Record Label
& Music Spotlight

FALL 2014








AVALON RECORDS - The U.K. band Galahad adds to their repertoire with a pair of CD EP titles, both released in 2014, featuring various tracks, single versions and instrumentals. Both titles - Seize The Day and Guardian Angel are solid examples of a band rising through the ranks of the 21st century prog-rock world. While Seize The Day clocks in around 43 minutes, Guardian Angel coms in just under 30 minutes. Galahad’s music is professionally played and the CD powerhouse prog-rock production is decent enough to hope these guys can fly from here.

Growing up in the 1960's as a big music fan in the middle of the Greenwich Village part of downtown Manhattan, Bill Curreri released his second solo album Son Of An American Dream on September 2, 2014. Going back to his music following time spent in the business world, Curreri does a fine job on an album that truly paves some new roads for modern pop music. Mix in a little Steely Dan, some Gerry Rafferty with a touch of Dylan and The Byrds and you come away with an album that pops and rocks in all the right places. Commenting on returning to pop music making later in his life Bill explains, ‘I've been told, it’s strange that you’re doing it now, and to that I say I'm very fortunate that I’m doing it now because I have so many stories to tell, so many life lessons to give, so many mistakes I’ve made along the way, that I can now share with others.’ There’s so many cool cuts here for pop and rock fans to pick and choose from. It’s hard to single out just a few but, of course the lead off title track and the second cut here, “Son Of An American Dream” and “Fade Away” packs a solid one, two pop-rock punch. Among the most unique tracks here is the acoustic based “Captain Jack”. Curreri explains that the song ‘looks back fondly at a time in one’s life that is gone forever, never to be reclaimed.’ There’s a range of catchy pop hooks in play here and Curreri’s band is totally professional sounding, highlighted by the solid electric guitar work of John Putnam, while the first rate production work of Roger Fife also adds shine to the album’s sonic appeal. State of the art 21st century jangle pop gets a solid transfusion with Bill Curreri’s Son Of An American Dream.

BLEEDING HEART RECORDINGS - The huge influence of Canterbury England circa 1968 can still be heard in recordings by younger artists all over the world. In some ways those influences also hark back to Pink Floyd during their historic 1969/70 Ummagumma / Atom Heart Mother era and others cite Soft Machine, especially the Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper eras. These influences and more can be heard in full force on the 2013 CD by Crayola Lectern. The 2014 CD and Lp release of The Fall And Rise Of Crayola Lectern mixes vocal and instrumental music with varying results yet for the most part it’s a very together sounding album of 21st century progressive rock. At the core is Crayola himself on vocals, guitars, keyboards and sax with Random Jon Poole (all things “tron” including drumotron) and Alistair Strachan (horns). The future of classic prog-rock is alive and well in The Fall And Rise Of Crayola Lectern. Also on tap from U.K. based Bleeding Heart is Tamatebako from the group known as Cuz. Even more experimental than Crayola Lectern, there’s a a noted influence from German art-rockers Faust meets a modern Lou Reed kind of influence. An art-rock project by Mike Watt and Sam Dook, backed by a large crew, this CUZ CD features loads of sonic surprises. Bleeding Heart have both ends of the prog-rock spectrum covered with these two albums.

BLUE COLORADO MUSIC - The 2014 CD release of What’ll It Be?, the first ever solo album from singer-songwriter Barry Ollman is a pleasant surprise. Although he’s been involved in the US music scene for decades, it took the CD release of What’ll It Be? to finally put Ollman on the map. Where he’s been all our lives is a bit of a mystery but the ten track CD makes up for lost time. Assisting Barry are notable musicians such as Graham Nash, Garry Tallent (of Bruce Springsteen’s band), David Amram, keyboardist James Raymond and renowned guitarist David Beegle. As a guitarist himself, Ollman is no slouch and he sets the scene perfectly with the CD opener “Imogen’s Lament”, recorded with Nash. Amazingly, Ollman looks and sings like David Crosby, so it's no coincidence that Crosby’s long lost son James Raymond plays keyboards on the album. The album rocks and rolls and also has a definite folk-rock influence. Ollman’s voice is strong and clear and is also reminiscent of late great singer Phil Ochs. Ochs would have loved What’ll It Be?, which is filled with honest and open lyrics and musical subject matter and can’t get it out of your head hooks. Every song has something to offer but clearly the lead off track “Imogen’s Lament” and the rocking “Banker’s Holiday” are standouts. Fans of Phil Ochs and CSN will get a jolt out of Barry Ollman’s What’ll It Be?

CHERRY RED RECORDS / A R GARDEN RECORDS - Without the song writing genius and stage presence of the late great Syd Barrett there would be no Pink Floyd. Those who still miss the excitement during the genesis years of Pink Floyd will want to hear the 2014 CD by Garden Music Project and their music inspired by Syd Barrett’s artwork. Many people don’t know Syd was also an accomplished painter and Garden Music Project actually have written twelve tracks of Syd influenced music inspired by his paintings. The Garden Music Project's music is very Syd like and is far more interesting than anything Pink Floyd have recorded for at least the past 45 years. Project coordinator and composer Adriana Rubio gets solid support from a range of musicians including vocalist, lyricist, guitarist Alex Ditzend. Other musicians help flesh out the sound stage. Even though Cherry Red has endorsed this far-reaching album, it’s worth noting that these musicians are from Buenos Aires Argentina. It just goes to show how influential Syd’s music was and still is in far flung places on earth. Before prog went pomp is that place where Syd Barrett’s ghost will always be and Garden Music Project makes that point very clear on their superb sounding and superbly packaged CD.

Despite being a mostly late 1960’s musical phenomenon, the legacy of The Doors will never die. Although they stopped making recordings in the early ‘70snotwithstanding a pair of overlooked post-Jim Morrison albums, Full Circle and Other Voicesit’s the band’s core 6 albums from 1967-1971 that remains the centerpiece of their legacy. In 2014, music producer Billy Sherwood constructed an excellent Doors’ tribute album entitled Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Tribute To The Doors for Cleopatra's Purple Pyramid imprint. Through the magic of recording and mixing tracks over the internet, musicians living all over the world can be seamlessly blended into any track and Billy has some big names to lend support here, most notably Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman of YES who appear on a cover of the most influential Doors track “Light My Fire”, with vocals by Ian Gillan. Featuring some of the biggest names in music history, Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Tribute To The Doors reads like a who’s who in prog and pop—from Todd Rundgren and David Johansnen to Larry Coryell and Steve Cropper—from Mark Farner and Leslie West to Thijs van Leer and Keith Emerson. And that’s just the tip of the musical iceberg as you will see when you check out the CD booklet filled with all the track by track discography information. Hearing Edgar Winter singing “The Crystal Ship”—backed by guitar great Chris Spedding and drummer Scott Connoris just one of the many sonic revelations here. The musical genius who brought YES back to life with phenomenal results in the late 1990’s, Billy Sherwood rarely misses a beat as producer / musical contributor on this 16 track tribute album that lights a new fire into the legacy of The Doors.

CURVED AIR RECORDS - U.K. progressive rockers Curved Air are legendary among the great early 1970’s bands and living up to their legacy, the band is back in 2014 with their first album of new studio material since 1976. The 2014 CD release of North Star is a most welcome return from Curved Air. Original Curved Air singer-songwriter Sonja Kristina is in fine form and she gets excellent support from her band mates, including classic era guitarist Kirby Gregory, who rejoined Curved Air in 2013, as well as original Curved Air drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa. Although there’s been a number of Curved Air lineups since 1969, this 2014 band lineup sounds as vibrant as ever and clearly the Curved Air magic is in abundance on North Star. Commenting on North Star, Sonja adds, ‘I am proud to release into the world Curved Air’s North Star. The North Star album material reflects on humanity, love, solutions, perspectives and staying human through changing times and revolutions, virtual lives and delicate attractions, love and shamanic sub atomic worlds.’ Topping off the superbly recorded music—which features a mix of re-recordings, cover songs and seven new originals—North Star is quite appealingly packaged and features mind-blowing artwork and complete lyrics. Early 1970’s prog-rock legend Curved Air is back in a big way with the most welcome appearance of North Star.

FO' REEL RECORDS - Putting out a CD these days can be rewarding. Get a spiffy concept for an album artwork, get the studio / mastering sound right and have the tracks RTG (ready to go). Blues-rock fans will note all the above are in gear on the 2014 CD release of Heavy Water by the New Orleans based band known as Fo’ Reel. The band adeptly merges a kind of 1960s R&B sound with a more rock-based Allman Brothers influenced soul / jazz groove. Central to the band sound is legendary New Orleans soul singer C.P. Love and the red hot guitar sound of Mark Domizio, and they both receive solid backup from David Hyde (bass), Johnny Neel (keys) and a number of musicians who round out the Fo' Reel sound, including a full horn section. Commenting on the band's origins, Domizio tells, "We’re not a supergroup, just seasoned musicians having a good time. While I was working on a solo project with David Hyde, Johnny Neel and C.P. Love, I began talking to C.P. about forming a band. We talked to Johnny and he said he was in, then C.P. came up with the name Fo’ Reel the next day." Domizio sounds influenced by guitar greats of the past including Duane Allman, Kim Simmonds, Stevie Ray Vaughan among others, and the band rocks its way through eleven modern day blues rock classics, including a couple of horn driven R&B instrumentals. Imagine the soul sound of the 1960s brought into the mid ‘70s and then into the 21st century, with an added touch of funky grooves and you come close to where Fo’ Reel is coming from. A relaxed spin from start to finish, Fo’ Reel’s Heavy Water is essential listening for fans of modern blues-rock

GENTLE ART OF MUSIC - Gentle might not be the world you want to use when describing the 2014 CD by RPWL. The ten track release of Wanted puts RPWL back to what they do best, which is to create highly charged, memorable progressive rock. These young Germans really put it together on Wanted. RPWL likes to deal with esoteric thinking in their lyric writing but there’s usually a memorable hook or guitar solo to carry the music across the sound stage. The net result offers another great RPWL album filled with an all original mix of 21st century prog-rock filled with influences from early 1970’s Pink floyd and Kraftwerk and mid ‘70s Bowie. Yogi Lang, still on vocals and the guitars of Kalle Wallner continues to drive the band sound forward with excellent results. Not bad for a band that started in the 1990s as a Pink Floyd tribute band. In addition to the CD and DVD, complete with 5.1 surround sound, there’s also a double vinyl version of Wanted. RPWL continues to prove that progressive rock definitely enjoys a wide fan base filled with discerning ears and eyes.

