Record Label and Music Spotlight 

JUNE 2004



on Sundazed


on Polydor


on Collectables


MAY / JUNE 2004

ALIEN GUITAR - Indiana-based guitarist Denis Taaffe remains on the cutting edge of instrumental guitar improvisation with the 2003 release of his fourth independent CD release—this time recorded live on October 29, 2002. An excellent example of Taaffe’s cogitative and engaging approach to electric guitar performance, Modern Guitar Vol.4 follows in the footsteps of his earlier instrumental rock releases, yet this time out Taaffe takes a hypnotic, almost meditative approach to his solo improvisational electric guitar sounds. Reminiscent of the experimental side of Jerry Garcia or even some of Robert Fripp’s more congenial guitar musings, Modern Guitar Vol.4 reveals new sonic treasures with every spin. Taaffe’s hypnotic, languid guitar lines makes him a likely prospect for New Age listeners on the lookout for the latest in cutting edge guitar sounds, yet as this CD points out, Taaffe’s music is really perfectly geared for use as film and documentary background music. Commenting on his new CD, Taaffe adds, “Well, this CD was a real pleasure to do, as it really captures not only a live concert, but also, just clean guitar and true improvisation. In fact, when I hear it, it definitely takes me back to when I played that particular concert.”

APPLE / CAPITOL - A 2003 Beatles DVD from Capitol, The First U.S. Visit, offers a fantastic DVD reissue of the entire uncut version of the movie of the same name made by Albert and David Maysles. Beginning with the Beatles’ arrival on Pan Am Flt. 101 at the newly named JFK Airport on February 7th, 1964, the The First U.S. Visit documents the dawn of Beatlemania and covers a three week period of unparalleled excitement in American pop culture. Depicting the Fab Four during their sensational first tour of NYC, Washington D.C. and Miami Beach, the expertly filmed cinema verite classic by the Maysles brothers now features a unique spoken word commentary track by Albert Maysles accompanying the original uncut 80 minute film. Also spotlighting the historic Beatles performances from their three different live Sullivan shows plus their concert at the Washington Coliseum, the 2+ hour DVD is capped off by an amazing 50 minute documentary within the documentary entitled Making Of The Beatles First U.S. Visit. The brilliant film making of the Maysles brothers is now perfectly encapsulated for posterity with these now historic live music Beatles performances.

ARISTA - The third Arista Records release by guitar legend Carlos Santana, Ceremony is actually a CD collection of unissued music from his two prior albums for the label, Supernatural (1999) and Shaman (2002). Actually, the album may be hard to find because Arista released Ceremony as a limited edition of one hundred thousand copies. Quite a respectable number by any artist’s standard, but just consider that combined, Santana’s first two albums for the label sold over thirty million. A collector’s album, the eleven track Ceremony features five previously unrereleased brand new songs, newly recorded versions or remixes of five tracks from the first two albums and one key album track. Carlos further explains adding, “there was so much great material recorded at those sessions, with so many great musicians, songwriters, producers and arrangers contributing their talents. I am honored that Arista has chosen to gather the unissued music together in this package.” Showing another side of the exciting Santana Latin / Afro-Cuban fusion sound, Ceremony rocks with a fervor.

BMG - The BMG Heritage label group keeps their Platinum & Gold Collection line going strong with a 2004 release from the Michigan-based rock group The Verve Pipe. Featuring the gifted pipes and songs of singer Brian Vander Ark and the electric guitar sound of A.J. Dunning, the twelve track CD features music from their three RCA releases including Villains (1996), The Verve Pipe (1999) and their brilliant 2001 album, Underneath, produced by Adam Schlesinger. Featuring cool liner notes by Michael Hill, the Verve Pipe’s Platinum & Gold Collection is a solid introduction to these underrated rockers. Another 2004 Platinum & Gold Collection on RCA worth hearing is a best of from rocker Matthew Sweet. Although Sweet came to the attention of pop fans with his ‘80s releases on Columbia and A&M Records and his membership in The Golden Palominos, the twelve tracks on his Platinum & Gold Collection are culled from five different albums recorded on the BMG affiliates, Zoo and Volcano Records. With newly penned liner notes and top remastered sound, the CD offers further evidence of Sweet’s impeccable reputation as a power-pop savant. Other 2004 Platinum & Gold Collection CDs on BMG Heritage include superstar compilations from calypso singer Harry Belafonte, country music icon Merle Haggard, soul music sensations The Pointer Sisters and disco king Rick Astley.

