Record Label
and Music Spotlight
 

WINTER 2016

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES

WINTER 2016 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK



ALEATORIK RECORDS
– Having worked as lead guitarist with the Aaron Clift Experiment, guitarist / singer-songwriter Danny Brymer is making waves on his own with Within The Clamor Of Voices, the first CD by the Missouri-based band called The Alea Dilemma. Featuring a CD booklet with all the song lyrics, the ten track CD features a wide ranging mix of vocal and instrumental tracks that combines hard rock and jazz-rock to great effect. As a vocalist, Brymer brings a lot of power to the band sound and his lead guitar playing is first rate throughout. Brymer gets solid support from his band members Ryan Sloan (bass) and Todd Crookston (drums). The band cites influences like YES and Chick Corea so there’s plenty here for fans of both prog-rock and jazz-rock. Overall, The Alea Dilemma have recorded a 21st century prog-rock work with fine production and playing all around. www.TheAleaDilemma.com

BAFE’S FACTORY RECORDSThe musicians of Finland are world renowned for creating an impressive range of world class instrumental music. Due to its inherent complexity, Finnish vocal music is often overlooked in this regard but a relatively recent Finnish artist—singer-songwriter and kantele player Vilma Timonen is in the process of correcting that with the 2015 CD release of Drops by Vilma Timonen Quartet. Supported by three fine musicians, Vilma is in fine form on Drops, the nine track that features the VTQ music gently embellished by her Finnish lyrics. Speaking to mwe3.com about the Finnish aspect in the vocal music on her new CD, Vilma explains “For me, music tells stories with or without words. I have been very much inspired by Finnish Rune singing language, that has been a musical mother tongue in our country. I am fascinated how syllables sound, melt to each other, and how the language sounds and feels in expressions. This is why I also write lyrics only in Finnish. The language is extremely rich, filled with colors and various shades of expression. We are actually working with getting English translations of the lyrics.” Earlier albums by VTQ featured a number of instrumental-based tracks with Vilma’s kantele prominent in the mix, but on Drops, Vilma sounds resolute about bringing the Finnishness forward in her vocal music. There are several instrumental tracks on Drops, but for the most part, Drops wins over the listener by combining the strong instrumental kantele presence in the VTQ sound with an even more unique sense of Finnish pop and folk vocal music. Music listeners who enjoyed the earlier, mainly instrumental, albums by VTQ will appreciate the way Vilma has brought her Finnish vocal sound into the mix. Overall, Drops is a fascinating spin for World Music fans, Finnish music fans and music listeners interested in the time honored kantele and how it applies to the sound of 21st century pop music. www.facebook.com/vilmavtq / www.bafesfactory.fi/vtq

BELLA UNION – NYC-based singer-songwriter Hannah Cohen is making waves with her 2015 CD, entitled Pleasure Boy. There’s so many surreal sounding songs on the 8 track CD, that it’s hard to single one out. Throughout, Ms. Cohen gets solid backing from some fine players, including album producer Thomas Bartlett, who brings in drums and keyboards. With a kind of synth driven, beats laden sound, some critic noted that Pleasure Boy sounds like it was produced by Robert Fripp for some dreamy, nightmarish kind of Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack. Even with so many sonic signposts, above all, it’s Hannah Cohen’s haunting and pleasurable vocal sound that helps the CD rise to its stature as one of the most intriguing and appealing pop albums of 2015. In addition to the bizarre cover art, Pleasure Boy features complete lyrics and credits. www.HannahCohenMusic.com

CATTLE TRACK ROAD RECORDS – Guitarist / singer-songwriter Nils Lofgren furthers his legacy with the release of UK2015 – Face The Music Tour. Live in concert, touring the U.K. in January 2015, Nils catches his fans up with a stellar set performed by him and multi-instrumentalist Greg Varlotta. Lofgren sings and plays several instruments including guitars, keyboards and lever harp while Varlotta adds vocals, keys, guitars and trumpet. The 15 track concert set list features all originals except for a cover of the old favorite “I Don’t Want To Talk About It", a track from the first Crazy Horse album and a take of “Goin’ Back” the Gerry Goffin song made famous by The Byrds. With excellent CD sound and serviceable packaging with liner notes from the artist, UK2015 demonstrates just how effective and entertaining Nils Lofgren can be in a solo live concert setting. www.NilsLofgren.com

CLAMSVILLE RECORDS
– Mysterious and ethereal sounding, The Ascent is a fine introduction to the music of Amy Faithe. The seven-track album is already being compared to Enya and other New Age artists. Like Enya, Amy Faithe records an incredibly heavenly type of vocal music that mixes female vocals with electronic synth-laden instrumentation. Written, produced and performed by Ms. Faithe and John Herrera, the CD works both as a meditative journey and as an album of instrumental music that mixes New Age and healing music. The album sounds excellent and is beautifully packaged with celestial art work and track by track liner notes by Ms. Faithe that are filled with hope and faith. The Ascent is one of the most impressive New Age pop-based vocal albums of 2015. www.AmyFaitheNewAge.com

DAVID UDELL MUSICThe music of singer-songwriter David Udell may be hard to categorize but that’s because there’s so much groovy stuff happening that it boggles the imagination. Turns out David worked with experimental guitar hero Carl Weingarten back in the band Delay Tactics back in the early 1980’s. David still lives in his native St. Louis and Carl, of course moved to San Francisco where he joined the best of the bay area music greats like Michael Manring, Robert Powell and other instro art-rock heroes. Speaking about working with David Udell earlier in both of their careers, Carl Weingarten recently told mwe3.com, “David Udell is one of the most skilled and imaginative musicians I know. While David’s fluid guitar technique was the first thing I noticed and admired about him, it was during our work in Delay Tactics that David showed me how the guitar was so much more than a lead instrument. In many of our recordings, David’s use of guitar textures, even the most subtle, would take each song to a new level.” There are some experimental edges on David’s 2015 CD, entitled Orchids, yet it’s all done with such taste and finesse that the album often comes across like a cross between The Beatles and The Archies with a little Velvet Underground and Marshall Crenshaw added in for good measure. David has a true gift for writing a catchy pop hook and he’s a wizard in the studio, which is why there’s so many tasty studio sounds sprinkled throughout the album. Being a first rate singer-songwriter and a vocalist, it’s easy to see why someone as gifted as Carl Weingarten would want to have David Udell in the same band. David performs a number of instruments on Orchids, including lead and electric guitars, bass, keyboards, banjos, drum machine, theremin and many other instruments and he gets some solid backup from a range of players. All of this stellar backing serves to accent David’s songs, which might take a little time to appreciate but, once you’re there, you will fully grasp the magnitude of just how cool and memorable Orchids really is. Extra points for the fantastic silk-screened artwork on the CD label of Orchids. www.DavidUdellMusic.wordpress.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS – In late 2015, L.A. based Cleopatra Records released a 3 CD box set featuring guitar icon John Jorgenson. Renowned for his session work and his groundbreaking 1990’s albums with Jerry Donahue in The Hellecasters, Jorgenson is well represented on the well-titled Divertuoso. The triple set showcases three distinct sides of Jorgenson’s myriad guitar personality – bluegrass vocal music that borrows from country music, a second CD of the guitarist’s fascination with instrumental Gypsy Jazz music and a third album encompassing what long time Hellecasters fans have been waiting for: a 12 track rock instrumental album by Jorgenson. Entitled Gifts From The Flood, that third CD is an instrumental jazz-rock tribute CD honoring guitars that John rescued and then restored during and after the Biblical floods of Nashville in 2010. The box set features excellent packaging with each CD packaged in a miniature vinyl LP looking sleeve, complete with inside dust jacket, and topped off by an in depth CD booklet with notes by the guitarist. Country bluegrass fans, Gypsy Jazz fans and instrumental rockers will enjoy the truly diversified guitar sounds of John Jorgenson's Divertuoso. www.JohnJorgenson.com

COPPER RECORDS – Based on the West Coast of Wales, Kate Doubleday is making folk-music fans happy with her 2015 CD Flutter. The album is quite lush sounding and throughout the 10 tracks, Kate gets some excellent back up from a range of musicians, including Dan Wilkins (guitars, kora) as well as a full string quartet. Supporting herself on guitars and, with her lead vocals mixed up close and personal, Kate is also backed up by noted music producer Martin Levan, who co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered Flutter at Red Kite Studio. Overall, Kate Doubleday’s Flutter is a very peaceful album of sumptuous English folk music that is as peaceful as it is harmonically satisfying. England has a vast legacy of folk music and Kate Doubleday’s Flutter is one of the best recent examples of England’s legendary folk music heritage. www.KateDoubleday.com

DOUG WAHLBERG MUSIC – On his 2015 CD, Flying Under The Radar, singer-songwriter / guitarist Doug Wahlberg sounds like a younger Peter Frampton and I mean that in the best sense of the word. Taking the template Frampton brought to rock music 45 years ago, Wahlberg carves a niche of his own on Flying Under The Radar. The songs are very much in the realm of FM radio rock sounds. Nothing surprising but the songs hold up and Wahlberg’s vocal delivery and guitar performance more than fits the bill on a CD that brings back the best of ‘70s rock and kicks it back up in the 21st century. Wahlberg’s crack band, including Jeff Claypool (keys, vocals) Rich Genovese (second guitar), T-Bone Stone (keys) and George P. Miller (bass), keeps the songs moving at a clip and there’s hardly an off track here. A good CD for fans of ‘70s stadium rockers like Frampton, Foreigner and even 1980s YES. www.DougWahlbergBand.com

DRAG CITY – Drag City specialize in 21st century pop and rock. With hardly a trace to the past, the 2015 Wand album called 1000 Days makes for some startling listening. The album borders on avant rock in the spirit of late ‘70s art rock / punk bands like This Heat and other more recent art-rock bands including XTC (for sheer pop innovation), yet there’s also something more mercurial and mysterious about this intriguing L.A. based rock outfit. The accent isn’t only on the song itself but also on the instrumental parts and detail to sound in them that sometimes takes on a life of its own including some tasty mellotron bits. Drag City is a real hoot finding unusual music like this and it really puts them on the leading musical edge of this century, even though it’s still early yet. For the sonic completist, Wand’s 1000 Days is available on LP, cassette, CD, MP3 and FLAC download, although don’t listen to them all at the same time! www.DragCity.com

DRAG CITY – On her 2015 CD, Don’t Weigh Down The Light, San Fransisco-based singer-songwriter Meg Baird has created a wonderful album of sublime sonic beauty. Ostensibly folk-pop music, the album kind of echoes the stately grandeur of the great folk-pop singers of the 1960s like Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. On the 12 track CD, Meg Baird sings and plays acoustic guitars, keyboards and percussion while receiving fine support from Charlie Saufley, whose guitar, keys and percussion embellishes Meg’s softly sung songs. The album has the effect of rowing your way in a small boat on a gentle river or lake, as things move slowly and you enjoy the beautiful scenery along with way. A total musical trip worth taking and retaking, Don’t Weigh Down The Light is one of the most beautiful, softly sung folk-pop albums of 2015. www.DragCity.com

ECHOLYN MUSIC – American prog-rock band Echolyn features some great players including guitarist Brett Kull and drummer Paul Ramsey, two of the key members of The Syn during their 2009 Big Sky album. After a long wait, Echolyn are back in 2015 with an all new CD called I Heard You Listening. The 2015 version of Echolyn still features Brett Kull and Paul Ramsey, who are fully supported here by Chris Buzby (keys), Raymond Weston (bass), and Thomas Hyatt (bass). Echolyn features some excellent vocalists including Kull and Weston, while the other band members add in harmony vocals. The sound of I Heard You Listening is full bodied and lush sounding and the album expertly merges both progressive rock and even symphonic rock. The sonic atmosphere is excellent and clearly these guys are first-rate musicians. The long awaited return of Echolyn, I Heard You Listening is put together with much care and is well worth the time to check out among fans of progressive rock. www.echolyn.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Flutist / composer John Hackett is also the brother of Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and the brothers have recorded together on various albums for decades. Although John Hackett’s solo albums were mainly instrumental affairs, unknown to some, he’s also a first rate singer-songwriter and he puts that side of his music into superb focus on the 2015 CD release of Another Life. More in line with brother Steve’s solo album Wolf Light and the 2012 Squackett album, Another Life breathes fresh light and life into the art of 21st century progressive rock. With a supporting cast of musicians that includes Steve Hackett (guitar), Nick Magnus (keys, drums, production), Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips (12 string guitar, harpsichord, and songwriting lyrics of Nick Clabburn, Another Life is so poppy and melodic, it sounds like the missing piece to what might have been a second Squackett album, had Chris Squire not tragically died in 2015. John’s flutes and guitars adorn the album but the real focus here is on these songs, which form a kind of suite of songs that magically turns Another Life into one of the best prog-rock albums of the decade. www.EsotericRecordings.com

FIERCE PANDA – In 2015, the U.K. based Fierce Panda label released the debut by the artist known as Dalton. The brainchild of Nate Harar, alias Dalton, the self-titled Dalton works on a number of levels. I had remarked his voice reminded me of the late Speedy Keen, and the composer thought that was interesting. It’s true, like Speedy, Dalton can spin a nice sounding pop track, albeit in a 21st century style. Recording as a one man band, thanks to the incredible technology these days, Dalton will come as a minor revelation to even seasoned pop fans who think nothing matters after 1974. The guitars ring out and the studio wizardry gets everything right in tune. Maybe it has something to do with the D.C. born Dalton leaving Brooklyn for L.A. so, as far as a follow up, I’m inclined to think Dalton is in for some sunny horizons! www.DaltonTheBand.com

FIT FIT RECORDS – Over in the land of Israel, the acclaimed Ethio-jazz-funk singer-songwriter Ester Rada is making a lot of new fans with her self-titled 2015 CD. The 12 track Ester Rada album really rocks and swings and among the genres covered are jazz, funk, soul, R&B, pop and even rock. A first-rate singer and a songwriter Ms. Rada is in a class of her own on her Ester Rada album. There’s even some great torch songs that could make it as 21st century pop standards such as track 11, “Could It Be”. Ester has a cool story, being born in Israel from Ethiopian heritage. As a music fan, Ms. Rada cites influences like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin. Backed up by some great musicians, the Ester Rada album was superbly produced by Guy Dreifuss (exec) with further production by Sabbo and Kuti. Clearly, as a singer as well as a first rate songwriter, Ester Rada has a bright future ahead. A rockin’ album with catchy chill, funk and even hip-hop grooves, the self-titled Ester sparkles with fresh musical energy. www.facebook.com / www.EsterRada.com

