest for anyone interested in high quality, cutting edge fusion guitar sounds. www.hidingplacerecords.com

J.A.M.
- An artist renowned over the years for his many fine pop and instrumental efforts, Michigan-based Jeremy Morris recently released his 2002 album Kingdom Come. Released on his own JAM label, the seven track, 70+ minute CD is a real windfall for those into superbly crafted, progressive instrumental music. Just like the cover art, the music is filled with inspiring sounds comparable to the best of New Age masters like Mike Oldfield and Vangelis as well as U.K. guitar heroes like Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips. There’s also something quite healing about Kingdom Come, making it a fine choice as meditation music. Front and center is Jeremy performing all forms of guitars including electric, 12 string, classical, folk, e-bow, mandolin, slide guitar and bass, while he also shines on keyboards and percussion. Jeremy also released his latest pop opus, the British Invasion-inspired Pop Dreams, around the same time. Listeners are advised to check out both sides of this modern day music master. www.jamrecordings.com

KOCH RECORDS
- Injecting a solid dose of ‘60 strum and twang pop to their unique NYC-based country rock sound, The Kennedys return in 2003 for their latest CD and their first for Koch Entertainment, Stand. Listen up and you’ll detect some fine pop influences like ‘60s McGuinn & The Byrds all the way to the classy mid ‘80s pop of Marshall Crenshaw. But The Kennedys mean business—after all, the singer-songwriting couple of Pete & Maura Kennedy met for their first date at Buddy Holly’s grave site in Lubbock Texas! Wielding their bright orange Gretsch guitars, the Kennedys and their countrified pop sounds a bit out of place in these cynical times but the 12 track Stand hangs together well, yearning away with a solid country-pop focal point that evokes a kinder, gentler time in music history. www.kennedymusic.com / www.kochrecords.com

LBCD - Although the art of flamenco guitar playing originated in Spain, Trinidad-born, Toronto-based guitarist Miguel de la Bastide has further refined the fabled guitar sound on his second solo album Siento. Having appeared on various guitar collection releases on the Narada label including Gypsy Fire and Viva Flamenco, Miguel brings his compositional might and explosive flamenco techniques on in full force on Siento. A superb mix of the spirit and influence of flamenco giants like Paco De Lucia and Vincente Amigo and the flavors of Latin World Beat sounds, the CD also features several players on percussion, sax and bass in addition to the authentic flamenco footwork of his partner Carmen Romero. There’s also a enhanced CD-Rom track for PC and MAC. The follow up to his ‘98 solo debut, El Cambio, 2003’s Siento establishes Bastide in the top echelon of today’s finest recording flamenco guitarists. www.labastide.ca

LM - From the liner notes of his new CD, N.J.-based guitarist Leon Muhudinov states, “the concept behind this album was to express a varying assortment of moods by illustrating the many different styles, colors and flavors that the guitar alone can produce.” Touching on a wealth of guitar stylings—from Les Paul to Segovia and The Beatles—the first half of the 9 track CD offers guitar adaptations of Lennon / McCartney (“Eleanor Rigby”), Scott Joplin, classical guitar master Tarrega and Duke Ellington while part two features a varied round of eclectic Muhudinov originals. With it’s eclectic instrumental avant pop-jazz and classical guitar vibes, Tasty Guitar Treats - Assorted is an intriguing CD from an aspiring artist worthy of some well-earned name recognition. Lmuzik8@aol.com