BACKBEAT BOOKS - Among the Backbeat titles rolling off the press in 2004 is an excellent 352 page soft cover book detailing the heyday of British rock greats The Kinks. Written by rock historian Doug Hinman and packed with 160 b&w photos, The Kinks: All Day And All Of The Night chronicles hundreds of Kinks concerts, the band’s TV and radio broadcasts, stage shows, recording sessions while also providing in depth discography information on all their U.S. and U.K. record releases. Presented in an easy to read format, The Kinks: All Day And All Of The Night covers just about every fact and detail surrounding one of the greatest British invasion rock groups—from the humble beginnings of Ray & Dave Davies in London in the early ‘60s through till their final 1996 To The Bone album as well as 2003 rumors surrounding a possible Kinks reunion for their 40th anniversary in 2004.
A 200 page hard cover book written by Rich Maloof, entitled Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud tells the story of the man who’s incredible amplifiers provided guts and glory for guitar heroes like Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Billy F. Gibbons. Starting with Jim Marshall’s early years as a young boy diagnosed with a rare bone disease to his years as a singer and big-band drummer all the way to the rise of the ‘Marshall Stack’, Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud spotlights the man behind the amps while also offering a wealth of info on Marshall amps past and present.
Regardless of your skills on the fingerboard, Backbeat’s Chord Master: How To Find And Choose The Right Guitar Chords is a worthwhile read for guitarists. In addition examining the particulars of chord construction, the 192 page paperback book by Rikky Rooksby underscores the differences between electric and acoustic guitar chords and offers a number of chord shapes and patterns useful to songwriters and guitar enthusiasts of all proficiency levels.

BEAR RECORDS - With colorful looking cover art to match the tremendous sounds inside, Electric Circus, the latest CD from guitarist Joe LoSchiavo covers an incredible range of instrumental guitar sounds. While the melodic title track owes a musical debt of gratitude to classic composer Aaron Copeland, there’s plenty of fine original music to keep the energy at peak level. Assisted by Charlie Schmid (drums), Jay Salomone (bass) and Tara Marie Pritchard (harmonica), Joe tackles the fretboard with technical prowess and compositional diligence usually associated with the finest players. The nine tracks here fall into the hard rock / instro jazz-rock fusion genre, yet as the title implies, Joe’s CD is a veritable electric circus.

BIG TENT ENTERTAINMENT - Ardent Beatles watchers will recall the name Robert Freeman from his excellent photography of the Fab Four during the early Beatlemania years. In fact it was Freeman’s photography that graced the covers of five of the band’s U.K. albums—including With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Beatles For Sale and Rubber Soul. Freeman’s respected Fab Four photography is the subject of a massive, 176 page, 2003 coffee table style hardcover book on NYC-based Big Tent entitled The Beatles: A Private View. With 200 photographs of the early Beatles—including 30 never before seen or published and various written essays by Freeman and others—A Private View is a fine expose on the Beatles’ massive visual appeal garnered during their early rise to fame. Among the many photo highlights is Freeman’s proposed, but ultimately abandoned Lp jacket design for Revolver.

BLUE THUMB RECORDS - Revived by Verve Music Group and still dedicated to vital new music, Blue Thumb made flamenco guitar fans quite happy with their 2004 release of Cositas Buenas from Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia. After twenty five albums and numerous kudos, the 56 year old guitarist still maintains a special ability to transcend guitar idioms. Thanks in part to his ground breaking collaborations with jazz greats such as Chick Corea and fellow guitar icons like McLaughlin, Coryell and DiMeola, Paco has earned a enormous respect among guitar buffs over the years. On his first new studio recording in five years, Paco’s latest variation of the flamenco artform is a one of a kind World Beat extravaganza, teaming nylon string guitar playing with his lute, bouzouki and mandolin all topped off by accompaniment from seven flamenco vocalists including Paco. Diverging from the currently popular Latin-flavored / smooth-jazz Nuevo Flamenco phenomenon, Cositas Buenas takes an authentic look back at the embryonic years of flamenco.

BRASH - Best known as the lead singer and main songwriter with The Verve Pipe, Brian Vander Ark steps to the fore with his solo debut Resurrection. With Vander Ark sharing the guitar and percussion work alongside a number of fine guitarists and support players, the eleven track CD once again captures that radio-friendly Verve Pipe pop-rock sound and makes a fine companion spin for anyone who enjoyed the VP’s 2001 rock classic Underneath. Another fine display of Vander Ark’s solid grasp of the pop songwriting medium—enhanced by his innate skills as a dramatic actor and soundtrack composer—Resurrection a fine return to form.

