Record Label and Music Spotlight 




on Water Music


on Accent Records


on Collector's Choice


ACCENT RECORDS - Between 1964 to 1973, guitarist Buddy Merrill recorded more than 144 standards and 263 originals as well as working with greats like Lawrence Welk. Much of Buddy’s instrumental guitar recordings have been reissued on CD on Accent Records. Accent has a number of Merrill reissues including World Of Guitars, Guitars Express and Classic Guitars although the best one yet is the 2005 reissue the 20 track Phases CD. Assisted by drummers, John Klein and Bill Lewis, Buddy’s playing on Phases evokes the spirits of greats like Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant, Merle Travis and especially Les Paul. The sound is orchestral in places and Merrill’s gift for combining electric and acoustic guitars with otherworldly Les Paul inspired studio effects makes it well worth hearing. In addition to playing Strat on Phases, Merrill also sagaciously spotlights his work on micro-frets Huntington electric, Music Man Stingray guitar, Emmons D-10 pedal steel and Fender 6 and micro-frets bass.

- Covering a wide range of easy on the ears guitar sounds, this Best Of from guitarist Brian Frederick samples 19 tracks taken from a range of self-produced albums recorded over the past 5 years. The all instrumental CD features a number of tracks that show the guitarist’s ability to effectively combine smooth jazz and instrumental pop. Playing guitar and keyboards since 1959, Frederick makes the most of his do it yourself spirit performing all guitars, bass, synths and percussion. Frederick’s guitar tone is pleasant and his songs reflect the guitarist’s unique ability to tell stories without words.

- The 2006 release of Six Strings marks the first full length solo CD from Canadian classical guitarist Brad Mahon. Aside from adding in some tasteful reverb in the mastering process, all the sounds on Six Strings are as Mahon cut them live in a studio setting. An outstanding classical guitarist, Mahon is clearly in his element here, covering a wide ranging centuries old repertoire of guitar masters—some from big names like Tarrega and Villa-Lobos but all still deserving rediscovery. As this excellent sounding CD intends, it’s good to know there’s still devoted classical technicians such as Brad Mahon on the scene reminding everyone about where the whole guitar world really began.

- She may still be a 16 year old Ukulele and guitar prodigy, but Hawaii’s new favorite daughter of the ‘Slack Key’ sound, Brittni Paiva is on to something cool on her 2006 CD, entitled Hear... In addition to mellow, Brittni versions of “Take Five” and “El Condor Pasa” are more traditional “Island sound” Hawaiian style Slack Key guitar and ukulele instrumentals co-written by Brittni and big names like Ozzie Kotani and Leonard Kwan. Nice liner notes by Brittni makes Hear... a fine follow up to her well received 2004 album, Brittni X 3.

- Any guitarist that cites Django, Hank and Peter Green as big influences gets my ear. On the 18 track, 2006 CD from the Australia-based Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum jettisons the gypsy jazz intrigue of Django Reinhardt in favor of the excitement of trendy beat group sounds of the Shadows and Sandals, Duane Eddy. Ben’s nimble fretboard work on “Medina Wedding Blues” would put a smile on Peter Green’s face! With his group’s new CD, Welcome To Instrumental Asylum, guitar ace Ben Rogers brings the rock instrumental sound solidly into the now. Guitar instrumental music is and always was huge in Australia—Hank Marvin lives there today—and interestingly over the past decade original Aussie instro rockers The Atlantics, Kim Humphreys and other up and coming bands are out there keeping the R.I. sound alive downunder. Welcome To Instrumental Asylum is a real treat for ‘60s guitar freaks.

- Currently the guitarist in Heart, Craig Bartock is also an accomplished singer-songwriter and he comes out swinging with his 2006 CD. Perhaps the most amazing thing about The Finer Points Of Instinct is that Craig handles all the instruments, vocals and production. ‘60s pop influences like The Zombies and the pop side of Al Kooper come to mind, but in a totally modern context that conjures a dizzying demonstration of melody and instrumentation. Bartock is an amazing guitarist, yet in his one man band pop masterpiece, the guitar is simply one aspect in a symphony of sounds.

- America’s all time greatest country pop diva, Linda Ronstadt is given excellent reissue treatment by her first label. Her 2006 double CD retrospective—The Best Of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years pairs Ronstadt’s first four solo albums including her 1969 Capitol solo debut, Hand Sown...Home Grown and Silk Purse (1970) on disc one while disc two teams Linda Ronstadt (1972) with her most famous Capitol release and—the record that put her on the map back in 1974—Heart Like A Wheel. Among the songwriters Ronstadt covers here include Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Mel Tillis, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Paul Anka, Livingston Taylor and more. The many fine musicians and guitarists here include future Eagles Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner and top production of Peter Asher and Andrew Gold.
With his revered legacy of tropical instrumental music, it’s hard to believe that Martin Denny was born in New York City in 1911, moving to LA before settling in Hawaii in 1954. Denny’s forte was an uncanny ability to fuse a wild mix of Polynesian-style exotica and space age instrumental pop that still fascinates 50 years on. Sad to say Denny passed away in 2005, albeit at the ripe old age of 94. Even at 94, two weeks before his death, Denny was performing his most famous song, “Firecracker” at a fundraiser for victims of the 2004 tsunami. His long time label Capitol Records honors the king of instrumental Polynesian lounge music with a 19 track 2006 collection, The Best Of Martin Denny’s Exotica. Complete with dazzling cover art and new notes from his daughter—this best of CD is great place to rediscover the magic of Martin Denny.

- Beatles songs continue be a never ending source of delight among acoustic guitar technicians. Guitar fans couldn’t do better than pick up Beatles - Acoustic Guitar Solos from Virginia based Stephen Bennett. Paul McCartney wrote many great songs on acoustic guitar, but beyond “Blackbird”, Bennett cuts an with swath of Fab Four classics with George Harrison represented by a a Merrill version of “Something.” As his CD proves, Merrill is a true guitar aficionado ably employing a range of classic vintage acoustic guitars including his famous Merrill harp guitar.

– With all the vast numbers of Beatles tribute albums that have come out over the past ten years, it’s worth taking a look at one of the earliest albums praising the music of the Fab Four. In 2006, Collector’s Choice reissued the first ever CD of The Baroque Beatles Book. Put together by orchestrator Joshua Rifkin, the album was originally released in November 1965 by Elektra Records, who at the time were no doubt looking to cash in on the enormous popularity of Beatles music. Rifkin himself played harpsichord on the album and was accompanied by some of the greatest freelance classical musicians in NYC at the time. Rifkin had a volume two planned for recording but it was not to be. With excellent liner notes, The Baroque Beatles Book is the greatest classical adaptation of Beatles music ever made and is well worth revisiting by both Beatles fans and classical buffs.
One of the brightest, most gifted bands to emerge in 1966, The Association were just that. Balanced by the vocals and vision of lead singer Jim Yester and the vision of Jules Alexander, the group were propelled on their first album And Then Along Comes The Association Singing…Along Comes Mary by the artistic songwriting of Tanden Almer and producer visionary and Gary Usher protégé, Curt Boettcher, the group’s burst on the scene with the now classic Almer-penned “Along Comes Mary” and went on to pretty much define the hip California pop sound circa ’66 / ‘67 Although CC has the whole Association catalog out on CD, in 2006 they complete the catalog with the much anticipated CD reissue of the first album Along Comes The Association. Very much likewise for the Collector’s Choice reissue of the back catalog of Beaver And Krause. Bernie Kraus and his cohort Paul Beaver recorded some great electronic music of the ‘60s as featured on new CC CD’s of their 1968 debut The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music, and the early ‘70s albums In A Wild Sanctuary, Gandharva (featuring Ronnie Montrose and Mike Bloomfield on guitars) and their final album together 1972’s excursion into Van Dyke Parks inspired Americana, All Good Men. Following the untimely passing of Beaver in 1975, Bernie Krause Ph.D. went on to become one of the true innovators of 20th century electronic ambient and naturesound music. As these superb Collector’s Choice CDs demonstrate, the nascent innovations of Beaver & Krause in the realms of electronic music, free jazz and pop Americana is still the stuff of legends.

Having studied classical and flamenco—while later touring with Nuevo flamenco icon Ottmar Liebert between ’97 and 2000—New Mexico guitarist Daniel Ward stakes out his own musical territory with the 2006 CD release of After The Storm. Much like the scenery around and Santa Fe / Sedona area of the desert southwest, Daniel Ward’s guitar music is both pastoral and harmonically satisfying. Demonstrating a knack for composing Nuevo flamenco, World beat jazz and soft samba sounds, Ward excels on nylon string guitar, electric guitar, bass, percussion and keyboards while receiving support from percussionist John Bartlet and a number of side players.

