Record Label
and Music Spotlight
 

FALL 2013

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES

FALL 2013 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK



8X8 RECORDS
- The Howard Hughes of 21st century pop music, singer-songwriter Lane Steinberg joins forces with Ukrainian pop artist Alex Khodchenko and the results manifest in the first CD release by the group 8X8. The ten track CD is quite different from Lane’s acclaimed albums with his band Cracked Latin. The 2013 8X8 CD, entitled Azalea’s Room harks back to Lane’s pop-rock roots as a solo artist and his work in the band Tan Sleeve. Decked out in wild looking CD graphics, this debut 8X8 CD is a true 21st century pop-rock album—put together by two artists living in different parts of the world through the magic of the internet. Lane describes his work with Alex as being ‘very sumptuous and visual music.’ Lane was always turned on by psych-pop classics of the past and his guitar work is always spot on. Azalea’s Room is modern pop psychedelia for a new age. With one paisley pop original after the next, Azalea’s Room closes out the festivities with a classic cover of “Tears Of Rage”—a track made famous on the first album by The Band. As if that wasn’t enough to seal the deal, that final cut also features contributions from Lane’s buddy and underground pop hero R. Stevie Moore. www.LaneSteinberg.com

20/20 MUSIC
- With a track record that goes back to the 1990’s, NYC-bred, Nashville based Saul Zonona is no stranger to getting the best out of artists. Being a record producer is one thing, but as a pop artist in his own right, Saul equally has few peers. As a singer singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer / multi-instrumentalist, Saul once again gets it all together on his 2013 CD entitled Fix The Broken. Even though he set a bench mark for sonic excellence with his 2006 Love Over Money CD, 2013’s Fix The Broken maintains its sonic cool and offers up yet another worthy Zonana album. I’m pretty sure Saul can play drums, but on Fix The Broken he plays everything except drums, here employing the talents of 3 different drummers along with several other players and a 3 piece cello section. Saul Zonana delivers yet another pop masterpiece with Fix The Broken. www.SaulZonana.com

ACTIVE HEED
- Italian songwriter and musical conceptualist Umberto Pagnini released Visions From Realities, the 2013 album from his musical project Active Heed. Sounding inspired by groups such as YES and Genesis, the CD spotlights the vocals of PelleK. The instrumentation is well produced, the songs are sort of memorable and the vocals are near operatic in some ways but clearly this is 21st century prog-rock from Italy at its most oblique. A number of musicians help Umberto actualize his sound including the work of keyboardist / guitarist / arranger Lorenzo “il Magnifico” Poli with fine engineering / mixing / mastering by Alberto “Einstein” Callegari. Prog-rock with a twist, complete with swirling prog keyboards, searing electric guitars and near operatic rock vocals sung in English, Active Heed’s Visions From Realities is truly something different from Italy. www.ActiveHeed.com

ANGEL AIR RECORDS
- Although U.K. based Angel Air is best known for their timeless CD reissues—and in some cases (Stackridge and Mott The Hoople) complete overhauls of back catalogs—sometimes they tap into a new, or relatively recent band, and release a real winner. Well, the latest CD from U.K. pop-rockers The Contrast is one of the best albums of new music on Angel Air in a while. Formed by Glasgow, England born singer / songwriter / guitarist David Reid back in 1999, The Contrast have a number of albums and you can add in the 2013 Angel Air release of A Sinister Flick. The CD cover art of A Sinister Flick is great, reflecting the mix of music inside which includes folk-rock, rock ‘n’ roll, surf, 1960’s pop, psychedelic and more in the best spirit of The Kinks, The Who and very early Bowie. Backing Reid up in the studio is Richard Mackman (bass, vocals), Thorin Dixon (drums) and Kieran Wade (rhythm guitar, keys, vocals). With song titles like “We Are The Monsters”, “Mr. Antenna” and “Heavens To Murgatroyd”, The Contrast creates a most memorable mix of colorful sounds on A Sinister Flick. Another U.K. guitar-rock legend, Del Bromham is famous for leading the group Stray back in the 1970s and lo and behold Del is back with a new 2013 CD on Angel Air called Nine Yards. With 14 newly penned rock songs that features Del with a solid support band, Nine Yards is more 21st century blues rock then the progressive neo-psych sound of mid 1970s Stray. The CD is quite well recorded and proves Del still has the right stuff on Nine Yards. www.TheContrast.net / www.AngelAir.co.uk

BLUE NOTE RECORDS
- The legendary Blue Note label was home to the greatest jazz musicians back in the 1960s and ‘70s although in recent years the label has branched out into pop and rock. Now in 2013 they have a new kind of rock album from pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph & The Family Band entitled Lickety Split. With Randolph’s pedal steel guitar, guitar and vocals backed up by his own band, the album also benefits thanks to guest spots by Carlos Santana, singer Bekka Bramlett and guitarists Eric Krasno and Adam Smirnoff. Electrifying and energized, Lickety Split sounds more like Sly & The Family Stone as driven forward by the sound of Robert's electric pedal steel guitar. Not for the faint of heart, Lickety Split is full of funked-up, soulful steel sounds for the 21st century. www.RobertRandolph.net


BUFFALO JUMP RECORDS - A fine, rising alt-rock band from NYC, The Dig are scoring points for their 5 song 2013 CD EP entitled Tired Hearts. With a CD cover art suited to the title, the music is pretty much melodic punk rock but there’s some great studio effects. Vocals by Emile Mosseri are quite effective and she gets good support from her 3 band mates including singer-guitarist David Baldwin, who has been working with Emile since their were both eleven years old. That must be why the CD has such a cool musical ESP. Tired Hearts is a most solid CD of 21st century alt-pop. www.TheDigMusic.com

COE - U.K. prog-rockers Comedy Of Errors are in prime form on their 2013 CD, Fanfare & Fantasy. If there was ever a new prog band destined for stadium size greatness it’s Comedy Of Errors. COE cites bands such as Credo, Pallas, IQ, Pendragon and other contemporary prog bands as well as honoring prog founders Pink Floyd and Gentle Giant as big influences. Dare I say a little bit of Rush style as well can be detected in the COE grooves. Singer Joe Cairney has all the moves down and he receives nice backing from his COE band mates. The CD is superbly packaged and recorded while the bathed in blue booklet features complete lyrics. With mellotrons harmonizing with searing electric guitar leads and dark lyric content, one could see fans of YES and Rush and other prog icons enjoying this relatively new band. Comedy Of Errors has all the right musical moves down to a sonic science on the majestic Fanfare & Fantasy. www.ComedyOfErrors.org

CONCORD RECORDS - Recorded in Nashville, L.A. and interestingly enough Budapest, Hungary, Pushin’ Against A Stone is a solid introduction to the music of singer-songwriter Valerie June. Released on the prestigious Concord Records, the 12 track CD—described on Valerie's web site as "organic moonshine roots music"—features a number of excellent session players, including the legendary Booker T. Jones. Even with so much going on, the real star her is Ms. June—her voice and guitar playing clearly taking center stage. Featuring a well recorded studio sound, the CD is a solid spin start to finish, although track five here, “Wanna Be On Your Mind” (one of the CD highlights) would clearly make a great single. You can’t miss Valerie June’s CD for the striking CD cover art, while the packaging also includes lyrics sheet and a number of b&w pic from the recording sessions. Described by some astute writer as sounding like a cross between Dolly Parton and Billy Holiday, Valerie June takes pop to a higher ground on the pleasurable, soulful country pop groove of Pushin’ Against A Stone. www.ValerieJune.com

CONGO NATTY RECORDINGS - Fans of roots reggae and groove based hip-hop will get a righteous sonic buzz from Jungle Revolution, the 2013 CD from London based jungle-reggae master Congo Natty, aka Rebel MC. Filled with colorful, hard-hitting jungle rhythms, studio wizardry as well as more traditional (re: accessible) reggae grooves, Jungle Revolution is a harrowing listening experience. There’s some great singers assisting Rebel MC in the mix too including Tenor Fly on the track “Get Ready” and Nanci Correia on “Jah Warriors”. The Jungle Revolution CD is well recorded and the colorful artwork also features in depth liner notes featuring Congo Natty discussing his unique Jungle Revolution music, which he believes is just a part of all music including blues and jazz. Fans of roots Reggae and jungle rhythms must hear the wild sonic grooves in play on Jungle Revolution. www.CongoNatty.com

CYRIL SNEAR - Based in Manchester England, the group known as Cyril Snear makes sonically appealing pop and rock that’s worth a listen. The quartet’s 2013 CD, entitled Riot Of Colour sounds greatly influenced by current rock favorites such as The Mars Volta and Radiohead, yet amid the sonic clutter and wall of sound deluge, there’s also some appealing pop production qualities here. For example, the CD is quite well recorded and you can pick out a number of sonic details in the mix. Noisy rock that will bowl you over, Cyril Snear’s attack may not be for everyone but if hard, experimental sounding rock and pop is your thing, Riot Of Colour will fit the bill. Another cool thing here is the amazing CD cover art which is also quite colorful. www.CyrilSnear.com

DAVID PATON SONGS - Based in the U.K., singer-songwriter / guitarist David Paton is one of those artists who someohow never got their just reward in the U.S. market. David’s song with the group Pilot, “Magic” is still huge on oldies and classic retro radio all over the world and it’s also one of the tracks on his 12 track, 2013 CD entitled Under The Sun. A freshly revived, 21st century version of “Magic” is the track that ends Under The Sun, which is fueled for the most part by a fine batch of all new Paton originals including the memorable title track that leads off the album. The CD is a fine showcase for David’s timeless vocals and guitar work, which is backed up by a range of musicians. The CD booklet features cool album artwork, full lyrics and interesting liner notes by David. As mentioned, these new David Paton songs are an excellent addition to his estimable catalog with Pilot while, as mentioned earlier, closing out the CD with new covers of Paton’s two most memorable Pilot songs—“Magic” and “Just A Smile”—adds another touch of class to a fine comeback by an esteemed pop legend. www.DavidPatonSongs.com

DISCUS MUSIC - U.K. singer Julie Tippetts (born Julie Driscoll) made her big breakthrough back in the 1960’s singing with U.K. band legends including Brian Auger and avant gard jazz musician Keith Tippett. In 1969 Julie appeared singing with the Monkees on their TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee singing “I’m A Believer” with Mickey Dolenz. For recent activities on Julie, look no further then her 2013 CD collaboration with Martin Archer. The CD release of Serpentine features Julie adding her voice, chimes and amplified doll’s house to Martin Archer’s electronics, keyboards and woodwinds while also supported by other musicians including Pete Fairclough (drums) and Gary Houghton (guitars). A number of other musicians add fuel to the sonic fire including a string section. The other worldly effect of Serpentine is not unlike some of Gilli Smyth’s work with Daevid Allen in Mother Gong while Annette Peacock and Anna Domino are other sonic signposts you can use for comparison. In its own right, Serpentine is by far one of the most adventurous sonic excursions of the 21st century. Julie’s ethereal vocals are totally in sync with Martin Archer’s other worldly electronics and keyboards while the guitars of Gary Houghton sound inspired by avant gard axe-wielders such as Terje Rypdal. Although the music on Serpentine is steeped in jazz and electronica, the appealing and often beguiling vocals of Ms. Tippetts gives the music a timeless sonic sheen. Commenting on the CD, Martin Archer adds, ‘Yes, this is an album of songs, with Julie on powerful rock and soul inspired form throughout. I also consider that some parts of this record are among the most unusual and creative I’ve made.’ The Serpentine CD sounds great and looks great and is quite appealingly packaged and to top things off the album art features the complete lyrics which were all penned by Ms. Tippetts. Stretch out your musical imagination with the evocative, vital sounds of Serpentine—which has been rightly described as ‘a strange, dramatic and beautiful record.’ www.discus-music.co.uk

E1 ENTERTAINMENT - Despite tragically losing his eyesight in a subway accident, NYC based guitarist Jeff Golub has made a miraculous recovery and solid proof can be heard on his 2013 CD entitled (no pun intended), Train Keeps A Rolling. The eleven cut CD features a cool mix of of both instrumental jazz and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, all featuring Jeff’s blazing electric guitar skills front and center in the mix. Also on hand is legendary U.K. organ man Brian Auger. Interestingly, Golub was a huge fan of Auger’s early work with the Oblivion Express and that band’s original drummer Steve Ferrone keeps the beat on the title track. Also lending the voices are vocalist legends David Pack (of Ambrosia) and Christopher Cross. The instrumental tracks here are really solid with Golub sounding influenced guitar wise, somewhere between Freddie King and Wes Montgomery. Jazz-rock, fusion and blues-rock fans will be in orbit with the release of Train Keeps A Rolling. www.JeffGolub.com

ENT-T - The Israel based EnT-T label are making sonic waves with the 2013 CD release of Versions by Dub Mentor. Assisting Mr. Mentor are a number of musicians and male and female vocalists who for the most part sing in English, including the legendary downtown NYC chanteuse / legend Anna Domino. It’s been way too long since Anna had anything out on CD under her own name and while nothing changes here, the track she appears on here is excellent. The music on Versions features a range of vocal tracks and the mood is pretty much low-key, late night chill-out listening throughout. The EnT-T label (pronounced entity) are trying to gain comparison to the German ECM label although to the best of my knowledge ECM never had the good taste to make a record with Anna Domino. Inspired by Eno, Lanois and perhaps Ms. Domino too, Dub Mentor makes a bold 21st century musical statement with Versions. www.ent-t.com / www.dubmentor.com

EPITAPH / XTRA MILE RECORDINGS - Playing his brand of folk-punk and rock for the past decade, London based Frank Turner released his album Tape Deck Heart in 2013. Influenced by Counting Crows, Weezer, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg, Frank’s accessible blend of punk-rock meets folk and protest music is exhilarating air-pumping stuff. His voice is unique and strong in some ways, and accompanied by his solid acoustic guitar strumming, Franks enlists a solid band to back him up including guitarist Ben Lloyd. Punk rock gets a sonic facelift with the multi-textured sound of Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart. www.XtraMileRecordings.com

ESP-DISK - Dreamy sonics filled with lush pastoral soundscapes and ethereal female vocals, Fortress Of The Sun is the 2013 CD from the Maine based Arborea. Featuring the team of Buck Curran and Shanti Curran, Fortress Of The Sun features a mix of instrumentation including acoustic guitars, banjos, harmonium, electric guitars, ebow and more. Both the Currans come from a hippie-like background and were obviously influenced by the psychedelic heyday of the 1960s in the U.S. and the subsequent European music explosions in the 1970s. Some writers have also compared the Arborea to some of Ry Cooder’s rootsy, acoustic guitar-centric / Paris Texas type vibes while another comparison might be the early English folk sounds of Fairport Convention. After releasing a number of albums on various labels, Arborea have released what may be their finest moment on record with the heavenly sounding Fortress Of The Sun. www.ArboreaMusic.com

ESOTERICA RECORDS -
Back in the early 1970’s there was no shortage of great progressive hard rock bands coming out of England. As a result, some fell through the cracks of the music scene then, yet in the age of the internet, artists are sometimes able to reinvent themselves and reconnect with their early fans and others who missed it the first time around. Case in point is The Tirith and their 2013 comeback CD entitled The Daughter Of The Water. Their story goes back to the dawn of the 1970’s when Tim Cox (guitars) and Dick Cory (bass, vocals) formed the band in 1971 with Paul Williams (drums) joining in 1972. Original drummer in The Tirith, Williams adds drums on a pair of tracks here, including the title track and “Gazing At Stars” while the band’s new drummer Carl Nightingale is featured on a track here as well. Over the years, The Tirith kept in touch and lo and behold 40+ years later, they have a new four song, self-produced EP (extended play) CD. Ostensibly testing the musical waters again, the new Tirith CD is centered around the song “The Daughter Of The Water”, which features Cory sounding like Greg Lake singing in a progressive blues-rock band circa 1972. The title song is offered here twice, both as a stately rock number and also as a more ambient neo-acoustic version, effects and all, and has a definite Greg Lake era King Crimson type aura, while two additional rock tracks are also well done. As a vocalist and bass player, who also adds acoustic guitar here, Dick Cory is a worthwhile prog-rock discovery while the electric guitars and production of Tim Cox are superbly recorded. The three production songs are very tastefully produced, with the CD heightened by the atmospheric version of the title track. One would reckon The Tirith would cause an even bigger stir with a full length release yet, Daughter Of The Water is a most welcome return to form from The Tirith. www.theTirith.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA - One of the most auspicious album releases on the Esotric Antenna label in 2013 is The Weight Of The World, the debut album from U.K. prog-rockers Sanguine Hum. You can’t miss this album for the cover art of a gargantuan microwave tower is truly harrowing. Not so harrowing is the sublime prog-rock in play on the seven track CD which ranges from Rush like math prog to a more melodic straight prog sound. Key to the sound is singer-guitarist Joff Winks, who gets solid support from his quartet band mates. There’s even a rock-solid, Zappa-esque instrumental track here called “In Code” that takes the best of the math prog sound in a new, intriguing direction. Overall, The Weight Of The World is a most interesting CD introduction to the music of Sanguine Hum. www.CherryRed.co.uk

