Record Label
and Music Spotlight
 

SUMMER 2016

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES

SUMMER 2016 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK


AGENT ANONYME
/ ABSOLUTE – Over in the U.K. singer-songwriter Daphne Guinness released a fantastic CD, Optimist In Black—her 2016 long player produced and recorded in NYC by rock legend Tony Visconti. Visconti’s production work with the late great David Bowie is the stuff of legends and he brings that impeccable production edge to Daphne’s album as well. The production is great but the songs are equally rocking and haunting. Bowie himself is said to have attended a recording session before he left the building. As you spin the 14 track CD you can hear some of Daphne’s influences such as Grace Slick / Jefferson Airplane, The Small Faces, The Doors and of course Bowie himself. Fans of Tony Visconti’s work with Bowie will love the way Daphne works her magic throughout the album. Co-produced by Daphne and Irish producer Pat Donne, who co-wrote many of the tracks here, Optimist In Black features a number of musicians including long time Bowie bass ace Gail Ann Dorsey, Steve Ferrone and John Henry (drums), Johnson Jay and Conor Brady (guitars), Morgan Visconti (slide guitar) along with producer Visconti and co-writer Donne adding in string arrangements, programming, backing vocals and more. Sure to be among the most auspicious CD releases of 2016, Optimist In Black is a stunning and effective introduction to the sonic vision of pop chanteuse Daphne Guinness. www.DaphneGuinness.com

ANGEL AIR – Hitting the charts during the heyday of the 1970’s Mr. Big are back in 2016 with a recent comeback album made in 2010 called Bitter Streets. The album is really a throwback to someone’s Lp as the music draws on the best of U.K. pop and rock during the 1970s—from Bowie to Mott and Bolan, Spearheaded by Jeff Pain—who used the stage name Dicken. Having caught the ear of George Martin the band went on to release several singles in the early 1970s and several albums as well. Anyway, Dicken is back with multi-instrumentalist Paul Gibbon and several guests and the results offer a most satisfying album of well produced pop-rock in the spirit of mid ‘80s YES, Pilot with a McCartney edge in there too. For those pop fans just tuning into Mr. Big for the first time, Bitter Streets is proof that it is sometimes better late then never. Angel Air continues to honor the great British bands of the past with the 2016 CD release of 304 Holloway Road Revisited by The Honeycombs. It’s hard to believe it’s been 50+ years since the late great Joe Meek produced “Have I The Right”. Had he lived, Meek would have loved this 2016 Honeycombs album. Honeycombs founder Martin Murray is in fine form on Angel Air’s 14 track album which features a newly recorded version of “Have I The Right” along with new originals and other tracks written by the song writing teams of Ken Howard / Alan Blaikley and Joe Meek. Honeycombs producer Joe Meek was always haunted by the specter of Buddy Holly’s death, so fans of Meek, Buddy and other early 1960s pre-Beatles rock will love this unique 21st century comeback by The Honeycombs. www.angelair.co.uk

ANNE WALSH MUSIC – California singer / song stylist Anne Walsh comes through on her 2016 CD Brand New. Backed up by a number of talented jazz musicians—including album arranger and co-producer Tom Zink—Anne interprets some of the great songs from the best 20th century songwriters. Among the covers are tunes from the songbooks of The Beatles, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Deodato, Michel Legrand and more. The songs have been covered before, it’s true, but Anne’s voice delivers them in a new light that deserves to be heard. A cover here of “To Sir With Love” gives a good indication of just how much Anne loves these songs. File Brand New under the finest 21st century smooth jazz vocal music. www.AnneWalsh.com

AVALON RECORDS – The U.K. progressive rock band Galahad celebrates 30 years of musical greatness with a 2015 double CD retrospective called When World’s Collide. With ten classic Galahad tracks newly re-recorded, the 19 track album presents classic Galahad music reworked and rearranged. With a number of the tracks dating back to the 1980s, the double CD set clocks in at nearly three hours of music. The CD set is accompanied by a CD booklet filled with written praises of the band from some of the most astute rock journalists on either side of the Atlantic. Throughout the CD set, long time Galahad members Stuart Nicholson (vocals) and Roy Keyworth (guitars) are joined by Galahad members past and present making When World’s Collide a fabulous overview of an often overlooked progressive rock icon. September 2015 liner notes by Stuart Nicholson sheds light on the history of Galahad. www.GalahadOnline.com

BAD ELEPHANT – Progressive rock continues its renaissance and resurgence in the U.K. and The Room CD, Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam is a fine example in full bloom. Started back in 2010 by Martin Wilson (vocals) and Steve Anderson (guitars), The Room clearly have a lot to offer prog-rock fans. A five piece rock band with vision and drive, The Room cites hard rock bands like Saga, Journey and Magnum as influences and their 2015 album is fine follow up to their 2012 debut album called Open Fire. There is a bit of stadium rock on the Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam album but it’s quite well recorded and the instrumentation sounds very clear so you can hear a range of instruments as they intended to fit into the mix and not just a wall of hard rock sound. Clearly a band on the way up, The Room offer the promise of even bigger and better tracks and albums with Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam. www.TheRoom.eu

BAFE’S FACTORY - Among the most promising pop vocal groups in Finland and Scandinavia today—the modern girl-group sound of Tuuletar comes alive on their much anticipated first album Tules, Maas, Vedes, Taivaal. The eight song CD was superbly recorded and produced at Liquid 5th studios based in North Carolina. Visiting and performing in New York on the way back to Finland, Tuuletar can't wait to bring their “Folk-Hop” sound —accapella vocals all sung in their native Finnish—to the attention of music fans World Wide. The skillful production by the Liquid 5th team shines a bright light on Tuuletar’s phenomenal pop vocal approach. For music listeners challenged by the unusual complexities of the Finnish language, Tuuletar’s album title translates to “Fire, Earth, Water, Sky”, with each group member representing a different element or sign. At the core of the Tuuletar sound are four accomplished singers—Sini Koskelainen, Piia Säilynoja, Johanna Kyykoski and the band’s human Beat-Boxer / singer Venla Ilona Blom. With Venla supplying the percussive beat-boxing sounds, and the impressive production of Liquid 5th putting on the sheen, Tuuletar’s vocal arrangements are fully realized on their CD debut. Commenting on the unique Tuuletar sound in the following interview, Sini Koskelainen tells mwe3.com, “Beat-boxing is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of mimicking drum machines using one’s mouth, lips, tongue and voice. The folk-hop sound blends Finnish folk music with hip-hop, electronic music and world music.” The perfect showcase for their unique talents as a group, the debut Tuuletar album is filled with appealing vocal harmonies yet the music is also quite experimental sounding. Researching their Finnish heritage and naming their band after a Finnish female spirit of nature that controls the wind, Tuuletar brings their sound into the brave new world of 21st century pop music with unexpectedly brilliant results. www.tuuletar.com / www.bafesfactory.fi

BASILICA MUSIC
There’s been a range of superbly produced techno pop-rock coming from the U.K. in 2016 and you can add the name Glitch Code to the mix. Pairing the sound and vision of multi-instrumentalist Paul Kirkpatrick and singer Rachel Harvey, the 2016 Glitch Code album Gifted_Damaged will clearly be of interest among fans of electro pop legends such as The Eurhythmics, Bowie and Kate Bush (for example) and, after hearing the Gifted_Damaged album, the comparison makes sense. With Ms. Harvey handling all the vocals and Paul Kirkpatrick taking on the keyboards, drum programming and sound creation, the pair are joined by a number of musicians and string players including Gordon Foley (guitars), Julian Todd (bass), David Williamson Smith (drums) and other players. Informing us about the Glitch Code story, Paul tells mwe3.com, "The core of Glitch Code is myself and Rachel Harvey. I met Rachel when we were both playing on the same bill in different bands and I really liked her voice and thought it would suit an idea I had for a new project which became Glitch Code. As Rachel is also a TV actress, it took us a few years to get the project really off the ground and then just when we got up and running Rachel had some health problems which put us on hold for 18 months or so. However, I used that time to rewrite some of the original tracks we had recorded for the project and add some new material to form more of a cohesive sound. Gifted_Damaged explores the fine line between genius and madness that so often affects those who are creatively successful. I’m sure everyone reading can relate to someone they know, famous or not, who they would recognize as both gifted and damaged." Extra mention must go to the excellent packaging in which the CD and inserts are packaged in a book like case filled with song lyrics and unusual sick room setting pics of Ms. Harvey (see story below). Dedicated to all those who are gifted and damaged, the twelve track CD offers a potent mix of techno pop-rock, electronic dance grooves and hard rock sounds. With the release of Gifted_Damaged, Glitch Code establishes itself as a name that music fans will watch and take further notice of. www.Glitch-Code.com

BELIEVE / ACWL – It’s true I don’t speak the French language but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the 2016 CD by the France based band called ACWL. France has a long held reputation for producing impeccable sounding rock and instrumental music and the ACWL CD, Internal blends the best of both worlds. The 12 track Internal is spacy and rocks up a storm yet is still quietly impressionistic. Progressive rock fans with an open mind will love this CD. Vocals by Clin, who also plays bass, is balanced out by Jean (guitars, programming) and Patrick (drums). Clin’s female voice is offers a solid contrast to the spacy, prog-rock, dream-pop and neo-punk sound. Overall there’s plenty of challenging and adventurous music on Internel by ACWL. www.acwl.net

BIG NESS RECORDS – Over in the U.K., the band known as The Mighty Handful are helping to reshape the role of rock music in the 21st century. The 5 piece band features Gary Mackenzie (drums, vocals), Ralph Blackbourne (keys, vocals), Christopher James Harrison (lead guitars, vocals), Tom Halley (bass, vocals) and Matt Howes (lead vocals, guitars). In addition, there are several guest artists who are also on the album. Covering parts 1 - 3 of the proposed 5 album series, both Still Sitting In Danny’s Car and Rubicon were released as two separate albums, and both albums are well worth the time and energy of rock music fans. Musically, The Mighty Handful is all over the musical map. From 1970’s style prog-rock to rock ‘n’ roll and even instrumental rock, the Mighty Handful clearly have their hands on the pulse on the state of 21st century rock music. www.MightyHandful.com

