November, 2000 
CD Reviews



Urban Culture

Listen to RealAudio sample: Urban Culture

Guitar legend Louie Shelton recently started up his own label, Nuance Records, and among the first releases is his newest solo album Urban Culture. Anyone who has followed the history of pop greats from the ‘60s will remember Shelton as the session guitarist who appeared on numerous albums by The Monkees, The Fifth Dimension, The Jackson Five and Boz Scaggs. Shelton also furthered his prominent guitar reputation with his production work on all the big hits by the pop group Seals & Crofts. An instrumental affair that tastefully combines Smooth Jazz with a potent R&B and blues groove, Urban Culture is a vibrant set of upbeat, mellow guitar instrumentals scoped out by Shelton’s one of a kind guitar chops. A modern take on Wes Montgomery’s mid ‘60s sound, Urban Culture was recorded in Shelton’s new hometown of Nashville and features strong contributions from Pat McDonald (drums), Victor Wooten (bass) and sax legend Jim Horn to name a few of the top players on board here. Regarding his third solo album Shelton adds, “There was this spirit of the nightlife that was going through a lot of the feeling of this album. It sort of sets a nice mood, not too serious, not too light. Just something that you enjoy having there.” On Urban Culture, Louie Shelton takes the smooth jazz scene to the next level thanks to smart arrangements and skillful musicianship.



Listen to RealAudio sample: Whow

Recalling the ‘60s lounge-jazz music revival of the mid to late ‘90s, the album debut from California-based The Mind Club sizzles with a tasty, retro instrumental groove. Spotlighting the guitar chops of Greg Williams, Spygroovin’ features smart playing from all the Mind Club members as well as the various guest artists on hand. Combining jazzy fusion and a ‘60s soundtrack vibe with hi and lo-fi drums, percussion loops and dialog samples layered with various swashes and other noises, Spygroovin’ makes for some sublime listening. Williams judiciously implements his 1990 Fender ‘62 reissue Strat within the group sound. According to Williams, “This CD was definitely a case of the recording process influencing, and in some cases, becoming, the compositional process.” Recorded as a computer-based home studio project, Spygroovin’ is all the while a stimulating and atmospheric album and will provide hours of fun for jazz-rockers, soundtrack fans and lounge music devotees alike.


Peggy’s Blue Skylight
(RCA Victor)

Last time around, guitar great and one time Police member Andy Summers explored the music of jazz great Thelonious Monk with his tribute CD entitled Green Chimneys. Now Summers wields his guitar chops for a like-minded tribute album to the late, great, trendsetting bassist and jazz composer Charles Mingus with his new CD, Peggy’s Blue Skylight, recorded in New York and California. In Summers’ own words, “You can’t out-Mingus Mingus. I had to find my own path but also come up with an approach that would do him justice.” A moody and meditative affair flavored with the stark, jazzy characteristics of the Mingus touch, Peggy’s Blue Skylight pairs Summers’ guitar sound with first rate session cats including Randy Brecker (trumpet), The Kronos Quartet, members of The Jazz Passengers and the long time Summers rhythm section of Dave Carpenter (bass) and Joel Taylor (drums). Several vocalists guest here including Blondie singer Debbie Harry and rapper Q-Tip with his spoken word cover of the Mingus poem “Where Can A Man Find Peace”. Front and center throughout is Summers’ artistic guitar playing which ranges in sound from complex and ethereal to a full steam ahead fusion groove. One thing clear is the guitarist’s dedication to the music of Charles Mingus, although perhaps the CD is summed up best when Andy adds, “I hope people will hear Mingus in a way that they haven’t before.” 



In the spirit of Steve Morse and The Dixie Dregs comes Alien Cowboys. Influenced by all shades of instrumental rock, from ‘50s rocker Duane Eddy to the modern hard rock of Joe Satriani, Alien Cowboys really rock the house on their second full length CD. Among his chief influences, the group’s guitar ace Ralph Perucci cites a number of guitar greats including Jeff Beck and early Larry Carlton. Together with Greg Jones (bass) Ian Thomson (drums) and Bruce Stevenson (rhythm guitar), Perucci adds a new twist to the guitar-based instrumental rock-jazz genre. So just how does the quartet describe their sound? According to rhythm guitar ace Bruce Stevenson, “I kind of think of it as ‘Jeff Beck does The Beatles’. Most instrumental pieces are either jam-oriented because they’re blues or like Vai or Satriani they go off on soloing. I think where we’re different there is that we structure, at the songwriting end, a chart that’s basically like a Beatles song. Y’know, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge - it’s just that the lead guitar is doing the singing. We write songs as if the singer’s gonna sing them, but a guitar player sings them instead.” The follow-up to the band’s earlier effort, Analogtherapy is an excellent introduction to an up-and-coming new band and is a solid spin for jazz-rockers of all ages.



