Record Label
& Music Spotlight









ACC RECORDS - Mixing Americana musical strains with power pop is a great idea that comes to fruition on the 2014 CD release of Harlequin, the second album from the North Carolina based band called Alarm Clock Conspiracy. Other influences abound on the 13 track CD including indie rock, power-pop, alt-country, acoustic folk and 1960’s rock. You’d think with so many influences, the music would be all over the map, but there’s plenty of musical focus here and the band takes a solid approach to their musical goals. The ACC sound is mostly shaped by the songs, vocals and guitars of Chris Carter and Ian Reardon and they get plenty of backup from their band mates James Hurlston (drums) and Wes Jameson (bass) along with several guest artists like John Keane. Recorded in Athens, Georgia, ACC’s Harlequin is a fun-filled set of 21st century pop-rock magic.

- It’s not often you’ll hear a modern pop album with lyrics sung in Gaelic, an ancient tongue from way up in the Scottish highlands. Singer-songwriter Willie Campbell explores his Scottish roots with his 2014 CD Dalma. The songs are really soaring, well crafted pop and though the vocals sound lost in translation, the tracks have an urgency that expertly combines pop with a Byrds-inspired kind of country rock groove. Some songs explode in full flight and some are more atmospheric but it’s all done in the best of taste. Two songs sung in English are featured at the end of the 12 track CD. Folk-rock fans looking for something fresh and different will enjoy the well crafted sound of Willie Campbell’s Dalma.

BEACHWOOD RECORDINGS - Singer-songwriter James Lee Stanley returned in 2014 with The Apocaloptimist. The twelve track album features another memorable set of breezy California pop marked by deep, introspective lyrics. Stanley released a pair of album tributes to The Rolling Stones called All Wood And Stones, with fellow guitarist John Batdorf, but as far as his solo work goes, The Apocaloptimist is James Lee at his finest. For guitar geeks, the CD lists some of guitars played on the CD and James Lee proves his worth as a guitarist of merit throughout the album. A smooth and funky cover of the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” sets a cool smooth-pop groove and serves as a diversion to the all original music on the rest of the CD. The instrumental “Etude In E Minor” demonstrates James Lee’s guitar prowess. Fans of 1970’s mellow rock icons like Seals & Crofts and Batdorf & Rodney will catch a buzz from James Lee Stanley and his easy on the ears brand of acoustic guitar-based pop and rock.

CARPARK RECORDS - Just when you’re getting older in life, it doesn’t mean you have to top listening to cutting edge music. Brooklyn based Carpark Records is right there on the cusp of 21st century music with the 2014 CD release of Breathing Statures by the NYC band called Young Magic. The centerpiece of Young Magic is the voice of Melati Malay, who is superbly produced by Isaac Emmanuel. The ten track CD was recorded all over the world and put together in NYC. The sound of Young Magic is best described as train of thought rock with a definite bent towards extreme sonic experimentalism. In the wrong hands, this could have been a disaster but in the hands of singer Melati and her producer, the sound is magical indeed. Also on tap at Carpark is The Way And Color by the band called Teen. The group centers around the sonic vision of three sisters - Teeny Lieberson (vocals), Lizzie Lieberson (keyboards) and Katherine Lieberson (drums) who are aided by bassist Boshra AlSaadi. Again, the sound is quite extreme yet sonically pleasing to the ears. The CD sound is accurately described as being a mix of brooding pop with minimalist beats and complex harmonies. Teen will bowl you over with a one, two sonic punch but you’ll be back for more. Lastly on Carpark in 2014 is Fortuna by New Zealand rockers Popstrangers. Not quite as harmonically dense or daring musically as Teen or Young Magic, Popstrangers, featuring singer Joel Flyger and some ultra hot electric guitar work, is nevertheless another welcome 21st century alt-pop CD release on Brooklyn based Carpark. Carpark keeps on the cutting edge of new modern pop music with their 2014 CD releases.

COOL COUNTRY MUSIC- The Swedes in Sweden love American country music and case in point is the 2014 from singer Cina Samuelson. Blessed with a rocking set of strong musical pipes, Cina gets it right on her 13 track Roots & Memories CD released on the Cool Country Music label. Not surprisingly, the album kicks off with a rousing cover of “Ain’t Had No Loving”, written by Dallas Frazier.Cina's album is actually a tribute CD, filled with spot-on covers of American country music icons like Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, Bill and Dottie West, George Jones, Dustin Tubb, Dallas Frazier and more. The album was tastefully produced by Cina and pedal steel guitar ace Berra Karlsson and features the cream of the crop of Swedish session players. With one memorable cover after the next, Roots & Memories is a great introduction to the 21st century country-rock sound of Cina Samuelson.

CROMERZONE - Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble returned in 2013 with her critically acclaimed album Flow And Change. Following the success of that CD, Judy is back in 2014 with a live album recorded in 2013 called Live At WM Jazz. Assisted by a full band including keyboardist Alistair Murphy, guitarist Jeremy Salman and others, the eleven track CD features live versions of music from Flow And Change, while other tracks echo her work as the original lead singer in Fairport Convention and her involvement in the very early King Crimson. The CD booklet reprints the original concert review in Prog magazine while and also features b&w pictures of the concert. For those who haven’t heard Judy’s music, she clearly remains a masterful vocalist and her presence on the 21st century music scene, despite years of being out of the public eye and ear, is a most welcome reminder of just how gifted she really is. While none her early musical cohorts from Crimson and Fairport are present on this live CD, backed by a fantastic group of musicians, on Live At WM Jazz Judy uniquely redefines the essence of progressive music and comes up with a sound that can only be described as 21st century prog-folk. Fans of classic English progressive music, don’t miss this CD.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - Also new on Eagle for 2014 is Planes, Trains And Eric by U.K. guitar hero Eric Clapton. One of the all time great blues-rock guitarists, Clapton has numerous CD and DVD titles to his credit since his days with Cream back in the mid 1960s and this new DVD should please long time fans. Filmed and recorded during Clapton’s 2014 tour of the Far East and the Middle East, the DVD features EC backed up by a hot band including drummer Steve Gadd, bass ace Nathan East, piano legend Chris Stainton and on Hammond organ Paul Carrack. In addition to classic live versions of favorites like “Layla”, “I Shot The Sheriff”, “Tell The Truth” and more, there’s also plenty of interview clips featuring Eric and his band. All in all, Planes, Trains And Eric features an intimate and totally rocking look at EC and company during their 2014 tour of Japan, Singapore and Bahrain. With the 2014 passing of Jack Bruce and Joe Cocker, Clapton remains one of the last seminal figures of classic British rock history. Another British rock legend, Deep Purple is given another look and listen with Deep Purple With Orchestra: Live In Verona. Although for the longest time missing original guitarist Richie Blackmore, the current Deep Purple lineup does features long time singer Ian Gillan and founding members Ian Paice (drums) and Roger Glover (bass), while filling in for Blackmore on guitar since the mid 1990’s is still Dregs’ founder Steve Morse. Featuring the band backed up by a full symphony orchestra live in Rome during the summer of 2011, there’s plenty of classic Purple rock in play on Live In Verona, making the nearly two hour live in concert DVD essential for long time Deep Purple fans. Like usual for Eagle Releases, the DVD is well packaged and features in depth booklet with detailed liner notes.

EARACHE RECORDS / SOUTHERN GROUND ARTISTS - Southern rock is alive and well in the grooves of The Whippoorwill by Atlanta based rockers Blackberry Smoke. Some have compared this band to legendary rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker Band and some tracks also echo Robbie Robertson and The Band, most notably on the title track “The Whippoorwill”. Lead vocals by Charlie Starr are neatly framed by solid musicianship all around including guitarist Richard Turner. Blackberry Smoke has toured all over the world, jamming with ZZ Top in Florida, and like Skynyrd they offer a rocking blend of country, pop and rock as well. Commenting on carrying the Blackberry Smoke torch forward, band drummer Brit Turners adds, ‘We love it or we wouldn’t do it.’ The CD is quite appealing looking as well, complete with excellent CD packaging and booklet with in depth liner notes and credits. With their 16 track CD The Whippoorwill, Blackberry Smoke have recorded a totally hot album of Southern rock.

ESOTERIC ANTENNA - Belgium based prog-rockers Fish On Friday follow their critically acclaimed 2013 Airborne CD with the 2014 release of Godspeed. Once again at the helm is group vocalist / producer Frank Van Bogaert and keyboardist William Beckers. Those who haven’t heard Fish On Friday yet will be in for a treat as their latest album maintains a lush sonic landscape from start to finish that makes the most of the fine compositions featured here. For the release of Godspeed, the group once again features guitarist Marty Townsend, bass ace Nick Beggs and the drumming of Marcus Weymaere. Also on Godspeed are several guest musicians, including the sound of flutist Theo Travis. The album is again superbly packaged with stunning graphics and full lyrics sheet. The CD starts off with the ten minute title track, which serves as a suite of sorts with plenty of melodic hooks and hair trigger time signatures. Frank has cited 1970s prog bands like YES and Alan Parsons Project as big influences but there’s also other influences here such as Tears For Fears and The Buggles and, true to form, there’s plenty of eclectic prog-rock sounds on Godspeed. Music fans will completely enjoy the 21st century prog-rock sound of Fish On Friday.

FORTY BELOW RECORDS - Blues-rock veteran John Mayall is unquestionably the “Godfather of British Blues”. For his first new studio album in five years, Mayall is back in 2014 with A Special Life. Long time fans of Mayall won’t be disappointed with A Special Life, which has his musical stamp all over it. Backing up the blues rock veteran this time are Texas guitarist Rocky Athas and the Chicago-based rhythm section of Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums). Back in 2007, Mayall released In The Palace Of The King, which was called Mayall’s 56th album and since then he’s also released a wide range of live recordings on his own online label Private Stash Records, so A Special Life is right up there among the 60+ albums Mayall has released over his prolific career. At 80 years young, John Mayall is still defining and refining the sonic template for blues-rock.

FRIENDS RECORDS - Featuring the alluring vocals and songs of Anne Watts, the band known as Boister returned in 2014 with Your Wound Is Your Crown. I say returned because this band has been around for a number of years, mainly under the radar, and having released their first album in 1997, this is actually their seventh album. There’s a number of fine players here including Warren Boes (guitars), Lyle Kissack (drums) and Glenn Workman (keys). The music is quite experimental and impressionistic. This isn’t pop with a hook and a beat. Instead Boister makes atmospheric pop. There’s also several instrumental tracks, that have a Bowie-esque feel. Sort of Bowie-esque by way of Jacques Brel, Your Wound Is Your Crown might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the sound really sticks in your head and before you know it, you’ll be hitting the replay button to dive deeper.

GLASSVILLE RECORDS - U.K. based band The David Rhodes features the singer-songwriter talents of guitarist David Rhodes. Rhodes has played with a number of U.K. music superstars including Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Scott Walker as well. Teamed with Ged Lynch (drums) and Charlie Jones (bass), the sound of The David Rhodes CD is adventurous 21st century rock that borrows various influences from Gabriel and others. One look the discography page on the David Rhodes web site and you can see Rhodes has lent his guitar playing to a number of artists, as well as earning a number of soundtrack credits, so it’s nice to see him getting some well deserved acclaim for his own music. The songs click, David’s guitar work is imaginative and the CD packaging is also first rate, making The David Rhodes CD is pick to click among fans of cutting edge U.K. pop-rock.

