Record Label
and Music Spotlight 

DECEMBER 2011

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES

DECEMBER 2011 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK


ANGEL AIR
- Among the 2011 CD releases on Angel Air, Robin George’s Lovepower - LovePower And Peace features the multi-talented Robin George in the studio together with 50 musicians. A charity album, LovePower is solid U.K. pop-rock featuring numerous musicians from bands such as The Climax Blues Band, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Mott The Hoople, Asia and much more. The album is newly released in 2011 and Robin himself wrote many of the tracks here while also adding in guitars, backing vocals and more. With plenty of crunching guitars and a musical spirit that echoes those bands mentioned above, George has crafted an album that borrows from the spirit of 1970’s rock yet also looks towards the future. Another winner from Angel Air released in 2011 is Ten Commitments from singer-songwriter Steve Ellis. In 2010, Angel Air released a 1969 soundtrack from Ellis called Loot, and likewise, the newly recorded Ten Commitments is equally easy on the ears. Ellis plays the role of musical interpreter on Ten Commitments, adding in several covers including “Please Please Me” and the Neil Young / Buffalo Springfield classic “On The Way Home”, which gets a nice overhaul and stays true the the upbeat nature of the original. Cool, upbeat, driving, blue-eyed soulful pop-rock is Steve’s forte, and there’s plenty of that on his newly recorded return to form. Who says Angel Air is strictly a reissue label? Label boss Peter Purnell strikes pop-rock gold with these 2011 CD releases from Robin George and Steve Ellis. www.AngelAir.co.uk


LONELY LLAMA - Singer songwriter Ken Dixon returns in 2011 with his long awaited return, entitled Motives. Despite suffering from Parkinsons, Ken makes Motives his signature album. Once again assisted by a fine group of musicians, including Heart guitarist / co-producer Craig Bartock, on Motives Ken has penned some truly memorable pop jewels that cross pollinate a rock solid Beatles / Nilsson type pop hybrid, combining 21st century studio smarts topped off by some truly amazing album packaging and cover art. With his wide screen pop smarts in full flight—and with the excellent support from the great Craig Bartock—Ken coalesces his unique sound with one killer track after the next. Fans of Flaming Lips, late period Pink Floyd, Super Furry Animals, Eels and Heart will do good to pick up on Ken Dixon’s Motives—a truly tuned-in pop-rock album classic. www.KenDixon.co.uk

MT RECORDS - Guitarist / singer-songwriter Meagan Tubb has garnered some well earned praise in the guitar world for her 2011 CD Cast Your Shadow by Meagan Tubb & Shady People. The Texas based singer sounds influenced by various Southern rock legends like Gregg and Duane Allman—both in her lap steel guitar based approach and her bluesy vocal approach, winning the crowd over with songs that really hold up and rock hard. Meagan’s band sounds completely convincing and also teaming her own guitar work with the lead guitar / slide guitar sound of Jason Nunnenkamp, the sound of Cast Your Shadow is a rock guitar lovers dream come true. www.MeaganTubb.com

NOT LAME RECORDS - Back in 2004 one CD that I unfortunately overlooked was Classic Christmas Songs With A Dash Of Pepper. The CD was subtitled St. Nick’s Christmas By The Lonely Hearts Band. Hard to believe it’s been 7 years since the CD came out on Bruce Brodeen’s Not Lame label. Sadly, Bruce folded his label in 2010 after years of ground breaking power pop releases. Put simply, Brodeen helped revolutionize the indie-pop world. Anyway, as I said, back in 2004 Bruce released this amazing Christmas CD—an all instrumental Christmas take on the Beatles’ ‘67 classic Sgt. Pepper’s album. Using the Fab Four’s incredible sense of style and instrumentation, the album instead implants Christmas melodies where there are Beatles melodies, yet it keeps a lot of the original spirit. The brainchild of legendary studio genius and music producer Tommy Marolda—assisted here by Bruce Foster, Jackson Woodney and Maria BalakinSt. Nick’s Christmas is just a joy to behold start to finish. The CD is a must for fans of The Beatles and is chock full of classic Christmas melodies. St. Nick’s Christmas is just fab, start to finish and instro rock fans especially will be amazed at how well the album hangs together. Instead of using the melody of “For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” you get the Fab Four’s arrangement but in its place is the melody from “”Little Saint Nick.” (Think it's easy? You try mixing Beatles style arrangements with Christmas songs!) George Harrison’s Indian pop music classic “Within You Without You” automatically becomes “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, sitars and tablas and all! “When I’m 64” mutates into “Jingle Bell Rock”. Astounding, but it all works and you have to hear it to believe it. Following the 13 track, instrumental St. Nick’s Christmas, Tommy adds on two of his vocal tracks, the only two vocals on the album—”Fake Christmas” by The Toms and “Surviving Christmas” from the Horizontal Ladies Club. The rights for the St. Nick’s Christmas CD reverted back to Tommy following the tragic collapse of Not Lame so, thankfully it’s still out there. Get it while you can! In the past Tommy has worked with Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees and more and his ongoing pop project, Horizontal Ladies Club is planning a new 2012 album, so fans can expect to hear more from this gifted pop maestro soon. www.TommyMarolda.com