COLLECTABLES - One of the leading American reissue labels, PA.-based Collectables have a 2004 CD from ‘60s Tex-Mex pop legends Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. Pairing the group’s albums Lil’ Red Riding Hood and Wooly Bully, the 24 track, 60+ minute CD features their huge hit singles “Wooly Bully” and “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” in addition to their first indie single “Haunted House” and a rousing cover of “Hanky Panky”. Both “Wooly Bully” and “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” were huge million sellers and turned the AM radio pop world on it’s ear during that incredible 1965 era. “Wooly Bully”—composed by Sam The Sham himself (a/k/a Domingo Samudio) remains one of the great ‘60s pop singles and the Collectables two-fer reissue features loads of cool color artwork and the original liner notes from both albums.
Also worth hearing from Collectables is Beacon From Mars and Other Psychedelic Side Trips from West Coast rock legends Kaleidoscope. Combining 23 tracks from various Kaleidoscope releases on Epic Records, the CD contains the group’s complete ten track Side Trips album from 1967 along with various tracks recorded between 1967-69. An early vehicle for guitar legend David Lindley, Kaleidoscope also featured valuable contributions from multi-instrumentalist David Solomon Feldthouse, who’s performance on exotic instruments like bouzouki and doumbeg gave the group a wild, ethnic sound. The inclusion of the original liner notes to their ‘67 Side Trips album on the CD, provides some background history on these eclectic rockers.
Originally released on Reprise Records, Lou Monte’s Golden Hits was reissued on Collectables in 2004. Proclaimed as “The King Of Italian American Hit Records”, NYC music legend Lou Monte sold more than six million records and gained acclaim on the Ed Sullivan Show with his huge early ‘60s pop hits “Pepino, The Italian Mouse” and his all time classic “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed The Deleware)”—both of which are included in this twelve track Collectables reissue along with the original album’s liner notes.

DK BOOKS - Described by music fans and historians as ‘mandatory reading for Stones fans’, Rolling With The Stones is a first rate account of the history of The Rolling Stones as told by the band’s founding bass great Bill Wyman. Although no longer a member of the current Stones lineup, Wyman makes excellent use of his elephant’s memory with his own massive 2003 expose on the Stones’ enormous rock legacy. Totaling 515 pages—and filled with abundant facts and unseen photos—Rolling With The Stones is the definitive book on the band that, along with The Beatles, defined the essence of the British pop sound of the mid ‘60s. Incredible color photos from various shows, photo shoots and recording sessions alone makes Wyman’s book a priceless primer on the ‘60s rock greats. Wyman’s first hand narrative of the highlights—as well as the caustic trials and tribulations—of the Stones’ story, is put into fitting focus with Rolling With The Stones.
Another essential Bill Wyman book, released in 2002 by NYC-based DK, is Bill Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart & Soul. Described in the sleeve notes as, “Bill Wyman’s personal tribute to the music and musicians that inspired him to pick up a bass guitar”, Blues Odyssey examines the genre-bending impact of 38 blues giants—including Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Albert King through till modern masters like B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. With chapter titles like “From Africa To The New World”, “The Roots Of African-American Music”, “The Fabulous Fifties”, “By The Time We Got To Woodstock” and “Long Live The Blues...And Rock ‘N’ Roll Too”, the impressive 400 page book chronicles the sociological implications of the blues as well as Wyman’s first hand account of the blues during his years as bassist with The Rolling Stones.

- Sometimes you need music to take the edge off things with a cool groove and laid back social study. Such is the musical message of the 2004 CD from Jon Dalton entitled The Gift. Relocating to Southern California after being active on the U.K. jazz scene for many years, Dalton’s guitar phrasing on The Gift echoes the breezy, jazzy instrumental styles of Wes, Kenny and Pat Metheny. Joined by the sporadic sax of John Barton and the live percussion work of John O’Hara, Dalton’s work on archtop electric is exemplary throughout and he balances things with added fretboard finesse on acoustic and MIDI guitar. Although the beat is smooth and cool, the ten track CD is steeped in classic ‘60s guitar jazz and the lineup of memorable Dalton originals arrives like a familiar, musical destination.

DUSTIN EHRLICH - A stylistic mixture of atmospheric jazz and post-bop spontaneous combustion, the 2003 CD from N.Y.C.-based guitarist Dustin Ehrlich features a cool combination of instrumental tracks. Multi-tracked to great effect by Ehrlich on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, bass and synthesizer, A Distant Star is like a sublime soundtrack. Having studied with Bay-area jazz guitarist Mark Stefani and N.Y.C. guitar legend Sal Salvador, Ehrlich clearly has the chops and from another viewpoint, he’s well versed in a variety of musical genres. The introspective and intimate arena in which Ehrlich works makes him a suitable choice for music fans interested in neo-jazz fusion guitar icons such as Pat Metheny and Ralph Towner.

