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APRIL 2004







(Classic Pictures)
The Ultimate Yes
(Rhino / Elektra)

Written and directed by Robert Garofalo and narrated by the great Roger Daltrey, the January 2004 DVD release of Yesspeak chronicles 35 years of Yes music history as seen through the eyes of the key players who made the band the legends they are today. We’re speaking about what many call the ‘classic’ Yes lineup of Steve Howe, Alan White, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire. The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey, a long time personal friend of the band, sounds quite enthusiastic as he narrates the Yes story. Each musician featured in the 2004 lineup of the band is given a chapter all to himself, further adding to the introspective and familiar feeling of the DVD. In addition to the various interview and documentary chapters on the 3+ hour double DVD set, there’s also an audio only track—presented in Dolby digital, 5.1 and Dolby stereo—featuring a 150 minute live Yes in concert set recorded during the band’s 35th anniversary 2003 European tour. Quite a remarkable achievement, combining both sight and sound, Yesspeak brings the Yes story into sharp focus as the group prepares for their next musical conquest.
One could easily argue about which Yes tracks would constitute a truly ‘essential’ Yes music collection. After all, it’s been done before. That said, Rhino / Elektra gives it a good shot with their 2004 three CD 35th anniversary collection. Decked out in vivid Roger Dean cover art—and retrofitted with a Dean poster and praiseworthy liner notes from Melody Maker’s Raver Chris WelchThe Ultimate Yes draws on tracks from just about every Yes album with the notable exception of their ‘69 classic debut, Yes, and the group’s 1974 masterpiece Tales From Topographic Oceans—the latter a double Lp set that diehards and early Yes believers still consider the band’s crowning musical achievement. Touching on a number of the band’s cornerstone album releases—Fragile, Time & A Word and The Yes Album—as well as latter day Yes favorites like Big Generator, Open Your Eyes and The LadderThe Essential Yes has just about something for all progressive rock fans, young and old. Single edit tracks, remix tracks and five 2003 recordings—including jazzy, acoustic versions of “Roundabout” and “South Side Of The Sky”—helps the three CD set live up to it’s ultimate status.


The Forever Changes Concert

A living breathing document of the return of Arthur Lee and the 2000 version of Love, The Forever Changes Concert is essential testimony of Lee’s unique ‘60s pop vision brought to life once again, this time on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall in London in January 2003. Much like the way Brian Wilson returned to the limelight and was able to reinvent a somewhat belated vision of his best ‘60s work with his band The Wondermints, Lee is in prime form leading his own devoted association featuring members of ‘90s pop rockers Baby Lemonade. Decked out with ultra cool artwork evocative of Love’s 1968’s Forever Changes album, The Forever Changes concert features Lee supported by Baby Lemonade and a cool string section, performing the entire Forever Changes album start to finishing culminating with a stirring version of Lee’s all time classic, “You Set The Scene”. The double CD set, released at the end of 2003 on U.K.-based Snapper Music features a second disc with four more live tracks from the 2003 concert (including the Love classic “My Little Red Book”), video enhanced track of Love performing the Bryan MacLean classic “Alone Again Or”, downloadable screensaver and a picture gallery. Perhaps the most striking thing here—beyond the superb recording quality and the London audience hanging in and cheering on every highpoint—is Lee himself. Rarely has a ‘60s icon sounded so refreshing and vital as Arthur Lee does on The Forever Changes Concert.

