Record Label and Music Spotlight 




on Umbrello


on Digital Classics


on Raven Records


- Described as futuristic roots music with jazzy vibes and swampy, funky ambient grooves, Floratone pairs the eclectic guitar sounds of Bill Frisell with drummer Matt Chamberline. Assisted here by producers Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend, the musicians and producers have crafted a totally organic sounding musical collage from a series of jam sessions. One minute straight ahead jazz, the next devastating rock, the next ambient. Frisell’s latest wide-ranging free form jazz experiment, Floratone also features the bass lines of Viktor Krauss. Commenting on the CD, Frisell adds, ‘It was a convergence experience. Just Matt and me getting together for a weird jam session was one thing, but to have Lee and Tucker come in and make something of what we had done was like synchronicity. I couldn’t help but think of Miles and Teo, the playing over and over and then sorting things out.’

- Perfecting the art of improvisational rock-jazz guitar is no mean feat, but guitarist Brian Butler displays some inventive guitar skills on his first solo CD. Although Butler says these songs are developed with a high degree of improvisation, there’s plenty of unique riffing and inventive recording techniques on his CD, Axuallity Volume 1, to set Butler apart in a crowded field of guitarists. Is it fusion, is it rock? You decide, while you can read more about Butler in the liner notes, that further adds, ‘the improvisational nature of the music keeps the listener constantly wondering about what is coming next. The compositions have an organic character as they are literally being grown on the spot by the artist.’

- Interviewed in depth in the April 2007 issue of TCG, Joe Giglio is best listened to on CD where you can best appreciate his diverse jazz guitar approach. Recorded in late November 2005, 3 Spirits is just that—a captivating guitar based trio CD featuring the guitarist backed up by violinist Rob Thomas and bassist Ron McClure. From the minute these guys started playing, Giglio recalls, ‘I knew it would be telepathic.’ Recording as a trio without drums can be a challenging task on 3 Spirits the collective improvising between these three superb players fills in any gaps created by the lack of a drummer. Song wise, 3 Spirits spotlights Giglio originals and a range of jazz standards inspired by Giglio’s fondness for musical heroes like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Lennie Tristano. 3 Spirits features Giglio’s in depth liner notes on the CD sessions. Another side of Joe Giglio’s guitar sound is revealed on Clairvoyant Avenue, the CD release by Giglio’s group Threedom. Backed by David Shaich (bass) and Tyone Govan (drums), Giglio masterfully creates an album of very listenable, free spirited improv jazz with his guitar sound neatly situated between the tight rhythm section of Govan and Shaich—the latter co-producing and handling the CD mastering.

- Pop music pioneer Richard Barone remains a mainstay on the NYC music scene, so it’s worth taking a look at his earliest recorded work with the post-punk pop band The Bongos. Cooking Vinyl reissued the very first Bongos album on CD in 2007 complete with unreleased bonus cuts, live concert tracks of their ‘81 London debut, 1979 live cuts + and a new 2007 remake of a cut with The Bongos and Moby. 27 infectious pop tracks packed with an impressive booklet, lyrics and vintage photos make this classic cult album an item worth re-exploring more than 25 years after it first came out.

- The premier modern jazz-rock label in America, Cuneiform continues to amaze audiophiles with stunning CDs. One recent arrival, Return To The Emerald Beyond by The Mahavishnu Project is that band’s third CD and first on Cuneiform. A double CD that essentially features cover versions of the music John McLaughlin recorded back in the ‘70s with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return is expertly rendered and recorded and as far as double live CDs, it’s doesn’t get much better than this. Drummer Gregg Bendian is totally in synch with his Mahavishnu Project band mates including guitarist Glenn Alexander and keyboardist Adam Holzman. Bendian’s mission is clearly to show how significant McLaughlin’s music remains and he openly admits, ‘John McLaughlin wrote so many incredibly beautiful tunes, not to mention how groundbreaking historically that stuff is. I consider that music some of the unsung masterpieces of the 20th century.’ Part of Cuneiform’s New American Masters series, Return To The Emerald Beyond follows in the footsteps of earlier Cuneiform tributes to Miles Davis (Yo Miles!), Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. Clearly not for the faint of heart, Visions Of The Emerald Beyond is a masterful jazz-rock salute.

- Taking a look at the early Beatles years, Stuart SutcliffThe Lost Beatle reopens the case history on the all too brief life and times of the Beatles’ first bass guitarist. From the liner notes of this insightful DVD, George Harrison adds, ‘Stu was more than just the bass player, he was like our art director.’ In addition to working with The Beatles early on in the ‘60s, Sutcliff was also an outstanding painter and burgeoning artist. His life and times with the early Beatles years in Hamburg and tragic passing in 1962—as well as interviews with Astrid Kirchherr, early Beatles manager Allan Williams and Sutcliff’s embittered sister Pauline—keeps Stu’s name alive in the the time machine of rock and roll history. Capping off the hour long BBC rockumentary is a bonus gallery of Sutcliff’s often abstract, always inventive paintings.