GOLDRAY MUSIC - The U.K. based band Goldray makes hard hitting, post punk rock music. The band centers around the dynamic vocals of Leah Rasmussen who is ably assisted by her Goldray band mates, with the songs well written by Leah and guitarist Kenwyn House. Their 4 song debut is well recorded and leaves the listener wanting more. Goldray make near psychedelic rock music that is kind of influenced by both The Velvet Underground and The Sex Pistols fronted by an effective singer who sounds influenced by Grace Slick. Both progressive rock and hard rock fans are lapping up the sound of Goldray. One hears that Goldray are busying prepping their new full length CD. If their planned full length is as good as their EP, rock fans will have something to celebrate.

HYPERTENSION MUSIC - The music of Albert Hammond has been played for decades. Even those who never heard his name have heard and enjoyed his songs such as the Hollies’ classic “The Air That I Breathe” and Whitney Houston’s smash “One Moment In Time”. Although he’s 70 now, Hammond is still in the game and fans can appreciate a fine 2014 career retrospective called Songbook 2013, a double live CD set, recorded live in Germany and released on the German Hypertension label. The double CD set is beautifully packaged, sounds great and features Hammond performing some of his greatest, although not only his best known compositions, before a faithful group of fans in May 2013. Accompanying him on the double CD set, Hammond’s band also sounds great and totally in tune on this sonic trip down memory lane. Long time fans will enjoy this and overall, Songbook 2013, is a great way to re-experience many of the memorable songs that Albert Hammond has brought to the music world over the past 40 years. /

- Chicago based guitarist / vocalist Guy King demonstrates a solid grasp of a wide range of instrumental and blues-pop sounds on two recent CD titles released on the IBF Records label. First off is a double set entitled, I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is. Featuring 30 tracks, the double CD set veers from bluesy pop ala BB King to jazzy, instrumental organ trio sounds and covers a wealth of musical moods and moves. The central focus on I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is is versatility, with King covering music written by just about every major soul / jazz legend on the map including Wes Montgomery, Stevie Wonder, Percy Mayfield, Kenny Burrell, A.C. Jobim, Ray Charles and many others. With his deep booming baritone voice and jazzy guitar styles, on I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is King exhibits a solid grasp of both instrumental jazz and blues / rock vocal styles. On the double CD set, King gets solid support from his trio featuring Ben Peterson (organ) and Mike Schlick (drums). Also released with I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is is another single CD called By Myself. The 15 track By Myself album is pretty much a blues based affair featuring King performing blues classics from the pens of Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Eden Ahbez and others including a pair of Guy King originals. All in all both I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is and By Myself introduces King as a major player on 21st century blues and jazz guitar scene.

- Having released Los Angeles Blues a couple years back, guitarist Ciro Hurtado released Ayahuasca Dreams in 2014. Ciro’s best album yet, the eleven cut CD beautifully merges instrumental guitar music and Spanish vocal music and the entire album coalesces into a sumptuous mix of folk-jazz, New Age and even smooth jazz. Compared to the all instrumental Los Angeles Blues, the 2014 CD release of Ayahuasca Dreams comes across like a colorful, sonic composite filled out with a wide range of music. Sometimes the music even veers into Carlos Santana territory, albeit in a more laid back manner. A wide range of musicians appear on the album including Ciro’s wife Cindy Harding (vocals), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Gary Johnson (keyboards) and a many other fine players. Overall, Ayahuasca Dreams is superbly recorded and the eye-popping CD cover art enhances this sonic mosaic of lush sounding guitar music.

IRL - Commenting on the 2014 CD by The Malawi Mouse Boys, producer Ian Brennan explains, “It was the first time they had been outside Malawi. To see them transform into full-blown showmen, over the course of a mere 48 hours, was one of the most stunning and beautiful acts of growth I’ve ever personally witnessed.’ Singing in their native Malawi lingo, called Chichewa, the sound is rough and even ragged in places, but the group’s energy is quite astounding. On their second album entitled Dirt Is Good, Malawi Mouse Boys use home made musical instruments and percussion made from bicycle parts, but that can’t stop them from making a big impact on the World Music stage. Fans of World Music oriented blues, reggae and gospel will get a buzz from this African music ensemble and their second album. Some people have even described this South African group of musicians like a cross between African gospel music and the Ramones, although that might be pushing it. Commenting on the band and their place in the music world of 2014, lead vocalist Zondiwe Kachingwe explains ‘Although we are poor, we understand that this is the way of the world. We know that we are alive today because of His will. God keeps us alive for a reason.’ Still, if you’re into African music and are looking for something truly unique and unusual, at least to Western ears, than Malawi Mouse Boys might be right up your alley.

- Based in uptown Manhattan in good old New York, singer-songwriter Peter Galperin released Just Might Get It Right in 2014. The follow up to his critically acclaimed 2013 album A Disposable Life, Galperin’s new five song EP takes a left turn at the George Washington Bridge and heads south to Nashville. With production assistance by Chip Hardy, Just Might Get It Right features Peter backed up by a solid crew of seasoned music city session guys including the well rounded guitars of Smith Curry, keyboards by Dane Bryant, bassist Rod Lewis and the rock solid drumming of Tim Grogan. Living up to the Nashville name on the recording sessions, these new country-rock flavored Galperin songs have a cutting edge pop sound in a similar realm as Roy Orbison’s late period tracks. Compared to Galperin's socially satirical vision on A Disposable Life, the five track Just Might Get It Right takes a look into songs of lost love and renewed hope. With the accent on memorable pop hooks, Just Might Get It Right combines rock and country and comes up with a new kind of 21st century Urbane Country sound. The songs are each memorable, the production first rate and there’s plenty of listening pleasure on top for fans of Galperin’s earlier releases, as well as those new to the man. One can only wish him well as he builds upon the chance to bring his music far and wide. A man with a plan, Peter Galperin tells, ‘Building my song catalog is my priority so I’m writing new songs and trying to get better and better at it by always striving for that old-time country song adage: “three chords and the truth”.

KINA GRANNIS RECORDS / ONE HAVEN MUSIC - The pop-rock world is talking about singer-songwriter Kina Grannis, who is making waves with her second solo album. The 12 track Elements was written entirely by Kina and produced by Matt Hales, who is also known as Aqualung. The music is not quite dance music but there’s dance music elements mixed into the pop-rock mix. Blessed with a fine voice and stage presence, Kina sounds influenced by singers like Madonna and even Suzanne Vega. There’s enough originality here to place her front and center among the rising new pop stars of the 21st century. Kina Grannis is a singer-songwriter to keep your eyes and ears on.

JEM RECORDINGS - Back in the late 1970’s JEM Records, under label head Marty Scott, was releasing hundreds of albums. Jem were early adopters in a number of music genres and most players from the late ‘70s 1980’s have a JEM Records story to tell. Marty Scottand JEM is back and high on the list of cool JEM albums is the self-titled 2014 debut CD by Michigan rockers The Legal Matters. Music may be a legal matter but this album will prevail in the high court of rock. There’s a definite Badfinger meets Nilsson meets The Turtles kind of pop and folk-rock groove in play here brought up to date in 2014 with a renewed pop reverence. All three members—Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith are each fine singer-songwriters-guitarists and they get solid support from drummer Cody Marecek and guitarist Nick Piunti. Retro-pop fans give a listen to The Legal Matters.

MACHAIR RECORDS - World Music fans may want to give a listen to Every Story by Scotland-based singer Julie Fowlis. Her voice and music is kind of Enya-esque as well as sounding influenced by U.K. folk-rock bands like Fairport Convention. Actually, the album is called Gach Sgeul as every song is sung in an old world Gaelic kind of dialect. Track by track liner notes in English accompany the Gaelic text. Julie's band is quite on top of things and with her voice front and center, the tracks feature a memorable mix of guitar-bouzouki sounds with added flutes, pipes and fiddles. Of course this is not everyone’s cup of tea but her voice is just perfect for this or anything really. The 20 page booklet is very extensive with lyrics and track notes and is a very well presented offering.

MAGNA CARTA - There’s a whole new generation of musicians releasing music on CD that clearly take cues from first generation rockers. Case in point is Entropy Of The Century by progressive rockers MoeTar. MoeTar stands for group leaders Moorea Dickason (vocals) and Tarik Ragab (bass). Moorea has been described as sounding like Adele in a prog-rock setting while the music composed by Tarik is a highly unusual mix of the Swingle Singers meets Dave Brubeck meets Bill Bruford. There’s a definite Zappa influence but with Moorea’s multi-tracked female vocals you can also add in groups such as Hatfield and the North and for some of the more pop based derivatives here, XTC. Filling out the six piece band are an number of fine musicians including Matthew Heulitt (guitar), David M. Flores (drums), Jonathan Herrera (keys) and Matt Lebofsky (keys). All in all, MoeTar is a great album of 21st century progressive rock and pop.

/ CHERRY RED RECORDS - Fans of King Crimson, The Nice and Emerson Lake & Palmer will want to hear Live At Manticore Hall by prog-rock icons Keith Emerson & Greg Lake. There’s no Carl Palmer here but there is a drummer on a couple of these tracks filling in the gaps on this mostly drummer-less set from Lake & Emerson. By now, prog-rock fans know these songs by heart and highlights here include ELP faves like "From The Beginning”, “Tarkus”, “Take A Pebble” and “Lucky Man”. It’s really about time these guys joined forces on a CD like this one. Lake’s voice may be a little deeper but no less effective than it was 45 years ago, while Emerson’s keyboard gymnastics just gets better sounding in time. Another highlight here is an Emerson & Lake cover of “I Talk To The Wind”—a sublime low key version of a highlight from the first King Crimson album way back in 1969. Hard to believe it’s been 45 years since then but the song continues to be a real tear-jerker and Lake seals the deal again with this 2014 release. There’s a few surprises here, including a spry version of “The Barbarian” featuring drums but there’s no mention of the drummer in the booklet. No problem. Recorded from a live show back in 2010 and presented on CD for the first time, Live At Manticore Hall is a most welcome return to form from two guys who clearly helped shape the vision of progressive rock. /

METANOIA RECORDS - Rock fans looking for something new and interesting should give a listen to One Aim - the debut CD from Suke Cerulo. The NYC band features Suke on lead guitar and vocals and he and his band mates rock up a storm on the nine track CD. Suke Cerulo came to the attention of thanks to his excellent soundtrack work on several science documentaries which blend instrumental space music with electronics. The One Aim CD is very much rock and roll with a bluesy and jazzy edge that sounds like some of Rory Gallagher’s early solo work. The sound is upbeat throughout and of note are two bluesy and jazzy flavored guitar instrumentals, with a slight progressive edge that blend in towards the end of the CD. The CD closing “Vee” is a smokin’, barn burning instrumental workout.

