Record Label
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SPRING 2016

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES

SPRING 2016 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK


ANGEL AIR
– Angel Air Records earned their reputation reissuing some of the great overlooked rock and pop classics in U.K. music history. In more recent years, Angel Air has turned their attention to some overlooked recent bands and you can add The Reform Club to more current U.K. bands getting the Angel Air treatment. Never Yesterday is a fab introduction to the Reform Club sound. Dating back to the 1980’s, The Reform Club centers around the songs of Norman Baker (vocals) and Mike Phipps while the band is filled out by Brian Wiseman (lead guitars), Geoff Smith (bass) and Chris Dartnell (drums). The songs on Never Yesterday sound influenced by the insightful songs of The Kinks and other socially satirical bands from England. The songs are superbly written and performed and there’s even some current events spoken about in the songs that border on hilarious as well. Never Yesterday was tastefully produced by Simon Scardanelli, while the cover art is excellent with the booklet reproducing all the song lyrics. There’s plenty of hooks to keep pop fans busy. In the spirit of current bands like Brainiac5, The Reform Club keeps the spirit of 21st century U.K. pop alive and well. www.thereformclub.net

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Any new CD by Andy Davis is a cause for celebration by fans of 1970s era progressive pop music from England. Co-founder of Stackridge, Davis worked with John Lennon on Imagine and you can still hear that big Lennon influence on Andy’s 2016 solo CD release Emergency Love. The CD marks the official release of Andy’s famous Stackridge era track “Baby Good For You”, first heard on bootlegs. He does the definitive version here and the rest of the CD follows suit with first class pop and rock tracks that reminds one of Stackridge and all the great albums they’ve made over the past 45 years. The ten track CD is the optimum showcase for Andy’s guitars, songs and vocals and he’s got a top band with him including guitarist Andy Latimer, Eddie John (drums) and U.K. pedal steel legend B.J. Cole, who adds haunting guitar licks on “Baby Good For You”. No instrumentals this time around but there’s plenty of high quality, well recorded pop and rock to be heard on Emergency Love. www.AndrewCresswellDavis.com / www.AngelAir.co.uk

AESPERUS MUSIC
– Great musicians come and go and many die way too soon. Even with the world turning at thousands of miles an hour, new musicians come and visit with their new visions. Case in point is Louisiana prog-rockers Abigail’s Ghost, who are hitting hard with their 2015 album Black Plastic Sun. The eleven cut CD mixes hard rock and a more progressive sound and is a fine showcase for group guitarist / vocalist Joshua “Bones” Theriot, who is backed up by a range of players including Kenneth Wilson (bass) and John Rodriguez (drums). Other players assist including keyboardists Brett Guillory and Zachary Dufrene. The sound of Abigail’s Ghost is similar to Rush yet with more honing and refining they will hopefully find an even more unique voice. Overall, the CD sound is excellent so there’s a lot to look forward to with Abigail’s Ghost on the 21st century prog-rock scene. www.AbigailsGhost.com

BAJKAL RECORDS – The country of Norway continues to please music fans with a bent for the sound of progressive rock music. Up and out in 2015 is the album debut from Norwegian rockers Gentle Knife. Gentle Knife is a sprawling musical collective featuring ten musicians with the album featuring additional guest artists. The album features influences from prog legends like King Crimson and Gentle Giant (another gentle influence?) although the music sounds original and rings true throughout. With so many players on hand, it’s hard to know who’s doing what but there’s excellent flute work by Astraea Antal, fiery electric guitar by Eivind Lorentzen and Ove Christian Owe and intertwining vocals by Melina Oz and Hakon Kavli. The sound is powered further by drumming by Ole Martin Svendsen. Even seasoned prog-rock fans who think they’ve heard it all will get a positive charge from the skillful sonic assault of Gentle Knife. www.GentleKnife.com

BELLA UNION – An album of staggering sonic beauty and intensity, Beings is the best album yet by Newcastle-Upon-Tyne rock band Lanterns On The Lake. Mixed and produced by group guitarist Paul Gregory, Beings is a fabulous showcase for the band’s lead vocalist / keyboardist Hazel Wilde. Filling out the band is Ol Ketteringham (drums, keys) and Bob Allan (bass). Despite their miminalist leanings, the sonically charged electric guitar and keyboard sounds form a huge wall of sound that is truly mind-blowing. The CD booklet is very sparse and there’s no lyric sheet so it’s hard to make out what’s going on but the album is so well recorded, lyrics almost become an afterthought amidst the sonic splendor. That said, in addition to the CD, Beings is also released on white vinyl that does come with a lyric / art book, so that’s something that’s sorely missing for CD fans. Released in November 2015, Beings is a solid recording accomplishment for the mighty rock sound of Lanterns On The Lake. www.BellaUnion.com

BELLE ESTRELA MUSIC – California-based / Canadian born Shannon Bryant will fall into the good graces of pop music fans thanks to her 2016 CD Light. The CD combines a solid pop-rock groove with an almost saucy smooth jazz effect, even though it’s not jazz. Shannon’s all original sound is fully enhanced by solid musicianship all around, including some of the best studio cats and sound mixer Joe Chiccarelli, who gets an excellent studio sound on record. Best of all here are the solid toe-tapping pop hooks and Shannon’s smooth as silk vocals. Commenting on Light, Shannon adds, “My goal for Light and my music in general, is to heal the world from the inside out… to help illuminate our inner strength and light”. There is one cover here—a version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that could make Shannon of interest to the ex-Genesis rocker. Pop fans will be delighted by Shannon Bryant’s catchy, pop-rock masterpiece. www.ShannonBryant.com

BIG DADA RECORDINGS Salt is the debut CD by U.K. based Roseau featuring the songs guitars and synths of Kerry Leatham. Ms. Leatham is turning heads with the lushly recorded alt-pop meets hip-hop grooves of Salt. Released in 2015, the album features unique contributions from synthesist Dogtanion. There’s a definite soul-pop groove running throughout the heavily synthesized sounding album, which is decked out which some stunning graphics and booklet with full lyrics and credits. One of the best of the new, post-Adele generation of U.K. based soul-pop singer-songwriters, Kerry Leatham breaks new musical ground with her debut Roseau album. www.bigdada.com

BROADWAY RECORDS
– Pop music legend Micky Dolenz is one of America’s great national treasures and he comes alive again with the 2015 CD release of A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock & Roll. For those who might not have been around in the 1960s, Micky was the voice of pop music icons The Monkees and on his Broadway Records album he pays tribute to the Monkees and the great songwriters who wrote for the band, including Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Neil Diamond, Lieber & Stoller, Boyce & Hart, other songwriters of the 1960’s era including Lennon & McCartney, John Stewart and other historic 20th century songwriters including The Gershwin brothers. Recorded live at the 54 Below nightclub, and produced by Michael Moritz, on the 29 track, A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock & Roll, Micky goes Tin Pan Alley while reviving historic moments of the fabled Monkees era. Featuring a great band backing Micky, the songs are memorable and Micky’s memories are featured as spoken word segments between the songs. Micky’s memories of meeting the Beatles during the recording of “Oh Darling” from the Abbey Road sessions are priceless and cracked the 54 Below audience right up. The 1960s are lost forever in the tomb of time but there’s always historic rock legends like Micky Dolenz who are ready, willing and still able to tell us just how great that golden decade still is. www.BroadwayRecords.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS
– For some reason the music that was played and listened to between 1969 and 1972 is still worshipped and played in 2016! Who knew? But I remember early on, back in the summer of ’69 when the first Led Zeppelin album came out on Atlantic Records. It was a very cathartic moment and when Led Zeppelin II came out in late 1969 it seemed like the whole world was exploding around me. Of course, there was steep competition in the music world back then so, despite their huge popularity, we didn’t take Zeppelin too seriously. That said, the music of Messers Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones still holds up and to prove that, in early 2016 Cleopatra Records released Dazed & Confused: A Stoned-Out Salute To Led Zeppelin. For some, the Led Zeppelin phenomenon is a little hard to explain, although this 14 track CD goes a long way towards doing just that. Most of the younger bands (described as “the newest generation of stoner bands") on Dazed & Confused probably weren’t even born when Led Zeppelin I came out but that doesn’t stop them from digging deeply into the LedZep psyche. The band Siena Root kicks off the 79 minute CD with a very cool version of “Whole Lotta Love” and that’s just the tip of the hard rock iceberg here. Other bands offer new versions of classic Zeppelin including The Cult Of Dom Keller (“Dazed And Confused”), Indian Jewelry (“Kashmir”), The Tulips (“Stairway To Heaven”) and much more. There’s a kind of cutting edge, 21st century approach to the making of this CD that messers Page, Plant and Jones would applaud. In other words, Dazed & Confused recreates the magic of Led Zeppelin for 21st century ears and is a welcome reappraisal of the hard rock might that Led Zeppelin brought to bear all those years ago. www.cleorecs.com

AARON CLIFT PRODUCTIONS – Prog-rock keyboard wiz and band leader Aaron Clift continues to dazzle music fans with the 2015 CD release of Outer Light, Inner Darkness, the second album by his Austin-based Aaron Clift Experiment. As a keyboardist, vocalist and band leader, Clift is clearly a man with a vision and with this second album, he is poised to enter the realm of potential prog greatness. Aaron receives fine support by his band, which includes Eric Gutierrez (guitars), Joe Resnick (drums) and Devin North (bass). The album’s lead off track “Kissed By The Sun” was released as a single and video and true to form, it’s a driving song that gives a good indication of the band’s power. Track two, “Locked” is another catchy, upbeat track that also demonstrates the band’s knack for writing memorable hooks bathed in hard-hitting prog-rock arrangements. Commenting on this second ACE album, Aaron adds, “Outer Light, Inner Darkness is a concept album about duality: light vs. darkness, individual vs. group, hope vs. despair, etc. Songs in the first half of the album detail the conflict between these opposing forces, while the songs in the second half of the album are a journey toward reconciling the extremes.” Even with just two albums in, Outer Light, Inner Darkness is a solid step in the right direction for this gifted American prog-rock band with a bright future in music. www.AaronClift.com

CONCORD MUSIC GROUP Billy Gibbons is best known as Billy F. Gibbons—founder, vocalist and guitarist of rock luminaries ZZ Top. On his 2015 solo album, Perfectamundo, Billy keeps the “ZZ” sound even more eclectic adding in a double dose of Spanish and Cuban influenced percussion making the album a most unusual car ride. Credited to Billy Gibbons & The BFG’s, Perfectamundo was produced by Billy and Joe Hardy, with the album recorded in Houston and Austin along with L.A. and Spain. If anything, Perfectamundo almost sounds inspired by the 2004 ZZ Top album Mescalero, another rousing Tex-Mex inspired album ending in the letter "O". So you also have Billy doing Slim Harpo’s “Got Love If You Want It” mixing Texas blues and Cuban rhythms inspired by Billy’s friend Martin GuiGui. Hardy is a gifted producer and multi-instrumentalist and together they also enlist Mike Flanigin (B3), Greg Morrow (drums), Alex Garza (bass, vocals) and Chino Pons (Cuban percussion). How about Billy’s genius summoning up killer cover of Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right”? A killer instrumental called “Q-Vo” closes the album with the BFG’s establishing a Memphis soul groove featuring the B3 with Billy closing the track with a sizzling solo and closing vocal. It’s interesting to note that Perfectamundo is Billy’s first solo album outside of his work with Frank Beard and Dusty Hill in ZZ Top, although it’s said the album was made with the blessings of both of Billy’s ZZ Top mates. Infused with a solid dose of Billy’s “Slanguish”, Perfectamundo takes World Groove rock and Tex-Mex soul music to a much, much higher ground. www.ZZTop.com

IAN DANTER MUSIC - Pop fans on the lookout for some cool new rock and pop album are advised to hunt down Second Time Around - the 2015 CD by singer-songwriter Ian Danter. Taking his cues from stadium rock legends such as Peter Frampton, Foreigner and Badfinger, Ian delivers the goods on an album that starts off rocking and goes the distance. Crunching guitar chords, swelling keys and kick ass drums are all played by Ian Danter. The CD booklet contains all lyrics and helps set the pop-rock mood. The CD contains some very hot dynamics and the mastering is excellent and captures all the sounds. Ian made a breakthrough with his CD debut, Prove You Wrong, but Second Time Around qualifies as a minor pop classic of the genre, proving smart songwriting is a timeless art form. www.IanDanter.co.uk

