Record Label
and Music Spotlight
 

SUMMER 2017

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES
The SUMMER 2017 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK

 

ABIZAID PUBLISHING -– Born in the country of Lebanon and based in Los Angeles, Amanda Abizaid released a seven track CD in early 2017. Walking In Twos is notable for some electric guitar work by Stephen Stills of CSN, appearing on the lead-off title track. Ms. Abizaid sounds influenced by a range of North American singer-songwriters—from Sheryl Crow to Anna Domino and Ricky Lee Jones to any number of rising singer songwriter talents. Filled with pop with rock influences and chill-out grooves, the album is well produced and the songs are memorable. Ms. Abizaid describes her music as “Neo-Soul meets World Music” and on the small world side of things, the album is actually a benefit for Filipino schoolchildren. A range of players fill out the sonic sound stage that features elegant sounding, multilayered keyboard work and the appealing grooves and rhythms all add credence to the overall sound. Track six “Promises Of Love” is particularly promising with its slight 1960s pop cadences meets the World Beat side of 21st century hip-hop culture. Also appearing on Walking In Twos is Mark Stephen Weitz (Wurlitzer) from 1960s psychedelic pop icons Strawberry Alarm Clock. www.AmandaAbizaid.com

ALBERTO LOMBARDI MUSIC – Fans of Tommy Emmanuel should give a listen to Birds, the 2016 CD by Italy’s hot new guitarist Alberto Lombardi. Acoustic-based guitar instrumental music, Birds does in fact feature Alberto singing on two covers of David Bowie (“Life On Mars) and Elton John (“My Father’s Gun”), both from the golden year of 1971. Those are a couple highlights for sure but throughout, the mostly instrumental album features Alberto’s excellent fingerpicking and flatpicking acoustic styles. There’s plenty of excellent guitar work on hand and amid the instros, there’s also a CD opening cover of the always classic “Volare”, covers of The Beatles (“Come Together”), Hoagy Carmichael (“Georgia On My Mind”) and much more. Fellow guitarist Tim Sparks appears on the title track but otherwise, Birds is a great guitar album from Alberto Lombardi. www.albertolombardi.com

ARTHUR OFFEN MUSIC - There's something for all sorts of progressive rock fans on Seven Wonders—the 2017 CD by Georgia-based musical conceptualist, Arthur Offen. An astute and intuitive singer / songwriter who gained fame in 1980 for the Air Raid album, produced by noted music producer / engineer Eddie Kramer, as well as for three albums made with the band Flag—Arthur's strong point is his unique vocal style, that mixes a driving Gary Brooker / Procol Harum sound meets an early '70s Elton John approach. Rooted in hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock, the Seven Wonders CD is wonderfully packaged and the lyrics come in a CD booklet complete with lyrics and some wildly colorful looking artwork. Describing his mission on Seven Wonders, Arthur tells mwe3.com, "I knew that number one, Seven Wonders was going to be a rocker from the way things started going as I started fleshing out the tunes. What was emerging to my ears was as a progressive rock set that was heavy on the rock end of the spectrum." Seven Wonders works best as a total listening experience, although track five "Twas Meant To Be" would clearly make a great radio single track. A range of early to mid 1970s influences come to mind on Seven Wonders, including heavy, electric guitar-centric rock bands such as Deep Purple, Procol Harum and even Gentle Giant. A number of musicians back up Arthur and his core team on Seven Wonders, including multi-instrumentalists and co-producers Rick Hinkle and Tom Waltz. By combining a range of rock influences with a intensely lyrical approach, singer-songwriter Arthur Offen delivers the goods on an album that is absorbing and, at times, positively astonishing. In a fitting gesture, Seven Wonders is dedicated to much-missed rock icons Chris Squire and Paul Kantner as well as to every fallen soldier. www.arthuroffen.com

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Back in 1971, Stackridge cofounder Andy Davis played guitar on John Lennon's Imagine album. A few short years later Andy and his band were recording their masterpiece with Beatles producer George Martin. Signed in the US to Sire Records, the band was shafted by Sire in favor of the punk and new wave culture that dominated that late ‘70s culture. Making their big comeback in 2000, with the band’s cofounder James Warren featured as the catalyst member, Stackridge hit their stride on their 2005 comeback album Sex & Flags but just when they hit their zenith on their final 2009 studio album it was too damn late! Other group founders Mutter Slater and Crun Walter left the band shortly thereafter but despite it all, Andy and James reconvened Stackridge one last time in 2015 and the results can be heard on a splendid 2017 double CD set on Angel Air called The Final Bow, Bristol 2015. Mutter does appear on a couple tracks making it the closest thing to a comeback. The keyboards of Glenn Tommey give the tracks a kind of Martin-eque orchestral aura, while Claire Lindley has really blossomed as an excellent lead and backing vocalist, supporting the songs of both Davis and Warren. Drummer Eddie John provides a vital studio type drumming sound. The tracks from the final 2009 A Victory For Common Sense are excellent as clearly long time fans will note. An excellent booklet provides a whole history of Stackridge which all proves that Warren, Davis and company still command the respect of pop aficionados world wide. All in all there’s 22 tracks of vintage Stackridge, dusted off with a 21st century retro-glow. www.angelair.co.uk

BIG CROWN -RECORDS – Brooklyn-based Big Crown Records released the 2016 self-titled debut CD by lo-fi pop mavens The Shacks. Featuring multi-instrumentalist Max Shrager paired with singer/bass players Shannon Wise, the CD is very listenable and is filled with a number of pop surprises including a leadoff cover of the Kinks classic “This Strange Effect”. The nine track CD features a couple bonus tracks. Shrager has a cool looking solo album out called Thoughts Of You, while there’s also another Shacks CD consisting of instrumental music, not surprisingly entitled Instrumentals. The Shacks nine cut album is released on ten inch vinyl, CD and download. www.shacksband.com

DIVING BELL RECORDING COMPANY – She’s being called a curio of the 21st century Seattle recording scene and with her 2016 CD, called Flux, singer-songwriter Anomie Belle lives up to the hype. Filled with playful, hip-hop beats and ambient pop musings, the twelve track CD sounds great and comes across as a most mesmerizing spin. Apparently, there’s an art book featuring fourteen visual art pieces that accompany the CD, and a digital booklet is included with the CD. Even so, the art on the cover, designed by Redd Walitzki, is quietly disconcerting. Featuring beat box inspired electronica, the Flux CD is mostly written, recorded, performed and produced by Anomie with several backing vocals, spoken word vocals, cello and live drums performed by guest artists. Mixing hip-hop dance beats with a soulful take on 21st century avant pop, Seattle-based avant-garde pop electronica songstress Anomie Belle comes up with some intriguing musical directions on the beguiling sounding Flux. www.divingbellrecordco.com

EAGLE ROCK RECORDS – The name Procol Harum is well-known among prog-rock fans and especially to those lucky enough to have thrilled to their groundbreaking rock sound back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s been 14 long years since Eagle Records released 2003’s The Well’s On Fire but here we are in 2017 with Novum. What’s surprising is that long time Procol lyricist Keith Reid is missing in action only to be replaced by the legendary Jack Bruce lyricist Pete Brown, famous for writing the lyrics for so many great Cream songs in the late ‘60s. Gary Brooker is still amazing, setting an example of sheer pop exuberance even for us over ‘60s types living through the Trump age of shock and awe. Novum is a beautiful statement of pure prog bliss, with that classic Procol guitar sound conjured effortlessly by the great Geoff Whitehorn. Speaking to mwe3.com about Novum and Pete Brown, Geoff Whitehorn explains, "This time we really did as a band, y'know, just five guys in a room, with a minimum of overdubs. I think it's a great continuation of the Procol Harum tradition and anybody who's into us, and, hopefully, people who aren't, will find a lot to like there. The Gary and Keith thing just came to a natural end, and with Pete's pedigree, he seemed a natural choice, and was very easy to work with". With Brooker and Whitehorn at the top of their game, all these years later, the band is further fleshed out by Matt Pegg (bass) and Geoff Dunn (drums) with Josh Phillips (keys) adding in that classic Matthew Fisher-inspired Hammond sound. Long time Procol Harum fans can’t go wrong with Novum. www.procolharumnovum.com

ELEKTROHASCH – A German label on the cutting edge of contemporary Kraut-rock, Elektrohasch released a 2017 CD called In Her Garden, by the instrumental power trio Colour Haze. Guitars and vocals are supplied by Stefan Koglek and the trio is fleshed out by the rock-solid rhythm section of Tim Höfer (drums) and Christian Wiesner (bass). While the majority of music here is instrumental in scope, Koglek adds in the occasional vocal, which brings in a kind of heavy metal touch on an otherwise progressive sounding instrumental rock guitar outing. The Colour Haze sound has been called a kid of “Doom Psycore” or “Goth-punk-jazz” and “Krautwave”. Either way, Koglek’s guitar is incredible sounding and on In Her Garden, Koglek pushes his name right up their with German guitar heroes like Michael Rother and even more recently Alan J. Bound. Colour Haze revels in a kind of 21st century power trio inspired by the likes of Cream, Hendrix and Grand Funk Railroad. Touches of German sonic engineering makes the Colour Haze album In Her Garden a vital slice of 21st century instrumental Euro rock. www.elektrohasch.de / www.colourhaze.de

ENGLISH ELECTRIC RECORDINGS – Prog-rock favourites Big Big Train returned in a big way in 2017 with Grimspond. The eight track CD combines progressive rock with more complex instrumental sections. Speaking about the album, lead singer David Longdon says, ‘Grimspond has followed on very swiftly from our 2016 album Folklore. We found ourselves with a wealth of new material and we have been able to move the band’s sound forward.’ Bass player Greg Spawton adds, ‘There is some complex music on this album, with extended instrumental sections alongside vocal passages.’ The instrumental side of this latest Big Big Train album will provide interest among instrumental rock fans while the band’s legendary progressive rock sound comes well into focus on Grimspond making it a good choice for Big Big Train devotees. www.bigbigtrain.com