ROCK REBEL RECORDS - There’s some mean rocking sounds on the 6 track, 2011 CD from the group known as J.P. Hopfelt’s L.A. Vintage Rock. Written, produced and arranged by singer-songwriter / guitarist Pete Hopkins and guitarist / co-producer Jimmy Steinfeldt, the CD also features key contributions from Gary Mallaber (drums) and Chad Watson (bass). Pulling double duty as lead vocalist and lead guitarist, Hopkins admits his guitar sound is influenced by guitarists ranging from the metal rock bliss of Joe Satriani and Kirk Hammett through to jazz-rock guitar god Al DiMeola. There’s a solid mix of vintage rock and good old time rock and roll but there’s also a cool L.A. vibe running through these tracks, guaranteeing a wide sweep of sound. In the words of J.P. Hopfelt himself, ‘This is not a mellow recording we’ve done. It’s a rock record.’ Well said, and quite true. Crank up the volume. www.jphopfelt.com

RUF RECORDS - Back in 1969, Savoy Brown released one of the all time U.K. blues rock classics, A Step Further. That album, and even the earlier release of Blue Matter established guitarist Kim Simmonds and the group Savoy Brown as saviors of modern electric blues-rock. Sure, Clapton and Peter Green made more noise and bigger bucks but Simmonds and Savoy Brown has kept the fire high for the past 44 years. Although he’s been living for much of these past years in Upstate New York, Kim continues to release consistently appealing CDs. In addition to his solo career, Kim continues on with Savoy Brown and the 2011 CD release of Voodoo Moon is another all around winner. Assisted by Joe Whiting (vocals, sax), Pat DeSalvo (bass), Garnett Grimm (drums) and others, Simmonds turns in a fine performance on guitar and occasional lead vocal. Overall, Voodoo Moon is a most worthy follow up to the 2007 Savoy Brown release entitled Steel. On his web site, Simmonds reminisces about how he was among the early disciples of rock gods like Clapton, Page and Beck. Feted in his own right for his notable contributions to late ‘60s / early ‘70s rock, Simmonds might not have the instant name recognition of those players but, true to his blues rock roots, Simmonds keeps the Savoy Brown blues-rock flag flying high. www.SavoyBrown.com

TAPETE RECORDS - A fine bouncy power-pop style rock album, Appearances is the 2011 CD from the group known as Me And Cassity, featuring German pop maven Dirk Darmstaedter. Having released some cool records as a solo artist, Dirk sounds really immersed in this breezy So-Cal pop thing from Me And Cassity and there's also some blue-eyed soul influences from legends like Todd Rundgren and even a cool Beatles streak. Dirk even sings like Todd in places. Interestingly, Dirk was born in Hamburg and moved to New Jersey age 5 in 1970 yet, recording in Germany and Sweden, I guess he made it back to the mother country. The Germans have always been big supporters of pop music in general and they can claim musical greatness for one of their own with Dirk’s latest pop masterpiece from Me And Cassity. There’s some fine production work with some tasty electric guitar from Dirk along with some solid backing musicians and backing vocals. The new Me And Cassity CD is well worth the time for serious pop students. www.DirkDarmstaedter.com / www.tapeterecords.de