- If the thought of a dozen beautiful Chinese girls playing exotic Asian string and wood instruments in unison sounds appealing than you could do far worse then to check out the 2005 CD from the latest Chinese import from Twelve Girls Band. Entitled Romantic Energy, the instrumental music here is pretty much in the spirit of Domo Records New Age mastermind Kitaro, yet the CD sound simply glistens. These gals not only look the part, they are each virtuoso players and the accompanying DVD gives a close up introduction to each player. In addition to the old China vibe, there’s enough modern technical wizardry and rock edge to make it a safe choice for fans of modern masters like Mike Oldfield and Enya. In addition to the Romantic Energy, they have also released an X-mas album, The Twelve Girls Of Christmas, reworking a dozen Eastern-tinged, instrumental New Age holiday favorites like “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

- Recorded several years back, the first duo CD from Alan Korpady and Patrick Jennings is a classy introduction to their guitar craft. With 13 instrumental tracks, the CD tastefully merges a number of acoustic guitar forms. From finger style folk and expansive New Age to a stately mix of meditative ragtime and bluegrass tinged instrumentals, Traveler is a work of art from start to finish. Korpady & Jennings even cover a pair of Leo Kottke tracks, yet the CD clearly proves their all original guitar music is just as intriguing as the Kottke covers. Adding further sonic depth, several of the album’s more majestic pieces are enhanced by Jackson Berkey, whose keyboard orchestrations work so well in Mannheim Steamroller.

- One of the coolest guitar instrumental groups across the land, guitarist Pete Weiss and his band The Weisstronauts continue making fine CDs. Their 2006 CD, Featuring Perky continues the band’s fine tradition of making atmospheric, toe-tapping instro guitar music. Comparing the group’s latest album with earlier efforts Weiss adds, “Well, there's a different drummer on this CD than on the others; he has a much jazzier style than our previous drummer. We also have an additional guitarist, George Hall, who brings Belew-like effects and twang bar pyrotechnics to the proceedings." With vintage guitars leading the charge, The Weisstronauts are a modern tribute to the erstwhile ‘60s sounds of The Ventures and Shadows and they come up with something fresh and interesting in the process.

- Hardcore jazz with a groovin’ uptown sound, Brightness Of Being is the best album yet from NYC based guitarist Paul Bollenback. Among those who’ve raved about Bollenback’s straight on jazz attack include the late, great 20th Century Guitar editor Jim Fisch as well as guitar legend George Benson. A jazz guitar master, Bollenback knows when to swing out and when to kick back with some effective introspective guitar musings. Well recorded and beautifully packaged with in depth liner notes from Bill Milkowski, Brightness Of Being is best listened to with the repeat button on. Combining the vintage sound of veterans like Wes Montgomery and the modern hi-tech vibe of Pat Metheny, Brightness of Being finds the guitarist in top form backed up by great players including David “Fathead” Newman (sax), drummers Teri-Lyne Carringtom and Art Honnig and the ethereal voice of Chris McNulty, whose added presence graces this mostly instrumental twelve track CD. Recorded in Brooklyn during October 2005, Brightness Of Being is a modern marvel filled with a vast range of appealing jazz guitar sounds.

- Bowie’s eclectic musical genius comes shining through on this 2006 DVD reissue of his 1983 Serious Moonlight concert/ film documentary. Armed with a killer band, including guitar greats Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick, the post-Lennon ‘80s Bowie dances through cross section of tracks from his 1983 release Let’s Dance and in addition to the concert, the nearly 3 hour DVD—directed by David Mallett—also pairs the September ’83 concert in Vancouver with a way cool documentary of Bowie’s continent spanning Serious Moonlight Asian tour complete, concert footage and great shots of the Asian capital cities.

- Guitar hero Gary Moore cuts a wide swath of new blues sounds with the 2006 release of his new CD Old New Ballads Blues. Eagle have released a number of Moore CDs and DVDs—including a new live DVD tribute to Phil Lynott and his bandmates in Thin Lizzy called One Night In Dublin: A Tribute To Phil Lynott. Fresh from the success of his 2003 Eagle CD Power Of The Blues, Moore’s 2006 release of Old New Ballads Blues is going to please long time fans no end. With his band now including Don Airey (keyboards), Jonathan Noyce (bass) and Darrin Mooney (drums), Moore’s guitar never sound so red hot and sizzling in the studio. Moore’s fretboard work on his cover of Willie Dixon’s “You Know My Love” is sounds stunning as he takes it way over the top. There’s even an instrumental track here called “Cut It Out” and two newly recorded fan favorites from his album Still Got The Blues—“Midnight Blues” and “All Your Love”. As he proves on Old New Ballads Blues, Moore still reigns supreme among the great modern guitar slinging blues rockers.
Formed in 1969 by guitarist Andy Powell, Wishbone Ash are still going strong in 2006 and by every indication their latest, and first for Eagle Rock, Clan Destiny will please fans no end. Commenting on the follow up to their 2002 album Bona Fide, Powell adds, “We went in the studio very well prepared. The album has a lot of energy, a lot of creativity. It seems to my ears, to be a natural followup to Bona Fide. Assisting Powell on the twin guitar sound the band is so renowned for is Finnish guitar slinger Muddy Manninen. The Finns are renowned for their guitar flair and Manninenn sonic sound fits in well with the famous progressive blues-rock Wishbone Ash guitar sound. More importantly,the songs on Clan Destiny hold up quite well alongside the band’s best. Assisted by Manninen’s driving guitar and long time band members Bob Skeat (bass) and Ray Weston (drums), Powell shines on both guitar and vocals. Clan Destiny is yet another shining moment in the Wishbone Ash story.

– One hub of the mid ‘60s pop scene in L.A. was Laurel Canyon. John Mayall made Blues From Laurel Canyon about it, but years before the eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood hills was a mecca for groups like The Byrds, The Mamas And The Papas, Frank Zappa, The Turtles and more. With new interviews from Graham Nash, Chris Hillman, Gail Zappa and more, Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story Of Rock And Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by author Michael Walker recalls the inside story of the L.A. music scene in the ‘60s through the mid ‘70s. Walker’s 277 page book takes a rare inside look at the heyday of L.A. pop and is enhanced by cool b&w pictures of rock royalty from the great Henry Diltz.

- Denver based Charles Brown is a fantastic guitarist who can do it all. Hard rock, fusion, classical, soundtrack type stuff—the guy is great. All his hard work over the past few years of releasing critically acclaimed independent releases hits a new pinnacle on his 2006 CD Atmospheric Journey. Of course, this is just the type of stuff you’d never hear on the radio, it’s too good and musically ‘out there’ for mass consumption. So as a result, Brown has become a favorite of the underground guitar instrumental scene. Although Brown clearly knows his way around a classical guitar, he’s best known for exploring the sonic boundaries of the guitar synth. Brown’s expertise at combining major guitar influences like Metheny, Howe and Blackmore results in a most atmospheric musical journey indeed.

- Dig, this is a rock critics fantasy. Imagine your favorite band of all time, going back in the studio and remaking their best album. Well by all standards, Aqualung is clearly the album that put Ian Anderson and his mates in Jethro Tull smack dab on the map. Although early fans may tell you that Benefit was the best early Tull album, it’s clear that track by track, Aqualung is the one that people remember. The album that ushered in the age of Gothic-prog rock, Aqualung was re-recorded live before an audience in the studio during the Fall of 2005, by Ian Anderson, guitarist Martin Barre and the current Tull lineup and was released on CD by L.A. based Fuel Records. Anderson, Barre and company went on to even greater heights in Tull, yet it’s undeniable that played with their hands the album sounds better than ever. The caught live in the studio sound is great with very minimal audience noise. (they do of course clap at the end of each track, no hoots japanese style) A great concept featuring a great album by everyone’s favorite prog-rockers, the Aqualung Live features historic notes by Mr. Anderson and to top it off all proceeds of the sale goes to aid the homeless. Funny enough when Anderson is heard after “Slipstream” saying, “Sounds just the same as the last one, didn’t it”
Although he passed away on May 16th, 1953, guitar innovator Django Reinhardt left behind an amazing gypsy-jazz guitar legacy that’s well worth rediscovering. Fuel Records makes the rediscovery enjoyable with their 18 track Django retrospective entitled An Introduction To Django Reinhardt. Backed by informative liner notes, Fuel’s CD features Django recording in three different settings between 1947-49. A fine representation of the period when Django started playing bebop on the electric guitar, the CD features support by key players, rhythm guitarist Eugene Vees and violinist Stephane Grapelli. Also on Fuel are great Introduction To best of’s from rock and roll pioneer, the late great Del Shannon (17 tracks like “Hats Off To Larry,” “Runaway” and “Little Town Flirt”) and flamenco pop icon Jose Feliciano, (18 tracks featuring “Light My Fire,” “Chico & The Man” and “Feliz Navidad”)

- A cool little do it yourself progressive instrumental CD, Unspoken, by Glenn Kricher features a wild range of instrumental tracks, from sonic New Age T. Dream style guitar to a more rootsy instrumental rock sound. His budget may be low but Kricher is rich with musical ideas. This is the kind of recording that begs for the mind of a skillful producer. That said, the music is really good with the beauty being it’s eclectic nature. Fans of groups like Oregon and Ralph Towner or Steve Tibbetts should check out Kricher.