GONDWANA RECORDS – A well rounded multi-instrumentalist, composer / trumpeter Matthew Halsall has made a solid album with the 2015 CD release of Into Forever, credited to Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra. In the spirit of 21st century U.K. composers such as John Metcalfe, Matthew Halsall works in a range of diverse and unique musical colors that he uses to shape his music. Combining jazz, pop, neo-classical, soundtrack sounds and more, Halsall gets excellent support from a number of musicians on Into Forever. Even though the eleven cut CD is mostly instrumental, there are a pair of excellent female vocalists that are featured on several tracks that expertly combine jazz and a new genre, best described as 21st century soul-jazz. Commenting on Into Forever, Halsall adds, “I love being a musician, love playing, but for me every note has to serve the music I hear in my head. I consider this my most personal record to date. It’s also the first time I’ve collaborated with vocalists, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.” Featuring a wide range of musicians, the album has a very convincing jazz-rock orchestral feel to it and as such, Into Forever will easily find support among neoclassical, pop and jazz fans. Those music fans lucky enough to hear it will get an earful of the strange and unique sounds of Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra. www.GondwanaRecords.com

GONZO MULTIMEDIA – To be honest, I had not heard of The Raz Band before, but after hearing their 2015 CD, Madison Park, I’m sure glad I did. Featuring Badfinger legend Joey Molland and drumming icon Joe Vitale, The Raz Band features the songs and vocals of Michael “Raz” Rescigno along with a wide case of musical luminaries that makes for a very tight little band. The album takes its title from a place in Rescigno’s home town in New Jersey, to which he adds, “Madison Park was a great place to grow up and we have many happy memories from that time in our lives.” Also on hand here are other legends like Gary Duncan, the great guitarist from Quicksilver Messenger Service. Of course having Joey Molland on hand is a major coup for the Raz Band. Commenting on having Molland’s still impeccable Badfinger-esque guitar sounds on his album is great with Molland adding, “I met the Raz almost 40 years ago and he’s been knocking me out ever since.” Singer-songwriter Carla Olson also makes an appearance on a track here called “You’re My Love” that is most welcome. Musically, this album is kind of influenced by both The Beatles, Badfinger and Joe Walsh as well. There’s a pop influence here but it's more in the realm of Flo & Eddie as opposed to The Turtles, if you catch my drift. Either way, Madison Park by The Raz Band is a most welcome addition to the pop world of the 21st century. www.GonzoMultimedia.com

HORNBEAM RECORDINGS – U.K. based Hornbeam is one of the best folk music labels in England. In 2015 Hornbeam released Paley & Son from Tom & Ben Paley. Tom Paley is somewhat of a musical legend, having played with Woody Guthrie as well as being somewhat of an icon, back then, to younger players including Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and Jerry Garcia. Released 62 years after Ben first recorded for Elektra Records in 1953, the 16 track Paley & Son mixes a range of traditional instrumental and vocal music to great effect. With Tom playing guitar and banjo and Ben on fiddle, they get solid support from players like Cerys Matthews (vocals, guitar), BJ Cole (dobro), Rob Mason (harmonica) and others. Described as old school Americana, Paley & Son are based in the U.K. and their CD is essential listening for U.K. and American fans of traditional folk based music. As with all of the Hornbeam albums, the CD is superbly packaged with excellent liner notes and interview by Robin Denselow and Mike Gavin, in addition to track by track notes that sheds significant light on these traditional music gems. www.HornbeamRecordings.com

KSCOPE
– England-based Kscope Records doesn’t release a lot of music by American bands but they do with the 2015 CD release of All Burn by the band called The Receiver. Much has been written of The Receiver in the UK music press but suffice to say, the Akron, Ohio based band takes progressive rock boldly into the future. Some have compared The Receiver to mid ‘70s Pink Floyd but I think Syd would like All Burn more than Roger Waters. Some tracks stand out more than others, but track ten, the Syd Barrett influenced “How To Be Young” pretty much sums up the pop grandeur in play here. Amazingly, The Receiver is pretty much the brainchild of twin brothers Casey Cooper (vocals, keys, bass) and Jesse Cooper (drums). With a little more attention to the pop hooks, The Receiver just might transcend prog and hit the rock lotto. www.TheReceiverMusic.com

LAVENDER KATYDID MUSIC – With a record company named Lavender Katydid Music you better be good and I’m happy to say the 2015 release by the Chicago-based band called Fischer’s Flicker is eclectic to the hilt. The band’s album, Fornever And Never features a mix of music that you’d be hard pressed to top. Mixing prog-rock, pop, a touch of disco, Zappa inspired 1970’s FM rock and even cover songs, the unusually titled Fornever And Never takes you on a aural joy ride and it’s really like a sonic roller coaster. At the helm is Scott Fischer on keyboards and he gets some great backup from a bunch of fine players. The self-produced CDR album (also on MP3) has a bit of a home spun appeal but it does look okay as a CDR title and is recorded quite well and will startle and impress music fans with an ear for the bizarre and eclectic. A cover of Alice Cooper’s “Halo Of Flies” fits in perfectly on an album that will blow you away, all in the space of one listen. www.FischersFlicker.com

LIAISON MUSIC – The voice of YES, Jon Anderson joins forces with jazz violinist / composer Jean-Luc Ponty and the new result is the 2015 CD/DVD of Better Late Than Never the debut of The Anderson Ponty Band. After 45 years of being a member of YES, Chris Squire died on June 27, 2015, and then like clockwork, this first ever Anderson Ponty album arrives. Ironically, ten years ago, it was Anderson who was near death, then marking his subsequent departure from YES. One could near fault Squire for touring relentlessly, often at the expense of the creative core of YES, which suffered over the past ten years. Combining several YES classics with a number of new original tracks, Better Late Than Never not only looks great but it sounds great. YES fans will have a field day with the 14 track CD and the 11 track DVD. The DVD is expertly filmed and cosmically colored featuring Anderson and Ponty backed up by a solid band, including Jamie Glaser (guitars), Baron Browne (bass), Rayford Griffin (drums) and Wally Minko (keys). With all due respect for what Squire was doing with YES on their last two albums for the Italy-based Frontiers label, Better Late Than Never sounds more like what YES should have been than the last few albums by Squire, Howe and company. Fascinating, well performed music all around, Anderson Ponty Band strikes sonic gold on Better Late Than Never. www.JonAnderson.com / www.ponty.com

MAH PRODUCTION – The unique twist on the 2015 CD by Mariea Antoinette is that she plays funky, R&B flavored smooth jazz on her harp. No, not a blues harp but on a real angelic sounding harp, like the one Harpo Marx played. The good thing is that on the 13 track Straight From The Harp is that she brings the time honored instro sound of R&B complete with dance music grooves into the 21st century with appealing results. Sultry sounding cameo vocals from female singers, including Chanel Fields, grace the album but the focus in on Mariea’s swirling harp sounds, which find solid backing from a full band. The album is filled with cover songs including tracks written by big names like Barry White, Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield and others. On Straight From The Harp, Mariea Antoinette puts a new spin on the sound of contemporary smooth jazz and instrumental R&B. www.MarieaAntoinette.com

MARKET SQUARE RECORDS – Over in the U.K. singer-songwriter and guitarist Andy Gunn is making waves with his 2015 CD Miracle Of Healing. Musically and guitar wise, Andy sounds influenced by greats like Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale. On his fourth album, Miracle Of Healing, Gunn’s songs are mellow but well played and even though he’s been fighting serious health issues, the songs click. Backing up Andy are a range of excellent players on the album that really fills up the soundstage. Despite having released an album on Provogue and working with players from Alex Harvey’s band and Gary Moore’s band, Gunn has remained somewhat of a musical outsider. With the 2015 CD release of Miracle Of Healing, let’s hope Andy Gunn’s name becomes more well known among fans of well crafted pop and rock sounds. www.AndyGunn.net

MUSIC ROAD RECORDS – Austin-based Music Road Records is on the cutting edge of 21st century roots rock music and so far they’ve released a number of CD titles, including a fine Jackson Browne tribute CD called Looking Into You – A Tribute To Jackson Browne. In 2015, Music Road released The Night Tribe, the 17th album by Texas-based singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave & The Night Tribe. Backed up by a full band, LaFave’s original approach to roots rock and country rock echoes Jackson Browne, Springsteen and also Van Morrison, especially on some of the more soulful tracks. LaFave has stated that two of his favorite albums are Dylan’s Blond On Blond and Nashville Skyline so it’s not really too surprising to find that his album features a thoughtful cover of Queen Jane Approximately originally from Dylan’s 1965 album Highway 61 Revisted. Also here is a cover of Neil Young’s “Journey Through The Past”. Commenting on the title of his CD, Jimmy adds, “Almost all the songs on the record were written at nighttime, driving.” Roots rockers and fans of the new breed of country rock artists will find much to appreciate about Jimmy LaFave & The Night Tribe. www.MusicRoadRecords.com

MYSTERIUM MUSIC – In early 2015, Mysterium Music released a new solo piano CD by Peter Kater and in the Fall of 2015 they released a new CD by the group known as Agrelia’s Castle. The seven track CD features the music and vocals of Paul Brown, producer and keyboardist with The Waterboys, along with Paul’s wife April Brown. April’s serious illness led brought the pair together and together they defeat the forces of evil with an album of uplifting, New Age vibes. The seven track CD release of Elders & Ancestors is filled with a relaxing mix of vocal and instrumental sounds that combines various instruments like flute, piano, guitars, cello, sitar and more. According to the heartfelt CD liner notes, it seems like April’s serious illness brought them together and the result is a beneficial pairing that has yielded some lush sounding music. That such beautiful music can come out of adversity and triumph over illness is a true testament to the human spirit. One of the best tracks here is the CD closer, “Agrelia’s Lullaby”, which combines stately instrumental sounds with gorgeous chord changes, backed up by sonically pleasing wordless vocals that are truly haunting. Fans of peaceful healing music and New Age aficionados looking for a unique sonic treat are strongly advised to check out this colorfully packaged album of rare musical insights. www.MysteriumMusic.com

PINK HEDGEHOG – One of the quirkiest pop-rock labels in the U.K. Pink Hedgehog are back in 2015 with a new CD by The Inexperienced, featuring the music of multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Alex Meadows. The album, called Too Inexperienced features a wide swath of offbeat pop and borders along the lines of mid to late 1960s Ray Davies, Syd Barrett, Orch-pop and even White Album era Beatles. Writing and recording on his own, Meadows plays bass in the band of famed pop crooner Tom Jones, and come to think of it, some of the tracks on Too Inexperienced are a little glitzy sounding, in a positive way. Anyway, it’s all very U.K. flavored as can be expected by Pink Hedgehog, who were the original label behind current U.K. retro pop favorites Schnauser. There’s also a bit of Brian Wilson influenced retro pop on several cuts, which are each expertly recorded and produced by Alex Meadows. There’s even a humorous space age instrumental that closes the album. With this debut CD by The Inexperienced, Pink Hedgehog strikes a positive tone for quirky, retro-flavored alt-pop. www.PinkHedgehog.com

RAMSEUR RECORDS – With the 2015 CD release of Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, singer-songwriter and guitarist Samantha Crain is quickly en route to establishing herself as a world class artist. Once again recording in San Francisco with producer John Vanderslice, on her latest CD, Ms. Crain has surrounded herself with some fine musicians, including the swirling keyboard skills of John Calvi Abney and a host of string players. All of the excellent playing and production on the album would mean nothing without the songs but happily, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is filled with songs that linger long and feature ample hooks. It’s hard to pick out certain tracks as the album has a unique flow and rhythm but track 2, “Kathleen” is both haunting and memorable while “Outside The Pale” is another highlight. Throughout the 10 track CD, Ms. Crain’s songs and voice are tastefully cradled by producer Vanderslice, who she credits as getting some excellent results here. Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is ostensibly a type of 21st century folk-rock, yet with the snappy production work, the album takes on a more progressive, modern rock edge to it. As cool as Ms. Crain’s 2013 CD, Kid Face is, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is perhaps the album that will finally put her on the map big time. www.SamanthaCrain.com

RECKLESS RECORDS Over in the U.K., the band known as The Brainiac 5 are keeping the spirit of U.K. pop-rock alive and well on their 2015 CD Exploding Universe. Much like the CD cover art, the music within contains a touch of tongue in cheek humour and plenty of solid rockin’ sounds. The B5 web site mentions influences like The Move, The Yardbirds, Spirit and even Funkadelic. One could also mention The Kinks and late ‘70s post punk era influences like Ian Dury as there’s a definite psychedelic-flavored punk-rock spirit here. Lead singer / guitarist Charlie Taylor sounds influenced by Ray Davies and there’s plenty of solid backup from John “Woody” Wood (bass) Wayne Worrell (drums), Nic Onley (sax, flute) and Duncan “Mad Dog” Kerr (guitars). Speaking about the unique name of the band and the surreal CD cover art, Charlie Taylor tells mwe3.com, "Our drummer at the time was a big DC comics fan – he came up with the name. DC and Marvel comics were easily available in the UK in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We all loved Doctor Strange! Woody, our, bass player, designed the cover. It’s based on the mediaeval alchemists’ idea that the universe is actually a very large human being, so the image represents the moment of the Big Bang, the creation of the universe." Released by the renowned Reckless Records label, The Brainiac Five CD is superbly recorded and and it’s well presented with cool cover art and packaging. Fans of U.K. pop and rock will catch a buzz off of the exuberant and often over the top grooves on Exploding Universe by The Brainiac 5. www.Brainiac5.co.uk

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT – It’s beginning to look like The Kinks will never make another album together. The band transformed the way rock music evolved during their heyday 1965 to 1986, the year they made their last true masterpiece Think Visual. That sobering thought has never stopped the band’s lead guitarist Dave Davies, from making great studio albums and he lives up to his legendary reputation with the 2015 CD release of Rippin’ Up New York City: Live At The City Winery. The Kinks used to do these incredible concerts at the finest venues in New York, including Carnegie Hall and The Beacon Theater, yet even in the humble surroundings of this smaller, less prestigious venue, Dave is able to recreate some of his famous Kinks’ magic. Recorded in November, 2014, Rippin’ Up NYC features the Kinks icon backed by a solid band, including Jigsaw Seen members Jonathan Lea (guitars) and Tom Currier (bass, keys), along with drummer Dennis Diken of The Smithereens. Dave’s no kid anymore and he sounds a little slower though no less passionate about recreating a number of his best Kinks songs along with Kinks tracks written by his brother Ray Davies. With one great song after the next, Rippin’ Up Time is a splendid look into the current state of affairs of a true rock music guitar hero. www.DaveDavies.com