ENRAPTURED RECORDS The U.K. pop-rock band Coldharbourstores released their first album in 2002 and many years later they’re back with a 2017 release called Wilderness. The album is filled with dreamy, post-rock sounds accentuated by the superb vocals of Lucy Castro, who is backed up by her bandmates—David Read, Michael McCabe and Liam Greany—all topped off by the splendid production of Graham Sutton. Filled with surreal soundscapes and over-the-top production, the experimental sounding rock album is currently being heralded as one of the year's best indy rock albums. Speaking about the chemistry of Coldharbourstores, group guitarist Michael McCabe explains, “An important aspect of the group is that there aren’t particularly fixed roles on tracks; we all play whatever we feel like”, with group drummer Liam Greany adding, “The chemistry is interesting! We have always got on well, but I was for a long while conscious that I was joining an established band. The friendships have taken a long time to develop, but that can be a good thing and over the years has become something we are all proud of.” With its myriad of postmodern rock influences looming over the sonic landscape, it’s plain to see that there’s plenty of worthy sonic treasure here worth mining as you play and re-play the Coldharbourstores CD. www.coldharbourstores.com / www.enraptured-records.com

FIRE RECORDS – Fire Records breaks new ground for state of the art, 21st century synth pop with the 2017 CD release of Modern Kosmology, the ten track Fire Records release by UK singer-songwriter Jane Weaver. With its mix of post-punk rock, Teutonic flavored Kraut-rock, New Wave and electronica, Modern Kosmology is lush with haunting and atmospheric soundscapes. To help her execute her beguiling mix is a wide range of musos, including Malcolm Mooney, original vocalist from the ranks of German rock pioneers Can as well as assorted guitarists and drummers. Hardly a newcomer to the music world, Ms. Weaver has a number of albums out under her own name and she also contributed a cover song to the Neil Young tribute album released as a magazine bag-stuffer by Mojo Magazine in 2011. Fans of the Velvet Underground with Nico as well as German Krautrock bands like Faust and Can will find much musical imagination in play on Jane Weaver’s Modern Kosmology. www.firerecords.com

MUTE RECORDS – I remember speaking with Stackridge founder and guitar ace Andy Davis way back 12 years ago in 2005 about his current activities. Andy told me he was playing keyboards in the band of Goldfrapp declaring to my unassuming ears that “she’s very good, a very talented woman”. Featuring lead vocalist and songwriter Allison Goldfrapp, the 2017 CD release of Silver Eye is the best Goldfrapp album to date. Her music tribal, heathenistic and very emotive, Ms. Goldfrapp is both earthy and effective—Silver Eye pounding out the beat in an orgy of synth-rock filled with wild electronica dressing. Goldfrappe gives Madonna a run for her money with Silver Eye. The driving force behind the sound, Goldfrapp receives support from her long time partner, multi-instrumentalist Will Gregory, along with help from other fine players like guitarist Leo Abrahams, who also adds in some production chores and Sebastian Sternberg on live drum loops. Several further co-producers, programmers and mastering engineers give Silver Eye a cutting edge kind of sound. A fine introduction to state of the art Silver Eye will no doubt please long time Goldfrapp fans. www.mute.com

MUTUALLY DETRIMENTAL – Any artist signed to a label called Mutually Detrimental better be good, and living up to the hype MD release Yours Conditionally by the husband and wife duo called Tennis. Sort of having a ping pong pop effect, the album features excellent full band backing by Patrick Moore and chanteuse Alaina Moore. The album combines a 1960s girl group effect evoking great singers like Marti Jones and ‘60s superstar Petula Clark. Tennis songs are very beat-group in a cool ‘60s girl group way with Ms. Moore sounding quite authentic as a 21st century retro-pop vocalist. Steve Voss adds drums on several cuts with Patrick handling all the keys, guitars, drums and Ms. Moore also adding keys and more. It seems Moore is more on a CD that will please 21st century retro-pop fans and those looking to hear music on the cutting edge of modern pop. Just flashing on a vision of the warden letting Phil Spector out of jail long enough to produce the next album from pop genies Tennis. www.mutuallydetrimental.com

OUR SILENT CANVAS
– Based in Woodstock, NY, Our Silent Canvas released Still Love by Ghost Against Ghost. I remember when Robert Fripp decided he didn’t want to have pop hits with King Crimson, he went into an early form of shock rock or shock prog. Mostly instrumental, on Still Love, Ghost Against Ghost evokes the spirit of early 1970s King Crimson and then some. The band is a centerpiece for Brooklyn resident Christopher Bono, who gets a wide range of amazingly recorded sounds. According to his web site, Bono looks at music as sonic architecture filled with alien and psychic sculptures, which he derived after listening to the music of Stravinsky. Is Ghost Against Ghost the answer to Stravinsky in the 21st century? Several cuts feature Bono’s Sting-like vocals yet, structurally the devastating instrumental sonic assault of Ghost Against Ghost could also be looked at as being modern day classical in nature. Bono cites Pink Floyd during their Dark Side era, the music of electronic classicist Vangelis and also Black Sabbath as well as other post-rock artists as big influences. Millennials, and veteran neo-proggers should find these reasons enough to enjoy Ghost Against Ghost. www.ghostagainstghost.com

PARAPLY RECORDS – In my liner notes for the 2017 Citizen K double CD release, Second Thoughts I mention it in the same breath as the famous Beatles 1968 double album, known as "The White Album". Okay, you’re thinking that’s pretty far-fetched but, it has been nearly 50 years since 1968 and you might be in the market for a fresh option by now. Seriously, Citizen K, also known in Sweden as Klas Qvist, gives Sir Paul a run for his money on Second Thoughts. A couple of singles came out prior to the release but that in no way gives the full picture behind Second Thoughts. It has taken a while since the Citizen K breakthrough album, Meet Citizen K in late 2009. Several EP titles followed but, lo and behold, released on CD and DL in early 2017, the 23 track double CD set Second Thoughts is well worth the wait. Refining his position as Sweden’s premier pop maven, Citizen K’s songs and voice are in prime form throughout Second Thoughts. The lyrics are excellent but they’re not printed in the booklet so you’ll have to search online. Despite downplaying his guitar chops, Citizen K’s freboard skills are also proven impeccable as ever and he also adds in all the keyboards. A number of musicians fill in the spaces, including long time CK drummer Kim Gunneriusson and the CD sounds quite well produced for an independent album. Try to find the double CD version as it’s pressed on black vinyl on CD and is incredible with good artwork and liner notes. Fans of Sir Paul, Zombie Colin Blunstone and even Al Stewart will enjoy the Citizen K approach to blending folk and rock into a most appealing progressive sonic wavelength. www.paraplyrecords.se

RECKLESS RECORDS – U.K. based band The Brainiac 5 made inroads with their 2015 comeback album Exploding Universe and they return in early 2017 with their latest epic called Journey To X. Once again the band features the core band of Charlie Taylor (guitars, vocals), Duncan “Mad Dog” Kerr (guitar, vocals), John “Woody” Wood (bass) and newest member Joe Malone (drums). Again this latest Brainiac 5 album features a splendid mix of retro-rock and post-punk psychedelia further fueled with the help of producer / engineer Joe Malone. A recent press statement issued by the band states “We think this makes for a heady and intriguing mix, yet still all somehow manages to sound like The Brainiac 5. The journey has been exciting and fulfilling and has resulted in what we feel is our most complete and accomplished work to date.” Although going strong as a band since the mid 1970s, these two recent efforts by Brainiac 5 will amaze and delight long time fans of U.K. rock that ascribes to the psyche / punk guitar oriented template. The seven track, 40 minute Journey To X is the ultimate musical statement to date by veteran rockers The Brainiac 5. www.brainiac5.co.uk

SOUND DISCS – Among rock music disciples, the name Deborah Bonham is rock royalty. Daughter of the late, great John Bonham, cofounder of Led Zeppelin, Ms. Bonham strikes rock gold with a 2017 remaster of her 2014 album Spirit. The purpose of the CD remaster is to collect all the tracks from the sessions, hence the subtitle, The Complete Sessions Remastered. The Spirit album adds in a bonus track along with a booklet featuring a range of pics and lyrics. Ms. Bonham recently toured with Free vocal legend Paul Rogers doing charity gigs to support the Willows Animal Sanctuary. Ms. Bonham’s band is first rate throughout and Spirit features a number of contributors including co-producer Glenn Skinner, guitarist Peter Bullick, pedal steel legend B.J. Cole and many more including harp contributions of Led Zep wailer Robert Plant. Cool as that is, the album sound is first rate and the songs hold up nicely, evoking the spirits of Zeppelin and groups like Heart, Free and other powerhouse outfits. Spring of 2017 sees Ms. Bonham’s albums being reissued on CD, including Looking Back At The Moon: 1985-1991 Sessions, featuring a collection of songs from her late 1980s compilation album For You And The Moon, along with bonus tracks. Fans of Zeppelin, Free, Christine McVie era Fleetwood Mac and Heart will find much rock music action in play on these albums from Deborah Bonham and company. www.deborahbonham.com

YAMAHA ENTERTAINMENT GROUP – Smooth jazz fans will be in orbit with the 2017 CD release of Reverence by bass ace Nathan East. The twelve track CD was produced by Nathan and Chris Gero, and it’s something of a superstar jam. Among the artists appearing are Phil Collins (drums), Eric Clapton (guitar), Chuck Loeb (guitar), Greg Phillinganes (keys), Chick Corea (keys) and a whole lot more. Not only does Nathan handle the bass work, both electric bass and fretless bass, but he also adds in his vocals which are featured on various tracks, along with the help of other excellent R&B and soul-pop singers. A new updated version of the Earth, Wind & Fire track “Serpentine Fire” features original EWF members Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. Among the original tracks are upbeat mostly instrumental covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and a new arrangement of the Wizard Of Oz classic “Over The Rainbow”, arranged here by George Shearing, with the addition of Nathan’s son Noah East and The Nashville Recording Orchestra. Filled with a mix of smooth jazz instrumental and soul-pop vocal tracks, Nathan East’s Reverence should have wide, across the board appeal among music fans. www.nathaneastbass.com / www.nathaneast.com



INSTRUMENTAL


ALBERTO LOMBARDI MUSIC – Fans of Tommy Emmanuel should give a listen to Birds, the 2016 CD by Italy’s hot new guitarist Alberto Lombardi. Acoustic-based guitar instrumental music, Birds does in fact feature Alberto singing on two covers of David Bowie (“Life On Mars) and Elton John (“My Father’s Gun”), both from the golden year of 1971. Those are a couple highlights for sure but throughout, the mostly instrumental album features Alberto’s excellent fingerpicking and flatpicking acoustic styles. There’s plenty of excellent guitar work on hand and amid the instros, there’s also a CD opening cover of the always classic “Volare”, covers of The Beatles (“Come Together”), Hoagy Carmichael (“Georgia On My Mind”) and much more. Fellow guitarist Tim Sparks appears on the title track but otherwise, Birds is a great guitar album from Alberto Lombardi. www.albertolombardi.com