GS - Mixing straight ahead and smooth jazz, Brazilian and New Age music, guitarist Greg Smith strives towards gaining his own voice in the guitar world and finds it with his 2006 CD Above The Clouds. In the spirit of some of Pat Metheny’s jazzier, less ethereal acoustic moments, Smith’s instrumental guitar sound often defies easy category but either way he grooves the spirit is quite strong on Above The Clouds. Having studied in the early ‘70s at Berklee with Metheny, Larry Coryell and Jeff Berlin, Smith is hardly a novice and throughout the CD he demonstrate quite a masterful touch on his PRS, Taylor, Gitane and Yamaha guitars. Above The Clouds is a well recorded CD filled with memorable guitar sounds.

- Long time fans of Pink Floyd may want to check out the new David Gilmour CD, yet for a first hand account at how brilliant Pink Floyd really were in their heyday check out the recent DVD release of Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii – The Director’s Cut on Hip-O Records. As the DVD indicates, the group line up with both Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters remains the definitive Floyd who recorded masterpiece after masterpiece. Skillfully shot in beautiful sunlight and filmed in an ancient outside amphitheater around the ruins of Pompeii, original movie was expertly filmed by Adrian Maben. Among the greatest rock performance concept videos ever, Hip-O’s nearly 3 hour DVD combines the original concert film with a new director’s cut of the film and a documentary of the movie. Capturing Pink Floyd at the height of their powers during the Meddle era, the DVD also features startling color footage of Pink Floyd in the studio recording parts of Dark Side Of The Moon and some amazing footage of the Italian volcano itself.

HOLISTIC MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT - Originating out the Chicago area, guitarist Eric Mantel is a rare player with a vivid musical imagination who can do it all. Inspired by the Vai-Johnson-Satiani school of guitar logic, Mantel sounds right at home blowing through complex jazz-rock changes, blazing through red-hot blues-rock, ripping through Nashville style country jazz licks as well as impressing with the occasional nylon string classical piece. Another thing that sets Mantel apart from many players is approach to rock vocals. One listen to his “Why So Lonely,” and it’s obvious Mantel can sing too. Assisted by John Falstrom (bass) and album co-producer Pat Doody (drums), Mantel’s CD impresses on so many levels that it’s a bit hard to keep tabs on him. Mantel is a fan of Indian music and some tracks are flavored with the sonorous strains of sitar. The text is a bit hard to read, yet the colorful CD booklet is filled overall with excellent graphics. With 20 tracks clocking in at 80 minutes, The Unstuck Melody is a cool introduction to an artist that’s bound to cause quite a stir in the guitar world.

HUMAN NATURE - The new solo effort from America founding member Gerry Beckley delivers on many levels. Horizontal Fall is a testament to the craft of songwriting and a mature statement by an artist comfortable in his own skin. The opening “3 AM” informs the listener early on that this is not the product of youth ridden angst. This is rather a well sung, well played set of music that retains its relevance by staying true to itself. There are many textures throughout the proceedings from the infectious pop of "Crying" and "Keeping the Light On"; the image-laden "Saturday Sky" and John Fields’ produced "Lazarus"; the poignant "Here and Now" to some of the most well crafted ballads you're likely to hear in "I'll be Gone", "Arms", and "Somewhere, Somehow". The vocal, guitar and keyboard work are all Beckley with some notable guests, including Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, drummer Russ Kunkel, and Poco's Rusty Young.

- The artist known as E (aka Mark Oliver Everett) burst on the scene back in 1992 with a great pop CD entitled A Man Called E. Fourteen years later he’s still at the top of his game with a 2006 DVD on Image Entertainment entitled Eels With Strings Live At Town Hall. Instead of his usual rockin’ band sound, E changes things around for his 28 track in concert DVD featuring his music supported by a fine sounding string quartet. Also in E’s latest band is an excellent steel guitarist E calls The Chet as well as Big Al on bass/keyboards. Not only has E improved both as a singer / songwriter, but as his Image DVD points out, he’s also a fine guitarist and keyboard player as well. Town Hall is one of the best theaters in NYC and there’s also some great behind the scenes footage and E videos as bonus features on the DVD. Another 2006 DVD on Image Entertainment is Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan. A number of artists including Dylan himself appear including Aaron Neville, Shirley Caesar and The Mighty Clouds Of Joy. Inspired by the 2003 Dylan gospel tribute album Gotta Serve Somebody, the Image DVD documents the making of that album, weaving in performance and interview footage along with artists such as Jim Keltner and Spooner Oldham, who recorded with Dylan during his 1980 gospel period. The DVD also features an animated video of Dylan’s grammy winning song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Another live music DVD worth checking out on Image Entertainment in 2006 is Glenn Tilbrook: One for the Road. Remembered as the lead singer in the U.K. post punk pop group Squeeze, Tillbrook is in rare form, caught live on the DVD directed by filmmaker Amy Pickard as he tours the U.S. state to state in an RV. In addition to featuring Tilbrook ‘unplugged’ performing a number of Squeeze classics live, the 70 minute DVD also tags on interviews with Tillbrook, Squeeze lyricist Chris Difford and more.
Depending on your musical inclination and / or your age you either think 90125 was the greatest thing since sliced bread or the first misstep from a band that changed the direction of 20th Century music back in the '70s. Either way, the 1983 Lp release from Yes was a huge album—spawning a number of MTV related videos and the band’s hit single "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." Thankfully, that whole era of early '80s Yes was caught for posterity on the Steven Soderbergh production of 9012Live, released in early 2006 on DVD by Image Entertainment. Some, including Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin, were a bit unhappy with the special effects added to the original live video concert mix but thankfully, this Image DVD features the original ten track live in concert movie, complete with those special effects, as well as a special director's cut of the movie, without those distracting special effects. The one drawback is that this vaulted director's cut of the movie is one complete tracks without the ability to skip tracks. That one minor quibble aside, the superbly filmed  DVD also features a bonus track of "Roundabout" not featured in the original movie as well as a cool 9012Live documentary on the making of the movie, period piece interviews, making it the definitive look at the early '80s Yes phenomenon.

- Just like he indicates on the cover art and in the CD title, Natural Ingredients is a mixture of sounds from Long Island based guitarist Bruce Jenney. A multi-instrumentalist adept on guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, vocals and even flugelhorn, Jenney can and does do it on his ten track self-produced album. Several players contribute including guitarist Ray Matuza, who also contributes liner notes. Overall, Natural Ingredients is just that; a smoothly produced set of vocals ala Steely Dan with touches of elegant instrumental smooth pop and jazz.

KR - Originally from New Jersey and now living in Portland, Oregon, Ken Rubenstein is a masterful electric / acoustic guitarist who sounds totally committed to exploring the most avant-garde aspects of 20th Century music. His biggest influences include non-musicians such as Stanley Kubrick, Frank Lloyd Wright, Salvador Dali, and fittingly, Rubenstein’s 2005 CD Invert And Transcend is one of most adventurous and articulate guitar albums in recent memory. A mostly instrumental affair, the ten track CD finds the guitarist stretching the outer limits of the electric guitar with the expert support of Charlie Zeleny (drums), Ed Broms (Hammond B3) and the gorgeous wordless vocals of Wendy Parker.

- Back in the mid ‘80s singer-songwriter Anna Domino was one of the best and brightest new singers on the downtown NYC scene. Her 1986 self-titled debut CD, Anna Domino was a cult classic import and was a great introduction to her unique singing style. In 1987 she joined forces with Belgian guitarist Michael DeLory for her best ever album, This Time, followed in 1990 by Mysteries Of America and several EP CD’s which further cemented her reputation with long time fans. Now in 2006 U.K. based LTM have reissued her three solo albums as well as a compilation of early cuts entitled East And West and a 16 track best of CD entitled Dreamback: The Best Of Anna Domino, each with bonus tracks, liner notes and track info. It’s been too long since Anna has released a new album under her name, but as these LTM reissues prove, it’s not too late to rediscover her magical muse.