METHEXIS PRODUCTIONS - The Greek band Methexis is reinventing the future of prog-rock with their 2014 CD called The Fall Of Bliss. Essentially the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Nikitas Kissonas and drummer Nikos Miras, the CD is beautifully packaged and the music is equally jolting. Most people may be familiar with Greek New Age music composer Vangelis but Methexis is something else completely. Kissonas sounds like a one man Genesis and while he does draw on some moods and musical inspirations from Gabriel-era Genesis, there’s also some quite authentic music and sounds on this Methexis CD. What’s very impressive here, in addition to the very unusual CD packaging and pressing, is the fact that Kissonas not only acquits himself as a fine singer-songwriter, but he’s also dazzling on all manners of guitars and keyboards creating a wall of prog-rock sound that will blow your mind. Music fans looking to see what happened to the future of progressive rock, check out Methexis.

NCOMPASS MUSIC - Singer-songwriter Jeff Larson is one of those rare breed of 21st century singer-songwriters who keeps on releasing top quality pop albums year after year. Back in 2001, Jeff released the critically acclaimed Day Trips, his collaboration with Sandals guitar legend John Blakeley and since, and over time the hits have just kept coming. In 2014, Jeff released yet another solo album called Close Circle on his Ncompass Music label. I suppose the hidden meaning of Close Circle is the close circle of friends assisting Jeff this time, including California music heroes like guitarist Jeff Pevar and backing singers Jeff Foskett as well as Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of the group America. Also on board again is long time Larson guitarist Hank Linderman and drummer Jim McCarty. With all these great players on hand, thankfully the music and songs hold up nicely. If you’ve never experienced Jeff Larson’s blend of breezy California pop-rock, Close Circle is a good place to start.

PAINTED PONY MEDIA - For anyone who’s been sleeping under a rock for the past 50+ years, Buddy Ebsen was one of the great actors of the 20th century. Buddy’s greatness is carried on thanks to his music making daughter, singer-songwriter Kiki Ebsen. In 2014, Kiki released Scarecrow Sessions. Buddy always wanted his daughter to record and vocalize an album of jazz standards and with Scarecrow Sessions she finally fulfills her dad’s request. A number of talented jazz musicians are on the 12 track CD including John Patitucci (bass), Chuck Loeb (guitar), Clint de Ganon (drums) and others. The album was tastefully produced by David Mann and the single off the CD is a snazzy, upbeat jazz rendition of “If I Only Had A Brain”, from The Wizard Of Oz. Her dad’s appearances in famous movies, the music of which is prominently featured here, is well documented in the in depth CD liner notes, which features Kiki discussing these movies which featured legendary acting from her dad. Even though Buddy was best known as Jed Clampett in the 1960's Beverly Hillbillies, clearly his acting legacy will be further looked at with different eyes thanks to his daughter’s excellent CD. Honoring her family name on her sixth solo album, Kiki Ebsen honors and sheds new light on the great American songbook with Scarecrow Sessions.

PRUNETWANG MUSIC - Best known for their all time classic from 1966, "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night", Electirc Prunes are back again in 2014 with a new CD called WaS. Still featuring lead singer James Lowe, the album also features original group bassist / vocalist Mark Tulin, who actually died in 2011. The album features relatively new music from the band, who are considered legends of the 1960s in many music circles. Although the lead off track a cover of “Smokestack Lightning” is from 2000, many of the other tracks are circa 2014 although Lowe explains, ‘The music here is from all layers of the band from 1966 to 2014.’ Although Tulin’s untimely death threatened the album’s final completion, Lowe cites current Prunes guitarist Steve Kara and the other EP members put it all together and the final result is a most welcome addition to the band’s repertoire. The studio sound has some of the hallmarks that made The Electric Prunes such a trendsetter among mid to late 1960 music legends. The CD packaging is brilliant and the classic release of WaS sounds like it could have been made in 1966. Prunes fans will eat up the classic psychedelic sound of WaS.

RESCORD RECORDINGS - This one should win a grammy for best CD cover of the year. We’re talking about Year Of The Woman, the first album by the group called AAA Battery. As in triple “a” and the group is onto something here. Cutting tracks here are Canadian pop-rock legend Spookey Ruben joining forces with Joe Maydak (bass) and Fred Jeske (guitar / drums). The result borrows from progressive music as well as pop and even punk to a certain degree, yet the album gels and gets better with further listening. Fitting on their Facebook page, they claim influences from YES and Sigur Ros. Buy it for the ultra cover art but listen to it for the eclectic pop grooves in play on Year Of The Woman.

- In 2010, multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos released his album LOVE and in 2014 he’s back on the music scene again with Bhakti. Paul’s 19th solo album, Bhakti is dripping with positive, life-affirming and ultra karmic New Age vibes that tastefully mix vocals and instrumental Indian music with all kinds of healing, meditative New Age vibes. A range of musicians appear on instruments like sitar, sarod, bansuri flute, violin, nylon string guitar all accompanied by various hip-hop electronics. Several of the same players from LOVE are also on Bhakti, including EWI (electronic wind instrument) player Kevin Braheny Fortune. In the liner notes of Bhakti, Paul explains how he was raised in the Greek orthodox church but he gravitated to a Bhakti yoga guru when he was 16. Paul also claims this album is a must have for energizing any yoga practice and fittingly, Bhakti is a joyful, uplifting feast for the ears where east meets west, and christian meets hindu in a blissful New Age foray that calms and inspires in the same breath.

RT60 RECORDS / ATLANTIC RECORDS - For his first full length CD, Paul Thomas Saunders pulls out all the stops. Interestingly enough, Saunders cites U.K. music legend Joe Meek and Meek protégés The Tornadoes among his big influences. However instead of making instrumental guitar music, Saunders’ specialty is heavily synthesized, panoramic rock in the spirit of 21st century favorites like Sigur Ros and even traces of U2 and dare I say Springsteen. On his ten track CD Beautiful Desolation, the sound is dreamlike and quite large, a fact made all the more amazing when you consider Saunders plays everything here, with the help of drummer Alastair Thynne. The lyrics in Saunders’ songs come across as train of thought and dreamy. Some have described his music as being somewhere between space-rock and the soaring glacial soundscapes of New Age maestro Vangelis. As cool as the music is, the CD packaging, complete with trippy paintings and full color booklet and lyrics really enhances the musical mood. With its accent on otherworldly lyrics and soaring 21st century psych-rock, perhaps the Joe Meek comparison isn’t so out of place after all. If Joe was alive and kicking today, he’d no doubt appreciate the superbly recorded cosmic rock of Paul Thomas Saunders.

SCRD - With their blend of vintage and heavy rockabilly, rock & roll and psychobilly, L.A. based So-Cal Rocket Dynamics are gaining lots of attention for their 2014 CD Too Bad She Won’t Live. The 12 track CD features the music and playing of Rich Contadino (vocals, drums), Matt J. Britton (guitars, vocals) and Robert Coddington (bass, vocals). Several other artists appear, including producer Matt Thorne, but this is mostly the work of a truly possessed power trio that definitely sounds influenced by 1950’s American rock ‘n’ roll as well as post modern rockabilly bands like The Stray Cats, Reverend Horton Heat and countless other bands adept at this classic style. Recorded in Burbank, the CD is very well played and the all original track lineup clicks nicely. Matt Britton is already getting some well earned press for his hard hitting electrifying guitar work and from start to finish, So-Cal Rocket Dynamics smokes their way through this 21st century rock & roll classic.

SECRET CANDY ROCK RECORDS - There’s millions of under 50 types who are getting jazzed again at what their parents did. We’re all sons of Beatles in some ways and on that front, you can count in a new band called The Grand Undoing. On the ten track White Space Flavors And Parties On TV, Grand Undoing leader Seth Goodman seems to pull off the impossible on a fantastic album that doubles as a 21st century retro pop flashback. With Seth’s songs, guitars and vocals in full flight, The Grand Undoing album is kind of reminiscent of early Split Enz, the version with Tim Finn and Phil Judd. Like early Enz, there’s kind of a manic, carnival type atmosphere on several tracks here. Commenting about the amazing musical moods of The Grand Undoing, Seth tells "I came up with the idea of The Grand Undoing amidst some epic life changing events. I finally had to accept the notion that decay and decline are really the rule. Watching your parents age pushes you into an awareness of your own mortality like nothing else." Based up in the Boston area, Goodman’s band also features first rate players with excellent drumming from Dave Westner and Andy Plaisted and the steel guitars of the legendary B.J. Cole with pop maven Allen Devine adding in additional guitar on a track here. Regarding working with B.J. Cole, Seth adds, "I had been listening to a great record from 1972 called Bored Civilians by Keith Cross and Peter Ross, when I realized that BJ was the pedal steel player. I found him online and was thrilled to discover that he did sessions remotely." Seth Goodman is armed with a strong voice and tracks that a voice that strong and daring can make the most of. Pop fans looking for new and interesting spins will catch a sonic wave with White Space Flavors And Parties On TV from The Grand Undoing.

TIM BRAGG MUSIC - Rare is the drummer who not only keeps a great beat but who is also a fine singer-songwriter. Ringo and even Phil Collins comes to mind and you can add the name Tim Bragg to that list. Living and working in France, by way of his native England, Bragg furthers his standing in the pop world with the 2014 CD release of Revamped 3. With a range of albums to his credit, Bragg’s vocal and song writing style should have appeal among fans of both Van Morrison and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Revisiting and remaking some of his classic tunes, Bragg keeps the steady beat on the third volume in the Revamped series. Featuring Tim on lead vocals and drum kit—leading a solid rock band with some great guitar work from Jules Reason and Stratobiker and Bragg himself on a track here—these Revamped 3 songs have an appealing groove, sometimes in the spirit of Van Morrison’s songs. There’s also a track or two that could stand out as hit singles, most notably track nine “What We’ll Miss” while, the Knopfler-esque like “Private Time” is another standout. Bragg’s Revamped series is up to three now and, hopefully in future editions, will reveal other songs from Bragg’s prolific song catalog. Timeless 21st century sounds, Tim Bragg’s Revamped 3 features 14 tracks of soulful pop that packs a punch.