HORNBEAM RECORDINGS - Canadian born / England based folk music legend Bonnie Dobson made her name as the composer of the folk classic “Morning Dew”. Written way back in 1960, when she was 20. “Morning Dew” is just one of the highlights on Take Me For A Walk In The Morning Dew. Bonnie’s long awaited comeback album was released in 2014 CD on the U.K. based Hornbeam Recordings. Recorded over the summer of 2013 in London, the 15 track CD finds the singer in the studio getting solid support by top UK session guys including the esteemed BJ Cole on pedal steel and dobro, Dave Morgan (drums) and many others. With the album full of lushly recorded acoustic guitars, dulcimer’s fiddles, double bass and other folk-rock instrumentation, the sound is quite full and clean. Bonnie’s voice is a real joy to behold and when she hits those notes on her remake of “Morning Dew” in 2014, backed by these fine musicians, you can really feel a sense of history. Amazingly, that song was written way back in 1959 when Bonnie was so inspired by the famous Stanley Kramer movie On The Beach. Also I’m sure the CD is available as a download but if you can find the CD, it’s really well designed. With their Bonnie Dobson album, Hornbeam is keeping up England’s tradition for releasing really well packaged CD titles.

KAYOS PRODUCTIONS - Back in 1966, the band known as The Blues Magoos were lighting up the AM radio dials coast to coast. Big hits like “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” and “Tobacco Road” established the band with the teenybopper set and in 1969 FM radio went bonkers for “Never Goin’ Back To Georgia”. Albums on Mercury Records were well presented and further cemented the band’s image among pop fans. Holy smokes but Blues Magoos are back after 40+ years with a new studio album called Psychedelic Resurrection. A sonic flashback to the mid to late 1960’s, Psychedelic Resurrection still features founding Magoos’ members Ralph Scala (vocals, keyboards) and Peppy Castro (vocals, guitar) and both are joined by a number of musicians, including cameos by original Magoos’ guitarist Mike Esposito and original bassist Ronnie Gilbert. The best thing here is, Psychedelic Resurrection really sounds just like the original Blues Magoos. Original Blues Magoos fans will love this. There's even a new remake of “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” and other neo-psychedelic sounds to make it seems like it’s 1966 all over again. Psychedelic Resurrection is a most welcome comeback from one of the early architects of mid 1960’s American psychedelic music. With cover art to match the wild sounds within, Psychedelic Resurrection heralds the return of the legendary Blues Magoos.

LIGHTYEAR ENTERTAINMENT - Although they were big in the 1980’s, The Call ended when lead singer Michael Been died in 2010. Years after the band’s 1997 reunion, the core band reformed in 2013 for a live performance with Been’s son Robert Levon Been (of the band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) singing in place of his late father. As you would expect, there’s a highly atmospheric kind of ‘80s techno rock kind of groove in place and—caught live on April 19th, 2013 at The Troubadour in Los Angeles—the performance and recording is first rate. Backing the younger Been is the remaining core of The Call—Jim Goodwin (keyboards), Tom Ferrier (guitars) and Scott Music (drums). In the deluxe edition of the CD there’s a DVD included with behind the scenes bonus footage, while for purists there is also a 180 gram double vinyl package available.

MANGO MUSIC - A whole new generation of recording artists are arriving and they’re bringing a wide range of influences to their recordings. Case in point is the band called The Mangoes. Their self-titled album, called The Mangoes, mixes in power pop, rock and progressive rock and the effects are sonically satisfying. The 19 track album is the brainchild of singer songwriters Bret Bingham (vocals, guitars) and Tim Morse (keyboards, vocals). The album rocks up a storm and finds the two musicians joined by a number of players, including drummer Bruce Spencer. The band has good pedigree as Morse is a noted author who turned heads around with his acclaimed book on rock legends YES, called Yesstories. Tim also released a 2012 solo album called Faithscience. There is a bit of a mid 1980’s YES feel on the Mangoes CD but some may argue it’s more in the realm of The Buggles, Badfinger and The Monkees. Based in the Sacramento area of California, The Mangoes bring the spirit of 20th century pop-rock alive and well into the 21st century. The CD is nicely packaged and features complete lyrics and liner notes to bring the Mangoes story into perspective.

METAL POSTCARD RECORDS - Hong Kong based Metal Postcard is making sonic waves with their 2014 CD called Whisky Cambodia from The Cambodian Space Project. Apparently, these guys are from Cambodia and sing in Cambodian too. The band features the alluring vocals of female singer Srey Channthy and the band features a number of musicians including funk-jazz guitarist, and the album’s co-producer, Dennis Coffey and a range of players. Complete with actual Cambodian language vocals, the album is filled with infectious, punky rock that benefits from the talents of some great musicians. Also on Metal Postcard is The Fates, an excellent album by U.K. based Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates. A fine 21st century pop-rock artist, Edwards was clearly influenced by U.K. rock legends like Kevin Ayers and to prove it, he actually has some fine players on board, including one time Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith who adds in some of his supernatural guitar sounds in key locations. Throughout the album, Edwards takes a lot of musical chances but, overall, the CD is highly entertaining sonic enjoyment that is also quite a lot of fun. The ghost of Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers lives on The Fates. Another intriguing Metal Postcard CD release is Flow Chart by Tasmania based singer-songwriter Zoe Zac. Describing her M.O. on Flow Chart, Zoe tells, “I named this cross continental expended play song writing adventure "Flow Chart" after the title track of the EP and also by definition it has a great meaning. Written in Tasmanian, Beneath the branches off this flow chart my division remains unbroken. My weaknesses cremated, my heart beats to the mayhem. The CD was recorded in Phnom Penh and Hong Kong and post produced, mastered in Melbourne and launched in Hong Kong. Playing with different musicians and producers... I worked with acclaimed author Tom Vater, Professor Kinski from Dub Addiction in Phnom Penh and Matt Nicholson in Melbourne as well as Luke chow in Hong Kong! My band split up on tour, I got mugged twice, I got dumped on my birthday, the King was being cremated the logical conclusion was to go into the studio and collaborate with the guitarist from Pussy and LearJets! And play my heavily distorted guitar till I dripped with sweat. Lyrically I come from a history of spoken word. Flow Chart marks a period of time for me as as songwriter. I find the song writing process really healing and therapeutic.” We pressed Zoe further to discuss her future plans for her coming full length CD, and she obliged adding, “In January I will be heading back into the studio in Hobart with local producer to have a hand in post production of the 3 new songs I recorded in October in Hong Kong. At this time I also plan to record new works. These shall be added to Flow Chart to make a full length album which shall be released as a vinyl Lp on Metal Postcard 2015. I work full time in management position with a corporate firm. In my spare time I play electric guitar. There's a chance I will be touring to the New Zealand I feel like keeping it local.” Each of these three adventurous 2014 CDs from Metal Postcard are essential listening for 21st century rock fans.

- Liberation is the 2014 CD by Philadelphia based singer-songwriter Peter Matthew Bauer and it’s a great title that perfectly describes his music. Backed by a range of players and backing singers, Bauer sounds like a younger version of Lou Reed. Even though no one could fill Lou’s shoes, it’s kind of a tribute to Bauer that his songs and arrangements cut things loose with a riff-heavy range of pop and rock songs. Described as ‘a dynamic blend of soulful balladry, folk-tinged meditations and full-bore rock ‘n’ roll’, Liberation is both hypnotic and spellbinding in its sound and vision. Before Liberation, Bauer was the singer in the NYC band The Walkmen and on his first solo album he carries on the tradition of innovative pop music making. The studio sound of Liberation is first rate as is the CD booklet which features lyrics and very cosmically conceived cover art.

MONOLOGUE RECORDS - U.K. based singer-songwriter Jon Allen is making waves with his 2014 CD Deep River. The 11 cut album successfully veers from introspective acoustic folk-rock to a more full bodied bluesy rock sound. Vocally, Allen has a distinctive sound somewhere between Rod Stewart and Steve Nardelli of The Syn. The studio sound is first rate and the CD features solid accompaniment by several artists including Rich Milner on keyboards. The CD was produced by Allen and Tristan Longworth, so, between those two, it’s clear there’s a number of finely layered tracks with excellent guitar work and drumming. The album also features an evocative cover art and finely designed booklet with all the lyrics and pictures of the artist. Deep River is one of the most auspicious pop albums of 2014.

MULTI-POLAR MUSIC - Holland based guitarist and singer-songwriter Lonnie Ziblat returned in 2014 with another successful album by his band Modest Midget. The 12 track Crysis is a most worthy follow-up the 2011 Modest Midget CD release of The Great Prophecy Of A Small Man. Musically Crysis is all over the musical map, drawing on pop, rock and progressive rock sounds. As a pop vocalist and composer, Ziblat has the science covered down to a tee. Crysis features several instrumental cuts that bring to mind some of the music of Jan Akkerman and Focus but it’s the Beatles inspired pop and rock sounds that Ziblat excels in and Crysis is clearly his finest moment yet. Recorded in Amsterdam, Crysis finds Ziblat backed up by some some fine Dutch players. The CD is a sound investment and features an appealing booklet filled with intriguing photography and the song lyrics.

- One of the key members of the legendary Stackridge band, Mutter Slater could sing and write great songs and he was the band’s flautist too. Going in and out of Stackridge at varying times since they formed in 1969, Mutter was a key member on the band’s 2011 comeback classic A Victory For Common Sense, so it’s even more surprising to find that in 2014 Mutter has left Stackridge again but it isn’t all for naught. With the 2014 CD release of Absobloodylutely, Mutter further establishes himself as a solo artist. Backed by a tight rock band, the songs on Absobloodylutely offer a variety of late period Mutter music: one part pop, one part tin pan alley, vaudeville and even cabaret. Speaking about his band Mutter Slater tells mwe3, “We’ve only been together a year or two, but I agree that it sounds nice and tight. That is down to the musical experience, pedigree if you like, of the individual members.” Balancing the solid rock and pop vibe of Absobloodylutely, some of the tracks are more soulful and R&B tinged but each of these tracks accurately reflects the many talents of long time British pop maestro Mutter Slater. A 21st century pop/rock masterpiece from Stackridge icon Mutter Slater, Absobloodylutely brings the classic Stackridge rock sound alive and kickin' into the 21st century.

ODDIYO RECORDS - Vancouver based singer-songwriter Cary Heuchert is well known on Facebook for his keen insights into progressive rock history. Like many musicologists, Cary is also a gifted recording artist in his own right. On his CD debut, entitled Blue Rain, Cary Heuchert delves deep into the archetypes of rock and pop music and provides a fascinating assortment of folk-rock, psych-pop and progressive rock sounds of his own design. Blue Rain is self-produced and, while it may be more Emitt Rhodes than Paul McCartney, it’s Cary's songs that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds. One track here called “Maoershan” is very much in the Mike Pinder tradition of mellotron styled instrumental music. Speaking to about the wide variety of folk-rock meets progressive rock sounds on Blue Rain, Cary explains, "Yes, it started off as folk-rock, but in a progressive way, because I realized early that I wanted each song to be a little different and show diversity. I've always admired artists who were diverse. The Beatles perhaps started this trend and opened the doors and inspired other groups like Pink Floyd, Spirit, Traffic, Family and others. Bands which you couldn't classify so easily..." The tracks on Blue Rain vary widely from track to track, but there’s a cutting edge sounding early Traffic meets Nick Drake kind of approach here. A very cool album by a rising artist with a lot to offer, Cary Heuchert's Blue Rain is a fascinating look and listen into the art of 21st century progressive music.

