Record Label
and Music Spotlight 









FAKE DIAMOND RECORDS - On the cutting edge of today’s European pop music scene, Cours Lapin consists of four Danish film composers—Asger Baden (keyboards), Peder (keyboards, producer), Jonas Struck (guitars) and Louise Alenius (vocals). As Cours Lapin they perform a variety of cinematic flavored pop songs that features the captivating, breathy French vocals and melodies of Ms. Alenius and it often sounds like a soundtrack in search of a movie. Cours Lapin describes their sound as being ‘beautifully gloomy with wonderfully catchy melodies,’ and true to form, the CD moves from the dark and sensual to naive and hopeful, and is reminiscent of the atmospheres found in the films of Tim Burton and David Lynch. With Louise sounding somewhat a little like current Jeff Beck cohort, Imelda May, the band mingles in the spirits of mid ‘80s adventurists The Art Of Noise. The self-titled debut CD from Cours Lapin is never short on musical ideas and even with the specified French vocals of Ms. Alenius, the sound is consistently engaging and musically stimulating. Additionally, the CD is superbly packaged with a neat booklet filled with imaginative artwork and excellent photography.

HOT CURL MUSIC - One family name long associated with the family of Brian Wilson And The Beach Boys, is the Dragon family. Growing up at the same time as Brian and his brothers, Daryl Dragon got to work with Dennis Wilson and later he formed The Captain & Tennille, while his two other brothers, Doug Dragon and Dennis Dragon built music based careers in Hawaii and Oregon respectively. Doug and Dennis reform the band they had back in the 1960s with the release of The Propheteer by Doug Dragon. With Dennis doing a masterful job on both the drums and handling the studio side, Doug’s lead vocals and keyboards fronts a band that owes a tip of the hat to rock legends Steely Dan. The CD has an impressive rock edginess and Doug Dragon—who took his basic keyboard and vocal tracks cut in Hawaii to his brother’s studio in Oregon—makes an appealing presence on vocals and keys. Featuring a solid backing band, the CD mixes in Steely Dan and String Cheese Incident style rock and pop and even smooth jazz at times, while the first rate sound defines Dennis as a superb mastering/studio engineer. Dennis adds, ‘I played drums on the new tracks. I used a Gretsch wood kit. My first drum set was given to me at age 5 by my father, after years of drumming on Quaker Oats boxes.’ As Beach Boys fans will notice, the record is really cool. Doug has some great songs and Dennis is in fine form as a drummer. You can even hear a similarity of drum styles between Dennis Dragon and the late great Dennis Wilson, which is pretty deja vu like I must say.

KILL ROCK STARS - I had to do a double take after hearing the self-titled Marnie Stern album by guitarist / singer Marnie Stern. It might be described by some in passing, and in many cases not really listening, as sonic anarchy, but the whole thing is in fact carefully choreographed and recorded perfectly as Marnie comes across like a post-punk Sex Pistols inspired version of Yoko Ono. Handling all the vocals and guitars (featuring her famous tap-guitar technique) as well as keyboards, Marnie gets rock solid backing from her band including Matthew Flegel (bass), Lars Stalfors (keyboards) and Zac Hill (drums). Sounding a bit like Lena Lovich meets Captain Beefheart, this anti-rock onslaught—with its dead bolt sound that will pin you to your couch—is released on the Kill Rock Stars label.

MOTEMA - For her 2011 CD Who Knows Where The Time Goes singer-songwriter Rondi Charleston brings forth and puts a new spin on a pleasurable cross section of timeless pop standards, along with several originals. A smooth as silk jazz lounge vocalist, Ms. Charleston more than acquits herself on superb covers here, including the lead off title track—composed back in 1967 by the late, great Sandy Denny. The late Sandy Denny’s version was always renowned for its flower-power folk sentiment, but Rondi puts a cool jazzy, near upbeat spin on it and makes it radio friendly for a new generation of quiet storm jazzers. Ditto for refined Rondi covers of timeless classics from the pens of A.C. Jobim, (“Wave”), Stevie Wonder (“Overjoyed”), Percy Mayfield (“Please Send Me Someone To Love”) all topped off by a very interesting CD closing cover of “Freedom Is A Voice” written by Bobby McFerrin. For the four originals, Rondi finds a song writing partner in Lynne Arriale. A refined jazz singer with a penchant for uncovering the essence of what makes a song a classic, Ms. Charleston gets solid backup from a range of players including jazz guitar great Dave Stryker, co-composer Lynne Arriale (piano), Clarence Penn (drums) and others. The title track gets a fine arrangement from Dave Stryker and Pete Levin. The CD sounds and looks fine and is topped off by an extensive booklet of pics filled and liner notes by Rondi. /