EMI - EMI Records in England and Capitol Records have enjoyed a long partnership of sounds over the past 50 years. While The Beatles were huge in the States right from the start, EMI had less of a break with Capitol when it came to their hugely successful instrumental pop band The Shadows. Featuring the lead guitars of Hank Marvin and rhythm ace Bruce Welch, the legendary quartet are anthologized yet again with a 2003 CD collection entitled The Essential Shadows. No surprises here for those who know the band as this 20 track collection more or less mirrors their huge 1977 comeback compilation, 20 Golden Greats. Brief liner notes and select discography photos make The Essential Shadows a fine sounding introduction to a historic pop band. Just about the time that Cliff Richard and The Shadows were breaking through in 1958, another English guitarist by the name of Bert Weedon was introducing U.K. audiences to his somewhat less rocking version of instrumental guitar pop, the best of which is collected on another 2002 compilation on EMI UK. Although The Shadows would dominate the guitar instrumental sound of early '60s England, these 30 tracks of easy on the ears, lightweight guitar pop featured on The Very Best Of Bert Weedon is a good introduction to one of England's early guitar instro heroes.

EMI AUSTRALASIA - Leave it to Collector’s Choice Music to scour the globe in search of the coolest instrumental music compilations. A recent compilation added to the CC catalog and released in the early 2000’s by EMI Music Australasia, Instrumentals Complete: 90 Original Instrumental Hits features the usual instro guitar pioneers like The Shadows, The Ventures, Al Caiola, Link Wray, Chet Atkins, The John Barry Seven and more, but this five CD box set also brings out a wealth of instrumental rarities and is divided into five genres like Easy Listening Favorites, TV And Movie Themes, Easy Listening Favourites, and more. Well worth the time to check out, each disc features a mix of well known classics and more. For instance, check out disc three, ‘60s & ‘70s Favourites, featuring 18 bonafide original instro smashes by The Shadows, The Atlantics, Floyd Cramer as well as lesser known instro tracks from The Bob Crewe Generation, The T-Bones, Sounds Incorporated, Lieutenant Pigeon, Peter Posa and tons more including a rarely heard Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers instro from ‘79 called “Egyptian”. Compiled from the viewpoint of a ‘60s rocker and an easy listening addict, this box deserves a medal for sheer ‘60s ear candy diversity.

HAMMOND BEAT - Returning once again to his ‘60s roots as a pivotal member of The John Barry Seven, U.K. guitar hero Vic Flick teams with a crew of younger bands on a fabulous, 26 track 2004 CD release that relives the essence of the eternally young ‘60s beat group phenomenon. An instrumental soundtrack for a new spy/action film, The Sound Of Danger: A Soundtrack From The World Of Wilson Chance merges the atmosphere of John Barry with the funk and ‘Hammond’ groove spirit of Booker T. & The MGs with a dose of Lalo Schifrin intrigue added in for excitement. In addition to the cool new Vic Flick tracks—teaming Vic with co-conspirator Les HurdleThe Sound Of Danger also features some guitar-heavy instro rockers from a bunch of other bands hell-bent on reliving the groovy sounds of the 6T’s including The Link Quartet, The Special Agents, The Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and Mike Painter and The Family Shakers. For more information check out the Hammond Beat web site. It’s a veritable treasure chest of musical information—all devoted to keeping the sounds of the ‘60s alive and well.

HARMONIC WARRIOR - A graduate of Oberlin College, where he studied jazz and classical guitar, L.A.-based guitarist Bill Shafton released his CD debut in 2004. Although relatively unknown, Shafton has worked as a session guitarist, songwriter and producer for a number of artists including Dolly Parton and Carly Simon. In Shafton’s words, “With the guitar in my hands, I can communicate in ways that are beyond words. Music gives us the freedom to say what we truly feel”, and his statement rings true on In My Hands. Assisted by players on the same wavelength—including Zaza (piano), Luis Conte (percussion) and Ed Monjillo (drums)—Shafton makes music that can best be described as breezy guitar jazz with a heartfelt core. Featuring fine studio mixing by Jerry Jordan, In My Hands features a dozen memorable guitar workouts including a swinging cover of the Beatles’ evergreen “Norwegian Wood” and the splendid, Metheny-flavored “No Regrets”.