CHERRY RED RECORDS
– Having first been a member of YES in 1980 and then again in 2013, keyboardist / composer Geoff Downes released an album in 2016 with his other group DBA. Doing business as The Downes Braide Association, the 52 minute, 12 track Suburban Ghosts is a joint collaboration featuring Downes and L.A. based singer Chris Braide. Of course YES fans are still reeling from Chris Squire’s cremation in June 2015 but Downes and his new DBA album almost sounds like the ghost of Chris Squire is in the room, especially when considering Squire’s series of collaborations between YES and The Buggles with Downes and Trevor Horn. Anyway, these fresh and original DBA songs have staying power and it gets better with repeat spins and Downes always entertains on keyboards. Several guest artists appearing on the CD including Dave Gregory of XTC and guitarist Lee Pomeroy. The CD has a cool look and feel and the booklet has all of the lyrics. Someone said the album kind of sounds like The Pet Shop Boys but I could swear that “North Sea” sounds like a great long lost Joe Jackson song! Maybe years after processing Squire’s death, YES will still be around and with any luck, Downes will still be in the band playing “Roundabout” for fresh-faced fans. www.DownesBraide.com

DANIEL MERON MUSIC – In 2016, pianist / composer Daniel Meron released his second album called Sky Begins. The eight track CD is a fine showcase for Meron’s impeccable piano skills and he’s joined by a number of fine players including vocalist Maia Karo and the rhythm section of Jimmy Macbride (drums) and Noam Wiesenberg (bass). Meron’s sound is pure jazz but the vocal performance adds a lot of soulful, jazz-tinged style to the CD. Ms. Karo’s appealing vocal sound is kind of reminiscent of a young Annette Peacock and the songs themselves kind of echoes the great work on the 2015 Blue Shift album Levels Of Undo. Even so, Sky Begins is a fine work and the NYC based Meron is clearly a musician / composer worth keeping an ear out for. www.DanielMeron.com

DAPTONE RECORDING COMPANY – The Daptone mark of excellence is all over the 2016 CD by U.K. soul music singer-songwriter James Hunter. Credited to The James Hunter Six, the ten track Hold On! was actually recorded in mono. Perhaps if Hold On! would have been released in 1966 instead of 2016, it would have been an even bigger hit. With Hunter handling all the song writing and vocals, the album also features key contributions from a band of musicians including drummer Jonathan Lee and keyboardist Andrew Kingslow. Hunter’s vocals are clearly the star of the album and his electric guitar work is also sparse, yet remarkable for its stinging leads that serve to accompany the songs. The album is quite amazing sounding and is in fact the most perfect soul music album even in 2016. If you close your eyes in fact, there’s no way to tell this album was even made in the 21st century. Close approximations to Otis Redding and Arthur Conley or any of the great Stax singers notwithstanding, Hold On! is the best soul-pop album of 2016. Listen the James Hunter sing and it’s 1966 all over again. www.JamesHunterMusic.com

DAVE STEWART ENTERTAINMENT / MEMBRAN – The genius producer / songwriter behind The Eurythmics, Dave Stewart plays a major role behind the 2016 CD release of the self-titled CD debut by singer / songwriter Hollie Stephenson. With the passing of the late great Amy Winehouse, perhaps music fans into Amy’s kind of music will find musical solace in Hollie’s CD. With production and guitars handled by Dave Stewart, the 13 track CD features a range of fine players, including programming and mixing by Dave’s musical cohort Ned Douglas. Among the genres touched upon are pop, rock, soul, R&B, ska and more. Recorded in L.A. and Jamaica, the CD sounds great and features an in depth CD booklet with song lyrics, full credits and liner notes by Hollie. Filled with one catchy, upbeat, pop-rock track after the next, Hollie Stephenson’s CD is set to break her star-studded career wide open. Keep your eyes and ears on Hollie Stephenson. www.membran.net

DESERT COMB MUSIC / TUNE LEAK RECORDS - Australia’s rising musical mastermind Ben Craven takes progressive rock in exciting new directions on his 2016 CD / DVD entitled Last Chance To Hear. The album comes with a DVD featuring a documentary on the making of the Last Chance To Hear album along with a bunch of user-friendly video clips of various tracks. After listening to Last Chance To Hear, calling Craven eclectic would be an understatement, but not for someone who says he absorbed Dark Side Of The Moon while still in his mother’s womb. A prolific singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist, Ben plays everything in sight on Last Chance To Hear. Although he’s an adept vocalist, and he does feature several vocal tracks here, the emphasis is placed on the instrumental prog-rock thing that Craven also does so well. The vocal tracks, including “Last Chance To Hear Pt. 1” and “The Remarkable Man” truly enlivens the album's progressive rock experience while pointing a socially satirical finger at the music business and the annexation of music by You Tube and other online music resources. The third vocal track here “Spy In The Sky Pt. 3” features a spoken word vocal by Captain James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise (a/k/a Bill Shatner), which is a total gas. Ben's latest instrumental tracks are totally convincing and blend the compositional spirits of John Barry, Brian Wilson and Chris Squire to great effect with somber and thought-provoking moods and sounds. What ever your interest is within the progressive / instrumental rock realm, Ben Craven has the sonic prescriptions ready to fill your every need with the sonically super-charged Last Chance To Hear. www.BenCraven.com

DEVI ROSADO MUSIC – It’s hard to find some new sound in pop but singer-songwriter Devi Rosado comes close with her five track CD/EP called Heart Stone. Produced by Devi and Ali Theodore, Heart Stone combines melodic Beatle-esque pop peppered with a 21st century mindset. Devi’s voice just soars and the overall soundstage is superbly balanced so the music is free from overproduction. Hard to compare to other artists but in the spirit of great American singers such as Marti Jones, Natalie Archangel and even The Bangles, there’s plenty of pop goodness on Devi’s Heart Stone. Interestingly, Devi cites Todd Rundgren and Led Zeppelin as big influences. Devi has previously released an album sung in Spanish as well as a pair of EP releases. Commenting on the title track to Heart Stone, Devi adds, “I collect heart stones. One day I found a broken heart stone, which inspired me to write the song.” The only complaint is that the CD is only five tracks but overall, Heart Stone is a stunning pop entry from an artist that will surely be worth hearing and watching. www.DeviRosado.com

DOONE RECORDS - Guitarist / composer Paul Bremner is recognized as one of the top prog-rock guitarists recording today. A founding member and lead guitarist in the band IZZ, Bremner is currently turning on the prog crowd with his 2016 solo album called The Witness. The album features nine tracks, topped off by a five part CD closer entitled “Last Exit Before Toll”. The Witness features Brems in the studio backed up by some excellent musicians including Paul’s band mates in IZZ—Tom Galgano (keys), John Galgano (keys, bass), Greg DiMiceli (drums), Brian Coralian, Anmarie Byrnes (vocals), Laura Meade (vocals) and other fine players. As in Izz, Brems has his hand right on the pulse of the prog-rock interplay on The Witness. The album was superbly recorded and engineered by Tom Galgano in New York. Speaking about his wide song writing influences and the making of The Witness, Brems tells mwe3.com “Since I wrote all of the music and lyrics, I consider The Witness to be a solo album. I am very happy that all of my bandmates are on the album, definitely giving it an Izz flavor. I enjoy listening to many different types of music, so I suppose it’s natural that I try to write music with a wide variety of moods and emotions.” At the core is Paul Bremner’s guitar work and songs, yet with so many great singers and musicians adding to the album’s exquisite sonic vision, it’s clear that Izz fans and fans of progressive rock overall will totally enjoy The Witness. www.izznet.com

DRAG CITY – Drag City is one of the coolest indy record labels in the world today. The label is all ears and case in point is the 2016 CD by singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom, called Divers. Kind of gothic pop in a cool way, Divers sounds like a long lost Kate Bush album. Joanna has that kind of voice and her songs meander all over the place but they’re very sweet and spacy at the same time. The eleven cut CD features a number of arrangers and musicians including guitarist Kevin Barker and keyboardist Dan Cantrell, drummer Peter Newsom as well as contributions from the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and other fine musicians. In addition to her songs and vocals, Joanna masterfully adds in her own contributions on all forms of keyboards including Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, electric harpsichord, piano, mini moog and mellotron. Produced by Ms. Newsom and Noah Georgeson, Divers is one strange and beautiful album for sure. For CD fans, Divers is superbly packaged with full lyrics booklet. www.DragCity.com

DRAG CITY
– The English have a great legacy of story telling in music. Groups like The Who and The Kinks invented the rock-opera during the 1960’s and while it’s fallen out of fashion in the nuts and bolts world of the 21st century, some groups keep looking back to better days in music for new ideas. Case in point is The High Llamas, a sextet who are back in action in 2016 with a new album called Here Comes The Rattling Trees. With 16 cuts that clocks in under 28 minutes, there’s a lot of sounds to cover here but it’s all done with the utmost taste and finesse. Led by visionary singer-songwriter Sean O’Hagan, The High Llamas turned heads around in the 1990’s with some great albums. Boasting a splendid title track and a whole album of loosely knit soundtrack like sounds, Here Come The Rattling Trees takes its place in their repertoire. When mentioning The High Llamas, it’s hard not to mention visionary songwriters like Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, who were key influences to O’Hagan’s musical upbringing. How many hours O’Hagan spent listening to SmiLE is debatable but it’s not been for nothing. As half the album consists of instrumental vignettes, another musical signpost here is the exotic blend of instrumental music from the likes of Martin Denny and even Les Baxter – clearly two of O’Hagan’s other prime influences. More than just a collection of stories, songs and soundtrack sounds, Here Comes The Rattling Trees is a most welcome return to form by Sean O’Hagan and The High Llamas. www.DragCity.com / www.HighLlamas.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT Melody Gardot released Live At The Olympia Paris on DVD in 2016. Superbly produced, Ms. Gardot wows the French audience speaking fluently in French between tracks on several tracks. Some have compared her to a modern day Billie Holiday or Nina Simone but the lady can hold her own in any genre including jazz, groove jazz, soul and spiritual music, rock and more. Primarily a singer-songwriter, Ms. Gardot acquits herself on guitar and piano, greatly adding to her stage presence. Her band is excellent throughout and the concert is perfectly filmed and edited. Live At The Olympia Paris is a fantastic introduction to Melody Gardot in concert. www.MelodyGardot.co.uk

FAT POSSUM RECORDS – Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records released Human Ceremony from rising pop-rockers Sunflower Bean. The eleven cut CD is a rock-solid outing that features Nick Kivlen (vocals, guitar), Julia Cumming (vocals, bass) and Jacob Faber (drums). Well recorded, the album merges post punk pop and is wisely described as neo psychedelia for the digital age. The CD is well recorded, the band is quite tight sounding and the packaging is appealing too. Nothing too earth shattering here but Human Ceremony is well done and suggests even bigger and better things for Brooklyn based Sunflower Bean. www.sunflowerbean.bandcamp.com

