Record Label
and Music Spotlight









- The band known as Buffalo Stack are based in the NYC area, just up north in the Hudson Valley. The whole Upstate N.Y, area has a rich history of fine pop and rock music making, most notably The Band lived and thrived within an earshot of the same area. Buffalo Stack do have a bit of The Band in their own sound. Led by guitarist / singer-songwriter Andy Stack, Buffalo Stack is very rootsy sounding and would be a fine choice for fans of The Band, Van Morrison and other bands, especially those who made a name for themselves in the upstate New York region. Andy Stack gets great backup from his band mates including Lee Falco (drums), Brandon Morrison (bass) with a whole range of fine players helping out. As they say on their Facebook page, Buffalo Stack’s CD debut is time well spent for anyone who enjoys old-school rock ‘n’ roll, blues and Americana. Buffalo Stack make fine vintage sounding bluesy rock and are clearly a band well worth keeping your eyes and ears on.

- Angel Air may be best known for their CD reissues but they come back strong with The Great And Secret Show, the first album in 17 years by the U.K. band known as Red Jasper. With 5 albums to their credit, this 7 track, 40 minutes return to form from Red Jasper still features the lead vocals and songs of David Clifford. The sound of Red jasper is very much rooted in the driving mid ‘70s prog-rock sound of both Pink Floyd and Uriah Heep. Clifford gets solid support from his band mates with production handled by band members Lloyd George (keyboards) and Robin Harrison (guitars). All in all Red Jasper’s The Great And Secret Show is a good choice for fans of 21st century prog-rock.

- Among the the bands currently making the rounds with debut albums from the U.K. is Jouis. The band’s 2014 CD is called Dojo and it’s packed with a range of effective progressive rock elements. With each member also adding in vocals, the five part harmonies kind of evoke early America (the band, not the country) while the complex arrangements are infused with jazzy tendencies making them also sound a bit like Steely Dan at times. The CD packaging is great but there’s not much indication as to who plays what, but the musicianship is first rate as is the production by Phill Brown. The lyrics are printed on the back cover of the CD so you can read along as you marvel at the wealth of musical ideas in motion here. With Dojo, the band known as Jouis carries the spirit of 21st century progressive rock well into the future.

- At the end of 2014, rock legend Dwight Twilley released Always. Produced by Dwight and Jan Twilley, the 12 track CD touches on a number of Twilley’s patented musical signposts. Mixing elements of Del Shannon, Tom Petty and Dave Edmunds on Always, Twilley puts together another pop-rock masterpiece that resounds with a deja-vu kind of classic rock essence. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Twilley’s all time classic album 47 Moons, but on Always Dwight continues at the top of his game. On Always, Dwight puts together a pretty impressive lineup of recording accomplices including his late, great guitarist Bill Pitcock IV, Leland Sklar, Susan Cowsill, Mitch Easter, Ken Stringfellow, Tommy Keene, Steve Allen and others. Marked by incredible cover artwork, Always is a welcome addition to the Dwight Twilley catalog of pop magic.

- The venerable Blue Note Records label is the most prestigious jazz label in the world and has been for decades. Although they’ve been veering more into pop and even rock over the years, with the release of All Rise by pianist / composer Jason Moran, Blue Note reaches yet another pinnacle of 21st century jazz. The 12 track All Rise is actually Moran’s self-styled tribute to the legendary Fats Waller and the CD features several Waller tracks mixed in with Moran’s own music. Waller would be knocked out by Moran’s barrelhouse boogie jazz sound. Waller is best remembered for his tunes “The Joint Is Jumpin’” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and those are just a couple of the covers Moran includes here. Another cover of “Two Sleepy People”, written by Hoagy Carmichael is another highlight. All Rise may be construed as retro-jazz by some but it’s all done so well and the production by Blue Note honcho Don Was and Meshell Ndegocello is first rate while, on the album Moran has chosen to surround himself with some first rate jazzers. All in all, All Rise is 21st century jazz at its best and more importantly, the CD is a lot of fun to listen to.

- Definitely an essential album of 21st century experimental music-making, the Italian-American band, Il Sogno Del Marinaio released Canto Secondo, their second album, in 2014. The three piece band features Minuteman founder Mike Watt (bass) who is backed up here by Andrea Belfi (drums) and Stefano Pilia (guitar). The album is clearly influenced by avant gard rock bands like Captain Beefheart and other out there, on the edge artists but it’s played with a rare depth of precision that makes for a riveting spin. It’s interesting that while it’s a mostly instrumental album, there’s a lot of Beefheart-ian vocalizing. Fans of Beefheart, Zappa and of course Watt’s punk-pop work in the Minutemen, will enjoy the sonic pyrotechnics that are key to the making of this off-the-wall, yet sonically appealing CD. There’s certainly some fine electric guitar work from Stefano to put Il Sogno Del Marinaio into the realm of the 21st century avant-gard jazz-rock fusion genre.

- The music credits for Chris Spedding reads like a who’s who of U.K. guitar greats. First really appreciated for his mercurial guitar work on the 1970 Jack Bruce album Harmony Row, Spedding might have never been able to top that (and I feel Jack always liked that album best too) but decades of musical greatness has resulted in his 2015 CD on Purple Pyramid Joyland. With a creepy looking cover of a roller coaster, Spedding’s Joyland features his guitar and vocals alongside a range of music greats including vocals with singers Bryan Ferry, Robert Gordon and the great Arthur Brown (of “Fire” fame) as well as several instrumentals with fellow guitarists Glenn Matlock and Johnny Marr. Spedding’s choice of music is quite eclectic —from the doo-wop sound of “I Still Love You” with rockabilly crooner Robert Gordon to the spaghetti western surf-rock instrumental sounds of “Cafe Racer” (with Glen Matlock) and “Heisenberg” (with Johnny Marr). There’s also a cool retro cover of the ‘60s pop classic “The Pied Piper” with Spedding on vocals backed by some very John Cale inspired guitar work. There’s many other highlights too but if you enjoy tasty electric guitar played by a veritable master of both prog and punk, while backed by a great band, Chris Spedding’s Joyland should be right up your street.

- The venerable Crammed Discs Records label is known for releasing some truly off the wall music and they continue with more fascinating and bizarre sounds with the 2014 CD from Jozef van Wissem.. The Brooklyn, NYC based van Wissem released It Is Time For You To Return and overall it’s a very unique sounding album of mostly acoustic based lute music, that kind of evokes the gothic music of John Cale and Nico. Some instrumental and some vocal tracks collide on a truly avant garde album. The cover has van Wissem dressed up like a priest with a big cross around his neck that is really creepy. Van Wissem’s calling card is his fascinating medieval sounding lute work. The Holland born / NYC based composer will frighten some with this album but those undaunted brave souls who seek it out will be rewarded with some elegant, stately lute based minimalism. Van Wissem has recorded over a dozen albums including some with co-creators like guitarist Gary Lucas and Jim Jarmusch, as well as a number of collaborative albums, and It Is Time For You To Return is yet another solid effort from Dutch lutist Jozef van Wissem.

- The coolest thing about the band Schnauser is that you never know what kind of sound they’ll go for next. Mix in various parts of early 1970’s U.K. prog-rock, some Brian Wilson style ‘60s pop chord patterns and some off the wall post-punk art-rock and you come up with the beauty that is Schnauser. Also, was hip to Schnauser long before Esoteric Antenna released Protein For Everyone in late 2014. Some might long for the early Schnauser works on the famous Pink Hedgehog label but upon further inspection, Protein For Everyone will more than fill the bill for Schnauser converts of which there will hopefully be many more after reading this review. As Protein For Everyone indicates, the Schnauser sound still is filled with all kind of prog-rock and artsy Wilsonian inspired rave-ups. Like usual, the CD cover art is totally off the wall. Commenting on the CD cover art for Protein For Everyone, group founder / guitarist Alan Strawbridge tells, “The cover art is a tongue in cheek take on the lyrics for the title track, about selling body parts for use as meat due to the rapidly decreasing resources for supplying food for the masses. It's part Hipgnosis and part Jan Svankmajer, a Czech animator who influenced Terry Gilliam and always has a streak of sarcastic humor running through his films, as well as an obsession with meat!” Of course, music fans often have more than just meat on their minds and concerning the deftly performed music on Protein For Everyone, Alan further tells, “The album is quite a step forward for us, as we recorded most of it live in the studio so it's more representative of how we sound as a band on stage. Jasper's drumming evokes both Robert Wyatt and Bill Bruford so his influence has developed the prog elements. The 17 minute track which closes the album “Disposable Outcomes” points towards where the sound of the band is heading now: music which is developed through improvisation but tightly arranged so melodically it retains the concise pop song feel from our previous albums.” Of course, after the Pink Hedgehog years, Schnauser signed with the world famous Esoteric label to which Alan also tells, “Esoteric Antenna have been fantastic to work with and opened up the band to a whole new audience. Their enthusiasm for our new material means we don't feel pressured to follow a certain style and has given us the impetus to work on material in a much freer way.” Attention: pop fans with a bent for catchy prog and tongue in cheek U.K. humor - the time for Schnauser is now.

- The U.K. based duo of Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards form the duo known as Luna Rossa. With their 2013 album Sleeping Pills And Lullabies in the rear view mirror, Luna Rossa strike sonic gold with their 2014 CD Secrets & Lies. Recorded in South Wales and mastered at Abbey Road studios in London, Secrets & Lies is filled with sumptuous mix of folk-rock and light rock that conjures a kind of mid period Renaissance sound. The mostly original album also features several covers of music by Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren. Anne-Marie’s voice is right up there in the Annie Haslam range of greatness and the songs on Secrets & Lies are both evocative and memorable. Between them, Anne-Marie and Jonathan play a range of instruments—from 6 & 12 string guitars, piano, organ and percussion and the CD sound is filled out by several artists including guitarist Tim Hamill, who also adds in programming. Fans of English folk-rock will completely enjoy Luna Rossa and their easy on the ears brand of progressive pop. Secrets & Lies comes with excellent album artwork and packaging including an oversize poster with complete

- Producer Bob Rose hipped onto Essence, the 2015 album by the group called The Rua. Bob was the producer / string orchestrator on the Julian Lennon album Photograph Smile and you can hear his expert hands all over this first album from The Rua. Fans of the younger Lennon will more than likely enjoy The Rua. Featuring the music and vocals of three siblings —Roseanna Brown, Alanna Brown and Jonathan Brown—the U.K. based band mix a whole lot of pop and rock influences on their CD. Some signposts include influences from Blondie, Phil Spector, late period Fleetwood Mac and more. One time Blondie bass player Nigel Harrison (who co-wrote the Blondie smash “One Way Or Another”) works with the band as does Rose, who adds in some fine string arrangements as well. With a little more refinement, and even bigger hooks, The Rua just might take off but Essence is a fine start.