ESOTERIC ANTENNA
- The Esoteric Antenna label released Squackett with YES bassist Chris Squire in 2012 and in 2013 they released an album with one time YES keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, who is teamed for the first time on CD along with U.K. guitar icon Gordon Giltrap. For the past 35+ years, Giltrap, as a solo recording artist, continued to set a high standard with his acoustic / electric guitar instrumental albums. For the 2013 CD release of the 13 track Ravens & Lullabies the music includes mostly vocal tracks with a track here featuring another YES alumni Benoît David. The prime vocalist here Paul Manzi, as well as the rhythm section of Johanne James (drums) and Steve Amadeo (bass) round out the band. Benoît sounds great on the track he’s on here called “From The Turn Of A Card.” As proven again, Giltrap remains the consummate guitar professional, blending his impeccable acoustic guitars with Wakeman’s genetically programmed keyboard skills. Several instrumentals prove these guys can really play. Very progressive in places and very pastoral other times, Ravens & Lullabies is simply a stellar sounding recording. www.CherryRed.co.uk

EVANGELINE RECORDING CO. - Currently getting rave reviews for his album The Graceless Age, singer-songwriter John Murry is well worth hearing among fans of Warren Zevon and Bruce Springsteen. Given the worldwide acclaim of the late, great Zevon’s pop smarts and Springsteen’s vocal growl, Murry’s record is equally a kind of a personal look into his life—including divorce, homelessness and drug addiction. Thankfully, Murry survived his demons long enough to make this amazing CD. The songs on The Graceless Age are very Dylan-esque or Springsteen-esque (is there a term called Neil Young-esque?) yet there’s some great rock effects throughout the album, making the recording sound is kind of unusual for 2013 in that there’s a unique blend of instruments and studio wizardry that enhances the listening experience. Surrounding Murry’s penetrating vocals and strategic sonic imagery are some excellent musicians who are mentioned in the CD packaging but the credits (as to who is playing what) aren’t very clear. However, the electric guitar work is excellent throughout and clearly these musicians are on a similar wavelength as John Murry. The Graceless Age is one of the most daring singer-songwriter adventures of 2013. www.JohnMurry.com

FIREFLY MUSIC - Mostly acoustic-based singer-songwriter type fare, Sleeping Pills & Lullabies is the 2013 album from Anne Marie Helder & Jonathan Edwards. Low key and pastoral for the most part, but still recognized by the prog-rock community as having a special sound, the 11 track CD features the pair performing a number of instruments, mostly acoustic guitars, autoharp, celeste, flute, grand piano and more, while receiving assistance from a range of musicians including the Luna Rossa string quartet. Even with so many excellent musicians aiding and abetting, the central focus here is on Anne Marie’s exquisite vocals. Although she has earned worldwide support for her vocals with the prog-rock band Mostly Autumn, Anne-Marie Helder sounds quite at home on the ethereal though prog-friendly sounds of Luna Rossa. www.LunaRossa.co

FOOL’S ERRAND RECORDS - It’s just amazing to see today’s younger bands using, and in some cases improving on, the blueprint of the great classic musical ground breakers of the early 1970s. Case in point is Sonic Astronomy, the 2013 CD from the Atlanta, GA. based band Plastic Overlords. A modern day psych-rock masterpiece, the CD sounds amazing and was superbly produced by David Noel (vocals, bass, keyboards) while also featuring the power trio rock vibes of John Eades (guitars) and Brad Johnson (drums). Those who can remember back to the great metal prog bands such as Uriah Heep and Quatermass will love Plastic Overlords. Another reference point here has got to be Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd especially when considering that David Noel’s voice is eerily similar in timbre to Syd and the music more than fits that great “See Emily Play” vibe. With titles such as “”A Moment Of Silence For Unsynchronized Watches” and and 18+ minute of “Tea And Cake With Another Mad Hatter”, fans of psychedelic power trio rock won’t go wrong with Plastic Overlords. www.FoolsErrandRecords.com

FULL TIME HOBBY - U.K. prog-poppers Tunng released their fifth studio album Turbines in 2013. The band still features singer-songwriter Mike Lindsay, who also works in Iceland on his own project called Cheek Mountain Thief, and electronics wizard Phil Winter. These Tunng songs may sound deceptively simplistic but there’s plenty of wild sonic embellishments to help set Tunng apart. According to Lindsay, “It’s our sci-fi folk-rock album.” Recording engineer Ben “Benge” Edwards took the six piece band to his synth museum to add in various electronic sound effects. With a bold and daring vision of Turbines, Tunng have truly made an album of electronic folk-rock for the 21st century. www.tunng.co.uk

FZIO
- Let’s face it. For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Frank Zappa was a musical god. Listening to stories by Jimmy Carl Black discussing the early Mothers Of Invention are still hilarious but Frank was really a serious composer under all that 1960s aura. Case in point where Frank’s music is given a refreshing reassessment can be heard on the 2013 CD release of Strictly Gravy - Lex Bronkowitz Orchestra Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa. In the spirit of Frank, German guitarist Lex Bronkowitz (his real name is Alexander Debus) is a fine jazz-rock guitarist and his reworked covers of 8 Zappa compositions makes for really ear opening listening. Instrumental and vocal with a contemporary jazz-rock edge, the CD features Lex backed backed up by a solid band (including vibes and marimba by Peter Thomas) with singer Katharina Debus on several tracks. Franks’ more melodic material, including his most popular song “Peaches En Regalia” are given a fresh treatment by Lex and his band, making Strictly Gravy one of the most intriguing Zappa related CD releases of the decade. www.FZIO.org

GONZO MULTIMEDIA - Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble is a legend of the 1960's U .K music scene. Involved with Fairport Convention, behind the scenes at the start of King Crimson and her project Trader Horne, Judy is back again in 2013 with the sublime sounding Flow And Change. Released by prog mogul Rob Ayling’s label, Gonzo Multimedia, the ten track CD covers a wide swath of music styles—from prog-rock to neoclassical, folk ala Fairport. The lead off track “Black Dog Dreams”—co-written by Judy and Simon House of Hawkwind with blazing lap steel by Mike Mooney—is a sonic marvel that sounds like the kind of prog track Steve Nardelli and The SYN would release. The album features a number of musicians and the CD booklet features track by track discographical info and complete lyrics. Some tracks, with strings and things are more introspective sounding influenced by greats like Van Dyke Parks and Donovan while others, especially “Crowbaby” sound quite influenced by Judy’s early encounters with early King Crimson members. Thanks to the art of digital recording via the internet, on Flow And Change Judy Dyble quite rightly revives her career with a 21st century prog-rock masterpiece. www.JudyDyble.com

HUNGER SLEEP RECORDS - Who is Grice and what does he do? A singer-songwriter and a gifted multi-instrumentalist based in the U.K., Grice has a fine new CD out on Hunger Sleep Records entitled Propeller. A somewhat experimental Bowie-esque sound dominates the 13 track Propeller CD. If only Bowie sounded this relaxed anymore. In addition to handling all the vocals, guitars, synth keyboards and string arrangements, Grice gets excellent backup from a range of musicians including pedal steel legend B.J. Cole, Lee Fletcher, touch guitar wizard Markus Reuter and many other fine players. Accurately described as a sonic cocktail of art-rock and avant-pop synthesis, Grice is essential listening for serious disciples of 21st century music. www.HungerSleepRecords.com

IMEARTAS - Irish fiddler and concertina player Niamh Ní Charra released her album Cuz to great reviews in 2013. Featuring a mix of vocal and instrumental music, the 13 track Cuz is a must hear for fans of Irish and World Music. Acoustic in nature, the CD is nevertheless full bodied and features a number of musicians who fill up the sound stage. Basically, the CD was inspired by the music of Terry “Cuz” Teahan, an Irish immigrant who left the old country for Chicago in 1928 and spent six decades playing music and he actually made a tape of his music for a young Niamh. Niamh’s musicianship is excellent throughout and although primarily instrumental in nature, the CD features a few tracks with Niamh’s vocals, which are also quite breathtaking. Cuz even appears on a couple tracks, or rather his voice featuring a quite unique Irish brogue! The CD features excellent packaging and detailed information about the making of Cuz. A very cool CD of classy acoustic music, Cuz is traditional Irish music brought up to date for 21st century ears. www.NiamhNiCharra.com

INEDIBLE RECORDS - With its big, gargantuan studio sound, the group A.S. will appeal to U2 fans. The sound of their 2013 Inedible Records CD, entitled Exile will also appeal to fans of Tears For Fears. Based in both Paris, France and Australia, A.S. cites influences like Radiohead, Crowded House and Coldplay among their chief influences and group vocalist Mick McRoberts (voice, piano) gets excellent backup from his bandmates. The second A.S. album, the ten track Exile was recorded in Paris and mixed in Los Angeles. Dark and dynamic, with a solid stadium rock aura, Exile will blow the roof off your house. www.AsTheBand.com

JT CLASSICS - Real skinhead type punk fun, Hard Skin released a pair of albums in 2013. On The Balls and Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear combine for quintessential English rave music (also called Oi! music) at its raunchiest. Their Birds... CD is actually the same songs from the On The Balls CD—rerecorded with an array of great female singers (hence the birds reference?). The brainchild of Fat Bob and his partner in crime Johnny Takeaway, Hard Skin is not for everybody but there’s plenty of raving, loony fun on the songs featured on each of these two 12 track CDs and vinyl albums. As racy and punk-rock based as these two Hard Skin CDs are, it’s not completely unexpected given that Hard Skin have released other albums with titles like Hard Nuts And Hard Cunts and Same Meat / Different Gravy. Some may find this stuff racy and/or foul-mouthed but let’s face it, in 2013 Hard Skin make rave-up punk a whole lotta fun. Cockney rejects? I hardly think so. www.JtClassics.co.uk

MANHATON RECORDS - U.K. based Manhaton Records has some of the best blues rockers on tap and high on the list of their 2013 CD releases is Standing In The Shadows by King King. Featuring guitarist Alan Nimmo, the trademark sound of King King is hard-hitting blues rock in the spirit of Robin Trower and other U.K. rock legends such as Free and Bad Company. Most of the tracks on Standing In The Shadows were penned by Alan Nimmo and group bassist Lindsay Coulson, while the band also breathes new fire into stomping covers of “Heavy Load” by Free and “Jealousy” by Frankie Miller. Rounding out the King King lineup are Wayne Proctor (drums) and Bennett Holland (keys, vocals). Some of these tracks also echo radio friendly rock bands such as The Doobie Brothers. Standing In The Shadows is powerful electric blues played with a rock solid attitude. www.manhatonrecords.com

MENTALCHEMY RECORDS - The term progressive rock has carried with it some valuable and some invaluable moments with it through the past 45+ years. Ever since The Beatles took us one step beyond with Revolver, progressive rock as an art form has changed the music world for good. Only a few of the original 1960's progressive rock bands are still here although bands such as YES and The Moody Blues are sadly missing key members in 2013. Some of those missing YES members are to be heard on a fantastic new album coming out of Italy by the group Sarastro Blake entitled New Progmantics. The brainchild of two gifted Italian music conceptualists—Paolo Pigni (bass, guitar, keys) and Luca Briccola (electric guitars, keyboards, production)—the 2013 Sarastro Blake album is filled with memorable music and it’s also loaded with indelible performances by some well known musical legends. Among the music icons appearing on various tracks here are former YES keyboardist Rick Wakeman and late 1990's YES guitarist / producer Billy Sherwood. Also among the CD highlights is a track featuring vocals from Pilot cofounder David Paton while also on hand is Caravan cofounder Richard Sinclair, who turns in a most respectable vocal performance on what may be the standout cut here entitled “Remember”—an original song built around the words of English poet Christina Rossetti, who actually lived in England in the 19th century. That inventive song really captures the essence of the Sarastro Blake New Progmantics album—which takes the poetry of English poets and authors, including John Clare, William Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Robert Burns and constructs new song arrangements around them. The love of that nostalgic, wistful English poetry is well served on the New Progmantics album. Supported by these and other fine musicians, Paolo’s vocals are excellent and Luca’s guitar on target. With sonic geniuses like Wakeman, Sinclair and Sherwood on board the CD, how can you go wrong? You can’t go wrong because The New Progmantics takes the listener a bold step forward into the brave new world of 21st century progressive rock. www.SarastroBlake.com

MPL / HEAR MUSIC - NEW is the album that in the future will be regarded as McCartney’s greatest recorded achievement. So, as an original Beatlemaniac at 60, I can honestly say that NEW is also in some ways McCartney’s most Beatle-esque masterpiece. His covers album, of songs he actually owns mind you (lol), Kisses On The Bottom and his symphonic instrumental album Ocean’s Kingdom from 2011 album were somewhat overlooked, even though no feathers were ruffled. But clearly, with memories still so fresh from the misery of Hurricane Wilma (and Katrina) in late 2005, when Chaos And Creation brought disaster to bear in my own backyard, NEW emerges as a messianic gift to the music world. One thing is clear, McCartney’s backing band - including the multitalented Brian Ray, guitar ace Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and long time Macca keyboard wiz, Wix - sounds reborn in a way, as if being in Camp McCartney for ten+ years has instilled in these guys a kind of Beatle-esque ESP. There’s also four fab producers on NEW including Giles Martin, who follows brilliantly in the footsteps of his father’s 5th Beatle stature. The level of production here, even for an artist as finessed as McCartney, has truly been stepped up a notch. Further production control on various tracks by Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth and Ethan Johns offers a wide range of sonically amazing results. The younger Martin has truly amazing ears as was so clearly proven by his historic sound work on the George Harrison Let It Roll album from 2009. Sonically, compositionally and even visually, for Beatlemaniacs, NEW is nothing less than the aural equivalent of a meeting with the Maharishi. Singling out one NEW track here over another would be futile, as in a strange way, they’re all equally connected, the exception being a hidden, quite stark and naked sounding 15th track, ostensibly written for his wife Nancy Shevell called "Scared" that almost abruptly ends NEW. For untold millions of people who are now over 50, NEW is for you. (As if a one year old would remember the first time Paul and The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan! - lol) To coin another Beatle-esque phrase: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. My timeworn theories of the unfortunately never to happen 1986 Beatles reunion CD and ‘87 world tour remains not unfounded in my world. Does anyone else remember, just a few years after the Beatles implosion of 1970, John Lennon was raving on radio about what a masterpiece Band On The Run was? Fantasies and rantings about the Beatles legacy and the what ifs and what really happened that tragic night in 1980 will go unabated for centuries to come but as Paul’s latest pinnacle NEW cosmically proves: John Lennon would have truly loved this album. www.PaulMcCartney.com

MELODIC REVOLUTION
- An artist rising in the 21st century progressive rock and pop world, singer-songwriter / keyboardist Paul D’Adamo will make music fans happy with his CD entitled Tell Me Something. Expertly espousing a smooth progressive pop ethos ala post-Genesis Phil Collins, there’s some solid musicianship on Paul's ten track CD. D’Adamo was very influenced by Phil Collins era Genesis and true to form, Paul covers several tracks here written by Phil Collins and Steve Hackett—two of the prime movers of the classic Genesis sound. Adding to the professional sounding recording are contributions by top musicians including Brad Cole (keyboards), Leland Sklar (bass), Daryl Stuermer (guitars) and Chester Thompson (drums). With the CD featuring a number of musicians who have worked with Phil Collins and Genesis in the past, Paul adds, ‘Phil’s music was very autobiographical for me. It seemed that his melodies and lyrics provided a day to day soundtrack for my life.’ The sound of D’Adamo’s CD is quite lush in places and with such a finely tuned band and top notch studio sound to work with, there’s hardly a note out of place here. With a mix of Phil Collins and Genesis covers, along with several well placed D’Adamo originals, Tell Me Something is time well spent for progressive rock and pop fans. www.TheDadamoSchool.com / www.mrrmusic.com

MUSIC PRODUCERS INSTITUTE - Country music fans and especially steel guitar fans will tell you that when it comes to the pedal steel guitar, few musicians can touch the great Buddy Emmons. Called “the world’s foremost steel guitarist”, Buddy is now 76 and a bunch of his music buds have joined together to pay a heartfelt music tribute to him. The 2013 CD release of The Big E: A Salute To Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons is a 16 track superstar filled album filled with some of the greatest pedal steel players still with us in 2013 along with a number of musicians, guitarists and singers performing a range of vocal tracks and several instrumentals. So who’s here to hear? Try, Vince Gill, Duane Eddy, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee, John Anderson, fellow steelers Greg Leisz, Paul Franklin, Doug Jernigan, Dan Dugmore, album producer Steve Fishell and much more. The CD booklet is packed with voluminous notes but they’re too small to read! (check them out online) lol But with this much honky tonkin’ country-rock and bluesy, steel guitar flecked greatness in play, The Big E is a fantastic tribute to the greatness of pedal steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons. www.musicpi.com