ROCK BARN RECORDS – Metaphysical rock is getting harder to find, what with so many modern masters retiring or gone. One new band carrying on the spirit of 1969 again is Winnipeg, Canada based Teleharmonium. The band’s 2015 album is called The Mother Generator. Funny how a rarely heard of instrument called the “Telharmonium” was the forerunner of some electronic synth keyboards. The eight track CD features the music of singer –songwriter Jonathan Kroeker, who is joined by a range of gifted players including Justin Kroeker (bass), Will Neufield (keys), Mandy Kroeker (vocals), James Neufeld ( drums) and album co-producer / engineer Adam Pauls (lead guitar). Specializing in vintage psychedelia, retro sci-fi prog-rock and more, the band adds in a liberal dose of mellotron keyboards and the sounds echo a cross between early Pink Floyd and XTC mixed in with a dash of John Cale / Lou Reed in Velvet Underground. More important, these quasi-psychedelilc tracks have hooks. The CD cover art is equally mysterious and serves to enhance the music. Some have categorized Teleharmonium as being prog, and there are traces of prog here, yet this is more underground sounding and very 21st century. The Mother Generator serves its purpose to introduce the intriguing musical vision of Teleharmonium. www.Teleharmonium.bandcamp.com

ROCK COMPANY – Over in Holland the band known as Forest Field are changing the face of rock with their 2015 CD entitled Angels? Well actually, the band is the brainchild of Peter Cox, supported here by U.S. based singer Phil Vincent. Based in the south of Holland, Forest Field borrows from stadium rock and a heavy, 21st century, New Age instrumental mix. Speaking about working with lead vocalist Phil Vincent, Cox tells mwe3.com , "We both liked working together so much that Phil agreed to become the dedicated singer for Forest Field. Angels? is our third album together. I think it is a shared love for The Beatles, Winger etc that makes us sound good together. We are both from a hard rock / prog-rock musical background. Phil does not need much guidance to work his magic." Apparently, Cox has a thing for big sounding rock arrangement ala Styx or YES and an equal and even more impressive penchant for instrumental music that sounds like Tull or Genesis on their melodic wordless tracks. Receiving the vocal mixes from singer Phil Vincent in the U.S., through the art of internet magic, Peter Cox manages to get a large well recorded rock sound down on the CD that is quite impressive. What’s even more impressive are Peter's guitar chops which he filters in liberally on the vocal tracks and even more on the instrumentals. International rock fans take note: Forest Field has a steadily increasing number of albums out and more on the way. With the 2015 CD release of Angels?, it’s prime time to check out this fine Dutch prog-rock treat. www.ForestField.nl / www.RockCompany.nl

RUDE CHORD RECORDINGSDublin, Ireland-based M-Opus takes you back in time to the future of prog with their 2015 CD entitled 1975 Triptych. It’s true these guys missed out on the incredible 1967 – 1973 era of how rock morphed into progressive rock, yet they do their best to find generation-spannng common ground on the 3 part CD, which clocks in around 50 minutes. M-Opus centers around the talents of multi-instrumentalists Jonathan Casey and Colin Sullivan who are joined on the CD, in the studio by several drummers. M-Opus is definitely 21st century progressive rock that borrows from anything including space music, ethnic modalities and instruments as well as a new type of prog. Casey’s vocals are effective and never intrude upon the music, which is mostly fitted with extended instrumental passages filled with soaring synthesized orchestral parts. Speaking about his musical goals with M-Opus, Jonathan Casey tells mwe3.com, "I had been composing music for TV and films; I must have written in every possible style you can think of. Then I asked myself, given that these clients get me to write music in the styles they want; what if I was the client? If I had any choice, what music would I want to hear and play? The sound of the 1970s is the sound that resonates with me the most. Almost all of my favorite albums are from that time. All of my favorite musical elements were there, symphonic aspects, the rock sound, unusual rhythms, exciting musicianship, complex harmonies, soulful vocals, exploratory ideals…So that was the answer. I’ll pretend I’m back in that era and compose accordingly." Well recorded and packaged with booklet and lyrics, 1975 Tryptych by M-Opus is a solid, sci-fi influenced progressive rock album for the 21st century. www.m-opus.com

RUNE GRAMMOFON – Norway continues to amaze the pop world with the third album from the band called The Last Hurrah!! Rune Grammofon is a well established label and with the 2015 CD release of Mudflowers they’ve produced a minor pop miracle. Harking back to the American West Coast sound of the late 1960s and early '70s, Mudflowers is a fine showcase for producer / songwriter HP Gunderson. Working here with lyricist Leslie Ahern and singer Maesa Pullman, Gunderson has crafted a unique kind of 21st century Beatles-inspired sound with songs that feature certified pop hooks. Track two, “The Weight Of The Moon” is very much in the spirit of George Harrison and Jeff Lynne as well. On this track especially, but throughout the album, Gunderson’s guitar work sounds Harrison-esque and the L.A. based Maesa Pullman really shines as the lead vocalist on a number of tracks. There’s also some excellent steel guitar from Marty Rifkin that kind of echoes The Byrds during their Sweetheart Of The Radio era. As if to prove talent runs in the family, Maesa’s sister Rosa Pullman also sings a couple of tracks here and the CD is filled with excellent studio work from a wide number of players. If the goal of The Last Hurrah!! was to create a great album of retro L.A. pop, then Mudflowers is a musical success. www.RuneGrammofon.com

RUNNING MOOSE – 45 years after rock really took off in Finland, it looks like there will never be as great a composer of orchestra rock as the late great Pekka Pohjola. Pohjola has influenced a range of rock composers from Finland over the years and the next generation keeps that rock fusion edge alive and well. It’s true that in addition to his composer legacy, Pekka Pohjola was also a first rate bass player who could jam with the best of them. One such younger 21st century band following in that electric jazz-rock edge is Moonwagon. Featuring the guitars of Joni Tiala, the Moonwagon sound takes in elements of Pojola-esque jazz rock, with the accent on electrifying dynamics. Joni gets plenty of aid from his Moonwagon rhythm section – Janne Ylikorpi (bass, keys) and drummer / vocalist Jani Korpi. On their 2015 CD The Rule Of Three, there are a couple vocals but the accent is on a new and fresh sounding Finnish style instro rock fusion that incorporates that classic ‘70s Finnish fusion edge and something new. Another thing Pekka Pohjola was good at, especially in the 1970s, was jamming. In fact, many Finnish bands from the 1970s and 1980s were into extended tracks with complex jazzy chord changes and that's another thing Moonwagon excel in. One could hear a sense of Finnishness in the grooves of The Rule Of Three. There’s plenty of searing electric lead guitar work and soft pad synth sounds to make Moonwagon sound like the Finnish version of Ozric Tentacles. Joni Tiala is well known in Finland thanks to his work in Moonwagon as well as his folk duet outlet, Vellamo. With The Rule Of Three, Moonwagon takes Finnish space-jazz to higher ground. www.facebook.com/Moonwagonband

SONY MUSIC – A mainstay on the world-wide electronic music scene for the past 40 years, Jean-Michel Jarre returned in 2015 with Electronica 1 – The Time Machine. Instead of falling back on past successes, Jarre breathes new life into the venerable synth music world with Electronica 1 – The Time Machine by pairing his music with some excellent collaborators. Mostly, the collaborators are like minded artists but there is a strange track here with Pete Townshend that is truly harrowing. For his track, entitled “Travelator Pt.2”, Townshend agreed to add lyrics and some riffs and it has a Who vibe with added electronics. Some of better known of the 16 artists adding vocals or further electronics include Air, Little Boots, Moby, Tangerine Dream and Laurie Anderson, with Ms. Anderson having worked with Jarre in the early 1980s. The Tangerine Dream track, “Zero Gravity”, featuring Jarre working with the late Edgar Froese, truly brings out best of two electronic music icons and is the high point of the album. Track by track liner notes by Jarre and intro by Phil Alexander of MOJO magazine offers new insights into Jarre’s long awaited comeback. Electronica 1 – The Time Machine is essential for Jarre’s fan base and is giant leap forward for 21st century electronica with its sonic décor and myriad of bold musical moves. www.JeanMichelJarre.com

STRANGER RECORDS – The U.K. band known as Duke Special have been releasing some great albums over the past five years. Specializing in theatrical rock music, Duke Special rose to fame with their 2010 masterpiece album Presents Songs From Mother Courage and likewise, the 2015 CD release of Look Out Machines! simmers with a unique kind of 21st century glam rock. At the center of the band’s sound is Duke Special himself (real name Peter Wilson), and with his vocals and songs at the core, there’s much here to appreciate while he gets great back up from a bunch of great musicians such as Phil Wilkinson. Much like Bowie did on albums like Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane, Duke merges catchy pop with daring and driving rock anthems that hold up and actually improve with repeat spins. One of the great songs here “Nail On The Head” is just part of a wider musical conspiracy but the title track is nothing to sneer at. The album sound is first rate with the booklet printing all the song lyrics while the cover art is suitably strange. Look Out Machines! is a great way to discover the magic rock sound of Duke Special. www.dukespecial.com

STRANGIATO RECORDS – The country of Estonia might not be very well known in North America, yet it continues to amaze music lovers with some mighty fine progressive rock albums. Both instrumental rock styles and more traditional progressive rock are two clear elements in play on the release of Thank And Share, the 2015 CD by Estonian singer-songwriter and band leader Indrek Patte. The eight track CD release of Thank And Share features Indrek in the studio, backed up by some of Estonia’s finest guitarists, including guitarist Kalle Vilpuu, who has released several fine albums. Both Indrek and Kalle are master musicians who seem to thrive in the high tech arena of progressive rock. And also of note, both musicians are truly recording perfectionists, equally at home in the music-making atmosphere of the recording studio. Kalle Vilpuu is just one of the key musicians on Thank And Share, which features a range of players. Musically, Thank And Share is all over the musical map. Some have compared Indrek to singer-songwriter Neil Morse. Both excel in progressive rock formats and both hold to their Christian beliefs and sometimes bring it out in their music. Indrek’s voice is high pitched and is slightly reminiscent of Jon Anderson of YES. Thank And Share rocks when it has to and is also highly meditative as well, most notably on track six, “The Servant Soul”, which blends New Age progressive rock with a more direct Christan rock blend of sounds that offers a truly heavenly musical moment worthy of repeat plays, while Kalle Vilppu’s guitar solo enhances the track. Also of note is the instrumental track here “In Memories”. Clearly, instrumental prog-rock is another field that the Estonian composers seem to thrive in. The CD closes out with “Share” – another monumental sounding and sweeping prog-rock opus that Indrek seems to excel in. Indrek’s Estonian accent sometimes makes it challenging to follow the lyrics, but they are thankfully reprinted in the CD booklet and the overall CD packaging and studio sound are also first rate. Estonian musicians have been greatly influenced by the amazing prog-rock music from England and Finland over the years, yet, with incredible sounding breakthrough artists such as Indrek Patte making music as intriguing as Thank And Share, Estonia is well on its way to finding an even more unique musical voice of its own. Among the rising, 21st century Estonian prog-rockers, Indrek Patte breaks down musical borders with Thank And Share. www.IndrekPatte.com

 


INSTRUMENTAL

 

AETHERIUS SOCIETY – In early 2015, electronic music composer Kevin Kendle released his album Illuminations and late in 2015 Kevin teamed with spoken word meditation guru Richard Lawrence for the CD release of Rise – Peace Meditations With Music. Electronic music fans know Kevin’s work for its state of the art sound, but for those just tuning in here, Richard Lawrence was influenced by Dr. George King - a renowned trance medium. Pairing Richard’s soothing and uplifting words with Kevin’s New Age music, Rise is perfect for guided meditations and healing therapy sessions. Although more self-help guided meditations than music, the pairing of these two inspirational artists will find a home among fans of both New Age electronic music and self-help, healing spoken word meditations. With titles like “Breathe”, "Energise”, “Pray” and “Karma”, Rise will bring listeners to higher levels of relaxation and inner harmony. www.aetherius.org

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC
– Many guitar fans will tell you that jazz is the most sublime musical art form. Free of the rigid chord structures and arrangements, jazz improvisations take songs we all know and love to strange and beautiful destinations. Case in point is the 2015 CD release of Six String Solos from New York City area guitarist Bob DeVos. A master of the jazz guitar art form, DeVos is in rare form on the Six String Solos. Jazz fans will know these songs but newcomers may have a hard time placing them with the exception of a fresh DeVos cover of “Summertime”, the George Gershwin original. Commenting on Six String Solos in the CD liner notes, DeVos adds, “I wanted to capture the spontaneity of a live performance. I sought, as always, for my improvisations to be a logical extension of the songs.” Jazz fans and fans of the Great American Songbook will thoroughly enjoy the mastery of the jazz guitar art form of Six String Solos. www.BobDeVosJazzGuitar.com

ANGEL SONGS PRODUCTIONS / RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT – Currently serving as the keyboardist in the trio version of 2015 version of The Moody Blues, Alan Hewitt is making waves with his 2015 CD Evolution. Credited to Alan Hewitt & One Nation, the twelve track CD is a bit of a departure for Moodies fans in that it’s an all instrumental smooth jazz / rock fusion CD filled with soaring keyboards and easy on the ears sonic sounds. Hewitt’s band is first rate throughout, featuring Jamie Glaser (guitars), Sonny Emory (drums) and Jervonny Collier (bass). Other players assist and there’s even guest spots from guitarist Orianthi. The album’s one vocal track, featuring singer Alex Boye isn’t bad but it isn’t representative of the album. Overall, Alan Hewitt’s album is a solid pick for jazz-rockers and smooth jazz fans looking to see what the Moodies keyboardist is up to on his own. The artwork is appealing and the recorded sound is also noteworthy. Evolution is an ear-opening look into the music of Moody Blues keys man Alan Hewitt. www.AlanHewittAndOneNation.com

BLUE HEN RECORDS – So many guitar greats have left us in the living on Earth world, including guitar great Les Paul who died during that fateful summer of 2009. Even though that’s a reality, there’s still some great guitarists carrying forth Les Paul’s guitar vision and you can add the name Jim Campilongo to that list. Jim echoes Les Paul’s guitar greatness and brings back the fun of other classic guitar heroes no longer recording today, including the late great Chet Atkins and other retired heroes like Steve Cropper and James Burton. Jim Campilongo puts it all together in style on his 2015 CD, entitled Last Night, This Morning. Credited to Jim Campilongo & Honeyfingers, the 12 track all instrumental CD is superbly recorded and quite tastefully produced by Jim and Luca Benedetti. The CD features a range of guitarists who appear, backing Jim’s vision, including Luca, so the CD is kind of a guitar summit of sorts. Even with so many great players, the accent is purely on Jim’s original music, and the album features some of his most memorable tracks indeed. There’s even a countrified instro version of the Beatles’ favorite “She’s A Woman”, which sounds like the ghost of Chet Atkins. Guitar fans don’t miss Jim Campilongo’s Last Night, This Morning. www.JimCampilongo.com