Reality- The Rock Opera

A masterful multi-instrumentalist who came to the attention of this writer through his release of two instrumental symphonic surf guitar rock CDs recorded under the name of Get Wet, guitarist Les Fradkin returned with his long awaited new album in early 2004...and it was worth the wait. A legend of the underground rock scene and studio world since his early ‘70s work with The Godz, Fradkin strikes a universal chord of well...reality with the 17 track Reality - The Rock Opera. A self-contained one man rock orchestra, Fradkin reestablishes himself on the cutting edge with his unique symphonic / synthesized guitars approach. Imagine influences from classic ‘70s groups such as Procol Harum and Moody Blues up through the high tech New Age electronic vibes of Yanni and you get a good idea of Fradkin’s mindset on Reality. An underrated songwriter, vocalist and rock guitar innovator, Fradkin keeps the spirits of Warren Zevon and George Harrison alive with his own probing lyrics and fitting melodies. Pundits into old rock lore will pick up on other cogent influences here like the caustic social satire of Harry Chapin and Turtle rockers Flo & Eddie. Fradkin’s production, engineering and performance of all the instruments—along with the superb co-production from his wife Loretta Fradkin—could turn him into the Phil Spector of the new millennium.

Back In The Circus
(Bad Dog / Verve)

A Joni Mitchell or Suzanne Vega for a new generation of pop fans, NYC singer songwriter Jonatha Brooke is in good company on her 2004 CD on Verve. Thankfully she’s written a bunch of memorable tracks while also summoning up a round of covers including a reggae-flecked cover of the James Taylor classic “Fire & Rain” and the Brian Wilson / Tony Asher epic “God Only Knows”. Supported by a number of players, Jonatha is joined by guitarists Godfrey Moore and co-producer Eric Bazilian. Although most of Back In The Circus is immersed with an emotional, low key introspection, Brooke proves she also knows the value of a solid pop hook especially on the ‘80s-flavored “Better After All” and a gorgeous progressive pop reading of the Alan Parsons / Eric Wolfson classic “Eye In The Sky.” With lots of soul, grace and talent to burn, Jonatha Brooke is well worth the time to check out.



The spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison are alive and well in the grooves of the long awaited comeback of hard rock R&B band Living Colour. Teaming the blazing guitar of Vernon Reid and vocals of Corey Glover with the rhythm section of Doug Wimbush (bass) and Will Calhoun (drums), the band offers plenty of up front rock played with cool action and depth of feel. Commenting on his return to the limelight, "It felt a little weird at first," says Reid. "But we started becoming a band again. And based on the reaction we we're getting at the shows, it was clear that our audience still cares. Hell, people were coming up to me after gigs and saying we've reaffirmed their faith in music. That's pretty powerful." Ranging from majestic rock jaunts in the spirit of Hendrix and Arthur Lee to down and dirty metal/r&b riffing to boil the blood a bit, CollideØscope hits hard and fast and takes no prisoners.

The Blasters Live: Going Home
(Shout! Factory)

L.A.-based Shout! Factory have been putting out some fine releases of late and high on the list is a 2004 CD and DVD release of the final reunion concert from Southern California rockers The Blasters. Recorded on the closing night of the original Blasters final reunion tour at The Galaxy Theatre in Orange County, CA. on August 13, 2003, The Blasters Live: Going Home features a rocking performance from the original Blasters lineup of guitarist Dave Alvin, brother Phil Alvin (vocals, harmonica, guitar), Bill Bateman (drums), John Bazz (bass) and Gene Taylor (keyboards). A blood-pumping, hard-hitting mix of rockabilly, down and dirty rock and roll mixed in with the enduring American roots music sound of doo-wop, the original Blasters were joined on stage that night by the West Coast doo-wop groups The Calvanes and The Medallions, rockabilly star Sonny Burgess and Chicago blueser Billy Boy Arnold. The 2+hour DVD version of the concert features 18 tracks presented in superb stereo and 5.1 mixes that clearly benefit from the work of top audio mixer and album co-producer, Mark Linett. This Blasters concert DVD is interspersed with interviews and insights from both Alvin brothers, other original band members and the featured artists as well as bonus tracks of the original band caught live in the early ‘80s and a couple of amazing, scorching, live videos from the 2003 Phil Alvin-led Blasters line-up. Featuring a great cross-section of raunchy, bluesy rock played with attitude and expertise, The Blasters Live: Going Home captures some sizzling performances from a rock legend.

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