MUTE / CITY SLANG - Born in Chile but based in Sweden, singer-songwriter / guitarist José González has had a pretty illustrious career in the pop-rock world over the past decade. Several independent CD releases under his own name established his sonic cred among those international pop fans in the know. In 2013, José gets back to what he does best with the CD release of a new self-titled CD from his band Junip. Although influenced by everything from bossa nova to post punk bands like Joy Division, on the 2013 Junip CD the sound is very much rooted in the rock/pop world where Paul Simon and Nick Drake share influences with Eno and Bowie. The songs on Junip really stick in your head and throughout the ten track CD, José gets solid backup from his Junip band mates Tobias Winterkorn (drums) and Elias Araya (keyboards) while the CD also features a range of contributing musicians. The album artwork is pretty sparse but don’t let that fool you. Featuring a pallet of stick in your head, toe-tapping tracks, Junip is one of the most appealing pop meets rock meets electronica albums of 2013. www.junip.net

MYSTERY LAWN - Nice 1960’s psychedelia played to perfection by a 21st century band, Agony Aunts released their new CD Big Cinnamon in 2013. There an element of low-fi but I’m sure that is because of budget restraints because these guys (and girl) think big. There’s a little grunge here and there but it’s more like grit amongst the pop jewels (and that’s all within one song!). Vocalists KC Bowman and Karla Kane harmonize well and Khoi Huynh and Charlie Crabtree fill out the band although other musicians drop in and add to the mix. Beach Boys, Fountains Of Wayne, XTC, Beatles circa 1967 and even a dose of late 1970s Bee Gees are just some of the influences. And by way of a good luck s treak among new pop releases, Agony Aunts pull off a minor sonic miracle with the pop goodness spinning around the grooves of Big Cinnamon. www.MysteryLawn.com

NEW WEST RECORDS - There’s a whole lot of good musical vibes pulsating throughout The Bright Spots by the multitalented Randall Bramblett. The 12 track CD features Randall doing his best work yet in the studio backed by a range of top players. Best known for his work as both a solo artist and session legend and a founding member of Sea Level, Randall has been often overlooked for his brilliant song writing and singing, sounding somewhat like a cross between his old boss Steve Winwood and the Irish soul belter Van Morrison. To be in that order of company you have to have great songs and there’s plenty of that on The Bright Spots. With lines like “I’m tired of waking up in someone else’s dreams, where ever that is...”, Randall makes music as great as Van, Robbie and Steve rolled into one. Hipster soul-rock music played with plenty of verve and panache, Randall Bramblett has it covered in spades on The Bright Spots. www.RandallBramblett.com

NORDIC RECORDS -
Groups like Pink Floyd and Genesis made a huge impact in the progressive music world back in the early 1970s and even today young bands from all of the world espouse the free form musical thinking these legends brought to 20th century music. One group from Oslo Norway bringing back that progressive rock ethos is Kosmoratik. The group’s 9 track 2012 CD, Gravitation offers a 21st century update on state of the art symphonic pop in the best spirit of the early 1970s. Featuring the vocals of Eivind Johansen and Lise Lotte Ågedal backed up by the soaring electric guitars of Odd Gunnar Frøysland, the group sound of Kosmoratik is further fleshed out by a number of players here. Speaking to mwe3.com about the Kosmoratik sound, the group's guiding light, Eivind Johansen adds, “I do consider us part of the prog-rock scene, in the sense that we experiment with structures and have an open mind towards what we do. We do not easily fit into any genres.” The sound of Kosmoratik's Gravitation CD is full bodied and always captivating while the songs are filled with lush prog-rock soundscapes and memorable melodic twists and turns. If you like well done progressive rock with new ideas and fresh sonic vistas give Gravitation by Kosmoratik a spin. Word has it Kosmoratik are readying a much anticipated second release planned for later in 2013. www.kosmoratik.com

OTHER MUSIC - Amazingly, the record store called Other Music—situated directly across the street from the sadly defunct, yet still fabled Tower Records on 4th Street in NYC—has survived. Now lo and behold in 2013, the store has branched into the record label business with the 2013 CD release of Ceremony from Swedish chanteuse Anna Von Hausswolff. Sparse yet effective sounding, the 12 track CD features Anna playing and singing with only her pipe organ, which was recorded in a church in Gothenburg, Sweden. Some of the tracks feature low key accompaniment from other players, sounding not unlike Pink Floyd circa Meddle. There’s even some excellent instrumental tracks which border on a gothic sounding instrumental Pink Floyd, (check out track 6 “Epitaph Of Daniel”) which really enhances the listening experience. Compared at times to PJ Harvey and several other cutting edge female vocalists, Anna’s singing gets a little strident at times but for the most part she’s created a most unusual album filled with harrowing, yet hopeful music. www.OtherMusic.com

PASTICHE RECORDS - Growing up in England and Minnesota, Sarah Gillespie was influenced early on in her music life by a range of artists ranging from Bessie Smith and Bob Dylan to Cole Porter. All those influences and more come to the fore on Sarah’s 2013 CD entitled Glory Days. Recorded in London, the nine track CD features Sarah backed up by her band, which also features producer / arranger Gilad Atzmon, who lends his talents on keyboards, guitar, horns, accordion and more. The sound of Glory Days is very rooted in a bluesy kind of cabaret groove that borders on Tin Pan Alley. Aiding Sarah’s vocals and songs is her nimble acoustic guitar playing. Capping off the all original fare is Sarah’s engaging rendition of the traditional blues favorite “St. James Infirmary” which is given a low-key yet effective rendition on this well recorded and neatly produced CD. www.SarahGillespie.com

POCONUT - Back in 1969, country rock got a major shot in the arm with the debut album rom Poco, featuring songwriters Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner and group pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young. Rusty keeps the Poco spirit alive and well in the 21st century with the 2013 CD release of All Fired Up. Amazingly, the nine track CD covers a wide range of trademark Poco sounds and styles. All Fired Up almost sounds like 1971 all over again. Backed up by the current lineup of Poco, Young sounds in prime form on an album of quite substantial compositions. The CD is superbly recorded and Young’s guitar work remains a focal point of the famous Poco sound. There’s even a track here called “Neil Young”, that praises Young as a main influence going back to the dawn of Poco as well as sounding as rocked out as Neil in his Crazy Horse prime. A hoe-down type instrumental called “Pucky Huddle Stomp” closes out an album that tastefully honors the famous Poco country rock sound. www.poconut.com

PROGROCK RECORDS - 21st century progressive rock is still in the early stages of the millennium and new bands are kicking in all the time. A welcome addition to the prog-rock world is One Eye On The Sunrise by the UK band Nine Stones Close. Released on the Progrock Records label, the sound is very progressive (as you might expect). There is some excellent Robert Fripp inspired guitar work from Adrian Jones and vocalist Mark Atkinson has the rock lead singer sound down pat. All told, Nine Stones Close will appeal to fans of Marillion and Porcupine Tree and countless other bands who are being lauded by the current prog mags. Like those bands, the sound of One Eye On The Sunrise, though impeccably recorded, is quite manic at times sounding like Ummagumma era Pink floyd, the next like late period Led Zeppelin. With the dynamic sounding, well produced new CD, Nine Stones Close have made some significant inroads into the world of heavy, hard, prog. www.NineStonesClose.com

PURPLE PYRAMID - Founding YES guitarist Peter Banks passed away early on in 2013. After leaving YES in early 1971, Pete moved on to form the group Flash with singer Colin Carter and bassist / multi-instrumentalist Ray Bennett. The Flash albums have long been praised among YES fans and prog-rock fans in general. It’s taken way too long a time but lo and behold in 2013 Flash have a new album out on the esteemed Purple Pyramid label in L.A. One may have their doubts about a Flash reunion without Pete Banks, but after a few spins, it’s clear that Colin and Ray have honored the Flash name with their CD. Simply titled Flash - Featuring Ray Ray Bennett & Colin Carter, the CD features 9 newly honed Flash tracks on a CD that clocks in in around 59 minutes. Full of symphonic sounding rock tracks with Colin’s voice back on top, and several drummers in tow, the CD rocks up a storm and is quite memorable in a YES / Flash kind of way. Bennett released a fine album in 2003 called Whatever Falls, under his own name and this new Flash album will be a most welcome addition to the Flash repertoire. Ironically, Pete Banks died in a year that saw YES added to the rock hall of fame. His legacy surely lives on and this new Flash album will find a home in music collections of YES and Flash fans. www.CleoRecs.com

RAVEOLUTION STUDIOS - Most music fans have heard some type of Indian music, sitars and all, but few have probably heard Indian music made the way Ricky Kej makes it. Ricky’s 2013 CD, entitled Shanti Orchestra is filled with a lush and colorful palate of sounds, mostly instrumental, yet permeated by all kind of voices and ambient vocal sounds that are skillfully mixed into the album’s sound spectrum. In fact, the Shanti Orchestra CD features over 20 musicians, including string, synths and guitars, who combine forces to create a fresh mix of contemporary World Music grooves fueled by ambient sounds and down tempo chill-out sounds. Some have already compared Ricky’s music to internationally acclaimed groups such as Enigma and some of the more percussive, uptempo works by David and Steve Gordon. Sitars and other Eastern sounding instruments also grace the grooves too so the sound, while very World Beat in scope, still maintains some of its Indian roots. In addition, the CD packaging and inserts / liner notes are first rate and add much to the overall effect and enjoyment of the listening experience. Although Ricky has produced and played on numerous albums on various record labels over the years, Shanti Orchestra is his first independent effort and as a result, the album led to an invitation for Ricky to become an ambassador for the U.S. based nonprofit “Project Peace On Earth”. Born in the U .S. and raised in India, Ricky Kej sounds the clarion call for world peace through the power of music with the sublime sounding Shanti Orchestra. www.RickyKej.com / www.ShantiOrchestra.com

REVIVER MUSIC
- Calling Let Us In Americana the music of Paul McCartney is a little misleading considering that many of the tracks here are actually Lennon & McCartney Beatles’ related tracks, but oh never mind. True, all the Beatles tracks covered here do have the McCartney seal of approval and the 16 track album is well balanced by the inclusion of tracks credited to Paul McCartney & Wings. It’s a little tame but not really lame as these good old boys and gals take a light hearted approach to these time honored pop nuggets. A number of 21st century country artists take part on these new versions including Rodney Crowell (a credible cover of “Every Night” from Macca’s first solo album), Bruce Cockburn (“Food On The Hill”) Sam Bush with the Rubber Soul hoe-down “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, Ed Snodderly (a fine take on “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” from Ram), Will Hoge (a twangishly rockin’ “Band On The Run”) and many more. The Let Us In CD was created as part of a woman’s health charity project so it has been done for a good cause. Country fans will love hearing Beatles and Macca played with a bit of Nashville twang and who knows, maybe some Beatles fans will dig hearing “Yellow Submarine” injected with a sonic dose of country music via Liverpool England. www.revivermusic.com

RED HOUSE RECORDS - Back in early 1976 or late ‘75, Argent played The Starwood nightclub in L.A. Speaking with Rod Argent for a few minutes before the show, (there was one question only!) while guitarist John Grimaldi played pinball, I half jokingly asked Rod if he was going to play something from Odessey And Oracle that night and he gave me this slightly grimaced look like, no way Jose! That pop innocence so skillfully pursued back in early 1968 was totally out of fashion in the gargantuan world of stadium rock back then. Flash forward to 2013, coming after this past decade of successful Zombies reunions, Rod continues espousing the timeless virtues of Odessey And Oracle on a 2013 CD entitled The Zombies Live In The U.K. With original Zombies singer Colin Blunstone, guitarist Tom Toomey, original Argent member Jim Rodford and son, drummer Steve Rodford, this 21st century Zombies lineup stays closer to its original British invasion roots while also including a token smattering of new material. There’s also a fitting, tribute / raveup of the original Russ Ballard vocalized favorite (and Argent’s most popular song) “Hold Your Head Up”. Artwork and design by Phil Smee is excellent making Live In The U.K. perhaps, the definitive live Zombies album. www.TheZombies.net

RIVER RAT RECORDS - Based in the U.K., singer songwriter Ruth Theodore is paving a new musical road with her 2013 CD entitled Dear Lamp Love Moth. As if that name wasn’t weird enough, the music inside is equally off beat and a lot of fun. Imagine Kate Bush singing the songs of Biff Rose. Speaking to mwe3.com about the album Ruth confesses, "Each of the 10 songs on this record includes one or more references to repetitive behavior patterns, uncomplicated adoration and inevitable defeat. Much like the moth, I happen to be very good at all three. My music is difficult to describe probably because the style, form and instrumentation varies depending on the narrative I am trying to convey so every song and record has its own feel. With Dear Lamp Love Moth I was intentionally dotting choruses around like beacons for the listener to navigate the darker moments by. It's a weird way of doing things I suppose. Folk, blues, classical, world, jazz, poetry and storytelling have all been used to describe what I do so just take you're pick really." The CD is very well recorded and throughout Ruth gets sparse but effective backing with instrumentation including french horn, oboe, viola, cello and drums and percussion. Even with this much going on, the real focus is on Ruth’s pixie like voice, which suits the whimsical manner of the music to a tee. Currently getting rave reviews in England's music press, Ruth has good things to say about the music capital of the U.K. adding, "London is London. Insane and brilliant. I live on the river in Hackney so I get a break from the chaos. The rivers were until recently a haven for broke creative types but the entrepreneurs seem to have cottoned on so it's all set to change I'm sure." www.RiverRatRecords.com

ROB COTTINGHAM LTD. - It isn’t easy arriving with a new and fresh direction in progressive rock music but U.K. based Rob Cottingham gives it a good shot on his 2013 album entitled Captain Blue. The keyboardist / vocalist in the progressive rock band Touchstone, and a solo artist in his own right, Rob expertly combines an impressive mixture of pop, rock and progressive sounds on the 18 track Captain Blue CD, which clocks in just over 70 minutes. Throughout the Captain Blue CD, Rob receives solid assistance from his band mate in Touchstone, guitarist Adam J. Hodgson along with singer Heather Findlay, plus the expert rhythm section of Dr. Goat Foot (bass) and Gary O’Toole (drums). Guitarist Steve Hackett goes all Hackett-esque on a track here and clearly there is a nod to Genesis and, as such with its soaring majestic prog soundscapes, Captain Blue will appeal to fans of Genesis, Hackett and YES. With 18 tracks brimming with appealing musical ideas, Captain Blue is clearly an album to pick and choose as to which tracks will appeal to the individual listener. As a keyboardist, singer and songwriter / arranger, Rob Cottingham has all the bases covered on Captain Blue and Ms. Findlay's vocals enhances the song harmonies where it’s called for. But foremost, these songs hold up as individual melodic statements. It’s hard to keep a 70+ minute album humming along yet, filled with progressive rock songs that blend in catchy pop-rock, Captain Blue is a challenging and positive album of 21st century rock excellence. Listeners will want to keep an ear open for Rob Cottingham’s Fall 2013 album with Touchstone. www.RobCottingham.co.uk

ROUGH TRADE / TIME-LAG / MICROCULTURES - Described as sci-fi meets low-fi meets experimental pop-rock mixed up with country-jazz elements filtered through a moog pedal on drugs in a dust storm, Tadaloora is a fun introduction to the Portland, Maine based Phantom Buffalo. Sounding more in tune with the trippy, paisley pop 1960s era sound of The Left Banke, Buffalo Springfield and The Zombies compared to the chill-out electronica of 2013’s younger artists, Phantom Buffalo knows when to get all dreamy 1960s on you, yet they also know how to rock out and for the most part, they get it right on this ten track CD. A number of players take part but Tadaloora sounds very much like a group effort. Phantom Buffalo offers a flashback to the groovy pop of the 1960s and Tadaloora is a fine sonic specimen worthy of further investigation. www.PhantomBuffalo.com

SHINING STONE / BLUE DUCHESS - Jazz and blues go together perfectly on What’s The Chance..., the 2013 CD from singer-songwriter and guitarist Paul Gabriel. The 13 track CD features a number of vocal tracks with several instrumentals rounding out Paul’s impeccable sound. Early in his career Paul worked with the late great folk-rock artist Harry Chapin and went on to work with Rory Block and Michael Bolton. An excellent guitarist, Paul debuted his vocals on his 2001 album Fate and years later, he really hits a new height on his 2013 CD What’s The Chance... A number of renowned musicians assist Paul here including excellent production from jazz/blues guitar legend Duke Robillard. So influential is/was Duke on Paul’s music that Paul writes special notes in the CD artwork on Duke’s influence. Amid the great artists backing Paul on this fine studio album, Duke adds in some of his own patented guitar work as well. Blues with a solid jazz and rock edge, What’s The Chance... is a primo album from guitar master Paul Gabriel. www.PaulGabriel.net