ALLEN HINDS MUSIC Southern-born and L.A. based guitarist / composer Allen Hinds has long been appreciated by supporters of jazz-rock instrumental music. American instrumental rock guitarists are occasionally underrated, say compared to the legendary English blues-rock guitarists, yet thankfully there remains a number of brilliant and still rising American fusion aces looming large on the current 21st century progressive Americana guitar scene. Long considered one of the most accomplished American electric guitarist / composers, Alabama born fusion favorite Allen Hinds returned recently with not one, but two fascinating guitar-centric albums. First off, the new for 2017 Hinds solo masterpiece is called Fly South, as in returning to one's home as Allen relates the story of the untimely passing of his daughter Katie. There’s a wistfully nostalgic sort of sonic deja vu permeating the ten tracks on Fly South. Allen has said that many of the tracks were written on acoustic guitar and they do have an acoustic effect, yet on other cuts, his electric guitar just soars into the jazz-rock stratosphere. Allen’s roots are in the American South, Alabama specifically, and on Fly South you can literally hear the soul of the South, with his guitar sound echoing the genius of great Southern guitar pioneers like Dickey Betts and Duane Allman as well as modern masters like Pat Metheny and Robben Ford. The band backing up Allen on Fly South includes veteran fusion drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bass players Abe Laboriel, Jimmy Earl and Jimmy Johnson, and keyboardist Matt Rohde, who are all among the many fine musicians adding to Fly South. With a mind-boggling array of memorable melodic cadences, the southern hospitality is never far away on Fly South - an album that aims to please spin after spin. Also recent on CD by Allen Hinds is a 2016 jazz-rock instrumental fusion trio outing called Just Get In, recorded with his side band called Wonderland Park. The sound is very Hinds-esque as Allen shares the music writing with bassist Peter Hastings with the sound enhanced by drummer Chris Wabich. There’s a friendly, jam-like effect on Just Get In yet the cohesion of the players is near perfect and borders on sonic ESP. All told, each of these two recent albums featuring guitar ace Allen Hinds are right up there among the finest fusion discs of this fleeting decade. www.allenhinds.com

ANDY SUMMERS MUSIC – Famous for his many fine solo albums and work as lead guitarist in The Police, Andy Summers returns in 2017 with his fourteenth solo album Triboluminescence. The nine cut CD has kind of an exotic Santana meets African / Jamaican music vibe and the cover art is also quite African inspired too. Like many of Andy’s other solo albums, he plays most everything with the exception of a cellist who appears on a track here. Much more tribal and World Music oriented, compared with some of Andy’s earlier solo albums, Triboluminescence includes some unique sounding instrumentation including hammered percussive instruments like gamelan, which gives some of the tracks a more exotic kind of feel. Summers hasn’t ruled out a full scale Police reunion with Sting and Stewart Copeland yet, short of bringing his solo music to fans in the US, Summers is in Brazil in March 2017 to play a series of dates with a Police tribute band. www.andysummers.com

BIG O RECORDS – So great was the music of The Beatles that nearly half a century after they first broke up, their music is still being playing by musicians from every genre of music. Instrumentally, the Fabs were first covered by MOR giants The Hollyridge Strings and a couple years after that in the later ‘60s by jazz giant Wes Montgomery. Fifty years after Wes died, a new band called Organissimo has taken on a mission to play the fab four and their 2017 CD is called B3TLES: A Soulful Tribute To The Fab Four. B3 of course as in the famous Hammond organ is at the fore of this Beatles tribute. Featuring Jim Alfredson (Hammond, Wurlitzer, synths), Lawrence Barris (guitar) and Randy Marsh, the trio Organissimo really nails the spirit of the Beatles and it’s clearly reflected in their choice of the dozen Beatles compositions by both Lennon & McCartney and George Harrison. Two Harrison songs—“Taxman” and “Within You Without You” —bookend this CD and overall, it’s amazing how those two songs and all the other tracks work so well in the B3 sound of Organissimo. “Come Together”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I Will” and all the others sound great in the organ pumping groove bag of B3TLES, making the entire CD a must for jazz buffs and Beatles fans. 2017’s B3TLES: A Soulful Tribute To The Fab Four is shaping up to be the best Beatles tribute album of the year. www.organissimo.org

BLUE ROOM STUDIOS – Canada-based guitarist Roland Nipp has been turning out great instrumental albums since 1999 when he put out Blue Room, not forgetting his 2005 classic By Night. Much to the delight of his fans, Roland is back in 2017 with yet another excellent CD, his sixth album, called In The Cool Of The Dawn. With all the original songs written, performed and produced by Roland, the eleven cut album also features a deep, introspective cover of the classic old English folk song “Londonderry Air”. For those just tuning in to Roland Nipp and his wide-ranging guitar recordings, be advised that his style is quite diverse and expressive. Guitar fans who enjoy melodic guitar inventions will be rewarded with Roland's tuneful tracks that combine rock style arrangements with a toe-tapping beat. Listeners who enjoy hard-rocking instrumental fusion jazz will tune in to Roland's dextrous fretboard work. For this writer, among the many highlights of In The Cool Of The Dawn is the track “1968”. True to form, the melody and overall sentiment of "1968" perfectly evokes the golden 1968-1971 era when the early rock giants like The Beatles and, shortly after ELO, ruled the radio waves. Even without vocals or lyrics, the track is a perfect example of Roland’s still evolving guitar history intertwining with early rock’s past glories. Basically, guitar fans who enjoy smart instrumental guitar playing will thrill to In The Cool Of The Dawn and may very well be inspired enough to track down Roland’s other acclaimed albums. Roland’s many fretboard influences—like Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler and George Harrison—can be spotted throughout this diverse sounding album, yet even with so many sonic signposts, the show belongs to Roland Nipp and his manifold guitar personality. Instrumental guitar fans who enjoy variety and smart songwriting are strongly advised to give a listen to Roland Nipp and his latest CD masterpiece, In The Cool Of The Dawn. www.rolandnipp.com

CELEBRATION DAY RECORDS – The English have such a great sense of humour (don't forget to add the u in humor) and it extends to the country’s approach to music no doubt. In particular, the Canterbury region became synonymous with brilliant music during the late 1960s and early ‘70s thanks to bands like Caravan and Soft Machine and many related bands of that era. Carrying on the spirit of the great lost Canterbury sound is the band Lapis Lazuli who do good with their 2017 CD called Wrong Meeting. Robert Wyatt would no doubt love this band as well as fans of late 1970s era Gong, when they had great guitarists like Allan Holdsworth in their ranks. So, yes the fusion element is much more front and center as there are no vocals here. The great instrumental elements of the classic Canterbury sound are here and are superbly intact on Wrong Meeting by rising UK fusioneers Lapis Lazuli. www.lapislazuliband.co.uk

CGT RECORDS With the three members located all over the world, The California Guitar Trio rose to fame through their affiliation with King Crimson founder Robert Fripp during his early Discipline Global Mobile era. With a slew of great albums in their canon, CGT has far surpassed all expectations and, in 2017 they further their legacy with a another memorable album called Komorebi. Leading off with the title track—composed by CGT cofounder Hideyo Moriya—the CD features eleven sparkling, mainly acoustic guitar-based instrumentals that combine other music composed by group cofounders Bert Lams and Paul Richards. The album is also notable for some fresh CGT covers, including the early Shadows classic (penned for them by the late, great Jerry Lordan) “Wonderful Land”. Other covers on Komorebi include songs made famous by the Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”), Buck Owens (“Buckaroo”), The Beatles (“Dig A Pony”) and even Dave Brubeck (“Blue Rondo à la Turk”). In the hands of these three excellent guitarists, these classic songs come alive as never before. Several guest artists appear—including CGT family members Tony Levin, Petra Haden and Tom Griesgraber—but the center spotlight is on the ever-changing, yet constantly brilliant, California Guitar Trio. Speaking to mwe3.com about the new cover version of "Wonderful Land" and "Dig A Pony", Paul Richards adds, "On the second CGT album we recorded a cover of the Shadows' "Apache", which was recommended to us by Robert Fripp. He even taught us the 'Shadow Walk' just before going onstage to open for King Crimson at Royal Albert Hall. We love The Shadows and Jerry Lorden's writing, so when we were deciding on a surf guitar cover for our new album, "Wonderful Land" stood out as a winner. For the Beatles tune... Yes, "Dig a Pony" is certainly one of the Beatles' novelty tunes and I love the cool guitar riff that begins the tune." A stellar album from California Guitar Trio, Komorebi is a tribute to classic music and to the art of instrumental guitar. www.facebook.com / www.CGTrio.com

CHARLES BROWN MUSIC - Progressive rock guitarist Charles Brown returns in 2017 with his all new instrumental CD - Explorer Of Life - released on CD and digital download. Explorer Of Life follows the 2015 Charles Brown album Wind Of The Eastern Sea and is his finest album to date. Best known to guitar fans as one of the finest independently produced, instrumental prog-rock fusion artists, Charles Brown has earned a stellar reputation for his many fine albums that offers a mix of guitar-based Progressive, Jazz-Rock Fusion and Hard Rock instrumental songs and arrangements. Fans of guitar heroes such as Pete Townshend, Richie Blackmore, Pat Metheny, Alex Lifeson, Kim Simmonds and George Benson will want to listen as Charles Brown explores the realms of the electric guitar with his 2017 CD, Explorer Of Life. Featuring ten tracks, Explorer Of Life leads off with the title track “Explorer Of Life” and the entire album burns its way through a wide range of electrifying, rock-based instrumental guitar tracks, all spotlighting Charles playing a number of guitars, synths and percussion. Combining all types of guitar performance—from hard rock and jazz-rock fusion to classical guitar, guitarist / composer Charles Brown has remained a popular exponent of progressive instrumental rock guitar music for the past fifteen years. Bursting on the scene with his 2000 album Mystics, Charles has released a number of extraordinary instrumental albums over the years and his 2017 album Explorer Of Life is his finest CD yet. www.facebook.com/charlesbrownguitarist