LEGACY / WINDHAM HILL - Back in the early mid ‘80s, Windham Hill Records helped usher in the start of the New Age boom of that crazy decade. Some say they went a little too far to the center of easy listening, but the label’s grasp of meditative music was undeniable. Artists like label founder and guitar icon Will Ackerman, Alex De Grassi, world music expert George Winston, late, great guitarist Michael Hedges, Tuck Andreas, Hawaiian guitarist Keola Beamer, fusion pioneer Mark Isham and groups like Shadowfax and Nightnoise all benefited from the high visibility Windham Hill afforded their releases. Going from a small iconoclastic label to a near brand name in such a short time put Windham Hill on the map to stay. Twenty years after their heyday, Sony Legacy has put together a really beautiful CD box set dedicated to the magic of Windham Hill. Entitled A Quiet Revolution: 30 Years Of Windham Hill, the superb sounding set features all the above artists plus many more, unreleased live tracks and a 50 page color booklet with liner notes by New Age expert John Dilberto.

- Great hands make for a fine set of sumptuous sounding acoustic guitar instrumentals on Juliet’s Window by Tom Smith. Among his influences, Smith credits Beethoven, Monk and Mingus, while clearly drawing further inspiration from acoustic legends like Fahey and Kottke. From jazz and country to blues and classical, the diversity of the instrumental acoustic ‘Americana’ sound is alive and well in living in Tom Smith’s guitar.

- With a name like The Balls, and a CD with a title like Come Out Swingin’ you better be good or you’d never hear the end of it! Such is the case with the CD debut from the Tennessee based Balls. Featuring the sizzling fretboard work of Maverick’s guitarist Nick Kane—backed up by Rick Taylor (bass) and Joe Scheibelhoffer (drums)—the hard hitting Balls come across like Cream playing surf-rock music. The group list other influences such as biker guitar god Davie Allan, Link Wray as well hard rockers Deep Purple with a touch of Zappa all mixed up into one ferocious biker-surf-blues-rock brew. The Balls more than live up to their namesake and come out swingin’ hard and heavy on their rockin’ 13 track CD.

- Being far flung to that wilderness known as Finland, Jim Pembroke can single handedly take the credit for introducing the English language into the mainstream of Finnish rock culture. A master of the Queen’s English during his childhood in London, Pembroke’s cryptic songwriting methodology didn’t exactly help matters with the Finns right away, yet for some reason he was able to bring his band, Wigwam into some international acclaim in Finland, Scandinavia, England and Japan. Out of near a dozen cool Wigwam albums between 1969-2005, the band’s 1976 album Lucky Golden Stripes And Starpose was released in England on Virgin with some excellent packaging, which was quite different from the original Finnish cover art release. Inspired by Dylan, Zevon and Richard Manuel of the Band, Pembroke was also a great fan of Procol Harum and The Beatles, and on Lucky Golden Pembroke and company strike a balance between most of those bands especially Harum and The Band! As Wigwam, Pembroke, guitarist Pekka Rechardt and drummer Ronnie Osterberg were an acquired taste back in the heyday of the ‘70s but the taste proved to be clearly worth it and now 30 years later—as a 2005 Love remaster with two bonus track—the album maintains its dazzling vital signs.

- Influenced early on by Hendrix and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, the 2006 CD from guitarist Michael Gabriel possesses an elegant sonic edge. Bluesy and spatial at the same time, Visions is a fine introduction to Gabriel’s tasteful guitar playing. There’s also a spacey, retro-bent surf-rock vibe on hand that mixes well with Gabriel’s potent approach to instrumental rock fusion. With Gabriel writing and performing all the guitars, bass, keyboards and drums—as well as producing, mixing and mastering the entire CD—Visions offers a rockin’ surprise for fans of adventurous electric guitar sounds. www.

- The sound of world beat music meets jazz on the late 2005 CD from Minnesota guitarist Bobby E. Strickland. Simply called The Guitar, the eleven track instrumental album features Strickland stretching out on a number of top guitars, while receiving some fine side support from a number of players. Not only is Strickland a virtuoso on both electric and acoustic guitars but he somewhat of an guitar music connoisseur, citing a number of worldwide influences in the liners notes such as Luiz Bonfa, Christopher Parkening, Ry Cooder, Lenny Breau, Baden Powell and more. On this tropical sounding and lush set of guitar sounds, Strickland even pays tribute to his rock heroes with reconstructed covers of Cream-mates Eric Clapton (“Layla”) and a brilliant, startling cover of the ‘69 Jack Bruce classic “Rope Ladder To The Moon”. Superbly recorded, The Guitar makes for some fine downtime listening.

- Commenting on the 2006 Goldfrapp CD Supernature, the group’s lead singer Alison Goldfrapp says, “We’ve stepped up a gear, It’s always good to break your own rules, that’s the fun bit.” Her partner Will Gregory concurs, “We’ve grown a lot, found other ways of expressing. We’ve even got a couple of guitars on this album.” Tastefully influenced by Euro-tinged synth music, Kate Bush. T. Rex and even Prince, Goldfrapp hit their stride with the magical cosmic bop of Supernature.

- Guitar great Robin Trower celebrates 60 years on planet earth with the release of a new CD / DVD entitled Living Out Of Time - Live. Trower of course rose to fame as the guitar sound, a key component of the brilliant late ‘60s art-rock group Procol Harum. Sadly, he split from Procol after recording the band’s heaviest album, Broken Barricades, and since 1971 he’s be burning up stages everywhere as a solo act. Recorded live for German TV on March 9, 2005, Living Out Of Time - Live is Trower’s 25 solo album and his first official DVD. Still rockin’ at 60, Trower’s lost none of his ability as an electric guitar innovator and in this setting more than lives up to his often referred to legacy as the living heir to Hendrix, a fact that often comes to mind on the DVD and companion CD. The CD is great spin and the audio quality is excellent but to capture the full intensity of Trower and his crack band live, check out the DVD, which also features a bonus interview track and photo gallery.
How and why did The Small Faces go from being an English mod band possessed by American R&B artists like Otis Redding and Booker T & the MGs to being a psychedelic wünderband espousing the joys of smoking pot? Find out on The Small Faces: Under Review released stateside on DVD in 2006 by Music Video Distributors. Rarely seen promo films, interviews with some of the biggest name journalists in England as well as live and studio performances and more seals the deal on this best yet documentary about one of the U.K.’s truly great ‘60s pop bands.
A true living legend of the 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar, Leo Kottke is the subject of a fabulous 2006 DVD release available from Music Video Distributors. Entitled Home & Away Revisited, the DVD captures Leo’s original 1988 performance at Toronto’s Bathurst St. Theater and is expanded to feature previously unseen footage of Leo’s life on the road from that period including amazing performance footage of Leo with the late, great fingerstyle guitarist Michael Hedges as well as incredible performance footage with Michael Johnson and a three way guitar jam with Leo with both Chet Atkins and Doc Watson. In addition to the ‘88 Toronto concert, Home & Away Revisited also highlights intriguing segments of Leo and banjo wiz John Hartford playing beautiful vintage guitars at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville. At 106 minutes, the DVD provides more than a few reasons as to why Leo Kottke is still considered the finest acoustic guitarist of a generation.
Always one of the most creative U.K. rock groups following in the footsteps of The Beatles, Stackridge temporarily split in 1976 with two of the main members going to form The Korgis. Guitarists / songwriters Andy Davis and James Warren were tops in Stackridge and the music they made over the past 30+ years as The Korgis, while a little more pop than rock, still maintained a high standard. Interesting that both Stackridge and The Korgis released new albums on Angel Air in 2005 and now The Korgis return with a 2006 ‘unplugged’ studio DVD, released in the U.S.A. on MVD, that features Davis and Warren in the studio wtih fellow Korgis member John Baker serving up 14 classic Korgis cuts done living room style acoustically. Even without the legendary studio sound of both The Korgis and Stackridge (Stackridge were produced by Sir George Martin), the music and illuminating commentary by Davis and Warren shines through and the DVD of the proceedings is well worth seeing and hearing.