- No doubt gearing up for Summer 07, Capitol and parent company EMI carry on the tradition of The Beach Boys with a new career-spanning compilation entitled The Warmth Of The Sun. It sounds great and, despite some great sounding mono mixes, is geared towards the novice. Nevertheless, it attempts to distill the core of Brian Wilson and his band of followers. You don’t need “Surfin’ USA” when you have “The Little Girl I Once Knew” (here in mono). The early years are well represented with a solid shot of Reprise era classics from Sunflower and Surf’s Up. Some may refer to that era when Brian was alienated from the ‘Boys but he’d come back strong with some classic rockers, including a great Mike Love sung track “It’s OK.” What isn’t documented here are some great unreleased tracks from the mid ‘80s and early ‘90s. Some, like Brian’s greatest song, “The Spirit Of Rock And Roll” are songs that Brian made with Gene Landy, Brian’s Machiavellian guru who, despite having sadly passed away in 2006, was there during the genesis of these, songs The Beach Boys missed out on totally. Maybe one day.
Over in the mother country, EMI have an essential 2007 reissue of the 1968 album Established 1958 by Cliff Richard And The Shadows. 1968 was kind of a watershed year for The Shadows. With the Shads having released their all instrumental masterpiece Jigsaw in 1967 and having the early ‘68 half vocal From Hank Bruce Brian And John, guitarist Hank B. Marvin and company returned to their late ‘50s roots with singer Cliff Richard for a half instrumental / half vocal long player. A valid attempt to blend the songs of the Shadows as sung by Cliff Richard with the instrumental guitar sound The Shadows are associated with, Established 1958 might have been a greater album. Despite starting off with the low key “Don’t Forget To Catch Me,” written for Cliff, the vocal cuts with Cliff aren’t quite as cool as say Hank’s classic vocal on “The Average Life Of A Daily Man,” which, only available here remains a classic late ‘60s Shadows vocal numbers. The five Shads instrumentals are uniformly excellent, with Hank’s famous U.K. twang echoing the band’s Les Paul inspired rocking sounds on Jigsaw. Reissued by EMI in England in 2007, the original 14 track Lp is represented in a stereo mix with four bonus cuts, detailed discography, new and original liner notes.

EAGLE - A fine follow up to his 2006 CD, Old New Ballads Blues, guitar hero Gary Moore gets back in touch with his blues-rock roots with his 2007 album, Close As You Get. Since becoming a vital member of the Eagle Records roster of classic rockers, Moore has released some pretty impressive music including a Thin Lizzy tribute DVD, One Night In Dublin as well as his contribution to Eagle’s Strat Pack DVD. Back in 2007 with Close As You Get, Moore lives up to his reputation as the U.K.’s leading blues rocker guitarist. Moore wrote some killer originals for Close As You Get, while other highlights include his covers of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic “Eyesight To The Blind” and and rocking revival of the Chuck Berry chestnut “Thirty Days.” Moore has once again surrounded himself with an excellent band, including Brian Downey (drums), Vic Martin (bass) and Pete Rees (guitar). Moore may be traveling down familiar ground on Close As You Get, yet he continues to keep the legacy of the blues burning bright.

- Looking back on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Lp release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it’s well worth taking a looking at an excellent book by long time Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. A 2006, 387 page paperback edition issued by Gotham Books, Here, There, And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Music Of The Beatles offers a first hand account of Emerick’s studio work at London’s fabled Abbey Road studios. The book was co-written in part by Howard Massey and features foreword by Elvis Costello. Working in the ‘60s with Beatles producer George Martin, Emerick was right there and his fastidious documentation and great memory serve him well as he takes the readers through the early Beatles years in ‘62 up through and including the 1969 breakup, working with McCartney in the ‘90s and beyond. All in all, Emerick’s dossier on recording The Beatles at Abbey Road is crucial reading for any serious pop music fan.
Gotham and parent company Penguin have a number of other Beatles related books worth checking out including Read The Beatles. Edited by June Skinner Sawyers—with a foreword by early Beatles believer Astrid Kirchherr—the 364 page book is subtitled ‘classic and new writings on The Beatles, their legacy, and why they still matter. A native of Scotland, Skinner dedicates the book to the people of Liverpool and in fitting together fifty + articles, essays, interviews, reviews and more puts together a fascinating book that underscores the continuing relevance of the Fab Four.
Ticket To Ride - Inside The Beatles’ 1964 & 1965 Tours That Changed The World is another Penguin book, from 2003, that details both the 1964 and ‘65 Beatles tours as recalled and written by Larry Kane. Kane—the only American journalist inside the Beatles press camp to travel with the band during every date of their ‘64 and ‘65 tours—describes the ‘64 Beatles tour as ‘the world’s first major rock n’ roll tour and the beginning of a revolution. The 242 page paperback book recounts both tours with incredible accuracy and backs it all up with period piece interviews and photos. With a foreword by Dick Clark and a closing chapter entitled “Beyond The Tours,” the book also includes a bonus CD featuring rare interviews with The Beatles.
Another Beatles related title of interest from Penguin offshoot Viking Books is a 232 coffee table classic called John Lennon All I Want Is The Truth. Described on the cover as a ‘photographic biography’ by Elizabeth Partridge, the 2005 book is a b&w visual tour de force of Lennon’s all too brief life (1940-1980) as a pop culture icon and musical innovator. From Menlove Avenue in Liverpool to the Dakota, there’s plenty of famous visual signposts here to impress long time Lennon watchers and curious newcomers eager to see what all the fuss was about.