PIXIESMUSIC - 1991 was a great year for music. Things were changing but that was the year The Pixies released their last album, until now. Fans have waited for this and the 2014 CD release of Indie Cindy will be musical nirvana for pop fans. Recorded during the fall of 2012 in the U.K., the 12 track album is packed with one great pop tune after the next. There’s definitely a Bowie like vibe in the music of Black Francis, who gets solid support from lead guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, Production from Gil Norton is first rate as is the album artwork and packaging which is equally mind blowing.

RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT - Between the mid 1960s and mid 1980s, The Kinks ruled the rock world. Group cofounder Dave Davies was always overshadowed as a singer-songwriter by brother Ray Davies, but Dave could always be on target with a track or two on many Kinks albums. With groups like the Who and the Stones continuing to tour, The Kinks haven’t done much since the early 1990s and their To The Bone era. Dave has made a number of fine solo albums over the years. Despite his illness back in 2005, the younger Davies continues onwards in 2014 with Rippin’ Up Time. The sparsely packaged CD does little to indicate the great music inside and the lyrics are poorly reprinted. Even in a world of download dominance, an artist of Davies’ proportion deserves a better package and art work for his music. But then there's the music which features some of Dave’s best songs in years. Featuring Dave playing a number of instruments, backed up multi-instrumentalist Dave Nolte, with contributions from son Russ Davies, the album combines a classic Kinks sound with a more primal kind of rock pulse that Dave excels in. Camp, tongue in cheek moments like “King Of Karaoke” mix well with more heartfelt numbers like “In The Old Days” and especially “Front Room” and spacier numbers like “Between The Towers” and the primal frenzy of the title track. In short, Kinks fans won’t want to miss this.

SLOW RECORDS - Sweden continues exporting fine pop-rock albums with new artists who sing in English in an effort to reach out to the international music market. Case in point is the artist called Slowman, (his real name is Svante Törngren) who is back in 2014 with the 12 track CD, Happy Boy. An excellent guitarist / composer and vocalist, Slowman rises to the occasion with Happy Boy. The closest classic rock comparison would to Bruce Springsteen, but the Happy Boy album also abounds with a kind of positive originality that will keep you coming back for more. Released after returning to the music business over the past decade, Happy Boy is a fab look into Slowman's original rock style. Further explaining his steady comeback over the past decade, Svante tells, 'My return to the music business was "The Best Of Slowman" that came out 2008, the second album was "I'm Back" in the Spring of 2010. And then in September 2010 I released my tribute album "Hey Jimi", which was my third full length album.' When asked to compare the wide contrasts in his music, Svante tells, 'You’re right in your theory about the two sides of my personality. And they’re linked to the two instruments I use for songwriting. If I use the guitar, I often end up with bluesy riffs and driving licks. If I sit down at the piano, the ballad side of Slowman is closer. Happy Boy is definitely the album I wanted to do now. Where I’ll be next is a white paper" Slowman’s band on Happy Boy is first rate and the memorable music matches the highly professional studio sound. The entire album flows start to finish, while track five “Every Heart Is Crying” would bring a smile to any number of Springsteen fans. With the release of Happy Boy, Slowman is one of the hottest current pop-rock acts coming out of Sweden, don’t miss him.

- Kind of a soul-pop supergroup, the band known as The Earth is a wildly successful collaboration between Dafydd leuan (drummer in Super Furry Animals), Mark Roberts (guitarist of Catatonia) and singer Dionne Bennett (of Slowly Rolling Camera). Just as she did in SRC, singer Dionne Bennett sounds like a psychedelic Fontella Bass and echoing the eclectic pop vibe of SFA, The Earth kicks that sonic football over the goal posts and into the end zone. The band’s 2014 CD release is called Keltic Voodoo Boogaloo, but don’t let that weird name scare you off. The Earth’s CD is highly accessible soul-pop with an array of ultra modern touches. Much like the always eclectic Super Furry Animals, The Earth makes music that sticks in your brain and these tracks will have you grooving along in short order. Fans of dazzling, cutting edge 21st century pop, give a listen to Keltic Voodoo Boogaloo by The Earth.

- Simply put, Leon Russell is an American music treasure. Having inspired both George Harrison and Elton John at different times in music history, Leon returns in 2014 with Life Journey. His voice might be a little more ragged than it was 45 years ago, but nevertheless Life Journey is pure Leon. Most of the music here feature Leon serving up covers of classics from the pens of Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Robert Johnson, Billy Joel, Paul Anka and lesser known composers of songs like “Fever”, “That Lucky Old Sun” and other timeless tracks. A number of musicians appear on Life Journey including the late great guitar hero Hugh McCracken, keyboardist Larry Goldings, bass legend Willie Weeks, McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and more. Interesting to note that Elton John serves as the albums’ executive producer, while the album producer is record label legend Tommy LiPuma (producer of the first two Dave Mason solo albums on Blue Thumb). Of course, Leon in no longer in his prime, so there’s no “Pisces Apple Lady” or “Delta Lady” here, but who cares? This is the master of space and time, Leon Russell and we’re all damn lucky that he’s still around to teach the new generations how to rock ‘n’ roll.

- Echoes of the Bangles and the Mamas half of the Mamas And The Papas can be heard on the latest CD from Willow Willow. Sure to be making waves in the music world, Listening To Music is a solid intro to the sound of Willow Willow singer-songwriters Jessica Vohs and Miranda Zeiger. The California based duo actually met up in kindergarten way back in 1981. In their early twenties, Willow Willow released a first album on the Mod Lang Records label and now Willow Willow are back with their long awaited follow up simply called Listening To Music. Backed up by a fine band of musicians, Willow Willow’s music is filled with breezy California soft pop sounds. Fittingly, Willow Willow is actually named after a song by the group Love. Filled with one catchy, soft rock track after the next, Listening To Music will make fans of retro pop very happy indeed.


ALCHEMY RECORDS - Back in 2013, guitarist Jon Durant and bass player Colin Edwin released the first self-titled CD by their band, Burnt Belief. That first Burnt Belief album successfully merged a number of instrumental music styles, mostly from the progressive rock and ambient jazz / instrumental fusion genres. As cool as that first Burnt Belief is, now in 2014, the pair have reunited once again for their second Burnt Belief CD called Etymology. Again, this wordless CD is never at a loss to put magic to music and in doing so comes up with one of the defining progressive guitar albums of the year. Masters of each of their respective instruments, both Durant and Edwin could easily fill up the sonic sound stage themselves but on Etymology they’re joined by three drummers who are clearly on a similar wavelength—Vinny Sabatino, Dean McCormick and Jose Duque. Also here is the soaring, symphonic violin sounds of Steve Bingham from the UK art-rock band No-Man. Clocking in at 70 minutes, Etymology is being described as a “fruitful symbiosis and a clear developmental path across their shared musical landscape that assimilates diverse elements from poly-rhythms, deep ECM style atmospherics and angular nu-jazz abstraction.’ If you have ears that are open to adventurous instrumental music that combines, progressive elements from both jazz and instrumental rock then you will completely flip for Burnt Belief. Burnt Belief’s Etymology is one of the key progressive instrumental jazz fusion albums of 2014.

BLACK TARANTULA ROCKS - The country of Holland is known for producing a number of fine musicians, especially guitarists. On that front you can add the name Black Tarantula to the ranks of cool new rock instrumental bands out of Holland. Funny enough, the band describes their music as “Netherkraut”, which I assume is a mix of Dutch rock and German “Kraut Rock”. Featuring seven cuts and clocking in around 38 minutes, their Deze Kant Boven CD has a kind of feel from both the surf rock genres and German art-rock bands like Faust. Spacy, linear stuff, Black Tarantula also include elements of psychedelic and garage rock in their sound. Guitarist Ernesto gets solid support from his Black Tarantula band mates. Fans of Link Wray and Los Straitjackets will enjoy the rockin’ psychedelic surf sounds of Black Tarantula.

CHRIS BIESTERFELDT MUSIC - NYC based jazz guitar ace Chris Biesterfeldt scored big with his debut CD entitled Urban Mandolin and now in 2015 he’s back with a new CD entitled Phineas. Essentially a self-produced jazz tribute to jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., Biesterfeldt’s 13 track Phineas CD features the guitarist in rare form backed up by the solid rhythm section of Matthew Rybicki (bass) and Jared Schonig (drums). The net result is a stellar sounding jazz album featuring covers of Newborn and other jazz icons such as Horace Silver, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington and more with the CD closing out with “Blue From Phineas”, the only Biesterfeldt original here. Jazz guitar fans will take note of Chris Biesterfeldt’s flawlessly played Phineas.

CRAZYPHONIC RECORDS - Guitarists still can’t enough of the surf-rock guitar instrumental craze. Generations have come and gone since the early days of Dick Dale, The Ventures and Davie Allan yet new guitarists keep coming and trying to emulate that feel, that sound, and so it goes. You can add the name Crazy Aces to that list of sonic emulators. Also haunted by the tone and sound of Shadows guitar figure Hank B. Marvin, Crazy Aces guitar ace Jeff Senn pulls out all the stops and tops his 2012 Crazy Aces CD with the 2014 CD release of Surfadelic Spy-A-Go-Go. Sure you’re thinking surf, psyche, spy and dance rhythms right? Well that’s what this is but Senn has a real flair for original composition and coupled with his fine guitar skills, and noted guitar building skills, the album is superb start to finish.

CRIME LEAGUE - A CD of postmodern, industrial strength avant gard instrumental electronics and sundry sounds, Reflective is a good introduction to the sonic wall of sound of Gnome & Spybey. The ten track CD, the third from G&S, features an all original set of sonic sounds that blends electronica with a more experimental, and often times harrowing industrial edge. The experimental edge often times wins out as this is not an album that's easy on the ears. New Age music this isn’t, but the overall approach does not suffer because of it. A number of artists guest, including guitar experimentalist Robert Rich. Fans of Eno’s more industrial strength avant-gardica will benefit from repeat spins of Gnome & Spybey’s Reflective. /

DISCUS MUSIC - Over in the U.K, Discus Music is continuing to release very adventurous music and high on the list in 2014 is Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere. A large scale, double CD project, the OUA features a number of musicians, headed up by multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer. Musically, the double CD is very much in the spirit of massive UK art-rock projects such as Keith Tippett’s Centipede along with more ancient sounding works by Terry Riley, France’s Magma, various types of Krautrock as well as influences from Sun Ra, to name a few. The astonishing sounding double OUA CD covers such a wide range of sonic moves, that it will get your head spinning in short order. Amazingly, Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere features a “working band” sound throughout, with the musicians recording in the studio over a two day period, all carefully edited and orchestrated to form a massive finished work. Those lucky enough to hear Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere will be amazed by the meticulous care and construction of a fascinating album that will be viewed as one of the great sonic accomplishments of 2014.