EDJ RECORDS Over in the U.K. Benji Kirkpatrick keeps the spirit of Jimi Hendrix alive and well with the aptly titled Hendrix Songs. There’s no shortage of Hendrix tributes but, with Benji singing and playing acoustically on bouzouki and other stringed instruments, the CD gives a rare insight into Jimi’s generation spanning popularity. One of the 21st century wave of acoustic guitar virtuosos in the U.K., Benji is the multi-instrumentalist in the U.K. band Bellowhead and he segues brilliantly with his 12 Hendrix covers. An acoustic power-pop rave up of “Foxy Lady” is a treat as is just about everything here. Speaking about recording Hendrix Songs, Benji tells mwe3.com "I’d always tried playing his songs in some form or another in my set but I was very aware that I was never going to come close to doing what he did. This sparked off the idea of coming up with a whole album’s worth of newly worked, stripped back Hendrix material, with the focus being his songwriting rather than his guitar wieldingthe project gestated for some time but I got there in the end." Benji treats these Hendrix classics like the holy grail and he tastefully brings classic rock into the traditional folk and folk-jazz realm. A unique sounding album, Hendrix Songs makes for an unusual and inspiring blend of acoustic Hendrix classics. www.BenjiKirkpatrick.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA
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Having worked as an engineer for Pink Floyd on various band-related projects, singer-songwriter Andy Jackson returns in 2016 with a new solo album entitled 73 Days At Sea. Featuring Andy's own blistering Gilmour-esque guitars and swirling synth keyboards, the album even sounds like Pink Floyd, especially during their dark, neo-prog Animals period. Jackson is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and vocalist and he puts his background as a studio wiz to good use on an elegant sounding, multilayered album that evokes Floyd and other prog legends such as Van der Graaf Generator. From VDGG, sax legend David Jackson appears as guest artist on a track as does vocalist Anne-Marie Helder from the band Panic room. That said, 73 Days At Sea is Andy Jackson’s baby all the way. Commenting on the album title in the CD liner notes, Andy states, “I resolved that I would write a suite of songs concerning the sea, maybe one of three suites making up an album. Eventually, it became clear that the entire album was to be the ‘sea suite’, albeit that direct mention was sometimes fleeting.” If you miss the sound of Pink Floyd following the latter 1970s, give a listen to Andy Jackson and his 73 Days At Sea. In addition to the CD, packaged with eye-popping art and lyrics booklet, the deluxe edition of 73 Days At Sea includes an accompanying DVD with the album mixed in hi-res stereo and surround sound. www.AndyJacksonMusic.com

GARAGE RECORDS
– Just now people were starting to think, “What’s guitar great Martin Barre been doing musically since leaving the current version of Jethro Tull?” Back in 2003, Martin had just released the all instrumental Stage Left on the Fuel 2000 label. Sort of at odds with Martin’s underrated angular approach to rock instrumentals, in 2015 Back To Steel was released. Martin has gone back to his Tull rock roots on an album that merges a definite Tull inspired ethos with a bluesy sound that mixes This Was and Stand Up era Tull. True, no Ian Anderson, but on vocals is Dan Crisp. As part of the band Martin has put together, there are also some excellent female backing vocals with Alex Hart & Elani Andrea that gives a nice twist to the rock patterning here. Covers of two Tull classics are done with style and panache. There are a couple instrumentals that will please Stage Left tracks while the rockers will have you coming back for more. Excellent engineering and mixing by James Bragg. There’s that This Was kind of bluesy jamming on a few tracks that will also appeal to Tull fans. www.facebook.com/officialmartinbarre

GLASSVILLE RECORDS – Swedish guitarist Hasse Fröberg is making waves with his 2015 CD HFMC featuring Hasse Fröberg Musical Companions. The 9 track CD is a solid showcase for Hasse’s anthemic prog-rock songs and vocals. A member of Swedish prog heroes The Flower Kings, Hasse has a near operatic voice and the band sounds influenced by Swedish rock as well as English hard rock bands such as Deep Purple. There’s plenty of soaring electric guitars from Anton Lindsjö and keyboards of Kjell Haraldsson, powered by the rhythm section of Ola Strandberg (drums) and Thorns (bass). With his towering vocal presence and additional guitar work, the songs take center stage. With work in the Flower Kings ongoing, there’s plenty of fine Swedish prog on HFMC to make music fans happy. www.hfmcband.com

HEMIFRÅN
– Swedish music producer Peter Holmstedt has impeccable taste when it comes to classy American singer-songwriters. A fan of the best American artists for years, Peter puts his musicology skills to the test on the latest release on his Hemifrån music label. On the 2015 CD release of Singer Songwriters From Home, Peter has compiled various tracks from four gifted artists—Barry Ollman, Bob Cheevers, Keith Miles and Greg Copeland. Each of these singer-songwriters are masterful at composing memorable, hook-laden songs. With 18 tracks divided up among these four, it’s hard to pick and choose. One of Greg Copeland’s tracks, “Are You Here”, features slide guitar wiz David Lindley, while another “Pretty Girl Rules The World” features Jackson Browne. In fact, Jackson is a good barometer when comparing some of these songs to better well known artists. Instead of just regular acoustic tracks, most of the tracks here feature well-honed country rock that involved a number of musicians that fill up the soundstage throughout the CD. Singer-songwriter Barry Ollman blew many a mind with his classy CD, What’ll It Be? and his four tracks are equally intriguing with guest slots from top players like Dave Beegle and Springsteen bassist Garry W Tallent. Bob Cheevers adds in some catchy pop-rock with his tracks featuring top session legends such as Larry Knechtel, guitarist Louie Shelton and Spooner Oldham. Fans of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne, for example, will enjoy the wide variety of catchy, country rock and pop tracks while liner notes from rock legend Elliott Murphy adds in some timely insights behind the music and magic behind Singer Songwriters From Home. www.hemifran.com

LOUD FOLK RECORDS – Part of the Minnesota-based New Folk Records, Loud Folk strikes a blow for folk-pop with Salvaged by singer-songwriter Jeromy Darling. The album successfully merges folk-rock and pop to great effect, shining a spotlight on Jeromy’s singing and guitar work. Growing up in Ames, Iowa, Jeromy has overcome much hardship and the results of his life experiences can be heard on the eleven cut Salvaged CD. The CD combines two different CDEP titles—The One That You Loved (2010) and A Year Of Living (2012) and overall leaves a good impression as to the value of his driving and daring singing and songwriting. www.JeromyDarling.com

MANIAC SQUAT
– Maniac Squat released the double CD set by Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey, who recreated Bowie’s 1970 classic The Man Who Sold The World. Next they turned their attention to Emperors Of Medieval Japan—the debut CD by Mick Ronson’s daughter Lisa Ronson. Mick was Bowie’s guitarist of choice during the fabled era that gave us The Man through till Pinups and it’s very gratifying to find that Lisa has inherited her dad’s impeccable musical aptitude. The nine track CD features a number of Bowie alumni including guitarists Earl Slick, Erdal Kizilcay and Reeves Gabrels along with a number of brilliant UK musicians including Morgan Fisher (keys), Paul Cuddleford (guitars, keys, drums), Terry Edwards (sax) and much more including co-writing credits from label chief Tom Wilcox. Filled with oblique, Bowie-esque soundscapes, Emperors Of Medieval Japan is the perfect showcase for Lisa’s sublime and sensual vocals and songs. There’s even a rock solid cover of “Shakin’ All Over” to lighten the heavy rock mood. Somewhere in heaven, Bowie and Ronno are having a blast watching and waiting on Lisa’s promising career. Filled with serious rock and show-stopping 21st century glam-rock, Emperors Of Medieval Japan carries the Ronson name well into the 21st century. www.facebook.com/LisaRonsonMusic

MOORLAND RECORDS
– A very cool little record that was somewhat overlooked in the mad rush of 2015, Strange Readings From The Weather Station is a great introduction to the music of singer-songwriter James McArthur And The Head Hunters. Like the music of Donovan, for instance, McArthur make music that is sublime and very easy on the ears. Backing up McArthur are Headhunters, John O’Sullivan (pedal steel) and Jim Willis (mandolin), while the ten track CD also features several guest artists including members of U.K. prog-rockers Syd Arthur. Strange Readings From The Weather Station features great packaging, memorable cover art and superb studio sound. Recorded in the U.K., the album is kind of English in a good way, very rural and rustic influenced folk music that will appeal to fans of Donovan, late ‘60s Bowie, Nick Drake and other legends of U.K. folk-pop. www.JamesMcArthurMusic.co.uk

MY SONIC TEMPLE – The self-titled CD debut by Perfect Beings was released on the My Sonic Temple label in 2015. The L.A, based band features Ryan Hurtgen (vocals, piano), Johannes Luley (guitars), Chris Tristam (bass), Jesse Nason (keys) and Dicki Flizar (drums). The sound of Perfect Beings has been called progressive rock and based on the musical expertise here, one would be tempted to draw that conclusion as well. Also note, this is their debut CD and it’s very good so there’s a lot of room for improvement which will be interesting to watch. This debut CD by Perfect Beings is dedicated to Chris Squire and renowned mastering engineer Doug Sax and I’m sure Squire would have appreciated the sonic interplay here. www.PerfectBeingsBand.com

NEW SURF - Best known for his work with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, Jeffrey Foskett may be well respected for his guitar work but on his 2015 CD, Classic Harmony he takes the vocal spotlight. Backed by several players, Jeff broadcasts his love of pop from the 1960s and ‘70s. Where else could you hear a 2015 version of “Come On Down To My Boat”, the big hit from 1966. Foskett and company summon up the best of the ‘60s including covers of Buffalo Springfield, Beach Boys, Dylan and The Byrds, Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen, Badfinger, Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector and a pair of bonus tracks including Roy Wood’s Christmas perennial “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and Brian Wilson and Mike Love’s “Little Saint Nick”. On Classic Harmony, Jeff Foskett dedicates his muse to the classics of yesteryear, and the results are highly listenable, including Jeff’s version of “Sukiyaki”, with Jeff singing in Japanese. www.New-Surf.com/Foskett

NORDIC NOTES – Nordic Notes continues blowing minds of music fans with the 2015 CD by Norwegian singer-songwriter Elin Kåven. Considered by some to be the Icelandic version of vocalist Enya, Elin comes alive in her own right on her 2015 CD called Eamiritni Rimeborn. That’s a mouthful of a title, but then again so is Elin’s music. She calls her music “Arctic Folk Pop” but she’s also the queen of the avant gard World Groove sounds and she’s not afraid to rock out when it’s called for. One of the Sami people, Elin comes from the very north of Norway where folklore and mystical ancient ways are a part of everyday life. Elin practices something called “Yoik”, which is a traditional way to use the voice among the Sami people near the Arctic circle. There’s some fine musicians accompanying Elin including Juhani Silvola and Timo Silvola. Even with so much unusual music and musicianship abounding on the CD, it’s really Elin’s captivating voice and dynamic, diverse sounding arrangements that will hypnotize and beguile listeners, even the uninitiated. The CD is wonderfully packaged while the CD booklet features all the lyrics and the English translations. Eamiritni Rimeborn is one of the most unique sounding albums from one of the most unique parts of the world. www.ElinKaaven.com

OMAD RECORDS – Sometimes having rock royalty in your blood is one sure fire way to establish an artist. That point is put to the test and proven on Arwen—the 2016 by singer-songwriter Arwen Lewis. Arwen is the daughter of Peter Lewis—co-founder of classic S.F. psychedelic rockers Moby Grape. A true disciple of classic American pop-rock herself, Arwen covers a number of song classics from the famous self-titled 1969 Moby Grape album, including tracks composed by Peter Lewis. A range of musicians are featured backing Arwen’s vocal including her father, album producer John DeNicola (guitar, bass) as well as Lovin’ Spoonful founder John Sebastian, who adds guitar here. Photography by Henry Diltz and superb album mastering by Greg Calbi adds to the album’s enjoyment. Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC, Arwen is a very cool round trip ticket, looking back at the heyday of the psychedelic sound of the ‘60s as played by rock musicians today. www.ArwenLewis.com