- Featuring the lead vocals of Allan Crockford, the U.K. band known as The Galileo 7 serve up a heady dose of retro-tinged psychedelia with their 2014 CD False Memory Lane. Taking a cue from the spicy “Nuggets Era” West Coast rock sound and the mod scene of late ‘60s London, The Galileo 7 brings the sound up to date and into the mainstream of the 21st century and even add in a tasty country rock edge. Otherwise known as as paisley pop, the sound echoes the XTC spinoff Dukes Of Stratosphere CD and even groups like the late ‘60s Who and the Move for that matter. False Memory Lane maybe sounds like a tribute to a kinder and gentler time in pop history but there’s also some original ideas in play. Crockford gets fine backup from his band mates and the whole album cooks right along. It’s a good feeling knowing that bands are still in awe of the classic rock from yesteryears.

- The 4AD label can always be counted on for a winner and the 2014 Ariel Pink album, Pom Pom more than fits the bill. Self-produced and performed by Ariel, and featuring a wide range of musicians, the 17 track “double album” fits neatly on one CD. Sounding somewhere between Smile era Brian Wilson and Joe Meek, the sound is very varied and you could call it L.A. rock for the future. Famed producer Kim Fowley appears on a couple tracks, recorded shortly before his passing. A bunch of adjectives come to mind including beatific, windswept pop, scuzz-punk face melters and carnival dub psychedelia. Track seven “One Summer Night” is among the many highlights, here with a quasi-Japanese melody attached to an early 1960s era rock and roll arrangement. Pop fans who like their music eclectic and very colorful with a dose of good humor, will like Pom Pom.

- An unexpected super-star session by L.A. based singer-songwriter Fuzzbee Morse, the 10 ten track CD release of Dreams And Other Living Things pairs Fuzzbee with studio legends like Tony Levin (bass), David Sancious (keyboards) and Jerry Marotta (drums). Fuzzbee's music veers from Rundgren-esque blue-eyed soul to a more hypnotic jungle groove that spotlights some inventive instrumental passages. Track 4, the instrumental jam called “Zonga!” gets a cool fusiony surf-jazz thing going amid the bubbling funk. Same with track 7, “Onward”, another Focus like instrumental and then there's the instrumental Hendrix tribute with “Angel”. Fuzzbee more than acquits himself on vocals and guitars, echoing greats like Holdsworth and Beck. From Rundgren-esque soul pop to instrumental guitar fusion workouts, featuring backing by top names in the biz, Fuzzbee Morse covers all the bases on Dreams And Other Living Things.

- Based in the NYC area, Lostdog In Loveland is a new band featuring the songs and vocals of Robert Mag. Backed here by John Winhimmer (guitars, programming) and Robert Bunnyman Rocco (guitars, keys) and several guests, Mag’s rock sound is very much rooted in the early 1970s, especially Hunky Dory to Low era Bowie. Lending credence to that notion on this first ever Lostdog In Loveland CD, entitled Sadanthem, is a cameo from Aladdin Sane era Bowie ivory tinkler Mike Garson. The songs hold up well and bring back good memories of the creative early ‘70s heyday of glam rock and all its daring dynamics, sights and sounds. Speakinig to about the CD, Mag states, "We got together back in 2007, Our goal was to bring back, not necessarily the sound, but the emotion and feel of the great albums that we grew up with. Bowie, Roxy Music T. Rex as well as bands like XTC, The Beatles and so on. We hope fans will find this CD a complete musical experience, from the package design concept to the strong melodies, intricate arrangements and lush sound." Mag has a unique way with his lyrics, often pairing quirky lyrics with dynamic melodic moves. The Sandanthem CD is well recorded and features a cool poster and complete lyrics. In addition to his work in Lostdog In Loveland, Mag is also a fine graphic designer and you can readily see the other side of his art on his personal website. /

- Over in the U.K, the band known as The Mighty Bard are carrying on the tradition of progressive rock with fine results on their 2015 CD Blue God And Other Stories. Going on ten years as a band, The Mighty Bard was formed by guitarist Dave Clarke and keyboardist Neil Cockle and is currently a six piece with the band rounded out by Gavin Webb (vocals), Mark Cadman (bass), Andy Dovey (drums) and Mark Parker (violin). Speaking about the process during the recording, Neil Cockle tells, “The majority of musical ideas come from myself and Dave, but the whole band has an input at the later stages of song development, when things start to get ‘serious’, when we think an idea is worth pursuing! Sometimes, the song is still evolving at the recording stage. Someone might play something when we’re recording, that will spark an idea for someone else.” The sound of The Mighty Bard explores the domain of progressive rock while implementing a more harder rock edge, yet it’s done very tastefully and the progressive elements seem to win out over the harder rocking elements. Perhaps the coolest thing here is that The Mighty Bard sounds like they’re having fun playing their progressive rock meets hard rock mix. Pundits might notice historic U.K. bands like Jethro Tull and even Pink Floyd as influences but even with all these past influences creeping into their sound, The Mighty Bard makes a unique prog-rock statement of their own on the creative and engaging Blue God And Other Stories.

- Singer-songwriter and bass ace to the stars, Kasim Sultan lives up to his multi-decade legacy with his 2014 album, simply called Three. Best known as a member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. On 3, Kasim writes in the best Todd spirit and he even has a memorable voice like Todd too. Todd plays on the album as does a whole crew of talented musicians, including members of Blue Oyster Cult and The Cars and The New Cars, the latter band of which Kasim was a member of in 2006. At times on 3, Kasim sounds like McCartney or even better like a supercharged Emitt Rhodes and the album production as equally as good. Kasim Sultan’s 3 is 12 tracks of pure pop magic.

- Progressive rock is alive and well on Chapter And Verse, the 2014 CD by the up and coming Australian prog-rock band The Merlin Bird. Central to the Merlin Bird sound are multi-instrumentalists Geoff Dawes (vocals, guitars, keys) and Dan Moloney (drums), with Geoff also contributing the lyrics. A number of female vocalists, including Teleri Holton, adds an interesting counterpoint to the music, giving the band’s sound a Renaissance meets Kate Bush kind of effect. Other musicians guest on the CD which also features a number of sound shapers, including various engineers and co-producers. Funny enough, on the Merlin Bird Facebook page they describe themselves as being like Pink Floyd meeting a bad-tempered Enya in an Irish pub. With some further honing of their melodic ideas, The Merlin Bird stands poised to further their progressive rock vision but clearly Merlin Bird are on the right track with Chapter And Verse.

- The record label Minty Fresh is one of those holdout institutions from the 1990s. Their specialty has always been state of the art pop-rock, mostly bands of younger musicians many of whom weren’t yet born when albums like Pet Sounds through Notorious Byrd Brothers were being made. The Northern California based band called The Orange Peels serves up a most worthy pop album with the 2015 CD Minty Fresh release of Begin The Begone. Group founders, singer songwriter Allen Clapp and bass player Jill Pries carry forth the group sound. Brian Wilson is the most immediate influence here but think more of the side of Brian that was wildly experimental while spearheading the entire West Coast pop explosion of the 1960s. The album isn’t quite as well recorded as Wilson’s orchestral tones although Begin The Begone nearly qualifies as a lo-fi Pet Sounds. In fact a cool instrumental here called “New Moon” almost qualifies as a modern day Pet Sounds out take. The music veers from cool detached pop to a more artsy type of instrumental music on other tracks. Excellent electric guitar work from John Moremen and drumming from Gabriel Coan adds to the sonic vision. West Coast pop fans won’t go wrong with The Orange Peels. The CD cover, and presumably vinyl pressing, has some eye-popping cover art.

- Fans of classic U.K. folk-rock bands such as Fairport Convention should give a listen to Thamesis, the third album from the 21st century English folk music band known as Mishaped Pearls. Arranged and produced by Gerry Diver and Ged Flood, the ten track Thamesis CD features solid musicianship all around, all the while spotlighting the band’s lead singer Manuela Schuette. Perhaps the most striking thing about the sound of Mishaped Pearls are the striking wall of sound vocal harmonies. Upon perusing the album’s attractive CD packaging, I count 13 different musicians on album who add in distinctive vocal harmonies as well as a range of strings and various percussion instruments. Between the two of them, Gerry Diver and Ged Flood add in a wide range of instruments including all manners of stringed instruments, percussion and even loops, which add in a slight electronica edge. German born / U.K. based Ms. Schuette has a wonderful voice, evoking a younger Maddy Prior or Sandy Denny. The songs are quite memorable with the standout being track two, “Cornish Girl”. Simply put, on Thamesis Mishaped Pearls take state of the art folk-rock to new and vital heights again.

MUSEA RECORDS - Back in 1997, the California band called Blue Shift released an excellent album called Not The Future I Ordered. The album made waves in the progressive rock community but following that, not much was heard of the band... until now. In 2015 Blue Shift returns with Levels Of Undo. The band now features a new singer named Denise Chandler, while the core of the band still includes founding members Joey Backenstoe (guitars), Mark Barton (keyboards) and drummer Steve Sklar. A sonic masterpiece, Levels Of Undo sounds great on CD and veers all over the musical map, taking well into consideration the band's roots in progressive rock, jazz and electronica. The diversity really shines through on a Blue Shift cover of the Rolling Stones 1967 classic “2000 Light Years From Home” while “I Remember Ted” is Backentoe’s warm-hearted solo jazz guitar instrumental tribute to the late great jazz guitar icon Ted Greene. As Levels Of Undo points out, Joey Backenstoe is truly one of the most gifted guitarists on the music scene and as such, he’s kind of the American version of Steve Howe. Like Howe, Backenstoe is proficient in both the jazz-rock and prog guitar worlds. Keyboardist Mark Barton is kind of the American Keith Emerson and like Emerson, Barton is very influenced by both prog-rock and jazz with special leanings towards the world of electronica and especially 20th century innovator Wendy Carlos, who in fact used to be Walter Carlos. Speaking to about the creation of Level Of Undo, Joey Backenstoe explains “We would each work on ideas individually, and then come together periodically to present our demos to one another. We would then hash out the details and work on the arrangements together. Steve and Denise had some valuable input when it came to the arrangements”, with Mark Barton adding “Let’s put it this way. L.O.U. is a product of the modern computer age. As much as we love to play together as a band, that wasn’t always possible during recording. The computer also allows us to agonize over and discuss every note. We have come to the conclusion that this is actually a good thing. I’m sure Beethoven did the same.” Whether your tastes lean towards progressive rock, instrumental jazz fusion, mainstream guitar jazz or classic experimental keyboard electronica, Blue Shift covers all the sonic bases in style on their long awaited masterpiece comeback, Levels Of Undo.

- Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne is paid the ultimate honors on a 2014 album called Looking Into You - A Tribute To jackson Browne. The 23 track double CD set on the Austin based Music Road Records, features a number of today’s artists and a whole range of bigger names covering a favorite Brown original. The sound of Looking Into You is very much rooted in the FM radio based country rock sound Browne helped pioneer back in the early 1970s. Among the artists taking part are Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt & David Lindley, The Indigo Girls, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Osborne, Bruce Hornsby, JD Souther and many more. The double CD set comes with a well designed booklet filled with information on all the artists here as well as including anecdotes by the artists on Jackson’s music and how it influenced them. There’s no denying the significance Jackson Browne had on a whole generation of singer-songwriters back in the 1970s and those influences can be fully appreciated on Looking Into You.