VISION MUSIC - Recent albums from Nils Lofgren have leaned toward the acoustic—case in point being his 2008 CD The Loner - Nils Sings Neil—but with the 2011 CD release of Old School Lofgren gets back to his rock solid Crazy Horse / Springsteen band vibe and roots. A number of players back up Nils but he more than holds his own composing, playing guitar, adding some rocking and refined piano and synth keyboards and taking lead vocals on these tracks. Also in the CD spotlight are cameo vocals from rock legends Paul Rogers, Lou Gramm and Sam & Dave R&B superstar Sam Moore. Looking back on memories as well as taking a dynamic, realistic stand about the way things are for many in 2011, Nils is at his most caustic and cutting edgy on what could only be described as a Bowie-esque punk-rock anthem for people nearing senior-hood called “60 Is The New 18”. From Neil Young inspired country wave to the rage at the dying of the light vibes, old’s cool again, indeed on Nils Lofgren’s Old School. www.NilsLofgren.com


INSTRUMENTAL


BLAZZ MUSIC - Ben Rogers—by day surf rock guitar hero, by night, Gypsy Jazz and swing guitar protagonist, composer and true fretboard artiste. Compared to Ben’s 2010 CD, the surf-rocking Instrumentally Disturbed, by Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum, the 2011 CD release of Windfarms Of Your Mind serves as an intimate guitar trio affair. Released by The Ben Rogers Trio, Windfarms finds Ben in the company of his Asylum pals Romana Geermans (violin) and Nikki Scarlett (bass/ukulele). Ben cites an early music teacher as the influence behind this return to his swing music roots with the guitarist adding, ‘This is the album I’ve wanted to make for a few years now. It’s a collection of both new and old tunes, the earliest of which is my very first composition, written as a young student of the guitar in the early ‘60s. Even so, Ben’s stamp as an original guitarist and composer is all over the album, to which he confesses, ‘Some years down the track, I discovered the music of Django Reinhardt, and this has become a strong influence on my playing and appreciation of the guitar. For me Django remains an endless source of inspiration.’ The era may evoke the acoustic swing of Django, but the guitar sound is truly Ben Rogers 2011. There’s an air of musical authenticity here that cannot be denied. Blending steel guitar and a range of other guitar sounds, track 5 “National Banjo” is almost an instro guitar anthem that could work as a folk song as well as a fully fledged, soaring Hank Marvin-esque production. Anyone who dug Ben’s Instrumental Asylum, will find much to admire on Windfarms Of Your Mind. Same as much could be said about track seven, “Laika’s Flight”, which although ostensibly a long and winding drum-less guitar solo, is actually a most interesting guitar trek that would also work as the foundation of a more production laden rock extravaganza. Either way, the diversity of guitar sounds and styles Windfarms makes for a most promising first recorded album by The Ben Rogers Trio. www.BenRogers.com.au

BOWE MUSIC - On his first album from early 2011, Finest Hour, U.K. guitar wiz Steve Bowe presented an instrumental album depicting the Battle Of Britain. A brilliant moment on disc in and of itself, that album is followed up by an even cooler and more rocking set of instrumental electronica, Soundscapes released late in 2011. Bowe’s guitar work was exemplary on Finest Hour, while the 2011 CD release of Soundscapes sounds somewhat more synthesized and keyboard driven. There’s still plenty of Bowe’s driving and super kinetic keyboard / guitar interplay but, at least compared to Finest Hour it sounds much more digitized and computerized. Track 2 here, the completely brilliant “Queen Of The Nile” sounds like Kraftwerk produced by Brian Eno circa early Roxy Music. Clearly the vast array of Bowe’s keyboard electronics brings the entire instro synth pop sound well into the now, but his musical integrity sounds like it was shaped by Eno and Bowie during the Low period circa 1977. It's rewarding to see up and coming artists with talents as worthy as Steve Bowe, committing to releasing replicated silvers of such intensely dynamic music. www.BoweMusic.com

CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
/ HEADS UP - Going strong for 25 years now, Acoustic Alchemy strikes back in 2011 with their latest CD Roseland. Featuring the twin acoustic guitars of Greg Carmichael and his AA co-pilot Miles Gilderdale, the Acoustic Alchemy sound is alive and well on Roseland. With the patented acoustic guitar sound front and center, Roseland also manages to bring in a mix of electric guitars. Backing up the acoustic / electric guitar front on Roseland are fine performances from a number of players including the Acoustic Alchemy touring band featuring Fred White (keys), Julian Crampton (bass) and Greg Grainger (drums). Like most of the Acoustic Alchemy albums released over the years, Roseland is laid back sounding and is filled with a keen, precise instrumental smooth jazz / New Age-y kind of pop sound, minus the vocals of course. The Roseland album was recorded at Gilderdale’s studio in the U.K. to which Carmichael adds, ‘We used the studio as a place to write. We would just throw ideas at each other. You try things as you go along. That’s the beauty of having your own studio.’ Roseland may be homegrown but there’s plenty of fine instrumental guitar jazz to make it an all around winner and as such should fine a home with long time Acoustic Alchemy fans as well as guitar lovers and jazz buffs looking to check out a true legend of the music world. www.Acoustic-Alchemy.net

DOUG YOUNG GUITAR
- Rhythmic and varied are a couple of words that spring to mind upon hearing Closing Time—the 2011 CD from California guitarist Doug Young. There’s a definite laid back Pat Metheny vibe in Young’s music and style, and it’s balanced out by some very lush sounding acoustic guitar sounds. Young cites guitar acousticians like Peppino D’Agostino and Teja Gerken among his influences, yet whatever finger style acoustic guitar style you like, chances are Young does it and does it well. Several artists stop by for cameos, including Teja, who adds in second guitar on a track here. Young cites a number of download choices for the album but in my opinion the best way is to pick up the CD version, already made and plus you get that great woody looking CD cover art and packaging with credits and fine liner notes by Young. www.DougYoungMusic.com

E1 MUSIC
- It’s been a while since eOne was Koch Records, but they continue on releasing CDs under their new moniker. In 2011, the label released The Three Kings by blues rock guitar ace Jeff Golub, here recording as the Jeff Golub Band Featuring Henry Butler. Blues rock belter Butler adds balls to Golub's soulful sting, which balances a mostly vocal blues-rock set with several instrumentals added in for good measure. Drummer Josh Dixon also kicks in some fine vocals, balancing Butler’s rough and ready growl. Golub and company also get support from blues guitar legends Robben Ford and Sonny Landreth, adding further highlights to this mostly rocking, bluesy tribute album to the three kings of the blues, Albert, B.B. and Freddie. Two fine instrumentals with Ford and Landreth, on one a piece, and a set closing instrumental over of the B.B. King signature song “The Thrill Is Gone” seals the deal on Golub’s rocking tribute to the blues. www.JeffGolub.com

FAVORED NATIONS ACOUSTIC
- Just in time for Christmas 2011, Australia’s guitar hero Tommy Emmanuel released his new CD All I Want For Christmas. Kicking off with “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, the twelve track all instrumental CD features Tommy in the studio with co-producers John Knowles and Kim Person on a CD that transcends holiday music and just puts Tommy’s acoustic guitar based instrumentals front and center. Commenting on working with John Knowles—who also plays guitar on the album—Tommy adds ‘We’d trade ideas back and forth, working up key changes and places to go with the songs that would make our versions unique, yet still simple and direct, true to how they were written.’ So many highlights, All I Want For Christmas is bound to become a Christmas favorite for years to come. In addition to Tommy’s Christmas CD, also this year, the new Tommy Emmanuel Web 3.0 web site was launched. Designed to create a comprehensive online experience for Tommy’s fans worldwide, it interconnects three sites—TommyEmmanuel.com with the latest news, artist/tour information, CertifiedGuitarPlayer.com, home to the Tommy Emmanuel storefront for music, DVDs, merchandise, lesson books, and gear and TommyEmmanuel.TV—an online social / educational experience featuring footage of live performances, lessons, interviews and a behind-the-scenes view of Tommy on the road as he tours the world. www.TommyEmmanuel.com