PARTISAN RECORDS – Based in Brooklyn, Partisan and Knitting Factory Records released Grey Tickles, Black Pressure by singer-songwriter John Grant. A modern day master in the spirit of John Cale and other offbeat macabre rockers, Grant is a master of melodic rock. There’s plenty to like about the 14 track CD including the ultra bizarro cover art feature Grant bleeding from the head! If you can get past that, the album traverses a realm of musical mayhem yet by the time you get to track 13, “Geraldine”, you realize that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is truly haunting and memorable. Truly a man of the world, Grant takes pop in a bold new direction with Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. www.JohnGrantMusic.com

PRIMARY PURPOSE
– Before he died, Les Paul played with some great musicians. In fact Les was so loved that after he passed, the band that backed Lou all those years is still called The Les Paul Trio. On October 14, 2013, prog-rock bassist / vocalist John Wetton joined forces with Les Paul’s band live at the Iridium in NYC and the results can be appreciated on New York Minute: Live At The Iridium, New York, 2013. Appearing on behalf of men’s health issues, New York Minute features Wetton’s timely tribute to the great rock songs of the 1960s and ‘70s. With the acoustic sound of The Les Paul Trio meshing with Wetton’s acoustic guitar and vocals, the 9 track album is a great sounding tribute by Wetton and it proves he can excel as well (with Les Paul’s old band no less) in a stripped down jazz trio sound. Key to the trio was guitarist Lou Pallo and bassist Nicky Parrott, who are joined by piano wiz Rodney Holmes, who was not a member of the original LP3 but more than handles his own. With the title taken from a cover of the Eagles, classic other noted moments include the lead off cover of the Steely Dan classic “Do It Again”, which really swings and fine covers of more from Blind Faith, Brian Wilson, Dylan, the Beatles and Wetton's band Asia. The CD is well recorded with lots of depth and the booklet is very New York. www.JohnWetton.com

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM – The Danish band MEW are earning well deserved accolades for their 2015 album with the unusual name + -. You might call the Plus Minus album, if you can’t figure out the signs mean, but either way, there’s plenty of inventive pop and rock sounds on the hour long CD. Music fans have been calling Mew a modern day A-Ha or Genesis but that would have to be during their Phil Collins dominated MTV dance era. It’s scary to think Mew are paving a whole new road with their eclectic 21st century pop Vs rock sound. + - is mechanized, computerized and filled with a huge sound that defies the odds. Singer Jonas Bjerre has described the Mew sound as being “Like a photograph that’s been soaking in chemicals for a long time, to exaggerate the contrast.” Filling out the Mew sounds are Bo Madsen, Silas Graae (drums) and Johan Wohlert (bass). The mew-sicianship is first rate throughout and the Mew sound is like a sonic magnet that will draw you in and keep you glued to their web like sound. Mew are a great example of the unyielding power of 21st century pop and rock. Clearly on to something big here, let’s hope Mew has the staying power to take their inventive sound to the next level. www.MewSite.com

RANDOM DISTURBANCE – Quite simply, the band known as Edison’s Children are one of the most inventive progressive rock bands on the scene today. Featuring the Anglo / American axis of Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood, Edison’s Children mix pop smarts with a progressive rock bent that will keep you coming back for more. Featuring 15 tracks of new music, mixed by John Mitchell and new mixes of past classics by King Crimson’s Jakko, the nearly 80 minute, 2016 CD release of Somewhere Between Here And There is their best release yet. Singer / songwriter Pete Trewavas is one of the most gifted multi-instrumentalists recording in 2016 and guitarist / vocalist Eric Blackwood is clearly on the same wavelength. For instance on track 3 here: “Ever Be Friends”, the pair marry a solid pop hook within the framework of what sounds like a very progressive rock song that features Pete on lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drum programming and effects with Eric adding well placed backing vocals. Other tracks like track four, “Solstice” features an atmospheric instrumental track with Eric’s guitar work and Pete’s bass synced up nicely. With the American flag and the U.K. union jack flag blazing away on the CD cover, it’s clear that Edison’s Children remain on the cutting edge of 21st century prog-pop with Somewhere Between Here And There. www.edisonschildren.com

RATTLEWATCH RECORDS
– An album of immense power and sonic gravitas, After All The Wishing is the 2015 CD by the U.K. singer-songwriter known as Jim Johnston. Very Bowie-influenced, Jim puts on his best cockney accent and delivers a solid, punchy set of memorable rockers that will clearly appeal to Bowie fans. Johnston has a serious pedigree in music and his CD features members of The The and The Pop Group. Several spoken word interludes add in even more heightened drama to Johnston’s powerful rock anthems. Several players bring in additional sonic thunder including Chris Thomas (drums) but clearly it’s Johnston’s guitar, vocals and synth work that powers the force of After All The Wishing. www.facebook.com/jimjohnstonmusic

ROUGH TRADE – Living in Manhattan and in fact throughout NYC used to be a great thrill back in the 1960s and even 1970s. The ‘80s brought about hard times and many New Yorkers got forced out because of raising costs of living and skyrocketing rents. It’s a big country but the kids still love the city and for a modern day view of life in Manhattan, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring muso give a listen to Manhattan, the 2015 CD by Jeffrey Lewis & The Bolts. Like many, Lewis has his roots in NYC and he puts his street smarts knowledge of it to good use on his CD. A very unusual sounding album, the sound is best described as “New York City Anti-Folk”. There are folk elements but also there’s avant-garde, rock and even electronica sources that will have your hair standing up on the back of your neck. Lewis sounds like a modern day Lou Reed on several tracks here and Velvet Underground fans could do a lot worse than to pick up on this CD. On the whole, the album is never less than entertaining, albeit in a disconcerting way. The CD is very imaginatively packaged and features a very cool comic book that looks great and it tells the story of the album in a very funny way. Lewis has a great band who are totally in sync with his humorous, street level view of life in NYC in the ungodly year of 2016. Folk-rockers and NYC music fans don’t miss Jeffrey Lewis & The Bolts. Taking the bridge, back to Manhattan, indeed. www.TheJeffreyLewisSite.com

SECRETLY CANADIAN – Released on the Secretly Canadian label in 2015, The Lonely Roller is a solid introduction to the music of singer-songwriter Steven A. Clark. The ten track CD takes soul-pop and R&B sounds deep into the future by instilling in the music a high velocity electronic music element. Throughout the album, Clark receives stellar support from a number of musicians, including co-production by Steven Sanz, Jesus Muñoz (guitars), Sam Hyken (strings), Albert Vargas (bass), Victoria Blue (backing vocals) along with the assistance of some skillful recording engineers. After spinning the CD it's clear that The Lonely Roller revolutionizes soul-pop music. Comparisons to Seal notwithstanding, at times The Lonely Roller sounds like it was produced by fabled YES producer Trevor Horn, especially as there’s a kind of electronic, dance music vibe running throughout. The Lonely Roller is a modern classic and, start to finish, is filled with killer tracks and great studio production. www.StevenAClark.com

SLUMBERLAND RECORDS / AED RECORDS – Sometimes the best pop-rock is innocent and uncluttered, free of genre identification and sonic signposts. Such a CD is the 2015 CD from U.K. popsters Linden, who strike gold with Rest And Be Thankful. Somewhat influenced by McCartney and bands such as Squeeze, there’s plenty of catchy, toe-tapping pop magic in play on Linden’s minor pop miracle. All the tracks were written by singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Joe McAlinden, who receives backup from fine musicians including Stuart Kidd (drums), Eric Lindsay (guitars) and Marco Rea (bass). The CD was mixed by pop maven Edwyn Collins, who helps impart a glossy sonic sheen to the sound. Rest And Be Thankful is not an album of fierce guitar solos and heavy rock. The CD almost borders of folk-rock but there’s way too much pop goodness here to file under folk. In addition, the CD packaging is first rate as is the music. www.JoeMcAlinden.com

THAT OTHER LABEL – Based out in Northern California, singer-songwriter Kathy Sanborn breaks ground for World Groove music with her 2015 CD, Lights Of Laniakea. There’s plenty of World Music sounds, courtesy of top musicians like Ricky Kej (arrangements, keys, bass), Vanil Veigas (santoor and keyboard programming) and Varsha Kej (sitar) and others, but the spotlight is on Kathy’s sultry sounding vocals. Merging exotic instrumentation with a kind of New Age oriented smooth jazz sound, Lights Of Laniakea is all over the map musically but that’s what makes it so appealing. If the goal of Lights Of Laniakea was to relax and inspire the listener, than Ms. Sanborn has wildly succeeded. That place where exotic Indian influenced jazz meets New Age vocals is where you’ll experience Lights Of Laniakea. Music just doesn’t get more relaxing and sublime sounding than Lights Of Laniakea. www.KathySanborn.com

THE END RECORDS – In 2015, Brooklyln-based The End Records released Aesthesis by Australian rockers Dead Letter Circus. There’s plenty of huge stadium rock sounds in play on the ten track CD which features lead vocalist Kim Benzie and guitarist Clint Vincent. The Dead Letter Circus sound veers from a near hard rock metal twinge to a more futuristic prog-rock stance that sounds influenced by YES during their Trevor Rabin dominated Big Generator era. On their third album release, Dead Letter Circus taps into a kind of 21st century prog-rock meets hard rock angst and the results make for an album of high-velocity stadium rock power. www.DeadLetterCircus.com

THE END RECORDS
- Brooklyn-based The End, is s pretty eclectic little record label so it’s surprising to see them with a 2015 CD by Brit-pop pioneers The Zombies. Still featuring founding members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, they are joined by a full band on the 2015 CD release of Still Got That Hunger. Overall the CD is more Argent than Colin and fans of Argent won’t complain although there is a Blunstone original here as well. The album is mostly hard-hitting, straight ahead pop with with glossy sound that is somewhat reminiscent of the smooth pop of Steely Dan. Anyone expecting Baroque pop ala their late ‘60s music might be disappointed but, Argent and Blunstone are seasoned musicians and entertainers and if anything, Still Got That Hunger is more like their mid ‘60s music than the Baroque pop of Odessey And Oracle or the jazzy prog-fusion meet stadium rock of Argent’s ‘70s band with Chris White and Russ Ballard. The Zombies bring back the sound of the ‘60s with Still Got That Hunger. www.facebook.com/TheZombiesMusic

TUBTONE MUSIC – Based out on the West Coast of the U.S., the band known as The California Honeydrops are making waves in the blues-rock world with their 2015 CD, A River’s Invitation. The eleven cut CD is filled with funky, blues rock-based songs delivered with expertise by the five piece band. The album kicks off with the title track, a song written by the late great Percy Mayfield and so it goes throughout the CD. The core of The California Honeydrops centers around the songs, vocals and guitars of Lech Wierzynski, who also adds in trumpet, keys and percussion. Drummer Benjamin Malament also gets songwriting credits while the band also features a full horn section that is in sync with the bluesy, rocking vision. Also on hand are a number of guest artists who help bring the album to an even higher level. The California Honeydrops bring bluesy rock alive and well into the 21st century. www.CaHoneydrops.com

UMBRELLO RECORDS
- The 2016 CD release of Trustworks by 1960s U.K. beat-prog legend The SYN, starts off in a very chilling way with the disembodied voices of the late Olaf Palme and India’s Mahatma Gandhi—two great men of peace assassinated in public. These two spoken word excerpts by two venerable visionaries sums up the spirit of Steve Nardelli and his new outing with The SYN. For Trustworks, Steve has chosen to work and record with the rising Swedish prog-rock band Moon Safari. On the 9 track Trustworks, the SYN sound receives a musical reinforcement thanks to the enthusiastic drive of Moon Safari. A fine band in their own right, on Trustworks, Moon Safari backs up SYN founder Steve Nardelli—playing all the instruments while adding in a solid wall of backing vocals everywhere they are needed. In his February 2016 mwe3.com interview, Steve Nardelli discusses recording Trustworks with co-producer Jonas Reingold and members of the Moon Safari band: Pontus Åkesson – guitars; Simon Åkesson – keyboards; Johan Westerlund – bass; Petter Sandström - vocals, acoustic guitar and now former Moon Safari member Tobias Lundgren – drums. Any SYN fan who had the slightest trepidation about this unique pairing of The SYN and Moon Safari will be pleasantly surprised at just how well this brilliant album has turned out. In fact, the album has a unique blend of Steve Nardelli’s catchy beat-prog magic with the sonic prog wall of sound that is Moon Safari. Speaking to mwe3.com about the SYN / Moon Safari collaboration on Trustworks, Steve Nardelli adds, "I wrote the basic songs and together with the incredible musicality and musicianship of Moon Safari, they were developed. The vocal harmony is completely their creation, they are in a league of their own when it comes to the arrangement and delivery, amazing! They are a Swedish CSN&Y, more melodic in my opinion, melody is a dynamic and strength that is common to Swedish musicians." Although he sadly passed away in 2015, the great YES founder and SYN legend Chris Squire would have appreciated this latest chapter of the band he helped forge back in the 1960s. Still a vigilant optimist who remains one of the most underrated U.K. singer-songwriters, going way back to the 1960s, Steve Nardelli rekindles the hopes and dreams of '60s music fans on “Revolution Now” singing, “Good times are coming, Peace in our lifetime.” An accomplished masterpiece of 21st century sounds, on Trustworks, The SYN revives the spirit of the ‘60s with a state-of-the-art prog-rock album. www.synmusic.net