- First released in February 1972—in the wake of Duane Allman’s death—Eat A Peach featured a mix of studio cuts The Allman Brothers recorded just before and after Duane’s death on October 29, 1971 with live material recorded earlier at the Fillmore East. Mercury’s 2006 Deluxe Edition reissue of Eat A Peach combines the complete original double album along a batch of unreleased June 27, 1971 recordings from their Fillmore East shows. In another round of bad luck, following the release of Eat A Peach, the Allman’s bass player Berry Oakley was klled at the end of ’72 in another motorcycle accident three blocks from the site of Duane’s accident. Regarding the studio tracks on Eat A Peach—“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and “Melissa” are among the finest ever recorded by the group. Filling in for Duane as the band’s sole lead guitar player, Dickey Betts also turned in a spectacular performance on guitar, while also composing key tracks like the FM radio classic “Blue Sky” (with Duane) and the instrumental jazz-rock classic “Les Brers In A Minor.” Fine liner notes and 70 minutes of rare live bonus cuts on disc two help this double CD Eat A Peach edition live up to it’s Deluxe Edition status.

- Following years of playing hard rock and heavy metal, guitarist Michael Mucklow returned in 2006 with an album that’s relaxing, calming and peaceful…even healing. Mucklow adds, “Those styles really opened me to playing with passion and intensity, and I later learned the same can be applied to all forms of music – even very soothing music.” Mucklow’s affinity for Acoustic Alchemy, William Ackerman, Alex De Grassi, and Michael Hedges, Mucklow follows suit with an album bound to be of interest to fans of those New Age favorites. Also featuring support from Jon Gosen, (piano, synth, percussion) Clearly is a delightful cross section of superbly performed, insightful acoustic guitar based. You can detect some of his earlier rock and fusion influences but overall, Muckow’s all instrumental guitar CD is ethereal finger style acoustic guitar music at it’s finest.

– Described as ‘Leo Kottke writing with John Zorn and producing with Brian Eno,’ guitarist Adam Weinberg explores his Jewish roots themes on his 2006 CD On The Seventh Year. Weinberg’s guitar ebbs and flow on a mix of low key, finger style acoustic guitar instrumentals punctuated by some neat electronic wizardry. Weinberg has played with Orthodox Jewish rocker Matisyahu recently and throughout the course of On The Seventh Year he explores his journey from the heartland of America to the back alley streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.

- On their quest for worldwide domination, Von Frickle regroup in 2006 for the CD release of Arrhythmia. The band's 2005 release of Mission 4.9 is taken one step beyond with Arrhythmia. Joining forces and bouncing off founding vonFrickle guitarist Lee Fehr, Ken Thornton now assumes a lion's share of the guitar sounds here. As a unit, vonFrickle hit a new height with Arrhythmia. Like vonFripp's King Crimson, the '70s Von Zamla, and composers like Wendy Carlos and Luciano Berio before them, Von Frickle defy the laws of music gravity and conjure an otherworldly, electrifying instrumental rock sound all their own and with Arrhythmia you couldn't ask for a better example, in fact it may be impossible top it but it's impossible to stop them either. Surrender to vonFrickle.

- Wisconsin born guitarist Pete McCann has called the NYC area his home for the past 15 years. McCann’s latest CD, Most Folks, reflects the uptown jazz spirit of NYC. Although his instrumental music is authentic bop-jazz, the guitarist adds, “I like music; I like all different types of jazz—jazz-rock, jazz fusion, old school jazz and nylon stringed Brazilian jazz.” Recording in the studio and backed up by a band of like minded jazzers, McCann’s guitar spirit echoes his two big guitar heroes, John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth. McCann has performed and recorded with jazz giants like Kenny Wheeler and Pete Erskine so it’s cool that he gets a chance to spread his wings on the jazz-flecked sounds on Most Folks.

- Inspired by pop heroes like Marshall Crenshaw and Jules Shear, rising D.I.Y. pop maestro Allen Wentz establishes some credentials with the 2005 release of Out Of Warranty. Nicely produced solid indy pop with an edge, the ten track CD a great spin from start to finish. Post punk pop influences like Elvis Costello pop up as well but Wentz is at his best on strum and twang marvels like “Hole In My House” and “Kathryn In Blue.” The renowned Swedish guitarist George Wadenius appears on a couple of tracks here including a cool cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

- Beautiful weather, beautiful beaches and beautiful music. If that sounds like Hawaii, you’d be right. Hawaii’s laid back musical vibe is personified in the instrumental guitar music of the Big Island based Kohala. Hawaii’s Palm label have been releasing a number of laid back guitar albums by Kohala featuring the music of guitarist Charles Michael Brotman. Supported by fellow guitarists Charlie Recaido and Rupert Tripp, Kohala receive light percussion backing from Lopaka Colon. Mixing nylon string and steel string acoustic guitar in a mix best described as a mix of contemporary Hawaiian with a touch of slack key, folk and jazz, the tropical Kohala guitar sound on Deeper Blue is would make a great video soundtrack as you tour around the scenic beauty of Hawaii.

- Fans of ‘60s pop culture who sit around watching Star Trek episodes and spaghetti westerns and revel in the swinging sounds of Mancini, Baxter and Esquivel should checkout the 2004 CD from Jet Set Swe. Entitled From Sweden To You, the sound is pure retro, evoking the finest musical elements from the ‘60s with a modern bent for the millennium. Sort of what if Henry Mancini would have produced The Ventures or Booker T. & The MGs, Jet Set Swe are one of the coolest instro bands coming out of that often chilly Scandinavian paradise known as Sweden. In addition to the lead off cover the “The Star Trek” theme, the group comes alive on their own sounds and further covers of “A Man And A Woman” and “Music To Watch Girls By.” Amazing art work too.

- When it comes to redefining the classical masterpieces of the ages, there’s nothing more beautiful than the stately elegance of the solo guitar. Guitarist Mark Magnuson puts his guitar prowess to good use on the 2006 CD release of Acoustic Wedding. Subtitled, 20 Wedding Classics On Instrumental Acoustic Guitar. Described as ’50 minutes of intimate instrumental guitar selections to use in any part of a wedding ceremony’, the CD features solo guitar versions of favorites like Bach’s “Ode To Joy”, “Air On A G String”, “Sheep May Graze Safely” and more. These 20 tracks prove that the solo acoustic guitar is the greatest interpreter of classical music. Magnuson cites players like Will Ackerman, John Michael Talbot and Michael Hedges as big influences and on Acoustic Wedding he stakes out some excellent acoustic guitar territory of his own.

- Having studied jazz with Joe Diorio and classical with William Kannengiser, guitarist Ken Song gets his own sound out there with the 2006 CD release of Goin’ Wes. Backed by a full band, Song sounds very influenced by Wes Montgomery yet he also works wonders with jazzy guitar covers of Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Waller, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Song’s eclectic batch of guitar ideas combines a smart jazz approach to both mainstream and modern smooth jazz styles. Capping off a fine jazz guitar covers set, Song leaves his tasty, self-composed title track, “Goin’ Wes” for last.

PURPLE PYRAMID RECORDS - Using the same bombastic, all-out approach as the original Pink Floyd intended, producer Billy Sherwood breaths new life his remake / remodel of Dark Side Of The Moon. Drawing on a wealth of amazing feature performers, Sherwood’s 2006 vision of Dark Side features top players such as current and former Yes members Alan White, Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye, Peter Banks, Steve Howe, guitarists galore including Robbie Krieger, Robben Ford, Dweezil Zappa, John Wetton, Gary Green and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and loads more progressive rock All-Stars. The beauty of this Sherwood’s latest production is that he has ably reinforced the vocal sound drawing on singers like Adrian Belew, Billy and his brother Michael Sherwood, Colin Moulding and John Wetton. Sherwood’s treatment of Dark Side sounds so fabulous, and is so well conceived it can stand proud next to the original.
Yes bass ace Chris Squire is riding high with the recently reformed SYN lineup and it’s also excellent that his time spent with Billy Sherwood in Conspiracy is now documented with the 2006 release of the Conspiracy Live DVD. Released in 2006 on L.A. based Purple Pyramid, the 9 track DVD features live in the studio Conspiracy renditions of tracks from the two Conspiracy CDs—the 2000 self-titled Conspiracy and their 2003 CD The Unknown—along with a unique cover of “Universal Garden” from the late ‘90s Yes album Open Your Eyes. Perhaps the most amazing thing here are live in the studio Conspiracy tracks from Squire’s mid ‘90s Fish Out Of Water album, which sound better now than ever. The DVD is topped off by brief interviews and behind the scenes in the studio footage with Squire, Sherwood and company.