SINGING EMPRESS - A great singer can’t go wrong singing the songs of the great American songbook and covering the classics doesn’t get much better than Piano Bar After Hours by lounge-jazz singer Jan Shapiro. If Rod Stewart can do it, why not Jan Shapiro? Imagine a smooth jazz cocktail lounge, dim lighting and Jan singing classics from the songbooks of Frank Loesser, Harry Warren, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and other songbook legends. A number of piano soloists take turns backing Jan’s vocals on different tracks on the ten track CD. Well recorded, great songs makes Piano Bar After Hours a superb, relaxing set of timeless jazz classics. www.JanShapiro.com

SONY MASTERWORKS - The 2013 CD release of Presente by the group Bajofondo is a wild ride encompassing an amazing range of World Beat inspired instrumental pop and jazz fusion sounds. Although Bajofondo plays a wide range of instrumental music, there’s also several vocal numbers on the 21 track CD. Coming from Argentina and Uruguay, the group Bajofondo are well skilled in tango, milonga, folk-jazz, electronica, jazz, instrumental pop and much more. Several of the Spanish language vocal tracks might not be as far reaching into the non Latin market (although they are cool too) but the instrumental tracks more than make up for any lack of communication. After all, instrumental is the international language and few South American bands do that as good as Bajofondo. Spearheaded by guitarist / producer Gustavo Santaolalla, the group features a wide range of musicians and they synchronize perfectly. Released on the world famous Masterworks label, Bajofondo’s Presente presents a fresh sort of musical dynamic for the 21st century. www.BajofondoMusic.com

STRONG BLOOD RECORDS
- Having worked with producer Daniel Lanais in the group Black Dub, Trixie Whitley steps out with her 2013 solo album entitled Fourth Corner. The music on the eleven track CD is dark and mysterious but Ms. Whitley’s voice is strong, the songs have staying power and there is some fine playing from all the musicians taking part including Thomas Bartlett (co-producer / keyboards) and Pat Dilett (drums). Other players add to the mix and the CD was well mastered by legendary NYC sound man Greg Calbi. The Brooklyn based Ms. Whitley may be well known as being the daughter of the late, great singer-songwriter Chris Whitley, yet on Fourth Corner she establishes her own unique brand of folksy, bluesy rock sound. Listeners looking for something completely different, will be attracted to Trixie Whitley’s appealing rock sound. www.TrixieWhitley.com


SUN PEDAL RECORDINGS - Having great genetics is the best possible outcome for children of famous artists. Case in point is Ben Taylor. The gifted singer-songwriter son of rock giants James Taylor and Carly Simon, Ben Taylor steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park with his 2013 CD, Listening. The 11 track CD is filled with easy on the ears pop-rock in the spirit of his dad and the CD also benefits thanks to the contributions of top players such as Larry Ciancia (drums) and David Saw (guitars). Filled with memorable, melodic songs that blend in styles as diverse as folk-rock, pop and reggae, Ben Taylor’s Listening is rewarding music appreciation on every sonic level imaginable. Ben explains, ‘This album runs the gamut from both the production style and the period of my life in which they were recorded. These songs are little windows into the last four years of my life.’ The Listening CD features cool black & white packaging including lyrics and humorous (though slightly biased) liner notes by Ben’s sister Sally Taylor. www.BenTaylorMusic.com

TARPAN RECORDS - A master musician of the funk and fusion world, Narada Michael Waldan has worked with the best in the business and he’s back in fine form with the 2013 CD release of Thunder 2013. The eleven track Thunder 2013 is much more funk than rock or instrumental fusion music yet there’s still some exhilarating sounds on hand. Instead of focusing on instrumental music, the Thunder 2013 CD features Narada performing all the vocals, drums and synth bass. He’s worked with some of the best jazz-rock fusion guitarists in the world and true to form, Narada features the electric guitars of Matthew Charles Heulitt who is featured prominently on the CD along with a number of other excellent musicians. While Thunder 2013 mostly features Narada’s soulful funk/fusion vocals, track 9 on the CD is in fact a wonderful majestic instrumental entitled “Miracle Of Fatima”—a stellar track dedicated to Mother Mary & The Children Of Fatima. Speaking of instrumentals, there’s also a totally funkified instrumental here called “Thunder / Angel Funk”, which closes out this high octane album. According to Narada’s label Tarpan Records, Narada is also planning to release a companion CD entitled Rising Sun—an instrumental EP that features Narada and his fantastic new band performing remakes of his greatest fusion hits. www.NaradaMichaelWalden.com

TENOR VOSSA RECORDS - Among the new labels on the UK music scene, Tenor Vossa make records for the post-punk meets hard rock generation. Very wave rock in places, the October 2012 CD release of End Of The Road by the band known as Tenebrous Liar came to the attention of mwe3.com in early 2013 and features a solid performance from the entire four piece band including lead singer Steve Gullick and company. The music on the CD is quite dark and sinister but very well recorded and depending on your penchant for gothic tinged pop and rock, you will either love it or leave it. Great value for the investment, the CD sounds great and features excellent CD packaging. End Of The Road is the latest CD from Tenebrous Liar who also have several other intriguing releases to their credit. Another band on TV records making inroads in the music world is a band called Breathless, who released a double CD set in early 2013 called Green To Blue. In a similar fashion to Tenebrous Liar, the group Breathless make highly charged and atmospheric rock music featuring vocalist / keyboardist Dominic Appleton, who gets s olid support from his band mates including guitarist Gary Mundy and Ari Neufeld. Much more post-punk rather than prog-rock, the sound of the double CD Breathless set never fails to amaze. With three songs mixed by punk-rock legend Kramer, the CD set mixes in Dominic’s work with This Mortal Coil, while other influences creeping in include Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, some of Eno’s rock influences, Joy Division and other harrowing sounds. Not for the faint of heart, Green To Blue is superbly recorded and packaged for fans of new and vital 21st century sounds. www.TenorVossa.co.uk

VISIONQUEST - Based in Berlin, Germany, and born in the country of Chile, the artist known as Dinky released her CD, Dinky Dimension in 2013. Dinky’s CD is ostensibly electronic, neo-disco techno pop that veers into ambient, house and techno music. Four albums in, Dinky hits a sonic nerve with Dinky Dimension. Dinky, whose actual name is Alejandra Iglesisas sometimes sounds like the great NYC based singer Anna Domino, although Dinky’s songs are a little too ethereal and trance-based to be considered pop standards, as in the case of Ms. Domino. Dinky wrote, produced and performed all the songs here with the aid of several key players who add, drums, drone guitars based on certain tracks. The eye-catching CD packaging is very effective. If you prefer your ambient electronica to feature alluring female vocals and atmospheric synth pop, then Dinky Dimension is for you. www.dinkyland.org

VIZZTONE LABEL GROUP
- One of the finest blues music labels in the USA, Vizztone strikes blues gold with the 2013 CD release of Hush Your Fuss! by the blues team of Dave Riley And Bob Corritore. Described as a meeting of Mississippi meets Chicago blues, the 12 track CD offers a solid bluesy pairing of Dave’s guitar and vocals and Bob’s chromatic harmonica. The pair receives some tasty backing from a band featuring Dave’s son Dave “Yahni” Riely, Jr. (bass), Brian Fahey (drums) and Gloria Bailey (keys). Riley sounds like a seasoned blues man in the spirit of B.B. King and Corritore’s harmonica whomp suits Riley’s gritty, bluesy vocals to a tee. Interesting that while most of these tracks are original compositions by the pair, the songs come across like stripped down bluesy classics from a bygone era. The key word on Hush Your Fuss! is authentic. Blues doesn't get any grittier or more entertaining than this. Also recent on CD from Vizztone is the 2013 release of Moving by Hungarian native, and now Georgia based guitarist Little G. Weevil. Interesting that Little G has three albums already to his credit. Growing up in in Budapest Hungary, Little G was greatly influenced by American blues and roots music and he brings his all-acoustic blues into sharp focus on his latest Vizztone release. Another recent Vizztone CD getting some name recognition in 2013 is Coming Out Swingin’ by blues singer Candye Kane. Teamed with guitarist / producer Laura Chavez, Candye and company tear through 13 blues rock tracks that sparkle and sizzle. A veteran blues-rocker, Candye has released twelve CDs already and, her 2013 Coming Out Swingin’ CD is well worth the time to track down among blues aficionados. www.vizztone.com

WEIRDSHIP The country of Finland has a rich history of unique and in some cases very strange rock music stylings. Aside from their amazing neoclassical and jazz fusion legends, the country also has some very adventurous rock bands making waves in 2013 and you can count Tampere-based Weirdship as being among the most off the wall. In 2013, Weirdship released Weird Pieces Of The Puzzle. The guitar work of Make El Wierdo is quite captivating and the vocals of Dr. Orsaken sounds like Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. Weirdship combines heavy metal and rock psychedelia to great effect on the strangely beguiling Weird Pieces Of The Puzzle. www.weirdship.bandcamp.com

ZOLTAN RECORDS - London-based, Paris-bred singer-songwriter Florence Joelle continues to hone her incredible song craft on her 2013 CD entitled Stealing Flowers. In the past Florence has been compared to Marianne Faithful, Marlene Dietrich and other renowned singers. Much like her 2011 CD, entitled Kiss Of Fire, the 2013 CD release of Stealing Flowers continues onwards with a winning combination of retro-pop, blues and Django Reinhardt era jump-jazz with Ms. Joell’s tempting vocals right up front. Ms. Joell’s band is quite exemplary too featuring guitarist Paul Seacroft, Chris Campion (bass, acoustic guitar) and drummers Arthur Lager and Matt Jackson along with several back-up vocals. Her vocals are great as usual and in addition, Florence has composed some memorable new music that’s perfect for her unique vocals. In addition, to make things interesting, as there’s a pair of covers of Duke Ellington (“Caravan”) and Louis Jordan (“Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”). Decked out with memorable CD cover art, Stealing Flowers is one of the best sounding, and certainly most colorful pop-jazz vocal album releases of 2013. www.FlorenceJoelle.com


INSTRUMENTAL


ACCURATE / ALLEGRO - First thing I thought about after listening to the 2013 CD release of Book Of Rhapsodies by Ghost Train Orchestra were those great Ren & Stimpy cartoons. Good old R&S always used vintage music by artists like Raymond Scott and others to give their zany cartoons a unique flair that was unbeatable for a multitude of reasons. So along comes multi-instrumentalist GTO band leader Brian Carptener, who is clearly a big fan of vintage 1930’s bandleaders like Raymond Scott, Reginald Forsythe, Alec Wilder, John Kirby and others. Assisted by esteemed producer Danny Blume, Carpenter and his 12 member orchestra takes you back in time to a most amazing period in music history, before rock and fusion and all other sonic trappings of late 20th century pizzaz. Sure, this is vintage music and most of us weren’t even here when these songs were written, but with Book Of Rhapsodies, Carpenter, Blume and company make everything old new again. Extra points for the superb production, ultra cool cover art and detailed essays on this music by Brian Carpenter, complete with vintage photos of the original composers. Ren & Stimpy would surely approve of Ghost Train Orchestra. www.GhostTrainOrchestra.com

AMG GROUP - A veritable jazz fest featuring some of today’s best players, Feels Like Home is a solid CD of groovin' sounds from Florida based sax master Mike MacArthur. There’s plenty of great sounds here to bring you out of the doldrums. From contemporary jazz to fusion and funk to bop type jazz, MacArthur has it covered on his ten track CD. Among the players backing up Mike’s sax work are Rick Braun (trumpet), Jeff Lorber (keyboards), Jeff Golub (guitars), Brian Bromberg (bass) and many other fine players. Featured among the MacArthur originals are covers of Horace Silver, Duke Ellington and Joe Zawinal. Commenting on the CD, MacArthur adds, ‘It confirms that I can stand alone as a front man. I think the album is a good representation of me, my craft, and where I’m at right now’ Produced by Brian Bromberg, Feels Like Home is one of the top contemporary jazz CDs of 2013. www.MikeMacArthur.com

BEDROOM COMMUNITY
- If the cover art doesn’t shake you up then the harrowing music inside will. We’re talking about the November 2012 CD release of Disquiet by Paul Corley. Featuring four elongated tracks that clocks in at 44 minutes, the music on Disquiet harks back to some of Brian Eno’s treated and quietly meditative piano sounds of the late 1970’s, (or Harold Budd’s for that matter) but there’s a different kind of sonic edge in play here, even more disquieting (there’s that word again) than Mr. Eno. Although the album was released by the U .K. based Bedroom Community label, it’s interesting to note that Corley is actually an American composer whose credits go was back to the early 1970’s. Described as being unearthly, yet so radiant, sparse, sustained, exquisitely reflective and meditative, Paul Corley’s Disquiet is one of the most sonically rewarding instrumental music albums of the past year. www.PaulCorley.com

BIG WAVE MUSIC
- On the scene since 2001, the Minneapolis, Minnesota based group known as The Surf Dawgs have a great new CD out in 2013 entitled Unleashed. In the spirit of the most renowned American surf-rock band of the USA, The Ventures, guitarist Zippy Caplan and company knows the value of a great rock and roll melody. Some tracks here such as a Surfdawgs cover of the 1962 Bobby Vee hit, “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” really benefits as an instrumental. Thanks to imaginative arrangements and excellent performances from Zippy and his Surf Dawgs band mates, these instrumental covers, when listened to as an album experience, makes for solid foot tapping fun. Caplan is a fine instrumental guitar composer too although, aside from a pair of originals the CD is very much tilted towards a covers-friendly party time kind of album. Other highlights include a Surf Dawgs cover of “Look For A Star”, written by Tony Hatch and a splendid guitar instro take of the Jerry Leiber / Phil Spector classic “Spanish Harlem”. With one great track after the next, Unleashed is a worthwhile album of guitar instrumentals by The Surf Dawgs. www.facebook.com/TheSurgDogsMinneapolis

BUZZ RECORDS
- Based in Amsterdam, Holland, guitarist Marnix Busstra keeps the art of instrumental guitar jazz alive and well with his 2013 CD entitled Sync Dreams. 21st century mainstream jazz, with the spotlight on Busstra’s refined, eclectic guitar pallet, Sync Dreams features Marnix backed up by a solid jazz quartet featuring Rembrandt Frerichs (piano), Arnold Dooyeweerd (bass) and Pieter Bast (drums). With its cool jazz grooves and uptempo guitar-scapes, Sync Dreams is kind of ECM Records inspired in places, however Busstra's jazzy sound is fully developed and upbeat. With Sync Dreams there’s a solid bop jazz sensibility in places and Marnix steps into the spotlight on electric guitar, electric sitar and bouzouki too, which broadens out the sound with a World Jazz kind of feel. Several guitar watchers and music fans have also mentioned the name John Scofield when comparing the sound Marnix gets on Sync Dreams. Astute Guitar fans may recall Marnix thanks to the albums he made with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Commenting on pressing ahead with his solo career after recording two albums with a band co-chaired with Mike Mainieri, Marnix adds, ‘I wanted to make a step forward musically after the albums with Mike Mainieri. I loved doing them, of course, but I wanted a little bit more freedom in the music, so in the compositions I tried to make more space and the possibility to offer that freedom.’ The Sync Dreams CD cover art and the solid studio sound truly enhances the listening experience. Sync Dreams is one of the most accomplished guitar-centric jazz CD releases of 2013. www.MarnixBusstra.nl

COOL GROOVE RECORDS - One of the coolest guitar instrumental albums of 2013 is the CD release of 3 Quarter Dime by Texas guitar slinger Jim Colegrove. Credited to Jim Colegrove & The New Rough Riders Of A Dirty Age and released on the TX-based Cool Groove Records label, the 13 track CD starts off rockin’ and just rocks harder and faster. Some of these newly recorded guitar sessions echo back to that fabled 1959/1960 era when instrumental groups like The Ventures and legends like Link Wray and Dick Dale ruled the guitar world. Several of Jim’s buddies from way back flesh out the tracks including drummer Linda Waring. Commenting on returning to the guitar instrumental sound in 2013, Jim explains, ‘I’ve enjoyed what I perceive as a successful life in music in that I was able to play and record what I loved. That I did the current record at this time was largely due to the fact that I wanted to go full circle in case I was at the end of it all. That and I knew there was an interest in this kind of instrumental rock ‘n’ roll by a certain segment of music lovers. So I started working on it a couple of years ago.’ If you close your eyes and put on this CD, it almost sounds like the early 1960’s again. The 3 Quarter dime CD liner notes offers some key history behind Jim and his extensive career in the music world and if you go the the Cool Groove web site you can read some really eye opening facts and figures about Jim’s long and colorful history in the rock / guitar world. The whole instrumental guitar movement is a great way to experience musical nostalgia but on 3 Quarter Dime, Jim Colegrove blasts the entire guitar instrumental world into the 21st century. www.TheCoolGroove.com
 