MUTE RECORDS - Singer-songwriter José Gonzáles was born in Sweden in 1978. Thanks to his solo work and music released as a member of the pop group Junip, music fans have long held José in high regard. For the better part of the last decade, José has carved out a niche for himself as a pop music contender and his stellar reputation should only increase with his 2015 solo CD, Vestiges & Claws. Ostensibly folk-pop with a slight bossa nova edge, José’s music features him playing mostly finger style classical guitar backed up by light synth and programming accompaniment. Even though José’s songs are fairly lightweight and innocuous sounding, it’s really his voice, the melodic content and arrangements of his songs that hold fascination. In fact, the closest comparison would be to compare José to the early ‘70s music of Cat Stevens. Being that Cat Stevens is half Swedish, that comparison seems to make the most sense. Easy on the ears, simple but understated, the music of José Gonzáles is a taste well worth acquiring. An enchanting hour of music, Vestiges & Claws is the finest solo CD yet by singer-songwriter José Gonzáles.

NAROOMA RECORDS - An album of rare beauty and sonic finesse, Chamma is a stunning set of new music by singer-songwriter Jenny Gillespie. Based in the Northern California area, Ms. Gillespie proves a real sonic ground-breaker, adding in hip-hp beats amid an album where New Age meets Trip-hop that would make Brian Eno blush. There’s plenty of great players aiding Ms. Gillespie as she shines amid the sonic pageantry. One minute dreamlike, the next sonically scintillating, the album is the prefect CD made to bring out the best in a world class audio system. Interestingly, Jenny has also just finished up new album called Dhyana By The Sea, which was created with top players like Gerry Leonard and Greg Leisz. She describes it as a pop-hippie-jazz ‘70s kind of album which will be out sometime before early summer 2015. One can hardly wait to hear this rising new artist make some new and different albums.

PINDER BROTHERS MUSIC - Back in 2012, The Pinder Brothers released a 5 song CD EP called Speeding Cars, offering a preview of what was to become their next full length album. In 2015, The Pinder Brothers once again speed forward with Melancholy Sea—a CD featuring 11 tracks that are sure to impress fans of this radio-friendly pop-rock band. Start to finish, Melancholy Sea highlights some of the finest music yet from Michael Lee Pinder (guitars, vocals) and Matt Pinder (bass, vocals). For fans who’ve followed the Pinder Brothers since they arrived with Jupiter Falls in 2006, the 2015 release of Melancholy Sea showcases an even more assured approach from earlier classics like their all time epic, “Jupiter Falls”, "Inside Me" and “Waves Crash”. Several tracks here conjure an even more solid rock vibe. With Melancholy Sea being their most realized album yet, the music of Michael Lee Pinder and Matt Pinder carries forth a logical extension of the Pinder musical legacy that their father predestined when he founded progressive rock icons The Moody Blues 50 years ago. Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder produced the 2006 Pinder Brothers CD debut, Jupiter Falls, and Mike and Moody Blues producer Tony Clark produced Ordinary Man—the second Pinder Brothers album from 2008. Also of note here is that while Michael Lee Pinder is recognized as the main composer on a number of Pinder Brothers classics, younger brother Matt Pinder also shines on Melancholy Sea as a fine singer-songwriter, with both brothers also sounding very competent as lead vocalists on different tracks here. Backing up Mike and Matt on Melancholy Sea are ace musicians, including guitarist Stef Burns. A first rate guitarist, Stef Burns truly blazes his way through a number of classic guitar solos here, while Mike Lee adds another sound on electric guitars. Also on board is producer Scott Reams, who adds in keyboards, including mellotron, bringing in further classic Pinder-esque and Moody Blues type mellotron flavors. Of course, Mike Pinder, the legend, and his Moody Blues cofounding band mate Ray Thomas are also here, most notably on the CD closing "Summer Moon". There’s eleven good reasons why fans of the Moody Blues will enjoy Melancholy Sea, and in fact one could surmise that the Pinder name is once again making music history.

RED HOUSE RECORDS - Guitar legend Jorma Kaukonen is still at the top of his game. 45 years after that first fabled Hot Tuna album, Jorma is back with a 2015 solo album called Ain't In No Hurry. Jorma’s third release for Minnesota based Red House Records, eleven track CD combines original tracks with songs that go all the way to the “Depression Era”. Playing his patented traditional blues sound while backed by a range of notable players Jorma explains, “You just can’t go backward. The arrow of time only goes in one direction. At this point in my life perhaps I should be in more of a hurry, but for me it’s more important that each piece fits in the right place at the right time. The songs you hear in this album cover a lot of ground for me. Some are very old, and some are quite new. From where I came from to where I am today... it is all here.” Mixing blues with a kind of country skiffle jazz and pop has always been Jorma’s trademark and on Ain’t In No Hurry the guitar legend gets tasty backup by Jack Casady (bass), Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin), Terersa Williams (vocals), Larry Campbell (guitar, pedal steel) and the rhythm section of Myron Hart (bass) and Justin Gulp (drums). It’s been quite a while since Jorma stunned rock audiences with his electric guitar work in Jefferson Airplane. Far away from the cosmic guitar sounds of the late 1960s, Ain’t In No Hurry is much more of a mature musical statement from a veteran guitar ace with 50 years of musical mileage to his credit.

ROBAR MUSIC RECORDS LTD. - U.K. based singer-songwriter Matt Woosey is making waves with his 2014 CD Wildest Dreams. The ten track CD features Matt’s bluesy, acoustic gitar and vocals backed up by drummer Dave Small. The sound is hardly small though as Matt fills up the soundstage with some creative overdubbing and some excellent guitar work. Like John Martin before him, for example, Woosey creates mesmerizing songs bolstered by his strong voice and memorable melodies. Several other players assist and there’s also some excellent overdubbed backing vocals. The CD booklet is packed with color photos and complete lyrics. Several critics have been touting Woosey as an act that‘s lighting up the British blues and R&B scene. There’s a couple of bonus cuts and a single edit remix of the lead off track “Exactly As We Please”, which is a definite highlight of the CD. True, there’s a definite bluesy feel to Woosey’s music but it’s much more creative and guitar-centric than just being called blues or R&B. Matt Woosey redefines the spirit of adventurous U.K. folk-jazz with Wildest Dreams.

ROCKWERK RECORDS - The band known as KariBow is making waves with their 2015 CD entitled Addicted. Featuring the songs, vocals and guitars of Oliver Rüsing, the 16 track, 79 minute Addicted CD is filled with all sorts of progressive rock signposts, most notably 1980's YES and late 1990s YES, the latter (Ladder?) period sometimes referred to as the Billy Sherwood era. Even vocally, Rüsing sounds influenced by both Billy Sherwood and Chris Squire and Oliver's guitar work also gets good exposure on the CD. Although Rüsing performs the bulk of the Addicted album in the studio by himself, in a live setting he gets solid backup from his band mates. Speaking about the difference between recording the CD and the live Karibow band in the following interview, Oliver tells, "Karibow is a five piece band and it consists of Markus Bergen (keys), Gerald Nahrgang (drums), Chris Thomas (guitars), Thomas Wischt (bass) and myself (vocals, guitars). These guys are skilled and ambitious musicians, and they are good friends at the same time. You're right about my key role in writing and producing, but the band does also have an impact on what Karibow sounds like on stage because everyone of us feels responsible for the live arrangements." Regarding the title of the CD, Oliver adds, "The album title originates from a song named “Addicted”. It was supposed to be the title track and it's funny that the song itself didn't make it onto the album. There's a line in it that goes “The shape of the wind and the moving water, I'm addicted to it all.” It's that kind of addiction. It's the addiction to life and to the beauty of it." Another fact worth mentioning to music fans is the superb layout and artwork / concept of the Addicted CD packaging. A good choice for progressive rock fans, KariBow combines plenty of dynamic rock elements on their critically acclaimed Addicted CD.

SEACREST RECORDS - The Finns are meticulous when it comes to producing fantastic albums. Drummer Kimmo Pörsti is a key member of the Finnish rock group Paidarion and in 2014 his Seacrest imprint released The Imperial Hotel - the new album from The Samurai Of Prog. A world wide floating prog-rock consortium, The Samurai Of Prog features key members Kimmo Pörsti, Marco Bernard (bass) and Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, guitars), backed up by additional musicians such as Robert Webb (vocals) and a wide range of electric guitarists. Eye-popping artwork by Ed Unitsky is phenomenal while the album packaging is brilliant. Using the miracle of the internet and artists zinging thousands of megabytes of recording files through the web, the CD was recorded all over the world. The sound is truly something to marvel at and the progressive rock fans will flip for this latest release by The Samurai Of Prog.

SHOOGLE RECORDS - In 2014, folk-rock singer Kaela Rowan released her debut solo CD Menagerie. Featuring Kaela’s vocals and songs, Menagerie is described as a combination of both Scottish and World Music sounds. Kaela gets excellent backup from her co-producer and arranger James Mackintosh. Between Kaela and James, the instrumentation blends acoustic guitars and classical guitars with exotic World Music instruments like pandeiro, kalimba, berimbau as well as a variety of percussion instruments. Kaela’s voice is front and center throughout the 11 song CD and her captivating vocal mannerisms and the intriguing instrumentation make Menagerie an excellent album start to finish. Commenting on the wide range of musical influences on Menagerie Kaela tells, "Scottish traditional music has doubtless informed the music of Menagerie. And for my part, I had a deep love for Gaelic song, Scots and Irish Ballad singing from a young age, so the melodies definitely have this influence in them, as I would naturally gravitate towards this sound." Speaking about working with Kaela Rowan and the creation of Menagerie, Kaela’s co-producer and band mate James Mackintosh tells mwe3, “It was good to sit down and make our own album. Speaking as someone who has spent so many years working in the studio on other peoples projects it was a real treat to make one where we both were able to make the artistic decisions. We made it in our own time and in our own space, and that is a real treat... no rush, although deadlines can be good!” Featuring 11 tracks, Kaela Rowan’s Menagerie is an enchanting album by a rising artist to keep your eyes on.

SONY MUSIC - 21st century trance and dance music takes a turn for the better with the 2014 CD from France based singer Owlle. Entitled France, the eleven cut CD is filled with a range of catchy upbeat, dance type grooves that spotlight Owlle’s hypnotic vocals. The CD is well recorded and features a number of musicians backing up Owlle, including a pair of powerhouse drummers. With a hint of the progressive sprucing up the grooves, France is reminiscent of some of Anna Domino’s music from the late 1980’s. The CD also comes with a cool poster of Owlle showing showing off her body while also including all credits and song lyrics, which are sung by Owlle in English and printed in English. If you gave up on dance music, catchy pop with a disco beat, then give Owlle a chance. Owlle’s France reinvigorates the power of the big beat in dance music.

