Record Label
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WINTER 2018

  

 

 


















 

MWE3.COM MUSIC NEWS & NOTES
The WINTER 2018 RECORD LABEL SPOTLIGHT



POP & ROCK



ACTING NATURAL MUSIC – The trend of new band’s putting out six to eight song EP’s is a good way to find out more. Case in point is the six track CD released in 2017 by the NYC based band called Acting Natural. Featuring the guitars and vocals of Eric Carnevale, the band sound like a young version of Eric Carmen, with over the top AOR pop that rocks too. The rhythm section of James David Maney (bass, vocals) and Jesse Leonard (drums, vocals) is very tight and there’s clearly a solid underpinning to these upbeat rock tracks. There’s a Rundgren / McCartney influence on separate tracks and the CD was superbly recorded by engineer Jim Morris in Tampa, Florida. Pop fans looking for a new sonic thrill will find it on the Acting Natural CD. www.actingnaturalmusic.com

ANGEL AIR – With nine tracks that clock in under 34 minutes, Innocent Bystander is the latest solo album / pop masterpiece by Stackridge cofounder James Warren. As the band’s fans have said over the past 45 years, Stackridge were the answer to The Beatles breaking up in 1970. Over the past ten years, Angel Air have released the entire Stackridge catalog on CD and have also released new solo albums by Warren’s fellow Stackridge bandmates—Mutter Slater and Andy Davis. Compared to Mutter and Andy, the sound of Innocent Bystander is a virtual pop feast with no rough edges or obvious rock influences. With influences from McCartney, the BeeGees and Jeff Lynne, there’s plenty of superbly executed and thoroughly innocuous songs on tap here to please pop fans world wide. In fact, on Innocent Bystander James takes Stackridge fans back to the sound and scope of the first Stackridge side project with Andy Davis, called The Korgis. At 65 years young, James Warren is hardly a newcomer to the pop world and he puts his wealth of singing and song writing talents to excellent use on Innocent Bystander. Assisting James are a band of excellent players including latter day Stackridge keyboardist Glenn Tommey and a number of guitar heroes including Stackridge guitarist Andy Davis with top production by James and David Lord. The CD booklet features excellent notes by long time Stackridge musicologist Ade Macrow along with a new interview with James. Now if only Angel Air could arrange a new solo album from the other elusive Stackridge founder Crun… now, that would something. www.angelair.co.uk

APOLLON RECORDS
Norway’s Apollon Records has several albums out by prog-rockers Professor Tiptop and you can count the 2017 CD release of Life Is No Matter as the best yet from this diverse band. Guitarist Sam Fossbakk rises to occasion, penning all the music with lyrics added by vocalist Svein Magnar Hansen. Assisted by the rhythm section of Stein Høgseth (bass) and Charles Wise (drums), Professor Tiptop has created a kind of new form of modern prog with Life Is No Matter. Some will cite Dark Side era Floyd and the sound of Alan Parsons Project and UK bands such as Camel, yet Life Is No Matter is modern prog-rock with a view towards the future and takes the whole genre well beyond the sound of the 1970s. The album was mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road studios in London so there’s another Floyd / Parsons connection for music fans to mull over. Speaking about the mixed messages on the album's title track, Sam explains, "It can mean two things… one, being that matter alone does not make life. Maybe life is a force outside matter. Think of it like the Hindus, that life is a nonmaterial reality, pure consciousness. And that there is a universal consciousness and we have the illusion of being a “self”, an ego, which needs matter and a body to live. Also our concept of matter is quite rude from a quantum perspective, as the deeper you get into the world of atoms the more bizarre “matter” and physics appear. The other perspective is that life is easy if you see that it is not you that keeps life going on a day-to-day basis, but that life itself lives through you." Sam Fossbakk has proven himself to be an eclectic advocate for the modern day prog-rock movement mixing instrumental tracks backed up by a mostly vocal pallet of all things progressive. Not only does Sam compose all the music on Life Is No Matter, but he also adds in a diverse range of musical sounds he coaxes from his wide range of electric and acoustic guitars and a range of synths and mellotrons. If there was ever a modern day band to carry the torch of progressive rock, it’s Professor Tiptop. www.bandcamp.com / www.apollonrecords.no

APOLLON RECORDS – Norway’s Apollon Records keeps releasing wildly eclectic music and one of their best from 2017 is Burgundy from the rock band Soft Ride. Led by Arne Tjelle and Øystein Braut the guitar work alone is brilliant to say the least. Musically it’s a mixed bad with Arne’s vocals a deadpan early Lou Reed while Braut’s electric / acoustic guitar work echoes The Edge mixed with a trippy American West Coast free form psychedelia. Backed by brilliant studio effects, the results are often brilliant sounding. Also out on CD on Apollon Records in 2017 is Take All The Land by Norwegian singer-songwriter Simen Lyngroth. An alt-pop favorite in his native land, Simen spent a decade in the pop trio Ask and he makes a clear-cut case for his own pop worthiness with the eight cut Take All The Land. Assisting Simen are fine players including Jonas Dyrstad Valberg (guitars). The sound is kind of Pink Floydian and there are plenty of spacey, guitar centric interludes to make Simen’s music worthy of the attention of progressive rock and pop fans. The CD art is excellent and the booklet features all of the song lyrics. Another 2017 album on Apollon, the William Hut + Gisli CD release of 22 introduces a fine new pop talent. In the year 2017, young Norwegian artists are very fond of singing their pop and prog music in English and in doing so they easily multiply their goals. With William Hut taking the first five songs and Gisli the other five, there’s a kind of shoegazing neo-pop meets Neil Young country meets progressive sound and the album is very well recorded and the CD booklet is very nice indeed. Standout track “Solid Gold” rocks the beat like David Bowie jamming with T. Rex. www.apollonrecords.no

BABAIKA PRODUCTIONS – There have been several in the rock opera series and in 2017, Excalibur IV – The Dark Age Of The Dragon follows. Based around Merlin, the wizard and the days of King Arthur’s Roundtable, the album was written by composer Alan Simon, who composed all the music, lyrics and concept. The album sounds very inspired by Hans Zimmer and other modern day soundtrack composers, yet the rock energy and the all-star lineup of players drives the music home in style. Celtic harpist Alan Stivell appears on the album’s more soundtrack type music but there’s some excellent rock jams including “Behind The Mist”, an instrumental rocker featuring Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre and Supertramp horn player John Helliwell with both appearing throughout the 19 track CD. As a vocalist, Simon makes a powerful statement and his lyrics adorn the booklet. Other singers appear and Jesse Siebenberg makes a fine second vocalist and co-composer. There’s a number of drummers appearing and there’s even a full symphony orchestra. The sound is excellent and the lyrics are very dreamy with upbeat production echoing Rick Wakeman’s mid 1970s theatrical musical tribute to King Arthur. www.alansimononline.com

BECN RECORDS - The name Keith Christmas came into focus at the tail end of 1972 when RCA reissued the second David Bowie album, following the enormous success of Ziggy Stardust during the second half of 1972. Turns out Keith Christmas was chosen by Bowie to play his acoustic guitar on his '69 album and the whole thing fit in well with the overall jam-like essence Bowie was going through back then. Armed with just his acoustic guitar, Keith returned in 2017 with an album of all new material called Crazy Dancing Days. With the title referring to the heyday of the 1960s, Keith recalls the era on the title track, which relives the acid daze of the late ‘60s and he even compares it to the Facebook era of 2017, which remembers that the music was just a part of the cultural turmoil and you best believe him when he sings “It was a revolution, not a craze”. Keith has a number of albums out under his name going back to the 1969 era, when he first worked with David Bowie and Tony Visconti. Unlike Bowie, Keith has long remained true to his folk-rock influences. Vocally on Crazy Dancing Days he sounds like a cross between David Lawrence Atkins, early Cat Stevens and even Bowie’s more acerbic biting vocals. Bowie would look back on that Dylan-esque acoustic sound he and Christmas got, for the last time with Mick Ronson on the Hunky Dory classic “Andy Warhol” although clearly at 70 now he’s developed a kind of rough-etched vocal sound, but that’s a good thing. On Crazy Dancing Days, it’s clear Keith Christmas has aged like fine wine and, while he’s still an acquired taste, his music is worth the time it takes to listen. www.keithchristmas.com

BIG BOO MUSIC – Living in NYC since 1999, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist Jack Spann came to the attention of the music world when he played with David Bowie on demos for the Blackstar album. A student of Bowie’s song writing approach in a way, although a quarter century less his age, Spann has a way with sound and words. The theatrical vibe of Beautiful Man From Mars is a virtual tribute to Bowie and the title track and other tracks like “Deep Inside” rock as hard as Bowie himself. Jack played keyboards on demos for Blackstar at the request of Tony Visconti and after hearing Jack's album a few times, it’s clear, true to form Tony knows how to pick them. Elton John is another reference yet Joe Jackson and Ben Folds are other comparisons to Jack’s music, including Bob Dylan. Recording sessions in the CD list sessions in New York, Washington State and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jack is a one man band on the keyboard-heavy rock sound, along with with Gary Tanin (keyboards) and drums and percussion by Rob Metcalf and Don Kelly with a number of backing vocalists. Is Jack Spann the new David Bowie? Well, with some nice Wakeman-esque keyboard touches and West Coast jazzy touches, Beautiful Man From Mars is a 21st century popish ear-opener, kind of in the way Hunky Dory was in 1971. www.jackspann.com

CLEOPATRA RECORDS
– Long regarded as a great record label for 20+ years, CleoRecs put out a fine 2017 CD by rock great Todd Rundgren. The 12 track White Knight is just that for his fans. Coming in to more or less save rock from a certain doom, Todd is joined by guest vocalists including Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan), Daryl Hall (of Hall and Oates), and guitarist Joe Walsh. Wearing so many different hats on a variety of tracks, on White Knight Todd has outdone himself—acting like a master of ceremonies at a three ring rock circus. Of course, his tribute to Trump, "Tin Foil Hat", sung in true Steely Dan tradition by Fagen, will be played far and wide and, with satirical lyrics that cut with a surgical precision that will leave you in stitches (no pun intended). Two tracks later, “Let’s Do This” with guest artist Moe Berg shows Todd can revisit the tremendous excitement of 1971. Is White Knight the greatest Todd album yet? In the words of someone who can remember buying the red vinyl pressing of Nazz Nazz in early 1969, while living the subsequent Post-hanging daze just a few years later, the CD release of White Knight is a defiant flashback to the spirit of ‘73. www.cleorecs.com