The latest album from guitarist Peter Xifaras might seem like a New Age guitar album, however a variety of instrumentation and styles makes Appassionato an innovative ambient adventure into a richly textured musical world The twelve track CD is broken into three different parts: the six part “Appassionato Suite”, “Two Sketches For Guitar” and the four part “Greensleeves Variations”. Essentially a one-man band, Xifaras balances his guitar work with some atmospheric keyboard washes and minimalist percussive backdrops. All forms of music, from New Age to Flamenco to Classical guitar effortlessly glide across the sound stage. Balancing out his original tracks, Xifaras closes out the album with his innovative adaptation of the traditional English folk song “Greensleeves”, entitled “Greensleeves Variations”. Crossing musical borders with ease, Appassionato is a mellow and imaginative classical guitar album for the new millennium. 


Blue Faith

Listen to RealAudio sample: Shanghaiway

A prominent guitarist and dobro master, San Francisco-based Carl Weingarten returns with his latest magnum opus. An expert at combining experimental New Age, ambient rock and World Music, Weingarten has assembled a stellar crew of musicians to help shed new light on his expansive musical vision. Back in the ‘80s Weingarten amazed audiences with his instrumental rock group Delay Tactics and with the 2000 release of Blue Faith he demonstrates just how far he has evolved as both a guitarist and composer. Blue Faith spotlights guest appearances from erhu virtuoso Jie-Bing Chen, singer Sukhawat Ali Kahn and violinist Forrest Fang. A number of outstanding electric and acoustic guitarists, including Barry Cleveland, Michael Manring (bass), Robert Powell (pedal steel) and Weingarten (guitars, slide, dobro, ebow, sound design, efx), add in some well-honed high-tech wizardry to the diverse nature of the album. Blue Faith is a fascinating composite where the sounds of the ancient world skillfully merge with the high-tech musical future. 


Live Run
(Total Energy)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Corridor Of Fear

The king of ‘60 biker-rock inspired instrumental guitar music, guitar god Davie Allan celebrates 35 years of sounds with his new live CD on Burbank-based Total Energy. Allan’s recent studio album for the label, The Arrow Dynamic Sounds Of Davie Allan & The Arrows was a modern classic of the instrumental rock genre. Recorded with assistance from Lee Joseph (bass) and David Winoground (drums), Live Run, recorded in Van Nuys on 9/8/99, goes for the gusto with a take no prisoners, heavy metal meets surf-rock sound. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix had produced The Ventures! Despite the fact the Allan himself eschews the motorcycle as a means of transportation, the music really does conjure up the B&W TV intensity of the mid ‘60s. Mixed in with classic Allan originals such as “Corridor Of Fear” are high octane Allan & Arrows covers of Henry Mancini, the late great Bobby Fuller topped off by the Mann-Weil album-opener “Shape of Things To Come”. A blast of sonic sound, not for the faint of heart, Live Run is Allan & The Arrows in their element and the audience devours every second. And now so can you.  / 



With all the renewed interest in the music of The Doors, the group’s founding guitarist Robby Krieger recently returned with his new instrumental album. Krieger was responsible for writing some of The Doors’ best songs including “Tell All The People” and “Runnin’ Blue”, both from The Soft Parade. While there’s nothing that melodic or Doors-like on Cinematix, the album is nevertheless a great showcase for Krieger’s outstanding guitar skills. Described as a soundtrack for your mind, Cinematix adds in guest appearance from drumming great Billy Cobham, Jeff Richman (guitar) and the legendary Edgar Winter (sax). There’s also plenty of other fine musicians on hand as well. Bordering on ambient instrumental rock and high tech fusion, Cinematix is Krieger and company burning on all cylinders. As a closer there’s even a remake of the Doors’ great Morrison Hotel track “Peace Frog” remixed and renamed here as “War Toad” complete with cameo vocals from Jim Morrison. Not overly melodic, yet rich in excitement, atmospherics and skillful musicianship, the 10 track Cinematix is a welcome return from one of the ‘60s great guitar legends. 