LIGHT IN THE ATTIC - Influenced by pop giants like Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys and pop-lite tunesmith Burt Bacharach, The Free Design are one of the great untold pop stories of the ‘60s. Featuring the sibling harmonies and musical craft of Bruce, Chris, Ellen and Sandy Dedrick, the New York-based Free Design were signed by pop impresario Enoch Light to his Project 3 label—a label in part responsible for the giant leaps in sound recording techniques during the mid to late ‘60s. The Free Design recorded a number of now hard to find and long out of print titles which sort of made them one of great lost pop legends of late ‘60s and early ‘70s American music history. That’s about to be changed thanks to the efforts of Seattle-based Light In The Attic, a company offering 2003 CD reissues of the first two Free Design albums—Kites Are Fun (their ‘67 debut) and their ‘69 classic Heaven / Earth. Featuring a unique musical amalgamation—described by pop pundits as a heavenly mixture of soft pop psychedelia—both Free Design CDs are essential for anyone influenced by the East Coast folk-rock sounds of Simon & Garfunkel as well as the vocal harmony sounds of West Coast legends like The Mamas & The Papas and The Association. Both Free Design reissue CDs feature extensive liner notes, original artwork and much welcome bonus tracks. Keep an eye out for more planned Free Design reissues. www.LightInTheAttic.com

MARINA / PARASOL - Described as modern Baroque pop album that mixes Beach Boys harmonies, Bacharach major-sevenths and Cole Porter-style chord changes, the new Pearlfishers CD, Sky Meadows has something for all pop fans. In fact, the Glasgow-based group’s main man, David Scott, was the man responsible for the excellent Beach Boys tribute, Caroline Now!, also released on Marina. Featuring a number of fine players, Pearlfishers have released several fine albums in recent years, but Sky Meadows is clearly their best yet. Mixing tuneful ‘60s pop with the sounds of the lush sounds of strings, trumpets, flugel and French horns, the pleasurable sounds of Sky Meadows makes for essential pop listening. www.marina.com

OVERCOAT RECORDS - Released on a label that’s devoted to the spirit of Beatle-inspired pop, the fourth CD from N.C.-based The Kingsbury Manx, Aztec Discipline is a rich pop goldmine of retro-tinged new progressive pop music. The quartet, featuring composers / guitarists /vocalists Bill Taylor and Kenn Stephenson, raises the bar on Aztec Discipline. Produced by Jerry Kee, the CD fits into that early post Syd Pink Floyd space very nicely and you can spot ‘60s Kinks / Zombies traces in the group’s eclectic songwriting. Well worth the time for ‘60s pop aficionados, Aztec Discipline clearly has it’s moments. www.overcoatrecordings.com

PRECISION RECORDS - The 2003 release from California-based Travis Larson Band, Rock Show is a fine full length DVD video that captures the guitar based instrumental power trio in fine form from a late 2002 live show. In the spirit of electric guitar innovators such as Alan Holdsworth and Steve Vai, guitarist Travis Larson acts like a musical lightening rod, spurring on electrifying performances from his bandmates Jennifer Young (bass) and Dale Moon (drums). The DVD offers a first hand look at the sheer range of sounds Larson that coaxes from his electric guitar and overall it is quite impressive. Topping off the band’s mighty power trio fusion sound, the overall effect of the sound is further enhanced by Larson doubling his parts with MIDI-assisted strings and bassist Larson playing keyboard parts with her feet. Rock Show clearly depicts a most versatile group who’s expertise is equally matched by their fiery skills on a live concert stage. A fine live video performance from Larson and company, the 88 minute DVD features PCM / Dolby digital mix, interactive menus and band commentary. www.travislarsonband.com

RCA / BMG HERITAGE - The vaults of RCA Records contains some the finest sounds ever made. Their huge classical repertoire and country sounds aside, their vast pop catalog is further plundered on a new series entitled Platinum & Gold Collections. Citing just a few of the first reissue collections released are P&G Collection CDs from The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Guess Who, Neil Sedaka and three related reissues from Jefferson Airplane and JA offshoot groups Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship. Produced by BMG reissue ace Rob Santos, and featuring a ton of indelible ‘60s and ‘70s pop standards, each newly title features streamlined packaging, liner notes and cool graphics. www.bmgheritage.com