DESERT COMB MUSIC - Australian guitarist / keyboardist / composer / vocalist Ben Craven continues on a mission to bring his music to the ears of progressive rock audiences far and wide. Progressive rock fans who might have missed Ben’s last opus, Last Chance To Hear will be pleasantly surprised by the concise nature of Ben’s 2017 album entitled The Single Edits. For this unique sounding album a range of Ben’s finest moments from his solo output have been compiled and re-imagined as singles edits. Even progressive bands like YES were famous for editing some of their lengthier tracks for radio, “Roundabout” down from the 8 minutes, 29 seconds album track down to a radio friendly 3 minutes, 27 seconds. A good bet for radio, likewise Ben takes his greatest moments and chops them down time wise into byte-size chunks of sonic majesty. Ben even includes several remixed, edited, prog-pop tracks from his first solo album Two False Idols. Clocking in at 41 minutes, the eleven track The Single Edits is brimming with fascinating musical ideas from the mind of Ben Craven. Speaking about the unique nature of The Singles Edits and how these condensed versions compare to the longer versions on his earlier albums, Ben explains, “The original title for this collection was actually An Introduction To Ben Craven. It’s for casual listening. If anyone wants to go deeper, well it’s not too hard to find me. It is the first time these songs have been made available in high 24-bit 96kHz lossless audio, and some of the older songs have been remixed entirely, so they are certainly worthy of download.” Aside from the help of spoken word recording artist and Star Trek legend William Shatner and YES member Billy Sherwood on a track finished in L.A., all the music on The Singles Edits was played and written by Ben Craven. Essential for Ben's growing fan base, The Single Edits is the most compelling musical statement yet from prog-rock advocate Ben Craven. www.bencraven.com / www.facebook.com

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT The Who have done so much for the Teenage Cancer Trust, yet with so many new victims falling prey every day, they remain one busy rock legend. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey keep the flame burning bright along with Zak Starkey and newcomer Jon Button on bass with several keyboard players and keys and backing vocals of music director Frank Simes. The subject of the Who legacy during the April 2017 show at Royal Albert Hall was Tommy, the famous rock opera done and redone for nearly fifty years. It’s a fitting legacy to Townshend that the piece never fails to amaze. The release on Eagle comes on double CD set, a DVD and Blu-ray, a triple Lp set and a high tech digital download. Humour aside, back in the 1968, I still remember taking the bus home from Cedarhurst after buying the original double album and having been somewhat disappointed that at least to a 14 year old, it didn’t have the catchy AM radio power of their pre-Tommy singles of 1966 and ’67 (“Pictures Of Lily”, “Magic Bus”, “I Can See For Miles”). In fact, “Pinball Wizard” wasn’t even that popular as a single from Tommy and only afterwards did it appear as the standout track on the album. Even the Shadows recorded “Pinball Wizard” in 1973 with rock still in the throes of Tommymania. But in early 1968, rock was changing and by challenging their fans, the Who were aimed to be at the top of the pops. With mastering and top name audio techs such as Jon Astley and audio consultant Bobby Pridden, the CD sound is an excellent representation of the show and the audience never gets in the way. Honoring 50 years music history, Tommy Live At The Royal Albert Hall brings the Who’s most famous rock opera to life again. www.eagle-rock.com

EAGLE VISION – Since he burst on the scene in 1966, replacing Eric “Slowhand” Clapton as the lead guitarist with British Invasion superstars The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck has defined and redefined the meaning of the term guitar hero. Pioneers of the live CD event, Eagle Rock has a triple disc live set by Jeff Beck out in 2017 called Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl. Kicking off with several tracks The Yardbirds took to the top of mid 1960s AM radio—featuring Jimmy Hall honoring the songs and vocals of the late great Yardbirds singer-songwriter Keith Relf and founding Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty—the double CD/ single DVD takes you on a scenic tour of the best of Beck through the decades, including a number of show-stopping instrumental tracks that also feature jazz-fusion keyboard legend Jan Hammer. At 73, Beck is no kid anymore yet he delivers the goods with the vigor and determination of a guitarist half his age. Recorded live during the Summer of 2016 at the famous L.A. concert venue, Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl also celebrates Beck’s 2016 studio album Loud Hailer, with several live tracks featuring vocalist Rosie Bones and second guitarist Carmen Vanderberg—with Jonathan Joseph (drums) and Rhonda Smith (bass) filling out the core band on the Hollywood Bowl live album. What would a live career retrospective be without Beck’s superstar friends, here including Billy F. Gibbons, Buddy Guy and much more, with the package also including fine liner notes by Alan Light. With impeccable CD sound and vivid, well-filmed concert footage, Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl is a fitting tribute to a guitarist who brought the term 'rock guitar hero' to life all those years ago. www.jeffbeck.com / www.eagle-rock.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – The beauty of Fish On Friday is their unique ability to bring diverse influences from the past into one cohesive 21st century progressive rock statement. FoF founders William Beckers (keyboards, percussion) and Frank Van Bogaert (guitars, keyboards) are in rare form throughout the 2017 CD release of Quiet Life. Guitarist Marty Townsend is as cool sounding as ever and the rhythm section of Nick Beggs (bass) and Marcus Weymaer (drums) work in sync to give the overall sound a polished Rick Wright-era Pink Floyd type of 21st century glow. The Floyd connection is also apparent as one track here called “In The Key Of Silence” was produced by Alan Parsons at Abbey Road studios. Other bands like 10cc are also referenced so, what makes it so appealing is the FoF 1970s era sound brought up to date with a kind of Euro-flavored prog-rock effect. Quiet Life is without a doubt the finest Fish On Friday album yet. www.fishonfriday.be

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Carrying forth like his brother, guitarist / composer and Genesis legend Steve Hackett, in his own right John Hackett is an eclectic figure on the UK prog-rock scene of 2017. The Hackett brothers have recorded together numerous times and true to his own solo career, John steps out in style on the double CD release of We Are Not Alone, featuring his own John Hackett Band. Like his brother Steve, John can do it all—from catchy pop and atmospheric instrumentals and full blown prog-rock anthems. The double CD set, We Are Not Alone features the 2017 JHB studio album on disc one and a second album called Another Live, featuring live in concert tracks from 2017 from his studio albums Checking Out Of London and Another Life. In fact, following his solo albums, We Are Not Alone is actually the first album by the John Hackett Band. Assisting John on We Are Not Alone are fine players including Nick Fletcher (guitars), Jeremy Richardson (bass, vocals) and Duncan Parsons (drums). John’s brother Steve Hackett appears playing harmonica on a track here. Four of the nine tracks here are breezy and somewhat jazzy-fusion instrumentals that offset the prog-rock meets prog-pop sound while the CD booklet features all lyric and photos. As a vocalist / composer, flutist and keyboardist John Hackett more than acquits himself on We Are Not Alone, making the double CD set one of the most impressive prog-rock albums of 2017. www.hacktrax.co.uk

FIRE RECORDS – U.K. based Fire Records remain on the cutting edge of contemporary music with Tomorrow’s Gift, the duo release by U.K. based Virginia Wing & XAM Duo. To call this seven track album experimental would be an understatement. With Virginia Wing consisting of Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay the music they make is being called electronic / psychedelic yet a more apt description would be 21st century avant-garde. Taking elements of rock, Wing and the XAM duo sculpt their music more like the late Gilli Smyth did in Gong and those space rock comparisons are pretty accurate. Breathy female vocals and wide ranging experimental tape loops and cutting edge electronics permeate the mix making the album both disconcerting and also fascinating to behold. There’s also another kind of instrumental music edge on Tomorrow’s Gift, mixing in elements of jazz as well, in that space where words alone just don’t matter anymore. www.firerecords.com

HAVEN TONE RECORDS – The relationship between pop music and New Age music has existed for many years. Even rock bands like The Beatles and YES understood the value of contemplative music designed to both soothe and inspire their fans. Not surprisingly, many New Age artists have backgrounds in both instrumental and pop-rock music. A good example is New Jersey based artist Russell Suereth. Russell made great inroads into the instrumental New Age field with his 2015 album Spiritual Haven, and late in 2017 he released his follow-up album, Spiritual Odyssey. In a twist of fate, Russell goes back to his pop roots for the ten-track Spiritual Odyssey album. The mood of the Spiritual Odyssey album is very New Age in feel yet, the pop-like vocals and toe-tapping rhythms gives Spiritual Odyssey a very different kind of sound from Spiritual Haven. The feel of Spiritual Odyssey contains traces of late 1960s West Coast pop, ala Gary Usher and Brian Wilson, and a definite East Coast pop sound from mid ‘60s pop icons like Paul Simon and even the breezy pop trio The Cyrkle—albeit from a 21st century New Age / electronic perspective. Speaking about the New Age meets pop-like effect on Spiritual Odyssey, Russ tells mwe3.com, “I wanted to have the first couple of songs be more familiar to listeners, because some songs later in the album can be quite different. There are some hints of 1960s in these songs. For instance, “It’s All Around” has hints of popular love songs from back then, and the “Walls Are Tumbling” has some folk tones from the Kingston Trio.” If there is such a thing as New Age pop, it truly comes to life on Spiritual Odyssey. Although Spiritual Odyssey is very much Russell’s baby, several producers, mixers and programmers help give the album a most unique sonic sheen. Filled with uplifting lyrics, haunting melodies and electronic wizardry, Spiritual Odyssey is a momentous New Age pop album designed to recharge your karmic batteries. www.russellsuereth.com

HORNBEAM RECORDINGS – U.K. based Hornbeam Recordings are true folk music purists. Having released their 2015 CD by Bonnie Dobson, Hornbeam turns its ears to American roots music icon Jim Kweskin and his latest studio album, simply called Unjugged. Recorded in 2016 and 2017, the 15 track CD featuring Kweskin’s vocals and tasty guitar work performing a series of definitive folk music originals as well as classics penned by legends like Pete Seeger, Shel Silverstein, Rudy Vallee, Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, Jerome Kern and Donovan. The album is Americana and sparse but the recording is state of the art. The cool thing is that now at 77, Kweskin sounds like he’s found a new job and like he’s really enjoying himself. Hornbeam always packs their CDs with incredible packaging, complete with Jim’s anecdotes of all the tracks and in depth liner notes and album recording data. Jim gets good backing from Tali Trow (double bass), Ben Paley (fiddle), Bill Denton (harmonica), Bonnie Dobson (vocals) and more. One possible comparison, at least on a few tracks, would be to the spirit of that first Hot Tuna album from way back in 1970 but the recorded sound is much more refined sounding on Unjugged. A revealing comeback from the legend of the fabled Jim Kweskin Jug Band days and their Vanguard Records titles, the humorously titled Unjugged finds Jim Kweskin alive and well and in the U.K. Combining Americana, folk music and the great American songbook, Jim Kweskin connects this timeless music to its illustrious past with seasoned hands and a voice to match. www.hornbeamrecordings.com

INNSBRUCK RECORDS – Brooklyn based Innsbruck has a cool jazz-pop vocal album out called Every Dog Has His Day by Joe Caro & The Met Band. Having played with loads of NYC music giants, guitar hero and singer-songwriter Caro is well-established in the jazz-fusion session world and he really comes into his own on Every Dog Has His Day. Perhaps a jab at his session work and now a chance to shine on his own, on the twelve track Every Dog, Joe doesn’t miss a beat. Jazzy fusion vocal covers of Hendrix, Carol King and Dylan sit well with his original tracks. There’s a definite New York City vibe about the album. Caro’s cover of Dylan is like a big band swing version of “Highway 61 Revisited” and will amaze Dylan fans for sure. Somewhere between Billy Gibbons and John Pizzarelli, there’s elements of jazz and rock here with added production shine by Roman Klun. Side men here include legends like Anton Fig (drums) and Paul Schaefer (keys) and other jazz fusion giants gives Every Dog Has His Day further seal of approval. www.innsbruckrecords.com