CORNER STORE JAZZ – Iowa born / New Jersey based guitarist Jim Yanda recorded his double CD set, Home Road in 2014 although it didn’t come out till 2016. For fans of Jim’s excellent guitar skills it’s time well spent. On the double CD set, recorded by Jim Yanda Trio, Jim receives backing from his trio mates, Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). Not only does Yanda shine as an improvising jazz guitar instrumentalist but the CD set also shines a light on his compositional skills. All the tracks were composed by Yanda except for a cover of “My Ship”, written by Kurt Weill. Not fusion and not quite mainstream jazz either, Home Road takes the jazz-based, guitar instrumental genre into relaxing and calm sonic waters. Also recent on CD from Jim Yanda is a 2017 CD release of his trio album Regional Cooking, recorded in 1987. Guitar fans into jazz improv will find much to like about Jim Yanda and Home Road. www.cornerstorejazz.com

ECM RECORDS – Based in France, guitarist-composer Dominic Miller released his first ECM Records album in 2017. Featuring Miller on guitar and acoustic bass, the all instrumental album is very acoustic sounding in nature and even features a tribute to Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell called Baden. For many years, Miller has also been the guitarist for singer-songwriter Sting and Silent Light even features a cover of Sting’s “Fields Of Gold”, done here as a hushed instrumental. Miller’s liner notes are also telling in that he recalls spending time discussing music with ECM honcho Manfred Eicher and topics that came up included Miller’s fondness for Egberto Gismonti and Pat Metheny—two world class guitarists who built a lot of their international fame upon their now-fabled ECM albums back in the late 1970s. Like those guitarists, Miller is an expert at conjuring a range of ambient moods and musical arrangements that he brings to the fore on the tastefully recorded Silent Light. On hand backing up Miller is the subdued backing of percussionist Miles Bould, but the main attraction on Silent Light is very much Miller’s swiftly executed acoustic-based guitar melodies and improvisations. www.dominicmiller.com

ELEKTROHASCH – A German label on the cutting edge of contemporary Kraut-rock, Elektrohasch released a 2017 CD called In Her Garden, by the instrumental power trio Colour Haze. Guitars and vocals are supplied by Stefan Koglek and the trio is fleshed out by the rock-solid rhythm section of Tim Höfer (drums) and Christian Wiesner (bass). While the majority of music here is instrumental in scope, Koglek adds in the occasional vocal, which brings in a kind of heavy metal touch on an otherwise progressive sounding instrumental rock guitar outing. The Colour Haze sound has been called a kid of “Doom Psycore” or “Goth-punk-jazz” and “Krautwave”. Either way, Koglek’s guitar is incredible sounding and on In Her Garden, Koglek pushes his name right up their with German guitar heroes like Michael Rother and even more recently Alan J. Bound. Colour Haze revels in a kind of 21st century power trio inspired by the likes of Cream, Hendrix and Grand Funk Railroad. Touches of German sonic engineering makes the Colour Haze album In Her Garden a vital slice of 21st century instrumental Euro rock. www.elektrohasch.de / www.colourhaze.de

ENGLISH ELECTRIC RECORDINGS – Prog-rock favourites Big Big Train returned in a big way in 2017 with Grimspond. The eight track CD combines progressive rock with more complex instrumental sections. Speaking about the album, lead singer David Longdon says, ‘Grimspond has followed on very swiftly from our 2016 album Folklore. We found ourselves with a wealth of new material and we have been able to move the band’s sound forward.’ Bass player Greg Spawton adds, ‘There is some complex music on this album, with extended instrumental sections alongside vocal passages.’ The instrumental side of this latest Big Big Train album will provide interest among instrumental rock fans while the band’s legendary progressive rock sound comes well into focus on Grimspond making it a good choice for Big Big Train devotees. www.bigbigtrain.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Progressive rock guitar hero Steve Hackett is on a roll in 2017. The release of his latest solo album, The Night Siren is being called his greatest studio album yet. In 2016, Steve’s affiliation with Inside Out Records yielded an excellent two CD / two DVD set called The Total Experience Live In Liverpool. That four disc set featured a cross section of classics from his 2015 CD Wolflight as well as a range of tracks recorded with Genesis back in the 1970s, topped off by a “Behind The Scenes Documentary” and several Wolflight videos. Even with so much going on this year, Steve also found time to release a double CD/DVD disc set called Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers. Credited to Steve Hackett & Djabe, the release pairs the Genesis guitar icon with the Hungarian jazz fusion band Djabe. Recorded live in 2011 and 2012, the CD and DVD features a number classic Hackett and Genesis tracks reworked by this unique and totally fortuitous pairing as well as a short documentary called “Rocking Summer Roads” and the piece “Jacuzzi / Overnight Sleeper”, recorded in November 2013 with another bonus track called “Tears For Peace”. Fans are probably familiar with many of the Hackett / Genesis tracks covered here yet few are familiar with the band Djabe and as it turns out, the band’s relationship with Steve goes all the way back to 2007. The CD/DVD release of Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers proves that the music of Steve Hackett and Genesis transcends countries and borders and is, in fact, timeless and eternal. www.cherryred.co.uk

FIRE RECORDS / LAKESHORE RECORDS – UK-based Fire Records keeps on releasing cutting-edge albums and to that list you can add Fire’s original television soundtrack to Halt And Catch Fire. Composed and created by Austrian composer Paul Haslinger, the 23 track, 39 minute CD is very much reflective of Haslinger’s brief tenure with the 1980’s version of Tangerine Dream. The album is being released on vinyl and CD pressing under the subtitled name Mutiny. Apparently, the music on this Fire Records release of Halt And Catch Fire TV soundtrack is kind of a re-recorded artifact of Haslinger’s work during the 1980s. Like T. Dream, Haslinger’s musical score is cold and very Teutonic with its oscillating synths and pulsating rhythms. Culled from the 2014-2015 TV series, the soundtrack to Halt And Catch Fire was licensed by Fire Records from the soundtrack kings of L.A. based Lakeshore Records. If you enjoyed Tangerine Dream, especially during their mid 1980s era you will enjoy Paul Haslinger’s Halt And Catch Fire. Another hot title (pardon the pun) on Fire is a 22 track CD soundtrack for the movie A Scanner Darkly by composer Graham Reynolds. It’s unclear when the movie came out but the CD is set for release in August 2017. The music features an eclectic mix of soundtrack electronica, along with a host of Americana effects, most notably the Santo & Johnny effect on track four called “Strawberry Pie”. Calling the music of Graham Reynolds eclectic and evocative would be an understatement, yet on A Scanner Darkly, composer Graham Reynolds overhauls and revolutionizes the entire music soundtrack genre. www.firerecords.com

FIRE RECORDS – Sometimes it’s good to completely forget about the past. In 50 years most people here today will be long gone so if we forget everything we ever knew now, it might be in our best interest. Seriously, in a world of flashing facebook / youtube cyber web soundbytes, even most long time music fans don’t remember what happened yesterday. Case in point is rising guitarist Sarah Lipstate and her 2017 CD as the artist called Noveller, called A Pink Sunset For No One. Rising out of the bayou country of Louisiana and settling in the Golden State, effectively switching LA. for L.A., Ms. Lipstate leaves her brutal red state past behind for a shining city on the hill with A Pink Sunset For No One. Somewhere between New Age music and some unknown sonic destination of the future, the nine track A Pink Sunset For No One CD clocks in under forty minutes yet the album takes you on a journey far beyond space and time and mere names and states. Ms. Lipstate has played concerts with Iggy Pop, which is hard to believe although less hard to believe is her fondness for avant-garde music greats like Steve Reich, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca. There’s no shortage of mind-blowing, all instrumental guitar –scapes on A Pink Sunset For No One. The album shimmers and shines and effectively merges an otherworldly Fripp / Eno – like backdrop with experimental Hendrix-y type guitar musings that combine all manners of electronica. Sometimes her wordless vocals shine through like sunlight peeking through into an unknown inter planetary galaxy of sound. Cutting a stunning figure on the 21st century guitar scene, with A Pink Sunset For No One Sarah Lipstate surfs the wave of our collective, though unknown fretboard futures. www.firerecords.com

GEOFF ALPERT MUSIC – The sound of smooth jazz just got a whole lot smoother with the 2017 CD release of Open Your Heart by jazz trombone ace Geoff Alpert. I know the trombone isn’t exactly the most popular instrument compared with guitar and keyboards, yet Geoff makes his trombone sing sweetly and it almost sounds like a trumpet. Open Your Heart features some excellent players including guitarist Adam Hawley, the keyboards and preproduction of Gail Jhonson, drummer Tony Moore and other players. Alpert grew up digging the jazzy horn-driven sounds of the Brecker Brothers, as well as horn driven jazz-rock bands like BS&T and Chicago and he carries those grooves over on to his album. Tastefully produced and full of upbeat grooves and earthy female backing vocals, the mostly instrumental album will appeal to jazzers but it’s more likely that smooth jazz fans will be in orbit with Geoff Alpert’s Open Your Heart. www.geoffalpert.com

GREYDISC New England based Kevin Kastning is on a roll these past few years. Having released a number of collaboration albums with a range of musicians, Kevin is back with his third solo album in as many years with the 2017 CD release of A Connection Of Secrets. Like many of the classic ECM albums recorded in Europe, Kevin’s solo music is ripe with a unique sense of guitar exploration that he fufillls thanks to his recording with a range of peculiar looking instruments, including his 36 string Double Contraguitar. Much of the music he records is quite experimental and improvisational and on A Connection Of Secrets, Kevin’s use of pioneering instruments like the 36 string Double Contraguitar, the 30 string Contra Alto and the 15 string Extended Classical guitar fills in all the sonic spaces. Also of note is the inclusion on a track here of a nine foot Kawai grand piano, which shines a light on Kastning’s famous, though lesser heard keyboard skills. Even though there’s a corresponding line of sonic reasoning running through much of Kastning’s work, on A Connection Of Secrets, his sound remains unique and inspired. When asked about the title of his new album, Kevin adds, “If I give that away, then it’s no longer a secret! I’ll say it had to do with how some of the pieces are conneted.” Also speaking to mwe3.com about why he chose to also feature his piano work on A Connection Of Secrets, Kevin explains, “I played a little piano on a record with Sandor Szabo that was recorded during the 2012 European Tour, called The Book Of Crossings, but it was very little and mostly in the background." As is the case with the three Kevin Kastning solo albums and his various group-related projects on Greydisc, A Connection Of Secrets benefits from excellent album artwork and liner notes that indicates what guitars were played on what tracks. Also of note on his 2017 album is that the album also features mixing and mastering by Greydisc recording artist Sándor Szabó, done in his studio in Vác, Hungary. The latest album of groundbreaking, often startling fretboard magic by Kevin Kastning, A Connection Of Secrets is a sonic joyride from start to finish. www.kevinkastning.com