- A breezy, sunny sounding CD of calypso flavored folk-jazz recorded in the Bahamas, Sixty Six Steps is a great combination of the finger picking acoustic guitar of Leo Kottke with the jam-band bass style of ex-Phish member Mike Gordon. Also featuring the very eclectic percussion of Neil Symonette, the acoustic flavored set merges a wide range of guitar instrumentals with original vocal tunes and smattering of covers version of classics from Pete Seeger, Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac. Commenting on working with Kottke on the CD, Gordon explains, "There are these syncopation's within Leo's guitar playing that twist around in a way that remind me of calypso. So this album took form as an experiment in my mind to see whether Leo's unique style of playing could be mixed with this kind of music I discovered and really loved when I was younger. And it worked far beyond my expectations." There’s such a wide range of musical magic at work on Sixty Six Steps, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the magic these two master musicians conjure in the studio. Kottke continues to beguile both as a fretboard technician and as a singer-songwriter, who’s specialty is deadpan, tongue in cheek lyrics that work so well with his spontaneous, train of thought approach to both vocal and guitar instrumental music.

- Very few guitarists attain the same depth and sensitivity as U.K. based Brian Willoughby. He's rock electric with folk rock great Dave Cousins and folk-rock legends The Strawbs. Willoughby equally enchants on acoustic and his 2005 album Fingers Crossed is simply stunning. Guitarists looking to see just how effective the steel string acoustic can be on an album of all original instrumentals should be out Willoughby. Sounding one minute like the Hank Marvin of acoustic steel and the next down-home folk-jazzy ragpicker like ala Chet and Tommy E, let's keep our fingers crossed Willoughby gets to do something like this again. /

- Much like the awesome cover art of his 2006 CD Phenomenation, guitarist Richard Zeier has a pretty amazing musical imagination. Except for the cosmic lyrics featured on the title track and several tracks featuring multi-tracked choral vocals from Chi Coltrane, the instrumental album demonstrates a daring cross section of guitar / keyboard smooth jazz New Age style tracks that would sound great as film TV music, both serious drama and action type stuff. The rhythmic, more modern sides of Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield and Jan Hammer are some of atmospheric influences that weave in and out of Zeier’s wide screen sound mix. Backed by some fine players, including drummer Mike Ruiz, Phenomenation takes the scenic tour and serves as a splendid introduction to the guitar magic of Richard Zeier.

- Before The Beatles turned into studio recluses bent on forever changing the face of 20th Century music, they released on last album that combined the innocence of Beatlemania with the brave new world on sound they would soon be exploring on albums like Revolver and beyond. The album we’re speaking about of course was the late 1965 release called Rubber Soul. Honoring 40 years of Rubber Soul history and influence, NYC based Razor & Tie released a fine tribute to the Fab Four classic called This Bird Has Flown – A 40th Anniversary Tribute To The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. The fact that many of 14 different artists appearing with a track here weren’t even born when The Beatles released their late ‘65 classic only adds to the album’s charm. Clearly, these great songs haven’t aged a bit like fine wine, yet their innocence reflects an all too fleeting time in music history that none of us will ever again. The CD kicks off with The Donnas covering McCartney’s “Drive My Car”. Commenting on the Fab’s mystique during the Rubber Soul era, Donnas guitarist Allison Robertson states, “They got a little more folky, they got a little more funky and more rocking…it was so different, it was like heavy and light at the same time.” Hats off to all these young artist putting a new spin on a turning point in the history of pop music.
Another recent Razor & Tie CD worth checking out is a 2006 release of new recordings from rock and roll pioneer Dion called Bronx In Blue. Although he most well known for his super early ‘60s doo-wop smashes like “Ruby Baby” and “Runaround Sue”, Dion was first hugely influenced by the blues. Perhaps he sums it up best himself when he says, “Some people think I grew up on Rock & Roll (not so). When I was a kid, there was no Rock & Roll.” In an interesting twist of Rock & Roll fate, Dion’s 2006 R&T release finds him in the studio covering authentic blues and roots rock classics from legends like Robert Johnson, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed. Recording last year in Florida studio with only percussionist Bob Guertin, Dion sings these blues classics as if they were his own—self-producing and accompanying himself on his Taylor and Martin acoustic guitars. Dion knows; “If You Want To Rock & Roll” (one of two Dion originals here) pick up on Bronx In Blue.

- One of Canada’s most promising acoustic steel string finger style guitarists, Art Turner released his fourth solo CD Sonora in 2006 and the accolades continue coming in. Described as atmospheric, percussive, lyrical and tranquil, Turner already being compared to greats like Hedges, Fahey and Basho. Accompanying Turner’s spatial and potent acoustic finger style guitar pieces are some top players including fretless bass ace Michael Manring.

REPRISE - Anyone who thinks Neil Young's new CD is anti-American is strongly advised to not only listen to Living With War, but also to read along with the lyrics. Sure there are the stark realities of Bush bashing in the double 0’s but there’s also strong disdain for our so-called enemy as well. As he points out time and again, Young knows all too well that no one can really ever win in this war and he’s in rare Bob Dylan meets Phil Ochs mode on his 2006 state of the union audio rockumentary. Compared to the mournful howl of his 2005 album Prairie Wind, Young comes out swinging harder on No More War. The gentle twang of Ben Keith’s steel is replaced by a stronger generational realism that Young first introduced to everyone with his now famous protest song “Ohio”. Among the strongest, most socially aware albums of any decade, the ironically titled Living With War is the perfect sonic platform for one of the planets’ most insightful artistic beacons.

- Rhino continues as the preeminent reissue label in the country. It seems a giant bulk of reissue CD / DVD these days is related to the horn-headed conglomerate. A few years ago Rhino and their parent company Atco / Atlantic put out an amazing box set from Buffalo Springfield. History tells you that the Springfield, The Byrds and English pop legend The Hollies were reincarnated in 1969 as Crosby Stills & Nash. That first self-titled CSN album lives on as possibly the most prominent debut by a band in ‘69. In 2006 Rhino reissues the original ten track classic for the first time on HDCD. Playable on all CD players, the latest remastered CD sound is great but collectors will want it for the four bonus tracks one of which finds Stephen Stills covering the Nilsson hit “Everybody’s Talking.” Rhino also does the same top reissue treatment with the band’s less than apocalyptic album 1982 album Daylight Again, now featuring four bonus cuts.
Though the original lineup of The Who ceased to exist with the passing of both Keith Moon and John Entwistle, both Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue releasing rare and live Who archival material. The 2005 Rhino triple DVD release of Tommy And Quadrophenia Live With Special Guests pairs a ‘97 live Quadrophenia with a live Tommy filmed in 1989. The third DVD features Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle performing a veritable best of set of classic Who music as filmed live on their ‘89 and ‘96/97 US tour. Bonus features abound on each DVD including photo gallery, MX DVD interactive visual commentary with Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend, “The Quadrophenia Story,” deluxe 8-panel DigiPak in Slip Sleeve and booklet with extensive liner notes. /

- Renowned for their rockin’ guitar based instrumental approach, guitarists Jimmy Ryan, brother Johnny Ryan, Bill Kopecky and drummer Johnny Mrozek have made some great music together as The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers over the past few years and they reach a new zenith with their 2005 CD Blue Marble. Kicking off with the barn-burning Middle Eastern tinged “Baghdad,” the Ryan brothers proceed to draw the focus on their rocking, dueling guitar extrapolations while Kopecky on bass and Mrozek’s heavy duty drum beat drives the proceedings to further sonic heights. With their dueling electric lead guitar sound, some have compared the Ryan Brothers to an instrumental version of Wishbone Ash, but with their highly original, innovative and melodic approach to instrumental guitar rock, The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers go boldly where few instro rockers dare to tread.

- The third album from master guitarist Scott Hughes, The In Between Phase, features a diverse range of stellar guitar moves—from laid back almost samba-like tracks to a hard hitting cover of the Edgar Winter classic “Frankenstein,” full blown band and all. The title track—a well recorded acoustic number with some fine synth background—is so lushly recorded that wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid ‘60s Jobim album. Other Hughes influences here include Celtic instro rock in the spirit of Mike Oldfield, the tasty accent on chops in the spirit of Steve Morse and the biting guitar interplay reminiscent of early Allman Brothers albums. A bluesy cover of the jazz classic “Blue Monk” is the funkiest thing here. With liner notes by Hughes, the nine track CD features fine support from Luc Bergeron on drums.