MAGICAL THINKER RECORDS – Even after the passing of Chris Squire in 2015, YES still continues onwards and some of that magic can still be heard in the latest music of YES keyboardist Geoff Downes, who has just released the third album with his side band DBA. DBA stands for the Downes-Braide Association and their 2017 CD, Skyscraper Souls features both Downes and his band mate Christopher Braide in the company of a number of notable singers including Andy Partridge, Kate Pierson, Marc Almond and other fine musicians. Several fine guitarists also add licks and leads, including Dave Colquhoun, Patrick Howley, bassist Andy Hodge, along with drummer Ash Soan along with a number of other players. Overall, Skyscraper Souls is very much in the style of YES on their last album Heaven And Earth along with Downe’s work with Trevor Horn in the Buggles. One can easily see why Squire was in favor of adding Downes to the last incarnation of the band he started with Jon Anderson back in 1968. The CD packaging of Skyscraper Souls is excellent, featuring Roger Dean artwork along with complete credits and lyrics. With hardly a note our of place, Skyscaper Souls is a most impressive album from YES keyboardist Geoff Downes and his co-writer, vocalist Christopher Braide. www.downesbraide.com

MOSHI MOSHI / PIAS – London-based four piece pop auteurs Teleman are making headway on their second album, Brilliant Sanity. There’s plenty of Brit-pop influences like The Kinks and the band also implement a kind of Euro-pop sound with a motorik drum beat on some tracks. While seasoned pop fans might find it all a bit derivative and wishful, one can easily see the appeal of Teleman among today’s young audiences. Their pop exuberance and more than adept musicianship wins you over even after deliberation. Most peculiar thing here is the bizarre cover art and packaging, which looks great but tells you nothing about the band, lyrics or who plays what. With some hope and further development, Teleman may hit on something rare in the years to come. www.telemanmusic.com

PURPLE PYRAMID RECORDS – Cofounder of U.K. space rockers Hawkwind, Nik Turner is back in 2017 with a new solo album called Life In Space, on L.A. based Purple Pyramid. The single off the “End Of The World” is quite a heavy metal space rock raveup but the whole album takes off in a number of directions, including beautiful instrumental space rock that will appeal to long time Hawkwind fans. Key to the success of Life In Space is Turner’s music, which he writes with a number of co-writers and the choice bunch of musicians Turner has chosen to accompany his vocals, sax and flute, including Nicky Garrett (guitars), Bryce Shelton (bass), Simon House (violin), Jurgen Engler (synths), Jason Willer (drums) and other fine players. Some of the music here also evokes the majesty of early King Crimson and also mid 1970s Gong, especially the band with Tim Blake. On Nik Turner’s Life In Space, free jazz, progressive rock, fusion and cosmic space rock join forces for a most powerful musical experience. www.cleorecs.com

RAM RECORDS – New Jersey based rockers The Doughboys reunite in style for the 2017 CD release of Front Street Rebels. Clocking in just over half an hour, the twelve track disc was produced by Kurt Reil—leader of rockers The Grip Weeds. From start to rocking finish, Front Street Rebels is a stellar showcase for the music of founding Doughboys members Myke Scavone (lead vocals), Richie Heyman (drums, guitars, vocals) and Mike Caruso (bass), in addition to Gar Francis (guitars, keys, vocals) who joined the band in 2004 following the passing of original Doughboys guitarist Willy Kirchofer. Heyman, of course is NYC rocker Richard X. Heyman, who released his excellent solo album Incognito in 2017 and he slips back into his guise as drummer / composer of The Doughboys with ease. The CD for Front Street Rebels sports liner notes by founding member and drummer of The Yardbirds, rock genius Jim McCarty. It’s quite clear that fans of McCarty’s historic rock work in The Yardbirds will enjoy Front Street Rebels. In a twist of fate, Myke Scavone is also a member of the current lineup of The Yardbirds—adding in blues harp, percussion and backing vocals and touring the planet and spreading the word about the historic Yardbirds songs McCarty co-wrote with the late, great Keith Relf. With one killer rockin' track after the next, the fifth album to date by The Doughboys, Front Street Rebels is their finest one yet. Honing their music since they were teens in Plainfield, way back in the mid 1960s, The Doughboys take their NY/NJ rock & roll sound to new heights with Front Street Rebels. www.facebook.com / www.thedoughboysnj.com

ROCK BOTTOM RECORDS – Back in the 1970s, Italy was home to some of the great Italian jazz-fusion bands as well as some excellent rock bands like Sensations Fix. Bringing the classic punk rock and New Wave sound of the late 1970s into the early 20th century, Stolen Apple released their album Trenches in 2017. Stolen Apple creates music inspired by Velvet Underground and also Italy’s legendary punk-prog band Sensations Fix, with its raw rock energy showing at all turns. Truly bizarre cover art only adds to the suspense and suspension of their tightrope ride. An effective lead singer and guitarist, Alessandro Pagani sounds like an Italian version of Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople mixed in with some Lou Reed vocal mannerisms. There’s nothing better than hearing a tight Italian new wave punk band that sings in English and Stolen Apple brings the sound of the late ‘70s / early ‘80s back in style on Trenches. www.Stolenapple.bandcamp.com

S-ROCK / FISHBONE MUSIC – Led by singer-songwriter Bie Karlsson, Bonefish released their self-titled CD back in 2014 and they return in 2017 with an album of all new material called Atoms. The eleven cut CD was produced by Max Lorentz and features a wealth of pop-rock and harder edged mainstream rock packed with memorable, melodic arrangements. As has been noted on a number of albums released these past few years, Scandinavian pop musicians of the early 21st century have proven resourceful and imaginative in their emulation of both English and American pop heroes. Bonefish is touting “Fallen In Love” on their web site but “Another Day” and the Atoms closer “Crappy Eyes” are telling as to their rock roots and all would make great radio airplay. This line up of Bonefish is the best one yet with Bie Karlsson’s lead vocals and guitars getting support from Matte Norberg (lead guitar, backing vocals), Rasmus Rasmusson (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Anders Nylle Thoor (bass, lead vocals). Speaking about the band he has led over these past few years, Bie Karlsson adds, "Bonefish is a musical project and my lyrics are a good part of it since I always write music and lyrics together. To me they are contemplations over the time we live in and if they are in some way accurate or if anyone finds comfort in listening to them or reading them, then it will make me happy. I never present a song to the band if I’m not satisfied with the lyrics. You can never choose your path. You can only try your best." Searing electric guitar is a focal point throughout the album making Karlsson's and Norberg's fretboard work also worth hearing. With one catchy, upbeat track after the next, Atoms is a solid rock album that brings out Karlsson’s finest singer-songwriter proclivities. Bonefish creates sheer rock energy on the kinetic sounding, 21st century sonic groove of Atoms. www.bonefishswe.com

SCARLET RECORDS - Country music flavored pop and folk-rock was always huge in the U.K. and living up to the spirit is Auburn and their 2016 CD called Love & Promises. Filled with catchy pop played in a rustic, Americana-style folk-rock manner, Auburn is a fine vehicle for singer Liz Lenten, who gets solid backup from her excellent backing band. Ms. Lenten cites influences like Dusty Springfield and Norah Jones as well as Rickie Lee Jones, and from the following interview, Liz adds, "I guess Bonnie Raitt and Dolly made me want to write my own songs." There’s also a Nashville influence here and the album was recorded, mixed and produced by Thomm Jutz in Nashville, Tennessee. The electric / acoustic guitar work by Jutz is another selling point here. Speaking about Love & Promises, Liz tells mwe3.com "Love & Promises was just so easy to record. We did the whole thing in 30 hours! No rushing, it just flowed so easily. I think all my albums are similar… in that it’s always a collection of always emotional, often miserable and occasionally slightly more cheerful but most are stories rather than statements. But, I hope that my writing is progressing with each one and each album has a theme to the collection of songs, so an overall outlook." For those who appreciate well-produced albums on CD, the sound of the recording and scope of the Love & Promises album packaging is superb, with the booklet featuring complete lyrics. Just the ticket to put Auburn on the world-wide music map, Love & Promises is filled with catchy pop-rock hooks and well thought out arrangements that just sounds better spin after spin. www.auburn.org.uk

SEACREST OY – The word oy in Finnish means like incorporated here in the US, and Seacrest Oy delivers an excellent 2017 album, called On We Sail, from The Samurai Of Prog. There’s hardly a musical genre untouched here. Covering progressive rock to jazz-fusion, all progressive minded music fans will find much about enjoy about this album. Kimmo Pörsti (drums, composer) has done another great job taking the best from the many fine players here, including core TSOP members Steve Unruh (vocals, guitar) and Marco Bernard (bass). There’s some excellent co-writers here including Kerry Shackett, who penned music to match Unruh’s excellent vocals, especially on the lead off title track. On the instrumentals, there’s so much to admire as well, including “The Perfect Black”, written by Oliviero Lacagnina, who adds keyboards to his own song with the band further supported by Flavio Cucchi on classical guitar. Neoclassical rockers will be in for a shock with track eight “Over Again”, written and performed on Bösendorfer grand piano. With its elements of classic progressive Finnish music, Kimmo draws upon his Finnish heritage for much of the Pohjola-esque scope conjured on some tracks. The latest album masterpiece from The Samurai Of Prog, On We Sail is as much an album of the world, and the universe for that matter. Masterful album artwork by progressive rock artist icon Ed Unitsky makes you wish that CDs were packed in twelve in twelve by twelve full color album covers. www.seacrestoy.com

SONIC KICKS RECORDS – The return of a legend—punk pop icons Flamin’ Groovies reunite in 2017 for their Fantastic Plastic album. With a dozen pop-rock gems, the album evokes their own sound while getting into a number of influences—from 1950s rock & roll to late ‘60s paisley pop Byrds circa Notorious complete with chiming 12 string, Kinks-style Brit rock and much more. With Fantastic Planet, the songwriting team of founding members, since 1965, lead guitarist Cyril Jordan and lead singer since 1971 Chris Wilson—joined here by a range of excellent musicians—have put together a definite modern pop era classic. Co produced by Cyril and lap steel and slide guitarist J. Jaffe, there’s hardly an off note here and, and the whole album offers a perfect showcase for Cyril’s legendary guitar sound. Plus there’s even a cool Shadows style guitar instrumental called “I’d Rather Spend My Time With You”. The surreal cover art by Cyril should win some kind of award. www.severnrecords.com