COSGROVES PHYSIO LTD. - By day, mild mannered British doctor, by night (and other times) a full-on guitar hero, Stuart Cosgroves takes center stage in the guitar instrumental world with the 2013 CD release of Blue Heaven by the U.K. based group called The Epitones. The 19 track CD features Cosgroves and his Epitones band mates romping through a wealth of guitar classics including some ingenious covers of favorites, all played through the Epitones’ instrumental guitar mixer. Fans of Hank Marvin and the Shadows have been garnering much deserved praises upon Stuart for his impeccable tone, technique and echo. As tasteful as his guitar sound gets on Blue Heaven, his approach and concept is equally strengthened by the very early 1960s retro studio sound The Epitones get here. Of course Hank’s presence is felt but other influences are also in abundance including The Ventures, Jeff Beck, Brian Setzer and of course Les Paul, who gets two solids here with Epitones’ covers of “Bye Bye Blues” and “How High The Moon”, both done instrumentally in ways that Les would love. It’s a sad thought indeed that Les never met Hank Marvin but The Epitones really embody the spirit of that idea. The spirit of that incredible 1958-63 spirit of the music world is perfectly captured in guitar form on Blue Heaven by The Epitones. send email to: CallMeStuartCosgrove@hotmail.co.uk

CRAZY ACES MUSIC - Noted for his guitar production company, Jeff Senn is also the lead guitarist in the quartet known as Crazy Aces. Based in and around Nashville, Tennessee, Crazy Aces scores big time with the 2013 CD release of Greatest Hits Volume 2. Of course, the title is a bit of a put-on, yet even without a myriad of well known greatest hits under their belt, Crazy Aces will make guitar instrumental fans very happy with this all-original, 13 track CD. Fans of The Ventures, The Shadows and other vintage guitar bands, all the way through till 21st guitar bands like Los Straitjackets and beyond will flip for this album. Whatever shade of guitar instrumental music is your favorite, Jeff Seen and Crazy Aces has it covered. With one foot-tapping rocker after the next, Greatest Hits Volume 2 is a solid instrumental guitar CD. A cool spin for guitar enthusiasts, fans and players alike, Jeff Senn and Crazy Aces is indispensable listening. www.JeffSennGuitars.com

CUL DE SAC MYSTIC PRODUCTIONS - On her 2013 CD, Invitation From Within, Ann Licater makes soothing music for your soul. Inspired by the inspirational and healing sounds of the Native American flute, Ann hits a a new musical high with her third album. On her latest 12 track CD, Ann receives excellent sonic assistance from a range of players including co-producers Peter Phippen (electric bass, percussion) and Ivar Lunde (grand piano) with other guests including New Age trumpet master Jeff Oster. The sound of Invitation From Within is stately and sedate, making for a most relaxing and sublime musical experience. A near perfect album of healing meditation music, Invitation From Within is one of the finest instrumental New Age related album releases of 2013. www.FluteForTheSoul.com / www.AnnLicater.com

DISCO GECKO RECORDINGS - On the 2013 CD by U.K. based Banco D Gaia, the re-mix concept applies. Although it was a great album to begin with, the 2012 Banco album Apollo has been remixed for the 2013 CD release of Ollopa: Apollo Remixed. A number of remix artists take part on Ollopa including System 7, Deep Fried Dub, Kaya Project, Eat Static and a whole lot more. Ambient, down tempo, bass driven beats, psychedelic Gypsy / Balkan music and more are all suitable words to describe the wild concept behind this other-worldly remix album. A number of select musicians assist Banco De Gaia on this far-out take on an already intriguing album from one of the originators of cosmic, New Age flavored ambient dub music. Fans of Banco De Gaia won’t be disappointed with the 2013 CD release of Ollopa. www.banco.co.uk

DUANE AND CRAIG - One of the top Gypsy jazz guitar mavens in Canada, Duane Andrews teamed with fellow guitarist Craig Young for the 2013 CD release of Charlie’s Boogie. Save for one vocal track called “The D-18 Song” (delineating the wonders of that famous Martin guitar), the all instrumental CD continues in a positive direction espousing Duane’s love of Django style guitar jazz and traditional Celtic style instrumentals. The Django Reinhardt influence is very much in attendance on Charlie’s Boogie and clearly Craig Young is the perfect foil for Duane’s guitar-centric musings. Recorded in 2013 at Craig’s studio in Newfoundland, the CD is a fine mix of traditional guitar music, (covers of Django, Bill Monroe, Tony Rice and more) along with a few originals and true to form, there’s hardly a note out of whack here. Guitar fans who were lucky enough to pick up on Duane’s brilliant 2009 Raindrops CD will find a similarly enjoyable bout of guitar sonics on the superbly recorded Charlie’s Boogie. www.DuaneAndrews.com / www.CharliesBoogie.com

DUSTIN HOFSESS - Guitarist Dustin Hofsess is currently getting rave reviews for his 2013 CD entitled Short Stories. The 10 track CD features Hofsess in a group setting with production handled by percussionist Jim Brock. Dustin's band on Short Stories—including Adam Snow (drums), Lovell Bradford (keyboards) and George Porter Jr. (bass)—is also first rate. Musically, the all instrumental CD invents an innovative form of 21st century jazz-rock fusion that spans and blends a wide range of guitar styles and studio wizardry. Fans of musicians that Dustin has studied with—including Oz Noy, Jim Campilongo and Joel Harrison (all guitar veterans of the NYC jazz scene)—will find much to enjoy with Short Stories. The CD will find an immediate home among fusion fans and rock guitar enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy Dustin’s jazz-fusion instro rave up of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir”. www.DustinHofsess.com

E1 ENTERTAINMENT - Despite tragically losing his eyesight in a subway accident, NYC based guitarist Jeff Golub has made a miraculous recovery and solid proof can be heard on his 2013 CD entitled (no pun intended), Train Keeps A Rolling. The eleven cut CD features a cool mix of of both instrumental jazz and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, all featuring Jeff’s blazing electric guitar skills front and center in the mix. Also on hand is legendary U.K. organ man Brian Auger. Interestingly, Golub was a huge fan of Auger’s early work with the Oblivion Express and that band’s original drummer Steve Ferrone keeps the beat on the title track. Also lending the voices are vocalist legends David Pack (of Ambrosia) and Christopher Cross. The instrumental tracks here are really solid with Golub sounding influenced guitar wise, somewhere between Freddie King and Wes Montgomery. Jazz-rock, fusion and blues-rock fans will be in orbit with the release of Train Keeps A Rolling. www.JeffGolub.com

EDITIONS RECORDS - Finland has always been one of the central locations of dynamic, dramatic instrumental progressive Eurock music. Case in point being the much missed musical genius of the late, great Finnish prog-rock maestro Pekka Pohjola. Well I’m happy to say one of Pekka’s two sons, Ilmari Pohjola plays on the 2013 CD by the group known as Oddarrang entitled In Cinema. Headed up by and featuring the music of drummer / multi-instrumentalist Olavi Louhivuori, the seven track In Cinema CD clocks in at 54+ minutes and features an outstanding composite of musicians playing Olavi’s music including Ilmari (trombone, guitar), Lasse Sakara (guitars), Lasse Lindgren (bass, synths) and Osmo Ikonen (cello). Having played with some of the greats of Euro jazz, including Tomasz Stanko, Olavi’s drumming is innovative and excellent and his cinematic instrumental prog-rock sound is the perfect backdrop for these outstanding players. Somewhere in prog-rock heaven, Pekka Pohjola is smiling down on his son and the great music in play on this fascinating Oddarang CD. www.OlaviLouhivuori.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA - The Esoteric Antenna label released Squackett with YES bassist Chris Squire in 2012 and in 2013 they released an album with one time YES keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, who is teamed for the first time on CD along with U.K. guitar icon Gordon Giltrap. For the past 35+ years, Giltrap, as a solo recording artist, continued to set a high standard with his acoustic / electric guitar instrumental albums. For the 2013 CD release of the 13 track Ravens & Lullabies the music includes mostly vocal tracks with a track here featuring another YES alumni Benoît David. The prime vocalist here Paul Manzi, as well as the rhythm section of Johanne James (drums) and Steve Amadeo (bass) round out the band. Benoît sounds great on the track he’s on here called “From The Turn Of A Card.” As proven again, Giltrap remains the consummate guitar professional, blending his impeccable acoustic guitars with Wakeman’s genetically programmed keyboard skills. Several instrumentals prove these guys can really play. Very progressive in places and very pastoral other times, Ravens & Lullabies is simply a stellar sounding recording. www.CherryRed.co.uk

EVERGREEN MUSIC
- The NYC based group known as TriBeCaStan continues onwards with their 2013 CD entitled New Songs From The Old Country. Based around a flexible collective of musicians—including the group’s main composer and producer John Kruth (banjo, mandolin, flutes, sitar), album co-producer Jeff Greene (marimba, steel drums), Claire Daly (baritone sax) and Matt Darriau (sax, clarinet)—TriBeCaStan have been described as sounding like an international jazz and folk festival unto itself. Besides the four core musicians, the CD features contributions from a wide range of musicians including Todd Isler (drums). On the 16 track New Songs From The Old Country, TriBeCaStan continues blending a range of exotic musical styles including Balkan, Middle Eastern, Klezmer, Cajun, Latin, Americana and more. Of course, this blend of various styles has already been widely mined by a number of European jazz fusion bands for the past 35 years, yet TriBeCaStan, based in New York City, clearly has its pulse on a vibrant mix of World Music grooves and styles and it all fits together in a most appealing sonic composite on New Songs From The Old Country. www.EvergreeneMusic.com / www.TriBeCaStan.tv

F SHARP RECORDS
- Cited as being one of the best among the new breed of instrumental guitar bands in the U.K., The Waterboaders hit the surf-rock jackpot with their 2013 CD entitled Surfbeats ‘N’ Deadbeats. For a 3 piece guitar instro band, The Waterboarders make a lot of sonic waves on their nine track CD. Hard to believe, the nine tracks are all packed into a 24 minute CD yet you can play it ten times in a row (or more) and it all sounds fresh. There’s plenty of original surf-rock ideas in play here and for those who like the old tunes, there’s also a new instro cover of the fabled 1960's classic “Secret Agent Man”. Guitarist Darren Miles (who also goes by the name Eddie Stone or Ron, depending on who you talk to) and company serve up a fresh batch of surf-rock goodies on Surfbeats ‘N’ Deadbeats. www.TheWaterboarders.net

FZIO - Let’s face it. For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Frank Zappa was a musical god. Listening to stories by Jimmy Carl Black discussing the early Mothers Of Invention are still hilarious but Frank was really a serious composer under all that 1960s aura. Case in point where Frank’s music is given a refreshing reassessment can be heard on the 2013 CD release of Strictly Gravy - Lex Bronkowitz Orchestra Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa. In the spirit of Frank, German guitarist Lex Bronkowitz (his real name is Alexander Debus) is a fine jazz-rock guitarist and his reworked covers of 8 Zappa compositions makes for really ear opening listening. Instrumental and vocal with a contemporary jazz-rock edge, the CD features Lex backed backed up by a solid band (including vibes and marimba by Peter Thomas) with singer Katharina Debus on several tracks. Franks’ more melodic material, including his most popular song “Peaches En Regalia” are given a fresh treatment by Lex and his band, making Strictly Gravy one of the most intriguing Zappa related CD releases of the decade. www.FZIO.org

HACK SHACK RECORDS - The international phenomenon known as Surf-Rock instrumental music continues unabated. The country of Norway has long been known for great guitar masters and of course many of the early ECM albums were recorded in the Scandinavian stronghold. More inspired by American instrumental icons such as The Ventures and Dick Dale than by ECM type recordings, The Twang-O-Matics have been making waves with their 2013 CD entitled Freeboard Mojo. The quartet features the dueling guitars of Nils Tempo and Stian Golden, who are backed by the rhythm section of Steinar Nilsen (bass) and Mathias Johnsen (drums). Featuring a dozen rockin’ instrumentals, the CD and vinyl pressing clocks in under a half hour but there’s plenty of variety. Some tracks sound like West Coast surf-rock with a touch of Norwegian melodic magic (think Edvard Grieg with a Strat). The CD sounds excellent and the cover art is very effective at conjuring images of Jet Set surf-rock with shades of western twang and fuzzed out super spy blasts. What ever your favorite surf-rock sound is, there’s plenty of guitar energy worth hearing on Fretboard Mojo. www.TheTwangoMatics.com

HEADSPIN RECORDINGS - The country of Sweden has a rich history of jazz-rock, instrumental rock and well, otherworldly type sounds as was witnessed with the rise of labels such as Silence Records in the late 1960s. Key to the Silence Records sound was the late, great Bo Hansson, godfather of Swedish instrumental prog-rock. Had he not died in 2010, Bo would have really liked the 2013 CD release of The Reason Why Vol. 1 by Goran Kajfes Subtropic Arkestra. Perhaps it’s the jazz side of the trippy, kaleidoscopic instrumental rock infused sonics in play, and/or the wild variety of musicians joining forces here, but there’s plenty of very cool music vibes spinning on this wild little CD. A master of the electric trumpet and Crumar EVI (trumpet synth), Goran is of Croatian heritage, while he grew up in Sweden. Goran’s multi-fold influences—ranging from jazzbo Lester Bowie to rock mavericks Soundtrack Of Our Lives—come out to play on The Reason Why Vol. 1 and there’s hardly a stone (or rock) left unturned. Astute instrumental rockers will note that track two here is actually a cover of “Storstad”, composed by Bo Hansson. Somewhere in rock heaven, Bo Hansson is smiling. www.HeadspinRecordings.com

HEARTFIXER MUSIC - One of the leading blues-rock guitarists in the USA today, Tinsley Ellis pulls out all the stops on his 2013 CD entitled Get It! On his earlier CDs, Tinsley always included an instrumental or two but here he lays down the law with a rockin’ CD completely full of all instrumental fare. More bluesy in nature than say surf-rock in general, the CD does include a wealth of music influences including surf-rock ala Duane Eddy, but more importantly, fans of instrumentals from blues-rock guitar greats such as Albert Collins, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Roy Buchanon and Fleetwood Mac legend Peter Green will find a home on Get It! The CD sounds great and is superbly packaged. Throughout, Tinsley gets solid backup from his band including Kevin McKendree (keyboards, mellotron), Lynn Williams (drums) and Ted Pecchio (bass). With titles such as “Sassy Strat”, “Freddy’s Midnite Dream”, “Berry Tossin’” and “Fuzzbuster”, Get It! is a must hear for fans of classy, and rock solid blues-rock instrumental guitar music. www.TinsleyEllis.com

IMEARTAS - Irish fiddler and concertina player Niamh Ní Charra released her album Cuz to great reviews in 2013. Featuring a mix of vocal and instrumental music, the 13 track Cuz is a must hear for fans of Irish and World Music. Acoustic in nature, the CD is nevertheless full bodied and features a number of musicians who fill up the sound stage. Basically, the CD was inspired by the music of Terry “Cuz” Teahan, an Irish immigrant who left the old country for Chicago in 1928 and spent six decades playing music and he actually made a tape of his music for a young Niamh. Niamh’s musicianship is excellent throughout and although primarily instrumental in nature, the CD features a few tracks with Niamh’s vocals, which are also quite breathtaking. Cuz even appears on a couple tracks, or rather his voice featuring a quite unique Irish brogue! The CD features excellent packaging and detailed information about the making of Cuz. A very cool CD of classy acoustic music, Cuz is traditional Irish music brought up to date for 21st century ears. www.NiamhNiCharra.com

LINDBERG LYD AS / 2L - In the year 2013, you have to be quite dedicated to record classical music but with all the advancements in the recorded medium over the past 25 years, it’s nevertheless still a booming enterprise. Case in point is a double disc SACD / Blu-ray pairing of The Shubert Connection from the Norway based group called Oslo String Quartet. The concept of the recording is comparing the link between “String Quartet In G Minor” by fellow Norwegian Edvard Greig (1843-1907) and “String Quartet No. 14 In D Minor” by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). By placing, on disc, these two works side by side, Oslo String Quartet attempts to bring into the open, the fascinating details that connect them. With the package including the SACD and Blu-ray 5.1 mix of the master, these classical masterpieces have never sounded better. The double disc set is quite attractively packaged, with the two discs packaged in a classical Blu-ray designed jewel case featuring extensive liner notes (in English and Norwegian) by OSQ cellist Øystein Sonstad, who adds much history and brings a present day focus to the new recording of these historical and revered classical masterpieces. www.StringQuartet.com