GLASSNOTE MUSIC – The U.K. based Daughter made waves with their 2013 CD If You Leave and in 2016 they follow with a new CD called Not To Disappear. Released on the Brooklyn-based Glassnote Music, Not To Disappear continues onward with their unique shoe gaze type of drone rock that will put you in a sonic trance. Daughter features singer / guitarist Elena Tonra, along with producer / guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella. Between the three of them, the wall of sound is mesmerizing and enchanting at the same time. The ten track CD was recorded in Brooklyn and the music is already gaining inroads into the new music worlds of bands like Radiohead and Sigur Rós to name a few. Produced by Igor Haefeli and Nicolas Vernhes, Not To Disappear will bowl you over with its powerful wall of rock sounds. www.GlassNoteMusic.com / www.OhDaughter.com

GRASS MAGOOPS RECORDS – In 2015 singer-songwriter / guitarist Bill Price released his double CD masterpiece, I Can’t Stop Looking At The Sky. The double CD set comes with two musical journals and extensive lyric books and the album was also released as a single CD version sampler that draws upon various tracks that gives the listener a good idea of the music Bill Price composes. Based in Indiana, Bill Price’s Americana rock sounds influenced by Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and String Cheese Orchestra, for example. Produced by Bill and Michael Graham, I Can’t Stop Looking At The Sky is being heralded as a major thematic work that speaks to the universal experiences of time, home, place, childhood, forgiveness, grace and paradox. Interviewed by mwe3.com about the extensive research and experiences that went into creating his double album masterpiece, Bill Price synopsized, “In 2010, I was in need of a big break. I hadn’t been anywhere for a long while and so I decided to return to my two favorite places: The Black Hills in South Dakota and Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana. Having recently become a fan of Lewis & Clark, I decided to stop at some of their historic locations and, like them, keep a journal. After a little over three weeks, I came back with a lot of inspiration about life. Some of the ideas were new and some were not. But even the older ideas, I was reenergized about. I had planned to return and record my next album. By adjusting some lyrics and writing some new songs, I thought that the project could be a pretty cool thematic piece. It grew into two CDs with 34 tracks and over two hours and twenty minutes of music. The package then got pretty elaborate, due to my graphic design background. The idea evolved in its own way—kind of asking to be done—in a rather organic fashion.” With Bill handling all the composing and lead vocals, a number of quite talented musicians also appear backing up his wide-screen pop-rock vision. One of the most meticulously packaged, produced and recorded double albums of the decade, I Can’t Stop Looking At The Sky is a well-rounded example of Americana pop-rock at its best. www.BillPrice.info

GRUBBWORM MUSIC Florida-based guitarist / composer Todd Grubbs has a number of instrumental albums to his credit and over the past decade he’s established himself as a well-rounded hard-rock / jazz-fusion recording artist. That all changes with Todd’s 2016 CD called As The Worm Turnsreleased on his own Grubbworm label. For As The Worm Turns, Todd has turned to vocal rock and overall, the eleven cut CD is a fine showcase for his varied and eclectic rock vocal sound. Todd’s band is first rate throughout the CD and he’s also chosen to enlist the aid of four excellent singers, including two female vocalists and two male vocalists, who balance out his own lead vocals on various tracks. Speaking about going back into the rock music world after releasing a number of highly regarded instrumental albums, Todd tells mwe3, "I have recorded 6 instrumental albums and I kind of feel like I have made my statement in this genre. If an opportunity came up with some backing or some kind of big interest I would be happy to do another one but at this point I am really enjoying writing music with vocals. My current goal is to balance out my discography, so I have an equal amount of vocal and instrumental songs." Having studied at the Berklee School Of Music, Grubbs is clearly not just a rock metal guitar guy and fans of Zappa, Steve Vai and Adrian Belew’s music will get a charge from As The Worm Turns. There’s a number of fantastic video clips for As The Worm Turns and, while some might miss his instrumental fusion guitar sound, open minded rock fans will embrace this latest CD by Todd Grubbs. www.ToddGrubbs.com

INTERSTELLAR CLOUD – Progressive rock is alive and well in Portugal with the two latest CD titles by the band Heylel. Featuring the music of Narciso Monteiro (guitars, keys, bass) the band is filled out with singer Ana Batista and Filipe Braga (drums). On their 2014 CD Nebulae they offer a range of original songs and a cover of “I Talk To The Wind” by King Crimson’s 1969 album debut. They shoot high but the originals aren’t too bad and Monteiro has his prog sound down to a science and the studio / mastering sound is excellent throughout. The 2016 Heylel 5 track 20 minute CD, Flesh furthers their intriguing rock edge onward with equally positive results. Further development may yield more favorable results down the road but Heylel is moving in the right direction with these titles. www.heylel.net

KHATRU MUSIC – In Finland you speak Finnish, unless you’re a progressive rock band and in that case, the world’s your oyster. Look no further than the Finnish prog-rock band Octopie, who deliver with their 2015 CD The Adventure Of Harry And Walrus Kane. The Finns love hard rock and heavy metal music and on their CD, Octopie blends hard rock with a bunch of progressive rock influences. Their musicianship is first rate and the CD is wonderfully packaged with full lyrics in English of course that will amuse you as you trek through the album. Two years in the making The Adventure Of Harry And Walrus Kane is fine follow up to their 2012 album Fresh From The Oven. Lead singer / flute player Tom Tamlander gets excellent backing from his band mates and a number of guest musicians. With a sound that’s kind of reminiscent of early 1970s Genesis, Octopie does prog-rock proud with The Adventure Of Harry And Walrus Kane. www.octopieband.tumblr.com

L’ABEILLE RODE – Released in 2016, Nos Ames Saoules is a solid entry from South France based prog-rockers Lazuli. The album features a range of driving riffs and power chords and even with the French language vocals being a challenge for fans outside of France, it’s a most impressive album. With the music and lyrics handled by singer-songwriter Domi Leonetti, the five piece band features a excellent musicians Gédéric Byar (guitars). With their full-bodied sound, these guys would make a great stadium rock band. Much more rock-based than anything, Lazuli make driving, dynamic rock music, French lyrics and all. You can’t help but be impressed with Lazuli’s unique sounding approach to 21st century progressive rock sounds. www.Lazuli-Music.com

MAGIC BUS PRODUCTIONS – Some U.K. music fans in the know are comparing the latest CD by Magic Bus to the spirit of the legendary music from the 1968-73 Canterbury area of England that spawned bands like Caravan and Robert Wyatt with Soft Machine. The 2014 CD by Magic Bus, Transmission From Sogmore’s Garden features the songs, guitars and vocals of Paul Evans, who receives some excellent support from a number of musicians. Of course it’s not 1968 anymore but Magic Bus and Paul Evans do a great job reviving that legendary U.K. folk-pop-prog sound of troubadours like Daevid Allen, the above mentioned Robert Wyatt and even Donovan. On keyboards in Magic Bus is Jay Darlington of Kula Shaker and his keyboard approach sounds influenced by the legendary David Sinclair of Caravan, which is clearly a good thing for prog fans. Also adding to the CD sound is Terence Waldstädt (lead guitars) and Viv Goodwin-Darke (flute, recorder, backing vocals). Regarding his songwriting influences, Evans also sounds influenced by West Coast American bands like Grateful Dead and CSN. Speaking about the 1973 comparison, Magic Bus driver Evans adds, ‘The Canterbury bands and the West Coast bands do certainly have differences in their styles but I love them both… the great harmonies and jazzy guitar noodling from the U.S and the English folk and keyboard-led jams from the U.K. blend perfectly to me.’ It’s also worth noting the way the CD is packaged, which is quite amazing complete with lyrics booklet. As if to gently contrast the timelessness of their music in this 21st century age of plug-ins, apps and sampling in a second—Magic Bus has created a minor prog-rock classic with Transmission From Sogmore’s Garden. www.MagicBusBand.co.uk

MARKET SQUARE RECORDS – Just when you think you’ve heard everything along comes something truly unusual. From Northern Ireland, Colin Harper is a renowned author and music historian who has penned five books as well as writing various music liner notes. Over the past five years he has also written and recorded music for his 2016 self-titled CD from his Sunset Cavaliers project. The CD is mostly impressionistic instrumental music, that towards the end brings in several appealing pop and rock tracks. Due to its overall sonic complexity, collectors of such music might arouse musical signposts such as Townshend’s series of Meher Baba tribute albums or even the thought of what a still living Syd Barrett might sound like today. Directing the music on acoustic guitar, Harper is assisted by a range of excellent backing musicians including the late Duffy Power (guitar), Cormack O’Kane (keys), Steven Kindler (9 string electric violin), along with appearances by U.K. guitar icons, including the late Bert Jansch, as well as Andy Powell and Chris Spedding. If you enjoy eccentric U.K. genius composers then by all means check out Colin Harper’s Sunset Cavaliers. www.Colin-Harper.com

MUTE – Recording label Mute continues breaking sonic boundaries with the 2016 CD release of Amen & Goodbye from alternative rockers Yeasayer. The album is quite experimental yet maintains an accessible pop-rock edge. You could have fooled me that they come from Brooklyn as it sounds more influenced by Southern California or even U.K. prog-rock bands. The 13 track CD was superbly produced by drummer Joey Waronker (son of Warner Bros. Recordslegend Lenny Waronker). Featuring long time members Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton (bass) and Anand Wilder (guitars), Amen & Goodbye features a number of other musicians and, with their superb vocal harmonies, the album sound is quite lush sounding and full of sonic surprises. Amen & Goodbye never wears out its welcome and the cover art is equally spectacular with its Sgt. Pepper meets Hieronymus Bosch cover art. Amen & Goodbye is a must for serious students of 21st century pop-rock. Another Mute album classic for the ages, Junk by M83 is really creating a sonic furor with its musical diversity. The best tracks are the instrumentals—check out track 8 “The Wizard”, track 11 “Tension” and track 5 “Moon Crystal” —which recall some of William Orbit’s music from the late 1980s. Clearly M83 founder, Anthony Gonzales is on the right idea on the humorously titled Junk. The pop edge is fully exposed on a range of tracks most notably track 6 “For The Kids”, which is as cool as Sarah McLaughlin’s best tracks. Among the genre’s hit on here are 1960s film soundtracks, ‘70s radio and television hits, ‘80s electronic and ‘90s shoe gaze music. Gonzalez has enlisted the help of a range of great musicians to help him realize his wide screen vision. Guitar icons Steve Vai and Lyle Workman appear as do a number of players. Gonzalez wrote most of the tracks here and his work on guitars and keyboards is first rate throughout the album. Progressive smooth jazz? Easy listening prog-rock? Take your pick as Anthony Gonzalez and M83 have it all covered in style. www.mute.com / www.M83.com