STILL SOUND RECORDS
– The Brooklyn-based band called The Knells broke sonic ground with their 2014 self-titled debut album and they’re back in 2017 with a new album called Knells II. The ten track CD starts off with an eerie instrumental called “First Song” before settling into a groove. At the core of the Knells’ sound is still guitarist / composer Andrew McKenna Lee and the band still features the all female wall of vocal sound which, as noted in earlier reviews, still highlights a kind of gothic meets progressive rock wall of sound. Filling out the sound is lead / slide guitarist Paul Orbell, keyboardist Jude Traxler and the rhythm section of Jeff Gretz (drums) and Joseph Higgin (bass). Extra credit must go to the beguiling trio of female singers—Nina Berman, Charlotte Mundy and Blythe Gaisset—who perform brilliantly and translate and captivate Lee’s music into an intriguing 21st century wall of pop-prog meets avant-classical sound. The Knells II CD features typically brilliant album art and complete lyrics. www.theknells.com

THEM VIBES – Nashville based rockers Them Vibes have a solid rock album on their hands with Electric Fever, released by the band in 2017. As wide ranging as it gets, a listen to Electric Fever grabs you instantly with its catchy mix of hard hitting roots rock and something even more progressive. Of course, looking back 45 years ago to the heyday of the Stones, the Faces and bands like T. Rex, there’s a lot to live up to on Electric Fever. On this memorable album, the powerful team of Brother Love (vocals) and Alex Haddad (guitars) gets solid backup by Kyle Lewis (guitars) and the rhythm section of Sarah Tomek (drums) and Judd Fuller (bass, vocals). Producer Bobby Holland adds in some tasty keys and the songs stand up to it. With one powerhouse track after the next, Them Vibes brings vintage early 1970s Zeppelin-esque rock back into style with one fell swoop. www.themvibes.com

TONY NATALE MUSIC – Like a throwback to the mid 1960’s, The Camden Promise features a wealth of roots rock and bluesy earth pop written by UK–based drummer Tony Natale. For his album Tony has connected with some great musicians to help him deliver his music including Dan Beaulaurier (lead guitar, vocals), Brian Heaven (rhythm guitar), Anna Robinson (bass), Dr. Vincent Conigliaro (lead guitar), Yardbirds member John Idan (bass) and more. The album has a kind of hippie era effect with some jazzy sounds and propelling boogie-like rhythms by Natale. Natale also plays keyboards and some guitar and the album has an excellent varied recorded sound with superb vocal performances from a number of singers. A colorful CD booklet supplies the lyrics and a bunch of pics of all the players on hand. www.TonyNatale.com

TRUE ROCK RECORDS – Guitarist and singer-songwriter Mark Duda strikes rock gold on his six track CD release Month Of Sundays. Having played with New York hardrockers The Handful, Mark Duda is somewhat of a rock hero in the NYC tri-state area and his band on Month Of Sundays is first rate too with backing by Jimi K. Bones (lead, rhythm guitar), Thommy Price (drums) and the great Kenny Aaronson (bass). Guest artists appear including Cheetah Chrome (guitars) and Arno Hecht (sax) who each appear on track 2 “Murder On Delancey”. Duda combines a definite Stones / Springsteen effect on tracks as sung from a pastiche / concept of U.K. legends like Roy Wood and Robert Plant. Only problem here is it’s only six cuts but I’m sure Mark Duda has loads of musical tracks up his sleeve. www.markdudamusic.com

TTM MUSIC – Florida-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Lee Tiger released One Earth, One People, Come Together under his group name Tiger Tiger in 2017 and it’s a fine representation of the Native American’s quest for joining humanity together as one. Lee Tiger was featured back in the late 1960s, opening for Hendrix and Led Zeppelin at the first Miami Pop Festival. Lee’s father is Buffalo Tiger, the name shedding light on his Native American Indian roots. Musically, the eight cut CD show’s Lee’s early rock ‘n’ roll influences, including his fondness for early British Invasion bands like the Beatles and Stones as well as early roots rock heroes like Roy Orbison, who Lee also looks a bit like. One Earth, One People, Come Together is Lee Tiger’s third solo album. With Lee handling the song writing, drums, bass, orchestration and more, One Earth, One People, Come Together also features excellent support from Iron Butterfly founder Mike Pinera (lead guitar), Raiford Stark (lead guitar) and backing vocalist Carolena. One Earth, One People, Come Together is a most intriguing and colorful look at the sound and vision of Lee Tiger. www.tigertigermusic.com

TV RECORDS John Murry is a singer-songwriter from Tupelo Mississippi yet he has a connection to England that is further explored on his 2017 album A Short History Of Decay, released by the UK label TV Records. His earlier album The Graceless Age was well received and fans are in for a spectacular treat with A Short History Of Decay. Murry’s songs and vocals were clearly influenced by rock legends like Lou Reed and Warren Zevon, and his guitar work is uniformly excellent—bordering on folkish leaning to psychedelic, and his electric solo in “Countess Lola’s Blues” will nail you to the wall. Murry’s voice and music is very deadpan but it’s delivered with such style and panache that you can overlook Murry’s lyrics of gloom and doom while admiring the packaging. Murry’s band with Peter Timmins (drums) and Josh Finlayson (bass) and backing singer Cait O’Riodan is first rate. The CD packaging is amazing to say the least and reading along with the lyric sheet is de rigueur. The CD unfolds like a mystery movie and if you read along with the lyrics you are soon drawn into the plot of A Short Decay Of History. www.johnmurry.com

UNKNOWN HERO MUSIC – The San Francisco based artist called Unknown Hero is making waves in the music world with his 2017 CD called In My Head. The fifteen track In My Head mixes a range of 21st century electronic music styles, including R&B, funk, hip-hop and down-tempo chill music. If that sounds like a recipe for chaos, you couldn’t be more wrong. With its heavy accents on hip-hop rhythms and soulful vocals, In My Head takes the entire electronic music sound into some mighty strange musical directions. Although Unknown Hero has worked with a number of rappers and singers, on In My Head he takes stock of his diverse musical influences like electronic music and soulful R&B, dub, and even neoclassical-soul. Check out track 4, a cool instrumental track called “A Minor 2125” and he moves into some very unique sounding areas—thus transcending any one particular style. A number of other artists take part including DJ Bo Ji and songstress Z’oa making In My Head one of the most unique and appealing trip-hop flavored R&B electronic music albums of the decade. www.bandcamp.com

VIVENDA MUSIC – Brazilian jazz continues to be quite popular around the world and Abelita Mateus brings her brand of her country’s music front and center on the 2017 CD release of Vivenda. The eleven track CD is a fine showcase for Abelita’s vocals, songs and piano sound and she gets solid backup from a number of excellent Brazilian musicians including Claudio Roditi (trumpet), Romero Lubambo (guitars, co-production) and a range of drummers and percussionists. Ms. Mateus is firmly in the Jobim style of jazz composition and she plays her own music along with that of Brazilian superstar composers including A.C. Jobim, Djavan and Gilberto Gil. Ms. Mateus excels throughout the album and her liner notes, written in English, takes you into the mind and heart of a gifted musician from Brazil making waves in the melting pot of New York City. www.abelita.com.br

 


INSTRUMENTAL


APOLLON RECORDS – Norway has a number of excellent progressive rock and pop bands and one of the best Norwegian labels, Apollon ventures into the realm of spacy cosmic instrumental music with the 2017 CD release of Alwanzatar and their CD called Heliotropiske Reiser. Starting out around 2011, the group is the brainchild of keyboardist / composer Krizla, while the album also features guitarist Wepwawet. Strange names indeed and there is a kind of exotic, tribal element to the music of Alwanzatar. The sound appears influenced by 1970s cosmic progressive bands like Clearlight Symphony and even Gong during their Tim Blake era. Alwanzatar is not fusion music but a mix of high tech electronics and earthy psychedelia. Mixing elements of Krautrock, ambient music, dub sounds, acid house and electronic progressive rock, Alwanzatar come up with some truly offbeat yet appealing instrumental space rock with the 2017 CD / LP /DL release of Heliotropiske Reiser. www.apollonrecords.no

BIS RECORDS - Born in 1949, Kalevi Aho is considered one of Finland’s finest classical composers. The great Swedish classical label BIS Records has a number of Aho’s albums in print on CD. 2017 saw the release of a varied recording by Aho called Saxophone Concerto And Quintet, which features an excellent performance by Anders Paulsson on soprano sax. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra perform well with Paulsson on the concerto and the Quintet For Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn And Piano features various members of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. The ten minute Solo For Violin was written by Aho as far back as 1975 yet was recorded in April 2017 and features Aho collaborator, violinist Jaakko Kuusisto. Among a number of other recent releases by Aho on BIS is Theremin Concerto / Horn Concerto released on CD in 2011. The Theremin Concerto / Horn Concerto CD is most interesting and it features the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. On Concerto For Horn And Chamber Orchestra, the focus is on solo hornist Annu Salminen while on Concerto For Theremin And Chamber Orchestra, subtitled Eight Seasons, the focus is on Theremin player Germany based Carolina Eyck. The contrast between the full orchestra and the eerie, otherworldly Theremin is startling to say the least but thanks to Aho’s smart compositional skills it all works wonderfully. The music on Theremin Concert / Horn Concerto is well steeped in the classical tradition yet both concertos also fall into the realm of the avant-garde music and obviously hold great appeal among adventurous 21st century classical music fans. Another Aho title on BIS, released in 2015 is Works For Solo Piano. Although he sees himself as one of Finland's foremost modern era orchestral composers, Aho also tackles works for smaller forces and Works For Solo Piano features 31 tracks of solo piano works performed by Finnish pianist Sonja Fräki. A good part of the album is devoted to Aho's earliest compositions "The Nineteen Preludes", which date from 1965-68. Another recent CD by Aho on BIS is Bassoon Concertos, released in 2016. The 76 minute CD features compositions from Aho and Swedish composer Sebastian Fagerlund (b.1972). Bassoonist Bram van Sambeek is featured throughout and he receives backing from the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. The bassoon has a kind of medieval sound to it and it serves in startling contrast to the full orchestral sound. Like all the BIS CD releases and LP releases before that, the recorded sound is first rate and all three offers a jarring reminder of how powerful the orchestral sound can be when used by the best minds and hands. Liner notes on all three Aho CDs on BIS Records feature excellent artwork with liner notes printed in English, Finnish, German and French. www.bis.se

BLUE HEN RECORDS – Coming from the Bill Frisell meets Pete Townshend school of guitar pyrotechnics, Jim Campilongo strikes a blow for guitar independence with his early 2018 CD release, Live At Rockwood Music Hall NYC. The eight cut all instrumental freeform fusion trio CD features Jim’s soaring electric guitar in a live setting, backed up by his trio, including Chris Morrissey (bass) and Josh Dion (drums). Speaking about power of his trio, Jim adds “On a good night, we can plunge full-speed, head first into uncharted territory, navigating a jazz sensibility akin to Miles Davis with the raw, rocking intensity of Cream, Hendrix and The Who.” On Live At Rockwood Hall, Jim Campilongo Trio offers a near perfect mix of free form jazz-rock fusion and avant garde guitar-based jazz. Fellow guitarist Nels Cline drops in and guests on a couple cuts. The track “Jimi Jam” is a Campilongo trio tribute to rock guitar icon Jimi Hendrix. Overall, the CD sound is excellent and the album is superbly packaged. Excellent album mastering by audio genius Greg Calbi seals the deal on this outstanding live album by Jim Campilongo Trio. www.jimcampilongo.com