- One of the most adventurous new music labels out there these days is New York based Trail Records. There’s something for everybody on this label. Specializing in exotic sounding psychedelic World Music, the roster of Trail has some spectacular sounding artists. If you can get a hold of their CD sampler called Space Travel 2007-2014, you’ll hear a number of Trail Music artists. Case in point is Trail’s 2014 CD by Russian rockers Polska Radio One. Their CD is called Cosmos Inside. There’s a kind late 1960’s psychedelic rock element in play and even Syd-era Pink Floyd. The CD was recorded in the Russian city of Ekaterinberg and the band sings in English to maximize their exposure. There’s also some raga-rock influences here as well. The guitar work of the group’s lead singer Dmitry Kutnyakov is quite arresting as well as he gets solid support from his band, which also features a sitar player on a couple tracks. The band’s energy is great and if you’re looking for some exotic sounding psychedelic raga-rock from Russia, Polska Radio One is the way to go. PRO is just one among the many fine bands on Trail. Check them all out on the label web site.

TRODDDEN BLACK ENTERTAINMENT - Country rock with a solid slice of Americana sounds, Razor Wire establishes singer-songwriter Hannah Aldridge as a force to be reckoned with. Based out of Nashville by way of Alabama, on her CD debut Hannah has penned 11 tracks that rock and roll in all the right places. Throughout Razor Wire she gets solid support from a tight band, including guitarist Andrew Sovine, keyboardist Andrew Higley and drummer Brad Pemberton, among other fine players. Interestingly, Hannah is the daughter of Walt Aldridge, who is regarded as one of the top country music songwriters of all time, so clearly Hannah’s talent is genetically passed down. Coming from Alabama originally, Hannah's album is fueled by that musical Muscle Shoals sound. Superbly recorded, Razor Wire is a solid choice for fans of 21st century Americana flavored country rock.

TUM RECORDS - Back in 1975, Richard Branson, or should I say Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, did something very unusual. Branson, together with Virgin's original A&R genius, Simon Draper, joined forces with Finland’s Love Records, releasing then new albums by Wigwam and Pekka Pohjola on the then recently established U.K. based Virgin Records. Although Pekka Pohjola had been the bassist / composer in the early Wigwam, by 1975, the band mainly featured the music of Jim Pembroke and group guitarist Pekka Rechardt. Having recorded in England, Finland and Sweden, and now in his adopted homeland of America, Pembroke has released a number of albums to his credit, solo and with Wigwam and Blues Section, since leaving his native London in 1965 to move to Finland. Looking back 45 years, it's safe to say that Pembroke was a key figure at the dawn of the rock music scene in late 1960’s Finland. Although Wigwam continued making albums in the 1990’s and 2000’s, in fact Jim hasn’t made a solo album since 1981’s Party Upstairs—the CD of which this writer wrote liner notes for—so this new album is quite historical for his fans. In a geographical twist of fate, Jim has remained a resident of Missouri and more recently in the nearby state of Kansas for the past 20 years. Recorded in Olathe, Kansas, the 2014 CD release of If The Rain Comes reunites Jim with guitarist Jukka Orma, who has played with Jim since the late 1970s and was a key component of Party Upstairs. Also here is mid '70s period Wigwam keyboardist Pedro Hietanen, the jazz rhythm section of Ulf Krokfors (double bass) and Mika Kallio (drums), topped off by excellent studio production from legendary Love Records founder / producer / arranger Henrik Otto Donner, who tragically and unexpectedly passed away 3 months after the recording sessions. TUM has done a great job packaging If The Rain Comes with full lyrics, rare pics and tribute liner notes by Jim for Otto. A legend and a veteran of the progressive rock world, Jim Pembroke revives his legacy with a truly inspiring 21st century rock album.

WIDOW’S PEAK RECORDS - Not to be confused with Eric Stewart of 10cc fame, Brooklyn native, singer-songwriter Eric Stuart released Lipstick & Barbed Wire in 2014. The NYC native, who was championed in the late 1990’s by Ringo Starr and Peter Frampton, released In The Country Of Kings in 2007 and hard to believe it’s been 7 years but Lipstick & Barbed Wire is nothing less than totally rocking. Although by now he’s certainly more cutting edge than Bruce Springsteen, Stuart also adds in a definite pop edge in his rock & roll sound. On Lipstick & Barbed Wire, Eric is joined by a solid band, including long time guitarist Phil Nix, with Peter Frampton appearing on a track here as well. In the spirit of Ringo, Springsteen and Fogerty before him, Eric Stuart is simply riveting when he’s really on and there’s plenty of sonic ammo on his 2014 release.


ADAM ANDREWS MUSIC - One of 2014’s best albums of solo piano, The Road To Ambo is a fine introduction to the music of Adam Andrews. Although this music is all instrumental, Adam says through notes what words can’t express. The album is loosely based around the journey Adam and his family took by adopting his son from Ambo Ethiopia. Adam describes the album as being “a deeply personal collection of songs that reflects my stories about the beauty of adoption, the love for my family and finding the courage to follow my heart.” True the album is very emotional sounding but Adam has both the chops and the compositional strengths to pull off the sonic scope here. The Road To Ambo is one of 2014’s most inspirational sounding albums of solo piano music.

BLUJAZZ PRODUCTIONS - New York bred / Chicago based guitarist Paul Kogut is turning the heads of jazz fans with his 2014 jazz trio CD Turn Of Phrase. The eleven track CD is filled with a number of Kogut originals along with covers of music by Henry Mancini, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis and more. Assisting Paul on the CD are jazz greats George Mraz (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums). The CD features in depth liner notes by music maven Neil Tesser. Paul had studied with jazz guitar greats Pat Martino and Mick Goodrick and you can hear that level of expression and experience on Turn Of Phrase. Despite having left music around 2008 to attend to family matters, Paul is back in a big way with Turn Of Phrase. The CD is very much filled with a range of uptempo, instrumental bop jazz that features Paul’s very mellow, spot on melodic lead lines and the interplay between the guitarist and Mraz and Nash is excellent. For jazz guitar fans it doesn’t get a lot better than Paul Kogut’s Turn Of Phrase.

Burning Shed always struck me as a funny name for a record label but the 2014 CD from the band known as Darkroom is no laughing matter. Over the past several years, Burning Shed has become synonymous with cutting edge prog by carrying a number of albums associated with King Crimson and other well known prog rockers. One such album, the Darkroom CD Gravity’s Dirty Work is a work filled with spellbinding soundscapes that superbly spotlights the guitar of Michael Bearpark and the keyboards / electronics of Andrew Ostler. Very Crimson-esque in places, Gravity’s Dirty Work features eight extended pieces of instrumental magic that crosses borders between New Age atmospherics and avant gard suspensealthough unlike much New Age, this Darkroom CD is not meant to relax to. Commenting on the wide ranging comparisons made of their music, Michael Bearpark explains, 'We’re not aiming for a specific market. I don’t have a big problem with the term New Age specifically... there’s as much Suzanne Ciani as there is Delia Derbyshire in our music—also ambient, Krautrock, progressive rock, discredited for some time, and much else. People hear what they want in our music... We did set out to make an ambient album, but that was just a starting point—what’s left is something reflective, but quite different.' Darkroom have a number of releases to their credit and their best yet, Gravity’s Dirty Work is a splendid introduction to their sound. Plus, the Gravity’s Dirty Work CD cover art is excellent for those who still care about the packaging of art and music. Gravity’s Dirty Work is very ambient and spacy, and Darkroom manages to bring their sound into the 21st century with unique and successful results. Adventurous New Age music fans with a bent for near psychedelic Hendrix / Fripp like guitar-scapes and other sonic wizardry must give Darkroom a listen. Gravity’s Dirty Work is well worth the time for fans of prog-rock and ambient instrumental guitar-scapes.

Sweden continues its reputation as one of the world's leading hotspots of guitar instrumental music with the release of the 2014 CD by the group known as Guitar 60. Many of the 14 tracks on Guitar 60’s Music Through The Years are songs that guitar instrumental fans know by heart, including a number of tracks first recorded by Hank Marvin and The Shadows. Guitar 60 lead guitarist Tommy Karlsson is joined by his band mates and the result is an hour of pure instrumental guitar pop pleasure. Kicking off with the song “Chu Chi”—a Shadows original—Music Through The Years features a number of all time classic melodies including Max Steiner’s timeless classic from the 1959 movie classic, “A Summer Place” and Stanley Myer’s “Cavatina”, also know as the Theme From The Dear Hunter. Fans of The Ventures, The Shadows and Sweden's own guitar heroes The Spotnicks will enjoy spinnng Guitar 60 and their timeless Music Through The Years.

CRANKTONE ENTERTAINMENT - Guitarist Carl Verheyen released his most recent CD Mustang Run in early 2014 and it’s clearly one of his best solo albums to date. For those unfamiliar with Carl and his guitar-esque music, suffice to say: if you like powerful guitar instrumental music that runs the gamut from jazz-rock fusion to pure rock instrumental, then his music is for you. It’s hard to believe, Carl has been playing guitar for 40 years and has released 11 CDs and a pair of live DVD titles. Commenting on Mustang Run, Carl explains, ‘My goal was to break out of the mold of Carl Verheyen Band CDs and do a progressive instrumental album.’ As long time fans will attest, Carl does break some new musical ground on Mustang Run and accompanying him on the eleven track CD are some legendary musicians including Simon Phillips, Chad Wackerman, Walfredo Reyes Jr., Jerry Goodman, Stu Hamm, Gregg Bissonette and more. As a side project over the past couple decades, Carl also plays guitar in the current version of rock legends Supertramp and as if to honor that fact, there’s even a cover (the only vocal track here) of their 1974 Crime Of The Century classic “Bloody Well Right” featuring Carl on lead vocals. Explaining his mission on Mustang Run, Carl adds, ‘So my main goal: make a record that bears repeated listening. If you discover new things with each play, I’ve done my job!’.

DAN CHADBURN MUSIC - In 2013, piano guru Dan Chadburn released his critically acclaimed Nocturnes CD. Another recent arrival from Dan Chadburn is the 2014 CD release of Whispers The Falling Snow. Ostensibly a Christmas album of inspiring solo piano, the ten track CD features several Chadburn originals along with new versions of Christmas holiday favorites such as “What Child Is This” and “Silent Night”. Even if you think you know these songs, the beauty of Whispers The Falling Snow is that Chadburn has recorded these well known melodies and improvises on them in such a way as to render them anew. Commenting on the concept of the Whispers album, Dan told, “As for the motivation of the album, I wanted the music to serve as a reflection and celebration of wintertime and all the imagery and emotions that go with that season. And while there are indeed some longtime favorite Christmas carols on the CD, there are other songs which have been associated with the winter solstice season for many generations.” In the spirit of the finest classical pianists, Chadburn uses improvisation, as he explains it "to get into the zone and allow my hands to move freely on the keys as they will without my consciousness getting in the way.” One of the the finest solo piano players / composers in the world today, Dan Chadburn has always recorded his music as a way to inspire, soothe and heal his audience. Whispers The Falling Snow is the perfect album to celebrate the magical moods of the Christmas holiday season.