- U.K. songstress Judy Dyble is renowned for her ‘60s recordings with Fairport Convention and Giles, Giles & Fripp and, after the longest time waiting for her return, she makes fans happy with her most recent album Talking With Strangers. Although Fairport Convention were known worldwide for their progressive folk sound, Mr. Fripp & Co. were always about all things progressive and true to form, Judy combines both a cosmic folk sound with a solid progressive bent that blends in flavors from rock and fusion. Released by Norwegian record label Termo, Talking With Strangers is a progressive music lover’s dream come true. Among the artists backing up Judy’s vocals are her old friends from King Crimson—Ian McDonald and Robert Fripp—along with Fairport Convention comrade Simon Nicol (acoustic guitar), Pentangle vocalist Jacquie Mcshee, along with many other fine players. Highlights include the 20 minute, CD closing epic “Harpsong”, featuring Fripp, McDonald along with late period Crimson thumper Pat Mastelotto and a wide range of players that simply must be heard to be believed. Featuring a stunning cross-section of progressive folk, to dreamy meditative soundscapes to full blown King Crimson-eque sounds, Talking With Strangers is a most welcome return to form from one of the U.K.’s great singing legends.

- reviewed the 2009 CD from L.A pop-rockers Vinyl Candy called Land. Anyway here we are two years on and there’s a yet another album released in late 2010 from the L.A. rockers. The Dirty Third features a dozen new Vinyl Candy pop-rock tracks that sometimes sounds like The Raspberries as produced by Phil Spector. Lead singer Matt Corey really wraps his voice around these soaring pop anthems for the new millennium while the band including Jim Leber keeps the groove down. There’s a pick of choices for singles but for sheer impact The Dirty Third is a nonstop power pop roller coaster of sound.


ALL INDIA RADIO - Contrary to the name of this band from Australia, there is no Indian music—American indian or otherwise—on this album. Hard to believe The Silent Surf is the eighth album from Australia’s All India Radio. Described as a mix of dreamy beats, ambient soundscapes and tremolo guitars, the all instrumental sound palate should find a home among fans of Dark Side Of The Moon era Pink Floyd, albeit in an instrumental cosmic space music realm. All India Radio guitarist Martin Kennedy also cites Italian soundtrack king Ennio Morricone as a big influence and you can hear that soundtrack effect in the grooves of this accessible and much likable 12 track, 40 minute album. In addition, the CD packaging and artwork is really spectacular and reflects the cosmic nature of the sounds inside.

DANCING BEAR - I’ve always loved the drama and mystique of Euro-centric guitar-based instrumental music. Appreciated and revered world wide on all five continents, that “sound” continues unabated five decades after guitarists Hank Marvin of The Shadows and Duane Eddy pioneered it back in the late ‘50s. Case in point is a 2010 CD from Croatian guitar instro-rockers The Bambi Molesters, who strike guitar gold with the release of As The Dark Wave Swells. Note, they call it the “Dark Wave”, so those expecting some Ventures type fun in the sun wipe-out may have to adjust their shades a bit. The eleven cut As The Dark Wave Swells CD is housed in some cool looking artwork, including a poster featuring the core four member band. Guitarists Dinko Tomljanovic and Dalibor Pavicic have their retro rock instrumental guitar sound down to a science and both receive tasty backup support from the rhythm section of Lada Furlan Zaborac (bass, keys) and Hrvoje Zaborac (drums), as well as a number of other players including long time BM cohort Chris Eckman, who adds in some dramatic mellotron on a couple tracks. Going strong since their ‘97 debut, Dumb Loud Hollow Twang, The Bambi Molesters take no prisoners on a CD that will rock your socks off.

FLAT FISH - The ¡PANAMERICANS! album captures a quartet of great players in top form. Sure it sounds sometimes like Jobim producing The Ventures or even The Shadows, but the eleven cut Panamericans album captures a solid set of Brazilian classics brought up to date in the guitar instrumentals format by guitarists Joao Erbetta and Eddie Angel, who are backed up by Rob Douglas (bass), Pete Curry with the occasional sax wails of Ron Dziubla. If anything, this is like a surf-rock supergroup who amaze on a number of musical levels—from ‘60s style instrumental rock to soundtrack style Brazilian jazz. That some of these tracks wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid ‘60s Shadows album says a lot about the respect with which these tracks are so authentically played and recorded.