REPERTOIRE - Procol Harum stunned their legion of long time fans with their 2003 comeback album The Well’s On Fire, on Eagle Records. Amazingly, the group remain true to their illustrious rock pioneering roots as it's recaptured on a series of mid-period reissues on Germany-based Repertoire label. The label has done a fantastic job on a 2003 reissue of Procol’s greatest album ever, 1971’s Broken Barricades. That album had the hallmark Procol sounds—a perfect sound mix created by the songs and vocals of Gary Brooker, drumming icon BJ Wilson and the alternating keyboard sounds of Chris Copping. Of course, the key to the Harum sound in the early years had to be the guitar of Robin Trower, who while clearly a focal point of the Broken Barricades sessions, shortly left the fold soon after to start his fabled solo career, leaving the band to further hone in on their neoclassical rock sound on a series of post-Trower albums that easily rate alongside their first five albums with Trower. This was the sound Procol truly perfected on 1973’s Grand Hotel, even bettered on 1974’s Exotic Birds And Fruit, 1975’s Procol’s Ninth, and sadly on what turned out to be their final album with the late great BJ Wilson their final ‘70s album from ‘77, Something Magic. A class act from the opening notes of their first ‘67 smash, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” till the final notes of the title track, “Something Magic”, Harum are further immortalized on each of these albums Repertoire reissues. Loaded with elegantly restored artwork, new concept artwork, bonus tracks galore including rare studio outtakes, single takes, lyrics, and more, these essential titles offer definitive portraits of some of the best music ever made. Available in the U.S. through the vast catalog of Collector’s Choice Music. www.ccmusic.com

RIVERSIDE RECORDS - Inspired by the great Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery took up the guitar in 1942 at age 19. Picked up by Riverside in late ‘59, Wes recorded his first instrumental solo album, The Wes Montgomery Trio shortly afterwards. His second album, the eight track The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery was recorded in New York City in January 1960 with Tommy Flanagan (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Albert “Tootie” Heath (drums). Amid covers of Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck and more are some certified Montgomery classic originals. Most notably, “Four On Six”—one of the guitarist’s finest tunes—is truly the album’s centerpiece. Incredible Jazz Guitar was newly remastered in 2003 by Riverside / Fantasy as a hybrid SACD playable on regular CDs as well. Original liner notes by the album’s producer Orrin Keepnews provide’s a fitting reminder of Montgomery’s perennial popularity. www.fantasyjazz.com

RUNNING MAN
- A master of the slide, finger style and percussive guitar, guitarist Bob Brozman has traveled the world over recording a wealth of albums while exploring the roots of Hawaiian, Indian, African, Caribbean and American roots blues music. Combining his virtuoso guitar techniques and respect for World Music cultures, Brozman released an excellent new album in 2003. Released on his own Running Man label, Metric Time finds Brozman laying down some rootsy-trippy tracks in the company of some fine players. The mostly instrumental 12 track CD features Brozman performing a number of guitars including Santa Cruz Baritone guitar, National guitar, Kona Hawaiian guitar and more. In fact, Brozman is such an expert on the National guitar, in 1993 he published a massive book entitled The History And Artistry Of National Resonator Instruments. Regarding his never-ending interest in World music, Brozman adds, “There’s so much music out there...I guess I’ll get some sleep in the next life!” www.bobbrozman.com

SANCTUARY - Just about every major rock and roll pioneer is given a spotlight on Rockabilly Riot! - It’s A Gas released by Sanctuary during the summer of 2003. From the concept cover art to the track by track commentary of the songs here, the 22 track Rockabilly Riot! drives it all home with a snazzy showcase compiling original masters recorded back then by Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison along with a host of slightly lesser known ‘50s icons. These original masters, mostly recorded in the mid and late ‘50s, pre ‘59 period, still sound incredible, as if to prove a point that the originals are still the best. The one exception added to the ‘50s mix is the original “Red Hot”, a rockabilly rock and roll classic in it’s own right, recorded during the punk revolution by Robert Gordon with Link Wray in 1977. Listen to it...you’ll swear it was made twenty years before! www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