DAVID STOCKDEN MUSIC - U.K. guitarist David Stockden is making sonic waves with his 2014 CD Time Dilation. Essentially a one man band effort, the ten track CD features a cross section of electric and acoustic guitar based instrumental sounds. Stockden’s expertise at overdubbing himself on a range of instrumental tracks makes the CD a tasteful blend of appealing guitar-centric sounds. There’s even some tracks in the realm of Indian music and moodier, often times soothing acoustic / electric moments. Commenting on the time between his last release, 2010's Reflections Of Themes and the 2014 CD release of Time Dilation, Stockden explains, "It came together after a period of not being able to play due to injury. My hands had been playing up for a few years and I finally took the decision to not play for 8 months, which was tough as any musician knows. When I came back to playing in August 2014, I found I had to relearn a bit and it took my playing in a slightly different direction. I played a lot with my fingers rather than a pick. Because of this, my approach to music changed and that has been the most development that has taken place over the year,s technique-wise at least." Fans of guitar heroes such as Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani will appreciate Stockden’s grasp of various guitar instrumental genres. On the 2014 CD release of Time Dilation, David Stockden successfully merges an intriguing and highly listenable coalition of jazzy, rocking guitar instrumentals.

DEKATRIA RECORDS - 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.

DELTA MUSIC - With the double CD release of The Best Of Jack Fender the sound of guitar instrumental music is alive and well and living in Germany. The Austrian born artist is going by the stage name Jack Fender and thanks to some tasty guitar work, he more than lives up to his moniker. Released by the Germany based Delta Music label, the 30 track double CD set features Jack and company performing a number of well known rock instrumentals, including a range of Shadows flavored guitar numbers and other well known pop vocal tracks that work well as rock/pop instrumentals—from MacArthur Park” and “Let It Be” to “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”. There’s not much written about the guitarist and the music he’s chosen to cover here as the CD packaging is not very in depth. Aimed at guitar lovers and fans of the classic 1960s instro sound, the sound is excellent and the cover art of The Best Of Jack Fender clearly speaks of an artist that loves the music he plays.

DOUBLE CROWN RECORDS - Guitarist Dick Chiclet and company form the axis of the Michigan based band known as The Concussions. Having released Fall In Love With The Concussions in 2012, the band is back in 2014 with Break Up With The Concussions. Cited as being more heavy then its predecessor, Break Up With The Concussions rocks up a storm but throughout the band never forgets its melodic roots, especially on the CD closer, “Struggle In Overtime”, a track that combines Beatles / Shadows influences in a real heartfelt melody that breathes new life into the 21st century instrumental rock genre. The eight track Break Up With The Concussions clocks in under twenty minutes but instrumental rock fans will flip for The Concussions and their fab instrumental rock sounds.

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT - Highly influential rock fusion guitarist Jeff Beck is feted with a fine DVD release recorded and filmed live in Tokyo Japan on April 9, 2014. Predictably entitled, Live In Tokyo, this is the most up to date release by the legendary guitarist and fans will totally enjoy the sound and vision of Eagle’s DVD. One word to describe Beck’s approach on this DVD is the word arch, in the sense that there is hardly a wasted note and musical themes are oozing with intensity. A number of tracks here spotlight highly melodic mood music sequences that makes the most out of Beck’s Hank Marvin on steroids approach to instrumental guitar music. Beck’s band is also first rate, including Jonathan Joseph (drums), Nicolas Meier (guitars) and Rhonda Smith (bass). The Live In Tokyo DVD booklet is filled with pictures of Beck’s new lineup of jazz rock fusion all stars as well as in depth liner notes that include interviews of Beck discussing his highly eclectic approach to searing instrumental rock. Highlights are quite varied, featuring the guitarist revisiting classics from yesteryear including his famous Beatles cover of “A Day In The Life” along with other covers of classics from the pens of Billy Cobham, Mahavishu, Charles Mingus, Jan Hammer and others. Beck’s scintillating instro cover of the Hendrix classic “Little Wing” will leave you speechless. Several bonus features enhance the appeal of this DVD. At 70 years young, Jeff Beck shows no signs of wearing out his unique jazz-rock fusion guitar vision and Live In Tokyo is a surefire winner.

EARTHSIGN RECORDS - One of the finest recording acts on the 21st century nouveau flamenco guitar scene, Terra Guitarra returned in 2014 with Firelight. Spearheaded by the guitar duo of Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli, Terra Guitarra create timeless guitar sounds for 21st century music lovers. Every song on Firelight is filled with a passion and love of the guitar. Firelight is a most intriguing instrumental guitar album inspired by the primordial elements of mankind. Commenting on the album Bruce Hecksel explains, “Creating fire was arguably the biggest innovation on the planet. This new music is our way or remembering the old ways and trying remind the world of the importance of the basic elements of our existence - fire, earth, air, water and the sun’. Harmonically and melodically, Firelight sonically fixates the listener with a number of daring and dynamic fretboard moves. Melodically, the title track, “Firelight”, is filled with stirring emotions. Overall, it's a fantastic approach to the twin guitar guitar sound and is clearly a highlight of this album, while the CD closing “Coucher du Soleil” is a fitting finale to a memorable album. Perhaps those two tracks best represent the feel and sound of Firelight. Stylistically, the Firelight album is more like a complete journey rather than a series of short trips. Bruce also proves his worth as a fine painter, and his artwork and paintings in the multi-panel packaging also enhances the music. Further commenting on the album, Julie Patchouli adds, “This recording has a lot of rhythmic diversity and energy, a fiery spirit. We also take the Firelight concept to another level by thinking of our sun as the ultimate firelight.’ The best Terra Guitarra album yet, Firelight is a brilliant step forward for the art of guitar magic.

ENJA RECORDS - NYC based guitarist Rez Abbasi has been a mainstay on the world wide jazz scene for the past decade. Having released several critically acclaimed albums over the past ten years, Rez released Intents And Purposes in 2014. Featuring the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, the 8 cut CD is kind of a tribute album by Rez in honor of his big influences such as Joe Zawinul and Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Pat Martino, Chick Corea and more. All instrumental, Intents And Purposes is a fine showcase for Abbasi’s excellent guitar chops and he’s backed up throughout by a fine band including Bill Ware (vibraphone), Stephan Crump (acoustic bass), and Eric McPherson (drums). The mix of Ware’s vibes and Abbasi’s stinging electric guitar sound is most pleasing on the ears and the choice of material to cover here it stellar. Tastefully packaged and superbly recorded, with the CD booklet featuring in depth notes by the guitarist, Rez Abbasi’s Intents And Purposes is one of the top instrumental bop jazz events of 2014.

FIRE RECORDS - U.K. based Fire Records is breaking new sonic ground with the 2014 CD release of Fantastic Planet by the artist called Noveller. Essentially an “electric guitar project” by Texas-bred, NYC based guitarist Sarah Lipstate, the all instrumental album sounds inspired by fellow Brooklyn-ites Explosions In The Sky. As a guitarist, Noveller also sounds influenced by the ECM works of Terje Rypdal and even Robert Fripp, but her new music is even more cutting edge and perfect for the 21st century. Fantastic Planet is not Noveller’s first recorded work but, clearly thanks to the higher profile of Fire Records, it’s surely going to be her most visible and recognized work to date. Rather than an album of hummable instrumental tunes, Fantastic Planet is an instrumental outing filled with glacial soundscapes that provides the soundtrack to an imaginary movie in your mind. Fans of Fripp and all the King Crimson disciples, don’t miss this fantastic album by Noveller.

GENERATOR - The country of Poland is gaining more name recognition thanks to the Generator label. High on the list of new albums on Generator is Future City by the artist named Lunar Synth. Essentially the work of Polish artist Mark Wyrwas, the album is very much in the realm of Tangerine Dream and other German synth artists, yet there’s some clear originality here that is worth noting. Wyrwas has a PhD in the field of optoelectronics and on the CD he combines synth sounds with other instruments including cello, guzheng, guitars and various percussion instruments. As indicated in the liner notes, the nine track CD was very much influenced by space exploration and track eight—entitled “Cosmonautica - The Moon Landing”—features parts of JFK’s speech and snippets of the Apollo mission radio transmissions. All in all, Future city is a fine introduction to the music of Lunar Synth.

GREYDISC - Sonically surpassing the 2013 CD release of Dark Sonatas, the CD release of In Stories is the 2014 recording by the guitar team of Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield. With the release of In Stories, both Wingfield and Kastning embark on a new sonic journey and explore the lighter shade of their sometimes dark and exploratory sonic musings. From the following interview with both guitarists, Kevin Kastning explains, “At the outset of the recording sessions for In Stories we set out to do something very different from Dark Sonatas. Some of the previous albums had pieces that contained a very slight lyrical element. By lyrical, I mean more of a clear linear melodic content. None of those were predetermined; they just turned out to have a slightly more lyrical direction than our other work, which, as you know, is usually more dense and angular.” By employing this slightlly different tact, the music on In Stories achieves a new sound that this team of existential guitarists are well known for.” The In Stories CD booklet features some intriguing liner notes by Mark S. Tucker, who makes some interesting points about their music, describing the approach here as ‘improvisatory compositions, vistas struck from rare elements, shifting and evolving at a moment’s notice.’ Writer Tucker also accurately points out that the music of Kastning and Wingfield is quite hard to describe by using mere words. Using state of the art guitar setupsmerging Kevin’s guitar arsenal highlighted by his revolutionary 36 string Double Contra guitar and Mark’s ever increasing range of high-tech 21st century electric guitar sounds and computerized sonic enhancersIn Stories is clearly the most illuminating CD yet from these two dedicated fretboard explorers. Making sonic breakthroughs is par for the course on every album from each of these unique musicians, yet In Stories is in and of itself a sonic marvel that stretches boundaries for 21st century guitar. /

HARANT MUSIC - A rising musician who combines melodic instrumental rock guitar with a shred metal rock approach is Canadian guitarist Harant. Simply going by the name Harant, the guitarist strikes instrumental rock gold with his 2014 CD Unleashed. Key to the album sound is Harant playing together with keyboard virtuoso Derek Sherinian. The album is quite well rounded and, filled with a number of fretboard moves, there’s something for every guitar fan here. The best tracks are the more melodic cuts, “Hope” and the CD closer “From The Heart” but the harder rocking numbers are done so quite tastefully. Speaking about working with Derek Sherinian on Unleashed, Harant tells "Me and Derek connected on MySpace actually, he had an interest in what I was doing, so he ended up playing on my project. Derek is sharp, pro and fast with miles of experience and to the point. It was pretty overwhelming at first to handle that kind of an encounter especially as I was new at this. Come on! The guy plays with all top names, but he kinda coached me through it." Harant’s homeland is the country of Armenia and the track here called “Armenia” is a heartfelt tribute to the guitarist’s homeland. Being all instrumental with no language barriers, the CD is bound to be of interest to guitar fans around the planet. Harant's Unleashed is a vital and bold guitar statement. /

HOLLAN HOLMES MUSIC - The spirit of electronic instrumental music is alive and well on the fourth solo album from Texas based synthesist Hollan Holmes. A film animator by day and an electronica wizard by night, Hollan has been honored with several awards including 2013 electronic album of the year at One World Music for his album Phase Shift. In 2014, Hollan is back with yet another New Age synthesized masterpiece called The Spirits Of Starlight. Hollan cites a number of synth favorites like Steve Roach, Erik Wollø and Tangerine Dream among his influences yet his music maintains its own unique flair. With his four CD titles, Hollan is being heralded as a modern day master of ambient soundscaping. Summing up his own musical philosophy, Hollan explains, ‘Music is an escape for me. It is my sanctuary and it is essentially how I pray, how I purge my demons and how I lament. It is a deeply personal experience for me, but one that brings me joy to share with anyone who wishes to listen.’ Some might think an artist with such amazing influences might be based in Berlin or even Paris, yet coming from Texas, Hollan Holmes revolutionizes the spirit and scope of 21st century ambient electronica with The Spirits Of Starlight.