WEST OF EDEN – The Swedish folk music band West Of Eden released their CD Look To The West in 2016. The CD features the songwriting team of lead vocalists Jenny Schaub (vocals, accordion) and Martin Schaub (vocals, guitars) who get solid backing from their band of musicians including Henning Sernhede (electric, acoustic guitars) and Ola Karlevo (drums). The West Of Eden sound is very pure folk-rock music with hardly a hint of rock but the recording is very lush sounding and full bodied. Hints of English folk legends like Fairport Convention abound with some of the tracks reminding one of late ‘70s Jethro Tull, especially track seven “The List”. Martin Schaub produced the album as well as adding in a number of antique sounding instruments including mandolin, dobro, pump organ and celesta. There’s also a couple of instrumental tracks that show just how talented these musicians are. Topping things off is the excellent CD packaging and booklet, printing all the lyrics. If Swedish / Anglo folk music is your thing by all means check out the entertaining upbeat sounds of West Of Eden. www.WestOfEden.com

ZIP RECORDS – Zip Records is one of the most adventurous record labels in the US today. One pop group currently being promoted in the U.S. by Zip is Holland-based Snowapple. Consisting of three young ladies backed up by a number of musicians, Snowapple is one of the most appealing Dutch exports in years. Singing in English, Snowapple reach a new musical milestone with their 2015 album Illusions. For those unfamiliar with Snowapple, their retro-pop sound is somewhat similar to The Roches, a band that featured the three harmonizing Roche sisters. Even with their unusual, deadpan lyrics, their at times retro-flavored sound and sumptuous harmonies, one might also compare Snowapple to The Andrews Sisters, if you want to go back that far. There’s nothing too unusual on this 2015 Snowapple CD—just 3 gifted singers, banding together on eleven tracks that take girl group harmonies into the 21st century. Overall, Illusions is a fine follow up to the first self-titled Snowapple CD from 2013. Pop fans looking for something new and unusual should catch Snowapple. www.snowapple.nl

 


INSTRUMENTAL

 

AIRO AUDIO – The 2016 CD release of Altered States is a fine return to form from Uma—the artist referred to as “one of America’s Renaissance women”. In addition to her work as author, jewelry-artist and spiritual teacher, Uma’s specialty is instrumental meditation music and with Altered States, Uma has made of the most haunting, deeply introspective New Age-based albums of 2015. Uma has recorded and released well over a dozen albums of meditation and guided imagery music and clearly Altered States will be prized by her many fans. Altered States was created using the ten scales which Indian music ragas are based but she adapts them into Western music as a New Age keyboard album. Commenting on the album design, Uma states, “A yogi taught me those Indian scales. If you sink deep into these different sounds, they automatically put you in a state of meditation which is my forte.” Altered States is filled with a kind of magical form of meditation music that will automatically bring you into a state of inner peace and expanded awareness to which Uma adds, “We exist beyond fear. Creativity becomes our natural expression. With that goal in mind, I offer my music to the world.” www.UmaSilbey.com

BAFE'S FACTORY – Southpaw Steel ‘N’ Twang rolls on into 2016 with their late 2015 album Stat(u)e Of Mind, released in Finland on Bafe’s Factory Records. The second SST album, the 14 track Stat(u)e Of Mind features a generous helping of instrumental tracks and two vocal tracks all featuring steel guitar wizard Ville Leppänen, backed up by the tight rhythm section of Tero Mikkonen (drums) and JP Mönkkönen (bass). On their second CD, SST proves why they’re considered one of the premier guitar based instrumental rock bands throughout Europe today. Overall, Stat(u)e Of Mind features a range of all new originals and serves as a fitting follow up to the music on their first SST album from 2014 Hale’s Pleasure Factory. Listening to track after track, clearly Leppänen and company continues to amaze and after a couple spins I was moved by a number of tracks, including track eleven “Duel”. Commenting on the track “Duel” in his mwe3.com interview, Ville explains, “Duel" is one of my favorites. It's like you said… a mishmash of many styles, there's some Italo western, surf-rock, Klezmer, flamenco too but somehow it works!” Alternative rock radio has taken a shine to the retro, jazzy, steel-surf meets Hawaiian sound of SST, so let’s hope the jazz community takes a second look and listen too! www.BafesFactory.fi

BIG DRUM RECORDS – Not much was known about South Africa-based drummer Georg Voros but then he released Bach To Me in 2014. The album is a very original sounding adaptation of J.S. Bach’s music for classical jazz-rock orchestra. Instead of jazzing it up or overtly rocking their way through Bach’s music, the accent is on very classical sounding straight ahead instrumental rock versions. Voros is very much in league of his own in South Africa. Obviously having a great time drumming his way through this unique album, Georg is joined by a range electric guitarists and also appearing is keyboard icon Duncan Mackay, who also mixed the album while bringing in some tasty Wakeman-esque keyboard parts. Instead of flashing off like ELP, Georg Voros and company are more accurately bringing Bach into 2016. Instro prog-rock fans will enjoy this well produced, self-styled CD tribute to the evergreen sounds of J.S. Bach. www.BachTome.com / www.facebook.com/georgvoros.musician

BIG WAVE RECORDS
– Minnesota’s best surf-rock band, The Surf Dawgs features the talents of guitar ace Zippy Caplan. On the the 2016 CD release of Moontide, the Surf Dawgs are joined by Bob Spalding—guitar legend of The Ventures. The results make Moontide one of the most enjoyable surf-rock party albums of the year. In 2013, The Surf Dawgs released Unleashed and their 2016 follow up is equally great and rocking. There are several Surf Dawg originals—including tracks written by Zip and Bob Spalding—yet the covers are incredible and add to the upbeat nature of the festivities. Among the choice covers featured on Moontide are “Raunchy”, “Midnight At The Oasis”, “Ride Captain Ride” (the old Blues Image hit), “To Sir With Love”, “I Got A Line On You” (the Spirit classic), “Eye Of The Tiger” and “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” (the Wizard Of Oz classic written by Harold Arlen) as well as “Red Red Robin” —a song not often heard on a surf-rock album! The amazing thing is that Zip and Bob Spalding make a dynamic guitar pairing and the other Surf Dawg members—Bernie Bomberg (keys), Larry Wiegand (bass) and “Cadillac” Sally West—really add a lot to the CD as do the number of guest artists that also appear. If you love great melodies and surf-rock instrumentals ala The Ventures, then pick up Moontide by The Surf Dawgs. www.TheSurfDawgs.com

BLAMS MUSIC
– One of the three guitar virtuosos in California Guitar Trio, Florida based Bert Lams returns in 2015 with a new project with Italian guitarist Fabio Mittino. The 17 track Long Ago features Bert and Fabio performing the music of Gurdjieff and De Hartman. The album is very beautiful sounding and in sound and scope it borders on classical guitar and even lute inspired melodies from hundreds years ago. Interesting that the mythological Gurdjieff was a philosopher from Russian / Armenian lineage while Thomas De Hartman was another Russian composer. Story is that they both worked together and created over 300 compositions between 1918 and 1927. Bert and Fabio even used Gibson arch top guitars built in the 1930s to help recreate the venerable vibe on Long Ago. The album just floats by like a cosmic guitar breeze and you can almost shed a tear by the beauty of this mournful and hermetic music. Also incredible is that much of this music has never been played before on guitar, let alone two guitars in synchronous harmony. CGT fans and classical guitar fans will totally enjoy Long Ago by Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino. www.MittinoLams.com

CHRISTOPHER BOSCOLE MUSIC
– The art of New Age piano is alive and well in the CD catalog of Hawaii-based musician Christopher Boscole. Boscole’s 2013 album New Age Of Classical Piano – Piano Solos takes the art of solo piano to a higher level by digging deeply into the art of classical music. Boscole’s album features solo renditions of favorites from the classical repertoires of icons such as Debussy, Satie, Chopin, Bach and others while the 12 track album also features a pair of Boscole originals that fit right in. Boscole’s 9’ Steinway D piano comes alive as magic flows from the artist’s hands right onto the CD. Fans of New Age piano music and the great classical music legends should give a listen to Christopher Boscole and his impressive repertoire of piano-based New Age Classical sounds. www.ChristopherBoscole.com

CANDYRAT RECORDS – One of the young guns of the acoustic guitar world, Italian guitarist Luca Stricagnoli released his self-titled album on Candyrat Records in 2016. Musically, the album is very eclectic although being all acoustic and all instrumental it’s bound to draw comparisons to legends such as John Fahey and even Michael Hedges. Of course Luca isn’t very well known yet but with his self-titled masterpiece he’s off to a great start. Several tracks, including the majestic sounding “Conquest Of Paradise”, were orchestrated by Stefano Barone, who also serves as the album’s artistic producer. There’s plenty here to satisfy the desires of guitar fans with a penchant for superbly produced acoustic instrumental music. www.LucaStricagnoli.com

CHERRY RED RECORDS – One of the most dazzling albums of hi-powered instrumental rock of the 21st century is the 2015 CD release of The 3rd Planetary Chronicles by Japanese instrumental art-rockers Yuka & Chronoship. Featuring the music and keyboards of Yuka Funakoshi, the quartet is filled out by Shun Taguchi (bass), Takashi Miyazawa (guitars) and Ikko Tanaka (drums). On the band’s third album, it’s just amazing how well Yuka and company takes the spirit of early 1970s U.K. prog rock ala bands like Hatfield & The North, Caravan and others and brings it all up to date in the 21st century with much style and renewed energy. Yuka is not only a great keyboardist and arranger but she also adds in various vocal choruses when and where it’s needed, while keeping the mainly instrumental vision in tact. With a logo designed by YES legend Roger Dean, there’s plenty of music here to bring the music of Yuka & Chronoship to a whole new crowd of progressive rock fans. The 3rd Planetary Chronicles by Japanese art-rockers Yuka & Chronoship brings prog to much higher level. www.facebook.com/Yuka.And.Chronoship

CUNEIFORM RECORDS – The third CD from Swiss band Sonar is their second release on Cuneiform and it’s another amazing album. Sonar are masters at controlling the high-velocity energy of guitar-centric fusion music. Like a Swiss watch tells time, the motions and movements of Sonar are carefully controlled guitar experiments. On the 2015 release of Black Light, Sonar guitarists Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner are joined by bassist Christian Kuntner and drummer Manuel Pasquinelli and the results are emblematic of just how precise and well rehearsed the Sonar machine is. Thelen cites early influences from minimalist Steve Reich while others have described them as creating a kind of “Zen-funk” sound as it relates to minimalist guitar fusion. On Black Light, Sonar receives some expert production advice from producer David Bottrill, who worked with King Crimson in the past. Connections to King Crimson, especially the post 1980’s band, exist in the sound of Black Light as well. As the CD progresses from track to track it’s equally evident that Black Light will find a home with fans of both King Crimson as well as KC guitarist Robert Fripp. Black Light is a sonically riveting album filled with mesmerizing instrumental guitar fusion workouts. Also from the in depth Black Light liner notes, group founder Thelen adds, “Music must get under your skin and have an emotional impact, otherwise it’s worth nothing.” Black Light will take you deep into Sonar’s expansive sonic stratosphere. www.Sonar-Band.ch