TBE RECORDS - The band known as Twombley Burwash are keeping the spirit of progressive rock alive and well on their 2015 CD entitled Grak. Essentially the brainchild of Kevin McDade (guitars, lead vocals) and his son Bruce McDade (guitars, programming), the album manages to combine the finest elements of U.K. progressive rock from 1968 to 1973 while also adding elements of modern prog too. The McDade's get ace backup from drummer Gareth Roberts and backing vocalist Helen Forbes. There’s plenty of great sounds on hand and Kevin sometimes sounds like a modern day Robert Wyatt, while the music here would bring a smile to the face of the Soft Machine drummer. There’s also free elements of early Traffic and Atom Heart Mother-era Pink floyd, with the accent on catchy pop tracks played like XTC or mid ‘80s YES. Extra points must go to the overall quality of the recording and the amazing cover art and CD packaging, which greatly enhances the sonic spectacular experience. Anyone who thinks the spirit of inventive prog is lacking will get a buzz from Twombley Burwash.

THIA SEXTON MUSIC - Based in the Los Angeles area, singer-songwriter Thia Sexton is making waves with Ever, her debut solo album. The sound of Ever is quite unique as it centers around Thia’s songs and vocals as well as her unique approach to cello playing, which she plays remarkably around her neck with a guitar strap like an oversized bass guitar. As you might imagine the sound is very rhythmic and overall, her voice evokes a similar sound as Suzanne Vega, Anna Domino and even some of Joni Mitchell’s jazzy music. Throughout the album, Thia receives solid support from a range of musicians, including top name guitarists such as Lyle Workman, Nels Cline and Eric Liljestrand as well as a number of drummers and producer Dan Schwartz. Although she began writing songs while sitting straight up like a cellist, Thia discovered the “slouching” position became essential to her song-writing. Thia explains, “So I pulled the cello on my lap and began finger picking like a guitar. Chords came out that I’d never heard before and the sound was beautiful.’ You can see the unique manner of her cello work on her videos, which shows her wearing a guitar strap while she picks out her songs. With the release of Ever, Thia Sexton proves to be a uniquely refreshing composer and singer-songwriter.

VIRAL DISCS - Paul Brett is a name that many fans of progressive guitar music remember from the 1970s. Similar in scope to Gordon Giltrap, Brett’s instrumental albums were favorites among prog-rock fans in the know back in the mid 1970s. Brett appeared as guitarist on the Dragonfly album by The Strawbs back in 1970. Fans of Dave Cousins and The Strawbs will enjoy Brett’s 2014 comeback album. Entitled Emergence 2014, Brett’s music is aging like a fine wine and the 14 track CD is a vocal album from Brett, filled with imaginative vocal arrangements and his patented 12 string acoustic guitar sound, which rings out clear and true. Like Cousins, sonically Brett simply pulverizes the listener. There’s a song called “666” that sounds like Phil Ochs on steroids and a song called “Fracking” that will stun you with its sharp political environmental insights. “Psychedelic Pauline” is a refuge from the folk-rock anarchy. With his biting sense of social satire, Brett is not a happy camper but the album really evokes the finest spirit of English folk-rock circa 2014.


- State of the art electronic instrumental music, the AD Music label features a number of recording artists, including label founder David Wright. Based in the U.K., Wright has documented his music on a range of CD titles under his own name as well as with the band Code Indigo and, as label chief, Wright has signed a number of artists for albums as well. Wright’s latest solo CD titles include Beyond The Airwaves Volume 2 (2015), Connected (2012) and In Search Of Silence (2011). All of Wright's albums offer sublime electronic music experiences with the near supernatural In Search Of Silence being a classic of the genre. Wright and AD have been releasing music on CD since 1989, covering all types of electronic instrumental including chill-out, down tempo, space music, ambient and even instrumental rock styles. Currently on AD Music there’s over 30 artists from around the world including Robert Fox, Bekki Williams, Code Indigo, Glenn Main, Steve Orchard and founder Wright. On Take The Money & Runthe 2014 CD by the instrumental rocktronica band Code Indigo, Wright serves as band member, arranger, producer, mixer and mastering engineer. Wright has said that this is to be the final Code Indigo album to which he tells, "Take The Money & Run was intended to be the final album, I think at that time I had personally just had enough. The band was always a huge strain and it was always me leading it and organizing everything, often to the detriment of my solo work. I thought the time was right to end it. So the title, everything about the album seemed right to take a look back over all the Code Indigo albums and a way of featuring everybody who was ever involved with the band. I was actually very pleased at how we were able to achieve that through the music that we featured. We were able to record some brand new music alongside some really good reworkings of older tracks and a really nice live section that we all wanted to see released. And it was nice looking through all the photos to put in the CD booklet. But I suppose most importantly it showed just what Code Indigo can do and has done." The sound of Code Indigo is very electronic with the added wordless vocals of Louise Eggerton and Carys, giving the music and added ethereal layer. With Code Indigo, New Age meets Nu Wave as electronic music morphs again thanks to Wright’s inventive musical mind. Decked out with very appealing artwork and factory pressed discs, the albums on AD Music are an excellent choice for fans of creative 21st century electronica.

- Many American bands have their roots in the field of jazz and fewer in the realm of progressive jazz. That place where the American free jazz of the 1950s meets the progressive U.K. jazz-rock of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s can be heard on Ancestors’ Tale, the 2014 CD from the Kentucky based band known as Ut Gret. Fittingly, Ut Gret cite Zappa, Soft Machine, Coltrane, Hatfield & The North and others as big influences. The music of Ut Gret centers around the music of Joee Conroy (bass, guitars) and Steve Roberts (keyboards). Much of the music is instrumental freeform fusion but several tracks add in the vocals of Cheyenne Mize and in that respect you can hear the influence of the U.K. fusion band Hatfield And The North. Ut Gret’s CD sounds great and the booklet adds in all the credits and lyrics on the vocal tracks. Very entertaining from start to finish, Ut Gret lets their talent shine forth on Ancestors’ Tale.

- Keyboardist / composer Jeremy Cubert was one of the first artists reviewed on the web site. It’s been way too long since 2000 but in 2015 Jeremy reconnected with and we’re proud to tell our readers about two new albums he’s produced in recent times. First, Apothecary is a fantastic jazz-fusion rock CD that features a wide range of instrumental sounds that veers from jazzy instrumentals to near heavy metal instrumental sounds. The CD features Jeremy’s trademark keyboards and stick sounds paired with other musicians including Mike Galway (electric bass), Anna Koropchak (electric violin) and Gary Venable (drums). The interplay between these four musicians borders on ESP. Featuring nine tracks, Apothecary is 21st century jazz-rock fusion at its best. Also new from Cubert and company is the album Formativ. More of a rock fusion set, Formativ, the band and the CD features Cubert and John Beagley (vocals, keyboards, lyric) backed up by a range of players. Cubert has always been a big progressive rock fan and he’s worked with YES founder Jon Anderson in the past so this 21st century progressive rock outing with Beagley makes a lot of sense. Beagley is a fine singer / lyricist and as such, Formativ makes a good choice for fans of YES and watchers of state of the art, 21st century progressive rock. As both CDs portend, Jeremy Cubert is still quite active and busy in the worlds of instrumental fusion and prog-rock.

- Brooklyn based Consider The Source released World War Trio Part 1 in 2014. The CD EP consists of a five part, 24 minute piece of music called “Put Another Rock In That Bag”. The results are quite amazing, revealing a jazz-rock power trio going after a melodic and highly structured kind of sound. Funny how they describe the sound as being “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion”. On the CD, guitarist Gabriel Marin joins forces with John Ferrara (bass) and Jeff Man (drums). The music is highly eclectic as it contains a range of contrapuntally engaging orchestrated sounds that harks back to the late ‘70s music of Pekka Pohjola and even the early 1980s music of Mike Oldfield. Even with so much youthful diversity, a slight metal edge and occasional trip-hop beats pouring through the grooves, there’s plenty here to marvel at. The better news is this track is just a prelude to a further 3 disc set encompassing the entire World War Trio album.

- A 21st century CD masterpiece of New Age, ambient and World Beat flavored instrumental sounds, Summon The Wind is a fine introduction to the music of multi-instrumentalist Timothy Wenzel. Wenzel uses the wind as a metaphor to describe the changes in our lives adding ‘We speak of the wind of change, or politically a new wind is blowing, or new ideas blew in. On a personal level, sometimes it feels like our minds, our lives, are a whirlwind, and we need to still that wind by stilling our mind, either though meditation or listening to gentle music.’ The main instrument on Wenzel’s 21st century instrumental music classic is the piano and he fills out that sound with a variety of synthesized sounds that echo the sounds of violins, cellos, bass, drums and the wordless sound of human vocal choirs. A couple of guests add in guitars and drums on a couple tracks but mostly the CD is a fantastic album of haunting melodies and dreamy arrangements that evokes a perfect sense of peacefulness and relaxation. Interestingly, early in his life, Wenzel was greatly inspired by progressive rock bands like Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues and you can hear the influences of master prog-rock keyboard innovators such as the great Mike Pinder throughout Wenzel’s keyboard work. In fact, Wenzel carries the tradition of classic progressive rock into the realm of 21st century New Age symphonic music with rare precision and sonic expertise. New Age rock fans looks for state of the art instrumental music should give a listen to Timothy Wenzel’s Summon The Wind.

- The venerable Crammed Discs Records label is known for releasing some truly off the wall music and they continue with more fascinating and bizarre sounds with the 2014 CD from Jozef van Wissem.. The Brooklyn, NYC based van Wissem released It Is Time For You To Return and overall it’s a very unique sounding album of mostly acoustic based lute music, that kind of evokes the gothic music of John Cale and Nico. Some instrumental and some vocal tracks collide on a truly avant garde album. The cover has van Wissem dressed up like a priest with a big cross around his neck that is really creepy. Van Wissem’s calling card is his fascinating medieval sounding lute work. The Holland born / NYC based composer will frighten some with this album but those undaunted brave souls who seek it out will be rewarded with some elegant, stately lute based minimalism. Van Wissem has recorded over a dozen albums including some with co-creators like guitarist Gary Lucas and Jim Jarmusch, as well as a number of collaborative albums, and It Is Time For You To Return is yet another solid effort from Dutch lutist Jozef van Wissem.

- The ghosts of guitar monsters Les Paul and Chet Atkins are to be found on Alone, the 2015 CD by guitar virtuoso Carl Verheyen. Both Chester and Lester were gifted guitar soloists who could entertain with just a solo guitar (electric or acoustic) and that’s exactly what Carl gets up to on the 14 track Alone. Kicking off with a memorable cover of the Pat Metheny classic “Last Train Home”, Carl moves into sacred sonic terrain offering up covers of Lennon & McCartney, Norman Petty, Jimmy van Heusen, Luiz Bonfa, Mark Knopfler and more. Key to the sound of Alone is Carl’s uncanny ability to entertain listeners with just one acoustic guitar. This after all was the trademark ability of both Les Paul and Chet, who often used solo guitar chord melody arrangements of song classics to dazzle listeners. Commenting on the mode of operations on Alone, Carl adds, “My goal is simple: I only cover a song by another composer if I feel I have something new to say about it.” Beguiling, haunting and all together memorable, the sound of Alone is yet another musical milestone for one of the America’s greatest, though most underrated fretboard masters.