INFINITA RECORDS - Guitar maestro Lawson Rollins reaches a new musical zenith on his 2015 CD release Traveler. Commenting on his 5th solo album, Lawson explains, “Traveler is a musical travelogue for me, chronicling some of my journeys in life and evoking some of the places I’ve lived, visited and returned to in my memory. On this journey, my guitar serves as a kind of filter through which my impressions of the world are processed and expressed in the language of music.” Lawson always surrounds himself with expert musicians on his albums and members of his Traveler recording crew include violinists Charlie Bisharat and Mads Tolling, Randy Tico (bass), Dave Bryant (drums, percussion), Matt Tudor (slide guitar, dobro) and Cameron Stone (cello), along with members of the swing jazz band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Also on board is album co-producer Dominic Camardella on keyboards and associate producer Stephen Duros (drums, programming, keyboards). As he's proven on his previous releases, Full Circle (2013), Elevation (2011), Espirito (2010) and Infinita (2008), Lawson’s albums are always multicolored sonic excursions that center around his rhythmic and fluid fretboard work, which just seems to sound better album to album. Fans of state-of-the-art guitar music describe Lawson’s original music as both guitar fusion and symphonic flamenco jazz while there’s also a wide range of World Beat groove sounds that keeps the music inclusive. With highlights including the spirited sounding title track, the Euro-tinge of the Bach inspired “Berlin Bossa” and the epic three part suite, “The Urban Trilogy”, including the album finale “City Electric”, Lawson Rollins’ Traveler is 21st century universal guitar instrumental music at its best.

LOST GROVE ARTS - Guitarist Toulouse Engelhardt doesn’t make a lot of albums but when he does, it’s certain to be of interest to music and guitar fans. Toulouse was part of the “Takoma 7”, a group of finger style guitarists who recorded instrumental guitar music for Takoma Records back in the 1960s and 1970s. Other guitarists that were part of that group were label head John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Fans of both of those legends will catch a buzz upon hearing Mind Gardens, the 2014 studio album from Toulouse Engelhardt. The 13 track mostly acoustic instrumental CD is filled with 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar excursions that runs the gamut from instrumental Americana, New Age, Spanish style classical guitar, jazz, folk and more. Enthusiastically, Toulouse admits Mind Gardens is his finest album and in the following interview he tells, “Mind Gardens is my best effort to date simply because it encapsulates all of the above ingredients and captures the essence of my musical expression and maturity at this time in my life. I have always said that the guitar is a universe onto itself. The longer I play the more I realize that I really don’t know anything at all for the perpendicular and parallel lines intersect to form wondrous sounds just like the endless combinations of nucleotides inside a DNA molecule create wondrous phenotypes.” From a guitar perspective, Mind Gardens is quite diverse in its scope but sonic diversity and daring fretboard maneuvers is the beauty of the Toulouse Engelhardt guitar sound. The state of the art for instrumental 12 string guitar music reaches new heights of sonic excellence with Mind Gardens. It is quite rightly one of the finest acoustic instrumental guitar albums so far in the 21st century!

MELODIC REVOLUTION RECORDS - Texas based prog-rock maven Leon Alvardao is no stranger to the world of music and he makes that clear on his 2014 CDEP entitled Music From An Expanded Universe. The all-instrumental album contains only 5 tracks, and clocks in just under 24 minutes, but each track has a lot to offer music fans. The album features a definite King Crimson kind of vibe and luckily for music fans, Leon’s album features key contributions from King Crimson alumni Trey Gunn and Jerry Marotta, the latter from Peter Gabriel’s band. Other influences running through the groove’s of Leon’s CD include ELP, YES, Vangelis and Larry Fast of Synergy. Music From An Expanded Universe is only a jumping off point from Leon as he already has another in the works album planned that will feature contributions from Billy Sherwood and Rick Wakeman. Music From An An Expanded Universe is an excellent example of 21st century instrumental prog at its best.

MUTE - The U.K. label Mute Records has remained on the cutting edge of experimental rock music for decades and they’re sure to make fans happy with their 2014 CD from the musical unit called Land Observations. Featuring guitarist James Brooks, Land Observations made waves with their 2012 CD called Roman Roads IV-XI and their 2014 CD, entitled The Grand Tour is equally beguiling. Although the music of Land Observations is ostensibly New Age instrumental, it’s also cutting edge and experimental in the same way that guitarists such as Michael Rother and Vini Reilly of Durutti Column were in their heyday. From a conceptual standpoint, much like Roman Roads, this second Land Observations is well presented and features immaculate art work. Each track is pictorialized in the CD booklet with two pages of artwork that serves to enhance the listening experience. On the Land Observations blogspot page you can see artwork and video selections from The Grand Tour, but audio buffs and music devotees are advised to pick up on the CD. As per the case with 4AD, the sonic experience and visual experience collide for a perfect listening experience. /

MUTE / MINUS - The artist known as Plastikman is back on the scene with a new CD entitled Ex. The album is really a platform for the man known as Richie Hawtin, a/k/a Plastikman. The album is very much centered in the chill out, ambient electronic sound of pioneers like Tangerine Dream. It’s amazing to note that Plastikman has been making CD since the early 1990’s and Ex is a good introduction if you’re first catching up. Not surprisingly, Plastikman is based in Berlin Germany, although Ex was actually recorded live during a special performance on November 6th, 2013 at the Guggenheim museum, NYC’s famous art museum on 5th Avenue at 89th street. The high tech nature of the chill-out grooves here is well matched by the amazingly packaged CD artwork, which really should win a Grammy or something. Fans of hi-tech, 21st century techno / ambient minimalist electronica will catch a buzz from Plastikman’s Ex.

NEW FOLK RECORDS -- Minnesota based New Folk has a 2014 CD by Obsession by Spain’s electric bagpiper Hevia. The all instrumental 21 track CD is very refined sounding and, coming from the heart of Europe, the album sounds somewhat influenced by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells at times but for electric bagpipes. Interestingly, the album sold 2 million in Europe and he has over 5 million you tube views. Going by the group name Hevia, on his CD, and composing all the tracks himself, José Angel Hevia is aided by a number of musicians including a core band with electric bass, drums and percussion with added contributions from a choir, and several tracks with string sections. Pop instrumental and New Age music fans looking for something new and interesting musically, just might find it on Hevia’s Obsession.

NEW FOLK RECORDS - A master of all forms of acoustic guitar based music, Greg Herriges has made a number of albums over the years but clearly his 2014 CD Artifacts is his finest album yet. Subtitled Traditional Music From Around The World, the 17 cut CD is actually a collection of recordings from Greg’s soundtrack and instructional projects. Featuring Greg in the studio performing acoustic guitars, balalaika, bouzouki and other far out sounding fretboard instruments, the Artifacts CD tastefully blends music from far off places like Russia, Japan, India, Hawaii, Thailand, China and beyond. Key to the sound is Greg’s expansive world view as it pertains to global music. As much of the music here was originally featured on soundtracks and various guitar instruction books, each track is listed on the back cover and to the right is discography info that informs the reader as to where each track is from originally. On Artifacts, Greg Herriges more than lives up to his stellar reputation as a world class musician. /

RAFI LEVY MUSIC - Based in L.A. by way of Israel, guitarist Rafi B. Levy continues to amaze music fans with his unique guitar sound. There’s a definite Middle Eastern kind of vibe on his long awaited comeback album, 2014’s Uplift Your Soul, but there’s also plenty of instrumental sounding Latin / African flavored and Reggae tinged grooves to keep your attention strong. The beats sizzle but this album is very easy on your ears and should pick up the ears of guitar fans with open minds. Rafi handles all the electric guitars and bass work with fine drumming from Tamir Barzilay. Guitar fans into well produced, exotic sounding instrumental sounds will thoroughly enjoy Rafi Levy’s Uplift Your Soul.

REAL MUSIC - Pianist / composer Eamonn Karran made a lot of instrumental music listeners very happy with his 2013 CD Distant Sun and in 2015, Eamonn returns for his best album yet with his CD Forgotten Road. Evolving from the musical path of Distant Sun, Eamonn’s twelve track, hour long Forgotten Road album conjures a dreamlike atmosphere filled with memorable melodies that creates a sense of deja-vu with half remembered dreams that are more evocative then lamenting. Eamonn has cited artists such as synth master Jean Michel Jarre and from the pop world, pop singer Bruce Hornsby as big influences but clearly, on Forgotten Road, the sound is very ethereal in the best spirit of the Celtic-inspired instrumental music of Mike Oldfield and soundtrack composer Mark Knopfler. On Forgotten Road, Eamonn combines his tasteful synth work with his superb sounding piano and the results are both haunting and celestial. Speaking to about Forgotten Road, Eamonn explains, "As a follow up album to Distant Sun, Forgotten Road is much more of a piano based album, my primary instrument. When I first started developing ideas for Forgotten Road my aim was to go back to my roots and create something that was a “piano” album without being too cliché. I didn’t want it to sound like any other artist, it had to have my own sound and include my passion for ambient synth soundscapes mixed with traditional Celtic instruments. In some ways it is a natural follow up to Distant Sun but in others it is a completely independent album that I believe stands on its own and has a more mature sound in both performance and production." There’s no denying the healing New Age aspects of Eamonn’s compositions as those elements have remained part of his music since his surviving a near fatal car accident in 2011. There’s an air of reflection on Forgotten Road, especially with Eamonn losing his mother during the recording sessions. Life’s rich tapestry of dreams and memories are brought to light on the haunting sonic palate of Eamonn Karran’s Forgotten Road.

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.

New Age and modern classical music keyboard fans will be in for a treat with the 2014 CD release of Aquarian Dream by piano virtuoso Carmen Rubino. The 12 track CD is filled with superbly performed piano-based instrumental music that features Carmen's piano accompanied by his soaring synths. According to the artist’s web site, the album was composed to be music for your life, as its backdrop and soundtrack. Giving the album its sparkle and sonic shine, Carmen employs a wide range of high-tech electronic gear and software. Speaking about the making of Aquarian Dream in the following interview, Carmen tells, “I always set the highest standards possible when writing and recording my music. I then make sure the instruments are playing at their very best and compliment the music with their very own identity. My hope is that my listeners will experience their very own musical journey when listening to Aquarian Dream, and that the music will preserve a timeless familiarity for my listeners.” That said, Aquarian Dream is equally about the sublime sound that Rubino and his co-producer John Barcelona get in the studio that makes the album so appealing. Carmen's piano sound is very clear and shimmering and his synth harmonies are very well orchestrated, enabling Carmen Rubino to sound like a one man electronic / symphonic orchestra. Fans of Vangelis, Yanni, Mike Pinder's orchestral rock approach in The Moody Blues and Rick Wakeman’s instrumental albums will enjoy Carmen Rubino’s brilliant Aquarian Dream.