HOMEN DE OURO - It’s hard to believe he hails from the hinterlands of Minnesota because guitarist Scott Anderson (a/k/a Scottinho) has such a solid grasp of Brazilian music. For his 2003 CD, Batizado, Scottinho has written some splendid instrumental and vocal numbers that evoke the spirits of Brazilian legends like A.C. Jobim and Milton Nasciemento. Anderson’s work on electric and acoustic guitars—as well as his dobro, keyboards and vocal work—leaves a favorable impression. Batizado even features tracks named after his heroes, such as “Milton” and “Toninho”, named for Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta. Assisted by a number of players, Anderson’s excellent work on the nylon string is matched throughout by his enthusiasm for Brazilian music. Another standout track here, an Elton John-inspired torch song ballad, entitled “Melting Of The Snow”, shows an equally compelling side of Anderson’s eclectic musicianship.

- When he’s not jamming with his rock band High-Five or teaching uptown at Columbia or down at Turtle Bay, Brooklyn-based guitarist Hunter Perrin is writing and recording his solo guitar music. Having studied at University of Texas at Austin and at Yale—where he was given the Eliot Fisk award—Perrin follows his self-titled 2000 debut with his cinematically-inspired 2003 CD entitled Subtitles. Much like the way instrumental music was used to a wide range of moods in the silent films back of the ‘20s and ‘30s, Perrin parlays his expertise on steel string acoustic guitar to create a lineup of eighteen emotive solo acoustic guitar pieces. A fascinating mixture of blues, Americana and ragtime that clocks in at just over a half hour, Subtitles is an album that simply gets better with each spin.

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT - An excellent video companion to the DK book of the same name, Bill Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart & Soul was released on DVD by L.A.-based Image Entertainment. The 2003 DVD succinctly merges Wyman’s experiences as a member of The Rolling Stones during the British R&B boom of the early ‘60s with essential tales of the black cotton pickers who escaped the Mississippi Delta armed only with guitars and ample gut emotions. The nearly two hour Image DVD brings Wyman’s vision of the blues to the screen through the magic of rare archival footage, an array of essential blues songs and interviews with icons like John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, Wilson Pickett and many more 20th Century blues giants.

INSIDE OUT MUSIC AMERICA - One of the great 2004 IOMA releases bound to stir the waves in the rock world is Come Somewhere by King’s X drummer Jerry Gaskill. On his solo debut CD, the N.J.-based Gaskill also proves himself as a fine singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist. In Gaskell’s words, “I think, Come Somewhere makes it clear that we three guys of King’s are all good songwriters.” An tasty blend of prog-pop, rock psychedelia and Beatles-esque orch-pop, Come Somewhere rocks to a different drummer although a range amazing musical signposts makes it a memorable trip to an unmistakable musical destination.
Also on IOMA in 2004 is the fourth CD from Tiles entitled Window Dressing. Celebrating ten years of experimental prog-rock / hard rock music making, Window Dressing features the original Tiles lineup with guitarist Chris Herin and Paul Rarick (vocals). Experts at conjuring daredevil rock fusion, Tiles are assisted on Window Dressing by a number of players and the CD also features graphic cover art by keyboardist Hugh Syme. In related news, IOMA have also reissued the first three Tiles albums in early 2004 complete with bonus tracks, remastered sound and expanded artwork.

KRYPTON ENTERTAINMENT GROUP - Written and performed entirely by multi-instrumentalist Clark Colborn, the twelve track Clark Plays Guitar is the 2003 CD release by the Rockford, IL.-based guitarist. With his focus on harmonies, melodies and musical ambience, Colborn sounds like a graduate of the Steve Vai / Joe Satriani school of guitar and with plenty of high action guitar riffing, the album clearly falls into that instrumental hard rock zone. With his CD liner notes adding, “I must play the guitar the way other people must breathe and this album is the result of that need”, you best believe Clark means business.

LION MUSIC - Finland-based Lion Music released a fine new classical guitar album from Italian-born guitar virtuoso Alex Masi. Entitled In The Name Of Mozart, the seven track CD features Masi performing Mozart’s solo classical guitar music with several tracks featuring the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra. Influenced early on by prog-rock innovators like Yes and Gentle Giant, Masi went on to become a notable figure on the hard rock and instrumental heavy metal scene. A tasteful guitarist with impeccable rock and classical credentials, Masi has achieves a new musical milestone with the 2003 CD release of In The Name Of Mozart, which is incidentally his follow-up CD to his other recent guitar homage to another classical icon, entitled In The Name Of Bach. /