BLUJAZZ PRODUCTIONS
– Canadian guitarist Galen Weston covers all the jazz-rock bases on his 2015 CD entitled, Plugged In. The CD sounds very inspired by the jazz-fusion guitar school of fretboard greats like Carl Verheyen and Eric Johnson, but clearly, on the twelve track Plugged In CD, Galen dives deep into a number of music genres. The all-instrumental nature of the album is greatly enhanced by first rate sonic support from a number of musicians, including drummer Al Cross. The cover art of Plugged In features Galen in the throes of his art and the CD features in depth liner notes from noted jazz scribe Bill Milkowski. Commenting on the album, Galen states, “Plugged In represents a type of sonic exploration; a two year journey I took with my yellow Stratocaster, my ES-335 and many other beloved instruments. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have.” With the 2015 CD release of Plugged In, Toronto-based guitarist Galen Weston is off to a great start and he’s promising more high quality sounds in the future. www.GalenWeston.org / www.BluJazz.com

BUZZ MUSIC RECORDSHolland-based guitarist Marnix Busstra is one of the finest guitarists on the 21st century Euro-jazz scene. In 2013 Marnix released his critically acclaimed CD Sync Dreams and in 2015 he followed back up with an album of all new jazzy, fusion instrumentals called Firm Fragile Fun. The same band Marnix recorded with on Sync Dreams returns for his new one which finds Marnix backed up in the studio by Arnold Dooyeweerd (bass), Pieter Bast (drums) and Rembrandt Frerichs (piano). Since he was a kid, Marnix has had jazz running through his blood and you can also tell he has an extensive classical music background, especially modern masters like Bartok. Marnix has worked with American jazz great Mike Maineri and you can hear that vivid, syncopated jazz sound throughout the entire Firm Fragile Fun CD. Asked about trying to put a defining characteristic on his diverse approach to jazz and jazz-fusion, Marnix tells mwe3.com, "To be honest, I don’t really care what anyone wants to call it. I believe the main identity of music is made by the musicians who are playing it. But you could call it ‘free rock, moody bop jazz with a hint of ethnic flavors’, or ‘funky neoclassical world jazz’ or whatever. I think jazz always absorbed all kind of influences, and nowadays, a good jazz musician can deal with and improvise in all kinds of styles, without losing his own identity. That gives a lot of freedom and possibilities!" Marnix has cited guitar greats like Scofield and Santana as being influences, yet there’s also a range of innovative and original jazzy sounds pulsing through Firm Fragile Fun. Backed up by a solid band of like-minded musicians, on Firm Fragile Fun Marnix Busstra delivers another winning album of uptempo, jazz guitar-based fusion instrumentals. www.MarnixBusstraBand.nl

CARMO-PRIESTER - The spirit of guitar fusion music is alive and well in Brazil on the 2015 CD release of Our Lives, 13 Years Later… by the duo of Aquiles Priester and Gustavo Carmo. Instrumental hard rock is tough to make as it has a tendency to go overboard but here, the sound is balanced and played with enough rock energy and musical smarts to make it work out. Gustavo’s guitar work will find a home among fans of hard rock and instro metal sounds while the drumming of Aquiles keeps up with the musical twists and turns. There are a few musical surprises, including guest spots by Kevin Moore (keys), Nili Brosh (guitars), Tony McAlpine (keys), Vinnie Moore (guitars) and Greg Howe (guitars). There’s even a cover of classical guitar icon Andrew York on a bonus track here called “Jubilation / Sunburst”, played by Gustavo on acoustic guitar. Hard rock instrumental fans will find much to like about this fine album by Aquiles Priester and Gustavo Carmo. email: GustavoCarmo@gmail.com

CHESHIRE RECORDS – Back in the 1980’s, guitarist / composer Eric Tingstad rose to fame during the, then burgeoning Contemporary Instrumental and New Age music boom. Recording for the Narada Productions label, Tingstad went on to release a number of albums on Narada between 1987 and 2004. Perhaps his most popular albums were made with Tingstad & Rumbel, a duo he formed with woodwinds player Nancy Rumbel and in 2003, Tingstad & Rumbel’s album Acoustic Garden won a Grammy award. In 2007, Tingstad released Southwest, a Grammy nominated instrumental album that features his unique Americana sound. That album was followed by Badlands and in 2015 Eric Tingstad is back with an all new Americana flavored instrumental album called Mississippi. Fans of Tingstad’s impeccable acoustic Americana sound will love this CD, which is just flowing with a unique blend of instrumental acoustic guitar sounds that tastefully combines blues, folk, jazz and even New Age music. Some other comparisons might be to Mark Knopfler’s earthy instrumental soundtrack flavored music. The album’s focus is centered on Tingstad’s impressions of the Mississippi Delta region of the U.S. which has been called the “Cradle Of American Music.” In fact, there’s a unique instrumental country music sound on Mississippi too. That country instrumental guitar sound is brought to life on the all original album with a sweet sounding cover of the classic “Danny Boy”, which springs to life here as a toe-tapping 4/4 shuffle. A number of musicians assist Tingstad, giving the album a solid, lush sound. Commenting on Mississippi, Tingstad explains, “This is the music I play when I am just hanging out – open G tuning, the mixolydian mode and some chicken pickin’. These are my roots and pretty much who I have always been.” Featuring eleven tracks of guitar magic, Mississippi is a welcome return from a sometimes underrated, always gifted American guitar hero. www.erictingstad.com

CLAVO RECORDS – The late great jazz pianist Dr. Clare Fischer is honored on the 2015 CD release of Out Of The Blue. The album features key contributions from his son Brent Fischer, who took a number of tracks by his father and added some new tracks and some spiffy remastering too. Over the course of his long career, Dr. Fischer recorded a range of albums and worked as a pianist and arranger for a number of groups and artists even going back to the pop-vocal band the Hi-Lo’s in the late 1950’s. Fischer’s specialty was not only in his arranging skills but also his impeccable piano, synth and keyboards skills. For his part as the album producer, arranger and percussionist, Brent Fischer has done a remarkable job getting the CD to sound flawless, from recording and mixing to mastering the final product. Out Of The Blues features a range of Clare Fischer originals along with unique instrumental jazz covers of classics from the pens of legends like Mancini, Reinhardt and Jobim. Embellishing Dr. Fischer’s keyboards is the excellent drumming work of Peter Erskine and Mike Shapiro. In addition to the 14 tracks on the CD, the album also benefits from the heartfelt liner notes of Dr. Fisher’s son Brent who promises even more retrospectives from the vaults of his father. Jazz enthusiasts will love the pure jazz magic of Clare Fischer’s Out Of The Blue. www.ClareFischer.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS – In late 2015, L.A. based Cleopatra Records released a 3 CD box set featuring guitar icon John Jorgenson. Renowned for his session work and his groundbreaking 1990’s albums with Jerry Donahue in The Hellecasters, Jorgenson is well represented on the well-titled Divertuoso. The triple set showcases three distinct sides of Jorgenson’s myriad guitar personality – bluegrass vocal music that borrows from country music, a second CD of the guitarist’s fascination with instrumental Gypsy Jazz music and a third album encompassing what long time Hellecasters fans have been waiting for: a 12 track rock instrumental album by Jorgenson. Entitled Gifts From The Flood, that third CD is an instrumental jazz-rock tribute CD honoring guitars that John rescued and then restored during and after the Biblical floods of Nashville in 2010. The box set features excellent packaging with each CD packaged in a miniature vinyl LP looking sleeve, complete with inside dust jacket, and topped off by an in depth CD booklet with notes by the guitarist. Country bluegrass fans, Gypsy Jazz fans and instrumental rockers will enjoy the truly diversified guitar sounds of John Jorgenson's Divertuoso. www.JohnJorgenson.com

COSTAS BALTAZANIS MUSIC – The internationalization of jazz-rock fusion continues as a world wide phenomenon. Guitarists are packing up their cases and traveling and recording everywhere, much to the delight and benefit of music fans. Originally from Greece and now based in NYC, guitarist Costas Baltazanis is making jazz-rock fans happy with his 2015 CD, entitled End Of Seas. The all instrumental CD feature one vocal track featuring singer-guitarist Camila Meza, but for the most part the nine track CD features a stellar mix of jazz-rock and modern mainstream jazz that could also appeal to fusion fans. The trumpet sound of Dan Brantigan is a unique sounding foil to Costas’ guitar sound, which echoes greats like Pat Metheny, John Scofield and the Euro-centric sound of French jazz guitar legend Jean Pierre Llabador. Costas is no newcomer to the recording world, having appeared on a number of albums, including the Greek band, Iasis. There’s a number of stand out tracks, including track 5 “Nairobi Kiss”, which just sizzles with sonic intrigue. On End Of Seas, a range of fine musicians, and two drummers, help Costas flesh out his solid jazz-fusion sound. International jazz-rock fusion at its best. End Of Seas is a solid introduction to the guitar expertise of Costas Baltazanis. www.CostasBaltazanis.com

DECCA RECORDS – One of the best of a new generation of classical guitarists, Xuefei Yang comes from Beijing China. Hard to believe there was a time when Western music was banned in China and even certain instruments were banned. Xuefei has been at the forefront of the classical guitar world and she caught the eye and ear of world renowned classical guitarist John Williams while she studied the guitar in school. Perhaps the most incredible thing beyond Ms. Yang’s command and precision of the classical fretboard is her understanding of the feel and soul of the music on her 2015 CD, entitled Heartstrings, released on the U.K. Decca label. Recorded in the U.K., the 19 track, 70 minute CD not only includes new versions of well established classical repertoire but there are also adaptations of several folk music themes and music written by Andrew York and John Williams. Combining familiar and experimental guitar repertoire, Ms. Yang has it covered on Heartstrings. With her deep CD liner notes, Ms Yang clearly depicts herself as a fan of the guitar, writing about so many erstwhile architects of fretboard logic, while faithfully recording their music and making vital again today. Heartstrings is a well presented and artfully recorded classical guitar album. www.XuefeiYang.com

DEEP EDDY RECORDS – Deep Eddy strikes surf-rock gold again with the 2015 CD by the Iowa based band called Surf Zombies. The band’s 14 track CD is called It’s A Thing and it’s teeming with powerful surf-rock instrumental sounds. The CD is quite a lot of fun in a retro-tinged way. Guitarist Brook Hoover gets solid back up from his band including Trevor Treiber (bass), Tyler Russell (drums) and Ian Williams (guitar). The CD packaging is very cool complete with 1960s style art, including spooky monsters style artwork. Surf Zombies mention a number of musical influences on their album including Link Wray, Dick Dale and The Ramones and The Cramps so if you like your surf instrumentals hard and fast, Surf Zombies are for you. Four albums into their career, Surf Zombies hit a sweet spot with the righteous instro rock sound of It’s A Thing. www.deepeddy.net

DEEP EDDY
– Texas-based Deep Eddy Records is a great source for solid, twangy guitar instrumental albums and a good example of the modern American twang sound can be heard on the latest CD by The Derangers. The 2014 CD by The Derangers is called The Legend Of Daphne Blue And The Westernmental Sound. The 13 track CD features a mix of original guitar instrumental tracks written by Derangers guitar ace Drew Townson, with the exception of “Twang ‘Em High!”, a spoof on “Hang ‘Em High” and a Derangers take on Jimmy Webb’s classic “Wichita Lineman”. The album has a bit of a blue edge as it’s dedicated to the late Dana Townson. At the core of the album is Drew’s blue Strat, that he calls “Daphne Blue”, and which he uses on every track. Rockin’ out with Drew on the CD are other fine players including Adam Cat (bass), Al Harper (rhythm, lead guitar) and Paul Gallo (drums). The Derangers get a great sound on The Legend Of Daphne Blue and the album will hold great fascination among fans of the time-honored surf-rock instrumental guitar sound. www.derangers.com

ECLIPSE MUSIC – Ever since the death of Pekka Pohjola on November 27, 2008, the music world has suffered a dearth of classic instrumental rock. Being as Pohjola was one of the originals who crafted the artform as far back as 1970, it’s been difficult to replace or even create that level of greatness again. One artist reaching back to those levels is Finland’s latest orchestral rock composer Juha Kujanpää. Juha turned heads around with his first album Tales And Travels and with the 2015 CD release of Goldwing, (Finnish title: Kultasiipi), he hits even new musical heights. It’s kind of eerie to hear echoes of how Pohjola’s music impacted the generation that followed him but Juha lives up to his word with Goldwing, summoning up classic Finnish orchestral melodies and wrapping them up in arrangements that would impress even a stalwart like Pekka Pohjola. Juha’s band on Goldwing is first rate, with guitarist Timo Kämäräinen, bassist Tero Tuovinen, drummer Jussi Miettola and a string section as well as assorted winds, accordion and more. There may never be another Finnish composer as gifted as Pekka Pohjola but on Goldwing, Juha Kujanpää has crafted a Finnish flavored instrumental jazz-fusion album that would even impress a pioneer and perfectionist like the late, great Pekka Pohjola. www.JuhaKujanpaa.com / www.eclipse-music.net

EONE – In 2015 Long Island based Eone music released a new album from guitarist Jesse Cook. Cook is best known for his excellent flamenco style guitar work yet on One World, Cook stretches his musical muscles and results are truly satisfying. In addition to his patented style of classical guitar playing, One World also blends in a wealth of classically inspired melodic content balanced by a variety of World Beat rhythms, high tech wizardry and electronic effects. Several musicians form the core of Cook’s band and add some excellent sonic coloration to the mix. Also on One World is a guest appearance by guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. Commenting on adding electronic sounds to One World, Cook explains, “I’ve always been interested in music technology, but on this record I gave it a wider scope.” Long time Cook fans will eat this album up and perhaps, with its impeccable sound and vision, One World is the album that will push Jesse Cook to the top of the guitar world. www.eonemusic.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Part of the great Cherry Red group of labels, Esoteric Antenna is keeping the spirit of progressive rock alive and well with Transgression the 2015 CD Theo Travis’ Double Talk. Featuring the music of Theo Travis, playing sax, flutes, and Fender Rhodes, the album really kicks off with a bang on the first track “Fire Mountain”, featuring the blistering guitars of Mike Outram. The title track “Transgression” features some great Rick Wright-like keyboards before blooming into the 12 minute magnum opus it turns out to be. The chemistry between Travis and his quartet borders on ESP and what’s even more brilliant is that the music finds the perfect match in these great musicians. Just about every genre of music is covered on this all-instrumental masterpiece. Although progressive rock is at its core, there’s also a bluesy, Peter Green inspired track here called “Smokin’ At Klooks”, perhaps a nod to the legendary London jazz club Klook’s Kleek. Although Travis gained acclaim working with giants of prog, such as Robert Fripp, Transgression is way more fun and fresh and takes prog in even more accessible directions. Extra points for the excellent mixing and mastering courtesy of Steven Wilson. www.TheoTravis.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA Breaking down walls for experimental and minimalist electronic music, Stephen W Tayler makes a statement all his own on the 2015 CD release of Ostinato. Released on the adventurous Esoteric Antenna label, the nine track Ostinato sounds influenced by classic minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass, yet there’s also something of a rock-centric energy on Ostinato. With a myriad of musical moves, the entire album has a dreamlike quality to it, a feel greatly enhanced by Tayler's legendary studio wizardry. Speaking to mwe3.com about Ostinato, Stephen explains, “These are the sounds and ideas that have lived in my mind... the sound of voices, choirs, organs, the piano, the clarinet, synthesizers, vocoders, places and environments, from the depths of my memory and across the years. I find it hard to categorize what genre this is... I tend to refer to it as a blend of minimal electronica, sound design and manipulation but there are actually many acoustic instruments and voices in there too. A world-renowned mixing and recording engineer, musician, composer and sound designer, Stephen W. Tayler breaks new ground for 21st century ambient electronic music with the fascinating sound of Ostinato. www.StephenTayler.com