- In an apparent label switch to the Demon Music Group, years away from the Polydor Records era of the 1980's, rock icon Hank B. Marvin returned in 2014 with HANK. Any new album from the Shadows founder is welcomed, and Hank is no exception. Most rock listeners don’t know the depth of Hank’s song writing, spanning 55 years, so of course, the powers that be, once again continue to obscure that fact. On Hank, they have him doing guitar friendly instrumentals of classic 1960’s pop jewels that everyone knows. No harm done and included among the fare on the 14 track CD are Hank’s latest (last?) instrumentals of originals by John Sebastian, Brian Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Nash, The Beatles, The Kinks and other timeless guitar melodies brought back to life as instrumentals and played by Hank and his band. On second guitar, Ben Marvin continues to bounce off his dad, both on tour and on record, and the two Marvins are joined here by drummer Ben Vanderwal and a range of fine players. The memories of swinging England back in the mid ‘60s is the mood here even though Hank lives and recorded the CD in Australia. As great as the music is, I would sure like to remaster this one myself for SACD as the album mastering by Leon Zervos does a disservice to the CD sound, at times pushing Hank’s sound into the red! (unthinkable 30 years ago, lol) Even so, Hank’s version of “The Summer Of ‘42”, a cover of another Marvin take on the famous French composer Michel Legrand, is alone worth the price of the CD. Haunting and dynamic, "The Summer Of 42" is without a doubt one of Hank's great interpretations. Other highlights include Hank versions of the Spoonful’s “Daydream” and a spot on instro cover of the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”, as well as the only original here, the Gypsy Jazz styles of “Summer Guitar”. Hank turned 73 on October 28, so one can only hope the Shadows guitar master gets back to some deeper original fare next time round or at least, can we agree to find a new mastering engineer next time? Either way, Shadows fans, don’t miss Hank.

ECM - The ECM Records label has been a mainstay on the jazz music scene since the early 1970s. Six decades later, the label is still going strong and one of their top releases for 2014 is Joy In Spite Of Everything by Italian pianist Stefano Bollani. Recorded in NYC, the album features Stefano joined by top jazzers such as guitarist Bill Frisell, Mark Turner (sax), Jesper Bodilsen (double bass) and Morten Lund (drums). Enhanced by an excellent studio sound, this band attains a high level of expertise throughout the eight cut album. Much like the title of the album, Stefano exudes an upbeat kind of joyous jazz rapture, underscored by the expert musical interplay on every track here. There’s also a kind of sonic timelessness in this music. In other words, Joy In Spite Of Everything sounds like it could have been made in 2014 or 1974 for that matter. Stefano Bollani’s Joy In Spite Of Everything is sure to be rated among the top jazz instrumental CDs of 2014.

/ YELLOWBIRD RECORDS - Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima is making waves with his latest album. The ten track Finn Noir is actually dedicated to the film noir movies of Finland. The album is credited to the band Klima Kalima, which features Kalle’s guitar joined by the German rhythm section of Oliver Steidle (drums) and Oliver Potratz (double bass). To say the sound is dark on this album would be an understatement. Finland can sometimes be seen as a dark place but one still filled with artistic geniuses. Kalima’s guitar work echoes other guitar heroes—from Bill Frisell to Terje Rypdal. Some of the darker jazz noir guitarists come to mind, like Jim Campilongo, but Kalle’s eclectic guitar work is still very jazz based. In the liner notes he goes into detail on the way the album is inspired by Finnish films but the all instrumental nature of the album means it can and does stand alone as a musical statement in its own right. Although the CD came out in 2013, it’s still very much well worth checking out. Borrowing from traditional jazz, avant-gard and even jazz-fusion, Klima Kalima’s CD Finn Noir is a very well rounded CD of instrumental guitar noir. Kalle is also involved in another project that recently came out on the German based Traumton Records label. The eleven track Il Purgatorio features Kalle joined by a pair of other musicians in a band called Johnny La Marama. This album is very much vocal based rock and featuring Kalle’s blistering guitar work, Johnny La Marama shows yet another side of Kalle’s multifaceted musical personality.

- One of the best kept secrets of the Flamenco guitar world, NYC based Eric Kamen sets the scene with a well crafted all instrumental album. Well recorded with Kamen’s guitar tastefully mixed throughout, the 15 track, 2014 CD release of Serenades sounds tailor made for fans of 21st century nouveau flamenco—every track featuring Kamen's dexterous flamenco guitar played with light synth and rhythm machine backdrop. Serenades is actually Kamen’s fourth album, and to be more precise, the album is described as Urban Flamenco, a genre Kamen has created by blending classic Spanish flamenco with hip-hop beats. Speaking about the album’s lead off track “The Lost Tribe”, Eric told, ‘I tend to compose tracks based upon the mood I am in at the moment. I come up with a lot of ideas and select and refine the best ones after the fact. I can't really explain how or why I composed “The Lost Tribe”. It is an early Ska/Reggae track and I suppose I was just in the mood to do a Caribbean track which had a strong dance component.’ Kamen’s style superbly blends a range of Flamenco techniques and motifs and the all original track lineup bodes well to further establish Kamen as both a rising guitar stylist and a modern composer.

GUITAR LABORATORY - The country of Estonia continues to be a focal point for new guitar talent. The 2013 CD release of the Toomas Vanem CD was great and equally excellent is another 2013 rock instrumental CD, called Silver Lining from Estonian guitarist Kalle Vilpuu. Vanem’s CD was very fusion based, and in a kindred way, Kalle Vilpuu’s all instrumental album is also very rock fusion based but it's more spatial and soundtrack oriented on several tracks. Kalle’s guitars ring out the chord changes and his quite eclectic arrangementsinfluenced by both jazz-rock as well as rock soundtracksare also quite impressive. Notably, on track six, “The Aliens Have Landed”, Kalle merges fusion, hip-hop and neo space music all on the same track. A number of players support Kalle on his 11 cut CD, including the core rhythm section of Andrus Lillepea (drums) and Henno Kelp (bass). Having played in a range of bands in Estonia, Kalle is no newcomer to the Euro guitar scene and with some proper exposure, his album will surely spark interest among instrumental rock fans inside and outside of Estonia. Hard rock, jazz-rock and a spacier type of 21st century progressive / soundtrack science of sound successfully merges on Kalle Vilpuu’s Silver Lining. Estonian guitarist Kalle Vilpuu rocks out loud and clear on Silver Lining.

- Norway based Hubro is a great label because not only do they incorporate ECM like atmospheres in their CD releases but they also bend in a more avant garde type of rock like sound. That comparison is prevalent in the 2014 CD release of Lush Lament For Lazy Mammal from Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Håkan Stene. Interestingly, Stene is a percussionist who seems to excel on a manner of lesser known percussion instruments like vibraphone and marimba as well as guitar and piano. Featuring several compositions by English composer Laurence Crane, the sound of the all instrumental Lush Lament For Lazy Mammal is kind of lush in places but overall, it’s even more hypnotic in a meditative New Age kind of way. Some tracks sound almost like Pink Floyd (from their Ron Geesin era), especially the nearly 8 minute CD closing “Blue Blue Blue”. Several guest players appear on piano, cello and cimbalom but the intimate nature of the sound here indicates that Lush Lament For Lazy Mammal is the brainchild of Håkan Stene all the way.

IBF RECORDS - Chicago based guitarist / vocalist Guy King demonstrates a solid grasp of a wide range of instrumental and blues-pop sounds on two recent CD titles released on the IBF Records label. First off is a double set entitled, I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is. Featuring 30 tracks, the double CD set veers from bluesy pop ala BB King to jazzy, instrumental organ trio sounds and covers a wealth of musical moods and moves. The central focus on I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is is versatility, with King covering music written by just about every major soul / jazz legend on the map including Wes Montgomery, Stevie Wonder, Percy Mayfield, Kenny Burrell, A.C. Jobim, Ray Charles and many others. With his deep booming baritone voice and jazzy guitar styles, on I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is King exhibits a solid grasp of both instrumental jazz and blues / rock vocal styles. On the double CD set, King gets solid support from his trio featuring Ben Peterson (organ) and Mike Schlick (drums). Also released with I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is is another single CD called By Myself. The 15 track By Myself album is pretty much a blues based affair featuring King performing blues classics from the pens of Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Eden Ahbez and others including a pair of Guy King originals. All in all both I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is and By Myself introduces King as a major player on 21st century blues and jazz guitar scene.

- Guitarist Chris Fury hits the stage with an album of hard-hitting and often eclectic instrumental rock called From Darkness. The album veers through a lot of sonic changes but the one constant here is Fury’s solid, hard rock guitar work. Although the album is primarily near hard rock, bordering on heavy metal instrumental rock, Chris takes a lot of sonic chances on the CD and to his credit, his eclectic nature as a rock instrumentalist actually betters the CD. Case in point is track seven, called “Lost Transmission”, which blends in a hard rock sound with a more spacey kind of New Age sentiment. Throughout the 13 track CD, the Long Island guitarist gets splendid sonic support from key musicians like Ian Underwood (bass), Sebastian Persini (drums) and Jason Roddin (keyboards). On different tracks, Fury multi-layers his guitars to tastefully mix acoustic guitar rhythms with electric lead work. All in all, Chris Fury’s From Darkness is a well rounded and superbly recorded CD of all instrumental rock and jazz-rock fusion.

- Having released Los Angeles Blues a couple years back, guitarist Ciro Hurtado released Ayahuasca Dreams in 2014. Ciro’s best album yet, the eleven cut CD beautifully merges instrumental guitar music and Spanish vocal music and the entire album coalesces into a sumptuous mix of folk-jazz, New Age and even smooth jazz. Compared to the all instrumental Los Angeles Blues, the 2014 CD release of Ayahuasca Dreams comes across like a colorful, sonic composite filled out with a wide range of music. Sometimes the music even veers into Carlos Santana territory, albeit in a more laid back manner. A wide range of musicians appear on the album including Ciro’s wife Cindy Harding (vocals), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Gary Johnson (keyboards) and a many other fine players. Overall, Ayahuasca Dreams is superbly recorded and the eye-popping CD cover art enhances this sonic mosaic of lush sounding guitar music.