The Doors Concerto

The latest tribute CD to the legend of the late, great Jim Morrison and The Doors is quite a different thing altogether. An orchestral tribute arranged, orchestrated and produced by Jaz Coleman and performed by violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, The Doors Concerto features pensive, dignified classical adaptations of nine Doors classics like “Strange Days”, “Love Street” and “The Unknown Soldier”. Coleman’s heavy, yet aesthetic approach to scoring these Doors’ classics is underscored by the obvious fact that the band was responsible for writing some of the most trendsetting, interesting and melodic music of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. With Kennedy’s violin assuming Morrison’s lead vocal here, the music of The Doors comes to light with a whole new meaning on The Doors Concerto. The solemn nature of the performance sometimes restricts the fun-loving and carefree legacy of the group, yet the album prevails long enough to pay a fond tribute. So what do the other surviving members of the fabled band think of The Doors Concerto? In the words of founding Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek, “It was an unexpected delight. As we used to say in the ‘60s, it blew my mind.” Following his acclaimed classical tributes to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, Coleman can chalk up another winner with The Doors Concerto.


Pickin’ On CSN&Y

For the past few years now L.A.-based CMH Records have been releasing some enjoyable bluegrass instrumental tribute CDs to the biggest names in rock history. Among the label’s recent efforts include Pickin’ On bluegrass tributes to Santana, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top and Roy Orbison to name a few. The latest CD on CMH, Pickin’ On Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young revives a number of gems from the fabled rock supergroup including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, “Wooden Ships”, “Southern Man” and “Woodstock”. A huge ensemble, headed up by multi-instrumentalist David West (guitars, banjo, dulcimer, tabla and more), provides a new take on these classic rock tracks and the result is an enjoyable and refined tribute to the great supergroup. Pickin’ On CSN&Y is clearly one of the finer bluegrass tributes on CMH as many of the tracks really do derive their sound from the country-rock genre. Other recent instrumental bluegrass tributes on CMH include the recently released Gone Phishin’ - A Bluegrass Tribute To Phish and Pickin’ On The Allman Brothers. Fans of the entire CMH series should keep an ear out for the label’s upcoming Pickin’ On The Beatles. 


Clear The Tracks
See What I See
(Hapi Skratch)

The really underrated players of the guitar instrumental scene are scattered so far and wide throughout the world that it shouldn’t surprise fans of the genre to discover a major new talent deserving wider recognition. One such guitarist is Colorado-based Dave Beegle. When he isn’t recording as a solo artist, Beegle can be found performing and recording with his band Fourth Estate. Both Clear The Tracks by Beegle and Fourth Estate’s See What I See offer a sonic spectrum of sounds for fans of hard rock instrumentals and prog-rock. Recorded a few years back, the second album from Fourth Estate, See What I See clearly falls into the instrumental prog-rock genre, yet there’s certainly enough diverse material on it to make it of interest to jazz-rockers and heavy metal jazzers alike. Like the astounding cover art, the music on See What I See is like a roller coaster of progressive sounds with Beegle getting prime support from band mates Fred Babich (bass) and Dave Spurr (drums).

Equally amazing is Beegle’s solo effort from last year, Clear The Tracks. An excellent overview of Beegle’s solo work and his playing with Fourth Estate, Clear The Tracks covers music recorded between 1989-1999. Primarily instrumental, Clear The Tracks spans an enormous range of musical styles - from hard rock to acoustic guitar-based New Age. Clearly a master of the fretboard, Beegle continues to impress his fans with his guitar wizardry, paving the way to a wider appreciation of his music and guitar skills. Guitar icon Phil Keaggy sums up Beegle’s guitar prowess when he adds, “Dave is one of my favorite players and deserves to be seriously listened to and appreciated.” 


Sacred Geometry

The brainchild of Florida-based guitarist Mike Ward, Sacred Geometry proves just how powerful a solo effort of experimental guitar could be. The closest example would be to compare the CD to the work of Nordic space guitarist Terje Rypdal. The whole album is quite a unique sounding effort and attempts to classify it as Space-rock, avant-garde or Neoclassical would be futile. Clearly falling into the Progressive rock realm, Sacred Geometry is at once breezy and meditative as well as enigmatic and challenging. Quite experimental as well, Sacred Geometry is a complex, strange affair that’s entertaining as well. A mainstay on the progressive rock and metal scene in South Florida for the past 15 years, Mike Ward is clearly on the right path with his Temporary Music projects.  - 

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249



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