GREYDISC – Sonic explorers Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield break the sound barrier yet again with their sixth duo album—the 2017 release of The Line To Three. With nine new compositions, The Line To Three is mysterious and deep sounding. A favorite among avant-garde radio stations and music critics all over the world, Kastning and Wingfield arrive with yet a new kind of sound again on The Line To Three. Featuring Wingfield’s electric guitar, live electronics and prerecorded soundtracks laying down a kind of sonic carpet, The Line To Three is fleshed out by Kastning’s perceptive explorations on 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, 15-string Extended Classical guitar, piano and percussion. What makes The Line To Three unique in their canon is Kastning further developing his acoustic piano sound to further balance Wingfield’s electric / electronic styles and for the most part, the album is quite thrilling and entertaining to witness. Perhaps it’s that their musical chemistry is getting more refined with each passing album and that both Kastning and Wingfield are both improving as musicians and composers. That being the case, it’s all the more mind-boggling to learn that like their other albums, The Line To Three was recorded live in the studio as a live performance without the safety net of overdubbing. In a crowded field of talented American and English instrumentalists, and specifically guitarists / composers, The Line To Three stands out as a brilliant example of creative musical wizardry at its finest. Speaking about recording with the piano on The Line To Three, Kevin explains, "The piano is the same Kawaii as I used on A Connection of Secrets. Not prepared in any way. My approach with piano vs. guitar when recording with Wingfield is very different. One example is that with guitars, I might at times be looking to blend our guitar voices to create a larger, more symphonic guitar voice. With piano, that obviously can't happen, so I am thinking in different compositional terms, and attempting to construct different textures and fabrics. It's pure contrast, not blend. And with piano, what I play stands in much sharper contrast against Wingfield, so I can't approach piano in any of the same ways that I would for guitar. I have to conceive of everything differently; to construct everything differently. And I always approach anything I do on piano differently from anything I do on guitars; I'm never trying to take something I'd do or conceive of on guitars and try to make it work on piano or attempt to play the same thing; it's impossible for me." When pressed about the title and cover art Kevin tells mwe3.com "The album title is taken from an older composition of ours. It fit this record because with the new additions of the prerecorded soundscapes, piano, and percussion, it seemed almost like a trio record instead of a duo record. 'The line' is our historic line of evolution from pure duo into this record which is more like a trio; hence the "three" in the title. The cover art is from a photograph by the great Hungarian photographer Laszlo Hutton. It was shot inside a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. There are hints in the photo that tie in to the title". www.kevinkastning.com / www.markwingfield.com

HOME RECORDS – Belgium has a tradition of fine Gypsy jazz and to that list you can add the album Tyto Alba from the trio called Green Moon. The first thing that grabs you is the album artwork that is startling. The trio features Gypsy jazz guitarist Teo Crommen (guitars, mandolin), Lorcan Fahy (violin, mandolin) and Lucas Deru (double bass). Guest artists playing harmonica, trumpet, cello and drums add more depth to the sound of the album. Tyto Alba is an instrumental music mix of Gypsy jazz, Celtic inspired soundtracks and a touch of Euro-blues. Liner notes in both French and English provides a fanciful twist on the very appealing and scenic sounding Tyto Alba by Green Moon. www.homerecords.be

JERUJAZZ RECORDS – Chicago-based Joe Policastro Trio hits a sonic sweet spot of 21st century instrumental music with the 2017 CD release of Screen Sounds. Screen as in the big screen with Joe and his trio offering up eleven splendid, jazzy instrumentals, including renowned movie themes and television theme songs from Twin Peaks, Blade Runner, Taxi and an excellent 8 minute medley of John Barry music from Midnight Cowboy. A renowned bass player, Joe receives fine backing from Dave Miller (guitar) and Mikel Avery (drums). On their third album trio together, the mix of Policastro’s bass and Miller’s guitar works magic taking the album into a range of moods and sounds and Avery keeping pace with the kinetic sounding musical ideas. The studio sound of Screen Sounds is excellent and the humorous CD cover art gives a good indication of the fun in store for music fans. www.thejptrio.com

KERANI MUSIC - Belgian-born, Holland-based keyboardist / composer Kerani, made a lot of people happy with her 2015 CD Equilibrium and she’s poised to make the same people even more happy with her 2017 album called Stardust. The ten-track CD is a fully-developed symphonic-sounding New Age masterpiece that draws upon, and combines, a range of musical genres. Featuring Kerani performing on Steinway & Sons grand piano and all types of electronic synths, Stardust also features key contributions from the Roermond Symphonic Orchestra and the Canto Rinato choir. The sweep of the orchestration is brilliant throughout and some of the Stardust tracks echoes Pink Floyd during their highly-orchestrated Atom Heart Mother heyday while other tracks are more purely orchestral New Age / electronic in scope. A number of musicians appear including Terry Oldfield (flutes), Romain Van Beck (guitars), Erwin Gielen (drums) and many more. With its futuristic artwork and insightfully written essays, the theme of Stardust is space exploration and descriptive liner notes by Kabir Sehgal make strong points as to outer space being man’s best hope for the future. The CD booklet is a kind of history lesson in and of itself, while featuring a number of historic figures quoted as it relates to space exploration or in the case of the early 21st century, the sad lack thereof. The combination of neoclassical, progressive electronica and New Age instrumental sounds is brilliantly explored and celebrated on Kerani’s latest masterpiece, Stardust. www.kerani.nl

KULUMO MUSIC – Back in the late 1970’s, Pekka Tegelman was the guitarist in the Finnish band Finnforest, who released several critically acclaimed instrumental jazz-rock fusion albums on the now defunct Love Records label. Tegelman released his long awaited return to the jazz-rock world in 2010 with the CD called Bound and in 2017, after several vocal projects, Pekka is back on track again with Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel. The nine track CD features Pekka on electric / acoustic guitars, keyboards with the aid of Markku Ounaskari (drums), Manuel Dunkel (sax) and Tero Siitonen (double bass). Mixing and mastering in California by Pekka’s brother and former Finnforest drummer Jussi Tegelman enhances the album as does additional percussion by Pete Korpela. Dunkel’s sax work tends to dominate the album which also features some excellent guitar work by Pekka. Fans of Finnforest, especially their Demonights album from 1979, will find much to like about the freewheeling, improvisational jazzy fusion sound of Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel. www.digelius.com

LOU PECCI MUSIC - On his 2016 CD, Cinema Standards On Guitar, Lou Pecci cut a whole album of standard songs everyone knows and loves. In 2017, Lou is back with his long promised instrumental guitar tribute to the music of the late great Elvis Presley. Elvis, of course, wasn't fully known as a songwriter but a song stylist, which isn't to say he didn't have an ear for great songwriters, he did. On the ten-track 2017 CD release of Rare Elvis Six String, Lou once again blends his deftly performed acoustic and electric guitars and inherent fretboard percussion on an album of all instrumentals that is filled with surprises. Kicking off with "Crawfish", from the the 1958 Elvis movie King Creole, Lou's new album moves on to feature guitar instrumentals of music Elvis sang and featured in his world renowned movies Fun In Acapulco, Viva Las Vegas, Double Trouble and more. Lou's covers of "That's Someone You Never Forget" and "You'll Be Gone" are two songs that Elvis Presley actually had a hand in writing, as is mentioned in Lou's liner notes. The CD closes out with Lou's guitar instrumental cover of the Hank Williams-penned "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", a song Elvis called "probably the saddest song I've ever heard", and that Elvis covered on his 1973 television show, Aloha From Hawaii". On Rare Elvis Six String, guitarist Lou Pecci puts an all instrumental guitar spin of some of Elvis Presley's more rare recordings and comes up with something new and different for both guitar fans and Elvis fans. www.CDbaby.com

MACK AVENUE / ARTISTRY MUSIC – One of the best jazz labels in the US, Mack Avenue and their Artistry imprint released a 2017 CD called Main Street Beat, by horn man / keyboard wiz Jackiem Joynner. With its mix of upbeat, jazzy / funky instrumentals, you’d be hard-pressed to find another album as upbeat and groove-based as Jackiem’s latest. A wide range of players assist Jackiem including Raymond Johnson (drums), Kyle Bolden (guitar), Carnell Harrell (keys), Darryl Williams (bass) and many others. The eleven track album was recorded in different studios in L.A. Regarding the making of the album, Jackiem adds, “I wanted to create something upbeat, fun to listen to and something to dance to. Main Street Beat originally started off as a straight funk record that eventually became some of that, but a whole lot more as I allowed the creative process to have its way with me.” Jackiem also claims that the very upbeat nature of Main Street Beat was enhanced by his young daughter Trinity. Whether your thing is funky instrumentals, smooth jazz or state of the art jazz sax playing, Jackiem Joyner covers all the bases on his great 2017 CD Main Street Beat. www.jackiemjoyner.com

NATURAL ELEMENTS RECORDS – In 2015, guitarist / composer Jim Stubblefield released his album Encantado and in 2017 he returns with Guitare Mystique. Purposely spelled in a mystical way, the ten track album takes on a wide range of musical styles, including a kind of ancient-sounding approach to the magical guitar. Guitare Mystique picks up on the approach of Encantado as well as Jim’s work with the band Incendio, yet there’s more new ground broken here. Using the Contemporary Instrumental sound as a jumping off point, there’s a range of inspired-sounding guitar genres explored, including a slightly gothic or even medieval sort of sound. For example, the addition of strings on track seven “Moonlight Requiem” gives the track a sort of modern neoclassical sound, kind of Electric Light Orchestra sans vocals, if you can imagine. Track nine, “Rumba Furiosa, Opus 2” features Jim supported by the daredevil electric guitar work of guitar ace Dan Sistos. Jim has chosen a remarkable bunch of musicians to help execute his sound on Guitare Mystique, including co-producer and album mixer Bo Astrup, guitarists Stephen Duros, Dan Sistos (mentioned above) and Eric Hansen, bass ace Randy Tico, drummers Ramon Yslas and Bryan Brock as well as Moksha Sommer (vocals) and Novi Novog (strings). The CD sound is first rate and the album artwork is colorful and quite imaginative, all adding to the sense of fun and excitement. Guitare Mystique takes the entire 21st century Contemporary / World Fusion instrumental guitar sound to new heights. Start to finish, Guitare Mystique is clearly the most well-rounded album yet from the imaginative, guitar-centric mind of Jim Stubblefield. www.GuitarraExotica.com