OMINVORE RECORDINGS – A&M Records did a terrible job promoting the early music of Emitt Rhodes so the first album to really gain the attention of the public was his self titled, Summer of ‘71 album on ABC Dunhill. A&M had somehow released an older album by Emitt at the same time and the record buying public became confused and Emitt was pissed. Unreasonable label demands and a bad contract with Dunhill led to his being sued by the label and it’s so easy to lose it in the music world… so sad. You can almost see the tears of rage on the face of Emitt on his new album Rainbow Ends. That picture aside, there’s plenty of fine pop sounds that really sounds like the guy who sang "Fresh As A Daisy" and “With My Face Of The Floor” from that fore said album. These new Emitt Rhodes tracks were produced in Los Angeles by Chris Price, who actually co-wrote one of these newly record Rhodes songs. The sound of the CD is excellent and while long time fans know he could do it all himself, the band Emitt and Price have put together features a bunch of L.A. power pop stalwarts like Jason Falkner who adds in some stinging electric leads as well as Falkner’s bandmate in Jellyfish Roger Manning Jr. Emitt’s grimace on the cover is merely indicative of a bunch of freshly penned Emitt Rhodes classic songs delivered with a retro power pop panache and a cutting edge and quite lyrical veracity that is pure Emitt. Long time Emitt Rhodes fans who find Rainbow Ends won’t be disappointed. www.OmnivoreRecordings.com

ONE LITTLE INDIAN
– In late 2015, U.K. based One Little Indian released Outsiders, by New York-based pop-rock singer-songwriter Jesse Malin. The eleven cut CD rocks up quite a storm and features Malin backed up by a rocking band. Produced by Don DiLego, the album features guest artists such as J Mascis (guitar) and there’s also a cover of The Clash classic “Here’s The Situation”. Combining post-punk rock with all forms of 21st century rock, there’s plenty of amazing sounds on Jesse Malin’s Outsiders. Malin fans may also want to check out One Little Indian’s CD 2016 double vinyl and CD reissue of Jesse Malin’s 2002 solo debut The Fine Art Of Self Destruction. Also recently out on OLI is A Taller US by Montreal based Foxtrott. No relation to the Genesis album of the same name, Foxtrott is the brainchild of singer-songwriter MH Delorme. The album features eleven cuts of beat-box, trip hop electronic music with vocals and it almost sounds like Ms. Delorme is singing in French but I could be wrong about that. One part dance music, one part avant-garde pop, A Taller Us is truly 21st century music at its most cutting edge. There is a video for a track here called “Shields” that offers the promise of bigger and better things for Ms. Delorme and Foxtrott. Also recently on One Little is a 2015 EP called Incitation by Russian-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Olga Bell. The five track CD EP is only 20 minutes long but it’s a great introduction to Ms. Bell’s uncanny, bizarre pop that sounds like Billie Holiday produced by Yoko Ono. It’s just that weird. Apparently, Ms. Bell is a classically trained pianist who moved to NYC pursue electronic music. On Incitation, Ms. Bell’s vocals and compositions are startling to say the least but her voice is quite strong and overall it’s another pretty mesmerizing CD by the prodigious One Little Indian label. www.indian.co.uk

ORIGIN RECORDS – Also on Washington State-based Origin in 2016 is a fine album from Bay area singer Daria. Entitled Strawberry Fields Forever – Songs By The Beatles. The eleven track CD features Daria singing the songs of Lennon & McCartney (there is no George Harrison song here, so the title is slightly misleading). That said, the album sounds great even though it’s slightly more McCartney than Lennon, but that’s okay. Supported by arranger / bassist / keyboardist Sam Bevan, the CD features a wide range of players including a sitarist called Joseph Cohen. There’s always room in the music world for yet another tribute album featuring the music of The Beatles and Daria’s self-styled Fab Four tribute should fit right in. www.DariaJazz.com

PAPER BAG RECORDS – Canada-based Paper Bag Records has a wonderful 2016 CD out from Montreal based Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld. Clocking in at 44 minutes, the eight track CD, entitled The Ridge features a hypnotic mix of mostly instrumental music that features Ms. Neufeld’s expressive violin and occasional vocal cameos. At times the music sounds influenced by icons like Mike Oldfield and Philip Glass, yet there’s also some uniquely appealing, instrumental and vocal, tones here to separate her from past legends. Backing up Ms. Neufeld are fine players including Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara (drums, synth), Colin Stetson (lyricon) and Hans Bernhard (bass). Fans of recent music from U.K. orchestral string masters John Metcalfe and Marvin Ayers will enjoy Sarah Neufeld and her expressive mix of instrumental and vocal excursions. www.SarahNeufeldMusic.com

PROPELLER RECORDINGS – Norway continues to amaze with the 2016 CD release of Hold On Dreamer by the band Frøkedal. The music is deep and rich and the voice of Anne Lise Frøkedal is most impressive. Some have compared her to Nico from Velvet Underground, yet Anne Lise’s music is much more grounded and the arrangements are quite lush chamber pop with definite rock edges. There is quite a mid 1960’s kind of East and West Coast American music echo too, which blends nicely with the group’s native Norwegian mix of chamber-prog and pop. If you can imagine Nico singing some of John Cale’s best songs then give a listen to Ms. Frøkedal. There’s no mistaking that Hold On Dreamer is a modern day masterpiece of 21st century pop-rock. www.frokedal.com

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT – Rock / pop icon Marshall Crenshaw is the ultimate musicologist rock star in the world today. I remember speaking to him at rehearsals for one of his shows in the early ‘90s, following his classic Life’s Too Short album and we somehow got to talking about Hank Marvin and he told me what a big influence “Wonderful Land” is. The glory days of his Warner Brothers and MCA years may be a thing of the past, but in 2016 Marshall is still making great albums and the release of #392: The EP Collection is a stellar return to form. Culled from a series of vinyl only EP releases issued between 2012 and 2015, #392 features a bunch of Crenshaw originals along with covers of Bacharach – David, The Easybeats, John Sebastian, Bobby Fuller, The Everly Brothers and even The Move. That Move cover of “No Time” was featured on the final Move album from 1972, Message From The Country and Marshall’s version is spot on (recorders and all) and would even make Jeff Lynne smile. There’s a number of great musicians backing Marshall up on these fourteen tracks but make no mistake about it, #392: The EP Collection is pure Marshall and is a most welcome return to form by rock’s most knowledgeable and tuneful statesman. www.MarshallCrenshaw.com

REGAL CRABONOPHONE – It’s nice to see younger bands who grew up with Badfinger and Emitt Rhodes, and mod-proggers The SYN, and even later period bands like R.E.M. To that growing list of astute young rockers add the band The Chemistry Set who deliver an entertaining late 2015 album called The Endless More And More. The cover art grabs you right away and the song writing and multitasking musician / singer-songwriters Dave McLean and Paul Lake. The prettier sounding poppy songs are neatly balanced out by a harder rocking sound that bowl you over with psychedelic guitars and mellotron keyboards. If you close your eyes it’s almost 1967 again thanks too the inventive music of The Chemistry Set. www.thechemistryset.bandcamp.com

RHINO RECORDS – Legendary Rhino Records reissued all of the albums by The Monkees back in the early 2000’s. Now in 2016, there’s an album of all new music by the pre-Fab Four called Good Times! For their first album in 20 years, the surviving three Monkees—Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz—have created an album that pays tribute to their past while taking the Monkees legacy into the 21st century in style. There’s even a guest vocal by late, great co-founding Monkee Davy Jones along with superb production by Adam Schlesinger. Rising to the occasion, the album features some gifted session players. There’s some uniquely crafted tracks that combine original session tapes from 1967 and 1968. Tracks written by Harry Nilsson, Andy Partridge, Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller are really ear-opening. The cool looking CD booklet features full credits, lyric and track by track notes by the Monkees and the songwriters taking part. There’s hardly an off track here. Recorded in L.A. and NYC, Good Times! is a vital shot in the arm in defense of The Monkees as a bonafide pop music institution. www.rhino.com

TARPAN RECORDS – Based in Hong Kong, singer-songwriter Jennifer Saran released Walk With Me in early 2016. The 18 track CD was produced by Narada Michael Walden and it’s a excellent example of thought-provoking pop. The star attraction on the CD is Ms. Saran’s pop vocal performance and the songs—co-written by Ms. Saran and Narada—are memorable as well. Primarily pop-based, Walk With Me does blend in elements of groove music and R&B with a touch of torch song gospel, but it’s all done so tastefully, and the album just flies by. A wide range of musicians back up Ms. Saran including Narada on drums as well as first class musicians like Steve Winwood band member José Neto (guitars) and a wide range of horn players and much more including string arrangements by Minna Choi. Walk With Me is a fine example of 21st century mainstream pop at its best. www.JenniferSaran.com

THREE CROWS RECORDS / APRC – Of special interest to folk-rock fans is the 2015 CD release of Expatriot, the fourth album by the U.K. based recording / song writing team of Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. For Expatriot, Trevor and Hannah joined forces with renowned record producer Ethan Johns, son of famed Beatles / Who producer Glyn Johns. That same sonic gold touch of the elder Johns has passed down to his son as Expatriot is a superb sounding album with an intriguing selection of music to match. It’s sort of stripped down sounding jazzy folk-rock but that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm that creeps into the grooves and into the ears of music fans. Commenting on working with Trevor and Hannah-Lou, Ethan Johns adds “I’m so glad I had the chance to make this record with Trevor and Hannah. I think it’s a beautiful, honest and engaging record.” The recording is kind of Dylan-inspired in places but in a light- hearted and not too serious manner. The acoustic-based guitar playing of both Trevor and Hannah-Lou is first rate and their songs hold up well. Track 5 on Expatriot, “The Pigeon People” is both haunting and captivating and even sounds a bit influenced by “The Star Spangled Banner” (I kid you not!). The CD packaging is first rate and the CD booklet reprints all the lyrics which are equally of interest. Folk-rock fans give a listen to Expatriot by Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. www.TrevorMossAndHannahLou.com

TRANSIT MUSIC GROUP – The New Hampshire-based power trio Mindset X are rocking the music world with their 2015 album Oceans. For a rock trio, Mindset X makes a lot of sound and the band features the vocals and guitars of Steve Haidaichuk backed up by Adam Cote (drums) and Paul Davidson (bass, keys), with the album co-produced by Jay Frigoletto. The tracks on the CD are mostly composed by Haidaichuk with lyrics sometimes co-written by Adam Cote. Mindset X makes hard rock sound for the 21st century that obviously pays respect to all kinds of bands—from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath to Grand Funk Railroad and Rush. Rush is a good signpost here and the power trio sound of Mindset X yields some highly promising results. One can see this band evolving to even bigger and better things in the future. www.mindsetx.com