EVERGREEN MUSIC
– The NYC-based band known as Tribecastan turned a lot of heads around with their 2013 CD New Songs From The Old Country and they’re back big time with a 2015 release, Goddess Polka Dottess. The 14 track CD continues with the band’s fascination regarding a vast range of World Music sounds that draws upon Balkan, Klezmer, Cajon, Zappa-esque instrumentals, Indian sitar sounds, 1960s psychedelic rock, Americana and even more. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a genre not covered on this superb sounding CD. Designed with ultra-cool cover art, Goddess Polka Dottess was produced by the sound team of player / composers John Kruth and Jeff Greene, who are joined by a host of musicians adding in all the exotica you could ever want to hear on an album. Speaking to mwe3.com about their unique working relationship in Tribecastan, John Kruth explains, "All the albums are co-produced by me and Jeff. I tend to write the bulk of the material as that's how I spend my time… writing music, when I'm not writing about music. Jeff is more visually oriented - a great draftsman and restorer of historical monuments. When Jeff and I write together it usually has to do with me helping to shape his compositions or him throwing an unexpected sound or scale into mine. We have pretty different approaches and different tastes in music but they tend to merge quite well." Both Kruth and Greene are masterful multi-instrumentalists and with the aid of all these fine musicians, Tribecastan hits a new high of World Music excellence with the color and exotic sounding Goddess Polka Dottess. www.EverGreeneMusic.com / www.TriBeCaStan.tv

GEP RECORDS - The spirit of instrumental jazz-rock fusion is alive and well in the country of Hungary. We’re talking about the 2015 CD from the band Special Providence entitled Essence Of Change. The Hungarians have long favored bands that excelled in instrumental art-rock. Avoiding the pitfalls of language barriers, with Essence Of Change, Special Providence are poised to reach out to a vast international market. Overall, the nine track CD features a memorable mix of instrumental jazz-rock fusion and a kind of 21st century mix of progressive rock-metal based sounds. With its near heavy metal approach, the Special Providence CD might take some listeners by surprise, yet the band quickly settles into a cool sonic groove that will amaze open minded jazz-rockers and capture rock metal guitar fans looking for some artistic jazzy, rock atmospheres. At the core of Special Providence are group of fine musicians, including Adam Markó (drums), Zsolt Kaltenecker (keys), Márton Kertész (guitar) and Attila Fehérvári (bass). With their varied and appealing instrumental sounds, Special Providence are taking the 21st century jazz-rock fusion scene by storm with the incredible Essence Of Change. www.SpecialProvidence.eu

GONDWANA RECORDS – A well rounded multi-instrumentalist, composer / trumpeter Matthew Halsall has made a solid album with the 2015 CD release of Into Forever, credited to Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra. In the spirit of 21st century U.K. composers such as John Metcalfe, Matthew Halsall works in a range of diverse and unique musical colors that he uses to shape his music. Combining jazz, pop, neo-classical, soundtrack sounds and more, Halsall gets excellent support from a number of musicians on Into Forever. Even though the eleven cut CD is mostly instrumental, there are a pair of excellent female vocalists that are featured on several tracks that expertly combine jazz and a new genre, best described as 21st century soul-jazz. Commenting on Into Forever, Halsall adds, “I love being a musician, love playing, but for me every note has to serve the music I hear in my head. I consider this my most personal record to date. It’s also the first time I’ve collaborated with vocalists, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.” Featuring a wide range of musicians, the album has a very convincing jazz-rock orchestral feel to it and as such, Into Forever will easily find support among neoclassical, pop and jazz fans. Those music fans lucky enough to hear it will get an earful of the strange and unique sounds of Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra. www.GondwanaRecords.com

GYPSOPHILIA MUSIC - Based up in Nova Scotia, Canada, the band known as Gypsophilia are breaking new ground for the art of Gypsy Jazz guitar-based instrumental music with their 2015 CD called Night Swimming. It’s true Gypsophilia features three fine guitarists, including Nick Wilkinson, Alec Frith and Ross Burns, but the band is not just guitar based and there’s also some fine violin playing by Gina Burgess, bass by Adam Fine, keyboards by Sageev Oore and horn playing by Matt Myer. Gypsophilia really takes the time-honored Gypsy Jazz tradition well into the future and overall, it’s clearly a sound that would appeal to fans of sound innovators such as Les Paul, as there’s some great studio wizardry and even some progressive, rock type leanings throughout the album. Extra points here for the outstanding production and mixing by Joshua Van Tassel, who adds in additional percussion and electronics. Overall, Night Swimming is a great introduction to Gypsophilia, a band that gives the art of Gypsy Jazz a new sparkle and shine. www.gypsophilia.org

HAMMOCK MUSIC – The band Hammock have been around for quite a while and their stately and somber soundscapes have enthralled many music fans. Speaking of Hammock, the artist known as Slow Meadow has released a CD on the Hammock Music label. Inspired by the Hammock approach to instrumental music, the self-titled Slow Meadow album features the musical vision of Matt Kidd. Keyboards prevail and the music is greatly enhanced by additional arranging of cellist Aimee Norris and other sting players. The sound of Slow Meadow combines the ethereal with the funereal and you’ll have a hard time deciding if you're en route to heaven or just dreaming about it. Members of Hammock also appear giving the album an even more polished glow. Somewhere between New Age and neoclassical, Slow Meadow keeps the sonic embers burning brightly. www.facebook.com/slowmeadow

HEART DANCE RECORDS – Virtuoso piano ace Scott Cossu came to the attention of music lovers during the rise of instrumental New Age music during the mid 1980s. Scott’s early works on the Windham Hill label earned him a lot of fans. Years flew by and following a number of solo albums, Scott returned in 2015 with Safe In Your Arms, a twelve track, 50 minute CD released Heart Dance Records. Featuring several rerecorded classics from the Windham Hill era as well as new music, Safe In Your Arms is offers a fine selection of tranquil, meditative sounding piano-centric tracks with Scott receiving fine assistance from his long time cohort, guitarist Van Manakas as well as a pair of flute players. Commenting on the album in the CD liner notes, Scott explains, ‘My goal was to produce a recording of tender lullabies and ballads, which returns to a signature musical style that I loved yesterday, as well as today.’ Recorded in Washington State, Safe In Your Arms brings the spirit of New Age piano music alive and well into the year 2015. In the spirit of his work for the Windham Hill label, Scott Cossu’s superbly recorded, all-instrumental Safe In Your Arms transcends language by crafting music that speaks volumes without words. www.ScottCossu.com

HORNBEAM RECORDINGS – U.K. based Hornbeam is one of the best folk music labels in England. In 2015 Hornbeam released Paley & Son from Tom & Ben Paley. Tom Paley is somewhat of a musical legend, having played with Woody Guthrie as well as being somewhat of an icon, back then, to younger players including Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and Jerry Garcia. Released 62 years after Ben first recorded for Elektra Records in 1953, the 16 track Paley & Son mixes a range of traditional instrumental and vocal music to great effect. With Tom playing guitar and banjo and Ben on fiddle, they get solid support from players like Cerys Matthews (vocals, guitar), BJ Cole (dobro), Rob Mason (harmonica) and others. Described as old school Americana, Paley & Son are based in the U.K. and their CD is essential listening for U.K. and American fans of traditional folk based music. As with all of the Hornbeam albums, the CD is superbly packaged with excellent liner notes and interview by Robin Denselow and Mike Gavin, in addition to track by track notes that sheds significant light on these traditional music gems. www.HornbeamRecordings.com

JAZZ GUITAR MUSIC – The best music never gets old. Artists, it’s true, are born and sadly die but the songs they wrote and recorded live on and that’s the way it is and will be. That said, sometimes an artist can come along and put a whole new spin on classic music. That’s the case with Remembering ‘Ol Blue Eyes, the 2015 Frank Sinatra tribute CD by NYC guitarist Lou Volpe. Only someone of Volpe’s guitar stature could actually add to even more greatness to Sinatra’s signature songs and reinterpret them with true finesse instrumentally. There’s no “Strangers In The Night”, “New York, New York” or “Something Stupid” here. Instead Lou brings his unique jazzy instrumental guitar touches to songs Frank made famous including evergreens like “It Was A Very Good Year”, “That’s Life”, “Softly As I Leave You” and eleven other tracks. Lou’s trademark sound is his fleeting, reverb soaked, jazzy lead lines and amazing timing. These songs, complete with complicated chord changes and written in some cases specifically for Frank, are not easy to play as instrumentals, yet Lou makes it all sound so easy on Remembering ‘Ol Blues Eyes. Some great players back Lou up on the 14 track CD, including Delmar Brown and Onaje Allan Gumbs (keys), Buddy Williams (drums) and much more. Jazz guitar fans who enjoy the timeless sounds of Sinatra and all the classic songs of the 1950s and ‘60s are well advised to track down Lou Volpe’s superbly recorded “Songs Of Sinatra” tribute CD, Remembering ‘Ol Blue Eyes. www.LouVolpeJazz.com

JERICO JAMS PRODUCTIONS – South Florida-based guitarist Randy Bernsen is back on the charts with his 2015 CD entitled Grace Notes. The eight track, all instrumental CD is filled with jumping jams and solid jazz-fusion extrapolations that sizzle under the power of Bernsen’s patented jazz-guitar stylings. It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years already since Bernsen hit the world stage with his MCA Records debut, Music For Planets, People And Washing Machines. Like that legendary album, Grace Notes finds Bernsen in the company of some esteemed musicians, including Yellowjackets cofounders Jimmy Haslip (bass) and Russell Ferrante (keys), Peter Erskine (drums), Jaco’s son Julius Pastorius (drums) and a whole lot more. Key to the success of Grace Notes is Bernsen’s upbeat, inventive guitar stylings. Bernsen adds in some intriguing guitar moves throughout the CD, which he calls “sound designs”. While most of the tracks are Bernsen originals, there is an inventive cover here of the 1970 Freddie Hubbard tack “Red Clay”, featuring Bernsen’s synth work, as well as a funky, upbeat cover of the Beatles’ 1965 classic “She’s A Woman”, which kind of echoes the 1975 Jeff Beck version, albeit this time with Bernsen adding a kind of country bluegrass flavor to it. Start to finish, there’s no shortage of inventive, swinging musical ideas to make Grace Notes one of the coolest jazz guitar fusion albums of 2015. www.RandyBernsen.com

KEVIN KELLER PRODUCTIONS – Composer Kevin Keller has made a name for himself thanks to his creative New Age instrumental albums. On his 2015 CD, La Strada, Kevin enters the world of soundtrack music and the results are quite remarkable. Preparing for La Strada, Kevin immersed himself in the world of great movie soundtracks like Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tree Of Life and actually composed new music with these movies in mind. Of course, those great soundtracks are decades old now yet Keller rises to the occasion with eight tracks of powerful and scenic sounding orchestral music. Assisting Keller on La Strada are The Salomé Chamber Orchestra and guitarist David Helping with ambient vocalist Marta Karamuz appearing on one track. At the core of La Strada is Keller’s inventive keyboard and powerful percussion / rhythm tracks. Long time fans will be amazed at the potency of Keller’s unique and original soundtrack like arrangements. Commenting on La Strada, Keller says, “The best experiences in life come from stepping outside the familiar, and doing something unexpected. I always strive to make something different from what I’ve already done, to find some new world, a new place from which to start the next journey”. On La Strada, composer Kevin Keller brings his New Age keyboard magic into the realm of instrumental soundtrack music and the results are sonically phenomenal. www.KevinKeller.com

MAH PRODUCTION – The unique twist on the 2015 CD by Mariea Antoinette is that she plays funky, R&B flavored smooth jazz on her harp. No, not a blues harp but on a real angelic sounding harp, like the one Harpo Marx played. The good thing is that on the 13 track Straight From The Harp is that she brings the time honored instro sound of R&B complete with dance music grooves into the 21st century with appealing results. Sultry sounding cameo vocals from female singers, including Chanel Fields, grace the album but the focus in on Mariea’s swirling harp sounds, which find solid backing from a full band. The album is filled with cover songs including tracks written by big names like Barry White, Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield and others. On Straight From The Harp, Mariea Antoinette puts a new spin on the sound of contemporary smooth jazz and instrumental R&B. www.MarieaAntoinette.com

MIKE HOWE MUSIC – On his latest CD, Lichens, multi-instrumentalist Mike Howe combines a number of instruments and the results make for one of most pleasant instrumental New Age albums of 2015. Having recorded for Real Music over the years, Lichens is the first CD on his own Mike Howe Sound label. To his credit, Howe puts the album together superbly, thanks to his expertise on acoustic and electric guitars, guitar synth, bass, keyboards and drums. Howe comes across as a one man band and to his credit, the album works quite well, especially as a late-night spin or as a way to unwind after a hard day’s night. In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, Howe is also a noted ecologist throughout his music you can hear his appreciation for natural landscapes. The CD ends with the album’s best cut called “Summer Road”, which is worth the price of admission alone. Mike Howe’s Lichens is one of the most sublime New Age instrumental music experiences of 2015. www.MikeHowe.com

MIND’S EYE MUSIC – Guitarist Vinnie Moore is an icon among heavy metal and instrumental guitar music fans. Unlike Scott Henderson, who is a jazz rocker, on his new album Aerial Visions, Vinnie Moore comes across as a hybrid guitar monster, sort of like Steve Morse meets Billy J. Gibbons of ZZ Top. Instrumentally, Moore is in top guitar form on his 2015 CD entitled Aerial Visions. Amid the hard hitting originals, there’s Moore’s solid ZZ Top cover of “La Grange”, Moore turns gracefully to a slice of melodic symphonic rock with his Hendrix meets George Harrison inspired track called “Looking Back” and equally so back to the rootsy, Allmans meets the Dregs sounding title track. Like Hendrix, Moore can dazzle you with fancy fretboard work and imaginative arrangements as well. There’s something of sonic value for all electric guitar fans on Vinnie Moore’s Aerial Visions. www.VinnieMoore.com