MARLIN RECORDS - Since the late 1970s, guitarist Dave Arnson has tested the waters, so to speak, when it comes to instrumental surf-rock. Completely dedicated to the West Coast American surf-rock vision, Dave and his band The Insect Surfers are back in top form in 2013 with the 15 track Infra Green. The CD is filled with a sonic array of original guitar instrumentals—well recorded and quite well matched with a sonic precision that can’t be beat. Arnson’s Insect Surfer band mates—fellow guitarist Michael Abraham, bassist Jonpaul Balak and drummer Jeff Utterback—are joined by a number of guest guitarists and musicians including Croatian guitar ace Ferenc Dobronyi, American surf-rock giant Paul Johnson and the one and only king of surf-grunge Davie Allan. From the ultra cool neo-insect inspired cover art, to the immaculate recording style and execution, the Insect Surfers breath new Infra Green energy into the art of 21st century surf-rock. www.InsectSurfers.com

M-K-D-K RECORDS
- Based in Estonia, Phlox makes music that defies both description and definition. The closest you could come to a defining characteristic for Phlox would be both avant gard and jazz-rock fusion. The latest Phlox CD, entitled Vali, was recorded and broadcast live for Estonian classical radio on April 4, 2012. The band features a solid ensemble including Kristo Roots (guitar), Pearu Helenurm (keyboards), drummer Madis Zilmer and other fine players. The music is all instrumental so there’s plenty of enjoyment here for fans of international jazz, meets rock meets avant garde. There’s some connection here to late 1970s Soft Machine (there’s some very Mike Ratledge inspired sounds here) and even some of the more radical elements of Scandinavian free jazz, but Phlox are making their own name heard loud and clear with their latest CD, Vali. www.Facebook.com/phlox.mkdk

MONKEYWOOD RECORDS
- Described as a beautiful exploration of the sea in all its magic, The Sea Cabinet is the sixth CD from U.K. based singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert. Supporting herself on piano, ukulele and “toys”, the 13 track CD also features some fine contributions from Al Cherry (guitars), Sam Burgess (bass) and David Price (percussion, fiddle) and other players. Ms. Herbert’s music is hard to classify as it subtly and skillfully mixes in vintage pop, jazz, folk and colorful tin pan alley inspired cabaret sounds. Among her influences, Gwyneth also cites Janis Ian, Bowie, Lou Reed, Nina Simone and others. That must be the case as The Sea Cabinet is eclectic, atmospheric pop at its finest. In addition to the top studio sound and adroit musicianship from the variety of players, the CD packaging, with a cover kind of inspired by Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog features excellent artwork and graphics. www.GwynethHerbert.com

MOONJUNE RECORDS - Formed back in 1993 by keyboardist Riza Arshad, the group known as Simak Dialog continue releasing fine CDs and in 2013. 20 years after they formed, Moonjune have a fine new album from the band, their 6th album, appropriately entitled The 6th Story. Based in Jakarta, Indonesia, Simak Dialog are quite effective in combining jazz, rock and an exotic form of Southeast Asian fusion music that tastefully combines traditional Indonesian gamelon and other Javanese / Indonesian rhythms. Key to the Simak Dialog sound is the ethnic percussion that is featured throughout the nine track CD. Also key to the sound is some excellent guitar work from Tohpati Ario Hutomo, who excels here on acoustic and electric guitars. The Simak Dialog instrumental sound might be comparable to Return To Forever (minus the vocals) from the time of the Light As A Feather era especially when considering that Riza’s acoustic piano work and Rhodes playing is quite excellent and Tohpati sounds inspired by great players such as Bill Connors (former RTF guitarist). Rounding out the Simak Dialog sound are a number of fine musicians including three percussionists (playing exotic sounding instruments including Sudanese kendang, kethuk and other instruments) who bring some intriguing metallic elements to the fore. With so much excellent musicianship on the CD, Riza and Tohpati really rise to the occasion making The 6th Story the best sounding Simak Dialog album yet. www.moonjune.com

MOONJUNE RECORDS
- U.K. music icons Soft Machine started out as an off the wall art rock band with Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen, Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge. It was too good to last and with several of them long gone, Soft Machine are revered as icons now. One of the top guitarists in the U.K. today, John Etheridge has kept the thread of history alive this past decade with his Softs' related offshoot band called Soft Machine Legacy. Some of the music on the 2012, 13 track CD release of Burden Of Proof maintains the high experimental spirit of the original Soft Machine but much of Soft Machine Legacy is rooted in the contemporary jazz-rock scene of the post 1970s era. Joining Etheridge are U.K. music greats including drumming ace John Marshall, Roy Babbinigton (bass) and horn man Theo Travis, who doubles on flute and Fender Rhodes. Along with the cool, arty, instrumental rock fusion grooves on Burden Of Proof are some Softs like keyboard sounds which adds to the overall Canterbury connection so fondly espoused by the original Wyatt era band. All in all, Burden Of Proof is a fond look back at the original Soft Machine concepts while keeping open the immense future possibilities of this stellar lineup of musicians. www.moonjune.com

MOONJUNE
- Another amazing fusion CD release from Moonjune comes in the form of The Last Tribe from Brazilian jazz-rockers Dialeto. Featuring guitarist Nelson Coelho, touch guitarist Jorge Pescara and Miguel Angel (drums), The Last Tribe have been described as a “take no prisoners” progressive rock steamroller. Nelson’s compositions are uniformly excellent throughout but the energy level of these players is the thing that grabs you right away. Being all instrumental there’s no need to sift through Brazilian language vocals. Anyone who thinks the music scene of Brazil is just about languid bossa nova sounds or classical guitars ala Heitor Villa-Lobos will be in for a jolt with the almighty prog-fusion instrumental grooves well on display on this excellent Moonjune debut CD from Dialeto. Dialeto’s CD The Last Tribe is yet another example of pan-global guitar fusion breakthroughs from Moonjune. www.Moonjune.com

MOONJUNE - Who knew Indonesia would turn into such a hotbed of musical integrity? Not much of the country is known by most Americans but you don’t have to know that much about Indonesia to appreciate Chapter One, the 2013 CD by the group known as I Know You Well Miss Clara. This jazz-rock fusion quartet specialize in daring and driving instrumental music and cite influences such as Jimi Hendrix, Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis (to name a few) among the solid inspirations behind their music. At the center of this rising young quartet of musicians is guitarist / composer Reza Ryan and keyboardist Adi Wijiya, who are ably aided by the rhythm section of Enriko Gultom (bass) and Alfiah Akbar (drums) as well as the occasional sax skwonks of Nick Combe. Despite the fact that they’ve only been playing together for a few years, there’s a solid musical chemistry in play on their debut CD. I Know You Well Miss Clara is a pretty unusual name for a band (maybe that’s a good thing) but Chapter One is a pretty serious musical statement from a rising band to keep your eyes on. www.moonjune.com

MUZSIKUS KAVEHAZ
- The timeless music of Hank Marvin And The Shadows is still huge world wide and case in point are two CD releases by an instrumental guitar group from the country of Hungary called The Shadows Hungary Band. Two of the group’s CD titles, Atlantis and Aphrodite, the latter released in 2011, features a wealth of Shadows related guitar instrumentals. Featuring 14 instrumentals, Aphrodite doesn’t feature Shadows songs as such but instead features guitar-centric Shadows style instrumental rockers composed by the SHB themselves as well as covers of Mark Knopfler, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, ABBA, the group 1961, Ennio Morricone and famed Swedish guitar instrumental composer Lennart Clerwall. The SHB release of Atlantis, (from 2009) is much more Shadows-related featuring newly recorded covers of Shadows classics from the early 1960s as well as several interesting SHB originals. A fine band who record in a very smooth guitar style, The Shadows Hungary Band are well worth the time to take the time to listen for fans of the timeless instrumental guitar music of Hank Marvin and The Shadows. www.shadowhb.hu

MUSIC PRODUCERS INSTITUTE
- Country music fans and especially steel guitar fans will tell you that when it comes to the pedal steel guitar, few musicians can touch the great Buddy Emmons. Called “the world’s foremost steel guitarist”, Buddy is now 76 and a bunch of his music buds have joined together to pay a heartfelt music tribute to him. The 2013 CD release of The Big E: A Salute To Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons is a 16 track superstar filled album filled with some of the greatest pedal steel players still with us in 2013 along with a number of musicians, guitarists and singers performing a range of vocal tracks and several instrumentals. So who’s here to hear? Try, Vince Gill, Duane Eddy, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee, John Anderson, fellow steelers Greg Leisz, Paul Franklin, Doug Jernigan, Dan Dugmore, album producer Steve Fishell and much more. The CD booklet is packed with voluminous notes but they’re too small to read! (check them out online) lol But with this much honky tonkin’ country-rock and bluesy, steel guitar flecked greatness in play, The Big E is a fantastic tribute to the greatness of pedal steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons. www.musicpi.com

OLLOCS - Inhabiting the place where hard rock and heavy metal meets guitar fusion, the Long Island band known as Ollocs released their 13 track CD release Life Thread in 2013. Featuring the one, two punch of guitarists Zach Vanderberg and Joshua Travis, Ollocs are balanced out by the taught rhythm section of Russell Frohberg (bass) and Andrew Bieler (drums). Although the band claim their sound is progressive in nature, most of the favorable press thus far is coming from rock-metal community, and for a good reason. The CD features a wealth of crunchy power chords that hit you over the head but it’s done with good taste and clearly these guys are musical and can play. The Life Thread CD is well recorded and the CD album packaging and cover art is first rate. Hopefully Ollocs will vary up their sound, and include other types of rock instrumental styles, for their anticipated second CD. www.ollocs.com

PET PEEV MUSIC - Back in 1981 I had the chance to meet the now late, great Swedish guitarist Thomas Almqvist, who had just released his '82 album The Journey. On a similar trail of guitar think, I’ve been a fan of guitarist Jeff Pevar for quite a while, or since his great albums with David Crosby during the CPR years. So now in 2013, Jeff recently released an album that kind of reminds me of Thomas’s album. That album released by Jeff is called From The Core. Strangely enough, another album that I thought about while listening to From The Core is the Jon Anderson album Toltec, from 1996 and this is even more critical as the former leader of YES, Jon sings the lead vocals on the only vocal song on Jeff's album called “River Of Dreams”. So yes, From The Core is very mystical, eclectic, mainly instrumental acoustic / electric folk-jazz that goes into every possible type of music genre. Jon Anderson’s track is excellent as are the other songs which feature a number of musicians adding to various tracks. Interestingly, From The Core was originally proposed as a PBS soundtrack, but the results were so impressive, it just grew from there into a fully formed album. Full of healing and meditative sounds and vibes, From The Core is 21st century instrumental folk-jazz as its finest. www.pevar.com

RAVEOLUTION STUDIOS - Most music fans have heard some type of Indian music, sitars and all, but few have probably heard Indian music made the way Ricky Kej makes it. Ricky’s 2013 CD, entitled Shanti Orchestra is filled with a lush and colorful palate of sounds, mostly instrumental, yet permeated by all kind of voices and ambient vocal sounds that are skillfully mixed into the album’s sound spectrum. In fact, the Shanti Orchestra CD features over 20 musicians, including string, synths and guitars, who combine forces to create a fresh mix of contemporary World Music grooves fueled by ambient sounds and down tempo chill-out sounds. Some have already compared Ricky’s music to internationally acclaimed groups such as Enigma and some of the more percussive, uptempo works by David and Steve Gordon. Sitars and other Eastern sounding instruments also grace the grooves too so the sound, while very World Beat in scope, still maintains some of its Indian roots. In addition, the CD packaging and inserts / liner notes are first rate and add much to the overall effect and enjoyment of the listening experience. Although Ricky has produced and played on numerous albums on various record labels over the years, Shanti Orchestra is his first independent effort and as a result, the album led to an invitation for Ricky to become an ambassador for the U.S. based nonprofit “Project Peace On Earth”. Born in the U .S. and raised in India, Ricky Kej sounds the clarion call for world peace through the power of music with the sublime sounding Shanti Orchestra. www.RickyKej.com

RAVELLO RECORDS / PARMA RECORDINGS - Parma Recordings and its subsidiary label Ravello remain on the cutting edge of 21st century music with the 2012 CD release of Birdsong In Midst by U.K. based composer Kim Halliday. To call Halliday’s music adventurous would be an understatement. Many serious neoclassical composers are not easy to pigeonhole but on the 15 track, hour long Birdsong In Midst, Halliday invents an entirely new form of instrumental sonics—a daring blend of Neoclassical, soundtrack, rock and electronic music. The only composer I can think of who so expertly blends such a wide range of instrumental music would be Ron Geesin, the English composer who worked so tastefully with Pink Floyd on Atom Heart Mother. If that album, as well as Geesin’s manifold releases are your cup of tea, then by all means give a listen to Kim Halliday’s CD. Music fans who also appreciated Brian Eno’s piano treatments, or Harold Budd’s for that matter, will also tune into the magnificence of Birdsong In Midst. In the spirit of Eno and Budd, and even Tangerine Dream for that matter, perhaps the most amazing thing about Halliday is that once you think you have him pegged with one style of music, he turns around and amazes with a completely different, often diverging blend of music. For example, after nine tracks of haunting, treated piano instrumental soundscapes, Kim features his electric guitar performance with some harrowing electronic trimmings and the results bode well for some Syd Barrett inspired rock instrumentals that takes the listener in a completely different direction. Back in 2011, another of Parma’s offshoot labels, Navonna, amazed with the double CD release by Lawrence Ball, which also featured input by Pete Townshend. Like Lawrence Ball, Kim Halliday isn’t afraid to take any kind of sonic chance. A daring sense of sonic collision pervades the challenging but always entertaining sound of Kim Halliday’s Birdsong In Midst. www.BirdsongInMidst.com / www.KimHalliday.com

REAL MUSIC -
One of the reasons New Age music took off so big over the past 30 years has been in part due to the unrelenting pace at which we all live nowadays. For music lovers, artists and music business people who can remember back to the dawn of the digital age at the start of 1984, the CD brought the recorded sound of New Age instrumental music to a higher level, especially noticeable with the rise of Windham Hill Records in the early to mid 1980s. One label continuing onwards as leaders of the New Age instrumental movement is Real Music and they have another winner on their hands with the 2013 CD release of Daytime Dreamer by composer / keyboard player Omar Akram. Deceptively simple in its scope and depth, Daytime Dreamer lulls you in with its sumptuous soundscapes and easy on the ears melodies. Some may call it background music but others will actually find their blood pressure lowered as a result of simply sitting down and listening to Omar’s latest CD masterpiece. You can blissfully listen, keep it on in the background as you work or even talk or write, but your train of thought will not be derailed as a result of spending time with Daytime Dreamer. Several key audio contributors are featured as well including David Arana (synths, arranging), Pedro Eustache (dukuk), Ramon Stagnaro (guitars) and Gregg Karukas (drums, programming). Daytime Dreamer tastefully showcases Omar Akram and his magical, mysterious New Age instrumental music grooves. www.RealMusic.com / www.OmarAkram.com

REAL MUSIC - Renowned for their meditative and dreamy instrumental music albums, Real Music will make a whole lot of listeners quite happy with their 2013 CD release of Dreamweaver by music maestro Gandalf. Based in Austria, Gandalf, whose real name is Heinz Strobl, has a number of Real Music releases to his credit and Dreamweaver is being heralded as his finest yet. Over the years, Gandalf’s music has delved into quite elaborate New Age electronics, yet on Dreamweaver, the sound is more sparse yet no less effective. With Gandalf performing acoustic guitars, piano, percussion and “atmospheres”, the sound of Dreamweaver is further enhanced by cello, flutes and Irish whistles and percussion performed by several guest artists. It’s interesting to note that in the past, Gandalf has worked with artists such as progressive rock guitarist Steve Hackett. Like Hackett, Gandalf’s music can be quite meditative and also like Hackett, Gandalf is masterful at portraying his own acoustic guitars like a dreamy watercolor painting, meant to calm and relax you. Gandalf explains, ‘Music is a kind of sanctuary for me, a protected place to withdraw from the noise and craziness in the world.’ Truer words were never spoken. If you’re looking for sonic solace and a way to close your eyes and turn the world into a kinder, gentler place for a while, look no further than the sublime, peaceful sounds of Dreamweaver by Gandalf. www.RealMusic.com