- Fleetwood Mac were a real conundrum. Lead by the great guitar hero Peter Green, the band paid their dues live and in the studio in Chicago with blues legends like Otis Spann. They were also one of the best British rock groups when it came to blending classic blues and rock with now legendary guitar instrumentals. Green’s fellow guitarist Danny Kirwan could be as brilliant as McCartney or Marvin. With the equally brilliant Jeremy Spencer on bass, they were so great, so how did it all go from there to what it is? Underscoring the innovative spirit of the early, gutsy and bluesy Fleetwood Mac sound comes a fascinating 2005 triple CD compilation on Sanctuary Records entitled Fleetwood Mac: Men Of The World, The Early Years. Of course, for those who worshipped the original band, it all ended way to soon but some great Mac studio and live in concert moments are revived here. You couldn’t find a stranger, sadder, more musically brilliant tale than the original Fleetwood Mac, a band that changed music for the better back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Find out why this tale still wags the dog on Men Of The World.
The trilogy of recordings that Adrian Belew started with Side One and Side Two, is now completed with the the 2006 release of Side Three. As fabulous as he is live with King Crimson and The Bears, Adrian Belew is in his element in the recording studio. Recorded and mixed at Studio Belew, Side Three features Belew in primo form backed up the ultra hot rhythm section of Les Claypool (bass) and Danny Carey (drums) along with select cameos by King Crimson mentor Robert Fripp and early Crimson sax giant Mel Collins. Commenting on the diverse nature of the final album in the trilogy, Belew adds, ”Side Three is an eclectic variety of ideas that didn’t fit either of the other two albums.” Aside from a wordy Zappa inspired track called “Incompetence Indifference,” most of the tracks on Side Three are near instrumental wonders—punctuated by Belew’s minimalist lyrics—that serve to underscore Belew’s gift as a studio wizard. The CD artwork offers further proof of Belew’s genius as a painter.

- New Orleans bred guitarist Shane Theriot has recorded sessions with greats like Willie Nelson, Jewel, Boz Scaggs and he’s now currently featured in the lead guitar slot on the debut DVD from UK retro-rockers SYN. Shane is a fine player in his own right and shoots high with his 2005 solo CD, The Grease Fire. An all instrumental affair reminiscent of the guitar firestorm of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Theriot’s group sound is magnified by the strains of rock fusion but there something else going on with an added Cropper-eseuqe influence of funky, jazzy R&B. Theriot’s ability to shift time signatures and lay down daredevil electric leads, leaves no doubt as to why Chris Squire asked him to fill the lead guitar post in SYN.

- A dream pop ticket taking part in a dream pop project yields some tasty fruit on Under The Covers Vol. 1, released on Shout! Factory in early 2006. Complimenting each other both vocally and with shared influences as well, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs delve head first into a paisley pop covers album of perennial ‘60s nuggets. Getting a chance to reinvent classics tracks by their all time pop heroes like Arthur Lee, Bryan MacLean, Mike Nesmith, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, John Philips, Pete Townshend, Rod Argent, Lennon & McCartney, Neil Young and more—plus getting backing from a top indy label like Shout! Factory—is as as cool a tribute to the swinging ‘60s as we’ve got to yet in the new millennium. Further justification for pop mavens to check this out includes fine studio sound and key contributions from ‘60s hero Van Dyke Parks and more.

Guitar Shorty (aka: David Kearney) is feted on a 2006 best of compilation release on Shout! Factory Records. The Long And Short Of It: The Best Of Guitar Shorty combines 14 tracks, including tracks from his 1991 album, My Way Or The Highway as well as highlights from his other four albums recorded for Black Top and Evidence Records between '91 and '01. Carrying on the guitar slinging blues tradition, Guitar Shorty is also currently riding high with his latest CD Watch Your Back. In addition to their Guitar Shorty CD, Shout! Factory keeps the blues rock genre alive and well with first ever CD compilations from blues guitar heavyweights Anson Funderburgh - Blast Off: The Best Of Anson Funderburgh and Ronnie Earl - Heart And Soul - The Best Of Ronnie Earl. In addition Shout! Factory's latest compilation from funk-rock guitar great Johnny "Guitar" Watson is The Best Of The Funk Years. Featuring well known Watson tracks that have been sampled numerous times by the top names in hip-hop, the 55 minute CD brings together 11 classics jams under one roof.

- Recorded, produced and engineered in 2004 and released on CD in 2006, Nylon… For Now introduces the solo guitar mastery of U.K. based Si Hayden. Hayden’s speciality is daredevil solo flamenco guitar tracks that he composes himself. The music may sound vintage but on his CD Hayden puts a new spin on a timeless art form. As he points out in his liner notes, all tracks were recorded with one guitar and no overdubs and all percussion is from the right hand on the guitar body while playing. A modern flamenco master, Hayden makes excellent use of his Ivor Maraints and Jose Ramirez guitars.

- When it comes that classic ‘60s pop sound, few singer-songwriters can compete with the great Pete Townshend of The Who. Long renowned among pop people in the know, Pete’s long-time compadre Billy Nicholls is clearly in the same league as Pete. Billy’s work as a solo artist and Townshend / Who accomplice is legendary among Who fans and Billy continues on in style as a solo artist with the release of his 2006 album Still Entwined. Assisting Billy on these great songs are Billy’s son Morgan Nicholls (guitar, mellotron), brother Mike Nicholls (guitar), slide ace Paul Waller, drummer Ian Thomas and more. Timeless British pop for new millennium—comparable to Townshend’s recent work with The Who and say, Phil Manzanera’s stellar pop effort of the past year—Still Entwined is a great work by any standards. Those that missed Nicholls the first time around and long time fans are advised to pick up on the legendary Nicholls pop sound in play on Still Entwined.

- Commenting on his 2006 Sugar Hill release, Albert Lee adds, Road Runner really is about where I am these days. It’s about everything I love to do as a musician.” Performing his usual spellbinding electric guitar licks and leads like a man possessed, Lee sings great and admirably performs on mandolin and piano. He hits pay dirt on his self-composed rocking instrumental “Payola Blues” although the meat of the CD finds Albert and company reinvigorating classics from a number of his favorite songwriters. Kicking off the CD with a title track cover of the Motown classic “I’m A Road Runner” other highlights on the ten track CD include Albert’s lead vocals on “Rock Of Your Love” (written by John Hiatt), a versions of “Julie’s House” (written by Leo Kottke) and “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” (written by Jimmy Webb). Top players help Albert add extra zing to these classics including pedal steel legend Buddy Emmons, co-producer Steve Fishell (lap steel and acoustic guitar), bass great Bob Glaub and drummer Don Heffington. Backing up Albert’s lead vocals are Bekka Bramlett and Albert’s daughter, Alexandra Lee. As he does do well, Albert puts a new spin the roots of classic American rock and roll, making Road Runner a great follow up to his last studio set Heartbreak Hill.

- Perhaps the Achilles Heel of Gary Usher was that he could do it all and very often did. Starting off as a cohort of Brian Wilson back at the dawn of the ‘60s, Usher went on to co-write various songs with Brian and then move on to produce some of the greatest rock albums of the ‘60s including now classic late ‘60s Columbia Records titles from Chad & Jeremy and The Byrds. Usher didn’t get freaked out all at once, rising to fame in L.A. as the founder of The Super Stocks. Key albums Usher made with the Super Stocks for Capitol Records in the early/mid ‘60s were reissued on CD by N.Y. based Sundazed in 2006. Titles include their first album Thunder Road, followed by Surf Route 101 and School Is A Drag. No doubt riding the popularity of the teenage West Coast surf and hot rod sound, these early Usher prototypes more importantly set his famous producer winds in motion. For these early forays Usher assembled and utilized the cream of the LA studio scene back then including guitarists Billy Strange, Jerry Cole and Glen Campbell, the great Leon Russell and drummer Hal Blaine to name just a few. Not quite as brilliant Wilson’s mid ‘60s Beach Boys sound, Usher’s early surf releases nevertheless demonstrate his burgeoning genius in the studio. On a related note Sundazed has also reissued a pair of 1963 albums from guitarist Richie Podolor and his group Richie Allen And The Pacific Surfers. Much more Ventures and Dick Dale than Usher’s vocal inspired Beach Boys sound, Podolor was a buddy of guitarist Dick Dale, and the story goes that Dale offered the Podolor the chance to be the first player ever to test out the Fender Dual Showman amp. ‘60s surf/drag fans should also keep their ears peeled for more ‘60s reissues from Sundazed who are set to rerelease the back catalog of The Rip Chords and The Hot Doggers (two early surf outfits from Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher) and more Gary Usher productions from The Kickstands and The Knights.