BUZZ MUSICOne of the finest jazz-rock guitarists in Europe today, Holland-based Marnix Busstra has a number of albums out under his name and his 2017 CD, Old School Band is his best yet. Holland of course was a central country in the 1970s instrumental, jazz-fusion explosion and true to form, Jan Akkerman might be considered one key influence on the guitar sound Marnix brings forth on his 2017 CD, Old School Band. On the 47 minute, ten track CD there are mixes of progressive instrumental rock, ‘old school’ jazz and jazz-fusion that are enhanced by number of sure-fire guitar moods and grooves. The band Marnix recorded Old School Band with includes Eric Van de Bovenkamp (organ), Norbert Sollewijn Gelpke (bass and album producer) and Mark Stoop (drums). Liner notes were actually written by Marnix’s early music instructor, Martijn Breebaart, who graded Marnix in music school back in the late 1970s. In deference to the album title, Old School Band may be just an affectionate name for a band and an album that, while steeped in the classic, instrumental jazz-rock sound, tastefully carries the tradition well into the 21st century. Comparing Old School Band with The Marnix Busstra band, the guitarist explains, "Firm, Fragile, Fun is the last album of my other band, The Marnix Busstra Band. That band is very different from the Old School Band, although we play my compositions in both bands. I think you can call the Marnix Busstra Band my ‘acoustic band’, with upright bass and acoustic piano, and the Old School Band my ‘electric band’, with bass guitar and organ. And the Old School Band is definitely more ‘funk’, the Marnix Busstra Band more ‘jazz’. Through the years I made 14 records with my different bands." Perhaps the finest album yet from Dutch guitarist Marnix Busstra, Old School Band is never old sounding and, in fact, the album revitalizes the entire European jazz-rock fusion sound. www.marnixbusstra.nl

DESERT COMB MUSIC - Australian guitarist / keyboardist / composer / vocalist Ben Craven continues on a mission to bring his music to the ears of progressive rock audiences far and wide. Progressive rock fans who might have missed Ben’s last opus, Last Chance To Hear will be pleasantly surprised by the concise nature of Ben’s 2017 album entitled The Single Edits. For this unique sounding album a range of Ben’s finest moments from his solo output have been compiled and re-imagined as singles edits. Even progressive bands like YES were famous for editing some of their lengthier tracks for radio, “Roundabout” down from the 8 minutes, 29 seconds album track down to a radio friendly 3 minutes, 27 seconds. A good bet for radio, likewise Ben takes his greatest moments and chops them down time wise into byte-size chunks of sonic majesty. Ben even includes several remixed, edited, prog-pop tracks from his first solo album Two False Idols. Clocking in at 41 minutes, the eleven track The Single Edits is brimming with fascinating musical ideas from the mind of Ben Craven. Speaking about the unique nature of The Singles Edits and how these condensed versions compare to the longer versions on his earlier albums, Ben explains, “The original title for this collection was actually An Introduction To Ben Craven. It’s for casual listening. If anyone wants to go deeper, well it’s not too hard to find me. It is the first time these songs have been made available in high 24-bit 96kHz lossless audio, and some of the older songs have been remixed entirely, so they are certainly worthy of download.” Aside from the help of spoken word recording artist and Star Trek legend William Shatner and YES member Billy Sherwood on a track finished in L.A., all the music on The Singles Edits was played and written by Ben Craven. Essential for Ben's growing fan base, The Single Edits is the most compelling musical statement yet from prog-rock advocate Ben Craven. www.bencraven.com / www.facebook.com

DESTINY RECORDS – NYC-based guitarist Tom Guarna joins forces with a jazz-fusion dream team and the results can be appreciated on the 2017 CD release of The Wishing Stones. The dream-team band on Tom’s album includes Jon Cowherd (keys), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). The Wishing Stones is actually Tom’s seventh album and first for Destiny Records and features eleven all original tracks. Growing up in the NYC area, Tom grew up a fan of Hendrix and Page before getting hipped to jazz guitar legends like Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel and Jim Hall and later turning on to guitar fusion icons Allan Holdsworth and John Scofield. Tom’s music and style evokes these jazz legends and his originals speak highly of his style as both a guitarist and composer. Like Holdsworth, Tom’s synth-like guitar sounds are truly beguiling and there’s plenty of brilliant instrumental jazzy, fusion sounds on The Wishing Stones to make it a solid spin for both jazz purists and fusion guitar disciples. www.tomguarna.com

EAGLE VISION – Since he burst on the scene in 1966, replacing Eric “Slowhand” Clapton as the lead guitarist with British Invasion superstars The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck has defined and redefined the meaning of the term guitar hero. Pioneers of the live CD event, Eagle Rock has a triple disc live set by Jeff Beck out in 2017 called Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl. Kicking off with several tracks The Yardbirds took to the top of mid 1960s AM radio—featuring Jimmy Hall honoring the songs and vocals of the late great Yardbirds singer-songwriter Keith Relf and founding Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty—the double CD/ single DVD takes you on a scenic tour of the best of Beck through the decades, including a number of show-stopping instrumental tracks that also feature jazz-fusion keyboard legend Jan Hammer. At 73, Beck is no kid anymore yet he delivers the goods with the vigor and determination of a guitarist half his age. Recorded live during the Summer of 2016 at the famous L.A. concert venue, Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl also celebrates Beck’s 2016 studio album Loud Hailer, with several live tracks featuring vocalist Rosie Bones and second guitarist Carmen Vanderberg—with Jonathan Joseph (drums) and Rhonda Smith (bass) filling out the core band on the Hollywood Bowl live album. What would a live career retrospective be without Beck’s superstar friends, here including Billy F. Gibbons, Buddy Guy and much more, with the package also including fine liner notes by Alan Light. With impeccable CD sound and vivid, well-filmed concert footage, Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl is a fitting tribute to a guitarist who brought the term 'rock guitar hero' to life all those years ago. www.jeffbeck.com / www.eagle-rock.com

EAGLE RECORDS – Eagle’s specialty has always been their devotion to capturing and releasing live music documents of the biggest name recording stars. Case in point is Eagle’s 2017 double CD set from movie music composer and multi-instrumentalist Hans Zimmer called Hans Zimmer Live In Prague. Prague (pronounced "Prog") as it’s known is the capitol of the Eastern European country called the Czech Republic. Prague is clearly a stronghold for the German-born Zimmer as the double live album, also released on DVD, brings a full-blown band to Prog and brings to life some of his most famous movie music themes. It’s quite unusual to see a huge movie music composer parading around like a rock star with a full band but that’s exactly what Zimmer does on his double live album and DVD. Zimmer shows he’s no slouch when it comes to bringing movie music to the concert stage as he leads his huge entourage of seventy two musicians to wild crescendos to the delight of ecstatic yet rapt fans gathered for the show. Hans Zimmer Live In Prague was recorded on May 7th, 2016 and among the guest artists appearing with Zimmer and band are Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, guitarist Guthrie Govan, Richard Harvey (from prog legends Gryphon on woodwinds) and so much more along with the orchestra and choir of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra & Choir. It’s a huge show and well choreographed to say the least as Zimmer leads his big instrumental rock-based band through a range of his movie music scores to films like Gladiator, The Lion King, The Da Vinci Code, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man and loads more. The CD sound is excellent while concert fans will also want to see the DVD movie which is also huge. For live rock concerts featuring modern movie music it doesn’t get any better than Hans Zimmer Live In Prague. www.hans-zimmer.com / www.eagle-rock.com

EARTHSCAPE MEDIA – Latin music aficionado Johannes Linstead continues on with his latest flamenco style instrumental album called Azul. Like his other albums, his 2017 CD Azul is very relaxing and filled with a Latin style of instrumental guitar music mixing flamenco with a Latin rock edge. Linstead lives part of the year in Dominican Republic and in his native Toronto and that breezy tropical flow in his music also combines smooth jazz and even New Age but Azul is very much a guitar album. On Azul, Linstead is joined by a rang of percussionists and other players adding additional horn, bass and backing vocals. Linstead adds, “My music is inspired by my spirituality, by cultures from all over the world and by people’s everyday triumphs over hardships.” Guitar fans into Linstead’s earlier albums will want give a good listen to the pleasurable grooves of Azul. www.johanneslinstead.com

EONE MUSIC – When it comes to state of the art rhumba flamenco guitar instrumentals it doesn’t get better than Jesse Cook. The Canadian guitarist released Beyond Borders in 2017. In his liner notes, Jesse invites you to go beyond the borders of your life or at least stretch out musically. The band assisting the guitar hero on Beyond Borders is also excellent, featuring a number of percussionists, bass, strings and cameo vocals adding color to an already colorful album. Although clearly in the Flamenco guitar style, Beyond Borders is a good example of Cook’s unique blend of instrumental classical guitar, flamenco and jazz guitar. Jesse Cook has been breaking borders since he traveled to Cairo Egypt to record his 2003 album Nomad. An adventurous musical spirit remains the unifying spirit on the appropriately titled Beyond Borders. www.jessecook.com

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Earlier in 2017, Steve Hackett released his first album with the Hungarian jazz-fusion band Djabe entitled Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers. Following his 2017 studio album, The Night Siren, Steve once again joins forces with Djabe and the results can be heard and seen on the 2017 two-disc release of Life Is A Journey: The Sardinia Tapes. Compared to the live album of Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers, this latest pairing features an eleven track studio album (recorded in Sardinia in June 2016) on CD and a DVD which features Djabe with Steve Hackett performing five tracks live at the Budapest Jazz Club on June 3rd, 2017. Backed by the incredibly talented Djabe, Hackett’s electric and sometimes classical guitar really enhances this incredible studio / live album of predominantly instrumental music that takes in fusion, jazz and even elements of smooth jazz. The DVD also features the Life Is A Journey album in a 5.1 surround sound mix as well as “Sardo Moments”, which serves as a kind of brief documentary / intro to the concert footage. Hackett’s guitar sound is dazzling throughout, coaxing tones that only a master could bring out of an electric guitar. Hackett is ably assisted by other Djabe members Gulli Briem (drums) Tamás Barabás (bass, synth, vocals), Áron Koós-Hutás (trumpet), Attila Égerházi (guitar) and János Nagy (keys). The CD/DVD features in depth liner notes by everyone as well as color and b&w photos of this eventful studio / live union of Steve Hackett and Djabe. www.hackettsongs.com / www.djabe.hu