MODERN HOT RECORDS – Based in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, the group known as Pearl Django are keeping the spirit of swing jazz alive with their 2015, ten track CD entitled Time Flies… With their mix of instrumental jazz, in the finest “hot club” spirit of the late great Django Reinhardt, the quintet are rightfully being heralded as being one of America’s premier Gypsy Jazz groups. Actually, the sound of Pearl Django is more than that as they also blend in elements of jazz, folk and bluegrass too. The band features two gifted guitarists in Ryan Hoffman and Troy Chapman, who are joined by Rick Leppanen (acoustic bass), David Lange (accordion) and Michael Gray (violin). Even though they sound like a Django tribute band, this group also sounds quite authentic on their all original set. Actually the 12th CD by Pearl Django, Time Flies… does close out with a cover of the Luiz Bonfa Brazilian jazz classic “Black Orpheus / Manhã de Carnaval”. Somewhere in guitar heaven, the spirits of Django Reinhardt and Stefan Grappelli are smiling down on Pearl Django. www.PearlDjango.com

MODERNE SHELLAC – Any new CD release from Nashville based guitar / composer Richard Bennett is cause for celebration. That release is called Contrary Cocktail and is was released on CD during the first half of 2015. When he’s not out of the road or recording with Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, Richard can always be counted on to produce a solid album’s worth of classic and catchy guitar instrumentals. I use the term “pop” loosely because Richard, like Mark Knopfler are big fans of the great Hank Marvin, who kind of pioneered and influenced the course of both U.K. pop and rock instrumental guitar music starting in the late 1950s. Of course, throughout Contrary Cocktail, there’s plenty of wistful moments that conjure up the heyday of Chet, Duane, Hank and Les moments as well but it’s to Bennett’s credit that he excels in crafting guitar melodies that – while often echoing some journey to a kinder, gentler time – sound completely authentic. There’s a great band behind Richard throughout and Contrary Cocktail is quite tastefully recorded and produced by Richard and co-producer / multi-instrumentalist Brad Jones. The list of great American guitarists is long and extensive but clearly you can add the name of Richard Bennett to that list. www.Richard-Bennett.com

MONSTERS TEARS MUSIC – The French have always enjoyed the instrumental guitar music originated by giants like The Shadows and The Ventures. In 2015, the band known as Demon Vendetta released a CD called Vigilante Surf. The nine track CD features tracks with titles like “Real Surfers Wear Black”, “Hearse Full Of Souls” and “Fear Of A Surf Planet”. Instead of the time honored surf-rock tradition, Demon Vendetta sounds clearly influenced by horror movies, punk-rock and something they list on their press release called “horror rock”. Best described as “pure post-apocalyptic and urban surf music”, Vigilante Surf features the music and guitars of band member Nasty Samy, who is accompanied by his Vigilante Surf band members. Keeping in tradition with the darker, hard edged instro surf-rock sound, Demon Vendetta released another album in 2013 called Guardians Of The Bitter Sea, which true to form, was released only on vinyl LP. Both the CD release of Vigilante Surf, and the LP pressing of Guardians Of The Bitter Sea are well produced examples of French guitar rock and feature some wild and wooly album cover art. Curdled with blood, feedback, reverb and distortion, Demon Vendetta offers the finest in horrific, instro, mutant crossover surf music. www.DemonVendetta.com

MORPHEUS RECORDS – Over in Switzerland, the band known as Akku Quintet are busy redefining the course of progressive jazz fusion music. With the band’s second CD, entitled Molecules, Akku has recorded a kind of masterpiece of 21st century instrumental jazz-rock music. The band’s drummer Manuel Pasquinelli continues making waves with the Swiss fusion band Sonar and, with Akku he assumes a unique role of guiding yet another band to international acclaim. Assisting Manuel are a group of excellent musicians, including guitarist Markus Ischer. The sound is not unlike Sonar, yet there’s also a kind of free form, blissful chill-out groove sound similar to late period Gong, when yet another drummer, Pierre Moerlin, led that band. That percussive, highly rhythmic, super charged energy, that Moerlin brought to Gong, is also in abundance, in its own unique way, on Akku’s 2015 Molecules CD. Not only does Pasquinelli excel behind the kit, but, as the CD proves, he’s also an excellent composer and band leader. On their 2015 CD, Molecules, Manuel Pasquinelli and company demonstrates the power and the glory of artistically composed and performed instrumental jazz-rock fusion. www.facebook.com / www.AkkuQuintet.com

NEW EARTH RECORDS Back in the early 1970s, the sound of legendary cosmic music maker Deuter (pronounced Dóy-Ter) became popular in the then burgeoning progressive electronic and healing music genres. By 1985, New Age music, as it by then became known, was really taking off. One of the original New Age artists from the 1970s, Deuter has remained true to his art and he has recorded more than 60 albums. Since the late 1980s, Deuter has released 17 solo albums with the world renowned New Earth Records label. In 2015, Deuter returned with yet another New Age CD classic on New Earth called Illumination Of The Heart. Capturing his performance on a number of instruments, including flute, keyboards, cello, piano and guitar, Illumination Of The Heart is an excellent way to turn down the noise of life and chill out with some sublime instrumental music. On Illumination Of The Heart, the Santa Fe, New Mexico based Deuter does what he does best – which is to bring the spirit of music listeners to a higher spiritual level and a meditative state. Speaking about message behind Illumination Of The Heart Deuter explains, ‘I think I have basically two elements in my music. One is the constant dance on the edge of silence – moving into the silence and moving out of the silence. Now, every tone and sound does that because every sound starts and ends, and there’s always silence. When you hear the sound, especially the right sound, you experience for a moment the silence, which is always there inside us as well as outside, and which is the big nothing that everything comes out of. In music, I love to create a path out of the silence, a path to express the joy of being alive, and also a path back into the silence and the experience of the silence. The other element in my music comes from the fact that at the moment everything is going faster and faster. I think it is really, really important that we create a balance to this. We need to find a way for every person, somewhere and somehow, to have the time to experience their inner selves, to be able to relax, to feel, to question what you are doing, and to feel grateful to be alive. I try to make music that helps bring the listener to that place’. In the action-packed world of 2015, Deuter makes slowing down sound easier than it might be, at least for some, but overall, Deuter's new album is truly a sublime way to chill out and get back in touch with your life. A true blessing for his fans, Illumination Of The Heart is among the finest sounding Deuter albums yet. www.NewEarthRecords.com

OCTOPUS RECORDS
– Over in Finland, Kimmo Pohjonen is getting high marks for his 2015 album called Sensitive Skin. Hardly sensitive, the album rocks up a storm and features Kimmo’s accordion sounds bolstered by a full rock orchestra. The nine track album was superbly produced by James Spectrum and features Kimmo in the studio backed by some fine players including Timo Kamarainen (guitars), Sami Kuoppamaki (drums), The Kronos Quartet (the string quartet) and a host of electronics and synth wizardry. Sensitive Skin was recorded in Helsinki during 2014 and 2015. The album is mainly instrumental with occasional atmospheric vocal sounds from Inka and Saana Pohjonen. There’s so much going on here and as a result it’s very hard to categorize as it blends, rock, electronics, neoclassical and avant garde sounds. The nine tracks segue perfectly into each other, and the sounds swirl around like a sonic roller coaster. Sensitive Skin the best album yet from Finland-based composer Kimmo Pohjonen. www.KimmoPohjonen.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – Origin’s 2015 CD release of Across The Bridge, by Tom Collier, is a sure fire winner of a CD. Collier is a master vibraphonist, marimba player and composer. In fact, Collier played his first concert when he ws just age 5. To help realize his musical mission on Across The Bridge, Collier has assembled a fine band, including both Bill Frisell and Larry Coryell on electric guitars. The addition of a great rhythm section, album producer Dan Dean (bass and guitar) and two drummers, John Bishop and Ted Poor, puts the final stamp on this impeccably played album of atmospheric instrumental jazz. Recorded in Seattle, Across The Bridge clicks and with players of such a high caliber adding to the festivities, jazzers can’t go wrong with this album. Another intriguing new CD on Origin is Bactrian –an eleven track album, recorded in Germany by the bass team of David Friesen and Glen Moore. Regarded as two of the most influential bassists in jazz, the duo have recorded 3 albums over the past 40 years. Moore, of course, was a key player in the group Oregon and together here with David Friesen, who has played with the legends of jazz, the pair puts a new spin on the time honored jazz tradition. In addition to their combined bass vision, both players add in piano to the mix, making the all instrumental CD of interest to free jazzers and fans of their shared neoclassical bass-centric musical visions. www.originarts.com

PETER CALANDRA MUSIC NYC-based composer / keyboardist Peter Calandra is making music fans very happy with his 2015 CD, First Light. Highlighting music influenced by the artist's background in the realm of film music, First Light shines with an appealing assortment of orchestral soundtrack-based instrumental music that encompasses New Age, jazz and pop-based sounds. With First Light shining a spotlight on Calandra’s virtuosic piano, as well as his keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, synth bass, percussion and programming, the album also highlights a number of artists that also play on the CD, on instruments ranging from orchestral strings, flute, oboe, acoustic bass, percussion and vocals. The orchestral strings, mixed in with the live vocal choir, especially on track 11, “Morning Star”, is quite impressive, bringing the album into a higher musical realm. Commenting on the cinematic nature of his music, Calandra adds, "I always think of my music as telling stories in sound. The approach for this album was to focus on creating an album of music that has piano as part of an ensemble rather than to have compositions based around my piano playing. While there are piano centric tracks, and the piano is the lead voice in many of the songs, it’s all done in the service of the music, not to show off my keyboard skills. After a good portion of the album was finished, I actually filled it out by reworking several cues from films I have scored over the past few years that fit into this concept." With its mix of orchestral sounds and New Age keyboard sonics, Peter Calandra’s First Light will find a home with fans of tasteful, piano-based New Age / soundtrack instrumentals. www.PeteCalandraMusic.com

PROSTHETIC RECORDS – Texas-based Scale The Summit continue breaking ground for instrumental hard-rock sounds with the 2015 CD release of V. The twin guitar sounds of Chris Letchford and Travis LeVrier are on fire throughout the ten track CD and the whole band clicks. On their Facebook page, Scale The Summit say that their hometown is Houston, Texas while the CD was mixed and mastered in North Carolina. In 2014, STS turned quite a few heads around with their then new album, The Migration and likewise, the band’s fifth album, V is filled another barrage of hard hitting instrumental sounds that expertly blends hard rock and heavy metal instrumental music. Prosthetic Records remains on the cutting edge of instrumental rock with their albums by Scale The Summit. www.ProstheticRecords.com

REAL MUSIC – Much more than just an album of meditative, acoustic guitar based music, Falling Water Shimmering Strings by Chris Haugen blends the sounds of acoustic and electric guitar with a range of electronic sounds including mellotron. For example, track 2, “Smooth As Glass” blends guitars, electronica and even sitar like sounds for a truly genre expanding moment. With the 2015 CD release of Falling Water Shimmering Strings, Chris Haugen has created a masterpiece of World Music guitar sounds. Haugen’s grasp of various guitar styles flows through each of these tracks which features him performing a range of fretboard instruments, including Weissenborn guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, various keyboards and even drum loops. Speaking to mwe3.com about the “oceanic” feel of his new CD, Chris explains, “The ocean is definitely an integral part of my personal legend. So the tides and waves and colors of the sea are always present in the music. The concept of the album was literally to heal… to create a space musically that would allow people to go inward.” Backing up Haugen’s vision here are some gifted musicians including Ben Leinbach (bass, ambient sounds), Mark Degli Antoni (keys) and Hans Christian (sarangi, drones, udu). Some tracks fare better than others but fans of the acoustic guitar, electronica and World Music sounds are strongly urged to give a listen to Chris Haugen and his 2015 masterpiece Falling Water Shimmering Strings. www.ChrisHaugen.net / www.RealMusic.com

REAL WORLD RECORDS – U.K. based Spiro specialize in what they describe as instrumental, minimalist, classical dance, folk music. Sounding influenced by minimalists like Philip Glass and Penguin Café Orchestra, Spiro sounds absolutely enchanting on their 2015 CD, Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow. Spiro features four gifted players—Jane Harbour (violin, viola), Alex Vann (mandolin), Jason Sparkes (piano, accordion) and Jon Hunt (guitar, cello). The 14 track Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow features a mix of reworked traditional English folk songs and original tracks arranged by Jane Harbour and Spiro. The band’s last album, The Vapourer was a collaboration with moog synthesist Adrian Utley but Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow is return to a more pure sound. With Ms. Harbour’s strings providing a solid backdrop, Spiro makes the most of their eclectic, English neoclassical / folk sound on Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow. Both neoclassical instrumental fans and folk music listeners will love Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow. www.SpiroMusic.com

ROCK COMPANY – Over in Holland the band known as Forest Field are changing the face of rock with their 2015 CD entitled Angels? Well actually, the band is the brainchild of Peter Cox, supported here by U.S. based singer Phil Vincent. Based in the south of Holland, Forest Field borrows from stadium rock and a heavy, 21st century, New Age instrumental mix. Speaking about working with lead vocalist Phil Vincent, Cox tells mwe3.com , "We both liked working together so much that Phil agreed to become the dedicated singer for Forest Field. Angels? is our third album together. I think it is a shared love for The Beatles, Winger etc that makes us sound good together. We are both from a hard rock / prog-rock musical background. Phil does not need much guidance to work his magic." Apparently, Cox has a thing for big sounding rock arrangement ala Styx or YES and an equal and even more impressive penchant for instrumental music that sounds like Tull or Genesis on their melodic wordless tracks. Receiving the vocal mixes from singer Phil Vincent in the U.S., through the art of internet magic, Peter Cox manages to get a large well recorded rock sound down on the CD that is quite impressive. What’s even more impressive are Peter's guitar chops which he filters in liberally on the vocal tracks and even more on the instrumentals. International rock fans take note: Forest Field has a steadily increasing number of albums out and more on the way. With the 2015 CD release of Angels?, it’s prime time to check out this fine Dutch prog-rock treat. www.ForestField.nl / www.RockCompany.nl

RPM RECORDS – Rock legend Dave Edmunds has never released an album of all instrumental tracks, this despite growing up in England during the height of popularity of The Shadows. Anyway, Hank Marvin would fully endorse Dave’s 2015 CD called On Guitar… Rags & Classics. Not many surprises here, except that the ten track CD is truly a wonderful album of favorites and classics, done instrumentally in the style of Hank and The Shadows. The CD kicks off with a cover of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and moves on to cover classics from the pens of Kate Bush, Brian Wilson, Elton John, Mason Williams, Booker T & The MG's, Mozart and more. Commenting on the CD from the liner notes, Dave explains, “I guess the idea of making a guitar album had been lurking subconsciously since I was seventeen. I’ve chosen a selection of what I consider to be ‘classic singles’ from the past, but with a Fender Stratocaster guitar interpretation.” Dave plays everything here with his own hands without loops, samples or backing tracks. That care and attention to detail and artistic craft pours out of the grooves of this stellar album. Armed with just his guitars and a love of melodic invention, Dave Edmunds has created one of the great guitar instrumental albums of the decade. The all instrumental On Guitar… Rags & Classics puts a whole new spin on Dave Edmunds and his love of the guitar. www.AnotherPlanetMusic.net / www.RPMrecords.co.uk