NEPTIC MUSIC – Released in early 2017, Part Of A Kindly Plan features a range of appealing new music from multi-instrumentalist Nathan Speir. Nathan recorded the CD by himself and features multi-tracked instrumentals that feature his work on grand piano, cello, nylon and steel string guitar as well as light percussion. Subtle synths appear in the background. The CD is very diverse sounding and some tracks are more keyboard centric while others feature more guitars. Primarily New Age in scope, Part Of A Kindly Plan will appeal to listeners of modern classical music as well as meditative Americana instrumental. Nathan Speir has several CD releases to his credit and his excellent sounding and well-conceived 2017 album Part Of A Kindly Plan will find a place in the music collections of fans and newcomers alike. www.nathanspeir.com

NERISSA SCHWARZ MUSIC -– Germany-based musician / composer Nerissa Schwarz is making sonic waves of joy with her 2016 solo album Playgrounds Lost. Much like the title of the album, the music on Playgrounds Lost is both haunting and ethereal. In the progressive music community, much has been said about Nerissa’s mellotron-based compositions and througout her album, there’s plenty of dark, mellotron soaked hues that drift in and out of the sound spectrum like passing clouds over the sonic terrain. The music on Playgrounds Lost was written, arranged, produced and performed by Nerissa, yet the entire album is well done and sounds absolutely mesmerizing. Speaking about her initial introduction to the 'tron, Nessisa tells mwe3.com, “I think I heard the mellotron for the very first time in King Crimson's “Epitaph”, when I was a teenager. I remember the strings sound giving me goosebumps, although I didn't know what it was back then. Later I heard the mellotron in a lot of music I loved, like Genesis or early Tangerine Dream, but also newer music such as Radiohead or Portishead, and I gradually fell in love with its quirky, wobbling, warm and beautiful sounds.” In addition to her evolving solo career, Nerissa has also recorded several albums with the band Frequency Drift, and with Playgrounds Lost she will undoubtedly win over a faction of the progressive music audience looking for bold, current musical ideas. Fans of the time-honored mellotron and all forms of New Age inspired instrumental music, as well as ethereal movie soundtracks, will find much to like about Nerissa Schwarz and her Playgrounds Lost album. www.nerissaschwarz.com

OKEH RECORDS -- The label called Okeh looms over the 21st century Americana sound and capping their vision is the 2016 CD by Minnesota jazzers The Bad Plus. Featuring Ethan Iverson (Steinway piano), Reid Anderson (double bass) and David King (drums), the Bad Plus sound borders on the sublime and they’re at their most sublime on It’s Hard. There’s hardly a hard note in sight but they’ve chosen to present yet another album of sonically rewarding deconstructed pop classics written by a number of composers / artists, with the end game giving the whole thing a kind of surreal yet foreboding sense of things to come. Case in point being a spine-tingling Bad Plus take on the song “Mandy”, which was actually made popular in 1974 by singer Barry Manilow. With Iverson’s piano truly attaining a major crescendo, the song takes on a new meaning with a sonic tact that is totally startling. Ditto that for Iverson’s mesmerizing McCoy Tyner / Keith Emerson influence on Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Johnny Cash, Kraftwerk, Peter Gabriel, Prince and more are given the Bad Plus sonic jazz sheen on the eleven track album. With It’s Hard, The Bad Plus meets the awesome challenge of 21st century jazz, head on. www.thebadplus.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – Origin is one of the most prolific American jazz record labels. Based in Washington state, Origin has released music by artists who cover just about every type of instrumental jazz. For jazz guitar fans it doesn’t get a whole lot better than the 2017 CD release of Parts Unknown by guitarist John McLean and The Clark Sommers Band. Pairing McLean on guitar and Clark Sommers on bass, the quartet is filled with vibes master Joe Locke and drummer Xavier Breaker. The music on the CD is a mix of originals written by Locke, Sommers and McLean. Recorded in Chicago, Parts Unknown sounds superb and the music is highly entertaining. The mix of McLean’s jazzy sounding electric guitar and Locke’s vibes is magic and the rhythm section of Sommers and Breaker keeps the sound in perfect motion. Parts Unknown is 21st century mainstream instrumental fusion at its finest. It’s guitars galore on the 2017 CD release of Day And Night by Tom Rizzo. Recorded in L.A. at the end of 2015, the eleven track CD mixes Rizzo originals with covers of classics from the pens of Cole Porter, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Colemen, Stevie Wonder and Henry Mancini. There’s even a bluesy cover of “House Of The Rising Sun”, which works wonders under Rizzo’s jazzy, instrumental leadership. Rizzo’s band is excellent and he also gets primo support from a range of horn players who appear on certain tracks. More in the straight ahead jazz guitar vein is Quartet Plus, Volume 2 by guitarist Mason Razavi. Mason’s ten track 2017 Origin Records CD features him in the studio with a full band and horn section. The album’s nine originals are enhanced by a CD closing cover of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”. Recorded in Oakland, California, Quartet Plus is 21st century mainstream jazz at its finest. Origin continues breaking ground for 21st century guitar-based instrumental jazz with these three excellent albums. www.originarts.com

OUR SILENT CANVAS – Based in Woodstock, NY, Our Silent Canvas released Still Love by Ghost Against Ghost. I remember when Robert Fripp decided he didn’t want to have pop hits with the original King Crimson, he went into an early form of shock rock or shock-prog. Mostly instrumental, on Still Love, Ghost Against Ghost evokes the spirit of early 1970s King Crimson and then some. The band is a centerpiece for Brooklyn resident Christopher Bono, who achieves a wide range of amazingly recorded sounds. According to his web site, Bono looks at music as sonic architecture filled with alien and psychic sculptures, which he derived after listening to the music of Stravinsky. Is Ghost Against Ghost the answer to Stravinsky in the 21st century? Several cuts feature Bono’s Sting-like vocals yet, structurally the devastating instrumental sonic assault of Ghost Against Ghost could also be looked at as being modern day classical in nature. Bono cites Pink Floyd during their Dark Side era, and the music of electronic classicist Vangelis and also Black Sabbath as well as other post-rock artists as big influences. Millennials, and veteran neo-proggers should find these reasons enough to enjoy Ghost Against Ghost. www.ghostagainstghost.com

PRISMISM MUSIC – Guitarist Neil Rambaldi came to the attention of mwe3.com back in 2002 during his Perpetual Horizon album. Following years of doing soundtrack and television music, Neil returns in 2017 with his long awaited comeback A Call To The Wild. Musically, the all instrumental album is steeped in a well-honed fusion of blues and rock instrumentals in the spirit of Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower and more. The 13 track, 67 minute CD is well produced and Neil plays a range of electric / acoustic classical guitars, and with all the instruments it sounds like a full band. Neil’s background as an electric guitar superstar, a multi-instrumentalist and a music producer comes sharply into focus on A Call To The Wild. www.neilrambaldi.com

RAHUL MUKERJI MUSIC – Indian born / Maryland-based guitarist Rahul Mukerji is making waves with his 2017 CD called Ma De Re Sha. Rahul’s music is very cinematic and his fleet fingered guitar work sounds influenced by masters such as Jeff Beck, Jan Akkerman and Al DiMeola. All instrumental, Ma De Re Sha takes its cues from a mix of driving, electronic instrumentals and Indian flavored, guitar-based instrumental soundtracks, which is so popular in Indian movies. Speaking about his wild mix of mystical Indian modalities meets Western jazz-rock fusion in the following interview, Rahul tells mwe3.com, "To be absolutely frank, I was more drawn to Western music, as far back as I can remember. I was certainly exposed to classical Indian music, but as a child I never really understood it and consequently never really appreciated it." Performing all guitars, guitar synth, e-bow and programming, Rahul adds in sampled sounds, tablas for a traditional Indian percussive effect and modern drum programming to give the sound a solid rock edge. Ruben Rubio adds bass and Bruce is on additional drums and programming. Rahul Mukerji picks up from golden era of 1970s fusion and blends in a dose of 1980s electronic synth rock on his well-timed 2017 album Ma De Re Sha. www.mukerji.us

REAL MUSIC In 2017, the prodigious Real Music label released Breathe, the second CD on the label by synthesist Carl Borden. The nine track, 58 minute Breathe is very monolithic in parts and, with its waves of sound approach, it’s also quite relaxing and even haunting in places. The CD combines slowly unfolding New Age meditation music with a soundtrack type of sonic experience, yet it’s Borden’s equally mysterious nature of composition that makes Breathe such a special sounding experience. When questioned aboust his unique wall of sound approach to music writing and recording, Carl offers, "Indeed, I find that slow moving soundscapes can help you slow your mind down after a hectic day. After going through the morning and afternoon commute, meetings and deadlines, unexpected circumstances that may come up during the day, there is nothing better than coming home and relaxing to soothing music that allows you to unwind and ease you into the evening." On Breathe, the music is accompanied by a variety of intriguing nature sounds, including ocean waves, which gives the music an even more mercurial sound. From the liner notes Borden concludes, “This album is called Breathe because we all have gone through situations that can rock you to your core. It is at those moments in life that we must collect ourselves and try to grasp the situation, take a step back, and breathe.” A masterpiece of 21st century instrumental electronica, Breathe follows the Real Music release of Borden’s 2015 award-winning Echoes of Bliss. www.facebook.com / www.carlborden.com / www.realmusic.com

RICK SPARKS MUSIC – The lure and scenic attraction of big cities has always had its appeal. New York and Los Angeles have had songs written about them and I guess that’s where South Carolina composer / keyboardist Rick Sparks got the inspiration for his 2017 CD called Nightfall London. Commenting on the ten track CD, Rick says, “The idea of night falling on a great city like London intrigued me with the possibilities for musical adventure.” With Rick handling all the solo piano and light synth strings backing, the album comprises a kind of soundtrack for Rick’s fondness for London town. In fact, the album is dedicated to Beatles producer George Martin. Martin would have liked Rick’s Americanized tribute to capital of progressive rock. With his affinity for George Martin’s impeccable studio vision, Rick’s album is much more rooted in the New Age and meditative / orchestral musical realms. Speaking about Sir George Rick adds, “The enduring legacy of Sir George Martin was a constant inspiration to me in my arrangements, especially the string parts”. Rick might be unknown but he’s been around, including on-stage backing for legends like The 5th Dimension and others. Rick Sparks refines his ‘less is more’ New Age piano / synth sound on the sublime sounding Nightfall London. www.ricksparksmusic.net