GDI RECORDS
- Ostensibly an instrumental nuevo flamenco guitar group, The Missing Parts blend all kinds of musical sounds and styles on their 2011 CD, entitled Sueños. Two guitarists—Douglas Francisco (lap steel) and Paul Wright (guitar / percussion) interplay perfectly with Oliver Blaylock (violin) and Brian Hullfish (cello) and the result comes across as a charming neo-classical / flamenco guitar chamber group. Not surprisingly, The Missing Parts cite eclectic influences such as Ry Cooder, Bela Bartok and Astor Piazzola along with Euro soundtracks kings like Morricone and Rota. The steel string acoustic guitars are dynamically recorded and are as clear as a bell. Nuevo flamenco, fingerstyle guitar fans and modern neo-classical instrumental listeners will undoubtedly enjoy the whimsical yet quite serious sound of The Missing Parts. www.TheMissingParts.net

HARP GUITAR MUSIC - A forerunner of the harp guitar movement, Greg Miner joins forces with his fellow finger style harp guitarists for the 2011 release of Further Beyond Six Strings. Subtitled Killer Fingerstyle Harp guitar Instrumentals, the 13 track various artists CD features many of the guitarists who have recorded on Miner’s Harp Guitar Music label including Muriel Anderson (here with Danny Gottlieb), Brad Hoyt, Stephen Bennett, Dan Alder, Philippe Fouquet and more. Miner’s latest harp guitar extravaganza makes a superb introduction to the unique sounds these expert guitarists get from their double neck and sometimes triple neck acoustic harp guitars. Also in time for Christmas 2012 on Harp Guitar Music is their new Christmas album entitled Christmas Present—16 harp guitar instrumentals featuring many of the same artists on the Further Beyond album serving up your favorite Christmas classics, all performed instrumentally, harp guitar style. www.HarpGuitarMusic.com

HUBRO MUSIC - The 2011 CD from Norwegian alt-jazzers Splashgirl, Pressure is dark, somber album yet it is filled with illuminating and alternatively fascinating instrumental music. The Splashgirl trio— Andreas Stensland Løwe (keys, synths, electronics), Jo Berger Myhre (double bass, drone commander?) and Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød (drums, percussion)—sound like they possess an intricate form of musical ESP. Anyone who wonders where that ECM spirit went to after the label got way too predictable, should check these guys out. A number of guests appear backing the trio, including some sprightly electric guitar work of Juhani Silvola, who really enhances the piano driven Splashgirl sound. The CD sounds amazing and one look at the excellent CD packaging shows, Splashgirl do it right. www.splashgirl.no

MORETTO MUSIC - Filled with swinging modern guitar jazz, The Martin Moretto Quintet introduces the talents of New Jersey based guitarist Martin Moretto. Backed up by a solid group of players, Moretto sounds inspired by the bop / swing jazz era groove of Charlie Parker as well as the vintage cool sound of Kenny Burrell and a swinging Pat Metheny. In addition to his recording career, Moretto is an established teacher of guitar, piano and bass who excels in musical theory, harmony, arranging and more. On his quintet’s self-titled debut album, Martin Moretto puts it all together on a truly swinging set of jazzy, original guitar instrumentals. www.MartinMoretto.com / www.CDBaby.com

ORGANIC ROBOT RECORDS - Led by master synthesist Rich Brodsky, the San Francisco based group known as Atomic Skunk continues to successfully mine the field of dreamy, surrealistic electronic music originally explored in the 1960s and ‘70s by Tangerine Dream, Clearlight Symphony and other computer driven musical entities. Brodsky also cites The Grateful Dead, Robert Rich, The Orb, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa and ethnic music spanning the globe among his big musical influences and you can hear a whole swath of musical influences on the 2011 Atomic Skunk album Alchemy, released on the Organic Robot label. Overall, the Alchemy CD is quite easy on the ears and almost serves as an instrumental soundtrack to some science fiction movie. More experimental and sinister sounding than New Age or healing music, Atomic Skunk designs instrumental, experimental electronic music for the future. On the impressive Atomic Skunk web site you can give a listen to a variety of music Brodsky and Atomic Skunk have recorded and released over the past decade. Electronic music lovers—try to pick up the CD of Alchemy. The CD sounds great and the 6 panel, digi-pak artwork and packaging—designed by Michal Karcz—is brilliant too. www.AtomicSkunk.com