- Chicago bluesman Dave Specter gets down to business with the 2010 CD release of the 13 track Spectified. One part horn blasting, B3 crunching Chicago blues, one part Steve Cropper / Booker T. inspired instrumental rock and roll with a solid infusion of what Specter calls soul jazz, Scectified is all instrumental so guitar fans with big ears—from Duane Eddy to Steve Morse—will embrace Specter’s crossover instrumental sounds. Specter has remained a notable player on the Chicago blues scene since 1985 so it’s cool to see him bring his sound to the fore with Spectified—backed to the max by a tight band plus a hot rhythm section and several guests including guitarist David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. Coinciding with the ‘10 release of Spectified, Specter also unveiled his internet project, Blues & Beyond—online programming for guitar players looking to learn blues guitar with an introduction the Chicago blues scene.

INNOVA RECORDINGS - Minnesota based Innova puts a fresh spin on the timeless music of Duke Ellington with the 2011 CD release of Duke! - Three Portraits Of Ellington by Graham Reynolds And The Golden Arm Trio. The first seven cuts—comprising The Band Portrait—features the swinging piano forte of Reynolds backed by a solid group of jazzers, including a hot rhythm section, strings and brass on true to life updates of Ellington’s best known compositions. The middle eight tracks—The String Quartet Portrait serves as a neoclassical combination of both Ellington and Reynolds's Duke inspired music while the final seven cuts on the 22 track CD—entitled The Remix Portrait—highlights more Reynolds and Ellington tracks remixed by DJ Spooky and others to bring Ellington’s perennially favorite music well into the now. The CD offers a unique and experimental sound and vision and Ellington classics like “Caravan”, “Cotton Tail”, “Echoes Of Harlem” are given the royal treatment on this timely reminder of the greatness of Sir Duke. /

- Although it would be two weeks before I would find out, the day Pekka Pohjola died—November 27, 2008—I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air, feeling as though something or someone was strangling me. Pekka’s music was often about proving the impossible could happen musically and following in his footsteps are some really gifted players emanating from the land of Pohjola—the country of Finland. One guitarist who delivers the goods in 2011 is Matti Kervinen—who together with band mates Teijo Tikkanen and Sami Sarhamaa—form the core of Kataya. Similar in scope and no doubt inspired by Pohjola’s wide screen musical sound and vision, Kervinen and company take full command and control on an instrumental rock album that has the bold dynamic of the country of Finland written all over it. Presence did a great job on the 2009 Kataya album, Canto Obscura, but with this second album, the 2011 CD release of Voyager—Matti clearly enters raises the bar.

- Where Michel Banabila has been hiding all these years is anyone’s guess. Musical genius like his is hard to come by. I’m still reeling from the November 27, 2008 death of Pekka Pohjola, but listening to Banabila’s 2010 album Migrations gives me a dose of long sought after hope that composers still strive towards the lofty goals set by Pohjola during his short but prolific life. Case in point on Migrations is the mix of neoclassical with a mercurial rock edge evident in the lead off Migrations track “Lapidarium”, a musical statement that mixes the cinematic and the atmospheric to great effect. Performing all keyboards and effects on the six track 33 minute Migrations CD, Banabila is joined on the CD by a number of players including oud players, string players as well as guitarist Anton Goudsmit, who shines on the CD’s brilliant lead off cut. The Amsterdam born Banabila is a splendid choice for music listeners looking to fill some of the musical void left in the wake of Pekka Pohjola’s tragic demise. It’s nearly impossible to do and probably never will, but Banabila gives it a good shot.

- Bass players are an interesting breed. A good bass player can make or break a band and they’re commonly referred to as the “ears” of a great sound. Brian Wilson, Jack Bruce, Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Chris Squire, Pekka Pohjola—all innovative bassists and composers who made a huge difference by bridging the gap between the rock, classical and jazz worlds. One classic example of a bass player continuing to break new ground in the music world of the 21st century is Stuart Hamm—a bass player, musician and composer who came up in the ranks backing up top players like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani during the ‘80s. With the 2010 CD release of his latest solo album—his first in ten years—Just Outside Of Normal, Stu Hamm makes his mark at the start of the second decade of the 21st century. It ain’t easy for a bass player to entertain on an album of instrumental jazz-rock music. I can only think of one—the late great Pekka Pohjola—who was able to transcend the perfect combination of content over style. But on Just Outside Of Normal, Stu Hamm comes mighty close on an album that is just a joy to listen kick back and listen to. What would a bass player be without some great guitarists along for the ride? Stu doesn’t disappoint here, including guest slots by top guitarists including Joe Satriani, Robert Fripp, Frank Gambale, Jude Gold and Mark McGee. In addition to these amazing fretboard kings, further backing up Hamm’s bass / keyboard work and compositions are a range of players such as drummers Stanton Moore and John Mader and others. The CD sounds great and the packaging is a real hoot too. Just Outside Of Normal is a pick to click for bass fans and musicians as well as fans of instrumental jazz-rock fusion.