FLOWSPACE MUSIC – A joint effort by three top electronic music practitioners, Common Ground features the combined talents of Hollan Holmes (synths, sequencers), Gary Johnson (guitars, moog, bass, drums, loops) and Bill Olien (synths, samples, drums, loops). Thanks to his many fine albums, Hollan Holmes has built up quite following and those listeners who enjoyed Hollan’s electronic music releases will find equal interest on this first ever Common Ground album. Both Bill Olien and Gary Johnson are members of the band Resonant Drift and they bring a wealth of electronic music expertise to this collaborative effort. Two years in the making, Common Ground’s self-titled debut CD was recorded in California and Texas and features the same high quality sound and artwork that electronic music fans have come to expect from Hollan’s many fine CDs. Overall, music fans will note that the combination of Hollan Holmes and the two Resonant Drift members is a perfect sonic fit. While all three Common Ground members have diverse backgrounds in different aspects of music and soundtrack production, they seem to channel their collective sonic resources into one giant electronic music pool and the end result is this exciting and enticing electronica masterpiece. www.CommonGroundAmbient.com

GUY BUTTERY MUSIC – Somewhat of a guitar legend in his native South Africa, Guy Buttery returns in 2016 with a self-titled album of all new music. Buttery’s music has been described as being filled with elements of melodic instrumental, world fusion, African folk, ambient and even World Music. There’s no shortage of sonic diversity on the self titled Guy Buttery album, released both on CD and Lp. The closest thing one can think of when hearing his music, is to ECM guitarist Egberto Gismonti, who recorded some very wild sounding acoustic guitar based instrumental music back in the mid to late 1970s. In fact, the lead off track on Guy Buttery is called “Werner Meets Egberto In Manaus”, a track which fictionally describes Gismonti meeting film producer Werner Herzog in the Amazon jungle. As far as finger style guitar virtuosos, Buttery has few equals and he has worked over the years with legends like Shawn Philips, Martin Simpson, Bob Brozman and Will Ackerman, the latter appearing on guitar on a track here. Overall, the album features a number of side musicians with many of the tracks featuring a full band, drummers and all. Commenting on the full bodied lineup of players here, Buttery adds, “Working with all these first-rate musicians was a dream come true and a career highlight.” Five solo albums in, Guy Buttery hits a sonic sweet spot on album number six. www.GuyButtery.co.za

CARELIA RECORDS – The timeless sounds of The Shadows forms the core of the 2015 CD from Sweden’s Guitar 60. Featuring guitarist Tommy Karlsson, Guitar 60 released Music Through The Years in 2014 and they return in 2015 with a 50th year tribute to the band’s long-standing career, called 50 År: 1965-2015. As on their 2014 Music Through The Years, Guitar 60s, golden anniversary album—subtitled 50 Years Of Instrumental Music: 1965-2015—features a number of guitar instrumental classics including key tracks written by Shadows’ producer Norrie Paramor, Shadows songwriter Jerry Lordan, along with other songs from the pens of Les Paul, Duke Ellington, Mark Knopfler, Errol Garner, Phil Lynott and classical music legend Peter Tchaikovsky—all newly instrumentalized in the ‘60s beat group groove by Tommy Karlsson and company. Being from Sweden, Karlsson and his Guitar 60 bandmates were greatly influenced by a number of Swedish guitar bands and pop groups too, yet on 50 År they make their own breakthrough, evoking a kind of sonic nostalgia that makes their music a joy to listen to. Clearly Guitar 60 loves these timeless songs and it shows throughout their “50 Years” CD. www.carelia.se

COYOTE FLOE MUSIC – Composer – keyboardist – synthesist Timothy Wenzel released Distant Horseman in early 2016. The twelve track CD contains a range of sublime sounding instrumental works that fits neatly into the instrumental New Age and soundtrack genres. Timothy magically produces a range of smooth sounding keyboard sounds on his latest album and he also receives splendid backing, on several tracks, from violinist Josie Quick who brings a touch of symphonic to the sound. Commenting on his method of operations on Distant Horseman, Timothy explains, “Primarily it is a positive journey of surviving and becoming stronger because of the hardships and then breaking through and finding bliss”. Bliss is the key word on Timothy Wenzel’s magical album of transformative and highly meditative instrumental sounds. www.TimothyWenzel.com

DOUBLE CROWN – Coming from the country of Norway, the guitarist known as Burt Rocket is making sonic waves with his 2015 CD called Fiberglass Frenzy. Throughout the twelve cut CD, it’s amazing how well Burt is able to honor his influences while creating his own type of surf-rock instrumental music. Sounding very influenced by the West Coast surf-rock sounds of The Ventures and Dick Dale, Burt recorded all the guitar, bass and keyboards sounds on Fiberglass Frenzy in Iceland and Norway while the drums were handled by Dave Klein in Los Angeles. Ah, the wonders of the modern world of recording! Burt sounds like a natural throughout the CD, which features all of his own original music along with a cover of “The Left Arm Of Buddha” by Hawaiian music / Exotica king Martin Denny. Burt Rocket keeps the power of Norwegian and Scandinavian instro surf-rock alive and well with Fiberglass Frenzy. www.facebook.com/BurtRocket

ESKI MUSIC - In 2014, multi-instrumentalist Erik Scott released and the Earth Bleeds. With its mix of vocal and instrumental sounds, that album was a huge success among New Age Fusion and rock fans. For his 2015 album, Spirits, Erik Scott has taken several of the vocal tracks from and the Earth Bleeds and his 2011 album Other Planets and has reworked them as instrumentals with new arrangements and new mixes. Commenting on Spirits and the new mixes, Erik tells mwe3, “It is mostly a compilation of likely candidates from the first two CDs, Other Planets and and the Earth Bleeds. Vocal renditions on Bleeds, “Run”, “Free” and “Earth Bleeds” have been rearranged into instrumentals, with the duet of fretless and violin on “Free” and the duet of bass and English flute on “Run” taking the place of vocals. There are some re-mixes and re–mastering of course.” Erik Scott’s forte, so to speak, is in his ability to combine a number of progressive music moods and moves all within the space of a single track and this remix approach works wonders on Spirits. Music fans who wanted Erik to return to purely instrumental music will totally enjoy Spirits. Fans of the electric bass will totally marvel at how perfectly Erik Scott uses the bass to create melodic lines as lead instruments. On Spirits there’s also a totally atmospheric version of the Beatles' 1965 classic “Yesterday”, that takes elements of the original song melody and completely alters the sound and scope into a instrumental work of sonic wonder that is an atmospheric work of musical art. Although Spirits is more of a remix / compilation than an album of all new music, there’s plenty of fine musicians on hand to back up Scott's vision, including steel guitarist John Pirruccello, Hank Guaglianone and John Mader (drums), Phil Miller (guitar), Chris Cameron (keys) and many other musicians. Interestingly, Erik Scott cites Paul McCartney as a big bass influence while he also adds in Mark Knopfler as a major influence and you can hear that as some of Scott's melodies are very Celtic-inspired and even Scottish sounding in origin. Those lucky enough to have heard Erik Scott’s first two solo albums will enjoy his 2015 CD remix compilation, Spirits. Erik Scott’s Spirits takes the electric bass into the future with an innovative and fascinating sonic vision. www.ErikScottBass.com

FRIZZON The band Frizzon come from the country of Switzerland and they play mostly instrumental acoustic guitar based jazz. The band also manages to fit in a vocal side, but it’s the acoustic instrumental style that makes them unique. At the core of the Frizzon sound are the guitars and vocal of Jakob Hampel, Ueli Kempter (piano), Lisa Hoppe (double bass) with drums by Manuel Pasquenelli who also plays in the Swiss-based band Sonar. Speaking about the Frizzon sound, Jakob tells mwe3.com, “For me, it is important that music is authentic, no matter which style or genre. In music, one single note played with the right sound can be far more touching than music that only reveals the technical and acrobatic abilities of the musician playing it.” On the instrumental side, one could cite influences here like Tommy Emmanuel as Frizzon are smooth 21st century jazz players that sometimes sound like they came out of Nashville. When he’s not picking out instrumentals, Hampel’s vocals are subdued in a funny kind of Leo Kottke way, but, by way of Zurich, the overall sound is very Americana. The CD is creatively packaged and as such will appeal—in Switzerland and beyondto fans of instrumental jazz and Americana pop. www.JakobHampel.com

GREYDISC RECORDS – The 2016 CD release by the duo of Kevin Kastning and Carl Clements—A Far Reflection is one of the most sonorous yet challenging albums yet on the Greydisc label . Music fans may call this unique sound avant garde or experimental but unquestionably, the balancing act music they make is more like a hybrid form of 21st century neoclassical that can only come from the hands and minds of musicians who are totally in sync with each other. The music here is uniquely meditative and totally spacious and introspective, just to mention a few words that flute & sax player Carl Clements himself has used to describe their sound. Kastning’s use of the 36 string Double Contra guitar is so totally revolutionary sound-wise and can only be accurately described by actually listening to his playing of it. Clements has described Kastning’s unique guitar palette as being orchestral and rich in textures and after listening you’d very much agree with him. Speaking about A Far Refection in his 2016 interview on mwe3.com, Kastning states, “We wanted this record to be more actively contrapuntal, with additional lines moving in and out of each other”. Comparing their two recent albums, Clements adds, “It’s interesting to compare Watercolor Sky and A Far Reflection, as they both arose from a set of recordings done within the same time period. I think both represent a progression in our conception of our duo interaction. That said, on A Far Reflection, I think we chose tracks that reflect more overt diversity of character in terms of tempo, texture, varied forms of musical interaction, etc.” A Far Reflection is truly the most free-spirited album yet from the duo of Kastning and Clements. From meditative soundscapes to a contrapuntal, free form mix of neoclassical and avant garde sound explorations, A Far Reflection is improvisational instrumental music at its 21st century best. www.KevinKastning.com / www.CarlClements.com

IASOS – For years, in fact decades, the New Age artist Iasos has pioneered the use of electronic synth keyboards in the realm of instrumental New Age, ambient space music and metaphysical music as therapy. The Iasos approach to “Inter-Dimensional” music has hit a new high with his 2015 CD called Essence Of Lemuria. There’s so many colorful sounds and sonic textures that the entire album moves way beyond space music and into the land of tropical exotica, pioneered way back in the 1950s and early ‘60s by Hawaiian music artists like Martin Denny. One look at the CD cover art, which is phenomenal, is enough to convince you that there’s a lot more going on there than just what meets the ear. What’s even more amazing is that Essence Of Lemuria is the first new album by Iasos since the 2001 release of Realms Of Light. Electronica fans and tropical music and exotica fans will thoroughly enjoy the captivating sonic ambient sound of Essence Of Lemuria. www.iasos.com

JERÔME LANGLOIS MUSIC
– One of the key founding members of the French Canadian jazz-rock band Maneige, Jérôme Langlois left the band after their first two studio albums from the mid 1970s. Even so, it’s worth noting Jérôme has a couple recent solo albums to his credit—Molignak (2005) and Pieces Pour Piano & La Luna Suite (2011). Both albums offer a kind of chamber rock ensemble with Jérôme’s piano and keys receiving back up from a wide range of musicians. Both albums are mostly steeped in the art of progressive music and even neoclassical piano sounds, especially his 2011 CD. There’s even a foray into Ragtime piano on a couple tracks. No matter what genre he tackles, Jérôme seems to make it his own. Being all instrumental, the music transcends both language and even borders. Fans of the early Maneige art-rock neoclassical sound, a few years before they reinvented themselves as jazz-rock virtuosos, are advised to hunt down these rare but worthwhile albums. After hearing his two solo albums, it’s clear Jérôme Langlois is one of the most gifted progressive keyboard legends in Canada today. www.JeromeLanglois.com

LUAKA BOP – With all the interest in electronic music and vintage synths, it’s not surprising to see a wide swath of instrumental e- music albums coming out in 2016, case in point being Elaenia, by the group known as Floating Points. Essentially the brainchild of Sam Shepherd, the seven track CD features a number of musicians on different tracks all backing up Shepherd’s mastery of the electronic music medium. To his credit, Shepherd plays instruments that e-music fans know and love including the fabled ARP Odyssey, along with other keyboard favorites like Oberheim OB8, Buchla 296e and good old Fender Rhodes. The album floats between electronica and a more group dominated sound, not unlike early Gong, albeit from an instrumental angle. Other musicians here include Alex Reeve (guitar), Joe Zeitlin (cello) and Leo Taylor (drums). Calling Elaenia experimental would be an understatement. Electronic music fans who take their music with a touch of the experimental will find much to applaud about Sam Shepherd and Floating Points. www.FloatingPoints.co.uk