REAL MUSIC -
The premier New Age music record label in the world today, Real Music continues releasing music masterpieces on CD. Advocates for sonic works of art as opposed to mere music, Real Music has another winner on their hands with the Autumn 2013 release of Day Of Life from Bernward Koch. Drawing on the essence of classical inspired European romanticism, the 13 track, 61 minute CD features Bernward’s piano and synth keyboards merging together for a dreamlike, relaxing hour of music. At the center of Real Music is their music as a form of healing therapy and there’s a lot to be said for that effect on Bernward’s latest music masterpiece. Commenting on the making of Day Of Life, Bernward adds, ‘The music made me think of memorable days in my life, wonderful memories, from childhood or a few years ago, a sunny and warm day, feeling free and happy. While playing and recording I was in a state of complete concentration - really lost in another world.’ In addition to the piano and synth keyboards on Day Of Life, Bernward also performs guitar, bass, melodica, glockenspiel, cymbals and gong, all fitting together like a complex painting on a sonic canvas. Several musicians assist including Bernward’s wife Christiane Böhm, who adds in flute and piccolo. Fans of Bernward’s other Real Music CD titles will thoroughly enjoy Day Of Life. If New Age music is the source you're seeking for stress relief and meditative relaxation, then Day Of Life by Bernward Koch CD is a worthy sonic remedy for sure. www.RealMusic.com

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT / MCKHOOL - Located at that place where Gypsy Jazz meets orchestral music is the 2013 CD release of Symphony! by the Canadian group known as Sultans Of String. Featuring violinist Chris McKhool, along with guitarists Kevin Laliberté (nylon string and electric guitar) and Eddie Paton (nylon string guitars), the CD also features a number of other musicians and percussionists along with a full string orchestra. In addition, the CD also includes a number of guest musicians including Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains, here on penny whistle and uilleann pipes. Musically, the 49 minute, 10 track instrumental CD is all over the place—from Celtic and World Music to Flamenco flavored light classical and even wide screen soundtrack type music. It may be eclectic but overall, Chris McKhool's Symphony! makes for quite a colorful and rewarding listening experience. Very well recorded and presented, the CD also features packaging that is equally eye-catching, complete with detailed booklet with track by track liner notes and a number of color pictures from the studio recordings sessions. www.SultansOfString.com

RITUAL PRODUCTIONS
- Described as “doom-metal” rock and hard space-rock, the music of Bong is heady stuff indeed. Although it’s very strange and primordial at its core, Bong will indeed find its appeal among fans of Ummagumma era Pink floyd and also some of Gong’s more out there sounds. Being all instrumental, there’s no words to get in the way and besides this is really music to kick back with your black lights, day-glo posters and your favorite bong (pun intended!). The group’s most recent albums include Mana-Yood-Sushai and Wizards Of Krull. Both wonderfully packaged and recorded CDs are filled with side long tracks of mesmerizing drones, guitars and sitar like sounds that will have you chanting OM in no time. www.RitualProductions.net

ROBB CAPPELLETTO
- Although he grew up listening to prog metal, Toronto, Canada based guitarist Robb Cappelletto was equally inspired by jazz and blues guitar instrumentalists such as Wes Montgomery and Buddy Guy. Robb puts his experience to the test and comes up a winner with his 2012 CD humorously titled !!!. Those are three exclamation marks by the way and for those who get excited by such things the ten track CD features Robb on all manners of electric guitar while getting supreme backing by his group members Jon Maharaj (electric bass) and Amhed Mitchel (drums). The all original instrumental set is offset by instrumental covers of a pair of tracks originally written by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Corcovado”) and Cole Porter (“It’s All Right By Me”). Jazz guitar enthusiasts will want to give a listen to Robb Cappelletto’s modern day jazz guitar masterpiece !!! www.RobbCappelletto.com

RRO ENTERTAINMENT - Guitarist / composer / vocalist Les Fradkin has a rich history in the music world going back to the 1970s when he was a member of the original cast of Beatlemania (with his uncanny guitar skills he played the “George” role). Following years away from the music world, Les returned big time in the early 2000’s with a number of amazing instrumental guitar based albums followed by a rock opera called Reality. In the last few years Les has released a number of self-produced albums of both vocal and instrumentals on his RRO label and in 2013 he steps back in the limelight with his latest all instrumental CD entitled Suite For Ztar And Orchestra In G minor Op.1 No.1. Suffice the say, the album is a major sonic breakthrough for both electronic music and classical music. For his Suite For Ztar And Orchestra, Les combines 21st century technology enabled by the amazing Ztar (a futuristic guitar looking creation) and puts a new spin on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. What Wendy Carlos did for Bach’s music on moog synths back in 1969 with Switched On Bach, Les does for Bach’s music on Ztar. With its futuristic guitar shaped body, the Ztar is able to recreate the sounds of a number of musical instruments including 6 and 12 string guitars, strings and a vast number of other sounds and is combined by Les adding in more traditional instrumentation including Roland synths, Rickenbacker guitars, bass and much more. If you thought you’d heard the last of Bach in a “switched-on” mode and concept, think again. Somewhere in the heavens above, Johann Sebastian Bach must be looking down and smiling on Les Fradkin. www.LesFradkin.com

SEQUOIA RECORDS
- Making inroads into the world of New Age, ambient electronica and healing meditation music for three decades, David & Steve Gordon are renowned as visionary artists. David and Steve established Sequoia Records back in the 1980’s and they continue with a number of intriguing, instrumental CD releases. High on the list is a 2013 studio CD entitled Chakra Balance. Even if you discount the album’s positive, healing musical vibes, and know nothing about meditation music, Chakra Balance is still a fantastic and powerful listening experience in its own right. With Chakra Balance, the sound weaves its way into the realm of ambient electronica and will find crossover appeal among listeners of Brian Eno, Steve Roach and John Serrie. Another recent release on Sequoia Records is the 2013 CD, Deep Healing Elements: Music For Reiki & Meditation 4 by the artist known as Shajan. A Reiki master and composer, Shajan mixes ambient synths and natural sounds to great effect. Whether you’re seeking meditative music for health reasons or you’re looking to chill out with state of the art ambient / electronic World Music grooves, David & Steve Gordon and Sequoia Records have the sound down to a science. www.SequoiaRecords.com / www.TheGordonBrothers.net

SONY MASTERWORKS
- The 2013 CD release of Presente by the group Bajofondo is a wild ride encompassing an amazing range of World Beat inspired instrumental pop and jazz fusion sounds. Although Bajofondo plays a wide range of instrumental music, there’s also several vocal numbers on the 21 track CD. Coming from Argentina and Uruguay, the group Bajofondo are well skilled in tango, milonga, folk-jazz, electronica, jazz, instrumental pop and much more. Several of the Spanish language vocal tracks might not be as far reaching into the non Latin market (although they are cool too) but the instrumental tracks more than make up for any lack of communication. After all, instrumental is the international language and few South American bands do that as good as Bajofondo. Spearheaded by guitarist / producer Gustavo Santaolalla, the group features a wide range of musicians and they synchronize perfectly. Released on the world famous Masterworks label, Bajofondo’s Presente presents a fresh sort of musical dynamic for the 21st century. www.BajofondoMusic.com

SPLEEN RECORDS
- Although he grew up listening to Hendrix, Santana and The Beatles, L.A. based Andrea Balestra is primarily a jazz-rock instrumental music guitar player. His 2010 Fine Arts Avenue turned heads around and he carries his sound forward with the 2013 CD release of Painting On Silence. Full of high-powered instrumentals, the 9 track CD features Andrea in the studio with fine players including drummer Dario Benzoni and co-producer Dave Hill. Cut live in the studio there’s an electric energy on hand. Several guitar legends guest assist Andrea and appear on various tracks here including Carl Verheyen, Julien Kasper, Scott Henderson, John Pisano and Steve Trovato. The songs are more than up to the test and a funky, jazzy instrumental fusion cover here of the Beatles’ Abbey Road classic “Come Together” featuring Andrea and his band, including Carl Verheyen, bestowes a new and innovative shine on a timeless classic. Also covered is the Thelonius Monk favorite “Round Midnight”, featuring Andrea and group with guitarist Steve Trovato. In addition to writing the music, excepting the Beatles and Monk covers, Andrea has also done a good job on the mixing and mastering of the album, complimented by excellent CD mastering by Gary Lurssen. Guitar fusion fans will want to hear the smokin’ and very appealing sound of Painting On Silence by Andrea Balestra. www.AndreaBalestra.com

SUN SEA SKY PRODUCTIONS
- Released on CD by the Chicago-based Sun Sea Sky label, Signal Hill has tuned in a modern day instrumental rock masterpiece with their second full length album entitled Chase The Ghost. The CD is appropriately titled as the music is a haunting cross section of instrumental soundscapes that owes as much to film scores as it does rock. Some of this CD is reminiscent of 1980s bands like Love Tractor while Group 87 is another signpost. This music almost sounds as if it has been ingrained in a collective psyche, so these younger musicians have found it through genetic programming. Signal Hill found their start around 2004 and the L.A. / NYC based band features a pair of fine electric players with Dave Masters and Rishi Arora who are teamed with Tim Cooper (drums) and Brian Vasallo (bass). Described as a mix of indie rock, instrumental / post-rock, electronic music, jazz and more, Signal Hill are breaking boundaries for 21st century instrumental guitar-centric rock music. Chase The Ghost is choice spin for instrumental rock fans and open-minded jazzers. www.SignalHillMusic.com

TIP TOP RECORDS
- A power trio of sorts in the instrumental genre known as surf-rock, Glasgow Tiki Shakers stir up some tasty sonic trouble with their 2013 CD Little Orbit. Containing a solid band sound featuring Bill McGlynn (guitars), Joyce Seko (bass) and Bruce Graham, the album features a dozen original compositions. The sound is sparse and somewhat retro but McGlynn’s guitar is superbly tracked and the recorded levels of the bass and drums is exemplary. You can hear the influences but there’s enough of a new feel, thanks in part to the all original fare, to make this of interest to surf-rockers and surf / jazz-noir and ‘60s soundtracks fans looking for some fresh sonic thrills. www.facebook.com/glasgow.shakers

ULTIMAE RECORDS
- French DJ and arranger Mahiane has a new CD out on Ultimae and it’s a good one. Filled with the same, kindred otherworldly ambient vibes that Ultimae has become renowned for, Oxycanta III is actually a compilation of various electronica artists including Mer-A, AES Dana, Scann-Tec, Lars Leonard, Miktek and others. This release is the third Oxycanta compilation on Ultimae. Commenting on the CD, Mahiane adds, ‘It took me over two years to finalize this project, along the way I heard some beautiful music and I thank all the artists who trusted me with their compositions and were patient with me.’ From the impeccable, hypnotic grooves and lush visual imagery featured in the prominent, eye-catching CD artwork, you just know and feel, Oxycanta III to be one of the finest releases yet on the world renowned Ultimae label. Also quoted from the online press kit for the CD, ‘Driven by her passion for music and nature, Mahiane titled her collection Oxycanta as a tribute to Crataegus Oxyacantha, a species of Northern European hawthorn dear to old time herbalists.' How cool is that? www.ultimae.com

UNICORN RECORDS
- One of the top prog-rock music labels in North America, Montreal-based Unicorn released Solipsistic by the international prog / jazz / rock band Semantic Saturation in 2013. A project of Syrian bred / Canadian based guitarist Shant Hagopian, the band lineup is rounded out by big name fusion icons including Derek Sherinian (keyboards), Ric Fierabracci (bass) and Virgil Donati (drums). There’s a certain majesty to the music which is very much rooted in the progressive rock meets metal and hard rock realm. The album is quite well recorded and nicely packaged with some memorable album art and graphics. Although mostly instrumental based, the CD does conclude with a vocal track featuring a collaborative track composed by Shant and singer-lyricist Andy Kuntz. Although the sound is very western based fusion, it’s interesting to note that Shant Hagopian is one of the first Syrian guitarist / composers to emerge out of the Middle Eastern jazz-rock scene. Overall Semantic Saturation’s Solipsistic is a fine choice for fans of exotic instrumental rock music. www.SemanticSaturation.com

UNICORN RECORDS - Although the record company name is Unicorn Digital, the label run by progressive guitar hero Michel St. Pere actually makes great CDs, complete with amazing looking artwork and snappy looking discs. Case in point is a fantastic 2013 CD release by composer / bass player Antoine Fafard entitled Occultus Tramitis. One of the top jazz-rock bass players and instrumental music composers in the world today, Antoine turned heads around with his stellar musicianship in the group Spaced Out, who released some excellent albums on Unicorn during the last decade. That said, Antoine fulfills his sonic mission with his second solo album. Antoine’s greatest musical statement as a solo artist to date, Occultus Tramitis is superbly packaged with eye-popping album art and the music inside is white hot too, filled with solid performances featuring Antoine backed up by a range of players including ex-Group 87 drummer Terry Bozzio, the great Jerry Goodman, drummer Simon Phillips and more. Although Antoine plays bass and also guitar, he gets solid backup from other fine ax men including Scott Henderson, Jerry De Villiers Jr. and George Hayes. An hour of high-powered instrumental fusion music, Occultus Tramitis is a dynamic, superbly recorded album of 21st century jazz rock at its finest. www.AntoineFafard.com / www.UnicornRecords.com

WD-41 - Improvisation when in the right hands is quite effective as a musical device. Case in point is the newest CD from Shrunken Head Shop entitled Live In Germany. At the core of Shrunken Head Shop is free form guitarist Willie Oteri, who leads the charge on guitars and live loops. A number of musicians assist Willie including Jan Fitschen (bass, stick) and someone named Schroeder on drums. Also on hand are the trumpet blasts of Dave Laczko. Like the best improvisational jazz / fusion, Shrunken Head Shop’s Live In Germany (recorded in 2012) works because the musicians involved, especially Willie Oteri, are such solid musicians. Jazzers and open-minded rockers will catch a buzz off of Willie Oteri’s Shrunken Head Shop. www.WillieOteri.com

WH SOUND STUDIO - Piano goddess Fiona Joy Hawkins helped turn mwe3.com on to another great pianist called Danny Wright and his 2013 CD entitled Reflections. Mostly solo piano music, the double CD Reflections is filled with supremely relaxing music that borders on New Age and easy listening. Although Danny is well versed in the art of classical and Broadway music, on Reflections he takes the opportunity to honor his friends and loyal fans and, true to form each of the 18 piano tracks on Reflections is dedicated to one lucky fan. Incredibly, Danny has nearly 40 solo albums of his amazing piano recordings. On Reflections, Danny has recorded a double album of supremely relaxing solo piano tracks. www.DannyWright.com

YOU DIG? RECORDS
- It’s hard to say no to a group called The Hangmen, you dig? Hailing from Swansea in the U.K., The Hangmen are capturing the attention of the guitar world with their 2013 CD entitled Singapore Slingers! I’m not sure what that title is in reference to, but their music features a rockin’ mix of instrumental stuff indeed. Featuring guitarist Alastair Jenkins at the helm, the quartet blasts off into outer space with a driving, guitar-centric instrumental sound that borrows from Link Wary and Davie Allan while also carving out a unique niche of their own. The ten tracks breeze on by in 27 minutes but rest assured, the replay button will be hit and hit again to keep this CD spinning on players for hours of never ending sonic instro guitar enjoyment. www.YouDigRecords.BigCartel.com

ZOHO MUSIC - Based in NYC, Zoho Music remains on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz-fusion with the 2013 CD release of Throwback by guitar prodigy Jake Hertzog. On Throwback Jake puts it all together thanks in part to an excellent backing band including top jazzers such as Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Harvie S (acoustic / electric bass) and Victor Jones (acoustic / electric drums). Commenting on his approach in the recording studio for Throwback, Jake adds, ‘On Throwback I wanted us to make a record using a vintage method, but have the music be this contemporary blend of jazz and rock that has always been our vibe. For me personally, as a guitar player, I enjoyed the challenge of making this album in a "live" way.’ In addition to his critically acclaimed album releases, there’s another significant reason why Hertzog has gained such acclaim in the international guitar community and that’s simply because he can play. Equally influenced by both rock and jazz guitar styles, Jake Hertzog combines the best of both worlds on the superbly recorded, all instrumental guitar driven fusion sound of Throwback. www.JakeHertzog.com


REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES


ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Over in the U.K. Angel Air continue finding relics from the vaults of pop and progressive rock of the past and high on their 2013 release list is a 2013 CD reissue of the 1973 Ironbridge by the group Ironbridge. With an Lp release by EMI international label, Ironbridge were actually popular in France. Ironbridge espoused a late period Denny Laine era Moody Blues kind of sound with a slight prog-pop edge. Definitely a good investment for Badfinger fans although some tracks here sound very neopsychedelic. Another U.K. guitar-rock legend, Del Bromham is famous for leading the group Stray back in the 1970s and lo and behold Del is back with a new 2013 CD on Angel Air called Nine Yards. With 14 newly penned rock songs that also features Del with a solid support band, Nine Yards is more 21st century blues rock then the progressive neo-psych sound of mid 1970s Stray. The Nine Yards CD is quite well recorded and proves Del still has the right stuff on Nine Yards. Also out on Angel Air in 2013 are a couple CD titles that are Sweet related. Sweet as in the case of the U.K. pop rock group that broke the sound barrier with their 1973 world wide smash hit single “Ballroom Blitz”. Associated with the advent of early 1970s glam-rock sound, The Sweet are fondly remembered again with the 2013 Angel Air CD release of Sweet Live At The Marquee 1986. Featuring original Sweet guitarist Andy Scott, drummer Mick Tucker and a well rehearsed Sweet lineup, the 13 track CD features The Sweet rocking out at London’s fabled Marquee Club in 1986, running through a number of the Sweet’s 1970's classics including “Ballroom Blitz”, “Fox On The Run” and many more. Another Sweet related CD released in 2013 on Angel Air is Solo Singles by Sweet guitarist Andy Scott. Most of the tracks on Solo Singles were cut by Andy Scott back in the 1980s. There’s a definite Sweet flavored “glam-rock” edge to many of the songs on Solo Singles, while both of these intriguing Sweet related Angel Air CDs feature excellent sound, packaging with 2013 liner notes that brings the Sweet story up to date. www.AngelAir.co.uk

BGO RECORDS - Superstar of rock, the great Russ Ballard is recalled on a 2013 double CD set on BGO. Following his classic rock career as the founding guitarist / vocalist in Argent, Russ began his solo career in 1974 with his self titled debut album entitled Russ Ballard. BGO’s double CD set combines the first three Ballard solo albums—Russ Ballard (1974), Winning (1976) and At The Third Stroke (1978). Although the extensive liner notes by John Tobler takes the listener way back to the 1950’s and early 1960’s when Russ wrote the great Shadows’ favourite “The Lost City”, their double Ballard CD set is a timely reminder of just how gifted Russ is and still is as a singer-songwriter and guitarist. Interesting to note that some of the tracks on these three albums, feature songs that became hits for other artists including “Winning” (a hit for Santana) and “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” (a hit for Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone). A wide range of musicians and renowned producers back up Russ on these three albums but the sonic key lies in Ballard’s impeccable guitar skills and timeless pop-rock songs. Rock historian John Tobler’s 2013 penned liner notes takes the listener through Ballard’s star-studded career all the way up to his 2009 masterpiece Book Of Love, which is yet another Ballard album worthy of reissue / remastering.