DAN SIEGEL MUSIC - Based in Southern California, keyboardist Dan Siegel is breathing fresh energy into 21st century jazz with hs 2015 CD entitled Indigo. The CD cover art is excellent and likewise, the music maintains a cool, sophisticated approach to instrumental jazz music. For Indigo, Dan has chosen to work with some renowned backing musicians, including co-producer Brian Bromberg (bass), Lenny Castro (percussion), Allen Hinds (guitars), Bob Sheppard (sax), Will Kennedy (drums) and other fine players. Overall, the Indigo CD is quite upbeat, with Dan’s acoustic piano driving the sound. The lead off track, “To Be Continued” is highly atmospheric and the album soon settles into solid jazz groove. Recording and mixing by Tom McCauley is great while superb CD mastering by Bernie Grundman elevates the CD sound to a very high level. Speaking about Indigo in the following interview, Dan tells "The Indigo album was five years in the making. I’m very obsessive in the writing process, and I struggled to get together ten songs that I thought were good enough. The truth is that the tenth tune, “Spur Of The Moment”, was completed in the studio. Once the music was written, I thought about the concept and who would be the best players for the project." Over the years, Dan has worked with music legends like Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, Patrick O’Hearn and Herbie Hancock to name just a few. Clearly, that same high level of jazz professionalism has carried over to Dan’s solo output. After releasing 20 albums, Dan Siegel hits a real sweet spot with the relaxing and deep jazz sounds of Indigo.

- Nashville based guitarist Dave Baker is one of the rare breed of guitarists who can do everything. From blues to rock to jazz and Les Paul style, Dave’s all instrumental guitar CD features him backed up by fine players including Rich Redmond (drums), Gregg Lohman (drums) and Jay Gorman (bass) and other players. The sound is electric and even minus synths and keyboards, except piano, the sound is very pure. There’s even Latin jazz stylings on some tracks. On 71 South, Guitarist Dave Baker makes the art of instrumental music look easy and effortless.

On his 2015 CD, entitled Liars Incorporated, guitarist Strat Andriotis redefines the role of the guitar in classical music. The twelve track Liars Incorporated CD clocks in at just under 28 minutes but it’s filled with some breathtaking guitar-centric, classically inspired music. Assisting Strat on this CD are some gifted accompanists—Jeff Vidov (piano) and Adrianna Lee (violin). Also on the CD are Katie Avery (violin) and album co-producer Bob Doidge (cello). Although Strat grew up in Canada listening to Cream and Jimi Hendrix, his love of jazz was ignited by the Miles Davis album In A Silent Way. His early solo albums featured nylon string guitar and piano with samples and, following another venture into the realm of hard rock, in early 2015 Strat returned to the neoclassical guitar style. Inspired by classical music greats—such as Paganini, Satie and Beethoven—Strat recorded Liars Incorporated. The results are truly striking and quite satisfying, both from a guitar perspective and a neoclassical music perspective. Strat’s fluid guitar work is in total sync with the other musicians and instead of stealing the spotlight with his mercurial guitar skills, he acts as the central cog in a well oiled musical machine. Perhaps the most fascinating thing is that Strat has written all the music here, so while it may sound like it was composed in another century, the music here is actually a well honed representation of 21st century neo-classical guitar-centric music at its finest. Another good thing is, how often you play this amazing CD, it never seems to wear out its welcome. Liars Incorporated is a masterful guitar statement from neoclassical / rock guitar maestro Strat Andriotis.

- Canadian guitarist Johannes Linstead continues to make nuevo flamenco guitar fans happy with the 2014 CD release of Midnight Rhumba. Skillfully written and performed by Johannes and his band, the eleven cut Midnight Rhumba CD features a fascinating mix of instrumental Spanish guitar sounds accompanied by the sound of Gypsy violin, Afro-Cuban percussion, piano and accordion. Supporting Linstead’s Spanish guitar, piano, ukulele, percussion, bass and keys are a range of musicians who help to flesh out the soundstage. With track titles like “Calypso Island” and “Pineapple Grove”, there’s a definite tropical sound on this album. The perfect guitar album to blow away your cold weather blues, Midnight Rhumba is accurately described on Linstead’s website as being a “go-to album for any fiesta.” Midnight Rhumba is a welcome addition to Linstead’s ever growing catalog of instrumental guitar albums, that now totals eight albums released since 1999.

- Based in the Boston area, the band known as Esthema features the sound and vision of guitarist Andy Milas. An excellent example of music based upon 21st century progressive instrumental and World Beat sounds, Esthema gets it all together on their 2014 CD Long Goodbye. The sound of the eight track CD is often times deep and mournful, with the band creating somber moods offset by dazzling musicianship and dramatic music. Backing Milas are some fine players including the string sounds of Naseem Alatrash (cello) and Onur Dilisen (violin), while Mac Richey adds in oud and bouzouki for an even more exotic effect. The rhythm section of George Lernis (drums) and Tom Martin (bass) provides a wonderful anchor to the band’s often soaring sound. Esthema has composed some excellent music on Long Goodbye that matches the skillful craft of these musicians. World Beat sounds with a penchant for exotic instrumental jazz-rock sounds, Esthema builds a new bridge for 21st century instrumental music.

- Acoustic music takes a turn for the strange with the 2014 CD release of Arcadia by the California based band known as Fernwood. As indicated on the back of the CD art, “All music played by hand, on instruments made out of wood.” Essentially the brainchild of Gayle Ellett (guitarist of the legendary instrumental prog-rock band Djam Karet) and Todd Montgomery, this third album by Fernwood sounds like it might have been written and performed in a different century, yet the quality of the recording is very much state of the art. Just about every known acoustic instrument under the sun seems to have been included on the making of Arcadia, with the accent clearly being on World Beat instruments from exotic countries including Greek and Irish bouzouki, the Indian sitar, Chinese Ruan, Turkish cumbus, Moroccan oud. Interestingly, all these instruments seem to sit well with good old acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, acoustic piano, upright bass and much more. Also blended in for effects are field recordings and other sounds. Gayle Ellett is renowned for his jazz-rock and avant gard fusion sounds with Djam Karet so it’s a little surprising hearing him in such a blissful acoustic, World Beat moment on this third Fernwood album. With Ellett and Montgomery joined together in such a harmonious sonic moment, Fernwood’s Aradia redefines the essence of acoustic, World Groove inspired music. Audio buffs can either choose between the CD and vinyl LP to hear Fernwood’s Arcadia.

FORWARD FALL MUSIC - On the 2013 CD release of Field Studies, multi-instrumentalist Ben Cosgrove creates instrumental music that truly goes beyond words. Much like a lone man band, Ben performs all the keyboards, guitars, horns, electronics and more with some help from a couple of players. Clearly, Field Studies is the work of a one man band with a lot of resourceful imagination. Indicating the work of a traveling musician Ben explains, ‘More so even than most of my previous work, this is a record about places.’ Although the album veers in its moods, one constant here is Ben’s acoustic piano, with some of the sounds making Ben sound like a modern day New Age Vince Guaraldi. Even so, there’s some fine guitar work played by Ben and there’s even his banjo and other fretboard instruments too. One look at the credits, it’s clear Ben is something of a musical prodigy but it’s his compositions that will hold your imagination and keep you coming back for more of Field Studies. Just like the CD cover art of the wide open spaces, Ben Cosgroves’ music is panoramic and atmospheric.

FRESH SOUND RECORDS - Based in NYC by way of Haifa, Israel, guitarist Rotem Sivan offers up a fresh guitar vision on his 2014 CD For Emotional Use Only. Featuring a mix of originals and covers, the ten track all instrumental CD is a trio affair featuring Rotem’s six string electric guitar backed by Mark McLean (drums) and Haggai Cohen Milo (bass). Musically, Rotem’s CD mixes in a range of traditional jazz with a free fusion bop sound that is marked by a unique approach to improvisational jazz. Featuring quotes by Peter Bernstein and Ari Hoenig, the CD adds in liner notes by Rotem and Brent Black—the latter accurately describing Rotem’s sound as “a six string attack that is accessible and melodically driven while embracing the zen-like approach that simplicity is indeed the ultimate in sophistication.” Growing up listening to a mix of rock and jazz, Rotem cites both Led Zeppelin and J.S. Bach as well as fretboard jazzers like Metheny and Scofield among his big music influences. A fresh voice in the 21st century jazz guitar front, Rotem Sivan stakes out a musical vision of his own with this vibrant musical masterpiece.

HAVEN TONE RECORDS - Fans of instrumental New Age and healing meditation music will completely enjoy the 2015 CD release of Spiritual Haven by composer / multi-instrumentalist Russell Suereth. Created, mixed and produced by Russell, the Spiritual Haven album really takes the listener out there with its mix of unusual World Beat rhythms and other intriging sounding instruments such as oboe and other relaxing instruments with further musical flavorings from modern sounding synth beats, guitars, zither and much more. Commenting on the meaning of the album title, Suereth explains, ‘I believe people all over the world need spiritual havens. I believe music can help people connect to their own spirituality, which, in turn can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a fuller sense of well being.' In the following interview Suereth further explains his sonic mission by adding, 'When I created this music, I set out to create New Age songs that have a certain feel to them. To me, that feel is imagery of ancient places combined with modern relaxing tones. I also like to have a fair amount of rhythm and percussion.' On Russell Suereth’s Spiritual Haven, modern technology meets traditional ancient instrumentation and the results are timeless music magic.

MEN IN GREY SUITS - Musicologist Michael Clare has been a mainstay on the progressive rock scene for decades. Having worked with Gong founder, the now late great Daevid Allen and, having worked at the fabled Caroline Records in NYC in the past, Clare sets his sights on new musical frontiers as the bass player in the group Men In Grey Suits. Anyone expecting prog-rock might be in for a jolt as the band’s 2015 CD Return Of The Cnidarians is a mix of surf-rock etched with some near progressive elements, but only as a adorning. Perhaps it has something to do with Clare moving to Hawaii several years ago, but the ocean flecked instrumental surf-rock vistas have more to do with The Ventures and New York’s surf-rock heroes The Supertones, than it does with full Gong-esque prog. With Clare handling the electric bass, the 14 track, 55 minute CD features excellent support from his MIGS cohorts, including guitarists Robbin Henley Jr. and Chad T. Hamman with drums handled by Seann Carroll and Alvin Fejarang. In the spirit of Los Straitjackets and The Raybeats, Men In Grey Suits keeps the spirit of Hawaiian style instrumental surf-rock alive and well.