KUU RECORDS - Finland is known the world over for their often majestic mix of rock, jazz and classical music. That Finnish instrumental rock fusion sound was crafted at the dawn of the 1970’s by the late great rock legend Pekka Pohjola who passed away on November 27, 2008. Since those early 1970’s years, the Pohjola legend has grown and grown and in the process he has influenced generations of younger Finns looking to carry the torch forward. They are growing in numbers and you can add the name Juha Kujanpää to the list. With the release of his album Kivenpyörittäjä (English title - Tales And Travels), in 2013, Juha joins an elite group of musicians responsible for creating some wonderful music to be enjoyed by Pohjola’s many fans as well as a new generation of music lovers keeping the spirit of instrumental rock alive and well in 2014. Assisting Juha on his ten track masterpiece are other gifted musicians including guitarist Timo Kämäräinen, Jussi Miettola (drums), Tero Tuovinen (bass) and several other musicians adding in horns, strings and other sounds. Calling Juha’s music symphonic rock would be an understatement as the sounds swirl around the sound spectrum in the finest Pohjola-esque spirit. Commenting on the Pohjola-esque influence in his music, Juha adds, ‘I used to listen to lot of Pekka Pohjola's albums when I was younger. Still do. His music is definitely a big influence and inspiration, and there's something that sounds deeply "Finnish" for me. I never personally met Pekka, but I got to hear him play in a few concerts. Pekka's son Verneri Pohjola is playing trumpet on one of tracks in Kivenpyörittäjä called "Different Polska"’. There’s also a definite Finnish folk music influence running through the grooves of this CD, something not often noted in Pohjola’s music. Either way, Juha’s all instrumental sound is captivating, inspiring and completely authentic, often in the course of just one track. Fans of the legendary sound of Finnish symphonic instrumental rock should give a good listen to Tales And Travels by Juha Kujanpää.

- Drumming icon Ginger Baker was a founding member of Cream and he’s back in 2014 with a new instrumental jazz album simply called Why? For the 8 track CD, Ginger is joined by a jazz group featuring Pee Wee Ellis (sax), Alec Dankworth (bass) and Abass Dodoo (percussion). Produced by Ginger, the sound of Why? is uncompromising, timeless sounding bop jazz that is singularly marked by the rock legend’s formidable drumming skills. Some have complained that Ginger is not a jazz drummer but a rock drummer. From a rock history standpoint that might be true, yet clearly rock fans with an open mind will love this CD. As is to be expected, Ginger’s drumming is central to the sound of Why? Cream isn’t coming back again and besides, Ginger’s drumming was always adventurous, even in the 1960s and his love of genius jazz drumming is all over Why? Not only is Why? timeless jazz but it’s also imbued with a fantastic African drumming vibe. The album features just three Baker originals with the rest of the album fleshed out by cover tracks, including a Wayne Shorter track called “Footprints” that clocks in just under seven minutes and a famous Sonny Rollins cover of “St. Thomas”. Why? might not be the album Cream and Blind Faith fans have been longing for but for those who’ve been following his post 1960s career, Why? has all the ingredients for a solid instrumental jazz album by one of the most revered drummers of the 20th century. /

- One of the top acoustic guitarists in the world today, Peppino D’Agostino released his 2014 album, Penumbra on California based MesaBluemoon Records. The 12 track, all instrumental CD is right up there with his best and assisting the guitar virtuoso are other top guitar / composers such as fellow guitarists guitarist Sergio Assad, Roland Dyens, Maurizio Colonna and David Tanenbaum. Commenting on Peppino’s Penumbra CD, guitarist Assad adds, ‘”The latest CD release by Peppino D’Agostino brings us a repertoire typically associated with nylon guitar players. The beautiful sound of Peppino’s steel strings makes us hear this repertoire with renewed interest.’ In the liner notes, Peppino explains how Penumbra is ‘A collection of original material and compositions written by some of my favorite guitar composers,’ Throughout the Penumbra CD, Peppino D’Agostino clearly does justice to the music with a fascinating blend of fretboard wizardry by one of the finest guitarists recording today.

MUSIC - Back in the mid to late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Windham Hill sound was huge in the music world. One artist carrying forth that spirit of acoustic New Age instrumental music is Utah-based Michele McLaughlin. In the spirit of great Windham Hill artists such as George Winston and Liz Story, Michele McLaughlin’s albums offer an excellent glimpse into her unique approach to solo piano music. Her music is often described as being an example of “musical storytelling” and her sound is quite relaxing yet very inspiring at the same time. A good example of McLaughlin’s approach to solo piano can be heard on her 2013 CD entitled Waking The Muse. In her liner notes for the CD, Michele explains how the album was inspired by her summer 2012 tour, from which she returned full of musical inspirations and the results can be heard in all its glory on Waking The Muse. While she may not be a household word in the same way George Winston is, Ms. McLaughlin is quite prolific, having released fourteen solo albums. In addition to Waking The Muse, other recent Michele McLaughlin albums include Breathing In The Moment (2012), Out Of The Darkness (2010) and A Celtic Dream (2008). In addition to her superbly written and recorded piano based compositions, each of Ms. McLaughlin’s CDs are packaged with an appealing look and design, guaranteed to enhance her unique approach to solo piano music. Fans of George Winston and Liz Story and all the finest solo piano-based recording artists should give a listen to Michele McLaughlin’s wonderful CD releases.

- New on Moonjune in 2014 is Surya Namaskar - the latest from Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. Dewa turned heads around with his 2012 CD Dewa In Paradise and likewise, this new CD is fantastic. Dewa's band is also crack, here featuring Jimmy Johnson (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums). There’s some lengthy liner notes by musicologist John Kelman that also incorporates interview parts from Dewa. The CD also features a number of guest artists including drummer Gary Husband, here on synth and guitarist Michael Landau in addition to several Indonesian players who add in various colors. If instrumental jazz-rock fusion along the lines of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Allan Holdsworth is your thing, than by all means give a listen to the exotic yet totally rocking sound of Indonesian guitarist Dewa. On top of the international jazz-rock sound, Moonjune has a number of other titles in mid 2014 including Tribal Dance, a 2014 CD by Indonesian guitarist Tohpati. Not quite as sublime as Dewa, yet quite good in his own right, Tohpati is joined by some notable players here including drumming great Chad Wackerman and bass ace Jimmy Haslip. Tohpati’s latest solo CD was recorded in Los Angeles and Indonesia during 2013 and 2014. Also on Moonjune, from Spain is Resolution, the 2014 CD from guitarist Xavi Reija. On Resolution, Xavi gets solid backup from his trio bandmates. Xavi cites influences from various sources, including Eno and Weather Report and even though it’s instrumental music, in the extensive liner notes, writer Dan Burke cites Bowie as well. Moonjune also released Machine Mass, the 2014 CD from INTI - the trio of Tony Bianco, Michel Delville and horn legend Dave Liebman. Backed up by the drumming of Bianco and the sax / flute of Dave Liebman, Delville cuts loose on electric guitar, Roland GR09 and various electronics. All in all, these titles on Moonjune offer some excellent choices for fans of world class instrumental jazz-rock fusion.

- OA2 has a fine jazz CD out from NYC based sax maven Craig Yaremko. Entitled appropriately CYO3, and released in 2013, it’s a solid eleven cut mainstream jazz affair that features Craig backed up by a bunch of fine jazz players including Matt King (organ), Jonathon Peretz (drums) and Vic Juris (guitar). As the CD is credited to the Craig Yaremko Organ Trio, it’s clear Juris is only a guest but he adds fretboard fire to a pair of tracks here. CYO3 originals are mixed in with band covers of Monk, Strayhorn, Hubbard and Waller, as in Fats Waller. The CYO3 instrumental sound is both cool and hot. These guys can masterfully tackle any type of jazz sound and Yaremko’s sax coupled with the groovy organ swirls makes for a solid sounding bop jazz outing.

Back in 2012 Portland Oregon drummer Todd Bishop released a tribute album to Ornette Coleman and in 2014 he is back with Travelogue by Todd Bishop Group. The eight track Travelogue is 21st century bebop jazz at its best. Recorded in March 2014, the CD features Bishop playing and recording alongside Jasnam Daya Singh (piano, keyboards), Chris Higgins (bass) and Richard Cole (sax, flute, clarinet). The sound of the Travelogue album is quite mellifluous with hardly a note out of place. Not quite smooth jazz and not hard bop with dissonance, the album falls neatly between the two categories but the one constant throughout is Bishop’s tasteful drumming. Another plus here are the tracks which are all originals, mainly composed by Bishop and keyboardist Singh. Amazingly, Bishop has produced six CDs of original music for Origin Records and Travelogue is a perfect place to start to experience Todd Bishop Group’s well produced and flawlessly recorded instrumental jazz.

- Based in the Seattle area, Collier & Dean have an excellent 2014 CD release on Origin. Their second release on Origin, the ten track Sleek Buick feature some impressive sounds from Tom Collier (vibraphone) and Dan Dean (bass, keyboards, ukulele) and they are aided by top players suck as Ted Poor (drums), Don Grusin (piano), Alex Acuña (drums), John Morton (guitars), Ernie Watts (sax) and a whole lot more. Tom Collier’s vibes add some fun syncopation to the music which borders on Zappa-esque fusion, smooth jazz and instrumental jazz-rock, often at the same time. The C&D sound is upbeat and even smooth at some points yet the music retains its cutting edge vision throughout. Can instrumental / smooth jazz-rock be fun and edgy at the same time? The answer is yes and the sound Collier & Dean get on Sleek Buick is proof.

- Back in the late 1970s, the band called Penguin Cafe Orchestra turned heads around with their unique brand of cutting edge chamber rock. There were no drums in the PCO sound which was centered around a mini orchestra playing light symphonic music that was geared to alternative rock music fans looking for something to chill out with. In 2014, the group known as Collectress is carrying forth the spirit of Penguin Cafe Orchestra their appealing first album. The 13 cut Mondegreen is very much in the spirit of PCO and features the talents of four gifted young ladies—Alice Eldridge (cello, pump organ), Caroline Weeks (flute, keys, guitar), Quinta (violin, recorder, piano) and Rebecca Waterworth (cello, piano). The Collectress CD is superbly packaged and should have infinite appeal among fans of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Several guest artists appear including Arthur Jeffes (prepared piano). Arthur’s dad, Simon Jeffes was the leader of Penguin Cafe Orchestra before his untimely passing in 1997. Rock fans who enjoy light classical music with an adventurous, chill-out and slight avant-garde edge will enjoy this first CD by London based Collectress.

PIAZZA RECORDINGS - Timestamps is the work of German guitarist Hanz Platz. Assisted by a number of musicians, including two top drummers - Marco Minnemann and Wolfgang Haffner, Hans assumes the role of heavy metal guitar hero. More than just a heavy rock guitarist, Hanz also sets things up nicely with some fine original tracks that veer from hard rock instrumental to jazz-rock and also encompasses prog instrumental. There’s some nice atmospheric numbers too, like the superb CD closer “Alive”, that are somewhat less of a sonic onslaught. With the first rate CD packaging and track by track notes by the guitarist, fans of hard rock instrumental will want to give a listen to the red hot guitar pyrotechnics of Hans Platz.