INSTRUMENTAL


B11 MUSIC
– Based up in the Boston area, the 3 piece band called B11 are making waves with their most recent albums—the self-titled B11 (2013) and their 2016 called Vitamin For The Soul. Featuring the guitar sound of Boyan Hristov and his band mates Mike Levesque (drums) and Tom Appleman (bass), the sound of B11 is retro yet very modern sounding guitar-based instrumental music that will appeal to surf-rockers and modern jazzers who love guitar instrumentals. For example, 2013’s self-titled B11 kicks off with a rockin’ version of “Peter Gunn Theme” with several other Mancini classics balanced out by a number of Boyan originals. 2016’s Vitamin For The Soul offers a solid cross section of Boyan originals including a track called “One For Ry Cooder”. One could say that Boyan Hristov and B11 has a solid grasp of just how well jazz sounds blend with guitar instrumental music. Also of note is a recent three track 2015 EP released by B11 entitled Surf My Spy that shows just how astutely B11 blends jazzy guitar instrumental within the surf-rock genres. B11 is a band for guitar fans to keep their eyes on. www.B11band.com

BIRD’S ROBE RECORDS
/ ART AS CATHARSIS RECORDS – The Australian band known as We Lost The Sea sound mercurial and mesmerizing on their 2016 album Departure Songs. The sound of Departures Songs is fully blown instrumental art rock with prog-rock and minimalist tendencies in the spirit of heavy metal art-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky, This Heat (the late 1970s rock in opposition band) and newer bands like Sigur Ros. The Departure Songs album is well recorded and sounds truly mind blowing. The CD is brilliantly packaged and the booklet features track-by-track liner notes. For example, track four, “Challenger” is all about the space shuttle that blew up in the skies in January 1986. It’s a 20 minute piece of hair-raising instrumental rock that superbly paints a sonic portrait of the haunting images of the space shuttle explosion. Music fans who enjoy instrumental prog-rock with traces of minimalist music and heavy metal will enjoy Departure Songs by We Lost The Sea. www.WeLostTheSea.com

BREAK OPEN RECORDS – On her 2016 CD Shoebox View, Washington State-based composer / trombone player Naomi Moon Siegel combines a range of genres and the results are a highly listenable brew of instrumental sounds. Mixing jazz, soundtrack and hybrid type of Americana, Shoebox View features Ms. Siegel’s trombone playing, occasional piano, ukulele and keyboards while backed up by fine players like Wayne Horvitz (keyboards), Sean Woolstenhulme (guitars), Eric Eagle (drums) and many others. The sound is never without unique musical ideas, which helps to propel the music forward to rather unusual musical destinations. One part soundtrack and one part experimental Americana, Shoebox View is filled with wonderfully written and performed instrumental music. www.NaomiMoonSiegel.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS – Not a record label known for their surf-rock instrumental albums, Cleopatra nevertheless has a winner on their hands with the 2016 CD of Aggravatin’ Rhythms, by gothic surf rockers The Coffin Daggers. Recorded in NYC, the 14 track CD features the talents of guitarist Vic Venom, who’s joined by Rob Morrison (keys, rhythm guitar), Peter Klarnet (bass) and Pete Martinez (drums). The sound is surf-rock instrumentals at their most sinister and menacing. The cover art is either hilarious or horrifying, depending on your musical stripes. There’s a bunch of Coffin Daggers originals as well as covers of Burt Weedon and Alan Hawkshaw and several others hard to pinpoint tracks. Well recorded and presented The Coffin Daggers are a spooky bunch and they’ll please their many fans with the startling surf-rock sounds of Aggravatin’ Rhythms. www.CoffinDaggers.com

CUL DE SAC MYSTIC PRODUCTIONS – One of the top New Age flute players in the world today, Ann Licater released Beyond The Waves in 2016. As expected, the solo flute instrumentals on the album are some of Ann’s finest works yet. Several guest artists appear providing like-minded backing, including guitarist Dan Ferguson, Scarlet Rivera (violin) and Peter Phippen (flute) but the spotlight is clearly on Ann’s meditative flute musings. The beauty of Beyond The Waves is really in playing and replaying the album, which just seems to uncover new and intriguing musical insights with each spin. With hardly a note out of place, Ann Licater’s Beyond The Waves is among the best New Age instrumental / solo flute albums of the year. www.FluteForTheSoul.com

DESERT COMB MUSIC
/ TUNE LEAK RECORDS -
Australia’s rising musical mastermind Ben Craven takes progressive rock in exciting new directions on his 2016 CD / DVD entitled Last Chance To Hear. The album comes with a DVD featuring a documentary on the making of the Last Chance To Hear album along with a bunch of user-friendly video clips of various tracks. After listening to Last Chance To Hear, calling Craven eclectic would be an understatement, but not for someone who says he absorbed Dark Side Of The Moon while still in his mother’s womb. A prolific singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist, Ben plays everything in sight on Last Chance To Hear. Although he’s an adept vocalist, and he does feature several vocal tracks here, the emphasis is placed on the instrumental prog-rock thing that Craven also does so well. The vocal tracks, including “Last Chance To Hear Pt. 1” and “The Remarkable Man” truly enlivens the album's progressive rock experience while pointing a socially satirical finger at the music business and the annexation of music by You Tube and other online music resources. The third vocal track here “Spy In The Sky Pt. 3” features a spoken word vocal by Captain James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise (a/k/a Bill Shatner), which is a total gas. Ben's latest instrumental tracks are totally convincing and blend the compositional spirits of John Barry, Brian Wilson and Chris Squire to great effect with somber and thought-provoking moods and sounds. What ever your interest is within the progressive / instrumental rock realm, Ben Craven has the sonic prescriptions ready to fill your every need with the sonically super-charged Last Chance To Hear. www.BenCraven.com

DRAG CITY
– The English have a great legacy of story telling in music. Groups like The Who and The Kinks invented the rock-opera during the 1960’s and while it’s fallen out of fashion in the nuts and bolts world of the 21st century, some groups keep looking back to better days in music for new ideas. Case in point is The High Llamas, a sextet who are back in action in 2016 with a new album called Here Comes The Rattling Trees. With 16 cuts that clocks in under 28 minutes, there’s a lot of sounds to cover here but it’s all done with the utmost taste and finesse. Led by visionary singer-songwriter Sean O’Hagan, The High Llamas turned heads around in the 1990’s with some great albums. Boasting a splendid title track and a whole album of loosely knit soundtrack like sounds, Here Come The Rattling Trees takes its place in their repertoire. When mentioning The High Llamas, it’s hard not to mention visionary songwriters like Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, who were key influences to O’Hagan’s musical upbringing. How many hours O’Hagan spent listening to SmiLE is debatable but it’s not been for nothing. As half the album consists of instrumental vignettes, another musical signpost here is the exotic blend of instrumental music from the likes of Martin Denny and even Les Baxter – clearly two of O’Hagan’s other prime influences. More than just a collection of stories, songs and soundtrack sounds, Here Comes The Rattling Trees is a most welcome return to form by Sean O’Hagan and The High Llamas. www.HighLlamas.com

DRAMATICO – It’s true that The Shadows haven’t made an album of new music since 1990 but they reform again, for at least one track, on the 2016 solo album from long time Shads drummer Brian Bennett. Released on Mike Batt’s U.K. based Dramatico label, Shadowing John Barry is ostensibly Brian Bennett's tribute album to the late John Barry, who passed away in Oyster Bay, Long Island on January 30th, 2011. One of the greatest film music composers and band leaders in pop music history, John Barry left an enormous legacy of music, including his most famous works as the chief composer of the world-renowned 1960's James Bond movies, a number of which are represented here. On Shadowing John Barry, Brian Bennett is joined by a range of musicians, including his band mates in The ShadowsHank Marvin and Bruce Welch—along with a range of rock superstars such as top guitarists Peter Frampton, Ray Russell, Mark Knopfler, Mark Griffiths and John Parricelli. Produced by Brian Bennett, Shadowing John Barry also features key contributions by Brian’s son Warren Bennett (guitars, keyboards, string arrangements) with engineering by long time Shadows studio ace Dick Plant of Honeyhill Studios. Also worth mentioning is a rare appearance by one time Shadows bass player Brian “Licorice” Locking, who appears on the album playing harmonica on a cover of the John Barry classic “Midnight Cowboy”, along with excellent keyboard work by Kevin Townend and other fine players. A small but effective orchestra led by Gavyn Wright adds in that fabled Barry orchestral feel throughout the album. Despite being a key member of The Shadows starting in 1962, Brian Bennett never got the same amount of fame as his peers like Ringo Starr and other world famous British drummers rock fans know and love. Still, Shadowing John Barry is a fitting tribute to both Brian Bennett’s band leading and drumming skills, still very much in tact at age 76, as well as being an all-star, action packed instro rock tribute to the late, great John Barry. Brian Bennett may be getting up there in years but his hands, ears and heart are still in the right place and Shadowing John Barry is a triumphant return to form from a true legend of U.K. music. www.BrianBennettMusic.co.uk / www.dramatico.com

GREYDISC - As the owner of Greydisc Records, guitarist Kevin Kastning has released 22 albums featuring him paired with a range of musical collaborators. The 2016 CD release of Skyfields is Kevin's second solo album, following the 2015 release of Otherworld. Kastning is clearly a pioneer of 21st century classical music. Not only that, but Kastning, the guitar architect recorded his latest album with his world renowned 36 string guitar—an instrument that has inspired a new repertoire of 21st century music. Speaking to mwe3.com about the differences between his two latest solo albums, Kevin Kastning explains, “I think Skyfields is indeed different from Otherworld in both sound and scope. I did intend for them to be different; I didn't want to release an album that was essentially "Otherworld 2." Otherworld consists of 16 tracks which are not directly related compositionally or thematically, but rather connected by mood and atmosphere. I had been thinking about longer solo pieces divided into movements, like a symphony. The original plan was for four movements totaling around 40 - 45 minutes. But compositions and improvisations can take on a life of their own between conception and completion. By the time it was complete, it was five movements and 63 minutes.” For music fans who enjoyed Kastning’s Otherworld CD as well as his music releases with Carl Clements, Michael Manring, Sandor Szabo, Mark Wingfield and more, Skyfields will be another valuable listening experience. For these listeners unfamiliar with or even challenged by Kastning’s 36 string guitar experimentation, give Skyfields a good hearing, you won’t be disappointed. All the great guitarists of the 20th century have challenged their audiences during various times and currently, Kevin Kastning is one of the most thought-provoking 20th century guitarists recording new music in the 21st century. www.KevinKastning.com