MOONJUNE RECORDS - U.K. based guitarist Mark Wingfield strikes jazz fusion gold with his 2015 CD entitled Proof Of Light. Joined by the currently hot rhythm section of Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis, Wingfield pulls out all the stops on a CD of daredevil jazz-fusion pyrotechnics. Speaking to about working with Yaron and Asaf on Proof Of Light, Wingfield adds, “I have been playing with Yaron for quite a while now, as you know he was on my previous two band albums. I like Yaron’s approach, he is an emotional player with a beautiful singing tone. He loves to play the rockier side of jazz but also has a strong sensibility for ECM style jazz. This combination is perfect for what I do. Asaf is someone I had been thinking about playing with for some time and a year before we recorded Proof Of Light, I got together with Asaf and Yaron for an exploratory session. This session went so well that as a result I started writing material for a recording session, which resulted in the album. Asaf shares my deep interest in Indian music and he also likes to cross over between rock and more ECM style jazz. He has a lot of very distinctive rhythmic ideas in his playing, so I was very keen to record with him. Yaron and Asaf have been playing together in various groups for years so I knew they had a strong musical connection. So these guys were the perfect combination for Proof of Light.” In contrast to Wingfield’s ongoing recordings with guitarist Kevin Kastning, Proof Of Light is a much rhythmical affair, mixing moods and improvisations that were clearly meant to be played loud. The CD liner notes puts together a complete interview with Wingfield discussing working with his rhythm section and his composing and guitar style. Compared to other guitar melodicists, Wingfield’s thing was always about the sound and the now, while taking guitar improvisations to the next level in the spirit of the classic jazz masters. As such, Wingfield’s distinctive horn-like electric guitar sound is as much Coltrane as it is Holdsworth, both clearly having influenced him to achieve his own one of a kind sound.

MOONJUNE - Moonjune has a 2014 CD out by Israel-U.S. based rockers Marbin. Named after the band’s guitarist Dani Rabin, the quartet features a range of tracks written, arranged and produce by both Rabin and the band’s sax player Danny Markovitch. Following the success of the bands 2012 CD entitled Last Chapter Of Dreaming, the band released a live album in 2014 called The Third Set. Recorded on their ongoing tour of the U.S., Marbin make very hot instrumental jazz-rock in the spirit of classic 1970s era bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, yet there’s also a solid rock element in play. Rabin is shaping up to be one of the finest of the new breed of fusion guitarists and backed up by a rock solid band, he cuts loose on a CD bound to please jazz-rockers and instrumental guitar fans worldwide. Another live release on Moonjune is Live At Orion by Indonesian jazzers simakDialog. The six piece band features solid musicianship from composer Riza Arshad (keyboards) and Tohpati (electric guitars), who are both backed up by bass guitar and a range of Sundanese percussionists, who add in some exotic sonic trimmings. The double CD set was recorded in September 2013 at the Orion theater in Baltimore Maryland and captures this adventurous band in fine form. Moonjune continues to corner the Indonesian jazz-rock scene with the self-titled 2015 CD release from guitarist Tesla Manaf. Tesla has been described as a young guitar prodigy, and his mainly instrumental CD borders on chamber jazz with a free form, avant garde edge. Featuring extensive liner notes by Dan Burke, the 14 track, 79 minute CD is attractively packaged while the music within features Tesla backed up by a range of Indo-jazzers. One of the more established acts on Moonjune, the band known as Morain, released Groundswell in 2014. Musically Morain sound very influenced by the 1970s Rock In Opposition movement and their free jazz meets chamber rock should have appeal among adventurous fusioneers. At the helm of this five piece, Seattle based band is guitarist Dennis Rea, who receives solid backup from his band mates as well as production aid from Steve Fisk. Highly adventurous music with no borders or parameters, Morain takes jazz-rock to the outer limits with the full bodied sonic barrage of Groundswell. For something completely different on Moonjune give a listen to to the album called Kai from the NYC duo called Yagull. Featuring the combined talents of guitarist Sasha Markovic and piano player Kana Kamitsubo, the album is quite different from the other Moonjune titles as it borders on easy listening, smooth guitar/piano jazz the blends in elements of New Age. The music is quite evocative in places combining jazz, neo-classical, flamenco and even soundtrack sounds. Sasha’s guitar is multi-tracked on various tacks adding to layers of sound. Several guests appear including Moonnjune guitarists Belado and Dewa Budjana. Like most Moonjune titled Yagull is intriguing music and well worth a listen.

MUSEA RECORDS - Back in 1997, the California band called Blue Shift released an excellent album called Not The Future I Ordered. The album made waves in the progressive rock community but following that, not much was heard of the band... until now. In 2015 Blue Shift returns with Levels Of Undo. The band now features a new singer named Denise Chandler, while the core of the band still includes founding members Joey Backenstoe (guitars), Mark Barton (keyboards) and drummer Steve Sklar. A sonic masterpiece, Levels Of Undo sounds great on CD and veers all over the musical map, taking well into consideration the band's roots in progressive rock, jazz and electronica. The diversity really shines through on a Blue Shift cover of the Rolling Stones 1967 classic “2000 Light Years From Home” while “I Remember Ted” is Backentoe’s warm-hearted solo jazz guitar instrumental tribute to the late great jazz guitar icon Ted Greene. As Levels Of Undo points out, Joey Backenstoe is truly one of the most gifted guitarists on the music scene and as such, he’s kind of the American version of Steve Howe. Like Howe, Backenstoe is proficient in both the jazz-rock and prog guitar worlds. Keyboardist Mark Barton is kind of the American Keith Emerson and like Emerson, Barton is very influenced by both prog-rock and jazz with special leanings towards the world of electronica and especially 20th century innovator Wendy Carlos, who in fact used to be Walter Carlos. Speaking to about the creation of Level Of Undo, Joey Backenstoe explains “We would each work on ideas individually, and then come together periodically to present our demos to one another. We would then hash out the details and work on the arrangements together. Steve and Denise had some valuable input when it came to the arrangements”, with Mark Barton adding “Let’s put it this way. L.O.U. is a product of the modern computer age. As much as we love to play together as a band, that wasn’t always possible during recording. The computer also allows us to agonize over and discuss every note. We have come to the conclusion that this is actually a good thing. I’m sure Beethoven did the same.” Whether your tastes lean towards progressive rock, instrumental jazz fusion, mainstream guitar jazz or classic experimental keyboard electronica, Blue Shift covers all the sonic bases in style on their long awaited
masterpiece comeback, Levels Of Undo.

NAÏVE MUSIC - Master percussionist Steve Shehan is well known for his prolific output of solo albums as well as his appearances on albums from a variety of artists. Steve appeared on the 2014 CD by synthesist Thierry David and amazingly, Steve has recorded and released a dozen solo albums, including a number of film soundtracks. Back in 1999, Steve toured with rock legend Paul Simon. Steve’s most recent CD, Hang With You features 19 tracks of mostly instrumental pieces that feature his patented, exotic sounding percussion work. A number of musicians appear including Gong legend Didier Malherbe. Hang With You is mostly jazzy sounding music but there’s also a cool New Age / World Beat sound in play too, making it a very well rounded sounding album.

NEW EARTH RECORDS - The New Earth Records label has been releasing high quality music for quite some time and they live up to their reputation as one of the top New Age labels with the 2015 CD release of Reiki Hands Of Love by the German artist known as Deuter. One of the mainstays on the instrumental New Age / healing music scene since the 1970’s, Deuter has released over 60 albums during the past 45 years and Reiki Hands Of Love contains more of his patented instrumental music stylings. The practice of Reiki is a long held relaxation and healing technique involving the laying of hands on the body of the patient and has long been held as a healing technique by New Age medical people in the know. Deuter taps into the healing aspects of Reiki and harmonizes his vision by combining a flow of haunting ambient instrumental music that features his piano, synths, flute, guitars violin, cellos and more, all played by Deuter. Deuter lives in the desert Southwest of America and on Reiki Hands Of Love he continues to use his music as a force for good to support the act of calming and healing. Although Deuter’s music can be appreciated anytime, the best time to listen to his music is often late at night when the mind and body seek the refuge of peace and tranquility as the soul travels towards the dreamy land of slumber.

ORIGIN RECORDS - Seattle based Origin continues to refine and redefine the spirit of 21st century jazz with a number of releases that borders on prodigious. Among their many fine recent titles is The Stillness Of Motion by The Scott Hesse Trio. Chicago based Hesse has composed a range of instrumental trio tracks while receiving support from his trio mates, Clark Sommers (bass) and Makaya McCraven (drums). The sound of this CD is very improv based free jazz. A guitar educator by profession, Hesse approaches his guitar like a sonic architect, building layers of guitar sounds. The sound of The Stillness Of Motion is very experimental - no chord melody music or easy listening stuff here. Perhaps Hesse sums it up best in his CD liner notes when he says, ‘I love the space provided in a trio setting and love working with Clark and Makaya. The music on The Stillness Of Motion is fluid, yet still. It contains several captured moments in time that will never happen the same way again.’ One of the best jazz guitar albums of 2014, The Stillness Of Motion is very hard core instrumental guitar jazz played by masters of the art form.

RAVCON - The band known as The Man From RavCon is essentially the brainchild of North Carolina based Mike Brown. A gifted multi-instrumentalist who can do it all, Brown and The Man Fro RavCon have released seven albums over the past six years. Following the critical acclaim of the 2013 CD release of Skyscraper, The Man From RavCon is back with The Puzzle Master. The 13 track CD continues onwards with a wide range of instrumental music that smoothly transitions from progressive rock to 1960’s inspired pop, ‘60s / ‘70s soundtracks to surf-rock inspired guitar music. Proficient both as a guitarist and keyboardist, Brown always gets the best sounds from his wide arsenal of keyboard sounds, especially his mellotron samples which evoke the heady heyday of YES and the Moody Blues, sans vocals of course. Back in the late 1990s, Brown made waves with the band The Ravelers but clearly since forming his own sound with The Man From RavCon, he’s taken his sound into the stratosphere and he just continues to improve. Although the music of The Man From Ravcon is shrouded in an air of mystery, it’s worth noting that Brown is a fantastic guitarist as well and he has a wide range of electric guitars to help him realize his progressive visions. So here you have a gifted American artist who can not only play keyboards, guitars and drum programming and fit them seamlessly together but you also have an artist with a unique musical vision, one who is worth hearing by fans of guitar music, soundtracks and progressive rock. When you need the magic of instrumental music to take you into the wonderful land of sonic intrigue, call on The Man From RavCon.

REAL MUSIC - California based Real Music released part five in the Elements Series by keyboardist / composer Peter Kater. Featuring 7 tracks, and clocking in just under one hour, the 2015 CD release of Etheria is filled with memorable and enchanting instrumental music from the Hawaii based Kater. Following in the footsteps of Kater's earlier Elements CD titles Air, Fire, Water and Earth, Etheria is actually the 5th album in the series even though there are only four elements so far known to man. Commenting on the album in the Etheria CD liner notes, Real Music director Terrance Yallop explains, “Wanting to create a new project, Peter and I kept referring back to the series until realizing the answer was right there in part of our conversation. If only there was a fifth Element! From that arouse the concept of creating an album representing the vast environment containing both our planet and its elements. And so Etheria came to be.” Peter Kater’s Etheria is overflowing with majestic instrumental music made crystal clear with his signature piano / synth sounds and enhanced by Native American and bamboo flutes and other heavenly effects. The cover art of Etheria is quite intriging and overall, the entire CD fits in well within Real Music's
celestial approach to ethereal and healing New Age instrumental music.