SAVOY JAZZ - The day we lost John Lennon was the worst day in NYC history. It was like satan came to town on an unassuming, balmy Monday night and swallowed us alive. Of course, 31 years later it’s all history and of course, from that day on, the music of John Lennon and The Beatles became text book history. Although geniuses like Wes Montgomery and Booker T. & The MGs covered Beatles music back in the ‘60s, it continues to be a source of endless fascination for musicians to cover their favorite Lennon / Beatles track. In 2011, avant jazz guitar ace Bill Frisell takes Lennon and the Fabs around the block for a sonic test drive with the 16 track All We Are Saying. In addition to Lennon solo standards (“Imagine”, “#9 Dream”, “Mother”, “Beautiful Boy”), Frisell stacks the deck, including and rearranging a number of Beatles tracks that Lennon sang lead on and presumably had a lot to do with on the writing / arranging side. Hearing classic Beatles songs like “Nowhere Man”, “Please Please Me”, “Revolution” and “Across The Universe” (among others) performed instrumentally by Frisell and his accomplished band makes for a truly illuminating musical experience. Joining Frisell in the studio for his jazzy, instrumental rock-jazz Lennon experience is producer Lee Townsend and fine players including Greg Leisz (guitar), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). Commenting on the CD, Frisell adds, ‘John Lennon’s music has been with me, the band, everybody, the world...seems like forever. The songs are part of us. There was nothing we really needed to do to prepare for this. I feel blessed having the chance to play this music with these people.' It’s safe to say that John Lennon would have loved this jazzy, instrumental take on his solo and Beatles classics. Frisell fans will also want to hear his other recent Savoy Jazz CD release—also produced by Lee Townsend—entitled Sign Of Life. Joining Bill of Signs Of Life is Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kan (viola) and Hank Roberts (cello). Pop instrumental and Beatles fans, start with All We Are Saying, but with Signs Of Life being such a captivating and intimate “Americana” musical experience, Frisell fans will want to hear both. www.BillFrisell.com

SOUNDSCAPE PRODUCTIONS - A veteran of the New Age and ambient / electronic computer based music world, master guitarist / synthesist Robert Rich continues to break new ground with his 2011 CD Medicine Box. After recording 30 albums of instrumental avant gard music, Rich still proves he can move his sound forward. Sounding more like a World Music scientific experiment than any definable musical genre, Medicine Box features Rich in his studio working with some notable musicians including bass ace Edo Castro, cellist Hans Christian, background singer Cheri Chuang, who adds in some heavenly, ethereal wordless vocals and guitarist Haroun Serang. In addition to synths, flutes, piano, bass and percussion, Rich adds in some steel guitar sounds that often appears as subliminal sounds in the mix. Experimental, avant gard, electronic and adventurous New Age music fans owe it to themselves to give a listen to the magical world of Robert Rich. www.RobertRich.com

STRAUGH HOUSE PUBLISHING - A masterful, orchestral, neo-symphonic work of sonic art, Gravity is the 2011 CD from multi-instrumentalist Michael Straugh. Even though primarily a piano player who cites everyone from George Winston to Elton John as influences, Staugh also performs and adds in guitars, bass and percussion, rounding out his symphonic, New Age approach, no doubt thanks in part to his self-admitted rock based influences from bands like Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues. Balancing out the primarily instrumental tracks on this, Straugh’s fourth solo album, are a couple songs featuring Straugh vocals while the drumming, where used, is added in by Chris Brown. Straugh’s overall orchestral studio sound on Gravity is further enhanced by superb audio mastering handled by Sean Magee at the fabled Abbey Road studios in London. www.MichaelStraugh.com

VEE TONE - The surf never sets on the California sun. Fifty years of electric guitars and fun in the sun gives way to a 2011 Christmas instrumental tribute from The Vara-Tones entitled Have Yourself A Vara Merry Christmas. The 12 track CD is impeccably recorded and mastered and features appealing instro-rock takes a number of holiday season songs we all know and love, along with a few lesser knowns. For instance the song “O Holy Night”, written in 1847, is not well known in the Christmas canon but this swinging bouncy surf inspired Vara-Tones version—along with a great vocal jangle pop take on the song by Jim Hitchcock on his 2011 Christmas album—offer perfect opportunities to reintroduce this amazing melody to Christmas and surf-rock music fans. Surf guitar ace Bill Epps gets solid support from his band mates. Epps and Co. sets up the 21st century surf guitar sound in style on Have Yourself A Vara Merry Christmas. www.varatones.com