ESOTERIC ANTENNA – Carrying forth like his brother, guitarist / composer and Genesis legend Steve Hackett, in his own right John Hackett is an eclectic figure on the UK prog-rock scene of 2017. The Hackett brothers have recorded together numerous times and true to his own solo career, John steps out in style on the double CD release of We Are Not Alone, featuring his own John Hackett Band. Like his brother Steve, John can do it all—from catchy pop and atmospheric instrumentals and full blown prog-rock anthems. The double CD set, We Are Not Alone features the 2017 JHB studio album on disc one and a second album called Another Live, featuring live in concert tracks from 2017 from his studio albums Checking Out Of London and Another Life. In fact, following his solo albums, We Are Not Alone is actually the first album by the John Hackett Band. Assisting John on We Are Not Alone are fine players including Nick Fletcher (guitars), Jeremy Richardson (bass, vocals) and Duncan Parsons (drums). John’s brother Steve Hackett appears playing harmonica on a track here. Four of the nine tracks here are breezy and somewhat jazzy-fusion instrumentals that offset the prog-rock meets prog-pop sound while the CD booklet features all lyric and photos. As a vocalist / composer, flutist and keyboardist John Hackett more than acquits himself on We Are Not Alone, making the double CD set one of the most impressive prog-rock albums of 2017. www.hacktrax.co.uk

FIRE RECORDS – U.K. based Fire remains on the cutting edge of 21st century instrumental music with their Paul Haslinger soundtrack album Halt And Catch Fire, released over the summer of 2017 and they keep up the bizarre sounds with their summer 2017 CD release of the self-titled album by Curanderos. A joint release between the rock band Bardo Pond and the experimental ensemble Kohoutek, the two part instrumental album ventures into all forms of cosmic music that encompasses drone, noise rock, progressive rock and even free jazz. With two twenty minute experimental, avant-gard parts, the album might not be usual fair for the typical rock music fan but this form of music has been well explored before. On their first album, Curanderos picks up on the time-honored tradition of rockers taking on out-there sounds to come up with their own fantastic voyage of all things cosmic. Central to the Curanderos sound are the Gibbons brothers, guitarists Michael Gibbons and John Gibbons and fellow Bardo Pond member Aaron Igler (keys) who are joined by drummer Scott Verrastro of the band Kohoutek. Music fans are comparing to Ummagumma era Pink Floyd and German experimentalists Can, but with this far-out sounding album, Curanderos have some trippy sounds of their own on tap. www.firerecords.com

FIRE RECORDS – U.K. based Fire Records remain on the cutting edge of contemporary music with Tomorrow’s Gift, the duo release by U.K. based Virginia Wing & XAM Duo. To call this seven track album experimental would be an understatement. With Virginia Wing consisting of Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay the music they make is being called electronic / psychedelic yet a more apt description would be 21st century avant-garde. Taking elements of rock, Wing and the XAM duo sculpt their music more like the late Gilli Smyth did in Gong and those space rock comparisons are pretty accurate. Breathy female vocals and wide ranging experimental tape loops and cutting edge electronics permeate the mix making the album both disconcerting and also fascinating to behold. There’s also another kind of instrumental music edge on Tomorrow’s Gift, mixing in elements of jazz as well, in that space where words alone just don’t matter anymore. www.firerecords.com

FIRST ORBIT SOUNDS MUSIC – Music is the international language and to prove that point, Bulgarian born / California based guitarist / composer Hristo Vitchev is back at the start of 2018 with two new CDs. First off, the nine track 75 minute Of Light And Shadows shines a light on Hristo’s skills both as a jazz-fusion guitarist and a composer / band leader. Instrumental jazz has always been big in the Eastern European countries and Hristo brings his talent and expertise to the fore on Of Light And Shadows, which finds him in the company of his quartet members Jasnam Daya Singh (piano), Dan Robbins (bass) and Mike Shannon (drums). There’s something quite Metheny-esque about Hristo’s guitar-driven quartet sound with his compositional skills complimented further by his strengths as a jazz-fusion improviser. Also out in early '18 by Hristo, Of Light And Shadows is another 21 minute CD called Behind The Shadows. Susbtitled Freely Improvised Stories, the four tracks feature improvised instrumental that compliment the music on Of Light And Shadows. Both of these CD by Hristo Vitchev Quartet are recommended for all instrumental jazz fans—from jazz-rock fusion through to swinging straight ahead mainstream jazz heads. Also of notes is that both CDs feature excellent paintings by Hristo, making them both ear-opening and eye-opening. www.hristovitchev.com

GIANT SHEEP MUSIC – Scandinavia and specifically the country of Denmark has always been a bastion for adventurous jazz and jazz-fusion. Danish jazz composer Mathias Heise is renowned for his chromatic harmonica playing and he combines it all, like a modern Toots Thielemans on the 2017 CD release of Decadence by his band Mathias Heise Quadrillion, released by the Denmark-based Giant Sheep label. As has been noted, Mathias draws upon 1970s fusion legends like Return To Forever and even the late great Finnish fusion pioneer Pekka Pohjola on this acclaimed album. The fact that Mathias is 23 years old belies the fact that this is a most impressive instrumental jazz-fusion album. Mathias handles the harmonica, keyboards, piano, synths and string arrangements and he gets solid backing from Mads Christiansen (electric / acoustic guitars), David Vang (bass) and Aksel Stadel Borum (drums, percussion). A number of guest artists and string section appear to fill out the album sound. A couple of vocal tracks are spotlighted but don’t take away from the fact that overall, Decadence makes for a most worthwhile instro jazz-fusion experience. The CD was superbly produced by Erik Zobler, the album gets bonus points for the superb studio production and colorful, eye-catching CD cover art and booklet with detailed notes. www.MathiasHeiseQ.com

GROOVEYARD RECORDS – Master riffologist and all-around American guitar hero Jimmy Ryan was the guiding light behind the underrated and overlooked American instrumental progressive / hard rock band The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers. Sadly, the band has been dormant, yet six years later, Jimmy returned in late 2017 with his new solo album called 21st Century Riffology. With 21 tracks clocking in around 50 minutes, the sonic bursts of electric guitar are short but sweet and totally hot. Jimmy could always be counted on for a solid riff and a melody to take it skywards in the Flyin' Ryan Brothers band and 21st Century Riffology is a stellar showcase for Jimmy Ryan’s patented electric guitar prowess, all the while accentuating the FRB’s patented instrumental hard rock and heavy metal guitar sound. 21st Century Riffology is even more on fire than the 2011 Flyin’ Ryan Brothers CD, Under The Influence, which is hard rock heavy metal but loaded with a kind of implied Progmetal rock style influence. As FRB fans will note, the sheer amount of styles and riffs on 21st Century Riffology is stunningly mind blowing. What’s even more incredible is that Jimmy has done the whole album on his own, with the drums handled by Dan Van Schindel. FRB fans may miss the interlocking band style and greatness of Under The Influence, yet it’s great to have Jimmy back on the recording scene again, especially with a new, sizzling sounding, self-produced solo album. The Hendrix influenced track “Stardust” is essential guitar 101. Highlighting 21 tracks with Ryan-esque titles like “Speedloader”, “Nailgun”, “Funkalicious” and “Zenology”, 21st Century Riffology will clear your cobwebs and clean your clocks. Play loud for maximum impact. www.ryanetics.com

GREYDISC RECORDS – Guitar explorer Kevin Kastning has made several fine albums with sax / flute virtuoso Carl Clements and, recording once again as a duo they continue onward with their eight track, 77 minute, 2017 CD Even this late it happens. With Kastning delving into his arsenal of multi-string guitars, including the 36-string Double Contraguitar, the 30-string Contra-Alto guitar and the 15-string Extended Classical guitar, he merges his freeform musical trains of thought with Carl Clements, who excels on tenor and soprano saxophones and flutes. Listeners who were lucky enough to hear the duo’s 2016 album A Far Reflection won’t be disappointed with Even this late it happens. Speaking about the boundless musical dynamics on their new album, Carl Clements tells mwe3.com "I think there are infinite possibilities in the music we’re doing, so there will always be new ideas and approaches to draw from", with Kastning adding, "When Carl and I start recording sessions for a new album, we discuss the direction for that album and then move into that direction and that space. Our rapport or connection has always been there, but over all these years, it just seems to only get stronger." The mood of Even this late it happens is somber yet illuminating, with the duo's dreamlike musical patterns winding down dark and mysterious pathways. With their integrated mixture of neoclassical, avant-garde and improvisational sounds, Kastning and Clements are quite rightly considered two of America’s leading 21st century sonic pioneers. www.kevinkastning.com / www.carlclements.com

HEARTSONG MUSIC – Released on Sherry Finzer’s Heartsong label, Into The Flow is a fine introduction to the solo piano music of Joseph Akins. Supremely relaxing piano music, Into The Flow is both calming and inspirational. Part New Age and part Americana / easy listening piano music, there’s plenty of high points on the twelve track CD to give it a unique edge in a field of crowded competitors. Very lyrical and melodic, compared to modern or neoclassical, Into The Flow is the fourth solo album by Akins. With music this good, piano fans will want to give a listen to his other albums. Akins has played in rock bands and country music bands as well as studying jazz and even teaching but he comes into his own on Into The Flow. www.josephakins.com

HOLUS BOLUS RECORDS – The band known as Podd are taking progressive instrumental rock fusion to new places on the 2017 CD release of Cosmic Forces. Featuring the music of group guitarist Peter Olsen, the ten track album also features Eric Olson (keys), Dejan Dejkoski (drums) and Takashi Otsuka (bass). Draping the harder edged jazz fusion workouts are Peter Olsen’s world music influences that brings out Indian and classical music flavors including a range of exotic acoustic guitar-centric sounds on a number of tracks. Also adding in arrangements on a number of tracks is Peter’s musical cohort in the world fusion duo Advaita, Don Johnson. Fusion fans and disciples of World Music and progressive rock will find much to like about Podd and their Cosmic Forces album. www.poddmusic.com

MARMADUKE RECORDS – The trio known as Cosmosquad return in 2017 with The Morbid Tango—another album of hard-hitting heavy metal instrumental guitar rock from the L.A. based band. It’s hard to find an equivalent to Cosmosquad. Just when you think they’re heavy metal rock, they pull out the stops and defy logic with sonic twists and turns that would blow the minds of seasoned jazz rock fans. In fact, I could see fans of Mahavishnu Orchestra turning to Cosmosquad as a viable 21st century alternative to 1970s jazz fusion. The power trio of Jeff Kollman (guitars), Shane Gaalaas (drums, electronica) and Kevin Chown (bass, programming) are joined by several guests including Jeff Babko (keys). Although most of the tracks are powerful metal jazz instrumentals, Cosmosquad knows when to turn down the volume and go deeper as they do on “Still Life” and even the sublime smooth jazz groove of “Sangfroid”. The CD ender, “Beyond Death’s Door” and its reprise is an excellent choice to close out the album. Kevin Chown explains the band’s message adding, “In the big picture, there is a long history in instrumental music, especially classical, of conveyed meaning without words. This all together, was our inspiration for creating The Morbid Tango.” Instrumental hard rock, metal and jazz-fusion fans will enjoy the rock-solid, hard-hitting sonic grooves of Cosmosquad and The Morbid Tango. www.jeffkollman.com