LYALL STEEL - Canadian nylon string guitar ace Lyall Steel released his first solo debut Emanations at the dawn of the new millennium while a second solo CD—his own solo guitar tribute to The Beatles called Revolutions...Remembering the Beatles—elicited further rave reviews. In early 2004 Lyall Steel returns with Alchemy, perhaps his most impressive CD yet. Featuring track by track liner notes, Alchemy draws on Steel’s expert ability to merge a wealth of classical, jazz and pop sounds on the nylon string guitar. The lone Alchemy cover of the Bach cantata “Jesus, Joy Of Man’s Desiring” (complete with jazzed up intro and ending) and a tribute to Argentinean tango legend Astor Piazzolla, entitled “Homage To Piazzolla” a just a couple of the highlights on Steel’s latest and greatest solo guitar masterpiece.

MUSEA - Back in the mid ‘70s the French record label Musea was releasing all sorts of exotic and progressive instrumental music, mostly by French and European artists who were unknown in America except for a devoted bunch of prog-rock fans. Resurrected by prog-rock mavens back in the ‘90s, Musea have been keeping the prog-rock banner burning brightly ever since. One American group who fits in quite nicely with Musea’s original musical prog philosophy is the Wisconsin-based Kopecky. Featuring a gifted musical alliance of three brothers—Joe Kopecky (electric guitars), Paul Kopecky (percussion) and Bill Kopecky (bass, keyboards, sitar)—Kopecky have released a superb 2003 album on Musea entitled Sunset Gun. A dramatic instrumental assault that blends the best aspects of ‘70s fusion with exotic World Beat motifs, Sunset Gun rocks hard yet keeps the progressive flame burning brightly. Perhaps it’s the fact that these guys are brothers, but there’s a musical chemistry at work here that makes Kopecky one of the most intriguing progressive instrumental outfits currently working on either side of the Atlantic.

NOT LAME - Continuing to prove why they’re experts when it comes to new pop and classic pop reissues, Colorado-based Not Lame have a full plate of new pop platters on hand. Comparable to music by Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick and Badfinger, the sixteen track Perfect World Radio by The Hawks is a fine reintroduction to an underrated Midwestern pop group. The Hawks released two power pop album on Columbia in 1980 and 1982 and the Not Lame reissue of Perfect World Radio, under their Archive series, collects tracks that represent the band’s third unreleased album along with a selection of demos of some of their classic songs recorded during ‘79-82. Kicking off with a 1981 Hawks cover of The Hollies’ smash, “I’m Alive”, Perfect World Radio is an ear-opening revelation for power-pop fans looking for some classic undiscovered pop. Track by track liner notes and new notes from the band round out this classic Not Lame Archive reissue.

OR - One of the new instrumental bands to emerge from the recent jam band circuit, Particle released their latest opus in 2004, appropriately titled Launchpad. Described as a mix of high-octane funk and electronic soundscapes, the quartet is fueled by the driving fusion guitar sounds of Charlie Hitchcock and the sizzling synth riffs of Steve Moliltz. Although there’s a jam band / acid house music vibe here, the band’s all-instrumental approach also owes a musical debt to ‘70s fusion kings Return To Forever as well as English space-rockers like Ozric Tentacles and the original space rock band, Gong. Maybe this is a good time to bring back the ‘70s!

POLYDOR - Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles on American shores, Polydor / Chronicles released a 2004 DVD audio / video compiling the very first sessions recorded by The Beatles and singer-songwriter Tony Sheridan entitled The Beatles With Tony Sheridan - The Beginnings In Hamburg: A Documentary. These early Beatles sessions, recorded with lead singer Tony Sheridan, during 1961 and ‘62 in Hamburg, is still the stuff of legends. The fact is, that pre-Beatlemania, John, Paul, George and the group’s first drummer, Pete Best made some cool tracks with front man Sheridan and the audio portion of the DVD features 16 of them—accompanied to great effect by 200 vintage photographs—including the poignant Sheridan-penned “Why” along with cool covers of early ‘60s pop favorites like “Ruby Baby”, “Nobody’s Child” (later covered by George Harrison and The Traveling Wilburys), “Kansas City” and “Ain’t She Sweet” (featuring John Lennon on vocals). Another fine reason to check out this vital slice of early Beatles history—besides the incredible packaging—is the 16 track DVD video portion of the single disc set featuring recent documentary style clips with early Beatles luminaries like early manager Allan Williams, Beatles cohorts Klaus Voorman and Astrid Kirchner as well as Sheridan himself.