HEART DANCE RECORDS – Very much rooted in both the acoustic folk instrumental music and New Age / ambient folk worlds, David W Donner is making waves in the guitar world with his 2016 CD Eterna. Somewhat reminiscent of the Windham Hill sound of the late 1980s, Eterna is both meditative and musical. In other words, you can put it on and chill out or active listening will show that Donner is on the mark as a skilled guitarist. Interestingly, the album was named after Donner’s first guitar, given to him by his grandmother when he was 15. In his heartfelt liner notes, Donner says that Eterna was over a decade in the making—recorded after years of his playing and writing in bands, doing canned tracks for music libraries and composing for film. It’s mostly all Donner but there are some guest appearances by Heart Dance founder Sherry Finzer (flute), Hope Easton (cello) and others, including album co-producer Cass Anawaty. Acoustic guitar fans will easily tune into David W Donner’s Eterna. www.DavidWDonner.com

HOLTZ SOUND – Hailing from the country of Luxenborg, The Majestic Unicorns From Hell give hard rock / heavy metal music a makeover with their 2016 CD A Matter Of Less In More. Released on their own Holtz Sound label, the ten-track CD just bowls you over with a number of instrumental tracks that sizzle with intensity. The sound of the CD is dark and menacing yet for relief from the meek and the mundane, Majestic Unicorns have all the heavy metal moves down to a science on their CD. Hard rock fans and heavy metal fans who love Black Sabbath and Judas Priest will enjoy the scintillating instro guitar moves on display on this latest and great CD by The Majestic Unicorns From Hell. www.TheMajesticUnicornsFromHell.bandcamp.com

JIM OTTAWAY MUSIC – Living and working on the Gold Coast of Australia, electronic composer and musician Jim Ottaway is turning heads around with his mind-boggling albums of instrumental electronic music. A rising figure on the global electronic music scene, Jim has actually released 23 independent albums that blends a wealth of instrumental music genres such as ambient space music, electronica, rock, chill-out music, dance music, New Age and soundtrack sounds. A gifted and prolific recording artist, Jim released Invisible Vortex in 2015 and in 2016 he follows up with Southern Cross. Speaking about his most recent releases and his vast output of recorded music over the past decade, Jim tells mwe3.com, "My most recent album, Southern Cross is a space ambient album and the album before that, Invisible Vortex from 2015, is an electronic synth album with some very powerful tracks filling the album. Naturally, over the years I feel my music has developed more complexity and the production of my albums has certainly improved. I am very proud of all my albums but I can certainly see, and hear, the changes, hopefully for the better, that have occurred." Both albums will appeal to fans of all of the instrumental music genres mentioned above as well as creating interest among fans of giants in the electronic music world such as Tangerine Dream and their late, great leader Edgar Froese, Vangelis, Enigma and many other e-music icons. In fact, Invisible Vortex is dedicated to Edgar Froese and also features 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn guesting on a track as well. While Invisible Vortex is more kinetic and animated sounding and Southern Cross is more pure electronica—each of these albums presents a variety of good reasons as to why instrumental electronica music fans should listen to Jim Ottaway. www.JimOttaway.com

LITTLE HARTLEY MUSIC - World renowned as a piano virtuoso and music composer, Fiona Joy released Signature – Synchronicity in 2016. In 2015, Fiona released Signature – Solo and its follow up, Signature – Synchronicity takes her music to a whole new level of sonic excellence. Taking the solo piano music of Signature – Solo and reproducing it with number of musicians, the results make Signature – Synchronicity Fiona’s most exhilarating album to date. Commenting on the differences between the two albums, Fiona tells mwe3.com, “I took the same 10 songs and recorded them on a hand made contemporary Australian piano with 97 keys in an edited, overdubbed studio environment with full orchestration. Totally different worlds! I added lyrics, many layers of instrumentation and yet the piano parts are identical almost note for note, taking the keyboard length variations into account. I wanted the listener to see how different each approach can be.” The approach may be different but the music sparkles in a new and different setting. The production work of Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton and James Englund adds to the sonic experience. Recorded in both Australia and the U.S., Signature – Synchronicity also benefits thanks to the added input from key musicians such as Tony Levin (NS bass), Marc Shulman (electric guitar), Will Ackerman (guitar), Tom Eaton (keyboard pads) Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Borbala Bodonyi (backing vocals), Nick Hawkins (beat box), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Eugene Friesen (cello) Rebecca Daniel (violin) and others. While the basic piano themes of Signature – Synchronicity were first explored on the Signature – Solo album, the music gets a new shine on these newly recorded versions—proving that great music can work in any production setting. An ethereal and captivating listening experience flowing with lush melodies and exquisite production techniques, Signature – Synchronicity is Fiona Joy’s most celestial-sounding music yet. www.fionajoy.com

LOU PECCI MUSIC - In the hands of guitar ace Lou Pecci, classics from the great American songbook come to life again. For his 2016 CD, Cinema Standards On Guitar, Lou goes back in timeway back in fact to songs that were mainly written and made popular in the 1930’sa 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. Speaking about the CD release of Cinema Standards On Guitar Lou tells mwe3.com, "I’ve always loved playing standards, and have for a long time now. I actually recorded this a few years ago and didn’t know if I was going to do anything with it, until a friend heard it and liked it, which encouraged me to put it out." More than just another covers album, Lou points out on the CD cover art that a few of these songs were also used in some of his favorite movies. 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 and was covered by Ennio Morricone in the movie Once Upon A Time In America. Lou's unique and very cool guitar instrumental cover 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 great to hear that Lou knows his stuff. Cinema Standards is a fresh and invigorating album of instrumental guitar magic by one of New Jersey’s finest guitarists, Lou Pecci. www.CDbaby.com

MAPLE SUGAR MUSIC – Denver-based guitarist Sean McGowan knows a music standard when he hears one and on his 2016 album My Fair Lady, he delivers an album full of them. Featuring the music of Lerner / Loewe, My Fair Lady was such a huge hit Broadway play in 1956 and then a movie success, that the album spawned a wide range of songs that have endured till today. On his instrumental guitar tribute to the music of My Fair Lady, McGowan kicks things off with his solo guitar version of “Get Me To The Church On Time” and things just get better from there. The album is only 36 minutes long yet it’s packed with so many memorable melodies that you’ll have to play the CD at least a dozen times to fully grasp the historic magnitude of the music here. McGowan performs his arch-top jazz guitar like a mini orchestra, covering all the melodic lead lines and bass accompaniment while keeping the songs right on track. Choosing seven songs from the musical may make this an abridged version yet jazz guitar fans can do no wrong by picking up on Sean McGowan’s super smooth My Fair Lady guitar tribute. www.SeanMcGowanGuitar.com

MARKET SQUARE RECORDS – Just when you think you’ve heard everything along comes something truly unusual. From Northern Ireland, Colin Harper is a renowned author and music historian who has penned five books as well as writing various music liner notes. Over the past five years he has also written and recorded music for his 2016 self-titled CD from his Sunset Cavaliers project. The CD is mostly impressionistic instrumental music, that towards the end brings in several appealing pop and rock tracks. Due to its overall sonic complexity, collectors of such music might arouse musical signposts such as Townshend’s series of Meher Baba tribute albums or even the thought of what a still living Syd Barrett might sound like today. Directing the music on acoustic guitar, Harper is assisted by a range of excellent backing musicians including the late Duffy Power (guitar), Cormack O’Kane (keys), Steven Kindler (9 string electric violin), along with appearances by U.K. guitar icons, including the late Bert Jansch, as well as Andy Powell and Chris Spedding. If you enjoy eccentric U.K. genius composers then by all means check out Colin Harper’s Sunset Cavaliers. www.Colin-Harper.com

MMX RECORDS – In addition to their ever evolving jazz and rock culture, the country of Finland has a rich history of both classical and world music. A good example of a modern album that combines instrumental jazz and classical vibes can be heard on Magic Violin, the 2016 CD by Finnish classical artist, Mervi Myllyoja. It is true that the late, great Finnish composer Pekka Pohjola was a skillful violinist although he only played that instrumenta on the early Wigwam albums and his first solo album from 1973. Picking up from where Pohjola’s classical inclinations left off, Mervi’s album is filled with wonderful instrumental tracks that will appeal to both fusion ears and classical fans with an open mind. Featuring Mervi covering works by esteemed Finnish composers and famous classical masters such as Johannes Brahms, Magic Violin features Mervi in the studio backed up by a number of excellent Finnish musicians including Juha Lanu (guitars) and bass player Eero Heinonen, who also composed the CD closing title track. The eight track album clocks in just under 29 minutes but the studio sound is excellent and Mervi’s liner notes describes the meaning and the message behind her “Magic Violin”. www.MerviViolin.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – Guitarist Corey Christiansen strikes a chord for instrumental jazz guitar fans with his 2016 CD Factory Girl. Not named after the Rolling Stones song of the same name, the nine cut CD features a range of Christiansen originals that employ a range of guitar moves and grooves—from jazzy fusion to Americana to a more biting slide guitar groove that evokes a range of guitar sounds. Christiansen receives excellent studio backup from his band mates including Zach Lapidus (keys, super collider), Jeremy Allen (acoustic / electric bass), Matt Jorgenson (drums) and Michael Spiro (percussion). Quoting from the CD liner notes by guitar icon Andy Summers, “Corey is at the frontier of American jazz guitar. Maybe he has created a new genre here. Avant folk maybe? Whatever it is, this is a great album with stellar playing all around and a great pleasure for guitar fans.” Jazz guitar fans and guitar instrumental fans will sit up and take notice of Corey Christiansen and his splendid Factory Girl. In other release news, State based Origin will make jazzers quite happy with Border Crossing, their 2016 CD by guitarist Alex Goodman. A young, vital Canadian guitarist, Goodman is joined by a number of players including vocalist Felicity Williams, who sings scat over the guitarists fretboard magic as well as drummer Fabio Ranelli. Covers of Mozart and Anthony Newley fit in well on Goodman’s mostly instrumental album of 21st century guitar-centric sounds. www.CoreyChristiansen.com www.OriginArts.com

PAPER BAG RECORDS
– Canada-based Paper Bag Records has a wonderful 2016 CD out from Montreal based Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld. Clocking in at 44 minutes, the eight track CD, entitled The Ridge features a hypnotic mix of mostly instrumental music that features Ms. Neufeld’s expressive violin and occasional vocal cameos. At times the music sounds influenced by icons like Mike Oldfield and Philip Glass, yet there’s also some uniquely appealing, instrumental and vocal, tones here to separate her from past legends. Backing up Ms. Neufeld are fine players including Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara (drums, synth), Colin Stetson (lyricon) and Hans Bernhard (bass). Fans of recent music from U.K. orchestral string masters John Metcalfe and Marvin Ayers will enjoy Sarah Neufeld and her expressive mix of instrumental and vocal excursions. www.SarahNeufeldMusic.com