MICHA MUSIC – German guitarist Micha Schellhaas packed his bags and moved out to the West Coast of California. Proof that guitar-centric instrumental jazz-rock fusion is indeed the international language, Micha delivers a new album that will mightily impress fans of American jazz-rock fusion sounds. Produced by guitar icon Carl Verheyen, the 2015 CD release of Double Take is filled with daredevil guitar tracks that features Micha backed up by notable session cats including Chad Wackerman (drums), Dave Marotta (bass), Jim Cox (keys), along with additional guitar from Carl Verheyen. Track after track, it’s clear that Double Take is a solid, action-packed album of sizzling jazz-rock guitar instrumentals. Fans of Carl Verheyen’s many fine albums will enjoy Micha’s Double Take. www.MichaMusic.com

MOONJUNE RECORDS - Marbin continues blowing the mind of jazz-rock fans with their 2015 CD, Aggressive Hippies. Part of the 21st century wave of jazz-rockers, Chicago based guitarist Dani Rabin leads the charge along with sax player Danny Markovitch and the rhythm section of Greg Essig (drums) and John W. Lauter (bass). Creating an all original blend of free fusion, and jammy instro prog, the 9 track CD combines a sonically charged album balancing rock moods and jazzy riffs and arrangements and for the most part is rather pleasantly constructed and recorded. Five albums in to their career, Marbin reaches yet another new sonic groove with the high-powered sonic instro fusion sheen of Aggressive Hippies. www.marbinmusic.com

NEFERTITI RECORDS
– Jazz guitar fans need to be more aware of guitarist Henry Robinett. His fifth album as a bandleader, I Have Known Mountains features some top players including Tom Brechtlein (drums) and Joe Gilman (piano). Also on hand are a pair of fine bassists—Joshua Thurston-Milgrom (acoustic bass) and Rob Lemas (electric bass) along with Dominic Edward Garcia (congas, timbales). The sound of I Have Known Mountains is very upbeat jazz, both smooth jazz and modern mainstream jazz that incorporates classic jazz guitar sounds in the spirit of Wes Montgomery while adding in updated vibes in the realm of jazz fusion pioneer Pat Metheny and his disciples. Robinett studied with Charles Mingus so he’s got a solid jazz pedigree and his unique sound is further enhanced by his compositions, eleven of which grace the CD along with a CD closing cover of “Witchi-Tai-To”, the classic written by Jim Pepper. I Have Known Mountains is time well spent among instrumental jazz guitar fans. www.HenryRobinett.com

NORTHERN SPY - - On their 2015 album Vertigo, The Necks make absolutely hard to categorize instrumental music that combines avant-garde, jazz, neoclassical, New Age, electronica and soundtracks. The trio consists of Tony Buck (guitars, drums), Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Chris Abrahams (keys). The Necks may be considered “outside” jazz by some but there’s as much attention paid to mood and effect as there is on dazzling chops. The kicker here is that entire album is one 45 minute long piece of music called “Vertigo”. The title track is the only track, making is very unique and experimental. Anything goes with The Necks and the proof is in the pudding on Vertigo. www.NorthernSpyRecords.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – A rising star of the soprano saxophone in the jazz world, NYC based musician / composer Roxy Coss is making music fans very happy with her second album entitled Restless Idealism. Released on the Seattle-based Origin Records label, the ten track, all original Restless Idealism features Roxy in the studio leading a sextet of gifted players, including Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Alex Wintz (guitar), Willie Jones III (drums) and more. Despite the 2016 CD being her second album, Roxy is hardly a newcomer to the jazz world, having performed with notable jazz legends like Clark Terry as well as the Mingus Big Band and the Jeremy Pelt Group. Restless Idealism has a seasoned chemistry to it and the soloing and improv levels are very high and totally convincing from a jazz perspective. It’s intriguing to hear such a gifted woman composer playing modern hard-bop jazz yet Roxy’s compositions and production is quite natural sounding and very easy on the ears. Despite being heavy jazz in nature, Restless Idealism is fluid sounding and will hold your attention throughout. An added bonus on the CD are the unique liner notes by Roxy while additional track by track notes sheds further light on the drive and unique personality it takes to succeed in the 21st century jazz world. www.OriginArts.com / www.RoxyCoss.com

THE PARALLAX METHOD – U.K. based rockers The Parallax Method are retooling instro metal into the realm of prog-rock. One part prog / one part instro metal, the three-piece outfit features Danny Beardsley (guitars), Dave Wright (drums) and Daniel Hayers (bass). Although on the scene since 2011, the band are recently making waves with their five track CD called The Owl. Although clocking in under a half hour, there’s some mighty impressive music running through the tracks and as such, fans of instrumental metal rock with prog-like underpinnings will find much to like about The Parallax Method. With the 2015 CD release of The Owl, The Parallax Method are truly a band to give a hoot about. www.TheParallaxMethod.com

NEIL PATTON MUSIC – The third solo piano album from Neil Patton, the 13 track CD release of Between Shadow And Light is a wonderful set of untold music magic. Filed under New Age and even easy listening, the album takes the listener on a magical kind of voyage into the keyboard concepts of Neil Patton. There is an element of hope amidst suffering especially as the album was created during Patton’s almost career destroying arm injury. The Oregon-based Patton cites artists such as David Lanz, Alan Parsons and even Tori Amos. Like Lanz, Patton is expert at conjuring relaxing musical moods. Although he is also a singer, on Between Shadow And Light the mood strictly solo piano. Although this is the fourth album from Patton, and third solo piano album, he’s still sort of unknown to the masses so hopefully Between Shadow And Light will fix all that. Between Shadow And Light is an uplifting and totally magical solo piano album from composer / musician Neil Patton. www.NeilPatton.net

PARTIAL MUSIC - Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Robert Spalding Newcomb is a renaissance man of 21st century music. Renowned in select music circles as an innovative guitarist, keyboardist / programmer and sitarist, Newcomb returned in late 2015 with a solo album, Confluence Of EldersNew Sitar Music For The 21st Century. The 79 minute CD is divided into three parts - “Leaving Varansai” (recorded in 2014), “Ocean Fire, Quiet Stone” (recorded in 2010) and “In The Grace Of Suspension” (a 40 minute opus recorded in 2007). Newcomb’s liner notes are truly historic and provide everything you need to know about the background of this unique album. Throughout Confluence Of Elders, Newcomb sonically details his life-long devotion to Indian music with the artist telling mwe3.com “I have listened to Indian Classical Music since childhood, and to be honest, was always most attracted to sarod more than sitar. I spent some time trying out a sarod, but almost immediately realized I could never play it without giving up guitar, my core instrument. The left hand technique requires growing the fingernails and using them for the fretting on the fretless metal fingerboard. That would never do. So, sitar became my second choice, and 15 years later, I would have it no other way.” Essential listening for World Music fans and students of the sitar, Confluence Of Elders features illuminating liner notes that are revealing and sometimes quite detailed about the tunings and the terminologies of sitar study. Although Newcomb’s technique and understanding of the sitar is flawless, it’s really his compositions and uniquely melodic approaches that separate him from less adventurous artists. On his 2015 CD, Confluence Of Elders, Robert Spalding Newcomb brings the ancient sounds of the sitar to the forefront again in the early 21st century. www.PartialMusic.com

LOU PECCI MUSIC – In the hands of guitar great Lou Pecci, the best of the great American songbook comes to life again. For his 2015 CD, Cinema Standards On Guitar, Lou goes back in time… way back in fact to songs that were mainly written and made popular in the 1930’s, a time when melodic uniqueness and content ruled the day. Lou is particularly fond of the Rogers & Hart songbook but he also covers music of Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and others. More than just another covers album, Lou actually points out, on the CD cover art, that these songs were also used in particular movies that meant a lot to Lou. For example, track 3 here, Lou’s cover of the 1939 Rogers & Hart song “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” was featured in the 1959 movie Pal Joey. There’s even a cover here of “Amapola” dating back to 1922 that was covered by Ennio Morricone in the movie Once Upon A Time In America. A different kind of guitar instrumental cover by Lou of Harold Arlen’s timelessly melodic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (written for The Wizard Of Oz) is a toe-tapping delight. After a few spins, the music sinks in nicely and it’s good to knows that Lou knows his stuff and so it goes on another fine CD of instrumental guitar magic by New Jersey’s best guitarist Lou Pecci. www.CDBaby.com

PURE PIANO MUSIC – The art of solo piano is one of the most popular musical genres all over the world. There’s been some good releases but clearly one of the best solo piano albums of 2016, so far, is Keepsakes In The Attic by Jeff Bjorck. Speaking about his latest album release, Jeff explains, “Imagine spending an afternoon in a cluttered old attic, rummaging through various keepsakes belonging to you or your loved ones.” Jeff's album tells a tale of unbridled emotional and nostalgic sounding piano melodies that are truly heartfelt and memorable sounding. The back of the CD cover art features Jeff looking at family heirlooms and getting all sentimental and stuff. Featuring wistful track titles like “Returning Home”, “Playing Catch With Dad” and “Nana’s Music Box”, Keepsakes In The Attic works both as a kind of New Age-inspired album and a neoclassical sounding album while the all original melodies are very much rooted in pop and on some tracks, even ragtime piano. The constant thing running through the 13 track, all instrumental Keepsakes In The Attic is Jeff’s impeccable piano chops and timing. Jeff adds, “I truly hope this album will create a heartfelt, musical space for my listeners, where they can reminisce about special times in their own lives.” www.PurePiano.com

RAMY HOUSE BAND – The country of Finland has had long history with the guitar and Finnish guitarists are among the best in Europe. The sound of the Shadows was fondly recalled by a number of Finnish guitar bands as far back as the 1960s. Incorporating the fabled Shadows / Ventures guitar sounds of the ‘60s with what the Finns call“Rautalankaa” music, The Ramy House Band calls the shots on their 2016 album Between The Eyes. There is a Finnish translation but either way, the sound of the quartet is very smooth guitar instrumentals that blend the feel of Finnish folk melodies within the instrumental guitar rock sound. It’s all very intriguing to hear such a timeworn sound played by one of today’s guitar band. Guitarist Martti Lydén and company achieves a very unique guitar sound with a fine beat played by the entire band. Guitar fans take note that Between The Eyes follows the release of a number of albums including Hurry Up, Souls! (a religious hymnal guitar tribute), Goes Classic (featuring guitar instrumentals of famous classical music melodies), Gig Stuff Vol. 1 and Gig Stuff Vol. 2 (another CD featuring numerous Shadows covers) and Twistin’ Revolution (traditional melodies played as guitar instrumentals). The various CD releases by The Ramy House Band makes for essential listening for guitar instrumental fans interested in surf rock and Shadows style music from Europe. martti.lyden@tampere.fi

REAL MUSIC – Real music continues on the cutting edge of New Age and meditation music with the 2016 CD release of Yoga Meditations – A Musical Journey by the artist known as Sayama. Where these guys came from is anyone’s guess but as far as this genre of instrumental sounds goes, this CD is a masterpiece. The brainchild of the artist Richard Hiebinger, noted author and film music composer, the seven track, 62 minute CD is filled with the sounds of piano, cello, gong, temple bells and various Indian flavored instrumentation. Linking the various tracks is the sound of ocean waves that make Yoga Meditations a near perfect soundtrack for meditation and other forms of New Age therapies. Of note to studio mavens, all instruments in Yoga Meditations are tuned to C#, also known as the “OM-tone” or “Holy-Tone” in the Indian music culture and is said to have a relaxing effect on body and soul. Essential listening for the Real Music audience, Yoga Meditations is the fourth Sayama CD released by Real Music. www.sayama.de