RAIN CORPS. LTD. - They started out as a band back in 1975 and finally in 2002 Rain released their first Beatles tribute CD entitled Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Featuring thirteen tracks recorded live and in the studio, Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles, features the quartet doing spot on covers of huge Beatles hits, from the lead off version of “I Saw Her Standing There” to the CD closer “The End”. All four members of Rain—including (Paul) Joey Curatolo (bass and production) and guitarists Steve Landes (rhythm) and Joe Bithorn (lead)—have been members of the Broadway production of Beatlemania at one time or another and with Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! they carry on the timeless Fab Four sound and spirit.

RITMO FLAMENCO - Rarely is flamenco guitar performed as eloquently as it is on the latest CD by Canadian flamenco master Roger Scannura. Having recorded four studio albums over the past ten years, the guitarist assembles ten of the finest tracks in his repertoire on his fifth CD—a career overview entitled Encore! Originally from Malta, Scannura studied for years with the flamenco guitar masters in southern Spain, absorbing the lifestyle and music of the Gypsies. In 1995, Scannura formed the Toronto-based Ritmo Dance Company with his wife, flamenco choreographer Valeria Scannura. Amid the guitar mastery on Encore!, Scannura even breaks out the electric guitar on “Angelica”. An eight track masterpiece of flowing, accessible Nuevo Flamenco and Afro-Cuban sounds tastefully seasoned with artful violin, percussion and palmas/vocal accompaniment, Encore! is an intriguing and artfully recorded instrumental flamenco guitar music played with just the right amount of passion and grace.

ROCKET / UMG - Back in the days of platform shoes, big hair and double albums, pop idol Elton John shot back on the scene with a double Lp still widely accepted as being among his best and most celebrated. Featuring timeless Elton John & Bernie Taupin classics like “Love Lies Bleeding”, “Grey Seal” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, spent eight weeks in the #1 spot after it’s October ‘73 release and has sold millions since. The competition was pretty steep back in 1973 yet, if anything, Elton’s emergence as one of rock’s leading thespians insured the album’s immense popularity over the years. A slew of UMG related label’s, including Elton’s own Rocket Records, have joined forces for their 30th anniversary Deluxe Edition of GYBR. Produced by the late, great Gus Dudgeon, the album has been remastered and remixed complete with bonus b-sides and an acoustic version of the album’s centerpiece, “Candle In The Wind” in two formats—a two SACD hybrid and a double SACD hybrid packaged with an hour long DVD rockumentary on the making of the album. Remastered from the original multi-tracks, the new deluxe GYBR boasts the expert audio tweaking of Greg Penny. Spotlighting timeless performances by Elton and his band—including guitar ace Davey Johnston, drummer Nigel Olsson and orchestrater Del NewmanGoodbye Yellow Brick Road provided a pivotal pop moment that in retrospect captured the essence of that golden early ‘70s post-Beatles pop era.

SHELLFACE / JEFF CURTIS MUSIC - Although he claims that British guitar hero Jimmy Page was "probably the biggest influence on my playing and approach to composition", Long Island native Jeff Curtis sounds equally influenced by the acoustic ramblings of guitar masters like Alex De Grassi, Jorma Kaukonen and Leo Kottke. Back in 1998 Curtis released a fine solo CD debut, entitled Dreams, and with the 2003 release of The Next Place he takes his acoustic guitar vision to new heights. Assisted by a number of players, including Andy Lowe (on electric 6-string fretless bass and electric 6-string upright bass), Curtis and his Taylor 314CE takes center stage on an instrumental fingerstyle album that’s both serene and thoughtful. A meditative, orchestral acoustic guitar soundtrack, The Next Step might be considered New Age by some, yet there’s enough original, rootsy Americana guitar sounds on the 17 track CD to make it clearly of interest to anyone who appreciates the finest of the ‘New Acoustic’ genre. Among the many highlights on The Next Step is an excellent Curtis solo cover of the Led Zeppelin IV classic, “The Rain Song".

SHOUT! FACTORY - The Stax Records story comes to life again with a 2004 CD / DVD entitled Soul Comes Home: A Celebration Of Stax Records And Memphis Soul Music, on Shout! Factory. Captured at the opening of the Stax Museum in Memphis on April 30, 2003, the star-studded live concert event features spotlight performances from some of the biggest and best Stax artists appearing before a seasoned and awe-struck audience of long time Stax fans. Backed by the great Booker T. & The MGs, featuring guitar great Steve Cropper, Stax legends like Eddie Floyd, The Bar-Kays with Chuck D, Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes and more recreate some of their trademark Stax sounds of the ‘60s. In addition to capturing the entire once in a lifetime concert event, the nearly two hour DVD adds in special feature chapters on the Stax Museum, the Stax family, remembering Otis Redding, “Cooking Up “Green Onions” with Booker T. & The MGs and “The Birth Of The Bar-Kays”.