PERISKOP – Norway based multi-instrumentalist Juhani Silvola turned heads around thanks to his work with singer Elin Kåvan. Now on his solo debut CD, Strange Flowers, he’s turned in a mesmerizing album of instrumental avant garde New Age meets soundtrack sounds. Backed by drummer Timo Silvola and string player Sarah-Jane Summers, Juhani goes from very sedate instrumental soundtrack sounds to a more aggressive Spectorian wall of Nordic style instrumental rock that some have even compared to German bands such as Can and Michael Rother. Influences about including the swampy rootsy sounding lead off track “The Gods That Built This Place Were Mad” and there’s some fine electronica on several cuts. Apart from his obvious skillful production style, perhaps his guitar is equally intriguing, sometimes evoking a younger Kenny Håkansson of the Sami hinterlands. www.PeriskopMusic.com

RADHAUS – In 2016, L.A. based Radhaus released a 3 CD set called Saving Cecil’s Pride. Cecil was the famous lion who was senselessly killed by a big game hunter and his name and legacy is now honored by a mighty music tribute. With all the proceeds going to The Big Life Foundation wildlife conservation group, the CD scope and vision is great and the sound is even greater. Saving Cecil’s Pride features a stellar mix of top talent from the realm of New Age music, ambient and electronica and there’s even a touch of tribal sounding African music here too that is not too far out to appeal to western ears. There are some bigger names here including top names from the world of 21st century music like Ricky Kej and Russell Suereth but the majority of the 32 artists featured over the three discs are lesser known, yet all are very deserving of inclusion on such a stellar tribute CD. Honoring Cecil and honoring your ears with some fine music, Saving Cecil’s Pride is a win-win situation for music lovers and animal rights fans. www.savingcecilspride.com

REAL MUSIC – As a follow-up to his 2015 CD, Crosswinds, Indian flute maestro Rajendra Teredesai released Moksha in 2016. Rajendra’s approach on Moksha is equally spiritual in scope compared to his early Real Music albums but for the uninitiated, the concept of Moksha is quite intriguing. In the Indian culture “Moksha” has two meanings—the highest state of spirituality through yoga and meditation as well as eternal release from “samsara”, which is the endless cycle of birth-death-rebirth. That key connection between music and the soul appears to be very much in play on Moksha. The drone of the Indian raga and the sound of the tamboura is the perfect setting for Rajendra’s Bansuri flute and the album is divided into six parts based on the premise that certain ragas are associated with a particular time of day or night. Whatever your spiritual inclinations are, Moksha is certainly one of the most divine sonic experiences you could here. It’s interesting that the CD comes with a warning that this music is meant to be listened to in a meditative setting and not while driving a car or working with heavy machinery. Most Real Music fans will find that to be a given as the music that company makes is specifically linked to meditation and relaxation and is not supposed to be listened to in stressful settings like driving. Such is the nature of Raga related Indian music and that makes Moksha a deeply spiritual and celestial listening experience. www.RealMusic.com

REAL MUSIC
- New Age music innovator Gandalf released Dreamweaver in 2013 and he’s back in early 2016 with a new album called All Is One - One Is All. A number of musicians appear on All Is One - One Is All, but the accent is purely upon Gandalf’s piano, guitar, assorted keyboard sounds and various atmospherics. Gandalf has released over thirty albums since the early 1980’s and he’s been an acclaimed forerunner of New Age and heavenly sounds for decades. Although he was raised on the early guitar instrumental sounds of The Shadows and later, prog-rock guitar icons such as Steve Hackett, Gandalf’s specialty has always been his spectacular, symphonic instrumental music opuses, many of which have been released in recent years by California-based label Real Music. As he did on 2013’s Dreamweaver, on 2016’s All Is One - One Is All, Gandalf scaled back the electronics in favor of a sound that is more pure and natural—he even described the sound as being neoclassical in scope. That’s partly what makes All Is One - One Is All so appealing. The melodies are still there to be appreciated, but the sound is very pure and undiluted. That approach works wonders, for example, on track six “Paint You a Song,” which is a superb showcase for Gandalf’s haunting piano melodies, as well as the Celtic sounding “The Fragrance of Eden,” with cello strings provided by Merike Hilmar and Irish Whistle from Karin Leitner. With a legacy going back decades, Gandalf is one of Real Music’s most acclaimed artists and he will please his many fans with his 2016 masterpiece All Is One - One Is All. www.realmusic.com

RIVERWIDE RECORDS
Studio engineer expert Tom Eaton released his first ever solo album in 2016. The album, abendromen, is a magical journey into the art of keyboard-based New Age ambient instrumental music. Working as an engineer / producer for a number of folk-music artists early on in his career, Tom joined forces as a studio engineer for Imaginary Road studio and has worked with New Age / ambient music producer Will Ackerman on over fifty albums over the past five years. Commenting on the long and winding road towards completing abendromen, Tom tells mwe3.com, "I have always been writing and have had pieces of my own music in various states of completion but for some reason they never coalesce into a complete album, probably because I am extremely busy making music for others! I've been making records for clients at my own place for 23 years now, and working with Will Ackerman on the records we make at his Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont for the past five. However, last December I was processing some emotional stuff I was going through and this whole record emerged very quickly, in about four weeks start to finish. I worked late at night... sometimes overnight, after I'd done my regular music work for the day. The concept for the record—seven evening dreams—is the music, really. These were the things I was feeling as I worked those late nights, the 'dreams' I was having… the things I needed to say but couldn't find the words for." Tom Eaton is very much part of the new music movement of progressive instrumental and he’s been involved in the production of new music by 21st century recording artists such as Fiona Joy and Jeff Oster. If you enjoyed Fiona and Jeff’s latest works than abendromen will strike a similar vibe for you as well. Even though he’s known as a fine studio engineer and technician, not many know Tom as a musician and recording artist, yet one listen to abendromen will remedy all that. Another amazing thing is that on abendromen Tom plays everything himself, including all keyboards, synths as well as the ambient guitar sounds which all enhance his subtle and meditative music. Start to finish, abendromen is a captivating, all around album of sonically appealing keyboard-driven ambient music by keyboardist and studio wizard Tom Eaton. www.ThomasEaton.com

ROBERT RICH MUSIC – Releasing music on album since 2002, California avant garde sound shaper Robert Rich is one of the most extreme and gifted ambient recording today. Rich has recorded with esteemed fellow musicians such as Steve Roach, Ian Boddy and Markus Reuter. Listening to the 2016 Robert Rich album entitled, What We Left Behind, you’d be hard-pressed to find a jazz melody or rock style chord progression. But what you will find is first rate experimental ambient neo-electronic sounds, featuring instruments like prepared piano, Haken Continuum, PVC flutes, lap steel guitar, percussion as well as all types of high tech synth electronics. Fellow sonic instrumentalist Forrest Fang receives credits on a pair of tracks here but it’s mostly Robert Rich at what he does best, which is his creating a symphony of avant garde electronica that weaves in primeval instrumentation on lap steel and flutes. The unearthly results makes What We Left Behind a most challenging, yet sonically rewarding listening experience. As is usual for Rich, his album cover art for What We Left Behind is spectacular and enhances the listening experience. www.RobertRich.com

ROSE IN THE FIRE MUSIC – Guitarist Bill Mize is well known among fans of classic instrumental acoustic guitar music. Bill describes his latest CD, 2014’s The Back Of Beyond as “A return to my Appalachian roots and a reconnection with people and events that have shaped me and my music”. Bill is recognized as a U.S. national fingerstyle champion and a Grammy winning guitarist. His work has appeared in the Ken Burns’ documentary “Our National Parks” and his work has also appeared on a Windham Hill Records guitar sampler and in Mel Bay Productions. Bill’s ten track CD, The Back Of Beyond sounds amazing as it was quite well recorded. The album features Bill performing on guitar, lap steel and ebow with some assistance on a track from Beth Bramhall (accordion). All the tracks were composed by Bill except a cover by famed accordion master Astor Piazzolla. Brought to the attention of mwe3.com by Americana singer-songwriter Bill Price, Bill Mize is clearly a master of the acoustic guitar medium and his album will sit nicely alongside guitar classics from the finest players recording today. www.BillMize.com

SPACE ROCK PRODUCTIONS
– In 2015, the Denmark and Sweden-based musical outfit known as Øresund Space Collective released a massive double CD set called Different Creatures. The album was a superb introduction to the band’s space rock instrumental sound. Now in 2016, the label behind the ØSC sound have released two new albums featuring members Dr. Space a/k/a Scott Heller joined by a range of players. First off, ØSC has an even more recent release called Ode To A Black Hole. Recorded in October 2014, the CD is quite meditative and is described as a slowly evolving piece of music. The two part CD features synth drones, violin, pedal steel guitar, minimal bass and slow emotional drums. Also out on Space Rock Production is a 2016 CD release by the ØSC offshoot band West Space & Love, simply called West Space & Love Vol. II. With song titles like “Floyd’s Dream”, “Pig In Space”, “Øscillations In D Minor” and more, the album is very much in the Øresund Space Collective mode and will appeal to instrumental space rock fans of bands like Gong and even some of Pink Floyd’s more cerebral instrumental moments. The vast number of vintage synthesizers used in the making of the West Space & Love Vol. II album is quite impressive. When the drums kick in you know you’re in for a treat. West Space & Love Vol. II borrows from all types of instrumental music including Indian trance music, (with sitar and santoor) as well as German electronic space music ala Tangerine Dream. Space rock instrumental music fans, electronica fans as well as long time fans of Øresund Space Collective will enjoy each of these amazing releases. www.SpaceRockProductions.com

STONE ANGEL MUSIC – Religious music has a strong advocate for instrumentals with Utah-based pianist Paul Cardall. When people think of religious music they often think of people singing church hymns but not many think of instrumental piano music, yet that’s what forms the core of Paul Cardall’s 2016 double CD set entitled, 40 Hymns For Forty Days. The double CD set features Paul playing 40 hymn arrangements for piano and strings. The results are a sublime sounding mix of spiritual and meditative instrumental music that blends New Age sounds with neoclassical sounding music. Whether your bag is peace, prayer, meditation or scripture study, Paul Cardall provides the ultimate soundtrack with 40 Hymns For Forty Days. Paul’s Steinway piano is enhanced by his light electronic enhancements and strings played by several players. These songs are not well known by the masses so Paul Cardall’s arrangements are the perfect way to tap into a somewhat unknown, yet completely uplifting and soothing genre of instrumental music. www.PaulCardall.com