- The French label Ultimae continues releasing some amazing works in the field of modern electronics. What was ground breaking for electronic music in the ‘70s—think T. Dream, Michael Rother, Clearlight Symphony and Tim Blake—has truly given way to a new breed of world class musicians unafraid to blur the boundaries of vintage ‘70s electronica with chill out, D.J. inspired down tempo, dub and even World Music in the 21st century. Case in point is the 2011 Ultimae CD release from Swedish composer Magnus Birgersson and his group Solar Fields. The ten track Origin #01 is in fact, the first chapter in a series of four planned albums from Solar Fields. Birgersson fills up the audio spectrum here turning in an outstanding performance on guitars, bass, guitar loops, Elektro modified sitar and even balalaika. There’s even a couple Birgersson vocals surreptitiously interspersed in the mix. The most amazing thing here is that Birgersson has recorded, mixed and mastered everything so skillfully and the sound is so modified—that you can’t figure out what’s really going on. The mostly instrumental based Origin #01 is truly an experimental CD and is a bold move forward for both the art of electronic music and sonic cosmic guitar explorations. Even with the chill pulse often keeping the groove in tact, make no mistake—Solar Fields is century 21 electronica all the way.

WAVEFORM RECORDS - Over in England, Waveform continues breaking down walls for the world of chill and ambient instrumental music and what we have come to call “exotic electronica”. Case in point is a most amazing e-music classic entitled The Maze released by Sounds From The Ground. Filled with ten tracks of swirling, dubby, groove based electronics, the Maze CD looks great and more important—it sounds great too. The brainchild of composers Nick Woolfson and Elliot Morgan Jones, The Maze is actually the sixth Waveform CD from Sounds From The Ground—the first being Kin that Waveform put out in 1996. In the past, the duo worked with giants like pedal steel guitar icon B.J. Cole and on The Maze, Sounds From The Ground continues to break new ground in the world of ambient, dub, trip-hop and chilled back electronic musical styles. Perhaps what sets this group apart from the abundance of synthesized music that grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s is the sense of humor and relaxing meditative chill out soundscapes. Just give a listen to track three on The Maze—entitled “Delphine”. Nothing better that having a humorous interlude on an album of meditative state of the art electronics! The group’s web site gives of good indication of the thoughtful history and groundbreaking techniques Sounds From The Ground bring forth on The Maze. /


ANGEL AIR - Over in England, Angel Air continues delving into the music vaults of ‘60s pop superstar Tommy James. Although he's best known for his first huge trademark hits like “Hanky Panky” and “Mirage”, also worth hearing is Tommy’s later period albums, including an Angel Air 2011 single CD pairing of In Touch with Midnight Rider. The 18 cut CD kicks off with the hard driving, 1976 In Touch album which sounds amazing and has to be one of Tommy’s best albums. Clearly, during that era, like most Tommy was greatly influenced by the studio sound of ‘70s glam-rock artists like Slade and Suzi Quatro, who gets covered here with “Devil Gate Drive.” As was the fashion during that mid ‘70s period, the drums sound here is very early ‘70s—crisp and near tribal sounding! With disco around the corner, Tommy’s ‘77 Midnight Rider is a little more subdued and slick and between both albums guests appearing including singer Michael McDonald, Timothy Schmidt and pop genius Jeff Barry. To his credit, Tommy kept recording and in 1980 he released Three Times In Love. Keeping writing, years later in 1990 Tommy released one of his most popular albums, Hi-Fi. These two albums form yet another Angel Air two Tommy James albums on one CD remaster. For Hi-Fi Tommy teamed with drummer / co-writer Glenn Wyka so the drumming here is equally as cool as the amazing drum sound of In Touch. If you liked the rockin’ pop sound of Tommy James back in the ‘60s you’ll dig him on these 2011 single disc, double album collections on Angel Air.