REAL MUSIC - Continuing to pave the way for world class, state of the art New Age instrumental music, Real Music released a new CD in 2015 entitled Crosswinds - World Flute Conversations by Indian flutist Rajendra Teredesai. The subject of Rajendra’s latest masterpiece is various flute melodies from around the world, including melodies from the Middle East, China, India, America and Bali. The windswept qualities of the flute are quite pronounced in Rajendra’s music. From his liner notes for the Crosswinds CD, Rajendra explains, ‘Most tracks on this album have a story to tell. If you listen intently you will discover that each track has the flute whispering deep mysteries and singing intriguing tales from the exotic and distant land of India, China, Tibet, Bali, Arabia and America.” Every song on Crosswinds has something unique to offer the listener. Of particular note is the lead off track “The Road To Byblos”, conjuring up images of Arabian nights and a song which expertly combines Rajendra’s flute with punctuated synth keyboard effects. The Indian flavored percussion keeps this track moving at a swift pace. From his original liner notes, Rajendra states, “This track is about a weary soldier returning after a long, hard-waged battle to his quaint little home in the picturesque Byblos, Lebanon.” Many of the tracks on Crosswinds are deeply meditative sounding, including track four “Jaisalmer Moon”. The track runs almost ten minutes and is one of the most sublime tracks on the Crosswinds CD. Commenting on “Jaisalmer Moon”, Rajendra states, “This haunting composition depicts the tranquility of the desert and the deep emotions experienced by the lovers as they sit by the darting flames of the bonfire in the golden sands, under the starlit sky.” Perhaps the coolest thing about Crosswinds is its offering a unique take on 21st century Indian music. Many Western music fans are familiar with Ravi Shankar and the unique contributions of his sitar in pop and World Beat music but the flute’s reappearance in Rajendra’s Real Music albums shines a light on a lesser known instrument that also has a rich history in the path of Indian music. Accompanying himself on flute, light percussion and a variety of synth keyboard programming, Rajendra made a lot of New Age meditation music fans quite happy with his first two Real Music titles, Divine Dimension and Path Of The Divine and, with Crosswinds he brings his artful musicianship to an even higher level. On Crosswinds, Rajendra Teredesai proves that the flute is a worldwide phenomenon that truly speaks the language of music.

RESILIENT RECORDS - U.K. instrumental folk music is alive and well on the 2014 self-titled CD from Kathryn Tickell & The Sides. A Northumbrian piper, fiddle player and composer, Ms. Tickell has won numerous awards and has worked alongside artists such as Sting and more tellingly, Irish music legend The Chieftains. Like The Chieftains, the music here is highly evocative instrumental folk music that evokes music of the Scottish highlands and Wales and the overall solemn beauty of the English countryside. The CD is kind of reminiscent of the legendary Penguin Cafe Orchestra and even the Barry Lyndon soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s movie of the same name, which interestingly also featured music of The Chieftains. With Ms. Tickell’s pipes and fiddles assisted by a range of musicians on cello, accordion and harp, the twelve track CD also features Sting guitarist Dominic Miller on several tracks. The CD booklet is filled with all kind of information about the music here. Although the music does feature a cover from the pen of 17th century English musician Henry Purcell, most of the music here are originals which only serves to underscore an air of authenticity and devotion by Ms. Tickell and her band of merry folk music makers.

7D MEDIA - A superstar filled CD/DVD set by Matte Henderson, The Veneer Of Logic is adventurous, daring rock-fusion music that borders on the avant garde side of jazz-rock. Mostly instrumental music, with voices that appear out of nowhere, mostly for effect, the music features Matte’s searing and soaring guitar sounds joined forces with drumming wizard Marco Minnemann (who is also listed on the front cover) as well as numerous other prog-rock legends including King Crimson members Tony Levin, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto, David Torn and a range of other musicians. Astute music fans have heard Matte’s guitar playing before thanks to his work with John Medeski, Screaming Headless Torsos, Henry Kaiser and much more. The CD speaks for itself but the DVD is really spectacular stuff, with the music mixing in the wildest types of treated, eye-popping video footage to fit the soundtrack. The Veneer Of Logic is overflowing with great sonic ideas, making Matte Henderson’s double disc CD/DVD a must for experimental music fans.

SILBER RECORDS - North Carloina based Silber Records is making ambient guitar fans happy with Closer To The Sea Without Moving is the 2014 CD by the band known as Yellow6. Strange name for a band and even stranger as far as the guitar music within. Also, the packaging is highly unusual. Track this down if you can find it. Just the packaging alone is amazing but the music really evokes amazing instrumental guitar bands like Explosions In The Sky, Noveller and for those who can remember the late 1980s and the band Love Tractor, this is for you. Essentially the brainchild of U.K. guitarist Jon Attwood, the band Yellow6 started out way back in 1998. Although he grew up listening to punk-rock, on this Yellow6 CD Attwood is clearly inspired by all forms of space rock, post rock, electronica, shoegaze sounds. Using a number of pedals and other high tech gear, Yellow6 blends a wide range of guitar sounds with sonic drones, pianos, synths, drum machines and more. Fans of ambient instrumental guitar soundscapes check out Jon Attwood and Yellow6.

SOUNDSCAPE PRODUCTION - A pioneer of the worldwide electronic music scene, guitarist Robert Rich has recorded over 40 albums spanning four decades. Although he began building modular synths back in the 1970s, as a teenager, Rich is perhaps best known for his multifaceted instrumental albums filled with otherworldly guitar sounds and sonic electronic treatments. On his 2015 CD, entitled Filaments, Rich combines a wide range of instruments including modular synths with a added flavors of lap steel guitar sounds and that’s just the tip of the sonic iceberg. A complete list of all the instruments on the CD is listed on the back cover of the CD. Thanks to the guitarist’s ceaseless ability to amaze his listeners, on Filaments, waves of sound combine for the aural equivalent of a trip into deep space. In the CD liner notes, Rich goes into depth about physics and cosmology as well as his theories of life on other planets and the possibilities of other forms of intelligence in worlds we do not even know about yet. The CD sounds dynamic and the cover art is truly other worldly. Even if Rich takes it to the extreme in his intriguing liner notes, the music on Filaments stands on its own as a strange and surreal sonic journey into the unknowns depths of deep space. A must for fans of techno guitar wizards such as Robert Fripp and adventurous electronic music, Filaments delivers a potent sonic charge from master synthesist / guitarist Robert Rich.

SUGO MUSIC GROUP - Known formally as Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam because of his book writing and musicology skills, guitarist Pascal Bokar released Guitar Balafonics in 2014. The ten track CD is a real mainly instrumental affair, mixing original songs with covers of Duke Ellington, MIlt Jackson, Horace Silver, Lester Young and others. The Paris born guitarist does everything in a tasteful way and the album has a very cool Wes Montgomery kind of vibe. Some of the more tropical flavored tracks feature a laid back Hawaiian reggae vibe. With his African connection and professional background, Bokar has written extensively in his books about the African connection in blues, jazz and beyond. Pascal Bokar moves colorful and upbeat guitar based instrumental jazz a step further with Guitars Balafonics.

Anytime The Supertones release a new album is primetime for surf-rock guitar fans. On the band’s 2015 CD Going To A Rock & Roll Dance Party, guitarist Tim Sullivan and company summon up 17 vintage instrumental rock classics played Supertones style. The Supertones have always featured top musicians and the current band seems to have hit a groove with Tim getting solid support from band mates, Simon Chardiet (bass, guitar, production), Seth Lipscher (guitars) and on drums Sammy Baker and Tommy Mattioli. Although clearly a great composer of the instrumental rock genre, on Going To A Rock & Roll Dance Party Tim Sullivan and company have chosen to cover 17 songs everyone seems to know and love including “Tequila”, “La Bamba”, “Yellow Jacket” and “Tel-Star” while including lesser known songs that work well played Supertones style. From the following March 2015 interview with Tim explains, “These are tunes we play at gigs that get people movin’ and groovin’. So far this has been a very popular record and people dig it." The CD artwork is colorful, featuring pics of the band in action. Although Going To A Rock & Roll Dance Party is a veritable party album filled with golden chestnuts from the heyday of surf-rock, there’s also another Supertones album worth hearing called All For A Few Perfect Waves that features 19 Supertones originals. As noted earlier, The Supertones are also planning another CD of all original music to be released in later in 2015 called The Sweet Ride. In the meantime, Going To A Rock & Roll Dance Party is another superb Supertones CD that will rock your socks off.

3 KNOCKS ENTERTAINMENT - Based in Miami Florida, Hot Club Of The Americas combines a wealth of musical styles. From Jobim inspired tracks to music inspired by Django Reinhardt and the original hot club sound, Hot Club Of The Americas released a 2015 album called Federico Britos Presents Hot Club Of The Americas. The group centers around the sound of Latin and Gypsy Jazz led by legendary violinist Federico Britos and the album is subtitled “When Grappelli Meets Latin America.” Grappelli of course means Stephan Grappelli of Django’s band and in that sense Federico’s violin is a good match here with the guitars of Jorge Garcia, who are joined by a range of fine players including Carlomagno Araya (drums) and Edwin Bonilla (percussion). The album is very playful and the Latin / Miami connection sound seems to permeate the tracks here which includes covers of favorites like “The Sheik Of Araby”, “Djangology”, “Nuages”, “La Vie En Rose” and more. Several vocals spice up the proceedings of this mainly all instrumental album. Liner notes by Paquito D’Rivera gives a good indication of the music within. Django’s Hot Club Of France is alive and well and living in Miami’s own Coconut Grove.

TRITONE RECORDS - The band known as Los Coronas aren’t usually thought of when it comes to instrumental surf-rock guitar music but fans of the genre are advised to give them a listen. Coming out of the Madrid, Spain region, Los Coronas boldly carry forth the instro rock tradition of legends like the Ventures, Dick Dale and The Shadows. Having a guitar-centric sound at its core, the five piece Los Coronas livens things up even more with the addition of a Mariachi style trumpet player, which when combined with the the surf-rock instrumental sound gives the music a kind of 1960’s style spy-surf sound. The band’s 2013 CD/DVD, entitled Adiós Sancho, features an album of all original material on disc one combined with a DVD disc of various live performances. Interestingly, the CD/DVD set was released by Sony Legacy Spain, which is I suppose Spain’s branch of Legacy. Even more interestingly, the music was recorded in Tucson, Arizona and mastered in Los Angeles. Not bad for a band from Spain. Clearly, the music on Adiós Sancho is highly imaginative, timeless sounds perfectly built by dedicated musicians for today’s surf-rock sound. The double CD/DVD of Adiós Sancho is superbly packaged with a color booklet of the band in Arizona. Vinyl fans may want to check out another recent Los Coronas release on vinyl called El Extraño Viaje as well. Spain has always been a great place for guitar sounds, now with Los Coronas, it’s even more of a guitar haven. Surf-rockers don’t miss Los Coronas.