REISSUES & RETROSPECTIVES


ABBEYWOOD RECORDS
- Growing up in Africa and being influenced by all sorts of African music, New Age synthesist Hennie Bekker moved to Canada in 1987. Since then he’s recorded an assortment of instrumental music albums that are filled with an array of state of the art sounding, relaxing New Age tracks. Having experimented with environmental, soundtrack type sounds, Hennie has built a most impressive repertoire of tranquil and gently rocking albums. The best of Hennie Bekker can be heard on his 2011 compilation CD entitled Spectrum: An Anthology Of Relaxing Instrumental Music. Mixing New Age electronic soundscapes, African impressions, romantic piano interludes and modern ambient sounds, Spectrum is a fine introduction to Bekker’s magical and timeless approach to relaxing, sublime and quite meditative instrumental music. www.HennieBekker.com

CAPITOL RECORDS
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Back in 1967, when the teenybopper fans of The Beach Boys found out there was a new album called Smiley Smile on the way, they were overjoyed. With their 1967 single “Heroes And Villains”—the bands' crowning glory in the studio—The Beach Boys were on a roll. Turns out the teenyboppers had no idea of all the in fighting and turmoil that was going on between Brian Wilson and the ‘Boys. Turned out Smiley Smile was just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger conceptual project Brian had planned called SMiLE—the album that never was. So, just why did it take 45 years (1966-2011) for Brian Wilson and his inner circle to finally assemble a multitude of original tracks from 1966 and ‘67 into what very may well be the conclusive album—a newly compiled 19 track mono version of the original SMiLE album? Just seven years ago Brian Wilson, Darian Sahanaja and The Wondermints recorded and released a new studio version of SMiLE in 2004. So it’s really strange and totally ironic to hear this mono version of the original 1967 SMiLE album written and produced by Brian Wilson and his lyricist back then Van Dyke Parks. Of course Brian’s studio geniuses who worked with him on compiling this 2011 SMiLE collection—Alan Boyd and Mark Linett along with Dennis Wolfe—have done an amazing job. Devoted fans of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys will recall that the original SMiLE album conceived by Brian and Van Dyke had three killer hit singles—“Good Vibrations”, “Heroes And Villains” and the centerpiece of the original SMiLE, “Surf’s Up”, a song referred to as Brian Wilson’s greatest compositional achievement. There was the original Brian only at the piano version of the late 1966 “Surf’s Up” that has appeared on various collections starting with the 1993 Beach Boys box set. That said, on the 2011 SMiLE it is truly amazing to hear the first ever band version of “Surf’s Up” featuring Brian’s lead vocals. It’s either that or by mixing and matching all the studio tapes Brian made of “Surf’s Up”, Boyd and Linett have assembled what is truly the first ever definitive Beach Boys’ band version of the song “Surf’s Up”. Just for that revelation alone it's worth picking up the 2011 Capitol CD set of SMiLE, which also goes by the name here The SMiLE Sessions. The sound of this first ever mono SMiLE is another amazing thing as are the array of bonus cuts—following the 19 track reassembled SMiLE topped off by truly amazing CD packaging and a host of souvenirs including a second CD of more out takes and, (wait for it...) a SMiLE button! In his three pages of liner notes, Brian Wilson speaks of missing brothers Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson, and you really feel he means it. One of the stumbling blocks behind the downfall of the original SMiLE, and erstwhile Brian Wilson cohort / antagonist, Mike Love will probably never understand the song “Surf’s Up” or probably even the perfect compositional beauty of what Brian and Van Dyke Parks had set out to do with the original SMiLE but even those teenybopper fans knew deep inside what SMiLE was all about and this is what they’ve been waiting for since 1966. In 2011 the original 1966 SMiLE album has finally been restored and preserved for future generations to enjoy. www.BrianWilson.com


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