ROLAND BÜHLMANN MUSIC– Switzerland-based guitarist Roland Bühlmann released an all instrumental album in 2015 and for guitar fans it’s a good one. Taking his cues from Eurock guitar icons like Jan Akkerman and Michael Rother, Roland’s 2015 album, called Aineo is filled with an array of guitar moves that combines pop, New Age, jazz and even neoclassical guitar sounds. There’s a definite Euro-centric kind of vibe here that eschews the jazz more often than not in favor of a spacy, soundtrack feel common to Akkerman’s more experimental sounds, Phil Manzanera’s eclectic instrumentals and even some of the trance inducing vibes of Rother’s late 1970s work with drummer Jaki Liebzeit. Performing all the music and drumming programming himself, Roland comes across like a one man band and for the most part, Aineo is a very entertaining trip into the guitarist’s vivid, guitar-centric imagination. The CD is very well recorded and presented. For fans of spacy guitar instrumental music, Roland Bühlmann’s Aineo is a worthwhile listening experience. www.kinor.net

SAM COULSON MUSIC – I had not heard of guitarist Sam Coulson but he is the current guitarist in the 1980s prog-rock band Asia, replacing Steve Howe, which, for a guitarist, might not be the easiest job in the world! Anyway, Sam steps out in 2015 with his first solo album. Electric Classical is kind of a tribute to his classical music roots. Like Howe, Coulson cites the classical guitar masters as big influences and the ten track CD features solo guitar, played on electric guitars, featuring compositions by classical icons like Bach, Sor, Beethoven, Tarrega and more. Played on electric, not classical, guitars, you might lose something in the translation so to speak, but the whole album is played so well and it’s recorded with such finesse, it’s hard to complain for long. Commenting on the Electric Classical, Sam adds, “I’m very proud of my first album album, Electric Classical. It’s ten of my favorite classical pieces played on a couple of Fender Stratocasters”. Purists may scoff but guitar fans looking to find out what music inspired Steve Howe and the other prog masters, need to give Sam Coulson’s Electric Classical a few spins. www.SamCoulson.com

SONIC PIECES – So much electronic music is very much present and over the top, but then you could listen to U.K. based minimalist composer Jasmine Guffond. Ms. Guffond’s 2015 CD is called Yellow Bell and it’s based on an ancient Chinese tradition relating to universal harmony and structure. Apparently, the story of Yellow Bell dates back to the third millennium B.C.E. or so as Ms. Guffond relates in her intriguing CD liner notes. Several seasoned music reviewers have likened her mostly instrumental music to minimalist 20th century composers such as Wendy Carlos (especially during her Sonic Seasonings period), Terry Riley and also György Ligeti, the famed Italian composer who spun heads as part of the fabled 2001 soundtrack in 1968. The album came out on vinyl but there’s also a CD pressing available, which I recommend especially as listening on vinyl to something so delicate, abstract and minimal as this on vinyl would be a sonic nightmare. There’s plenty of talk going back and forth about this kind of music being involved with “sound art” and “installations” but you needn’t go that deep. Suffice to say, Jasmine Guffond’s album Yellow Bell is a sonically pleasing CD of minimalistic and often experimental instrumental musical musings. www.JasmineGuffond.com

SONGLINES RECORDINGS – Canadian record label Songlines is breaking new sonic ground with the 2015 CD release of Tenebrae by guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi. The seven cut CD clocks in around 42 minutes and is filled with dreamlike solo electric guitar extrapolations that combines the best in free jazz and avant garde with the occasional vocal musings of Chelsea Crabtree. Recorded in Seattle during the summer of 2014, Tenebrae makes for some highly atmospheric listening. You can hear all kinds of guitar influenced sounds on Tenebrae and interestingly, Gregg has a wide background in all manners of jazz, avant garde, pop-rock and chamber music ensembles. Having performed with a number of music heroes including Bill Frisell, Cuong Vu and Steve Swallow, Gregg Belisle-Chi is hardly a novice and he makes his own daring musical statement on the sonically appealing sounds of Tenebrae. www.GreggBelisleChi.com

SONY MUSIC – U.K. composer Andrew Skeet is making waves in the classical music world with his 2015 CD, Finding Time. Skeet has worked with a number of musicians over the years including ex-Genesis guitarists Anthony Phillips, as well as writing string arrangements for U.K. prog rockers Pineapple Thief. Genesis fans may want to check out Skeet’s 2012 double CD set with Mr. Phillips entitled Seventh Heaven (on Voiceprint). Quite meditative and filled with soaring strings, the ten track Finding Time is very much rooted in the world of neoclassical and film soundtracks. With Skeet providing his expertise on piano and guitar, he receives fine support from a number of string musicians with the occasional support of soprano sax and harpsichord. Some tracks even evoke memories of the music of Philip Glass and other minimalist composers. The all-instrumental palate of sounds is sumptuous to say the least, while a bevy of top name audio engineers, including the legendary Simon Heyworth, adds further sonic sheen to this impressive album release by Andrew Skeet. Andrew Skeet’s Finding Time will find a place among fans of Penguin Café Orchestra, Mike Oldfield’s early music and the neoclassical minimalism of Philip Glass and other 20th century composers. www.AndrewSkeet.com

SONY MUSIC – A mainstay on the world-wide electronic music scene for the past 40 years, Jean-Michel Jarre returned in 2015 with Electronica 1 – The Time Machine. Instead of falling back on past successes, Jarre breathes new life into the venerable synth music world with Electronica 1 – The Time Machine by pairing his music with some excellent collaborators. Mostly, the collaborators are like minded artists but there is a strange track here with Pete Townshend that is truly harrowing. For his track, entitled “Travelator Pt.2”, Townshend agreed to add lyrics and some riffs and it has a Who vibe with added electronics. Some of better known of the 16 artists adding vocals or further electronics include Air, Little Boots, Moby, Tangerine Dream and Laurie Anderson, with Ms. Anderson having worked with Jarre in the early 1980s. The Tangerine Dream track, “Zero Gravity”, featuring Jarre working with the late Edgar Froese, truly brings out best of two electronic music icons and is the high point of the album. Track by track liner notes by Jarre and intro by Phil Alexander of MOJO magazine offers new insights into Jarre’s long awaited comeback. Electronica 1 – The Time Machine is essential for Jarre’s fan base and is giant leap forward for 21st century electronica with its sonic décor and myriad of bold musical moves. www.JeanMichelJarre.com

TARANTINOSNYC Although The Supertones are sometimes referred to as the best surf-rock instrumental band in NYC, not far behind are another fine band called The TarantinosNYC. The NYC part is part of the band’s name and, like true New Yorkers they rise to the fore with their 2015 album called Surfin’ The Silver Screen. Specializing in surf, soul, spy and spaghetti western music, the band tackles both the classics and a bunch of fresh originals. Among the covers is a fine version of “You Only Live Twice”, one of the coolest James Bond themes, and other tracks from movies such as Pulp Fiction, Our Man Flint and Austin Powers. Guitarist Paulie Tarantino gets excellent backup from his band mates Joey Tarantino (drums), Brian Tarantino (keys, guitar) and Tricia Tarantino (bass). There’s even a track credited to the late, great founding bassist of The Shadows, Jet Harris, on a cover of “Man From Nowhere”. Speaking to mwe3.com about their music, TarantinosNYC explain, "When we record, we try to put out a cool combination of Surf, Soul, Spy and Spaghetti Western music as it might be together on a Tarantino soundtrack. We have originals in those styles and we also do arrangements of the actual Tarantino soundtrack songs. All versions are instrumental of course". With one killer track after the next, Surfin’ The Silver Screen is time well spent for instrumental surf-rock guitar enthusiasts. www.TarantinosNYC.com

TELERGY MUSIC Multi-instrumentalist / guitarist and composer Robert McClung returns in 2015 with a new Telergy album called Hypatia. Telergy loves a musical challenge and the subject of of Hypatia is about the ancient Greek scholar Hypatia of Alexandria. With the odd numbered tracked retelling stories of her recorded wisdom, the even numbered tracks are lengthy instrumental rock fusion jams that simply spark with energy and ideas. One of the year's best albums of instrumental progressive rock, Hypatia features Robert McClung backed up in the studio by a number of world class musicians including Oliver Wakeman and Oliver Palotai (keyboards), David Ragsdale and Anna Phoebe (violins), along with string players, bassists and drummers and all sorts of musicians from bands such as Supertramp, Kansas, Jethro Tull, Symphony X and more. Speaking to mwe3.com about his musical mission in Telergy, McClung explains, "I think the statement I try to make with every Telergy album is similar. The way humans treat each other is often a travesty. The Israelites, Goody Cole, Hypatia… These were all people who did nothing wrong. Yet they were persecuted, enslaved, tortured and murdered. I would like to hope that by examining these histories, people can start to examine what it truly means to be human, and stop hurting each other." In addition to featuring his compositional skills, Hypatia is also a solid showcase for McClung’s guitar chops, which are very much steeped in the finest traditions of progressive rock and hard rock. Some of the riffing here would quickly appeal to fans of Deep Purple and Dixie Dregs and world class bands specializing in instro-metal music. Depicting a fascinating story line, the superstar strewn Hypatia is everything a prog-rock record should be. www.TelergyMusic.com

ULTIMAE RECORDS – France based Ultimae is turning heads around with their latest electronic music release. The artist, Martin Nonstatic released his CD Granite in 2015. Written and produced by Martin Van Rossum (his real name), Granite features the trademark Ultimae sound of ambient electronic music that mixes dub-like effects with atmospheric and down-tempo chill out sounds. That style seems to work quite well for Ultimae as a number of their albums seem to fall into a similar type of sound and vision. Regarding his concept on Granite, Mr. Nonstatic explains, “In October 2014, I traveled to Northern Austria to be deeply in touch with nature and explore new creative inspirations for my music. I observed and photographed solid granite rocks, covered in green gentle moss - both sharing opposed characters and qualities in millions of different shapes, sizes and colors.” Those colorful pics can be seen in the excellent CD booklet for Granite. Fans of impressionistic electronic artists such as Tangerine Dream will totally enjoy Martin Nonstatic’s Granite. www.facebook.com/martin.nonstatic / www.ultimae.com

UWE GRONAU MUSIC – I was kind of expecting a New Age recording of meditative music but the 2015 CD release of Mystical Morning by Germany based keyboardist / composer Uwe Gronau is very much geared in the jazz / pop / soundtrack realm of instrumental keyboard based music. Uwe dips into the pool of eclectic musical sounds and styles and on Mystical Morning he plays a range of keyboard-based instruments, including piano, synths and organ and he colors the sound further with guitars, bass, percussion and drums. Uwe performs most everything with additional drums from Ansgar Ueffink. Some of these tracks sound influenced by Steve Winwood’s music, sans vocals, especially on the tracks that feature Uwe’s superb organ swells. The chord charts are very European in scope, yet the album should have crossover appeal to fans of pop, rock, dance music, jazz and a range of hybrid music. There’s even a tribute track to U.K. organ maestro Keith Emerson called “Letter To Emerson”. www.uwe-gronau.de

WHALING CITY SOUND – Boston area based Whaling City Sound continues on with 2015 CD releases by two of their best known artists – Dave Liebman and Gerry Gibbs. Released in 2015 from sax/flute legend Liebman is The Puzzle, featuring his latest group of musicians called Expansions. Assisting Liebman are key players including Matt Vashlishan (reeds), Bobby Avey (keys), Tony Marino (bass) and Alex Ritz. Each of these players are master jazz improvisers and according to Dave, “Improvising is a matter of solving a puzzle”. If that’s so, that these players have it all figured out on a CD that redefines the language of jazz in the 21st century. www.DaveLiebman.com Also out on Whaling City Sound in 2015 is another album from jazz drummer Gerry Gibbs. Live In Studio features Gibbs once again in the company of his Thrasher Dream Trio mates, jazz masters Ron Carter (bass) and Kenny Barron (piano). Recorded in Brooklyn, the third studio album from these jazz heroes, Live In Studio offers a collection of classic songs from the 1950s and ‘60s redefined as instrumental jazz classics. Performing Live In Studio before an appreciative crowd of music fans, The Thrasher Dream Trio are joined by Roy Hargove (trumpet) and, singing on three tracks, vocalist Cassandra Wilson. Among the songs redefined here are songs from the pens of Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini and Vince Guaraldi. Both of these 2015 Whaling City Sound albums represent 21st century jazz at its best. www.WhalingCitySound.com

 


REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES



ACROBAT MUSIC
/ MVD – U.K. guitarist Gordon Giltrap is one of the most prolific guitarists on either side of the Atantic. In 2015, the UK based Acrobat Music label released a 4 CD box set of Gordon’s music. Entitled Time To Reflect – A Personal Anthology, the 62 track box set collects music from three of his many fine studio albums – Drifter (2004), Under This Blue Sky (2002) and Elegy (1987) along with a fourth disc that collects various soundtrack music called Music For The Small Screen. Gordon’s own liner notes fill up most of the extensive CD booklet and overall, the sound of the 4 disc set is quite good. In addition, the box set is filled with pictures of Giltrap posed with a number of his guitar hero friends (such as Bert Jansch, who appears on Under This Blue Sky) and with others on the soundtrack disc including Brian May, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and more. Giltrap’s star-studded career goes all the way back to his first, self-titled album from 1968. While not even denting his prolific career and the dozens of albums and compilations he’s done so far, Time To Reflect is a worthy 4 CD collection featuring a wide cross section of Gordon Giltrap's inventive and noteworthy guitar tracks. www.AcrobatMusic.com