SIMPLE STRINGS - N.J.-based Phillip Lester is a master of both the nylon and steel string guitars. For his latest solo album, American Treasures, Lester has recorded and assembled 24 tracks of vintage American music classics. Subtitled Early American Ballads, Hymns & Songs Of Patriotism, the CD features soothing and imaginative instrumental solo guitar arrangements of old favorites like “America (My Country ‘Tis Of Thee)”, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “Shenandoah” and many other classic folk classics first made popular during the early years of American history including “Aura Lee” (written in 1861 and later used by Elvis Presley as the melody for “Love Me Tender”. There’s also a glorious track entitled “The Stephen Foster Suite” blending Foster classics from the mid 1800’s like “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” and other Foster classics. The ten page CD booklet features extensive and quite enlightening liner notes that reads like an American history lesson. According to Lester, “This work is dedicated to all the men and women who risked their lives to give and help preserve the freedoms we enjoy in this country.” Lester’s sumptuous guitar performance on American Treasures will surely bring out the patriot in you and make you proud to be American again. www.guitarartistry.com

TOULCAT RECORDS - Teaching up at the Berklee College of music in Boston, guitar ace Julien Kasper is most proud of the two performance labs he developed that provides in depth studies on the guitar styles of Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. Kasper released he debut solo CD in 2003 on his own Toulcat Records. Flipping Time finds Kasper in fine form working up an intriguing mixture of crossover blues and jazz-groove instrumentals most of which are bound by a hybrid rock sound. Kasper’s admiration for Clapton, Duane Allman, Freddie King and B.B. King comes nicely into focus on the 11 tracks here, many of which find Kasper tastefully backed up in a trio or quartet setting. With top-notch playing throughout, Flipping Time is an intriguing album from a rising guitar sensation. www.julienkasper.com

ULTRA - NYC-based Ultra Records continues their high quality mix of downtempo chillout electronica, remix tracks and trendy hip-hop rhythm and grooves with Ultra.Chilled04. Like the label’s earlier installments the music is at once seductive and vibrant with just the right amount of accessible beats to relax your mind and keep your body pulsing. Featuring huge names on the international dance club and pop scene—including N.E.R.D., Wax Poetic (featuring the enticing vocals of Norah Jones), Poloroid, Goldfrapp and The Orb—the double disc 24 track Ultra.Chilled04 CD is a must for those looking to check out the hottest ‘buzz-worthy’ names on the contemporary chill-out music scene. Earlier Ultra.Chilled titles have featured huge names like Dido, Morcheeba and Chemical Brothers and the latest Ultra.Chilled04 is a most fitting follow up indeed. www.ultrarecords.com

VANGUARD RECORDS - Vanguard continues releasing CDs from their extensive past masters, the latest of which includes the various artists Soul Tribute To The Beatles, released over the Summer 2003. The 12 track disc features the biggest names in R&B as they did The Beatles back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Another cool thing here includes track by track liner notes, reviewing these songs by Wilson Pickett (“Hey Jude”), Marvin Gaye (“Yesterday”), Ike & Tina Turner (a sizzling “Come Together”), Otis Redding (“Day Tripper”) and more. Just about each track hits the mark, excepting a sacrilegious cover of “Lucy In The Sky” by Natalie Cole from 1977. www.vanguardrecords.com

XL - Are you yearning for the heyday of the ‘60s when musicians were raising pop standard to new and unimaginable heights? Critics and pop mavens alike have been touting Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals since the mid ‘90s...one great album after another. Their 2001 CD and companion DVD, Rings Around The World blew minds and likewise their 2003 CD Phantom Power is a testimony to their pop mastery. Described in their press kit as a ‘a technicolor, spacious, sonic poppy field’, the 14 track Phantom Power unleashes solid levels of modern day pop magic from start to finish. Singer/guitarist Gruff Rhys is quite effective and the guitar and steel work of Huw “Bunf” Bunford is right on target. They’ve played with Paul McCartney, they channel the spirits of L.A. pop wunderkind Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach and echo fellow U.K. pop greats, the High Llamas. Now, in 2003 SFA step a little further into the poplight with their ingenious Phantom Power. www.superfurry.com


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