VIRAL DISCS - Multitalented music producer / engineer Tom Newman was one of the early architects of the Virgin Records studio sound. Having worked closely with Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells, Tom Newman is no stranger to making great albums himself. He does so few of them so the 2014 CD release of The Secret Life Of Angels is a most welcome return to form. Taking a kind of Oldfield-esque approach this time around, the all instrumental sound of TSLOA, four years in the making, is filled with all kinds of studio wizardry as Tom performs everything on the CD. The studio sound, as you would expect is first rate, veering from Oldfield-esque type musical wizardry to a more progressive / experimental type of sound. Interesting to note, that the Viral label, owned by label head and guitar legend Paul Brett, features a logo that looks kind of inspired by the Virgin Records logo from the late 1970s. Anyway, Richard Branson isn’t putting out records that sound anywhere near this good anymore but thankfully we have Tom Newman around to show everyone just how it should be done. The Secret Life Of Angels is a 21st century masterpiece of dreamlike and very pleasurable instrumental music.

WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS - One of the rising groups on the current U.K. jazz scene, Partisans strike jazz gold with their 2015 CD entitled Swamp. On their Facebook page, the band describes their music as being “a trademark shot of gritty bebop marked with hard bop, early electric Miles, ballads with sustained delicacy, and rock riffs mixed with P-Funk grooves with fresh departures into electronic.” That’s a mouthful, but the quote is pretty accurate. Heading up the Partisans’ sound is guitarist Phil Robson, horn man Julian Siegal (sax, clarinet) and the rhythm section of Thaddeus Kelly (bass) and Gene Calderazzo (drums). The Partisans bring 21st century jazz to life on an album that has already been getting lots of rave reviews by a number of UK music insiders. The Swamp album is so expertly written and performed that you could leave the replay button on for hours and constantly be amazed by the sheer variety of progressive musical ideas in motion here. On Swamp, Partisans bring 21st century jazz to life with a vital shot in the arm. Jazz and fusion fans will not be disappointed with Swamp by Partisans.

ZYGMATRON - The Germans can be relentless when it comes to music. Modern day masters of Krautrock and the harrowing essence of industrial strength electronica, the band Kalamata lives up to the legacy of intense German music. The all instrumental power trio is centered around the guitarist of Peter Jaun, who gets solid support from a tight rhythm section. The sound of the self-titled Kalamata album draws on stoner-rock, psychedelic, doom, industrial and post-progressive rock. Not surprisingly, Kalamata list influences like King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad, which appear often in the space of a single track. This is clearly disturbing music that will take you to the edge of musical madness. Only the strong of heart need apply for the Kalamata experience.


- When chronicling the history of rock & roll, the name that will always be agreed upon among music aficionados and historians alike is Chuck Berry. Berry was born in 1926 and through the good graces of God almighty, Chuck is still with the living in 2015 making him 89 years young. Over the past 30 years, there's been so many great collections on CD of Chuck’s music and with the release of The Complete Chess Singles A’s & B‘s you can chalk up another fine Berry CD collection. Released on the U.K. based Acrobat label, the 50 track, double CD set features both the A side and the B side of every single released - from “Maybelline” in 1955 through till “Come On” in 1961. It’s true, as indicated in the informative CD booklet and liner notes, that Chuck endured a lot of unjust hardships in late 1950’s America, yet through his natural gift for writing a great song, he and his music were able to endure and thrive for these past 60 years. Another cool thing is that these tracks sound great in mono. All the hits are here, logically sequenced, making The Complete Chess Singles A’s & B‘s one of the finest Chuck Berry collections ever released on CD. Excellent discography info, while historical liner notes by Paul Watts ends with a quote from the late great John Lennon which reads, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” Enough said. Why stop at Chuck Berry? U.K. based Acrobat has so many amazing CD titles in their catalog and they continue to plunder the vaults of the biggest names in 1950s and 1960s pop music. High on the list of Acrobat remasters is The Complete US & UK Singles And EPs - As & Bs - 1955-62. Duane Eddy was such a huge influence on bands from both the US and the UK, including The Ventures and The Shadows, so this 66 track double CD set is a must hear for instrumental guitar fans of all persuasions. Complete discography info and 2014 liner notes by Paul Watts seals the deal on this most welcome Duane Eddy retrospective on Acrobat. The name Scott Walker will be known by fans of the music of 1960s pop wonders The Walker Brothers but not too many know that before The Walker Brothers, Scott was a bit of a teenage heart throb and those early rock ‘n’ roll years are covered on The Early Years. The music on this 18 track, single disc CD goes all the way back to 1958 and May 2005 liner notes by Austin Powell goes to great lengths to put Walker’s historic career into a timely perspective. Another fine double CD set on Acrobat is The Complete Singles And Eps - As & Bs by early rock ‘n’ pioneer Neil Sedaka. Complete discography information and 2014 liner notes by Paul Watts reads like a textbook on the history of one of the greatest singer-songwriters to ever emerge from the borough of Queens NYC. The hits keep coming on Acrobat, including a double CD set by Hawaiian music legend Arthur Lyman, entitled The Singles Collection, while early rock ‘n’ fans will no doubt want to hear a new for 2015 triple CD set by The Everly Brothers entitled The Complete US & UK Singles - As & Bs & EPs: 1956 - 62.

- The death of Jimi Hendrix in September 1970 was a completely unique jolt, especially for the teenyboppers who were just turning on for the first time. Like the shocking death of Brian Jones the year before, Jimi’s equally shocking death, left a void but, at the same time his genius was still being discovered, kind of like Buddy Holly. No one will ever grasp the why’s and how’s of Jimi’s death but one thing is sure - his greatest music was clearly ahead of him, especially upon revisiting The Cry Of Love, the first post-Hendrix album that contained a number of (what are now considered) standards that, at the time were also being played almost religiously on FM radio, way back then. So many Hendrix tracks, albums and live shows have been issued and reissued time and again but The Cry Of Love is/was still the album that best calculated who Jimi was and that also demonstrated the advancement in sonic technology that were being unveiled at Jimi's Electric Lady Studios on 8th Street in the Village. For those who don’t know, 8th Street, as it properly begins at 6th Avenue in Manhattan, was the center of recorded music culture in 1970. Electric Lady Studios was there true, but it was also the great music stores of 8th Street that will be forever etched in the memories of music fans. The record store, Discophile was the finest of all the downtown NYC stores in the early 1970s, just a half a block up the street from Electric Lady studios. Discount Records, at the corner of 8th and Broadway, was another central location for music lovers as was, a little later, Revolution Records, which was directly across the street of Electric Lady studio. That had to be, partly, the environment within which Jimi's music was created. No doubt, Jimi loved 8th Street and like me probably made that trip over to Discophile a number of times. Although much of the music on The Cry Of Love has come out over the years on other collections, like South Saturn Delta, it’s really that album, The Cry Of Love, with that artwork, that really hit the fans so hard back in 1971. Jimi really loved hanging out with Eddie Kramer and Buzzy Linhart, the latter of whom plays on a Cry Of Love session here. I remember Buzzy telling the story of how Jimi had just walked out of the studio and Buzzy put him in the car that took Jimi on that final one way trip to London. What’s even more amazing is the night before he died, Jimi was sitting with Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues in a club in London, before Jimi went home and died. Buzzy’s vibes on “Drifting” remains classic. One listen to “Angel” confirms that Electric Lady studio had the best studio sound in New York back then and The Cry Of Love remains a testament to that statement. As if that wasn’t enough, in addition to the 2014 remaster of The Cry Of Love, Janie Hendrix and Electric Lady mastermind Eddie Kramer have also reissued the original 8 song Rainbow Bridge album on CD which, like The Cry Of Love, is featured in a straight 2014 CD remaster. As great as his early work was with the Experience, the music on both of these original rock classics leaves no doubt as to the incredible new heights Jimi Hendrix was reaching for in 1970.

- The French clearly love American and U.K. guitar instrumental music. The French label Frémeaux puts that love to the test with a 2014, 66 track, 3 CD box set called Rock Instrumentals Story 1934-1962. CD 1 (1934-1956) starts off with various early guitar centric instrumentals by Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Bob Wills, Arthur Smith, Willie Dixon, Django Reinhardt, Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant and a whole lot more early guitar pioneers. CD 2 (1955-1959) follows the course with more early guitar instrumental sounds from legends like B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy, Link Wary, Santo & Johnny and others. CD 3 follows the guitar twang sound into the early 1960s with The Ventures, The Shadows, Dick Dale, Booker T. & The MG’s, Freddie King, Bo Diddley, The Chantays and many others. The three CDs are divided into 22 track segments making for a neat primer on the history of how guitar instrumental music became rock & roll instrumental music. The 3 CD set features nice clamshell packaging while the 28 page booklet is filled with rare pics, musical discography, assorted album cover artwork and in-depth liner notes by musicologist Bruno Blum, written in English. Rock Instrumentals Story 1934-1962 provides an insightful course on the history of how the instrumental rock and roll guitar sound changed the course of 20th century music forever.

RAVEN RECORDS - Australia's finest reissue label Raven Records has a mini-box set by The Box Tops. Featuring four albums and 7 bonus tracks, The Original Albums 1967 - 1969 recalls The Box Tops and their young singer, the late great Alex Chilton. By the Fall of 1969 it was all but over for The Boxtops but for that 2 or 3 year period they cranked out four albums of timeless top 40 tracks including “The Letter” and “Cry Like A Baby” that holds up today as pop standards from the 1960s. Albums here include The Letter-Neon Rainbow (1967), Cry Like A Baby (1969), Non Stop (1968) and the final Boxtops album Dimensions (1969). The in depth liner notes by Keith Glass takes you down memory lane back to the teenybopper daze when you were only as cool as your Top 40 hit played on AM radio. And from that perspective, it doesn’t get much better than The Boxtops. Combining stereo mixes with bonus tracks of “The Letter” and “Cry Like A Baby” in mono, Raven’s Box Tops double CD set is a must for fans of 1960s Top 40 pop.

- Not only is U.K. based Paul Simon a great musician and songwriter, a cofounder (along with his brother Robin Simon) of the band AjantaMusic and head of his own Stratotester Records label, but he’s also a musicologist. Having honed his skills in the late 1970s, Simon was affiliated with a range of artists as well as having put together a band called The Civilians. Way back in the late 1970's, The Civilians were slated to work with producer Trevor Horn yet, because Horn was busy rising to fame with his band The Buggles, the Civilians pressed forward without him and the rest is history. A lack of haste might have made all the difference but, missing the chance to work with famed producer Horn has led to a near cult like remembrance of The Civilians among certain music cognoscenti. With drummer Simon the core of the band, the quartet also featured lead singer Trevor Herion, who unfortunately would later go on to take his own life. The songs featured on a 2015 release of the till now unreleased Civilians album, A Taste Of The Future are packed with memorable and quite original sounding New Wave, synth flavored raveups that are highly reminiscent of that frenetic 1977-1980 period. So many great bands came out of that era and you can add The Civilians to that list. Explaining the story of The Civilians in the following interview, Paul Simon tells, “The Civilians lineup was Paul Simon, drums and synthesizer, Michael French, bass and saxophone, Mark Scholfield, guitar, and Trevor Herion, vocals. Of all the lineups I have worked with over many years, the chemistry between Michael, Mark and me was for me the best ever.” Fans of New Age and post-punk synth rock will enjoy The Civilians CD A Taste Of The Future. Perhaps Simon sums it up best adding, “It was a very innovative time for music as a new generation arrived on the scene.”

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