ROOTS ART RECORDS - Instrumental rock guitar fans will be in for a treat with Three! from Andres Roots Roundabout. The all instrumental album features a stellar mix of blues rock and even funk and Western Swing sounds. Guitarist Andres Roots is joined by his band mates Martin Eessalu (guitar) and Raul Terep (drums). Some of these tracks are so cool and funky (check out “Moby Duck”) that you can almost picture them in a Ren & Stimpy cartoon. Roots himself is adept in various blues and rock guitar mediums including electric guitar and slide guitar. It has been noted that Three! is very much centered in the blues genre, and while it has a definite bluesy edge to it, there’s plenty here for all fans of electric guitar instrumental styles to enjoy. What’s equally amazing is just how cool the country of Estonia is becoming, especially for fans of instrumental guitar music. From heavy metal to jazz-rock fusion and now with the bluesy, funky sound of Andres Roots hitting foreign shores, the country of Estonia is quickly becoming a vital zone for major instrumental guitar talent.

SECRETS MUSIC - Finland is renowned for their tasteful guitar players and as the band The Secrets prove on their 2014 CD Erottamattomat, guitar instrumental is a timeless art form alive and well in Helsinki. Featuring the guitar stylings of Marko Virtanen backed up by Kari Änäkäinen (bass), Esa Hallivuori (guitars) and Kimmo Koskipuro (drums), The Secrets are definitely retro but it’s all done with such respect that their sound is equally very much 21st century in scope. The thirteen track Erottamattomat CD features eleven instrumentals with only two tracks featuring vocals but the guitar is equally well presented on the two vocal tracks as well. There’s plenty of great rock instrumental bands from Finland and all of Scandinavia, yet few are as proficient and tasteful as The Secrets. Purists will cite The Shadows and The Ventures among big influences on the Secrets sound, yet in the end, perhaps the Finnish influence is what makes their sound so inviting. There’s a Secrets cover here of the Mondo Cane classic “More” that will please guitar fans no end. Several guest artists appear, including Finnish female vocalist Sonia Tammi, who enhances a track here. The Secrets make surf-rock with a decidedly European twist and the results make for a nicely recorded foot tapping album of instrumental fun.

658 RECORDS - California based guitarist Lee Vilensky leads his band, the Lee Vilensky Trio, through another round of instrumental guitar magic on the 2014 CD release of Destination: Love. It’s hard to exactly pin down the Lee Vilensky guitar sound except that everything he does works so well. The all instrumental CD features eleven originals and a set closing cover version of the John Barry classic “You Only Live Twice”. Barry, who died on Long Island on January 30th, 2011 would be quite happy with Lee’s cover here. Musically, the Destination: Love CD kicks off with a great surf-rock kind of instro called (not surprisingly) “A Good Day To Spy” and things just get better from there. There’s hardly a note out of place as the sound touches on surf-rock, jazz-rock, bluesy instro-rock and even soundtrack sounds. For Destination: Love Lee gets solid support from a number of musicians including drummer Jamie Lease and Bill Macbeath, who adds in acoustic and electric bass and is also the album’s co-producer. Some nifty pedal steel by Max Butler and organ from Steve Lucky spices things up nicely on several tracks. The CD cover art is very cool and the sound is first rate, making Lee Vilensky’s Destination: Love a very cool sonic destination for guitar music fans of all persuasions.

SONOLUXE - One of the most intriguing guitar collaborations of the decade, Fantastic Guitars is a most incredible CD from guitar icons Reeves Gabrels and Bill Nelson. Of course, Reeves was Bowie’s guitarist on the 1989/90 Tin Machine albums and Bill Nelson is the founder of Be-Bop Deluxe and a reputable guitarist in his own right. As great as both of these legendary musicians are, no one was prepared for the might and majesty of their Fantastic Guitars CD. The liner notes feature illuminating words by both musicians. From Reeves 2014 notes he explains that, ”What you hold in your hands is a series of conversations between two friends masquerading as songs”, with Nelson adding “It is a six-string cinema, a paean to the passion we both have for the guitar and the magic of music itself.” Fantastic Guitars is filled with a stunning cross-section of instrumental rock sounds, drums included, as well as spacier guitar interludes that will infinitely please fans of both these guitar super-heroes. With eleven instrumental tracks that take you straight into the guitar twilight zone, Fantastic Guitars will open your ears and mind to the infinite possibilities of the electric guitar and those expert practitioners who still sing of its praises. /

- Simply put, Indiana based Patrick Woods makes the guitar sound like a entire band. Other guitarists, such as Steve Howe, are equally adept at entertaining with just one acoustic guitar and Woods is definitely in that realm. Patrick’s 2009 CD Vortex Of Discovery made waves in the guitar world and likewise, the 2014 CD release of Candlelight Utopia is another impressive effort. Fans of Windham Hill guitar greats including Will Ackerman and Michael Hedges will continue to find much to enjoy about Woods and his guitar approach. Speaking to about Candlelight Utopia, Patrick says, "I would definitely say that this album is by far my best. Basically, your latest effort is always going to feel like your best at that moment in time. I personally feel like that is the way it should be, because there is no point in going backwards, and repeating yourself. Candlelight Utopia is probably the most diverse of any album I've recorded yet." Although there are no vocals on this CD, the CD booklet features Patrick’s track by track synopsis of the history behind the ten tracks here. Much like the wide open spaces of the midwest where he comes from, Patrick Woods’ Candlelight Utopia is a scenic, sonic journey filled with ten expressive acoustic guitar adventures.

- Hard rock guitarist Lucas Fagundes is one of the top guitarists in Brazil and he’s back in a big way with his 2014 CD called Spacestimes. The 12 track CD offers a barrage of heavy metal guitar-centric instrumental cuts and jams that skillfully combine a number of musical genres—from jazz-rock to heavy metal riffing. A guitarist not afraid to take things to the sonic edge, Lucas has developed a solid reputation as being one of the top fusion guitar aces in South America and with the 2014 CD release of Spacestimes, he’s kicked things up another notch. In addition to the musical aspect of the release, the CD packaging is also something quite amazing to behold. Lucas has pulled out all the stops on the CD packaging, making it an equally impressive part of the Spacestimes release. In addition to the packaging, the CD also features a color poster that features track by track liner notes from Lucas and sheds a light on his method of operation on Spacestimes. Assisting Lucas on Spacetimes is drummer Bruno Roll. Hard rockers and fans of the entire rock instrumental genre will get a solid sonic buzz from Spacestimes.

STEVE WATSON GUITAR - South Carolina based guitarist Steve Watson has an impressive list of album sessions to his credit including his acclaimed 2012 CD with the band Watson’s Riddle that also featured keyboardist Chuck Leavell. In the spirit of that jazz-rock classic, the sound of Steve Watson’s 2015 solo CD Heat It Up is pure 21st century fusion. Heat It Up reaches for and attains a musically accomplished caliber of instrumental jazz—one part smooth jazz and one part a groove based instrumental guitar sound that owes something to the jazzy and melodic instrumental guitar melodies of Southern rock bands like The Allman Brothers. Anybody here remember the Dickie Betts instrumental "Jessica" from Brothers And Sisters? Watson worked for many years in Los Angeles and was guitarist for soundtrack kind Mike Post, and there’s plenty of cinematic type grooves in Watson’s music. There’s a number of excellent tracks here including the sizzling sounding “Left Turn In Space” that works its magic as an intricate jazz fusion track. Watson gets rare support from his band mates including Matt Olson (sax), Keith Davis (keys), Rusty Milner (rhythm guitar) Greg Alewine (bass), Hazen Bannister (keys) and Big Tez Sherard (drums). Heat It Up is essential guitar based instro jazz-rock and is Steve Watson’s most impressive recorded works so far.

- Guitarist Steve Khan is a legend of the jazz-rock world. Going back to the late 1970’s, Steve has released a number of albums and his catalog is extensive, having worked with jazz greats such as Ron Carter, Dennis Chambers and Manolo Badrena, just to name a few. In recent years Steve has kept up his reputation as a choice guitarist thanks to several 21st century CD titles on the Tone Center label. Steve’s 2014 CD release is called Subtext and it’s a great CD filled with exotic sounding World Music grooves and lots of Latin music influences. Subtitled Subtexto en Azul, the nine track CD clocks in around 70 minutes and it’s a nonstop guitar feast from start to finish. A number of artists fill out the studio sound stage including drummer Dennis Chambers. The songs on the Subtext CD are a mix of Khan originals as well as covers of Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk. Extensive liner notes by Josef Woodard takes the listener through the album history and details regarding Khan's love affair with Latin music. With the album having so many sonic complexities and a myriad of musical refinements, Subtext is an album that is best appreciated with repeated listening.

- Back in 2012 guitarist Tim Sparks released a 20th anniversary CD of his solo guitar recording The Nutcracker Suite on his Tonewood Records label. In 2014 Tim returned with a new solo instrumental guitar album entitled Chasin’ The Boogie. The 12 track album is once again filled with a fine array of cover tracks and a range of Sparks originals. Simply put, Tim Sparks breathes new life into the solo steel string acoustic guitar sound with Chasin’ The Boogie. Jazzy with a fine pop sensibility, Chasin’ The Boogie features Tim covering The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison, Jerry Jeff Walker and more yet the Sparks original tracks have staying power too. Liner notes by guitarist Teja Gerken are followed by in depth notes by Tim that go deep regarding the history of the music herein. /

STRIKEZONE - When it comes to jazz drummers, only a select few can compose, lead and drum all over the course of one album but NYC based Christian Finger puts it all together on his 2014 album. The 13 track Ananda finds Finger in the studio with top jazz musicians including Jeff Ballard (drums), Dave Stryker (guitar), Pete McCann (guitar) Vadim Neselovskyi (piano), Adam Armstrong (bass), Zach Brock (violin) topped off by the evocative sounds of the Mivos String Quartet. There’s even a vocal track here featuring the voice of Bobby Harden. Calling Finger’s Ananda album just jazz would be a disservice as the album veers into all kinds of sonic complexities—from avant gard to progressive jazz-rock fusion and even neo-classical. Finger’s 3rd solo album, Ananda is complex, yet highly accessible sounding instrumental music. Finger is of German descent, yet his jazz sensibilities have found him recording and playing all over the map, including throughout Europe, Australia and the US. Finger has played and recorded with a number of jazz greats, including jazz legend Lee Konitz and he brings that depth of experience into focus on Ananda. Jazz fans looking to branch out into some deep and wide instrumental sounds will get a sonic high from Peter Finger’s Ananda.