REAL MUSIC The musical entity known as Liquid Mind is the creation of keyboardist and composer Chuck Wild. After releasing ten albums, Liquid Mind arrives at yet another sonic destination with Liquid Mind XI: Deep Sleep. As the stress of life keeps piling up, fans of New Age and electronica are constantly on the lookout for new and interesting ways to tone down the background noise. Created to enhance the art of sleeping, Deep Sleep is much more than that. In fact, it’s a kind of mini symphonic album of deep electronica that just happens to be of a very relaxing nature. Being that Chuck was greatly influenced by progressive rock music in general, one can’t help but compare some of his soaring orchestrated keyboard imagery to that of Moody Blues founder and mellotron pioneer Mike Pinder, who was the main sonic innovator of progressive rock back in the mid 1960s. Some of Chuck’s keyboards do echo Pinder’s ‘tron like sonic web but there’s also a very unique musical slant on the slow moving sonic glaciers that make up Deep Sleep. So, sominex addicts beware: this album will not put you to sleep. It’s not boring or soporific in any way, shape or form. What it will do is inspire your muse and bring you to a place of sublime peace or bliss that will help to lull you into a space or place where sleep might be the thing that you need most. That said, it’s also a great album to play during the day to help you concentrate or to tone down unwanted thoughts. One of the finest instrumental New Age albums of 2016, Liquid Mind XI: Deep Sleep is an orchestral masterpiece of keyboard electronica from legendary music maker Chuck Wild. If you’re looking for a way to kick stress in the butt, then tune into Deep Sleep, the 2016 CD release from Chuck Wild and Liquid Mind. www.RealMusic.com / www.LiquidMindMusic.com

ROPEADOPE – Taking musical cues from both jazz and the great spaghetti western soundtrack composers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Arthur Vint & Associates strikes instro gold with Through The Badlands. Sounding influenced by the cool jazzy soundtrack sounds of TV and movies, the album proffers a kind of nostalgic exotica as played by younger musicians in 2016. It’s almost a kind of karmic validation of the early jazzy sounds of the ‘60s. Recorded in Brooklyn, NY and produced by Arthur Vint, Through The Badlands features Vint’s drumming and music backed up by a crack band including Ian Stapp (bass), Jon Cowherd (piano) and Tony Scherr (guitar) along with other notable players including harmonica wizard Yvonnich Prene. More mainstream jazz than pop instrumental, Through The Badlands is quite a fine introduction to the suave instrumental sounds of Arthur Vint & Associates. www.ArthurVint.net

ROUND SKY MUSIC – One of the top New Age keyboardist / composers, Paul Avgerninos returned in 2015 with Grace. The 9 track, 57 minute CD is one of the most sublime musical experiences you can have and just listening in the background can lower your blood pressure. Several players assist including David Darling (cello), Jeff Pearce (ebow guitar), Ricky Kej (keys), Kevin Braheny Fortune (ewi, clarinet) Laura Sullivan (piano) and more. Paul acquits himself very nicely on violin, 12 string and echo slide guitars, keyboards and sound designs. One can’t help but think about the great Moody Blues mellotron pioneer Mike Pinder as many of Paul’s keyboard swells sound very Pinder-esque and for fans of progressive instrumental music and New Age keyboard sounds, Grace will be warmly received. Paul Avgerinos has released a number of great albums and perhaps, Grace is his best sounding and most effective outing yet. New Age music listeners will thoroughly enjoy the evocative and therapeutically relaxing sound of the 2016 Grammy winning Grace. www.roundskymusic.com

SAINT MARIE RECORDS
– One of the new wave of cutting edge electronic music artists, L.A. based / U.K. born Mark Van Hoen released NightVision in 2015. The CD is a masterful journey into cutting edge electronics that draws on various musical genres including soundtracks, industrial, Krautrock and late ‘70s Bowie / Eno inspired instrumentals. Some of NightVision brings to mind Bowie’s 1977 Low era but there’s also some new novel sounds and visions to appreciate on this superbly recorded and packaged CD. There’s also a limited edition white vinyl pressing available for turntable fans. With so much dynamic tension in play, clearly the CD will be a huge hit among music fans. Other signposts include Tangerine Dream and Mark pays tribute to the late great TD found Edgar Froese with a pair of tracks entitled “Froese Requiem I” and “Froese Requiem II” that superbly echoes the state of the art electronica that Froese excelled in for decades. Electronic music fans don’t miss the cutting edge sounds of Mark Van Hoen’s NightVision album. www.SaintMarieRecords.com

7D MEDIA – Touch guitarist Trey Gunn has earned great acclaim thanks to his work in the 1990s King Crimson. In fact, Trey’s guitar work has also sounded very influenced by KC founder Robert Fripp. Trey’s 2015 CD, The Waters, They Are Rising is filled with a hypnotic blend of Fripp-influenced sounds that borders on both the avant garde as well as progressive rock genres. Even though the entire CD is instrumental, influences for The Waters, They Are Rising includes Peter Gabriel’s piece “Here Comes The Flood” as well Trey’s score for the recent film, Every Beautiful Thing, written and directed by Sonya Lea. Also from that film, Trey’s CD also includes a vocal of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet”, sung by Dylan Nichole Bandy. Atmospheric and minimalist and, impeccably performed entirely by Trey and his unique touch guitar, The Waters, They Are Rising is a haunting and beguiling CD that will appeal to fans of Fripp and the esoteric, instrumental sides of King Crimson. www.TreyGunn.com

ANDY SUMMERS MUSIC
– Guitar legend Andy Summers returned in 2015 with his album Metal Dog. The album has so many sonic twists and turns that it will boggle the minds of his many fans. The coolest thing is that Andy is playing all the instruments himself with only the help of sound engineer and mixer Dennis Smith. Compared with say his 1988 album, Mysterious Barricades (his 1988 New Age album made with keyboardist David Hentschel), Metal Dog comes across as a kind of adventurous Zappa-esque fusion album with a myriad of complexities, sort of in the spirit of his two albums with fellow guitarist Robert Fripp. Writers in the know are describing Metal Dog as being a kind of ambient, post-rock type album of jazz but whatever you call it, it’s a very enjoyable hour of instrumental rock-inducing instrumental music as only a guitar ace such as Andy Summers could make. It’s true, you won’t find any hit singles here, ala his work with Sting in the Police but its charm is in the album’s fascinating studio effects, melodic improvisations and fretboard gymnastics. With his 2015 CD Metal Dog, Andy Summers brings the electric guitar to a bold new sonic destination. www.AndySummers.com

ROB TARDIK MUSIC – Based up in Canada, guitarist Rob Tardik is making waves in the jazz world with his 2015 CD called Moments. The 12 track CD blends smooth jazz as we’ve come to know it with somewhat of a dance music groove and even Nuevo Flamenco groove where it’s required. Some tracks, such as “Reflections” are deeper and mood enhancing in scope and “Voyageur” compares with Tommy Emmanuel but all the tracks here are of the feel good nature of guitar instrumental music. A range of musicians are featured backing up Tardik’s smooth guitar jazz vision. There’s nothing heavy or dark on this CD. Overall, guitarist Rob Tardik has created a smooth jazz guitar masterpiece with Moments. www.RobTardik.com

THAT’S OUT MUSIC
– Guitarist Jake Hertzog is a modern master of the jazz art form and he’s released several critically acclaimed albums. Released on his own That’s Out Music, the 2016 CD release of Well Lit Shadow finds the guitarist taking an unexpected left turn on an album that finds him tapping into the solo jazz improv vein. Recorded in Brooklyn, the ten track CD is kind of science fiction inspired with the subject matter forming a suite for solo electric guitar inspired by the images of particle collisions. For a good idea as to what that really means, you can visit Jake’s web page, which includes track by track liner notes describing the inspirations for each track. The subject matter of unlocking the ‘mysteries of the subatomic world’, may be brainy, but you don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate the inherent complexity of Hertzog’s guitar mastery. Jake has dabbled in jazz-rock fusion and rock music as well but the subtle, meditative improv nature of his solo guitar CD takes his talent to a new level of guitar artistry. www.JakeHertzog.com/WellLitShadow

TOO GOOD RECORDS -– Guitarist Tommy Guerrero is not a household name but with the release of his 2015 CD called Perpetual, there’s going to be plenty of interest in the music community. Apparently, Tommy had a CD out in Japan called Perpetuum, and taking some tracks from there and continuing the process, Tommy calls his latest U.S. album Perpetual. Musically, the sound is minimal instrumental guitar musings that borrows from soundtrack sounds, jazz and rock and rolls it all up into a hybrid ball of instrumental sounds. For some reason, some tracks echo the spooky, cosmic instrumental works of German space rockers Popul Vuh. Tommy’s guitar work is first rate throughout and he even accompanies himself on percussion with additional help by drummer Chuck Treece. Musically, there’s plenty of guitar atmospherics to chew on and the 16 track CD never wears out its welcome and in fact, it begs for repeat spins. Like a sonic onion, on Tommy Guerrero’s Perpetual there’s plenty of atmospheric guitar layers to revel in. www.TommyGuerrero.com

ULTIMAE
– The 2015 release of Digiseeds is one of the best electronic music albums yet from France based Ultimae. The 12 track compilation CD is a conceptualized work by Czech artist Lubos Cvrk, who also goes by the name Ambientium. The CD was superbly mastered by Ultimae producer Vincent Villuis and features a wide ranging mixture of electronica from various artists from Germany, Austria, France, Tasmania, Russia, Finland, England and of course by Czech based Ambientium as well. The album is hypnotic and is by far one of the best albums yet on Ultimae. Perhaps the CD never wears out its welcome because the CD features such a wide ranging selection of artists but it also has a sonic sheen that is most beguiling. Even if you’ve heard other Ultimae albums and were satisfied, there’s plenty of unusual, chill out grooves and electronic soundscapes to keep you fascinated throughout. Digiseeds is the best album yet on Ultimae. www.ultimae.com

WALL OF WAVES RECORDS – In 2012, U.K. electronic / experimental composer Marvin Ayres released his album called Harmogram Suite following by Ultradian Rhythms in 2014. Late in 2015 Marvin released another groundbreaking album called Circadian Rhythms. The six track, 47 minute Circadian Rhythms has all the hallmarks of a classical / avant-garde music masterpiece. Filled with Marvin’s tastefully recorded sonics, overdubbed architecture of strings, double bass and piano, Circadian Rhythms echoes some of the beguiling, often indescribable music of Harold Budd and even Brian Eno, without the overload of electronic saturation. Discussing his approach to sound Marvin tells mwe3.com, "Somebody once asked my permission to remix one of my pieces from the Neptune album called “Waves” and inquired what was its tempo. My answer was 'I don't know, what tempo is the sea'? So there is a relationship between earlier compositions and Circadian Rhythms in as much that I do not impose a structure at the commencement of the compositions. Eventually, with enough free flowing extemporization and layers the pulse or pulses emerge from within and ebb and flow naturally. However, with these last two albums and Harmogram Suite before that I have significantly added to the instrumentation, voice textures, psycho dynamics and the sheer quantity of live playing." Circadian Rhythms is a fantastic late night spin that's perfect for the times when you want to listen to atmospheric, sonically restful soundtrack-like sounds that borders on neoclassical meditation music. One part New Age, one part soundtrack, one part avant-garde, Circadian Rhythms is among the most brilliantly recorded instrumental albums you will ever hear. www.WallOfWaves.com

WUBWORLD - Trance inducing electronica continues its reign of acclaim in the U.K. In 2015 synth maven Glen Wiffen released the latest CD and LP by his musical namesake Wubworld. This jam-based electronica album—also featuring space guitar sounds by Dan Housego—borders on psychedelia and if anything Wubworld have broken down the borders between electonica and a more avant rock approach. Wiffen admits a fondness for German space rock bands like Can, Neu! and Faust. Wubworld hits a new sonic high with their 2015 CD entitled The Chroniclers Of Ruuun—a splendid effort based upon a wild science fiction fantasy. Speaking about the album's concept, Wiffen tells mwe3.com, "I don't tend to have fully formed ideas before sitting down to compose. Most of what I do tends to come from a single sound that appeals to my ear. I then develop that core sound and see where it leads me. With The Chroniclers it was the core of the title track “Ruuun” that led me to the eventual concept. As I developed the track I thought if I could hear a planet breathing this is what I imagine it would sound like. It was this notion that got me thinking about the lifespan of a planet and our own impact upon its growth and eventual demise. I concluded in the end that whilst we might eventually learn to live both with ourselves and the world around us, we could not ultimately stop the Sun from dying and that no matter how in tune we get with our environment, we will finally have to move on if we as a race want to survive." Sonically, the CD is a spellbinding sonic journey that is engaging throughout. Many of today’s younger artists grew up in the CD era but for the release of Chroniclers Of Ruuun, Wiffen is very proud of the vinyl version, which also comes with a slip cased CD tucked into the large album sleeve. The vinyl version is going to be a collectable but the excellent sounding CD proves the album is dynamic and well recorded. A must for cosmic music fans, Chroniclers Of Ruuun is one of the most intriguing instrumental space-rock albums of the year. www.wubworld.com