One of the most revered jazz artists in the world today, Keith Jarrett is given the BGO treatment with a 2013 CD reissue of, Mysteries and Shades, his two 1975 albums. Throughout BGO’s double CD Jarrett remaster, Keith’s piano skills are red hot. His band back then was simply unbeatable, including Paul Motian (drums), Charlie Haden (bass) and Dewey Redman (sax). Detailed 2013 liner notes by Charles Waring takes the listener through Jarrett’s Impulse Records years up to the present. Even though these two albums have been released before, it’s great to have them back, with detailed liner notes and fresh remastering on the great BGO label.

Also on BGO in 2013 is a fantastic two CD set combining two classic Jefferson Airplane albums—Bark (1971) and Long John Silver (1972). Bark was the first Airplane album without Marty Balin and long time Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, who was replaced on Bark by drummer Joey Covington. Turns out that Covington, who died in 2013, was also a primary writer of the most popular Bark track called “Pretty As You Feel”—which was constantly played on FM radio back then. The rest of the band—Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady as well as Papa John Creach—are also well represented on Bark. Even though it isn’t remembered as well as the other Airplane albums, with its wide range of classic rock, Bark remains a bonafide music classic from 1971. The Airplane’s follow up to Bark was entitled Long John Silver. When released back then, the album was featured in a most remarkable packaging (as was Bark for that matter). Even though there were no instant hit singles on Long John Silver, the album was still a big hit among fans of the Airplane and the lineup—the same as on Bark with Covington replaced by John Barbata—was in top form. BGO’s 2 CD set features reproductions of some of the original album art, complete discography info while 2013 liner notes by John O’Regan fills in all the missing links behind both of these now classic albums by Jefferson Airplane. www.BGO-Records.com

CLASSIC MUSIC VAULT / MVD - The group known as It’s A Beautiful Day rode in on the same wave as Santana and Big Brother & The Holding Company. Compared with those legends, little is known of what became of It’s A Beautiful Day, and their musical guru David LaFlamme but that is somewhat remedied with the 2013 CD/DVD release of Live At The Fillmore ‘68. Of course, that’s the year 1968 and the group was just about to enter their heyday. Four classic albums on Columbia and they were already legends. Their 1968 Fillmore West show is superbly recorded and it's probably the best sounding It’s A Beautiful Day concert release but the key thing here is a great 41 minute documentary of David LaFlamme, wife Linda LaFlamme and the band they’ve been famous for for 45+ years. The documentary contrasts the band live in concert through the years and is complete with new and revealing interviews with the LaFlamme’s, the current IABD lineup as well as interviews with former members of Country Joe & The Fish and Big Brother. Once one the the most promising artists on Columbia Records, LaFlamme has instead turned It’s A Beautiful Day into a cottage industry and this double disc set is a historical release that carries his musical legacy forward. www.ClassicMusicVault.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - Eagle continues onwards with some amazing CD and DVD releases in 2013, the best of which may be the DVD release of an excellent look back at The Beach Boys. Released on DVD, Good Vibrations Tour takes a look back at the ‘Boys during their 15 Big Ones period during 1976. 1976 was also the year the U.S.A. celebrated its 200th anniversary and what better band to help celebrate than the band started by Brian Wilson back in the early 1960s. Sadly, the DVD only clocks in around 50 minutes but it very skillfully mixes in performance video of the Boys live at the Anaheim Stadium with some really eye-opening documentary footage. Only a few songs from 15 Big Ones are actually included in the show which mostly features the group’s biggest hits—”Good Vibrations”, “California Girls”, “God Only Knows”, “Be True To Your School” and more. The best parts features the interspersed documentary parts, with one bit including Brian, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson sitting around the piano singing “I’m Bugged At My Old Man”. In a word: priceless. The DVD, or rather the movie version (years before the DVD was invented) was originally shown on American television following the release of 15 Big Ones and thanks to Eagle it’s well worth seeing again. Another artist finding release on Eagle is U.K. guitar great Ritchie Blackmore who is remembered with the DVD and CD release of Black Masquerade by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Released by Eagle as both double CD set and 103 minute DVD, Black Masquerade features Blackmore and company performing live during a 1995 “Rockpalast” TV concert in Dusseldorf, Germany. With Blackmore’s legendary guitar chops backed up by a number of fine musicians, including Blackmore’s long time partner, vocalist Candice Night and vocalist Doogie White, the concert features a range of classic covers of tracks made famous by Blackmore in Rainbow and Deep Purple (including a rousing “Smoke On The Water”) and is bound to please Purple fans and Blackmore’s legion of fans. In addition, both the CD set and DVD features a very cool booklet featuring a number of photos from the show along with in depth liner notes by Jeff Katz. Another band getting the Eagle treatment is Status Quo and their 2013 DVD release of Pictures: Live At Montreux. “Pictures” (as in the very first Quo hit “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”), from way back in the 1960’s is performed here, along with other classic rock tracks from the legendary U.K. band. Filmed and recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2009, Eagle’s 142 minute DVD release features the original Quo lineup performing their most popular tracks. In addition, the DVD features an in depth booklet packed with photos and new liner notes and is packed with several bonus features, making Pictures a good investment for long time Status Quo fans. www.EagleRockEnt.com

ESOTERIC RECORDINGS
- One of the best of all the 2013 CD remasters on Cherry Red’s Esoteric imprint is a straight reissue of Royal Bed Bouncer—the classic 1975 album Dutch prog-rock legends Kayak. Released by Janus Records on Lp in the USA, the CD has never been reissued Stateside, and the 2013 CD on Esoteric is the first time the album has come out on CD in the UK. The liner notes, written by Wouter Bessels, are really insightful featuring interview quotes with group leader Ton Scherpenzeel and a myriad of details following the band up to 2012. Kayak's drummer on Royal Bed Bouncer, the late Pim Koopman is also cited in the liner notes. Royal Bed Bouncer is often cited as the group’s best balance of early ‘70s prog-rock and the pop-prog resurgence of 1975. Also included on this in depth look at Royal Bed Bouncer are the complete lyrics and the original front cover of the US Lp on Janus. www.CherryRed.co.uk

ESOTERIC RECORDINGS
- Not many rock bands from Denmark have made international music headlines around the globe but the country has no doubt had a thriving rock, jazz and fusion scene as far back as 1969. That fact is well documented with the 2013, two set entitled Canal Trip: An Anthology by Danish jazz-rockers Burnin Red Ivanhoe. As the early 1970s turned into the mid 1970s, Burnin Red Ivanhoe would soon morph into a much more focused kind of instrumental prog-rock band called Secret Oyster. Yet pre-Secret Oyster, that group’s soon to be leader Karsten Vogel (saxophone, keyboards), BRI drummer Bo Thrige Anderson, Steen Claeson (guitars, vocals) and company were busy recording albums filled with jazz, rock, and other assorted avant gard instrumental music. More jazz like and free from music compared to the tight Secret Oyster sound, Burnin Red Ivanhoe was kind of a precursor to the much more gothic tinged sound that would soon be coming out of Europe in the mid later 1970s. An essential look back at an early Danish rock legend, this 2 CD set—drawing on four different Burnin Red Ivanhoe albums released on the fabled Sonet Records—features in depth liner notes on the group’s legacy by Malcolm Dome. www.CherryRed.co.uk

GONZO MULTIMEDIA
- That whole 1969 to 1971 period in rock music has maintained its place in the history books as being unsurpassed for both content and innovation. It seems staggering to think about that whole period today. Following the first Jethro Tull album from 1968, Ian Anderson and Tull’s founding guitarist Mick Abrahams split the difference with Mick leaving Tull and forming Blodwyn Pig. The Pig, as they were lovingly called are remembered in 2013 once again on a fascinating sounding CD collection called Pigthology, The CD features a dozen studio and live tracks that feature alternate versions of favorite songs, instrumentals, BBC sessions and more. Liner notes from the late U.K. journo Mick Farren fills in some missing pieces behind these overlooked Blodwyn Pig gems. Best thing here besides the music, which features superbly mastered and mixed sound, is the album cover, which features the band's famous smoking pig logo in full flight! www.GonzoMultimedia.co.uk

MVD
- PA. based Music Video Distributors have a very busy Fall 2013 release schedule underway and among the most prominent is Going Underground. Subtitled Paul McCartney, The Beatles And The UK Counter-Culture and clocking in at 153 minutes, the DVD takes a solid look back at the life and times of The Beatles during their psychedelic period from 1966 to 1968. To call The Beatles musical innovators would be an understatement and for those who are either clueless or need a refresher course, this DVD is perfect. With John Lennon sadly gone now nearly 33 years, the onus of history has fallen, often unfairly, on Paul McCartney to carry that weight. There’s a good reason why Lennon picked McCartney to be his musical partner. McCartney the musical innovator, the Fab Four’s astute businessman, the cultural philanthropist and rock humanitarian are well explored on this amazing DVD. Released on U.K. based Pride label and handled Stateside by MVD, the DVD features a wealth of interviews with snippets of The Beatles but mostly of the artists and associates they knew and worked with during those heady breakthrough years including Barry Miles, “Hoppy” Hopkins, music producer Joe Boyd, Mick Farren, John Dunbar, Robert Wyatt and many more including some very prominent music journalists. While The Beatles and specifically Beatles’ survivor Paul McCartney’s involvement in the U.K. counter culture, are at the heart of this documentary, there’s plenty more here including great performance clips of Pink Floyd, during the Syd Barrett years and so much more. Beatles fans, miss Going Underground at your own risk.

Fans of Bob Dylan will want to explore a 2013 CD/DVD from MVD entitled After The Crash. After The Crash takes a look at Dylan’s life between 1966 and 1978. The nearly 3 hour CD/DVD was produced in association with ISIS magazine and features interviews with a wide array of music journalists who discuss Dylan’s life between these high points in his artistic career. The CD half of the set features phone conversations between Bob and political agitator A.J. Weberman. One of the top jazz-rock bands from England, Colosseum is given a fine retrospective with the 2013 DVD release of Colosseum - In Concert. Featuring the now late great horn man Dick Heckstall-Smith, (pictured on the DVD cover art) the 44 minute DVD was recorded live during a 1971 television performance and features classic Colosseum tacks including “Walking In The Park” and “The Machine Demands A Sacrifice.” Released by the U.K. based Sexy Intellectual label and released in the U.S. by MVD, Song Of The South: Duane Allman And The Rise Of The Allman Brothers is must see video for fans of the late great guitarist. Clocking in at 131 minutes, the DVD takes a look at Duane’s early years in Florida, his session work and of course his involvement in The Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton. Featuring rare footage of Duane Allman, the DVD also features new interviews with a number of the late great guitarist’s associates, friends and a side of musicologists. Released by MVD, the 90 minute DVD release of Welcome To The Machine, a rockumentary by Andreas Steinkogler, presents an insiders look into the music business and features a number of artists including Kim Wilde, Lydia Lurch, Uriah Heep, Fatboy Slim, Kool And The Gang and many more. The group known as Level 42 are given the DVD treatment with the 2013 release of Live At London’s Town & Country Club Released by U.K. DVD experts Weinerworld and offered in the U.S. through MVD, the 97 minute DVD features Level 42 performing live in March 1992 at the end of their Guaranteed tour with the DVD featuring original members Mark King and Mike Lindup from the original Level 42 band, who are joined here by U.K. drumming legend Gary Husband and prog guitar hero Jakko Jakszyk, from the King Crimson tribute band Twentieth Century Schizoid Band. 21 years after the show was filmed, Level 42 Live is a fitting look back at this rock legend. www.MVDb2b.com

REPRISE RECORDS - By late 1969, Danny Kirwan all but owned Fleetwood Mac. Peter Green was about to collapse from near mental exhaustion and would bow out of the band following that crazy Fall ‘69 tour where at Madison Sq. Garden Mac opened for Grand Funk Railroad, who were sandwiched in between Mac and headliners Sly & The Family Stone. I was lucky enough to see that Madison Sq. Garden triple bill and Mac were brilliant (Grand Funk weren’t bad but we left during Sly). The opportune aspect of having finally attained the big time, a recording contract on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label and prospect of millions of new ears and eager eyes ready to gape and gawk at the new stars of Reprise was too much for Kirwan’s mentor Peter Green, a guitar god who at that moment was primed to become the next Clapton. Unknown to many of the band's teeny bopper fans, Peter Green had reached a zenith, a watershed with Then Play On, released in the early Autumn of 1969. Finally in 2013 Rhino Records reissued Then Play On on single disc CD and also as part of a four album vinyl box set compiling Fleetwood Mac's Danny Kirwan years. Featuring new liner notes and original artwork, the Rhino CD reissue of Then Play On is quite fascinating—an ear-opening track lineup restoring the original U.K. album order while also adding in both the A and B sides of a pair of singles from the album sessions, including the original “Oh Well Pt. 1” and “Oh Well Pt. 2”—songs that, in Mac history, were quite significant and influential in their own right. Typically, Green and Kirwan contribute some stellar tracks—instrumental and vocal—and bolstered by the archetypical rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, and a seemingly hardly there at times appearance of 5th member Jeremy Spencer—the sound of Then Play On has perennially proven to be quintessential Fleetwood Mac. Rhino’s 2013 CD release of Then Play On is a sonic revelation for original Fleetwood Mac fans and an essential homework assignment for burgeoning students of rock history. www.rhino.com

UNIVERSAL MUSIC
- One of the archetypical progressive rock groups to emerge in Europe during the early 1970’s, Kayak featured the music of keyboardist / vocalist Ton Scherpenzeel. Several other fine musicians have filed through the Kayak ranks since 1972, including the band’s founding drummer, the late, great Pim Koopman, vocalist / drummer Max Werner and original Kayak guitarist Johan Slager. Kayak’s second all time masterpiece, entitled The Last Encore, from 1976, was reissued in 2012 by Universal in Holland as part of a two disc set with another Kayak album, the band’s album from 1980 entitled Periscope Life. Featuring (then) new vocalist, Edward Reekers, Periscope Life, recorded in L.A. during the fall of 1979, was not quite on par with The Last Encore but it has its moments. Only second in stature to 1975’s Royal Bed Bouncer (see review of the 2013 Esoteric remaster in this reissue section), The Last Encore was a most worthy follow up to Royal Bed Bouncer, although sadly Kayak was undervalued in North America adding to the group’s decline in popularity, at least in the U.S. Universal’s Two Original Albums series double CD set of The Last Encore and Periscope Life is a great look back at a stellar period in the development of 1970’s prog-rock from the European continent. Best part of these newly reissued CDs is the upgraded sonic remastering, while the album lyrics are reprinted, giving rise to the theory of Kayak being the best English singing rock band ever to emerge from Holland. www.KayakOnline.nl


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