ANGEL AIR RECORDS - Drawing upon various CD releases from their impressive, generations spanning back catalog, Angel Air goes with a 2011 compilation of their more cutting edge prog-metal, putting it together on a various artists CD entitled Ventis Secundis, Tene Cursum: This Is Progressive Rock!. Coming from a more Deep Purple / Black Sabbath style in places, the sixteen cut CD features various tracks from renowned U.K. prog / rock bands like Stray, Greenslade, Rococo, Mouse, Affinity, Carmen, Third Ear Band, Atomic Rooster and The Ian Gillan Band, to name several. Angel Air are usually pretty on target with their various artist compilations and with tracks spanning the past four decades, there’s certainly enough on here to whet the appetite of fans of U.K. prog-rock, pop-rock and hard rock too. Weird cover art and a stellar crew of bands is enhanced by the in-depth booklet with bios on all the bands on hand.

AUDIO FIDELITY - Back in the heyday of the great Mobile Fidelity label, another label called DCC started up a gold disc audiophile company all of their own. So renowned were both MoFi and DCC that even today, collector’s of audiophile gold CDs pay hundreds of dollars for a chance to hear the audio splendor brought forth on many of their favorite albums. Mobile Fidelity was basically destroyed when the owner Herb Belkin sadly died during the summer of 2001 and during the early part of the the last decade DCC morphed into Audio Fidelity and, thanks to it’s owner and Marshall Bronfman, Audio Fidelity continues to make audiophiles and classic rock collectors happy with a cross-section of sonically superior and musically groundbreaking gold CD remasters. To give you an example of how amazing and historic Bronfman’s gold CDs are—a new 1997 gold CD of Aqualung is selling on Amazon for nearly four hundred dollars! Anyway, it’s still very sad to live with the fact that Herb Belkin is no longer here but thankfully, Marshall and Audio Fidelity are keeping the audiophile spirit alive and well. Case in point is a 2010 gold CD remaster of 12 Songs—the 1970 album from Randy Newman. Newman was a mainstay on the L.A. music scene for years and with 12 Songs he really came into his own. Classics like “Have You Seen My Baby?”, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” and “Old Kentucky Home” were all covered by numerous bands and artists but Newman’s originals are still definitive. Excellent packaging including all lyrics and original artwork of the 1970 album plus gold disc remastering by Kevin Gray makes Audio Fidelity’s gold disc of 12 Songs a keeper. Same pretty much can be said of the 1972 album release of One Man Dog from folk-rock superstar James Taylor. A personal favorite of Audio Fidelity founder Marshall Bronfman, the album was, in retrospect slightly disappointing, especially after Taylor's Beatles' produced 1969 debut and especially the historic 1970 Warner Bros. Records Lp release of Sweet Baby James. Described as a suite of brief musical experiments—18 short pieces strung together, including instrumentals—One Man Dog nevertheless reached well into the top ten of the pop charts. Most Taylor fans will remember this early classic, as well as casual pop fans who couldn’t escape the amazing FM radio popularity of the super smooth pop One Man Dog favorite “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Audio Fidelity’s 2010 gold CD remaster of One Man Dog once again features all original Lp artwork and credits topped off by sonically smooth as silk remastering from the golden ears of audio giant and DCC legend Steve Hoffman. Also out on gold CD in 2010 by Audio Fidelity is an audiophile pressing of Talking Book by soul-pop superstar Stevie Wonder. Wonder’s huge 1972 breakthrough, Talking Book featured hit after hit song, topped off by the albums' leadoff track, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” It seems that year after year, with its uptempo mix of R&B, funk, rock, pop and smooth jazz, Talking Book just grows in stature. Audio Fidelity’s 2010 gold CD remaster of Talking Book is just the latest reason to bask in the sonic splendor of this timeless album. All told, Audio Fidelity continues to break new ground in the world of audiophile gold CD remasters.

TETRAPOD RECORDINGS - One of the hardest working acoustic guitar players in Nashville, John Danley puts his musical history in order with a 25 track best of compilation entitled A Guitarist’s Compendium: 15 Years Of Acoustic Addiction. Filled with an infectious acoustic guitar groove that spans a wealth of musical genres, from folk to whimsical, spot-on acoustic jazz, the CD brings together 25 tracks of finger-style guitar music written and recorded by the guitarist between 1995 and 2010. Danley’s 2009 solo CD release, Acoustic Dimorphism was heralded as one of the top acoustic guitar albums of the decade, and A Guitarist’s Compendium offers yet another opportunity to glimpse the talent and technique Danley has brought to the guitar world over the past decade and a half. The cover painting by Lori Anne Parker is exquisite while liner notes by Danley touches on his vital history, including the fact that the 25 track CD is not presented in any kind of chronological history yet, start to finish still sounds thoroughly connected.

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