IMAGINATOR RECORDS – Brooklyn based Imaginator Records breaks down walls for 21st century minimalist music with their 2017 CD called The Slow Reveal by the band known as ensemble, et al. The band name is strange with its all lower case lettering, but the music this quartet makes is a pleasing kind of modern hybrid consisting of influences from legends like Steve Reich and bands like Tortoise and Battles, minus the jazz-rock edges. Without a guitarist in site, The Slow Reveal was produced by John McEntire, the Chicago-based producer who has worked with bands like Stereolab. Described as idiosyncratic, ensemble, et al features four drummers who veer off into a range of instrumentation using vibraphones, drums, percussion and keyboards. Although The Slow Reveal could pass for rock among listeners with open minds, it is much more a mix of modal jazz, contemporary neoclassical and even the avant-garde / experimental instrumental genre. All the descriptions to describe their sound does little to mask the fact that ensemble, et al creates beautiful sounding, instrumental music that will soothe the savage ear. www.imaginatorrecords.com

ORANGE BAND RECORDS – Fans of solo piano music will want to check out the 2017 CD, Flying Solo: Silhouette by Ann Sweeten. Known for her five previously released albums, co-produced with Will Ackerman, Flying Solo Silhouette offers a cross-section of a dozen of her past compositions, presented as solo piano pieces for the first time. With Ackerman describing Flying Solo Silhouette as a collection of Ann’s finest work, the mood transcends New Age and jazz piano and offers a kind of up close and personal look at Ann’s work. On Flying Solo Silhouette, Ann Sweeten combines her fondness for jazz, film music, classical music and even pop and forges a unique piano sound. Although she’s worked as a female front person for the pop-rock band called Fallout as well as delving into Broadway and Cabaret, clearly with Flying Solo Silhouette Ann Sweeten presents a complete picture of what she does best, which is to enchant listeners through the magic of her well recorded and quite easy-on-the-ears instrumental piano music. On Flying Solo Silhouette, Ann Sweeten captures the essence of solo piano music. www.annsweeten.com

OA2 RECORDS / ORIGIN RECORDS – Origin and affiliate label OA2 keeps the spirit of mainstream jazz alive and well with a wide range of instrumental jazz albums. High on the list of OA2 album releases is the 2017 CD, 9 Short Stories by alto/soprano sax player Idit Shner. On the nine track CD, Ms. Shner is joined by excellent side eplayers including Josh Hanlon (piano / B3), James Driscoll (bass) and Stockton Helbing (drums). With influences from African and classical Arabic music and the music of McCoy Tyner, 9 Short Stories features a number of Idit’s original music plus a cover of the Billy Strayhorn composition “Passion Flower”. Recorded in Dallas Texas, 9 Short Stories is a most welcome album of well recorded modern jazz. Another intriguing album out on Origin is Coldwater Stories by Germany-based pianist Florian Hoefner. The ten cut CD captures Florian performing solo piano live in 2016 in Bremen Germany. Inspired by his newly adapted home on the island of Newfoundland, the tracks feature aqua-centric titles like “The Way Of Water”, “With The North Atlantic” and “Iceberg 1 & 2”. With its island inspired music, Coldwater Stories is a perfect showcase for Hoefner’s daredevil solo piano performances. www.originarts.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – Utah-based guitarist Corey Christiansen has a number of albums out on the Washington-based Origin Records and in 2017 he put out his fifth Origin album, the eight track Dusk. Like on his earlier releases, including those prior to Origin, Corey is a master of mixing straight ahead jazz with a new 21st century jazz that borrows from Americana, jazz fusion and bluesy, New Age flavored instrumental guitar. Corey’s band on Dusk is first rate with Jeremy Allen (bass) and Matt Jorgensen (drums) along with several tracks featuring Zach Lapidus (keys) and Michael Spiro (percussion). With players this good on board, the sound of Dusk is freewheeling and very improvisational yet Corey Christiansen keeps the sound under control and his guitar work is clearly the focal point on this refreshing and highly entertaining modern jazz-fusion instrumental outing. www.originarts.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – When played by a master like bassist / pianist and composer David Friesen, the art of improvisation is a great thing. On his 2017 double CD on Origin Records, called Structures, Friesen joins forces with two collaborators—Joe Manis (sax) and Larry Koonse (guitar). Featuring nineteen tracks of introspective instrumental music magic—Manis on disc one and Koonse on disc two—Structures is one of the most meditative and insightful jazz improv albums of 2017. Interesting to note that disc one with Joe Manis was recorded live in concert in Ukraine in March 2017 while disc two featuring Friesen with Larry Koonse in the studio in Phoenix Arizona in February 2017. Playing his unusual looking and sounding Hermage bass and piano, Friesen brings a wealth of experience to each of these two musical settings featuring both Manis and Koonse and it all translates into one creative album of masterful jazz improvisation. Liner notes by William Minor sheds interesting light on this unique and diverse two CD set. www.davidfriesen.net / www.originarts.com

ORIGIN RECORDS – Origin continues to be a valuable record label source for jazz guitar fans and case in point is Night Visitor, the 2017 CD by John Stowell / Ulf Bandgren Quartet. New York born / Oregon based John Stowell has an excellent record as a jazz guitar figure, going to back 1978 and his album on Inner City Records. Following a number of albums on Origin, Stowell has another fine album on the label—this time as a co-project with Swedish guitarist Ulf Bandgren. Stowell and Bandgren pull out the stops on Night Visitor, getting superb backing from the rhythm section of Bruno Raberg (bass) and Austin McMahon (drums). The sound is fairly straight ahead mainstream / jazz fusion based instrumentals, yet there’s plenty of original ideas flowing throughout the ten track Night Visitor, which was recorded in Boston and produced by Stowell and Bandgren. Echoes of Pat Metheny and France’s great jazz / fusion guitarist Jean Pierre Llabador resound in the grooves on Night Visitor—an album that just gets better with each successive spin. www.johnstowell.com / www.originarts.com

REAL MUSIC The CD releases of both flow and Glimpses brought the music of Danish composer Henrik Hytteballe and The Haiku Project to the attention of instrumental music fans. The 2017 CD release of Nebula, credited to The Haiku Project with Sara Grabow, takes the Haiku Project sound to new heights. Speaking about the title of his latest recording project, Henrik tells mwe3.com, "Nebula as the title of the album is a symbol of where we all come from and that we are all part of the universe. Some scientists say we are born of stars. Nebula is my tribute to our amazing world." Henrik is part of a growing movement among artists who are speaking their minds over concerns of climate change, pollution and human rights and to that he adds, "We need to change the way we are treating the earth. Greed has caused so many disasters and how we behave is destroying our planet. That is why we have to find out why we are here." The Nebula album was expertly mixed and produced by Freddy Albrektsen. The addition of vocals by Sara Grabow on several tracks gives Nebula a post-modern Scandinavian pop edge bolstered by Henrik's vast array of instrumental sounds that highlights his great compositional strengths. With Sara's vocals as a counterweight to Henik's stark synth soundscapes, some tracks are quite startling, contrasting her New Age vocals with Henrik's electronic neoclassical / soundtrack influence. With its impressionistic mix of 21st century electronica and postmodern, European romanticism, Nebula presents a fascinating cross-section of sounds. www.haikumusic.dk / www.realmusic.com

ROCK SYMPHONY – Brazilian jazz-rock fusion band Ultranova are turning heads with the 2017 CD release of Orion. Very much influenced by the great instrumental jazz-rock bands of the 1970s, Ultranova brings the fusion sound up to date with a driving groove and a band that won’t quit. Although Ultranova comes from the country of Brazil, you would never guess as the sound is very Euro flavored with a solid dose of American fusion too. Key to the Ultranova sound are the band members Thiago Albuquerque (keys), Daniel Leite Teixeira (guitars), Priamo Brandão and Mario Neto (bass) and Henrique Penna (drums). The cover art for Orion is very intriguing too with a mysticism centered around ancient Hebrew lettering. Brazilian jazz-rockers Ultranova remembers the future with the timeless, driving fusion sound of Orion. www.ultranova.mus.br

S.A.P. RECORDINGS – Based in Oregon, the S.A.P. records label have several titles out on CD by the band known as Muerte Pan Alley. Featuring the music of guitarist / composer Bob Keelaghan, the band is filled out by Rob Oxley (upright bass, accordion) and Jason Woolley (drums). The latest Muerte Pan Alley is a strange one called The Soundtrack To Intersection & Music For Inside The Ku Klux Klan. Musically, the 32 track CD is very much influenced by the soundtracks of Ry Cooder and is quite experimental yet highly listenable too. Intersection is a short film by American director Brendan Beachman while Inside The Ku Klux Klan is a documentary by Daniel Vernon that was shown on British TV in 2015. The music of Muerte Pan Alley is described as “conjuring images of juke joints and out-of-the-body experiences in the stratosphere.” All three musicians add in some cameo vocals but for the most part, the entire CD is very much rooted in the Cooder school of rural / rootsy Americana instrumental. Abstract, psychedelic, blues, avant-garde, jazz, progressive. All these genres apply in spades to The Soundtrack To Intersection & Music For Inside The Ku Klux Klan. www.saprecordings.com

SEACREST OY – The word oy in Finnish means incorporated here in the US, and Seacrest Oy delivers an excellent 2017 album, called On We Sail, from The Samurai Of Prog. There’s hardly a musical genre untouched here. Covering progressive rock to jazz-fusion, all progressive minded music fans will find much to enjoy about this album. Kimmo Pörsti (drums, composer) has done another great job taking the best from the many fine players here, including core TSOP members Steve Unruh (vocals, guitar) and Marco Bernard (bass). There’s some excellent co-writers here including Kerry Shacklett, who penned music to match Unruh’s excellent vocals, especially on the lead off title track. On the instrumentals, there’s so much to admire as well, including “The Perfect Black”, written by Oliviero Lacagnina, who adds keyboards to his own song with the band further supported by Flavio Cucchi on classical guitar. Neoclassical rockers will be in for a shock with track eight “Over Again”, written and performed on Bösendorfer grand piano. Using elements of classic progressive Finnish music, Kimmo draws upon his Finnish heritage for much of the Pohjola-esque scope conjured on some tracks. The latest album masterpiece from The Samurai Of Prog, On We Sail is as much an album of the world, as the universe for that matter. Masterful album artwork by progressive rock artist icon Ed Unitsky makes you wish that CDs were packed in twelve in twelve by twelve full color album covers. www.seacrestoy.com

SPHERIC MUSIC – Germany-based Spheric Music released a 2017 CD called Solstice by Dutch electronic music artist Akikaze. Musically, Solstice borrows a lot from the 1970s Berlin School of Music espoused by electronic giants like Tangerine Dream although those in the know say Solstice is more varied in its sound tone patterns. Translated from Japanese to English, Akikaze means “autumn wind” and the album was composed by Pepijn Courant (Akikaze) between 2015 and 2017. The synths used by Akikaze are truly amazing sounding and the CD booklet lists a wide range of different synths, keyboards, samplers, electronic drums, sequencers, acoustic percussion and acoustic guitars that were all used during the making of the album. Those nostalgic for the sonic wonders of vintage Euro synth bands like T. Dream will enjoy the romantic and melancholic ambiance of Solstice. www.akikaze.nl