ZANOV MUSIC – In 2014 the musician known as Zanov returned after a lengthy absence with an album called Virtual Future. For those who followed Zanov’s album releases during the 1970s, the album was a godsend. Following up Virtual Future, Zanov is back in 2016 with an album of all new sounds entitled Open Worlds. In the spirit of Virtual Future, Zanov's 2016 CD release of Open Worlds is once again brimming with electronic soundscapes that is very much in the same direction and dimension as fellow Frenchman Jean Michel Jarre and Teutonic wunderkind Tangerine Dream. Interestingly, two albums Zanov cites as big influences on his own sound are T.Dream’s Ricochet album and the 1975 Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here. That stark, labyrinthine scope of intensive instrumental electronica is in full bloom on Open Worlds. Zanov’s background as a computer engineer comes into play on both of his recent albums and his high tech sound is again very much in abundance of Open Worlds. On his latest album, Zanov combines the early analog synthesizer sound even in this age of digital synths, which he claims was a disappointment over the original vintage synthesizer vision. Either way, the sound of Open Worlds is beguiling and hypnotic. With the passing of Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese, it is perhaps up to artists such as Zanov to carry on the tradition of creating new electronic music that holds true to the vision of the original masters. www.zanov.net


REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES



CHERRY RED RECORDS – Some fan actually found the earliest recordings of prog-rock icon Keith Emerson and the results can be heard on The Keith Emerson Trio. The seven track mini album was cut in December 1963 with Emerson and company sounding like a young Dave Brubeck, sans horn. Mostly covers of jazz favorites the CD does offer keen insights into Emerson’s late 1960s fascination with jazz and how he excelled in the trio formats that came after, including The Nice and ELP. Even though Emerson was just 18, that one of a kind sound was already there and the CD also features 2015 liner notes by Emerson that shines a light on the history of the music within along with info on the Keith Emerson Trio. www.KeithEmerson.com

CHRYSALIS RECORDS – Before he strode off into the woods in search of heavy horses, Ian Anderson turned Jethro Tull into a glam rock band, for a short time, on the 1976 album release of Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die. Clearly with this album, the early Tull vision had changed again. With the band’s immense sonic innovations already accepted by the masses, Ian began to write a kind of tabloid cartoon style rock opera about a rock and roller called Ray Lomas and his, till that point, unrenowned life. Interestingly, Lomas looks a lot like Ian Anderson. This 2015 Chrysalis 4 disc box set of Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die features a completely unique March 1976 re-recording of the original December 1975 recordings, remixed by Steven Wilson. In hindsight, Tull's March 1976 recording was quite fortuitous, in light of the fact that many of the multi-tracks of the original master remain missing. Also featured on disc 2 is “the original album flat transfer” which may or may not be the same as the first and only Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die CD that came out on Chrysalis, in the late 1980s. What is even more amazing is that the March 1976 re-recording (newly remixed by Wilson) forms the album part of the soundtrack for a fascinating, live, filmed performance of the Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die stage show which featured Ian, Martin Barre, Barrie Barlow, John Evan and the late John Glascock which is featured here on DVD 1. The DVD featuring the filmed performance of the live stage musical is truly eye-opening. Tull was considered among the most theatrical of all the early pioneering rock bands from England, and the video of the entire Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die album truly comes to life. It’s a pity that DVD wasn’t available in 1975 because there’s no doubt the album would have been better received by the critics if fans could see and hear Anderson’s original stage show intention of the album concept. The DVD video of the entire Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die album theatrical performance truly proves that, if Tull were appreciated for being the pioneers of the first rock era, they were also underrated as stage performers and actors as well. The whimsical spirit of the era is ironically best encapsulated in Tull’s single, released in the aftermath of the album, “Strip Cartoon”. A song not on the original Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die album, “Strip Cartoon” nonetheless summons up the cheeky spirit of both Ray Lomas and Ian Anderson. Although containing sonic art forms that while quite advanced might not yet be fully adopted by music listeners, the two DVD titles here also feature a myriad of DVD audio versions including a flat transfer of the original 1976 “quad Lp production master”. For CD buffs, on the two CDs here, there’s a number of sundry bonus tracks that are also remixed by Mr. Wilson, including found masters of the original December 1975 recording, singles versions, instrumental versions and a demo of the title track. The book part of the box set is a Tull aficionado’s dream come true featuring new liner notes by Ian Anderson, a myriad of essays, lyrics and track by track dates plus additional contributions of all the artists and musicians from this era of Tull. Jethro Tull’s first 12 years, 1968 to 1980 forms the spine of rock’s original intention and the Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die four disc box set is a sonic and video revelation that sets the record straight regarding one of Jethro Tull’s most unique creations. www.JethroTull.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – Guitarist in the band The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson also has an impressive solo career and Eagle reissued four of his catalog albums on CD and LP in anticipation of Robinson’s upcoming 2016 solo album. Included in this restoration of Robinson’s back catalog are Robinson’s 2002 album Paper. With some of the tapes destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, Robinson rerecorded vocals in time for the reimagined 2016 CD reissue of Paper. Also included are Llama Blues, a blues-based E.P. from 2013 and Through A Crooked Sun (2011). Robinson’s music is very influenced by the Rolling Stones and other blues-rock bands, as well as Velvet Underground, who are covered on the expanded edition of The Woodstock Sessions, a live album from 2014 that is also included in Eagle Rock’s 2016 reissue campaign of Robinson’s impressive solo catalog. www.EagleRockEnt.com

GONZO MULTIMEDIA / ISOLDE FILMS – Produced by Richard Branson and his cousin Simon Draper, The Space Movie was a significant collaboration between U.K. film maker Tony Palmer and music composer Mike Oldfield. In 2015, U.K. prog-rock label Gonzo Multi-media reissued a 2 disc version of The Space Movie, both as a restored DVD “director’s cut” version of the original movie and also a separate CD featuring Mike Oldfield’s music and the spoken word parts featured in the movie. Commenting on the film in the fascinating CD booklet liner notes, Tony Palmer adds, “The invitation to make the film came out of the clear blue sky from NASA in January 1978. I had no idea whey they had asked me. All I was told was that they needed a film to mark the 10th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, July 21st, 1969.” The 2015 CD / DVD booklet also adds in 2008 liner notes by Apollo 11 co-commander Buzz Aldrin. Combining rarely seen footage of the Apollo moon mission and other Apollo mission related footage with Mike Oldfield’s beguiling and captivating music was a stroke of genius on the part of Palmer. In fact, The Space Movie puts Oldfield’s existential music, complete with orchestrations by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the late David Bedford, into a bold “retroactive” context and is possibly the best thing about Oldfield’s music from that time. In addition to music Oldfield was working on for The Space Movie, the film also includes other music Oldfield was working on at the time for his Incantations album as well parts of orchestral versions of Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge, his first two albums. Palmer is a master filmmaker who scored high praises for his movies All You Need Is Love, the Jack Bruce biopic Rope Ladder To The Moon and his filming of the final Cream concert at Royal Albert Hall. It’s safe to say that with its stunning montage of mind-blowing NASA outer space footage and Mike Oldfield’s celestial music, The Space Movie was one of the key film making events of 1979 and the DVD of the film and the CD of Oldfield’s music soundtrack makes it one of the most significant reissue / restorations of 2015. www.GonzoMultiMedia.co.uk

MANIFESTO RECORDS One of the first American rock artists signed to A&M Records, Lee Michaels had a brief but supercharged career in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before they were bought out by Universal, A&M was owned by trumpet-master Herb Alpert and his partner Jerry Moss. A huge number of major rock acts from the U.S. and the U.K. passed through the ranks of A&M including their biggest money makers, Peter Frampton and Cat Stevens. Frampton and Cat were just the tip of A&M’s sonic iceberg but Lee Michaels was the first and in hindsight there was a price to be paid for that. Lee’s first two A&M albums – Carnival Of Life (1967) and Recital (1968) - are still considered two of the finest progressive pop-rock albums of the 1960s, although this was before the words “progressive rock” were even coined by the mainstream music media. That theory of whether Lee Michaels was pop or prog was to end with the Summer of ’69 Lp release of Lee Michaels. Despite the surreal success of that album, A&M truly misdirected Lee around that time, even claiming the ridiculous excuse that Recital “cost” too much to make. This as A&M would soon be making a mint with Cat Stevens and Frampton just a few years later. I guess A&M lost The Move that way too, as two years after Shazam they reformed as Electric Light Orchestra. On Recital, Lee Michaels literally invented American progressive rock with his myriad of keyboard sounds, including tack piano, organ and harpsichord – predating the rapid rise to fame of Wakeman (another A&M artist) and the now late, great Keith Emerson by several years. From there on out A&M's handling of Lee Michaels was a shocking disappointment yet, Recital has held up superbly now for nearly 50 years and it shows no sign of losing its influence on fans of the finest West Coast rock from the late 1960s. In early 2016, 20 years after One Way Records first reissued Lee’s catalog on compact disc, L.A. based Manifesto Records has done a fine job on their seven CD Lee Michaels box set. Manifesto’s The Complete A&M Album Collection finally sets the record straight regarding the seven albums Lee Michaels released on A&M Records. In addition to Lee’s first three solo albums mentioned above, also included here are: Barrel (1970), 5th (1971), Space And First Takes (1972) and Live (1973). Produced for release by Manifesto’s Dan Perloff and featuring liner notes by Brett Milano, The Complete A&M Album Collection comes with an excellent photo-filled booklet that helps to clear up the mystery of this early rock hero, who later turned restauranteur. Perhaps the best thing about Manifesto's box set—aside from having all the Lee Michaels A&M albums under one roof—is the first rate CD sound quality as remastered by highly regarded sound man Bill Inglot and Dave Schultz. Manifesto has some interesting current pop-rock artists on their roster. With The Complete A&M Album Collection they also offer a unique slant on American music reissues and are even planning an overhaul of the Turtles back catalog from their “White Whale” years. For an amazing glimpse into the foundations of American rock music and one of the true originals who paved the way for so many others, listen to Recital - an album that still enlightens and that will surely make you want to groove along to the rest of these rock classics included in The Complete A&M Album Collection by music great Lee Michaels. www.manifesto.com

SUNDAZED MUSIC – Upstate N.Y. based Sundazed continues unearthing classic music from the 1960s and case in point is their 2016 CD soundtrack for the film called The Innermost Limits Of Pure Fun. Centered around the spring 1970 film of the same name by George Greenough, the soundtrack features the music of the band called Farm, which featured the composing Dragon brothers, Dennis Dragon (drums) and Doug Dragon (keyboards), from Malibu in L.A. Also there was the other brother, Daryl Dragon, who appears on vibes and melodica on a track here. A number of musicians appear on the 13 track CD including Denny Aaberg (guitar), Ernie Knapp (guitar) and Phil Pritchard (bass, guitar). The album is mostly instrumental with several vocal tracks filling up the album, which is very fascinating sounding overall. Presenting a mix of late ‘60s psychedelia and jazzy, surf-tinged guitar centric instrumentals, The Innermost Limits Of Pure Fun boasts creative songwriting and colorful arrangements and is one of the best, though most overlooked soundtrack albums from the glory days of the late 1960s. Although never officially released until 2015, The Innermost Limits Of Pure Fun can be fully appreciated thanks to astute work of So-Cal music legend Rick Henn and most of all to the sonic diligence of the reissue masters at Sundazed Music. www.sundazed.com

UNIVERSAL MUSIC - One of the great Dutch progressive rock bands, KAYAK are recalled with a 2015 double CD reissue of their first two albums See See The Sun (1973) and Kayak, their self-titled second album. ‘74’s Kayak sounds like a band progressing fast. Some say that the series of albums that followed throughout the 1970s established Kayak as the best progressive rock band throughout most of Europe. Group founder Ton Schepenzeel stills leads a timeline version of the band and has a prolific solo career. Each of these first two Kayak albums features the drumming and composing of the late great Kayak drummer / songwriter Pim Koopman. The sound of Universal Music’s double CD set is excellent and, while there’s no liner notes, note for note, this Kayak double is a great example of classic mid 1970s prog-rock at its best. www.KayakOnline.info

 


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