TRAIL RECORDS - Based in NYC, Trail Records continues mining music in the field of 21st century cosmic psychedelic music. For a good cross section of new artists recording on Trail check out Psychedelic World Music - Discover. The nine track CD clocks in at just over 65 minutes and features bands from all over the world including Germany, USA, Russia, Italy and even China. The CD is proof that the power of music transcends nationality or language. The CD is mainly all instrumental so what you have here are a range of bands delving into the time honored traditions of cosmic space music and guitar based free form psychedelic sounds. One of the many fine bands on Trail Records making waves is Sweden based In The Labyrinth, who released One Trail To Heaven back in 2011. ITL weren’t on the Psychedelic World Music collection but it’s really a good one. Interestingly, the 13 track CD, clocking in at 60 minutes, was actually recorded between 1993 and 2004 and is a fine collection that touches on the best of this instrumental cosmic space music band. Forget Pink FLoyd, check out this amazing Trail Records retrospective on In The Labyrinth. Also out on Trail is Relations At The Borders Between from the band known as Beyond-O-Matic. A truly psychedelic album from the San Francisco band, the CD features the group blending in vocals to give their music an otherworldly effect. To their credit, Beyond-0-Matic accurately describes their music as being “improvo-bombastic space rock.” Recorded in 2012 and 2013, the music on Relations At The Borders Between is not for the faint of heart. Space rock fans feeling adventurous may want to give a listen to Trip To Innerself by the Turkish based band Siddhartha. The album was actually rec orded in Istanbul in 1998 and after additional editing in 2009 was released by Trail in 2011. Another spacy sound trip on Trail, Siddartha fits in well on a label that makes more than its share of sonic experimentalism.

ULTIMAE - Ultimae continues to pave the way for 21st century electronic music. One can only underline that statement with Radio Universe, the 2014 CD from France based Asura. The 12 track, CD is yet another example of Ultimae’s devotion to the ambient, ethnic, trance, trip-hop and classic electronic music genres. The album is the brainchild of composer Charles Farewell and is a 21st century take on the 1970s sound of original New Age electronic artist composers like Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze and Vangelis. Even with so may influences and such a vast number of artists and albums to be compared to, the Asura album is actually very original sounding in its own right. Taking its place in the prolific and impressive Ultimae Records catalog, Asura’s Radio Universe album is essential listening for fans of 21st century ambient / electronica.

UNICORN DIGITAL - In 2013, bass ace Antoine Fafard released his album Occultus Tramitis to critical acclaim. In 2014 Antoine is back once again with with a CD entitled Ad Perpetuum and it’s another all around winner of an album. For the 10 track Ad Perpetuum, Antoine is joined by guitarist Jerry De Villiers Jr. as well as drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Also on hand this time are guest musicians Gerry Etkins (keys), Jean-Pierre Zanella (sax) as well as Gary Husband—the drumming legend who is featured on a track here. Antoine’s rock solid six string bass work once again holds down the fort while De Villiers’ guitar just wails over the powerhouse drumming of Vinnie Colaiuta. The all instrumental sound of Ad Perpetuum is simply devastating and rocking up a storm, the CD tastefully refines and redefines the sound of jazz-rock fusion in the 21st century. Antoine has spoken about writing his music for specific instruments while also at times having certain players in mind for specific tracks. The bass ace couldn’t have picked a better crew of players for Ad Perpetuum. Antoine Fafard’s ten track Ad Perpetuum CD just sails on by on a cloud of sonic vapor trails.

VINTAGE SOUNDS - Over in England, guitar players are still living the Shadows dream of guitar instrumental music. Case in point is guitarist Roger Allcock, who released Backin’ Our Yesterdays as a self-produced release. Overall, it’s well produced and it’s a neat little album. The 12 track CD is mostly guitar instrumental covers of timeless music classics from the pens of Neil Sedaka, Mort Garson, Sonny Curtis, Bob Crewe and the like but it’s done with a nice light Hank Marvin inspired touch that should please fans of the guitar instrumental genre. Easy on the ears fare indeed but it’s done with the utmost respect and musical finesse. If you enjoy The Shadows and The Ventures, check out Roger Allcock’s Backin’ Our Yesterdays. The CD booklet features complete liner notes, info on the composers, the keys that music is played in and other insights. Following the twelve track album, there’s another twelve tracks featuring backing tracks so you can get out your electric guitar and play along with Roger.

WHALING CITY SOUND - Last year, drummer Gerry Gibbs released his Thrasher Dream Trio CD on Whaling City sound. Featuring Gibbs with Ron Carter (bass) and Kenny Barron (piano), the album was so successful that the TDT is back with a second album with the same players entitled We’re Back. Jazz legends, both Barron and Carter were childhood heroes of Gibbs and the trio’s unmistakable buoyant jazz energy returns for round two in full force on this second CD. Thrasher Dream Trio receives some vital contributions from guest artists including Warren Wolf (vibes), Larry Goldings (Hammond B3) and Steve Wilson (sax). The subject matter for the CD revolves around jazz impressions of R&B classics from the pens of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Burt Bacharach, Earth Wind & Fire and other notable R&B and pop music composers. Instrumental covers are nothing new but in the hands of these fine players, these classic pop songs spring to life again as jazz standards. The CD booklet is filled with in depth liner notes and details about the album and is also filled with new color photos of these fine jazz players. If you enjoyed the first Thrasher Dream Trio album then We’re Back should be right up your alley. On We’re Back, Thrasher Dream Trio breathes new life into R&B classics of the past.



ANGEL AIR RECORDS - One of Angel Air’s best CD / DVD releases in 2014 is the double CD / DVD Ronnie Lane Memorial concert. The late great Ronnie Lane was one of the cofounders of The Small Faces, which later turned into The Faces, the band with Rod Stewart. Lane also played bass on many of Rod’s early hits. Recorded live in concert on April 8, 2004, both the CD and the DVD of the show features U.K. rock legends galore including Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones, Pete Townshend, Paul Weller and many others. Townshend revives “Heart To Hang On To” from the album he made with Ronnie Lane back in 1977. Highlights include remakes of many of the classic ‘60s songs Lane made with Steve Marriott and Kenny Jones as part of the Small Faces. The sound and the packaging is first rate with other highlights including the amazing title track to Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake—the psychedelic beat prog instrumental title track that rates right up there with George Martin’s “Theme One” for quintessential Englishness. With Kenny Jones pumping out the big beat as he did in 1968, how can you miss? Also on Angel Air is Cactus Choir by U.K. prog-rockers Greenslade. Released on vinyl back in 1976, this is the first ever CD for the album. The music is excellent U.K. rock with a progressive edge but it sounds mastered off of a slightly scratchy vinyl pressing. (lol) If you can get past that, the music on this CD is excellent. Featuring Greenslade’s keyboards leading the band, including drummer Simon Phillips, through a number of instrumentals and several vocals, Cactus Choir follows a number of Greenslade titled on Angel Air, the label where Greenslade's prog legacy still lives on.

BGO RECORDS - U.K. based BGO Records continues to amaze listeners with their incredible CD reissues. As 2014 winds down, it’s worth noting a number of late in the year reissues by BGO including a double CD set from jazz flautist Hubert Laws. Laws may be a relic from the 1960’s and ‘70s but he’s left his mark with a number of amazing instrumental jazz albums and BGO have combined 3 of them on a double CD set called Crying Song - Afro-Classic - The Rite Of Spring. These three jazz classics - released in 1969 and 1970 - fit neatly on the double CD set which is filled with incredible covers of classics from the pens of Traffic, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, The Monkees, Francis Lai, James Taylor, Andre Popp, Don Sebesky and more. First released on the fabled CTI Records label, and featuring a number of jazz legends, these albums are brilliant and serve as a wake up reminder as to just how cool the late 1960s were and still are. BGO also has a single CD reissue of River by rock innovator Terry Reid. Reid rose to fame during 1969 and 1970 thanks to his Mickie Most produced albums on Epic Records. His 1973 album, River, features key collaborators including guitarists David Lindley and Robin Trower while production by Eddie Offord and Tom Dowd enhances the album. Like all BGO titles Terry Reid’s River features in depth liner notes, this time by John O’Regan. BGO’s 2014 CD release of Bang and Miami is a good look back at The James Gang during their post Joe Walsh period and the enclosed liner notes puts it all into perspective. Speaking of jazz legends, BGO has a single disc, two albums on one CD set by jazz vibes master Gary Burton. The 18 track CD combines Burton albums Duster (from 1967) with Country Roads & Other Places. Recorded and released during Burton’s RCA Records era, both albums feature name guitarists: Larry Coryell (on Duster) and Jerry Hahn (on Country Roads & Other Places). Speaking of jazz icons, BGO has a 2014 double CD set pairing two albums from U.K. jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. Recorded during the Mahavishnu Orchestra heyday, both Between Nothingness & Eternity (recorded with the original Mahavishnu Orchestra live in Central Park in 1973) and Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975 - with only McLaughlin left from the original band) offers a good indication of McLaughlin’s popularity during that exciting time in music history. Another jazz guitar icon, Lee Ritenour is given the BGO treatment with a 2014 CD release of his 1976 Epic Records debut entitled First Choice. Produced by jazz icon Dave Grusin and featuring the cream of the L.A. studio scene, First Choice proved to be the first release in the career of an exciting guitar legend. Each of these 2014 CD reissues on BGO represent some historic musical milestones and are each worth taking the time to listen again.

EAGLE ENTERTAINMENT - Fans of the legendary rock band The Doors will be happy with Feast Of Friends. Originally planned by the band in 1968 as “an intimate and rare look at the explosive rock band”, the movie was finally readied for release in 2014, 45 years after it was put into production. The movie features The Doors, in performance and at play, joking around as if to prove they were only human after all. Eagle’s DVD version has been completely restored from the original negative as well as being color corrected with the soundtrack remixed by legendary Doors studio ace Bruce Botnick. The DVD also features a number of bonus videos including a feature called Feast Of Friends: Encore as well as including a newly restored version of The Doors Are Open, a 1968 feature filmed in London and centered around the band’s December 1968 performance at the Roundhouse in London and The End, filmed in Toronto, Canada in August 1967. In addition to the DVD, the packaging includes extensive booklet filled with color pics and in depth liner notes by original Feast Of Friends producer Paul Ferrara. Doors’ fans can’t miss with this unique and exciting triple threat DVD from America’s historic classic rock legends. Another classic remaster on Eagle is a CD release from the late great Gary Moore entitled Live At Bush Hall. Although he passed away on February 6, 2011, Moore is still remembered as one of the key guitarists on the classic British blues-rock scene. Eagle has been keeping Moore’s blues-rock flame burning brightly and this live concert, recorded at London’s Bush Hall on May 17, 2007 features 13 live tracks covered from his then album Close As You Get and features a smokin’ set with Moore backed up by his band. In addition, the CD features new liner notes by Liz Barnes.