- Back in the early mid ‘60s Philadelphia was cranking out tons of r&b and blue-eyed soul artists hitting the Top 40 charts left and right. One blue-eyed soul singer who hit it big was the great Len Barry who, first as the lead singer with The Dovells, later hit the top 5 as a solo artist with his self-composed “1-2-3” back in early ‘65. Len Barry’s release of The Best Of Philly Soul Volume 1, chronicles a range of songs he recorded between ‘63 and ‘70. After “1-2-3” Barry disappeared off the charts but as this CD points out he wasn’t inactive and that voice was as great as ever. A great introduction to a historic soul pop sound.

- No doubt bowing to the wishes of fans of progressive jazz-rock, N.J. based prog base, The Laser’s Edge released a rare find from the Danish ‘70s jazz rock band Secret Oyster. Featuring the great sax of group mastermind Karsten Vogel, the band featured some great players including guitarist Claus Bohling at their zenith they were mentioned favorably alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever, although the Oyster source was truly Danish in nature. Melodic, old world, futuristic and ornate are just a few words to describe this excellent ‘eurock’ band who, following the ‘74 release of Sea Son, reached their apex with the 1976 release of evil looking cover art of Straight To The Krankenhaus. Let’s hope Laser’s Edge follows their innovative first ever reissue of Sea Son with a first ever CD reissue of Krankenhaus. While we wait for that, there’s plenty to like about this first ever CD of Sea Son.

- A mainstay on the jazz fusion world for the past few years, Rare Blend have a new album out and it’s another winner. The 2006 TSM Productions release of Stops Along The Way taps into a wealth of electrifying rock, jazz, fusion and world beat flavored instrumentals. Guitarist Vic Samalot just seems to improve with each release and—backed by some great players—he dazzles on his Ibanez, Alvarez and Yamaha guitars. The 13 track Stops Along The Way also benefits from a fine studio sound.

- Great guitar jazz can move both body and soul. Much has been written about the superb fretboard style of guitarist Tim Miller and on his 2005 CD, Tim Miller Trio, he proves much of it right. A master of both the acoustic and electric medium, Miller’s freewheeling, introspective guitar work is sometimes compared to guitar greats such as Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick and like those players Miller also finds the value of blending other jazz influences into his playing—in Miller’s case keyboard great Keith Jarrett. You won’t find many easy listening or readily hummable tunes on Miller’s Trio CD. What you will find is a 12 track, 40 minute set of superbly recorded instrumental guitar jazz that stretches the parameters of the musical imagination.

– Like spinning musical plates, UME have a number of top rated reissue programs in the works—from their double disc Gold series, the Deluxe Edition remasters, a 3 CD box set series called Chronicles: 3 Classic Albums and now the most recent Definitive Collection line of single disc compilations. Both Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry made numerous studio albums although their big hits is the stuff that stuck through the years. Both released in 2006, the 30 track Chuck Berry on Chess Records and 26 track Buddy Holly Definitive Collection CDs on Decca pick the cream of the crop of these legendary artists. The late great Roy Buchanan, was underrated as both a Tele wielding guitar slinger and a singer-songwriter. Featuring a wide range of blues rock tracks, jazz fusion instrumentals to set closing covers of Hendrix and Neil Young, Buchanan’s Definitive Collection is a fine introduction to the his phenomenal guitar sound. Both John Lennon and the Stones tried to lure Buchanan into the studio, without success, and Jeff Beck dedicated a track on Blow By Blow to him. Starting with tracks from his unreleased 1969 debut through to his final late ‘70s recordings for Polydor, this 75 minute collection is a musical time tunnel trip through Buchanan’s early years. On Mercury / Universal, a 2006 Definitive Collection CD from Belfast rockers Thin Lizzy takes a look at that band’s early recordings. Although they started out at the dawn of the ‘70s, Thin Lizzy hit it big with the 1976 release of Jailbreak and their big hit “The Boys Are Back In Town. Spearheaded by singer-bass player Phil Lyontt, Thin Lizzy featured a number of great electric guitar players in their ranks including Gary Moore and while Lynott died way too soon—at 35—he left behind a kick-ass repertoire of bluesy, gutsy, R&B style rock and roll music. Mercury also has a 19 track 2006 DVD on Thin Lizzy entitled Greatest Hits. Dating back to the band’s early performance on Top Of The Pops in 1973, the DVD features some great video performances of Lyontt performing live the company bolstered by the dueling Les Paul guitar sound of Gary Moore, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson.

Chronicles continues it’s Gold series with two 2006 double CD retrospectives from rock legends Buddy Holly and Cat Stevens. Kicking off with highlights from his often overlooked mid ‘60s Deram catalog—including the brilliant “Matthew And Son” and moving onto the best of Steve’s A&M years—the double CD closes with a new 2005 song from the Cat man entitled “Indian Ocean.” Without sounding prejudiced, this song is one of the most brilliant he’s ever done—one that touches on his ‘60s sound but also bringing his gifted musical vision up to date. One can only pray that Cat skips the zealous religious thing and gets back to his true muse as one of the great pop poets of the ‘60s. We need him back! On the other hand, the late great guitar hero Buddy Holly died 47 years ago this 2006 but his legacy as the most important pop influence on both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones lives on with his double Gold CD se on Decca/Chronicles. Both Gold titles from Cat and Buddy feature cool artwork and extensive CD booklets to keep you busy for hours of pleasure.

- A true legend of the ‘60s music world, Bob Crewe rose to power as the man who signed the Four Seasons to VJ Records and went on to producer and co-write many of their best known ‘60s hits. Crewe worked with many musical legends back in the mid ‘60s and he attained a rare and remarkable feat of having a top 10 chart hit of his own with a 1967 instrumental called “Music To Watch Girls By.” All this being back in heyday of miniskirts, early psychedelia and the dawn of color TV. Back in ‘67, you could hardly move without hearing the sensuous strains of Crewe’s remarkable sound. A field day for ‘60s music fans, the Varese Sarabande CD release The Best Of The Bob Crewe Generation: Music To Watch Girls By features two versions of the big hit and an abundance of Phil Spector-size instrumentals of ‘60s covers that sounds like Herb Alpert meets The Ventures. Crewe’s 19 track best of CD is a great tribute to his pop arranging genius as well as being a tribute to the incredible sound of the ‘60s.

- Although they weren’t featured in the original Woodstock soundtrack, Mountain were most definitely at the historic Upstate N.Y. festival and a good chunk of their August 16th performance there is caught on Woodstock Festival / New Canaan H.S 1969. Volume 7 in the Official Live Mountain Bootleg Series, these two 1969 shows, paired on one CD provides a revealing sonic snapshot of Leslie West and producer icon Felix Pappalardi at the start of their rise to the top. Made in England by the progressive rock mavens at Voiceprint Records, the Mountain live CD retrospective series with 13+ titles spanning the early Mountain with Leslie and Felix up through to West’s current Mountain configuration caught live on Volume 13 - Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Scotland on February 26 2005.

- The 2006 CD from multi-instrumentalist Al Garcia is a real step up in sound from the L.A. based player. Composed and performed entirely by Garcia, Alternate Realities features a very pleasant range of jazz-rock fusion, prog rock, classical, jazz, Latin, space rock, electronica and cinematic instrumental music. Garcia supplies some impressive work on 4, 5 and 6 string basses, all manners of guitars as well as tasteful percussion. With all the melody, suspense and rock vibes can hear Garcia’s self-proclaimed influences coming through—icons like Jack Bruce and Felix Pappalardi from Cream to the instrumental fusion approach of John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth.

- Buzzy Linhart knew how cool Fred Neil was. Buzzy did a brilliant cover of Fred’s “The Bag I’m In” on his fabled Music CD. And who can forget Nilsson’s definitive take on Neil’s all time most famous pop composition “Everybody’s Talkin’” back in ‘68. Find out how cool Fred Neil still is on the 2006 reissue of his 1967 self titled Capitol Records album, just reissued on the San Francisco based Water label. Although he sadly passed away on July 8, 2001 at his Florida home, Neil’s legacy as a brilliant singer-songwriter lives on. His self-titled 10 track CD on Water—with detailed liner notes and classic cover art—is an great place to rediscover one of rock’s most valued originals.
David Bowie used to do selective covers on his albums, with one of the coolest appearing on his ‘71 Lp Hunky Dory. It was on this now celebrated album that Bowie covered a Biff Rose song called “Fill Your Heart.” A one time musical genius, out of the popular mainstrem for years and, who now is just plain scary (see his anti-Israel web site), Rose is feted on this long overdue and first ever two-fer reissue of his two 1968 Tetragrammation Records classics The Thorn In Mrs. Rose Side and Children Of Light. Two historic albums, original artwork and all, the 24 track CD on Water features two bonus tracks and in depth booklet. Goes to show you never can tell... /

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in and 20th Century Guitar. Send to CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249 e-mail:



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