SPLASC(H) - A Professor of Guitar at Boston’s Berklee College of Music since 1977 and a recording guitarist who tours extensively throughout Europe, Garrison Fewell released his sixth CD late in 2003. Recorded in Milan and released on the Italian Splasc(h) Records label, Red Door Number 11 is an elegant jazz date teaming Fewell’s guitar with longtime collaborator George Cables (piano) and the Italian rhythm section of Attilio Zanchi (bass) and Gianni Cazzola (drums). The ten track CD features some of the smoothest and coolest instrumental guitar jazz in recent memory and the originals by Fewell and company are balanced by fine readings of jazz classics by Billy Strayhorn, Irving Berlin, Harry Warren and Thelonious Monk. Centered around the cinematic feel of the original title track, Fewell’s evocative, intuitive guitar lines and phrasings evoke the spirits of masters like Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall while the fine interplay between all the musicians sets a new standard in modern jazz guitar.

SUNDAZED - Sundazed has a great selection of Byrds titles that they’ve reissued, believe it or not, there’s quite a bit on big old black vinyl Lp records. They’ve also issued a classic Byrds early years double CD collection entitled The Preflyte Session. In early 2004, Sundazed simultaneously reissued CDs of the first two solo albums from Byrds legend Roger McGuinn. The beefed up Sundazed reissue of McGuinn’s 1973 solo CD, simply titled Roger McGuinn tags on a pair of bonus tracks and new notes by Jud Cost. Recorded in L.A. in the aftermath of McGuinn’s final dissolution of the Byrds name, interestingly at the behest of co-founder David Crosby, the Roger McGuinn album is oozing with the classic Byrds psych-pop sound further enhanced with contributions from Bob Dylan, Beach Boys surf-rocker Bruce Johnston, Byrds buddies Gene Clark, Michael Clark and Crosby in addition to L.A. session guns Jerry Cole, Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon. Taking additional songwriting credits are McGuinn songwriting cohorts Jacques Levy and Bob Hippard. Best known for the album’s radio friendly Beach Boys send-up simply known as “Draggin”—featuring Johnston’s Wilsonian harmony and one time Beach Boys sax man from the Surf’s Up era Charles Lloyd—the Sundazed reissue of Roger McGuinn marks the album’s long awaited U.S. reissue. Another McGuinn title reissued in 2004 on CD by Sundazed is Peace On You. Like his self-titled ‘73 album, the 1974 release of Peace On You found McGuinn in the company of album producer Bill Halverson, resident L.A. wild men Flo & Eddie, guitarists Tommy Tedesco and Al Perkins and the legendary rhythm section of Russ Kunkel and Lee Sklar. Another key element in the Peace On You album was the songwriting and arranging contribution of Blood, Sweat & Tears founder Al Kooper, who also added keyboards and guitar, with McGuinn adding, “Al Kooper was one of the great things that happened with Peace On You. I’d always liked his work.” Both of these pivotal Sundazed reissues features a wealth of classic Byrds-inspired pop and with bonus tracks on each, there’s more than enough data to fill in the blanks regarding McGuinn’s arrival as a solo artist.

TELARC - Guitarist John Pizzarelli covers a wide range of Brazilian-inspired music, both old and new on his fifth CD for Telarc, the appropriately entitled Bossa Nova. Of note on this 2004 release are new Pizzarelli covers of five classic songs composed by bossa nova king Antonio Carlos Jobim, including ‘60s favorites like “The Girl From Ipanema”, “One Note Samba” and “Desifinado”. Backed by a range of fine players including Ray Kennedy (piano) and Martin Pizzarelli (bass), Pizzarelli supplies all the guitars and his cool-jazz vocals interpretations of Jobim’s tropical Brazilian standards offer fresh revelations for long time fans and will introduce a whole new generation of listeners to the magic of Jobim and Brazil. Bossa Nova was produced by Russ Titleman and also features Paulinho Braga, who played drums with Jobim for years. Surely, alot of Jobim music was playing back in the ‘60s in the home of New Jersey-native Pizzarelli, who’s father, Bucky Pizzarelli is among the living legends of the jazz guitar world. Furthering the Bossa Nova Studio finesse is Don Sebesky who arranged the flutes and strings as well the vocals of Jobim’s grandson, Daniel Jobim. Highlights include Pizzarelli’s splendid vocal of the Jobim favorite “Water’s Of March” and a soaring set closing guitar instrumental, composed by Pizzarelli, called “Soares Samba”.

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