ESOTERIC - The history of late '60s / early 1970s rock from England reads like a text book filled with 20th century musical greatness. In England’s post-Beatles landscape, by 1970 the stage was being set for a new brand of progressive music inspired by The Beatles, yet ready to take it to the next level. Bands like YES and Jethro Tull were reinventing the concept of the long playing vinyl album as a musical art form, while, solo artists such as Elton John and David Bowie were both maturing at light speed pace. Another U.K. based artist interconnected with both Elton and Bowie was South African native John Kongos. Kongos had made inroads with his late 1960s and early ‘70s music, yet with international success elusive, something was missing. That crucial missing piece in the Kongos repertoire was found on the 1971 Lp release of the Kongos album. Fortified by a pair of hit singles in “Tokoloshe Man” and “(He’s Gonna) Step On You Again”, the ten track Kongos album quickly became a favorite among early Elton and Bowie fans, while carving out a unique and completely original niche all its own. Despite releasing several singles in the wake of the Kongos album, John Kongos soon disappeared from the mainstream pop landscape, leaving rock superstardom for a behind the scenes vantage point that maximized his interest in studio recording and recording technology. His exit as a contender and big name rock artist was not lost on his fans and, in the decades that followed, John’s name and legacy has always remained a bright spot in the memories of early ‘70s pop fans. Since those heady days, the Kongos album has been reissued on CD at various points, including an early 2004 remaster of the American nine track Elektra Lp, reissued on the now defunkt, L.A. based Collector’s Choice imprint. Ten years after, at the time of writing this in 2014, it’s worth noting that, also in 2014, the prodigious Esoteric label in London has reissued the Kongos album one more time, pairing the original ten track U.K. album with nine singles, collected here as bonus tracks, while also including historically pertinent liner notes by Michael Heatley. Also included in Esoteric’s 19 track 2014 Kongos remaster are rare pictures of John along with complete lyrics of all ten songs from the Kongos album. Thanks to Esoteric's excellent work as one of the leading reissue labels in the U.K. and in fact, the world today, music fans who want to revisit this vital slice of vintage rock history from late 1971 can pick it up once again. What more could a fan of pop culture history want?

FIRE RECORDS - U.K. based Fire Records is making waves with a 2014 CD retrospective called The BBC Sessions from the band known as The Chills. Very much rooted in the post punk sounds of the early 1980s, the New Zealand based Chills featured singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps. The Chills cite David Bowie as a big influence so that heady Bowie-inspired sound is never far away. As the title indicates, The BBC Sessions were recorded over the course of three different John Peel radio shows. Best track here is the post punk urgency of track 5, “Dan Destiny And The Silver Dawn”, a majestic instrumental called “Moonlight On Flesh” and the upbeat bounce of Track 10, “Christmas Chimes”. The band has a cool punk groove going on throughout and the CD is appealingly packaged complete with discography information. Keep your eyes peeled for a new Chills album, Silver Bullets, set for 2015.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA - One of the key musicians from the dawn of late 1960’s progressive rock, the late great Hugh Hopper passed away in June 2009. Considered as a founding member of classic U.K. prog outfit Soft Machine, strangely enough replacing Kevin Ayers on bass in 1969, Hopper rose through the ranks and released a large body of work before his untimely passing. Fans of Hopper and Soft Machine can celebrate his work thanks to a voluminous body of work, encompassing over sixty different albums Hugh recorded with various bands and as a solo artist. Gonzo’s 10 CD series is appropriately entitled Dedicated To Hugh and the first two installments—Memories (Volume 1 - a cross section of tracks spanning Hopper’s career, starting in 1969) and Frangloband (Volume 2 - Live at The Triton Club, Paris 2004) were released in mid 2014. Each of these first two CDs is packed with detailed liner notes and rare pics of Hopper with a number of key bands and musicians. Memories features in depth interview and liner notes while Frangloband features more modest packaging including liner notes by Aymeric Leroy. Released by the great U.K. based label Gonzo Multimedia, each CD in the series was superbly compiled, edited and mastered by Michael King. Fans of Soft Machine as well as Hopper’s prodigious output in a number of bands will enjoy this in depth look into the archives of a real hero of U.K. prog-rock. /

/ MVD - One of the founding architects of 20th century rock music, Jack Bruce died on October 25, 2014. It was clearly one of the biggest losses for the music world as Jack had just released his album Silver Rails earlier in 2014. This double DVD set, released on the German-based MVD Records features a memorable concert that dates back to 1993, in honor of Jack’s 50th birthday. Although the music had been released on CD earlier, this is the first time the video footage of the entire concert has been issued. In some ways, the 34 track. double DVD set is the one the great live documents of Jack. The concert starts off low-key and eventually lifts off as a full fledged rock show complete with cool stage setting. Appearing with Jack as he sings and plays some of his most famous songs are a who’s who of rock greatness including legends like Ginger Baker, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Gary Husband, Gary Moore, Clem Clemson, Bernie Worrell, Maggie Reilly and much more. Plus, unlike the earlier CD versions of this concert, the DVD features the entire show. Some versions feature an additional CD, and there’s also a version with another DVD with additional footage and interviews, but the key here are the two DVDs, which captures all the festivities of Jack’s 50th birthday party. /

MPL / HEAR MUSIC / CONCORD MUSIC GROUP - Following the massive commercial success of Band On The Run in 1974, Paul McCartney & Wings released Venus And Mars in 1975. While John Lennon was making babies on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Paul and Wings were busy touring the stadiums of the world and with Venus And Mars they had ample reasons to keep the Wings name front and center in the music world. The original 13 track Venus And Mars album contained a bouncy hit single called “Listen To What The Man Said” and other songs like “Rock Show” and “Letting Go” to keep the Beatles / Wings sound all over mid ‘70s radio. Even with such a great McCartney / Wings album flooding the radio airwaves of 1975, other good things can be said about a number of other songs by Paul that were quite overlooked back then. With the entire Venus And Mars taking up the first CD, this 2014 reissue of Venus And Mars comes with a second CD filled with numerous mid to late 1970s songs by Paul that were hardly noticed way back then. So with two CDs, including a bonus CD of 14 rarities, this 2014 double CD set of Venus And Mars is like the holy grail for McCartney fans. CD 2 here kicks off with a pair of rare single tracks by Paul, “Junior’s Farm” and “Sally G” but that’s just where the fun starts. Also included on the 14 track disc two are other rarities and remixes that will amaze those who think Venus And Mars was just another McCartney / Wings album. Rarely heard McCartney instrumentals like “Bridge On The River Suite” and “Lunch Box / Odd Sox” mix things up with rare Macca from the One Hand Clapping soundtrack, an early version of “Rock Show”, a single edit of “Letting Go”, the haunting “4th Of July” and even a version of “Baby Face.” The sound of this 2014 reissue of Venus And Mars is first rate and the double CD set comes with a wealth of Venus And Mars era pics and artwork. McCartney and Wings fans will also note that Venus And Mars was reissued at the same time as the 2014 reissue of Wings At The Speed Of Sound. Released in early 1976, Speed Of Sound was slightly less influential than Venus And Mars but no less popular. That said, the 2014 double CD reissue of Speed Of Sound, features the original 11 track SOS album remastered on CD 1, with a second CD featuring just seven bonus cuts. Even so, McCartney fans will welcome these two 2014 double CD remasters that will soon be followed by 2015 reissues of Paul’s second and third solo albums of the 1980’s, Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace.

RAVEN RECORDS - Fans of the original lineup of The Byrds will want to check out Raven’s 2014 CD reissue of the band’s famous reunion in 1973. Apparently the album was panned by some short sighted critics and amidst the burgeoning prog rock revolution of the early 1970s, The Byrds were almost overlooked by certain segments of the audience then. There are some flashbacks to the band’s early years but it mostly clears the way for the coming mid 1970’s era of stadium rock. Produced by Byrds cofounder David Crosby, the album benefits from wall of sound harmonies by the original five piece band including Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke. It’s been said that the album suffers from the lack of a producer who could crack the whip and rescue them from somewhat bland pop. The vocals are the best part of this album. Raven’s reissue features the original eleven cut album and two bonus tracks by Gene Clark, cut around the same time that features the entire original five piece Byrds' lineup. One weird track here is a version of David Crosby’s track “Laughing”, which as redone here harks back to the Younger Then Yesterday era. Also on Raven in 2014 is a double CD set by folk-rock balladeer John Prine called Angels From Montgomery: 4 Essential Albums 1971-1975. Albums featured include the self-titled John Prine (1971), Diamonds In The Rough (1972), Sweet Revenge (1973) and Common Sense (1975). U.K. rockers Foghat were a mainstay on the FM radio dial in the early 1970s and the band is remembered on the 2014 double CD set entitled Drivin’ Wheels: Best Of 1972-1982. Foghat carried on the tradition of late 1960’s blues rock band Savoy Brown but the group really streamlined their sound to meet the sonic expectations of FM radio trends. A very cool set tilted towards original Foghat fans, the 32 track double CD set draws on ten different Foghat albums including studio versions of all the bands original hit singles, complete with appealing packaging and extensive CD booklet.

REAL WORLD RECORDS - Has it really been 25 years since Peter Gabriel started Real World Records? The one time lead singer and guiding light of Genesis went full blown into World Music and the music world hasn’t been the same since. The 2014 release of a three CD box set called Real World 25 celebrates two and a half decades of Real World music releases. Enclosed in an appealing looking clamshell box, the three CDs enclosed feature highlights from the many albums the label as released. Although the music is mostly exotic sounding World Beat kind of music, there’s also certain progressive rock and pop etchings on a lot of the tracks here. With so much music to choose from, listeners are bound to have their favorites. Music from exotic locales like Tanzania, India and Uganda mix things up nicely with various music from the U.S., England, Ireland and elsewhere. One thing is certain and that is that the high quality of music provides a seamless listening experience that is both haunting, educational and entertaining. Summing up the 25 experience, Gabriel is quoted as saying, ‘Looking back we realize how lucky were were to be working with so many extraordinary artists from all over the world. We have a rich, vibrant and varied catalogue of authentic and soulful music.” World Music fans and fans of Gabriel’s always eclectic brand of rock, will catch a sonic buzz from the widespread music magic on 25.

RHINO / PARLOPHONE - Following several highly adventurous albums that completely transformed the concept of the long playing vinyl album, Jethro Tull went for a more commercial but no less rewarding sound on the 1974 album release of Warchild. After the amazing artistic breakthroughs on both of Tull’s early ‘70s masterpieces, Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, the sound of Warchild signaled a desire by Tull founder Ian Anderson to get back onto the Top 40 singles chart. It seemed to do the trick because “Bungle In The Jungle” and the title track were being played everywhere forty years ago. Rhino and Parlophone celebrate 40 years of Warchild greatness with a 40th anniversary edition of Warchild that simply boggles the mind. The net result is a 4 disc box set featuring 2 CDs and 2 DVDs. First, the original ten track CD was remixed by Steven Wilson in stereo while the second CD features no less than 21 bonus tracks, including various mid ‘70s Tull pieces that are known and loved by long time fans, as well as ten orchestral instrumental pieces from the then proposed Warchild film and soundtrack that were unfortunately shelved. The two included DVD discs here feature the 5.1 remixes, various transfers of the original album, including flat transfers of the original Lp mix and a quadraphonic version, as well as promo footage of “The Last Hoorah”, and footage from a January 11th, 1974 press conference where the Warchild project was announced. Also included is an 80 page booklet that goes well into the history of the entire Warchild project, a film script synopsis, an abundance of rare photographs and track by track notes by Ian Anderson. Arguably Tull’s finest commercial moment as a stadium-filling
superstar rock band, Warchild remains a milestone of mid 1970’s progressive rock history. Tull fans looking for the final word and the most extensive history of Warchild to date, need to start here. /

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