STRANGE TREE PRODUCTIONS – As two thirds of the Flamenco-rock trio Incendio, Liza Carbé and Jean-Pierre Durand form the axis of the band Carbé And Durand. Their 2008 album Sketches made inroads into Nuevo Flamenco music and the dynamic duo are back in 2016 with A Bridge Between. Instead of all original sounds featuring their impeccable guitar skills, they’ve opted for an album of mostly covers of classic songs played in their Nuevo Flamenco style. With a range of covers from the songbooks of Mason Williams, The Beatles, Jimmy Webb, Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones, the results are mostly satisfying. The Carbé And Durand cover of “Blackbird” is very nice while their version of “Paint It Black”, the spring ’66 Stones cover is perfect for their instrumental flamenco style. Some of the tracks are lesser known and there are a couple Carbé And Durand originals to keep fans interested in their own music too. A Bridge Between will keep guitar fans happy at least until Incendio stirs the pot again with their white hot instrumental flamenco grooves. www.CarbeAndDurand.com

WEASELTRAP RECORDSIn 2016, South Carolina based Weaseltrap Records released Time and Again from guitarist Bob Kilgore. Later in 2016, Weaseltrap also released a new CD by Bob’s brother Bear Kilgore called After a Pause. Musically, Bob and Bear are on the same page and—with the album performed entirely by Bearthat same high level of musical expertise can be heard on After a Pause. Bob is renowned as a guitarist and the classically trained Bear likewise, shines on a range of keyboard related tracks here that combine New Age sensibilities with a kind of soundtrack vibe. The 15 track After a Pause is very much rooted in all types of instrumental music and would make the perfect soundtrack for a documentary or some science fiction film. Commenting on the title, Bear explains, "After A Pause refers to two very different events. The more obvious one was my waiting six years to make the CD. The other one, of much more eternal significance, was the period between the old and new Testaments in the Bible, in which God was silent for 400 years before the birth of Christ." Bear balances his fondness for synth keyboards with some appealing percussion, which swells in and out of the sound spectrum. Other types of music featured on After a Pause include jazz-piano and instrumental techno-pop. Six years after his first solo album, Untroubled, keyboardist / composer Bear Kilgore returns with After a Pause—his strongest album to date. www.weaseltrap.com

WEASELTRAP RECORDS – Guitarist Bob Kilgore brings his music to its highest level yet on his 2016 CD Time And Again. The 13 track album is essential for fans of instrumental acoustic-based guitar music as well as New Age music, especially as the music on Time And Again is quite meditative and peaceful sounding. Playing his Martin D16M guitar, Bob gets support from his keyboardist brother, Bear and the CD also features orchestral strings by cellist Sarah Dean. The CD packaging also lists the various tunings Bob uses on his guitars and the album is also a showcase for Bob’s own Harmonic Capo, which helps him get some appealing harmonic string sounds on his Martin guitar. Kilgore’s 2016 notes regarding the making of the CD are revelatory with the guitarist adding, ‘I worked on it for over four years, discarding it twice entirely before I was completely satisfied with the compositions and with my performances of them. I am immensely proud to offer it to anyone who cares to give it a listen.’ If you go to Bob’s website you can see all his many fine albums released to date on his Weaseltrap Records imprint. Music fans into deeply inspiring, acoustic guitar-based New Age instrumentals are well advised to track down and give a good listen to the music of Bob Kilgore. www.weaseltrap.com

XCAPPA RECORDS – Electric bass ace Phil Palombi joins forces with a number of gifted jazz musicians on his latest solo album and the results make for fine listening on the 2016 CD release of Detroit Lean. The ten track CD features a range of pleasant fusion outings written by Phil with the exception being track six “Stay The Same”, written by Phil’s wife Sarah Jan Cion. Recorded in Upstate New York and mixed and mastered in NYC, Detroit Lean reflects on Phil’s evolution as a musician as well as his sound since moving to New York. Phil explains, “I was feeling a little nostalgic when I wrote the music for this CD. Most of the titles correspond to events or feelings that I had when I moved to New York City in 1997. I my previous life, growing up in Ohio, I was a total gear-head. I used to rebuild muscle cars, cruise, drag-race… all the fun stuff! The phrase “Detroit Lean” refers to a style of sitting behind the steering wheel, looking cool.” With Phil’s nimble bass work driving the sound, the album also features some very fine players, including Matthew Fries (keys), Tony Romano (flamenco, steel string and electric guitars), Keith Hall (drums) and more. Filled with solid jazzy fusion grooves, Detroit Lean is authentic and original sounding and overall makes for a fun-filled, stress free jazz-rock journey. www.PhilPalombi.com

YAKSONGS – England has a great history of instrumental rock and you can add the (unlikely) name Yak to that list. On the 2015 Yak album called Quest For The Stones, keyboardist Martin Morgan joins forces with Dave Speight (drums) and Gary Bennett (bass) and the results are a great progressive instrumental rock album. Turns out that drummer Dave Speight had worked with former YES guitarist Pete Banks so that early YES sound is another influence that comes to mind on Yak. Having done a self-produced now out of print CD in late 2008, Morgan’s musical destination with Yak may sound more late 1970s than 2015 but that won’t stop music fans from flocking to his vision. For comparisons, Camel fans may cite instrumental opuses like The Snow Goose and other mythological type prog music from the ‘70s but Morgan does have a unique concept here and his keyboard arsenal is amazing—pianos mixing with synths and mellotrons really drive the sound to some interesting destinations. In fact, you could swear there were guitars on the album but perhaps Morgan is bending and pitching the guitars in your mind. The in-depth liner notes goes into great depth regarding the quest for the Yak stones which are located somewhere in the UK while also mentioning the album is a benefit for the Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary. www.towerhillstables.com It’s all very mythological but the music of Yak is timeless and is a true find for instro prog fans. www.yaksongs.com



REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES



BGO RECORDS
– BGO reissued the early Jan Akkerman album, Tabernakel, from 1973, as part of their late 2015 reissue which pairs it with Eli, from 1976 and featuring Jan Akkerman with Kaz Lux. Tabernakel is one of the most lush sounding guitar albums of the early ‘70s. As the guitarist with Focus, Akkerman is world renowned for his song classics “Hocus Pocus” and “Sylvia” and fans of “Sylvia” will want to check out Tabernakel, which is a neoclassical sounding acoustic guitar / lute based album complete with full band, sweeping orchestral strings and a hit single called “House Of The King”, a sure fire instrumental follow up hit to “Hocus Pocus”, without the yodeling. Interestingly, Tabernakel was recorded during the summer of 1973 at Atlantic Recording Studios in NYC with members of The Vanilla Fudge. Who knew! Anyway, BGO’s, 19 track single disc / double album CD reissue is superb sounding and the addition of another Akkerman title, a blues-rock album with singer Kaz Lux, shows a very much different side of Akkerman. Liner notes by Neil Daniels takes you back in time to the heyday of the European jazz-rock guitar scene. Also out in 2016 on BGO is a double CD set from jazz legend Gary Burton. Burton's 2016 CD remaster on BGO pairs 3 albums on 2 CDs—Something's Coming (1964), The Groovy Sound Of Music (Burton's album tribute to The Sound Of Music from 1965) and taking up disc 2 is The Time Machine (from 1966). There is nothing cooler than hearing Burton's originals mixed in with his skillful covers of pop standards of the day. CD liner notes by Charles Waring are truly insightful. Another 2016 double CD set on BGO is by famed U.K. drummer and his group John Stevens' Away. BGO's double John Stevens album features 3 albums—the self-titled John Stevens' Away (1976), Somewhere In Between (1976) and Mazin Ennit (from 1977). Also included are four bonus cuts, with two featuring the late great singer John Martyn. Stevens passed away in 1994 but his legacy lives on. Liner notes by Charles Waring are quite illuminating. Fans of U.K. prog-rock icons Beggar's Opera will want to hunt down BGO's 2015 single disc CD pairing of Pathfinder (from 1972) with Get Your Dog Off Me (from 1973). Highlights include an amazing Beggar's Opera cover of "MacArthur Park" and a cover of the Mason Williams penned "Classical Gas", featuring Beggars Opera guitarist Ricky Gardiner. Liner notes by Neil Daniels. www.BGO-Records.com


ESOTERIC RECORDINGS
– Back in 1968, Paul McCartney could do no wrong. With sessions for The White Album soon to be underway, Paul took some time out to co-produce sessions for what would soon be the McGough & McGear album. The “McGear” part was Paul’s brother Mike McCartney a/k/a Mike McGear. The “McGough” part was Roger McGough, Mike's partner in the British rock band The Scaffold. Released originally on Parlophone Records, McGough & McGear turned into a kind of superstar session with Paul enlisting the help of rock royalty including Jimi Hendrix, Graham Nash, Dave Mason, Spencer Davis and many others as indicated in the scrupulous liner notes written by Esoteric founder Mark Powell as well as the original album notes by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies. Musically it’s a mixed bag with the definite highlight being “So Much To Love”, the Hendrix / McGear jam that kicks off the album. From a pop perspective, too many of the tracks feature the spoken word poetry that McGough became known for although, historically speaking, that’s a minor quibble at this point. McGear and his Beatle brother would have to wait seven more years before they’d reach their collaborative zenith on the underrated McGear album, released on Warner Brothers in 1975. That said, the liner notes are chock full of historical Beatles related trivia and then there’s that brilliant Hendrix track that is well worth the price of the double CD set, which presents the album in both its mono and stereo mixes. Mike McGear remains one of the most underrated singers in pop history and, musically and historically, McGough & McGear is nothing to sneer at. www.CherryRed.co.uk

MVD VISUAL – The tragic and brief career of Janis Joplin is remembered with both fondness and musical accuracy on Janis: Little Girl Blue. When she burst on the scene with “Down On Me” – the breakthrough hit with Big Brother & The Holding Company no one knew Janis would be gone by October 1970. Rock stars were dying in rapid succession in those years but still it was a major jolt losing such an influential singer, as Janis was back then, at only 27. Released in 2015, the movie Janis: Little Girl Blue was written and directed by Amy J. Berg and features a number of still living members of the Joplin bands of the era. The 105 minute documentary features key contributions and appearances by Kris Kristofferson, Dick Cavett, D.A. Pennebaker, Bob Weir, Pink and a whole lot more including Joplin’s still living brother and sister. Combining new interview footage with pieces of historic performance video clips of Janis Joplin live in concert, Janis: Little Girl Blue is the best movie yet of the late great Janis Joplin. www.MVDb2b.com

 

 


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