BGO RECORDS
– Among the great remasters on BGO during 2015 is a single disc, double album CD from erstwhile psychedelic rockers Iron Butterfly. BGO did a great job on their first Iron Butterfly double album pairing, Scorching Beauty / Sun & Steel and they rise to the task with their single CD pairing of Ball and Metamorphosis. Iron Butterfly rose to fame with their all time classic “In A Gadda Da Vida” and while they never hit those heights again, their other albums each has something to offer music fans. Both Ball and Metamorphosis feature members of the early Butterfly, including keyboardist / vocalist Doug Ingle and drummer Ron Bushy and they still had their sound together during that fateful 1969/1970 era of early rock. The 2015 BGO pairing of Ball and Metamorphosis features original album artwork and excellent liner notes by Neil Daniels. BGO will make guitar fans happy with a 17 track, single CD set by guitar hero Steve Morse. BGO’s Morse remaster pairs The Introduction (1984) and Stand Up (1985). Morse was very hot during the early 1980s thanks to his ground breaking work as the leader of The Dixie Dregs, then the hottest American jazz-rock fusion band from the South. A number of great musicians assist Morse on both albums, including members of The Dregs, and guitarists Albert Lee, Peter Frampton and Eric Johnson. Both albums are instrumental jazz-rock at its mid 1980s best and, while Stand Up does add in several vocal tracks, both albums are still essential listening for Morse and Dregs fans. American acoustic guitar icon John Fahey is remembered with an 18 track, single CD containing two of his early 1970s album, Of Rivers And Religion and After The Ball. Both albums were originally released on Reprise Records and feature more of Fahey’s esoteric, instrumental guitar-centric music. Extensive 2015 liner notes by John O’Regan takes you back in time while discussing Fahey’s rare contribution to American guitar lore. Another American music legend Tom Rush is given the BGO treatment with a 2 CD set featuring the self-titled Tom Rush and Take A Walk With Me. Recorded and released on Elektra Records in 1965 and 1966, both albums were hugely popular with the then burgeoning counter culture and benefited thanks to contributions from the era's best, including John Sebastian and Felix Papparlardi (on Tom Rush) and Al Kooper and Harvey Brooks (on Take A Little Walk With Me). Original liner notes by Al Kooper from 1966 are included, shedding further light on Rush’s mix of folk-centric and rock and roll sounds. Guitarist Earl Klugh has a number of reissues on BGO and in 2015 you can add in another album. BGO’s 2015 Klugh remaster combines Soda Fountain Shuffle (1985), Life Stories (1986) and Klugh’s 13th solo album, Solo Guitar (1989). These three titles were the first of Klugh’s lengthy stint on Warner Bros. Records and they were good examples of the early smooth jazz sound that would make itself even more evident in the coming years. As usual, BGO adds in lengthy liner notes, by Charles Waring, and overall the album will be appreciated by Klugh’s legion of loyal fans. www.BGO-Records.com

CRAFTEDAIR – 1985 was a great year for creative instrumental jazz-rock fusion and New Age music. Even as the CD had subconsciously shifted the focus away from then cutting-edge composers and back onto 50 years worth of music that had already come before the CD arrived in 1984, then current bands were still in the throes of the pre-CD era. It was a confusing and challenging time for many independent bands, including one band that was overlooked 30 years ago called Air Craft. Releasing one album in 1985 on the Catero Records label, entitled So Near, So Far, Air Craft featured the musical vision of keyboardist / composer Doug McKeehan, who was joined on the album by fine players, including T. Bruce Bowers (stings), Jack Dorsey (drums) and Myron Dove (bass). Doug McKeehan and Bruce Bowers went on to join the World Music fusion band Ancient Future but of course not before recording and releasing this overlooked classic from the mid 1980s. Musically, Air Craft encompassed a wide range of musical genres including progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion and New Age instrumental as well. To the delight of music fans, McKeehan has reissued this long lost classic in 2015 on CD for the first time and clearly, the wait has been long but worth it. October 2014 liner notes by McKeehan takes a close up look at the music featured on the album. Also of interest, Air Craft reunited in 2015 for a comeback concert and the band is promising a long awaited follow up sometime in 2016. Perhaps the 2015 CD reissue of Air Craft’s So Near, So Far will finally earn this album the respect it so deserves. www.craftedair.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT
– The story of the band known as Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) started just about 45 years ago when The Move became ELO. Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne were truly a force to be reckoned with yet, only after recording three and a half albums together with The Move and ELO, Jeff Lynne grabbed the reins and the rest is history. In 2001, shortly before the death of George Harrison, Lynne took ELO around the block again with Zoom, yet that too was short lived. In 2015 ELO are back in a big way with a new studio album called Alone In The Universe as well as a new DVD called Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Live In Hyde Park. This latest return of ELO was filmed and recorded at Hyde Park in London, during the band’s triumphant concert in September 2014, appearing at BBC Radio 2’s “Festival In A Day”. It’s like déjà vu all over again with Lynne leading this 21st century ELO through the paces while delivering a near greatest hits collection live in concert. With fifty thousand die hard fans mixing with a new generation of younger fans, Lynne and company truly deliver the goods on a live concert DVD that sounds great and is fun to watch. Only keyboardist Richard Tandy remains from the early 1970s ELO, while musical directly / guitarist Mike Stevens and the entire band seems to revel in Lynne’s historic look back at the glory days of the 1970s. The DVD booklet is eye-catching while bonus parts include a documentary on the making of the concert as well as a new video interview with Jeff Lynne. Eagle continues reactivating the legacy of classic rock bands and, another 2015 set worth seeing and hearing is The Who: Live In Hyde Park. Filmed on June 26, 2015, this package from The Who is being released in various incarnations, including a double CD + DVD set. The 2 hour + live show is literally a best of from the legendary English rockers, which still features Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey from the original Who. The 2015 lineup of The Who also features Pino Palladino (bass), Zak Starkey (drums), Simon Townshend (guitars, vocals), John Corey and Loren Gold (keyboards) as well as Frank Simes (musical director / keys). The track list covers a wide range of Who classics from the 1960s and ‘70s, focusing on the band’s best known tracks, with hardly a rarity to be found. Yet all that hardly mattered to the 60+ thousand of fans packed into London's Hyde Park on that fateful day. Liner notes by MOJO magazine editor Phil Alexander puts Live In Hyde Park into context. The Who Live In Hyde Park is an essential CD/DVD for long time fans of English rock royalty, The Who. Another classic Eagle Rock title comes from rock royalty The Rolling Stones. The 2 CD/ 1 DVD release of Live In Leeds 1982 was released by Eagle in November 2015. Although corporate rock was slightly out of favor at the time, in 1982, the Stones were still only in their late 30’s and their youthful energy is quite apparent throughout the 25 track concert. The Stones of 1982 were different band from the Stones of 1968 but the crowd really goes wild for this Stones stadium show from Leeds, in the U.K. from July 25th 1982. Featuring a cross section of early classics and a whole lot of the band’s 1981 album Tattoo You, the 3 disc set, part of Eagle’s acclaimed Stones’ From The Vault Series, Live In Leeds 1982 is impressively packaged with plenty of eye-catching graphics. www.Eagle-Rock.com / www.TheWho.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT – 1973 was an incredibly important and totally transformational year in rock music history. The music world was on fire and some might say it was all downhill after the end of 1973. Los Angeles, in particular was a center of musical activity during 1973. Every major rock band was in their prime and to that extent you can add the name Frank Zappa to the list of L.A. luminaries breaking musical ground. December 1973 was quite pivotal too as among the many things happening that month, Frank Zappa was in the midst of filming his movie, simply called Roxy – The Movie. Filmed live in concert at the Roxy theater on Sunset Strip in L.A., Roxy – The Movie found Frank in his prime directing musical traffic (so to speak) with a band of jazz fusion all stars, performing some wild fusion romps complete with Zappa-esque lyrics that both befuddle and delight. Zappa was at his jazz-rock best on Roxy and the concert was truly spellbinding. Backing Frank up in his band are greats like George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Ruth Underwood (vibes, percussion), Chester Thompson (drums) and many other fine players. In 2015, Eagle Rock finally released Zappa’s 1973 masterpiece concert, both on CD and DVD so Zappa fans can get the best of both worlds in both sound and vision. With the 2015 passing of Frank’s wife, Gail Zappa, (who contributed liner notes, along with Zappa expert John Albarian, for the package), it’s kind of bittersweet for the Zappa family, but the music and concert footage are so well presented, all one can say is “Frank’s for the memories”. Overall, the 2015 Eagle Rock CD/DVD set of Roxy - The Movie is an essential purchase for the many fans of Frank Zappa & The Mothers. www.Zappa.com

EXPERIENCE HENDRIX / SONY LEGACY – The Jimi Hendrix story continues to unveil new and intriguing chapters. In 2015, the Hendrix family owned Experience Hendrix label unleashed yet another live gem, this one entitled Jimi Hendrix Experience – Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival. Filmed and recorded ten weeks before Jimi’s tragic demise, the double CD set features the early 1970 core Hendrix band lineup with Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox (bass). During that fabled 1969 / 70 era, rock music festivals were all the rage and perhaps countering the all time classic upstate N.Y. Woodstock Festival, during July 3rd to the 5th, the second Altanta International Pop Festival took place. Key to the festival was the appearance of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Coinciding with the double CD/LP release of Freedom is the October 30th, 2015 DVD release called Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church, a new documentary film about Jimi’s July 4th 1970 Atlanta Pop performance. The movie is sure to be one of the main events of 2015 as it features Hendrix and company performing key tracks from the concert, including early classics and tracks Hendrix was working on at Electric Lady studios at the time of his death. The movie also features key interview clips from the biggest names in rock history. Musically, the two CD Atlanta Pop set is superbly recorded and Jimi’s music sounds as crisp as ever. Hendrix fans will love the fact that Jimi’s performance at Atlanta Pop featured tracks from what would soon be his final albums such as The Cry Of Love, including favorites like “Room Full Of Mirrors”, “Freedom” and “Straight Ahead”. Engineered and mixed by Hendrix legend Eddie Kramer, and co-produced by Jimi’s sister Janie Hendrix, and featuring in depth liner notes by Bill Mankin, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival takes its place among the great live albums by guitar pioneer Jimi Hendrix. www.JimiHendrix.com

FRÉMEAUX & ASSOCIÉS – France-based record label Frémeaux continues onward reissuing masters from the great American composers. Honoring the musical genius of the late, great Henry Mancini, in 2015 Frémeaux released a 2 CD set called From Glenn Miller Story To The Pink Panther 1954-1962. Miller of course, saved Mancini from fighting in WWII by having him enrolled in the Air Force Band. All the better for us as Mancini, post WWII would become one of the greatest pioneers of both jazz standards and soundtracks. Some of Mancini’s greatest songs and performances are featured on this superb sounding double CD set, including music Mancini wrote for Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Experiment In Terror, Hatari! and much more. With CD 1 primarily featuring Mancini’s film music, CD 2 takes on tracks featuring Henry Mancini And His Orchestra. On CD 2 there are also several other covers of Mancini by other artists, including Ray Anthony, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Claude Bolling Big Band with the set-closing cover of “The Pink Panther Theme”. Like many of the other Frémeaux compilations, their Mancini double CD set is very tastefully compiled and designed. The 32 page CD booklet features French liner notes by Alain Tercinet, translated into English by Martin Davies offering unique insights into Mancini’s fascinating compositional style, while the discography information features a mind-boggling array of track data, names and dates and rare pics. The front cover of From Glenn Miller Story To The Pink Panther features Mancini together with noted film maker Alfred Hitchcock that alone is worth the price of the CD set. Even if you know something about Henry Mancini, From Glenn Miller Story To The Pink Panther is a real ear-opening compilation detailing the unique musical history of American music legend Henry Mancini. www.fremeaux.com

MPL / CONCORD MUSIC GROUP - The murder, by unseen forces, of John Lennon in 1980 was the death knell for the once Fab Four, and it would be 2 years or so till Paul McCartney would resume his born again solo career, following Wings, and first resurrected in the summer of 1980. Following the passing of Lennon and The Beatles, McCartney crafted a pair of solo albums in 1982 and ‘83—the now historic Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace. In 2015, both albums were newly remastered and rereleased in numerous multi-disc configurations. The albums remain iconic from that embryonic, pre-CD era. The key thing is that each these 2 disc 2015 remasters features a bonus CD of unreleased demos and b-sides—McCartney’s specialty. Tracks like “Ode A Koala Bear, “I’ll Give You A Ring”, “Rainclouds”, “Christian Bop” and “Twice In A Lifetime” (examples of unreleased bonus cuts from the two albums) are lesser-known examples of McCartney’s prolific songwriting craft during that time. Demo versions of album tracks and a wealth of unreleased tracks created and crafted soley by Paul reveals divergent side of McCartney’s creative state of mind in 1982. Both albums are star-studded affairs and the addition of a bonus CD on each makes both essential reissues. All of the MPL CDs released through Concord feature detailed discography information and complete lyrics. With these 2015 overhauls of Tug Of War and Tug Of War, and the Fall 2015 release of 1+, the Beatles reissue machine rolls onward in the 21st century. www.PaulMcCartney.com

RAVEN RECORDS – Raven Records continues on in style with a 2015 2 CD set by 1960s pop superstars The 5th Dimension. Four albums are featured including Portrait (1970), Individually & Collectively (1971), Love’s Lines, Angles And Rhymes (1972) and Living Together, Growing Together (1973). The first album here, Portrait is a classic of the era of swinging L.A. based pop meets Motown with successful results. The first band to break the sound barrier between soul music and late ‘60s psychedelic sounds that sounded great on AM radio, The 5th Dimension were best known for their soul pop covers of Jimmy Webb, Laura Nyro, Bacharach / David, and those composers and loads more covers are featured on these four albums. The sound is first rate and there is tons of info on the 5th Dimension in the CD booklet. Other remasters out on Raven in 2015 include a double CD set from fabled singer-songwriter Melanie. Raven's double Melanie CD set pairs Candles In The Rain (1970) and Leftover Wine (also 1970) with the second half of Leftover Wine and Gather Me (from 1971) on disc 2. All the big hits are here, including two versions of "Lay Down", Melanie's cover of "Ruby Tuesday" and "Brand New Key". Also on Raven in 2015 is a double CD set by Mother's Finest, pairing four albums by the funk-rock band from the state of Georgia. Featuring music released on Epic Records, Raven's double CD set by Mother's Finest includes Mother's Finest (1976), Mother's Finest Live (1979) (both on disc 1) and Another Mother Further (1977) and Mother Factor (1978), both combined on disc 2. As is par for the course with Raven, all of these remasters include excellent CD sound, numerous photos and well written liner notes. www.RavenRecords.com.au

SUNDAZED MUSIC – Long regarded, for decades, as one of the first American '60s rock CD reissue labels, Sundazed hits back in 2015 with a 4 CD box set entitled The Challenge Recordings from legendary 1960s rockers The Knickerbockers. Younger pop fans might not even be remotely aware of them, but in 1965, The Knickerbockers turned with pop world on its ear with their huge Beatles-inspired hit “Lies”. Although they are often regarded as one hit wonders with “Lies”, in fact the band was really hot and Sundazed compiles 80 tracks the band recorded. Liner notes by David Fricke compares The Knickerbockers with The Beatles, the Stones and Kinks and after hearing the box set, he is on to something. Although “Lies” was a Knickerbockers original – written by singer Buddy Randell and guitarist Beau Charles - a lot of the music, presented here in brilliant mono sound over the 4 discs, includes song covers of the biggest hits of the era, including tracks written by Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, Roger Miller, Rod Argent, Tony Hatch, Ray Davies, Chris Kenner, Chuck Berry and more. Disc 3 and 4 focuses on more of their original tracks. A 40 page CD booklet, with notes by Fricke and Domenic Priore sheds more light on this underrated New Jersey-based band and why they still matter today. Even though The Beatles and the rise of psychedelia made just about everything else passé at the time, The Knickerbockers remain one of the pioneering American pop bands of the mid 1960s and The Challenge Recordings is a great cross-section retrospective by this still much revered group. www.sundazed.com


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