Having released four albums on Real Music, France-based New Age maestro Thierry David returns with his fifth for the venerable label. The 2014 CD release of Hypnosis marks the latest and greatest Real Music release to date from Thierry and, start to finish, it’s a real winner of an album. Although clearly adept in a number of musical genres, for the 2014 CD release of Hypnosis, Thierry puts his musical wisdom to work on an album that can be described as one of the most adventurous New Age instrumental albums of the year. The Hypnosis album is kind of similar in scope to Group 87 founder Patrick O’Hearn’s albums—cutting edge and atmospheric, complete with dreamlike electronica blending with romantic melodies and a myriad of musical moves. Thierry handles all the synths, sampling, percussion, piano and all forms of programming, while additional percussion is handled by Steve Shehan and there’s also guitar sounds here from Claude Samard. Speakaing to about Hypnosis, Thierry explains, "For the Hypnosis project, most of the tunes were built on ancient percussion sessions I did with Steve Shehan a few years ago. These rhythmic patterns served as the basis of my work, adding on bass, synths layers, guitars and atmospheres without forgetting some piano interventions. I did the mixing like for the other albums but I did the final mastering with Pierre Jacquot, a French engineer I am used to working with and who has a long experience with many French artists and among them Deep Forest". Although Real Music excels in meditative and therapeutic sounding albums that contain elements of healing music, Thierry’s Hypnosis album sounds more like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie that also blends in chill-out and groove sounds, complete with ambient music overtones. In other words, Thierry David’s latest Real Music adventure is literally all over the map and it’s all the better for being so adventurous musically. Thierry David’s Hypnosis is a masterful, progressive album of exotic sounding New Age listening pleasure that gets better with each spin.

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT - A mainstay on the world wide smooth jazz music scene, urban-jazz sax master Kim Waters returned in 2014 with Silver Soul. Hard to believe Silver Soul is actually Kim’s 20th solo album. Mostly instrumental, the 11 track CD features a number of top jazz musicians and the CD is further filled out with a few vocal tracks that blend smooth jazz with urban grooves for a well rounded album. In addition to sax, the Texas based Kim handles a number of instruments including keyboard programming. Although the guitar isn’t prominent in the mix with soaring leads, there is some tasty guitar fills courtesy of guitar great Allen Hinds and Kim’s daughter Kayla Waters also appears on piano on a track here. Kim’s wife Dana Pope turns in an earthy vocal on “Anything You Need”. The CD features a mix of all original music that is memorable and quiet easy on the ears. If you’re looking for an album of sultry jazzy grooves, that will put a smile on your face, look no further than Silver Soul by Kim Waters.

- In 2010, multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos released his album LOVE and in 2014 he’s back on the music scene again with Bhakti. Paul’s 19th solo album, Bhakti is dripping with positive, life-affirming and ultra karmic New Age vibes that tastefully mix vocals and instrumental Indian music with all kinds of healing, meditative New Age vibes. A range of musicians appear on instruments like sitar, sarod, bansuri flute, violin, nylon string guitar all accompanied by various hip-hop electronics. Several of the same players from LOVE are also on Bhakti, including EWI (electronic wind instrument) player Kevin Braheny Fortune. In the liner notes of Bhakti, Paul explains how he was raised in the Greek orthodox church but he gravitated to a Bhakti yoga guru when he was 16. Paul also claims this album is a must have for energizing any yoga practice and fittingly, Bhakti is a joyful, uplifting feast for the ears where east meets west, and christian meets hindu in a blissful New Age foray that calms and inspires in the same breath.

- Commenting on the release of the 2014 CD by Santa Fe based Pray For Brain on his 7d Media label, label found Trey Gunn states, ‘I am very happy to have encountered their music and we are psyched to have Pray For Brain joining the 7d family’. Speaking of Gunn, there’s a definite King Crimson prog influence on the 2014 CD release of None Of The Above. Avant rock instrumental influences abound on the 11 cut album which features the fretted and fretless guitar and oud playing of Mustafa Stefan Dill, Christine Nelson on bass and the drumming of Jefferson Voorhees. The group admits admits a fondness for World beat and Led Zeppelin so guitar fans who like the acoustic instrumentals of Jimmy Page will probably like the out-there stylings of Pray For Brain. Many tracks are hard hitting and rock and others are more jazzy and atmospheric so there’s plenty of musical ground covered here. Somewhere between jazz and avant gard guitar-centric instrumental prog, Pray For Brain takes you to the far reaches of the guitar galaxy. /

One of the top New Age record labels in the U.S., Sequoia continues releasing high quality albums including the 2014 CD release of Drum Cargo - Rhythms Of Earth. Although Sequoia founders David Gordon and Steve Gordon are best known as modern day New Age music composers, on this fourth Drum Cargo album, they put on their drumming hats. Combining ethnic drums and the magical sound of Native American flute, the album is filled with propelling drumming that stirs the soul while providing a captivating sonic backdrop. One can almost picture the scene at a native American powwow, the audience mesmerized as tribal drummers pound out the big beat. Music listeners who enjoy Native American drum and flute sounds fans will want to spin this fourth release in Sequoia’s Drum Cargo series. As is the case with all Sequoia releases, the sound is excellent and the CD packaging is eye-catching. Also released on CD in 2014 on Sequoia is KarmaCosmic, which is being described as an album of new instrumental music from Europe. The KarmaCosmic sound is filled with quite lush sounding synths and drifting waves of electronics. The music was inspired by the sounds of India and, as the CD liner notes point out, the album is filled with Indian melodies, New Age sounds, percussive rhythms, grooves and meditative soundscapes. Subtitled Music For Tantra & Meditation, the ten track CD is sure to be among the top New Age instrumental albums of 2014.

- Steve Hunter is an international guitar hero. Renowned for his work as side man / guitarist for rock legends such as the late great Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel and Alice Cooper, Steve earned his stripes with the best of them but as far as his solo work goes, he never got the full acclaim he clearly deserves. That could be said about several other guitarists in famous bands. Steve's solo albums like Hymns For Guitar (2008) and Short Stories (2009) are good examples of his tireless devotion to his craft. Following the success of his 2013 instrumental guitar homage to NYC, entitled The Manhattan Blues Project, Steve is back again with Tone Poems Live. For guitar fans who haven’t yet paid attention to one of America’s best kept guitar secrets, Tone Poems Live is a great introduction. For one thing, the band Steve has assembled to play some his most memorable music is first rate. Featured on both the CD and the DVD versions of Tone Poems Live are Tony Levin (bass), Alvino Bennett (drums) and Phil Aaberg (keyboards). Combining rock, blues, jazz and even prog-rock style instrumentals, the sound of Tone Poems Live is all over the musical map, but that’s the beauty of Hunter’s diverse approach to guitar. The DVD of Tone Poems Live features a few additional tracks while the CD sounds great and should please the most demanding audiophile. Recorded live at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood California on Augusts 24, 2013, Tone Poems Live is Steve Hunter at his best and overall, the CD and DVD is essential listening and viewing for guitar lovers and instrumental jazz-rock fans of all generations.

- The 12 track, 2014 CD release of Celeste adds another intriguing chapter to an ongoing series of recordings from Savannah, Georgia based Richard Leo Johnson. On Celeste, Richard mixes a wide range of organic and non organic sounds by performing, of all the wildly thought out ideas, a specially designed Martin guitar designed with a built in Theremin. The legendary Theremin—famous for helping to usher in the age of moog synths and first enjoyed by pop audiences on the Beach Boys’ 1966 track “Good Vibrations”—is given a new lease on life on Celeste. The all instrumental tracks on Celeste are otherworldly and with the Theremin trading sonic volleys with the guitar, the CD filled with a myriad of musical moves. The concept of mixing acoustic steel string sounds with E-bow and Theremin is nothing short of fascinating, and as such, Celeste will appeal to acoustic guitar fans as well as fans of vintage electronica. The sound of Celeste is somewhere between the rural ambience of Leo Kottke and the intense cosmic prog of Robert Fripp to name just a couple of the audio signposts. Speaking to about Celeste and his performance on the Martin “Theremin” guitar, Richard explains, ‘The guitar is a one of a kind instrument. It is both interesting to look at and complicated to play. I approached the guitar with the idea of two converging and different sonic palettes. The acoustic guitar, with its harmonic, percussive and physical properties and the Theremin with the linear non incremental pitch and the purely electronic tone.’ Well worth the trip for guitar fans, Celeste is filled with progressive ideas that further establishes Richard Leo Johnson among the leading guitarists of the early 21st century. / /

WEBERWORKS ENTERTAINMENT GROUP - Guitarist Marty Walsh rocks up a storm on his solo album The Total Plan. Released on the L.A. based Weber Works label, the ten track CD features Marty joined by top players like former YES producer Billy Sherwood and a host of other fine players including Marty’s son Ian Walsh on keyboards. Commenting on the all instrumental nature of the album, Marty explains, ‘Being an instrumental album is simply about the music. The album is not a jazz album necessarily, it’s really more of a pop record.’ There are ten songs on the album and each song has different groupings of personnel.’ Although Marty was first influenced by players like Clapton and Hendrix, clearly fusion guitarists like Larry Carlton prove to be an influence on The Total Plan. Fans of instrumental jazz-rock and rock instrumentals will enjoy The Total Plan by guitar ace Marty Walsh.

England is never at a loss to come up with some new music sound, even when it comes to the time honored surf-rock instrumental genre. Case in point is Schlock Singles by the trio known as The Terrorsaurs. Wild is right word as these guys go primal on an all instrumental CD that mixes punk angst with surf-rock and you get something called punk-surf. Anyway the instro mags and web sites are buzzing about The Terrorsaurs saying they must be on to a new sound that revamps Link Wray and The Ventures while the results are an exciting blend of nitro instro. Speaking to about the Terrorsaurs’ sound, group guitarist Carl Harris, alias El Guapo, confesses, “We'd describe it as proto-surf. There’s an obvious rock/punk edge which cannot be denied. We have no definite formula but it’s really based around obscure garage rhythms and tracks of the early to mid 1960's.” The way-out looking cover CD definitely puts this one in the goth-surf instro realm. The Terrorsaurs are rough and ready and they get their sound in focus on their appealing, self-produced set of "Schlock & Roll". Caution: The Terrorsaurs make savage rock & roll and is definitely not for squares.