TSM PRODUCTIONS – Cleveland area guitarist Victor Samalot came to the attention of mwe3.com thanks to his work with the jazz-fusion band Rare Blend. In 2017 Vic returns as a solo artist with his album Esperanza. The nine-track CD mixes all forms of instrumental guitar music, this time mostly in the Nuevo Flamenco genre, in the realm of modern flamenco influences like Jesse Cook. With his background in jazz fusion, Vic’s rock guitar influences like Santana and Beck also come into play here. Although Esperanza is very much Vic’s baby, there are other players on the date, including bass player Bobbi Holt along with a range of drummers and percussionists. Featuring a colorful mix of Latin and World groove jazz, Esperanza is a welcome return to form from the diverse guitar sound of Victor Samalot. www.victorsamalot.com

ULTIMAE RECORDS – Every album on Ultimae is as much an art exhibition as it is a musical release. Specialists in the modern art of 21st century electronica, Ultimae released a 2017 CD entitled Ligand by Martin Nonstatic and it sounds very much in the Ultimae spirit of synthesized magic. Ultimae are describing the album as an ambient downpour of dramatic euphoria and so it is with Martin’s percussive friendly oscillating synths keeping the sound moving along nicely. The Austrian based synthesist is very much keyed into the legends of the Berlin School style of electronic music yet there’s also a another lighthearted side with a certain uniqueness about it that gives Ligand a unique sonic personality. Ultimae usually promotes their digital downloads but if you’re interested, contact the company and order a CD. Ligand is complete with excellent CD booklet filled with amazing graphics and the CD sound is first rate making it a title well worth seeing and hearing. Ultimae enchants your musical senses with Ligand by Martin Nonstatic. www.ultimae.com

UMP RECORDS – In 2015, guitarist / composer Randy Armstrong released his World Music classic Beyond Borders and in 2016 he returned again with new music for the soundtrack to the theater / dance production of The Conference Of The Birds. The 24 track CD to The Conference Of The Birds features an all original musical score by Randy that highlights his patently superb guitar playing, while receiving significant support by notable Armstrong musical associates, including Volker Nahrmann (bass, cello, keys) along with a number of musicians who each add in a range of exotic World Beat flavors. Putting a global spin on his music is Armstrong’s forte and on The Conference Of The Birds he manages to unite the world at large under his wide-ranging musical umbrella. The director of music and dance, Antara Bhardwaj describes Randy’s musical score for The Conference Of The Birds as being “An incredible music score that captures the vibrant spirit of eleven different cultures, yet with a common thread that connects them all.” The sheer number of musical instruments Randy uses on this CD soundtrack is most impressive—from synth guitars and electric guitars to sitars, drums and exotic percussion and a range of electronic keyboard sounds. With his truly incredible sounding musical soundtrack for The Conference Of The Birds, Randy Armstrong brings his synthesis of New Age, neoclassical and World Music to a much higher level of pan-global magnificence. www.randyarmstrong.com



REISSUES
& RETROSPECTIVES


 

ANGEL AIR RECORDS – Angel Air continues to unearth great music from the 1980s that no one ever knew existed. A good example are two albums reissued in late 2017 by Angel Air by the band called Data. Data featured Norwegian musician Georg Kajanus, who was the leader and singer-songwriter with the band Sailor. In 2017 Angel Air reissued the two Data albums—Opera Electronica (1981) and 2-Time (1983). Featuring alluring female vocalists, Data were very much a part of the post New Wave / Euro flavored / Electronica pop scene that was cutting edge in the early 1980s. Kajanus was joined by singers Frankie Boulter and Phil Boulter as well as synthesist Henry Marsh, who joined on 2-Time. Kajanus in Sailor and in Data proved to be quite an intriguing composer, equally adept on synths, guitars and early computer programming. Although very much part of the early 1980s post-rock era, and still worth hearing, these two Data CD reissues on Angel Air are tastefully restored with complete track info and bonus cuts that all shed light on this underrated and overlooked pop outfit. www.angelair.co.uk

BGO RECORDS – 1963 was the last great year for American music during the 1960s. During the JFK years so many great songs dominated the charts, mostly free of the fear and loathing of the Vietnam War era music which grew out of the rock and psychedelia that came to power following the rise of Beatlemania in early 1964. One can only look at the huge hit by then relatively new pop singer Andy Williams. Although Andy grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s and by the time he was ready to move from the small label Cadence to the world stage offered by Columbia Records, who did he turn to for his first huge pop chart hit of the 1960s—none other than pop icon Doc Pomus, who wrote “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” with song writing partner Mort Shuman, especially for Andy. Andy’s switch to Columbia in 1961 is documented on a 2017 double CD by BGO—including Danny Boy And Other Songs I Love To Sing (1961), Moon River And Other Great Movie Themes (1962), Warm And Willing (1962) and his fourth album for Columbia, Can’t Get Used To Losing You. The title track of Can’t Get Used To Losing You remains one of Andy’s best and also one of the best songs written by Doc and Mort. The song was a huge hit and in some ways was the last great Top 40 pop song by a mainstream vocalist before the rise of The Beatles, who would go on to dominate the artist driven era of the 1960s. BGO has done a great job on the sound of their stereo, four album, double CD set by Andy Williams—featuring in depth liner notes by noted U.K. musicologist Charles Waring. Although Andy Williams passed away in 2012, his legacy is forever sealed thanks to his impeccable voice and his legendary choice of great songs that he immortalized. Further diving into the vaults of the Columbia Records label, BGO also has a 2017 double CD set by Sly & The Family Stone that pairs three albums—Small Talk (1974), High On You (1975) and Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back (1976). These albums are a far cry from the heyday of the original Sly & The Family Stone and all their famous hits of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. These albums are truly funked up albums so if funk is your thing—and thanks to giants like Barry White, the BeeGees and Donna Summer—funk and disco was huge in the mid 1970s—look no further than BGO’s double Sly set. High On You is actually Sly Stone’s first solo album and features a number of great sessions players, including guitarist Eric Gale. As Charles Waring notes in his liner notes, Sly Stone reached such heights with his early hits that it would be impossible to get it back again, yet BGO has done a fine job on this double CD set. Another double CD set on BGO honoring early rock ‘n’ roll giants features Carl Perkins. BGO’s 2017 Carl Perkins double CD combines four albums—Whole Lotta Shakin’ (1958), King Of Rock (1968), Carl Perkins Greatest Hits (1969) and Carl Perkins On Top (1969). In his liner notes for BGO, musicologist Stuart Coleman puts the years of these historic, nascent rock ‘n’ albums by rock and roll pioneer Carl Perkins into a fitting perspective. Another 2017 CD on BGO worth checking out is Help Me Rhonda by Johnny Rivers. Rivers was huge in the late 1960s thanks to his cover of PF Sloan’s “Secret Agent Man” but by the mid 1970s, Rivers was less in style, yet as Help Me Rhonda proved, he was still out there recording covers of his favorite songs—case in point being Brian Wilson’s “Help Me Rhonda”, which was a huge hit for The Beach Boys in 1965. In fact, Brian and his wife Marilyn Wilson perform backing vocals on the Rivers version. The ten track CD features a number of classic rock tracks of the era including songs by Arthur Alexander, Fleetwood Mac, Ned Doheny, The Four Tops and more. Liner notes by John Tobler puts the story of Johnny Rivers and his 1975 Help Me Rhonda album into classic rock perspective. www.bgo-records.com

ELEKTRA RECORDS / RHINO RECORDS – Interest in the music by The Doors continues well into the 21st century. Perhaps in future generations, the music of The Doors will come to epitomize the apex in American rock music as it was made during the heyday of the late 1960s. The 2017 three disc set simply called The Doors – The Singles features all the early mono mixes of the music you heard coming out of your little AM radios back in 1967. Noted Doors producer / engineer Bruce Botnick is listed as executive producer, compiler and mastering engineer on this collectable package. The first CD (25 tracks) and second CD (18 tracks) collect all the mono singles and stereo mix radio singles versions by the band starting with “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” which is paired with its b-side “End Of The Night”. The A-sides of the Doors singles were really major radio and chart hits and the radio stations hardly played the B-sides. Later day singles from Morrison Hotel and The Soft Parade are presented in both stereo and mono versions with the post Jim Morrison band with Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore represented on some of the overlooked music they made with the Jim-less Doors. The catalog of The Doors just seems to yield interesting options, like the fascinating 2007 remixing of their entire catalog and now two CDs worth of true audio rarities from the Elektra Records vault. Collectors note: the three disc set is complete with a Blu-Ray featuring a hi-res quadraphonic mix of the 1973, 11 track greatest hits: The Best Of The Doors. www.thedoors.com / www.rhino.com

MVD VISUAL / GOLDENLAND RECORDS – Music icon Glen Campbell died this past summer 2017 and he left a huge legacy of music and video content. Although Glen rose through the ranks, working with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys and even the Gary Usher led Sagittarius, it was his solo music, the mostly country & western hits that landed him the most acclaim. England was in love with Campbell’s unique Americana sound and a number of his performances are captured on the CD/DVD release of Glen Campbell: Live Anthology 1972-2001. The DVD is pretty amazing indeed featuring forty six live videos of Glen’s appearances on BBC Television. All the big hits are here including his versions of classics by Jimmy Webb, Jacques Brel, Johnny Cymbal, Jimmy Seals, John Hartford and so much more. An instrumental section shows why Campbell was always considered a great guitarist as well. Campbell’s 1975 live in the studio version of “MacArthur Park”, with some excellent backing singers and a cutting guitar solo is well worth the time to check out this collection. A duets and medleys section featuring Jimmy Webb, Anne Murray, David Gates, Helen Reddy, Seals & Crofts and Debby Campbell is also intriguing as is a 22 track CD of live music recorded in the UK in 1990. Featuring the best of the DVD tracks and a “Beach Boys Medley”, Live Anthology 1972-2001 is well worth the time to listen to and watch. www.glencampbell.com

MVD VISUAL – 2006 was a banner year for the late great guitar innovator and inventor Les Paul. Les turned 90 in early 2005 and he celebrated his birthday with an event at Carnegie Hall. Also in 2006 a number rock music legends got together and did a show in Los Angeles in honor of Les called A Tribute To Les Paul Live. Although it had been out on CD before, MVD visual finally put the show out on DVD in 2017 and it’s quite an eye-opening event, even eight years after Les Paul’s passing in the summer of 2009. Although much more hard rock oriented than in the musical style of Les himself, there’s plenty of steady rock action to make it of interest to the curious. Among the players taking part are Edgar Winter (vocals, sax) and a whole lotta guitarists including Slash, Robben Ford, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, Neil Schon, Joe Perry, Buddy Guy and more. A killer cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with Edgar Winter in fine form brings the house down. Clearly the best part of this 93 minute DVD are the interviews with Les from 2006 that shows the humility, great sense of humor and keen memory that endeared Les to millions during and after his tenure as America’s greatest guitar legend. A Tribute To Les Paul Live will serve as a fond memory at least until the Les Paul vaults are finally opened and people finally get to see his hundreds of TV shows and jam-packed unreleased archives. www.MVDb2b.com / www.LesPaulFoundation

 


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