SPHERIC MUSIC – Germany based Spheric Music is keeping the spirit of European instrumental Jazz Fusion music alive since 1991 with a series of new music and reissues by key German artists. Reissued on CD in 2017 is Touch The Sky released in 1992, featuring electronic music synthesist Rudolph Heimann. In the spirit of instrumental rock music released by Mike Oldfield and Alan Parsons Project, Heimann’s synthesizer driven music also sounds influenced by Jean Michel Jarre while the electric guitar is played by Holger Stausberg. The hard driving drums are played by Heimann at least through programming yet the drum sound throughout is excellent. Heimann’s instrumental fusion sound borrows from electronic music and also smooth jazz, with its endless upbeat riffs and rhythmic patterns. Released by Spheric in 2016 is a 25th anniversary CD sampler with a range of tracks from artists who have albums on the label, including e-music legend Klaus Schulze, Spheric Music founder Lambert Ringlage, Robert Schroeder and many more artists, including Rudolph Heimann, that gets deep into the Spheric back catalog of electronic, instrumental, New Age meets jazzy fusion music. www.sphericmusic.de

SOUNDS RECORDS – Based in Finland, The Sounds returned after many years in 2011 and they put together their comeback album in 2015. Finally making the rounds over continents, Live At Arcada Studios is the comeback album by The Sounds & Rock Jerry. The instrumental rock sound of The Sounds owes much to the legends of UK and Swedish instrumental, such as The Shadows and Spotnicks. Adding in vocalist Rock Jerry (real name Kaj Järnström), the band hits a veritable sweet spot with this eleven track, live in the studio that mixes in a number of Shadows style instrumentals and several rock & roll oldies sung by Rock Jerry. The instrumentals are excellent and Jerry’s vocals on classics like “Mystery Train”, “Singin’ The Blues” and more is another vintage offset to the more timeless instrumental sounds. An unusual,, guitar-centric instro of The Beatles “Long And Winding Road” is elegant as is the CD closing cover of The Shadows 1965 classic “Blue Sky Blue Sea Blue Me”. Speaking about the long and winding wait between the 1960s era of The Sounds and their comeback album, group cofounder Peter Ekman told mwe3.com, "The Sounds took a pause in 1965 as the members went back to school and started to study. We started to play again after a pause of 45 years, when three of the four original members rejoined. The original lead guitarist Henrik Granö left the group on spring 2014 and was replaced by Erkki Sutela. We recorded in 1963–1965, about ten singles and one LP. Because of the long break we made no recordings were made until the Arcada CD. It was about 50 years between the last recording 1965 and the Arcada CD." Fans of The Shadows, The Beatles and Elvis-style 1950s rock ‘n’ roll oldies are advised to check out the thoroughly entertaining Live At Arcada Studios by The Sounds and Rock Jerry. www.thesounds.fi

SOUNDSCAPE PRODUCTIONS – Multi-instrumentalist Robert Rich is a renaissance man of progressive music. On his latest epic called Lift A Feather To The Flood, Rich joins forces with German ambient guitar wunderkind Markus Reuter and the results make for a beguiling hour of progressive instrumental music. Combining electronica, New Age and a hybrid form of 21st century neoclassical ambient music, Rich and Reuter make a compelling team. Some are comparing Lift A Feather To The Flood to the late 1970 team of Harold Budd and Eno and with Rich’s prepared / processed piano teaming with Reuter’s touch guitar drones, there’s some valid point to that, yet it’s 2017 now and Rich and Reuter are breaking new ground in their own right. Rich is also an excellent mastering engineer so you can be assured that the CD is perfectly balanced from a sonic audiophile perspective as well. In addition, the six panel digipak artwork is a pleasure to behold and actually enhances the listening experience. www.robertrich.com

SPOTTED PECCARY MUSIC – Portland-based Spotted Peccary Music was founded back in the mid 1990s by Howard Givens, and his label is still releasing excellent New Age electronic music albums in 2017. A good recent example comes in the form of Legacy, the fifth studio release on Spotted Peccary by Between Interval. Featuring the music of Swedish composer Stefan Stand, the ten-track CD is filled with imaginative soundscapes that blends electronic music with a very sonically pleasing avant gard pallet of sounds and sound effects. There are a lot of gifted electronic musicians recording these days but Between Interval’s Legacy album is superbly recorded, mixed and mastered. Also out on CD in 2017 on Spotted Peccary is Secret Space Program by Norwegian electronic composer Sverre Knut Johansen. Spotted Peccary must have cornered the market from Scandinavia because both of these recent releases are truly impressive in sound and scope. Of the two, Secret Space Program is a little more futuristic sounding and is filled with sixteen tracks of electronic music bliss. Keep your eyes on Spotted Peccary for the best in 21st century electronic music. www.spottedpeccary.com / www.ambientelectronic.com

TIMOTHY WENZEL MUSIC – A former scientist who went to explore New Age music, keyboardist / composer Timothy Wenzel followed his most recent solo efforts with his 2017 album called What We Hold Dear. Featuring Timothy’s music, keyboards and production, the twelve track CD features a number of backing musicians on strings, as well as famed Windham Hill producer Corin Nelson, who is responsible for the album mastering as well as the cello recording. Timothy adds the concept of What We Hold Dear focuses on the need to be thankful for “what we have rather than what we don’t have.” Timothy’s music sounds inspired by dreams, films, stories and nature scenery—hence the atmospheric and sublime scope of his instrumental soundscapes. Some may view Timothy’s music as being somber and sedate yet on the other hand, his music is also quite spiritual and transformative. Speaking about the connection between his careers in both music and science, Timothy explains, ‘Music and science have always been my two main passions. I see a correlation between them. Scientific exploration is full of creativity and is very much like writing a song. In both cases you start with an idea and then explore the possibilities of where it can lead”. As Timothy Wenzel sets out to prove on his latest instrumental New Age masterpiece What We Hold Dear, the best music can be both entertaining and thought-provoking. www.timothywenzel.com

ULTIMAE RECORDS – Over in France, Ultimae Records continues breaking new ground for 21st century experimental instrumental electronica with the 2017 release of a double CD compilation called Polarity. Featuring a mix of emotional and dark techno with a feel of melancholy ambience, the 26-track double CD set features the work of sound designer and mixer Arnaud Galoppe, who is known as Focal and Kinosura. As indicated, there is a slightly minimalist approach on Polarity. This isn’t orchestral or romantic sounding New Age ala Jarre or Kerani, instead it borders on a kind of experimental collage of different sounds created by many different artists that are compiled and mixed by Focal for maximum impact. Ultimae has released excellent electronica and chill-out albums from a range of artists over the past decade and Polarity offers a fresh take on the Ultimae approach to instrumental electronica. Music fans are well aware of Ultimae’s downloads but their physical CD releases are truly magnificent to behold, featuring excellent artwork and detailed track info. The double CD release of Polarity takes the Ultimae concept of electronica to a higher level of excellence and design. www.ultimae.com

WHALING CITY SOUNDS – Boston area Whaling City Sound have several albums out by drummer / composer Gerry Gibbs and in 2017, they released a double studio CD by Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People. A double CD set, Weather Or Not, is actually a tribute album to jazz-fusion legends Weather Report. The second CD here features a separate 16 track album featuring original music by Gibbs, performed in trio format, subtitled “The Life Suite 1981-2016”. Gibbs is a first rate drummer and composer but, clearly the sound of Weather Report dominates the proceedings on the 12 track CD one and shines a vital light on just how brilliant Joe Zawinul and company was during much of the 1970s and early ‘80s. Throughout both CDs, Gibbs performs admirably on drums, percussion, electronics and the occasional voice insertion and he get stellar backup from Alex Collins (keyboards) and Hans Glawischnig (electric / acoustic bass). Gibbs incorporates flamenco, funk, calypso, Latin jazz, R&B and swing into his own music and those same impeccable skills lend themselves perfectly on his interpretations of classic Weather Report. www.whalingcitysound.com

WHITE GATES PUBLISHING Jack Gates is a renowned guitarist / composer on the 21st century American instrumental guitar scene. In 2014, Jack released his solo album, Voyage Of The Troubadour and in 2017 he follows with a batch of all new studio tracks called Bring The Flavors. Featuring Jack performing on both nylon string guitars and electric guitars, sometimes in the same song, the fourteen track, 55 minute Bring The Flavors is filled with jazzy and meditative grooves that reflects Jack’s interest in World Music, especially Latin, Brazilian and South American music. Commenting on Bring The Flavors, Jack explains, ‘This album was written and recorded while I was living in a forest in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, where I was studying Tibetan Buddhism. The music has a peaceful quality and is certainly an outgrowth of meditation and being close to nature." Recorded in the mountains of Northern California, Bring The Flavors features Jack in the recording studio backed up by a band of like-minded players, including the rhythm section of Steve Robertson (drums, percussion) and Stan Poplin (acoustic bass), along with Damien Masterson (harmonica) and Michal Palzewicz (cello). Jack Gates has released a number of critically acclaimed solo albums over the years, as well as playing and writing duo albums with sitar player Tim White, who serves as remix advisor on Bring The Flavors. Blending 14 tracks of contemporary instrumental jazz, on Bring The Flavors Jack Gates serves up a sublime mix of guitar-based sounds. www.jackgatesmusic.com

YAMAHA ENTERTAINMENT GROUP – Smooth jazz fans will be in orbit with the 2017 CD release of Reverence by bass ace Nathan East. The twelve track CD was produced by Nathan and Chris Gero, and it’s something of a superstar jam. Among the artists appearing are Phil Collins (drums), Eric Clapton (guitar), Chuck Loeb (guitar), Greg Phillinganes (keys), Chick Corea (keys) and a whole lot more. Not only does Nathan handle the bass work, both electric bass and fretless bass, but he also adds in his vocals which are featured on various tracks, along with the help of other excellent R&B and soul-pop singers. A new updated version of the Earth, Wind & Fire track “Serpentine Fire” features original EWF members Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. Among the original tracks are upbeat mostly instrumental covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and a new arrangement of the Wizard Of Oz classic “Over The Rainbow”, arranged here by George Shearing, with the addition of Nathan’s son Noah East and The Nashville Recording Orchestra. Filled with a mix of smooth jazz instrumental and soul-pop vocal tracks, Nathan East’s Reverence should have wide, across the board appeal among music fans. www.nathaneastbass.com / www.nathaneast.com



REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES


ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Hats off to the great English label Angel Air for their 20 years of devotion to classic UK pop and rock. Having retooled the entire back catalog of Stackridge, Angel Air have lately been working with Yardbirds’ cofounder Jim McCarty on a number of projects, including the 2017 CD reissue of the 2000 album by Renaissance called Through The Fire. Actually, the band by then was called Renaissance Illusion, combining the names of two bands McCarty founded with Keith Relf and Keith’s sister Jane Relf, who sings on Through The Fire. The Yardbirds’ story is intricate and complex and you’d need a fine tooth comb to fully absorb all the music made by The Yardbirds and their many incredible offshoot bands. Like many of McCarty’s post-Yardbirds album-related projects—including the first two Renaissance albums—this Renaissance Illusion album features key contributions from Renaissance cofounders John Hawken (piano) and Louis Cennamo (bass). The 12 track Through The Fire CD, (complete with the two bonus cuts) reflects McCarty’s fascination with Buddhism, with the rock hall of famer adding, “There was a lot of spiritual intent in this album and a lot of spiritual feeling contained within it.” The liner notes by Jeff Perkins are exemplary and fill in a lot of the missing pieces with shiny shards of vital information about the music all the players on hand. With the ghost / spirit of Keith Relf smiling down from heaven, Renaissance Illusion carries on the spirit, feel and grandeur started by The Yardbirds way back in the mid 1960s. www.angelair.co.uk

BGO RECORDS – Swedish guitarist Janne Schaffer is well known in circles of jazz-rock fusion fans. Throughout his career, starting in the early 1970s as the lead guitarist with Swedish pop superstars ABBA, Janne (pronounded “Ya-knee”) has released album after album of scintillating guitar-based jazz fusion. During his heyday of the mid 1980s, Janne released incredibly influential albums such as the Traffic album from 1985. Now at 71, Janne is resting easy on the laurels of a well done career, yet labels keep reissuing key albums from his star-studded career. England’s BGO keeps the legacy burning bright with a double CD set featuring three of Janne’s late 1970s albums on CBS Records, then home of Columbia and Epic Records. Released together on the 2017 Janne Schaffer double CD set on BGO is Katharsis (1976), Earmeal (1978) and Presens (1980). The musicians on these albums reads like a who’s who of Sweden’s best players, including the late, great Bjorn J:son Lindh (flutes, keys), Peter Sundell (drums) and others, with the icing on the cake being the contributions of international music superstars John “Rabbit” Bundrick, member of the UK prog group Quatermass and Toto drummer Jeff Pocaro. Liner notes by Charles Waring are exemplary and shed some informative background on Sweden’s greatest guitar export. Also out in 2017 on BGO is a double CD set from Canadian jazz-rock pioneers Lighthouse, featuring the albums Lighthouse (1969), Suite Feeling (also 1969) and Peacing It All Together (1970). Their biggest hit “One Fine Morning” came out 1971 and isn’t on this double CD set but there’s enough horn-driven jazz-rock sounds to make BGO's Lighthouse double CD set of interest among fans of other early fusion bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Among their 2017 remasters, BGO also has a double CD set from 1960s American folk-rock legends The Youngbloods. From their 1970 and ’71 period on Warner Brothers Records, the BGO double set includes Rock Festival (1970), Ride The Wind and Good And Dusty (1971). This BGO double compliments their earlier Youngbloods double CD featuring three of their late 1960s albums from their RCA years. The California-based band Seatrain is another favorite from the late 1960s and in 2017, BGO reissued their 1973 album Watch. Originally released on Warner Brothers, the album was the final Seatrain album, following their earlier albums, produced by Beatles legend George Martin. Only Andy Kulberg, from the original Seatrain remained and the album features a range of Kulberg originals and a select cover from Kulberg’s early band The Blues Project and a Seatrain cover of the often overlooked Bob Dylan classic “Watching The River Flow”. Lastly on BGO is a 2017 double CD set from California jam-band favorites Stoneground. The band is best known for their lead singer Sal Valentino, who worked in the 1960s with the Beau Brummels as well as guitarist John Blakeley. The 2017 Stoneground album on BGO pairs their self-titled first (1971) and third Stoneground 3 album (1972), both released on Warner Brothers. www.bgo-records.com

DAGGER RECORDS – A branch of the Experience Hendrix label trademark, Dagger Records has Live At George’s Club 20. Following the ill-timed death of Jimi Hendrix in September 1970, the story of Jimi’s early contracts with unscrupulous label people started surfacing in the form of music he recorded as lead guitarist in the band of soul singer Curtis Knight. Recorded in a kind of wild, primitive fashion in a club in New Jersey on a live concert date in both December 1965 and January ’66, the music involved a quite litigious law suit that dogged Hendrix in his final years but it has finally been put to bed. Experience Hendrix presents Live At George's Club 20 in archival form, with 17 tracks that clocks in at 64 minutes, complete with historic photos and liner notes. Despite the fact that these unscrupulous record company people threatened Jimi with the release of this, after he was famous is truly criminal. Musically, the bootleg quality sounds improved but not much better. Sometimes Knight’s band with Jimi hits a real groove but the uneven sound quality precludes getting any sense of true accuracy for his fans. Sometimes the sound quality almost sounds okay but it is great hearing Jimi’s out of control guitar solo and vocals on the band doing a cover “Land Of 1000 Dances” as he leads the Hackensack crowd to a fever pitch. There’s also a double vinyl version planned for Record Store Day 2017. www.jimihendrix.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT -– 2004 was a great year for classic rock comebacks. A few years before the great recession would shut things down for a while, 2004 as also the year that saw The Who reunite for the band’s first performance at the Isle Of Wight festival since their 1970 heyday. Thirty five years after that 1970 festival appearance The Who returned with founding members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey keeping the Who flame alive and burning. Eagle’s 2017 release of The Who: Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004 relies heavily on Who classics (“I Can’t Explain”, “My Generation”, songs from Who’s Next and Quadrophenia a.o.) yet it also manages to work in live in concert performances of their new for 2004 tracks “Real Good Looking Boy” and “Old Red Wine” —the latter a tribute to fallen Who cofounder John Entwistle. The Who live in 2004 featured Zak Starkey (drums), Rabbit (keyboards) and Pino Palladino (bass). There’s no bonus features on the 23 track 2CD/ 1DVD set yet the packaging adds in excellent artwork from the show as well as illuminating liner notes by long time Who / Townshend protégé Matt Kent. Oh, and by the way, the concert runs well over two hours, was superbly filmed and is one solid, action-packed video event start to finish. www.eagle-rock.com

MANIFESTO RECORDS – It was sad to find out that Allan Holdsworth passed in early 2017 but in any event, he went out on a high note. Released by L.A. based Manifesto Records in early 2017 is a twelve CD Holdsworth box set called The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever. Also out is a distilled two-disc set called Eidolon, which serves as a kind of best of retrospective. For the completist, the box set is the way to go, yet Eidolon seems to touch on most of the great Holdworth solo albums, starting with his I.O.U. album in 1982 through till his last solo album Flat Tire in 2001. Appearing through the 28 track Eidolon are some of fusion’s greatest players, including Holdsworth drummers of choice, Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman, keyboard greats Alan Pasqua and Gordon Beck and many more, including the late Jack Bruce, who appears on the CD set’s only vocal, the title track from the 1984 Road Games album. The booklet, with notes by Chris Hoard touches on all phases of Holdsworth’s star-studded career. A two CD updated and expanded best of collection selected by Allan Holdworth himself, just months before he died, Eidolon is a fitting tribute to a veritable guitar legend of the jazz-rock world. www.manifesto.com

RHINO RECORDS – Celebrating the 50th anniversary year of its release, Rhino released the very first, self-titled Grateful Dead in early 2017. Although the Dead changed their sound in time for their 1970 breakthrough album Workingman’s Dead album, their very first album Grateful Dead reflected some of the famous garage band sound that was dominating the pop charts back in the mid 1960s. In retrospect, and thanks to Rhino’s impeccable remastering, 1967’s Grateful Dead album sounds better now than it did fifty years ago, when it was just about overlooked, considering all the great music that was pouring out of California way back then. This early version of the Grateful Dead featured core members Jerry Garcia (guitars, vocals), Bob Weir (guitars, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), Pigpen (keys, vocals) and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). Although the album started off with a killer original called “The Golden Road”, the album dips into covers of blues classics, like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and a countrified, near skiffle sounding “Sitting On Top Of The World”. The album closes out with the ten minute “Viola Lee Blues”, a soaring improvisational sounding track that offers an early indication into the Dead’s future legacy as America’s greatest jam-band. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Grateful Dead album, Rhino has done a superb job on the remastering, adding in a second CD featuring a live concert from the summer of 1966, months before the Grateful Dead studio album came out. The package features an in-depth CD booklet with rare pics and liner notes. As has been noted, there were so many great rock and pop albums coming out of the West Coast in 1966-67, but it’s not too late to check out this early masterpiece by Jerry Garcia and company. www.rhino.com

ROCK BEAT RECORDS – L.A. based Rock Beat, under the auspices of chief Arny Schorr, released a great Harvey Mandel album in 2017 called Snake Attack. In mid 2017, Rock Beat reissued several live albums—on both CD and Lp—from classic rock legends The Flamin’ Groovies, Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen and blues rock icon Paul Butterfield. Rock Beat’s Flamin’ Groovies CD, called Live In San Francisco 1971, was recorded live at Fillmore West. Overall, the CD is a good example of the Flamin’ Groovies and their hard-hitting mix of punk-rock and power pop. The CD features a spoken word intro by the late Bill Graham. Rock Beat’s Commander Cody CD—Live At Ebbett’s Field—was recorded live on August 11th, 1973 and features 21 tracks. Rock Beat keeps the vinyl crowd happy with Live In New York 1970, from blues rock icon Pal Butterfield. Recorded in December 1970, live at NYC’s A&R studios, Live In New York 1970 is a solid showcase for Butterfield’s legendary vocals and harmonica work. One of the most high-visibility reissues on Rock Beat in 2017 is a four CD live package—entitled Once Upon A Time In South America—from early 1970s prog-rock pioneers Emerson Lake & Palmer. Recorded live in Chile and Argentina in 1993, just after their 1992 Black Moon album, and in Brazil in 1997, ELP's four CD Rock Beat set sounds very good and goes on to feature most of the trio’s biggest hits, along with extended instrumental jams, a Keith Emerson piano solo as well as assorted hits from the pre-ELP bands King Crimson and The Nice. Rock Beat's four disc ELP set features in-depth liner notes and excellent multi-disc packaging. www.rockbeatrecords.com


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