WORLD CIRCUIT- As Africa gets more sophisticated, so does African music. The proof behind that statement can be fully appreciated on the 2014 CD release of Toumani & Sidiki. The first collaboration between father and son kora masters Toumani Diabaté and his son Sidiki Diabaté, the ten track Toumani & Sidiki is one of the most sonorous albums of African flavored instrumental music you will ever hear. For those who’ve never heard the stringed instrument known as the kora, it’s actually a 21 string African harp. Toumani & Sidiki were actually born into a 71 generation, spanning 700 years, of “griots” carrying on the ancient traditions of West Africa’s Mandé people. A little history: Toumani’s father recorded the first-ever kora album entitled Mali: Ancient Strings in 1970. Expertly produced and recorded by Nick Gold and Lucy Duran, Toumani & Sidiki falls neatly into the place where West African music meets, dare I say, New Age music, primarily because Toumani & Sidiki is so relaxing with Toumani describing the music as being the place where ‘the past meets the present for the future.’ If you think you know African music, think again becasue Toumani & Sidiki brings West African music one giant step into the future.

ZANOV MUSIC - The second half of the 1970’s was a golden time for European rock music. In the post-Beatles daze, especially on the European continent, rock had been surpassed by a new form of experimental instrumental music that heavily featured synthesizers and all types of post ‘60s electronic music technology. One French artist called Zanov (his full name is Pierre Salkazanov), released three albums of electronic music back in the late 1970s. In 1980, Zanov was about to work on album number four when he stopped. Although not releasing albums over the past 30 years, now in 2014 Zanov is back with his legendary fourth album, newly remixed and remodeled. Featuring a dazzling display of electronic instrumental music sounds, Virtual Future sounds like a throwback to the late 1970s, a time when all seemed well with the music world, and that’s a good thing. Speaking to about his musical approach, Zanov explains, ‘The inspiration behind my music is purely musical. Many times, days and nights, I have sounds, chains of sounds, tunes coming in my head. I forget most of them, but when I am composing, the strongest ones come back. I do not have to visualize or think about anything else but sounds. In general, I have my mind turned towards the future.’ The CD pressing of Virtual Future features some eye-popping cover art that should raise a few eyebrows. Fans of electronic music masters such as Jean Michel Jarre and T. Dream will enjoy Zanov’s unique and intriguing approach to dazzling electronic music.


BGO RECORDS - Among the new for 2014 CD remasters on BGO is The Complete Tom Paxton. A double CD set, the music was recorded live in concert in 1970 at the world renowned Bitter End nightclub in New York’s Greenwich Village. Released in 1971, the double album was somewhat of a final release for Paxton on Elektra Records as he was soon signed to Reprise. The double CD set features a detailed booklet filled with in depth liner notes by BGO’s own John O’Regan. Cofounder of U.K. rock legends Traffic, singer-songwriter Dave Mason is no newcomer to BGO. After his amazing 1970 release of Alone Together, Dave went on to work with Mama Cass Elliot and in 1973 he switched labels and signed to Columbia Records with the 1973 album release of It’s Like You Never Left. The album was a huge success and featured a number of guest artists like Graham Nash, Stevie Wonder and George Harrison. The 2014 BGO remaster of It’s Like You Never Left features in depth liner notes and lyrics and a complete list of who plays what on the album. Also up and out on on BGO in 2014 is a double CD set from NYC based rock and roll oldies band Sha Na Na. Mixing oldies with several originals, the early Sha Na Na albums were a huge success among the hippy generation, especially after the band's historic performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969. Disc one of BGO’s 2014 Sha Na Na CD set combines The Night Is Still Young (1972) on disc one with the double album, The Golden Age Of Rock ‘n’ Roll from 1973 on disc 2. This latest set on BGO follows their 2 on 1 CD reissue of the first two Sha Na Na albums, Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay (1969) and the self-titled Sha Na Na (1971). Released in July 2014 on BGO is a double CD set from country rock superstar Linda Ronstadt. Featured on BGO’s 31 track, double CD set from Ms. Rondstadt are Hand Sown... Home Grown (her solo debut from 1969), Silk Purse (from 1970) and the self-titled Linda Ronstadt (from 1972). Complete with detailed liner notes, these albums feature some of the biggest names in country rock history including members of The Eagles. Also out on BGO in 2014 is a 20 track CD from country music legend Herb Pedersen that combines his two late 1970’s albums on Epic Records, Southwest (1976) and Sandman (1977). Pedersen's albums read like a who’s who of country music, including Dolly Parton, Lowell George and Johnny Rivers to name just a few.

CHERRY RED RECORDS - Not much is known about the U.K. band Landmarq here in the U.S. yet a 2014 CD compilation of their works is getting some attention. The double CD set Origins: A Landmarq Anthology 1991-2014 features a collection of studio and live tracks from the band’s nine album releases. The early Landmarq featured singer Damian Wilson, whose voice is featured on disc 2 here while disc one has an array of album tracks with Landmarq featuring singer Tracy Hitchings. Carrying on from their 1990’s era and now in their third decade, Landmarq have also chosen to feature a new unreleased track “Origins”, which serves as the title track. Hitchings sounds like a super energized version of Annie Haslam, the band is tight and well rehearsed and a number of the songs have memorable hooks and holds up really well for the most part. Progressive rock with depth and intrigue, Origins is a good introduction to an unheralded music legend from across the wide sea.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA - Over in London, Gonzo Multimedia continues releasing and reissuing classic rock masters. High on the list of 2014 CD remasters on Gonzo is This Way Up by Joey Molland. Of course, Molland was a key member of the early Badfinger lineup and his classic guitar work and vocals on Badfinger album classics like No Dice and Straight Up remains the stuff of legends. Well, surprise surprise, This Way Up, with one killer track after the next, is very much in the realm of a long lost Badfinger album. The album, first released in 2001, features various members of the Molland clan on various instruments in addition to other fine musicians. The CD sounds great, no doubt due to the care and attention Molland always put into his music with and without Badfinger. It might have been overlooked back in 2001, but if there’s one Beatles-inspired, Badfinger-esque album to pick up on in 2014, make it This Way Up. Speaking of Joey, Gonzo have also released a CD of his demo tracks called Demos Old And New. The 17 track Demos Old And New gives a good insight into Molland’s song writing abilities, although demos mean just that. These various tracks aren’t finished studio gems, instead these are great songs in raw form that long time fans will appreciate. Badfinger fans will enjoy both of these Joey Molland classics on Gonzo Multimedia. Another fine Gonzo past master out again is Live At The Rainbow 1977 by English guitar legend Steve Hillage. Many Americans might not know much about him, but Hillage was one of the key guitar heroes of the mid 1970s progressive rock scene and a member of space rock legend Gong. Although he made his name as the lead guitarist in space rock legends Gong, Steve’s solo albums, are also highly regarded. On Live At The Rainbow 1977, Hillage puts together a collection of live covers from his solo albums including his solo album debut Fish Rising and his now Beatles cover of “It’s All Too Much” and his Donovan classic “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. The CD is well presented. Long time Hillage and Gong fans will get a nice retro-buzz off of Steve Hillage Live At The Rainbow.

RAVEN RECORDS - Australia based Raven Records are run by true musicologists. The label is best known for their extensively researched reissue CDs. With a vast number of titles already in the Raven catalog, a new for 2014 CD title sure to gain interest among guitar fans is a 43 track double CD set entitled Chet Atkins With Les Paul, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Reed And Tommy Emmanuel. Subtitled Four Master Class Albums 1978-1997, Raven’s double CD set is actually a collection of four albums that Chet Atkins recorded and released with guitar heroes Les Paul, Mark Knopfler and Tommy Emmanuel. One of two albums Chet recorded with Les Paul for RCA Records in the 1970’s, Guitar Monsters (1978) leads off the package on disc one, which also features Neck And Neck, recorded with Knopfler in 1990 for Columbia Records. Also on disc one, following the entirety of both albums is a track with Jerry Reed. The remainder of Sneakin’ Around, the 1992 album Chet made with Jerry Reed continues on disc two, which is followed by The Day The Finger Pickers Took Over The World, recorded in 1997 with Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. As far as pure (mostly instrumental) guitar entertainment, it doesn’t get much better than these albums and having them in their entirety on one double CD set is a real case study in the guitar history of Chet Atkins. Raven’s latest double CD set on Chet Atkins is almost encyclopedic in scope with detailed liner notes by Terry Reilly as well as discography information including names and dates as to who played what and who wrote the tracks here. Chet Atkins might have passed away in 2001 but his legacy lives on thanks to Raven’s latest reissue masterpiece. Raven actually has a number of Chet Atkins related reissue CDs and like the others, this one is well worth checking out.

RHINO RECORDS - During the height of the early ‘60s JFK era, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons burst onto AM radio with their first three singles going straight to the top of the pop charts. Sort of the East Coast version of The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons could do no wrong in the early / mid 1960s. If Brian Wilson was the mentor of his band, then Bob Gaudio, at least for that early 1960s period, was the East Coast version of Wilson. Featuring the out of sight falsetto of Frankie Valli, those great Four Seasons hits never really went away and Gaudio is feted on a Rhino CD set simply called Audio With A G: Sounds Of A Jersey Boy. Gaudio was a major talent at 15 with his “Shorts Shorts” novelty track going top 10 in 1957. With that track kicking off the 2 CD set, Audio With A G takes the listener / reader through a track by track history of pop music as it went down all those years ago. Gaudio picked a very cool songwriting partner, Bob Crewe, for writing a number of the early Four Seasons hits as well as their being the songwriting team, writing for a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra and Cher. Among the Gaudio rarities here, and proof that he was relevant in the mid 1980’s, is a song called “For A While”, sung and recorded in 1985 by Nina Simone. Starting working with Crewe on the Seasons’ second number one, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in 1962, Gaudio finished the decade with Crewe, and then began working with other co-writers, but it will be his early smashes with the late great Bob Crewe that will seal his legacy. Disc two focuses on Crewe’s lesser known works in the 1970’s through till the 2005 Jersey Boys soundtrack and features key interpretations of Gaudio songs recorded by Four Seasons’ front man Frankie Valli, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Lene Lovich, Roberta Flack and more. The double CD set on Rhino, Audio with A G - Sounds Of A Jersey Boy is a must for fans of The Four Seasons and Bob Gaudio’s work as part of one of the classic pop song writing teams of the 1960s.

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in MWE3.COM
Send to: CD Reviews at
2351 West Atlantic Blvd. #667754
Pompano Beach, Florida 33066
New York address (for legal matters only) :
P.O. Box 222151, Great Neck, N.Y. 11022-2151





CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home


Copyright 1999-2014, Inc.
All Rights Reserved