- Even with the music world’s pizza place mentality in this era of digital downloading, it’s still nice to get a touchy feely album release in the form of a CD in your hands. Especially one with inventive cover art, with a CD that once you slap in your player has more than a modicum of musical intelligence—as is the case with the debut CD from the group known as Epic. Featuring the guitars of Stephen Turner and the bass of Jason Navo, Epic strike a solid groove with their melodic yet cosmic blend of instrumental rock, tempered with a neoclassical music intel. With their solid rhythm section, Epic are slightly reminiscent of the best instrumental prog bands that were once so big in northern Europe in the late ‘70s. As such, Epic’s intriguing Proprium should find a home with fans of guitar based rock fusion instrumentals.

- Late in 2007 L.A. based Hacktone released a great new CD from singer-songwriter Lewis Taylor and shortly after they released Wire Waltz by The Last Town Chorus. LTTC Megan Hickey has a fine voice and her lap steel guitar playing is equally effective. Very atmospheric and low key in a hip, late night listening kind of way, the ten track Wire Waltz features nine originals by Ms. Hickey along with her slowly turning, steel guitar inflected cover of the ‘82 Bowie classic “Modern Love”.

- Celebrating the 30th anniversary of his 1977 debut album, My Aim Is True, post-punk rocker Elvis Costello inked a deal with Hip-0 and the end result is a complete overhaul of the veteran rocker’s entire catalog. Elvis adds, ‘There’s a lot of songs, a lot of records in a short period of time—even if you just consider the 11 records that are being reissued now.’ Kicking things off with The Best Of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years and a rock-themed collection of hits, album tracks, b-sides and rarities entitled Rock And Roll Music, Hip-0 goes the distance, reissuing Costello’s first eleven studio albums, on actual CDs with complete lyrics, and for the first time as digital downloads with special codes—two ways that both allow access to a treasure of internet-based bonus material. Costello has had several major label reissue programs in the past, but Hip-O’s 2007 Costello series is the first time,the original albums have been reissued in their original form with additional bonus material housed on-line. In addition, Hip-O / UME also have several Elvis Costello Deluxe Edition reissues planned including a 30th anniversary of My Aim Is True (produced by Nick Lowe) in the Fall with a possibly deluxe of 1978’s This Year’s Model planned in ‘08.

- NYC-based guitarist Joel Harrison perked up the ears of Beatles fans with his jazzy George Harrison (no relation) tribute, Harrison On Harrison. In 2007 Harrison joins forces with guitarist Nguyen Le and Dave Binney (sax) for the CD release of his seventh solo outing, Harbor by Joel Harrison’s End Time Quintet. Assisted by Jamey Haddad (drums) and Gildas Bocle (bass), Harbor is a sophisticated instrumental set with musical minds meeting at the crossroads of jazz, rock, Indian and African music. With Harrison’s expertise as both an electric guitarist and master of modern improv, there’s plenty of wildly eclectic and well recorded sounds here for fusion fans and avant gard jazz aficionados.

- With a batch of stick in your head songs and some top musicianship, Steve Bertrand steps forward with a fine solo album in 2007. Melodically, Bertrand’s songs are derivative of the Frampton / Bowie approach to pop song writing. On his first solo album, Bertrand is backed up by some excellent players and he more than acquits himself as both a singer and guitarist. Having worked with producer Phil Ramone during initial group, The Tories, Bertrand has track record in the biz and he’s off to a flying start with his catchy solo debut.

- Known for breaking ground in the late ‘80s back in his native Seattle with grunge rock pioneers Soundgarden, Chris Cornell returns in 2007 with his 13th career album. Teaming with producer Steve Lillywhite, and a host of top drawer electric guitarists including Brian Ray, Gary Lucas, Cameron Greider and Cornell himself, the sound of Carry On features Cornell in top form conjuring a fresh rock-pop vibe in the spirit of some of producer Lillywhite’s earlier clients like U2, Dave Matthews and Morrissey. The Paris-based Cornell knows how to write a melodic, atmospheric rockers and having sold over 20 millions albums with Soundgarden and more recently the group Audioslave, Cornell lays fresh asphalt for himself with the well honed rock sound of Carry On.

- So inspirational was the music on this final ELO (as we know them) album that George Harrison agreed to enlist Jeff Lynne for Cloud 9 and the rest is history. Almost ten years after the final ELO album of the ‘70s Out Of The Blue, the ‘86 release of Balance Of Power featured a choice mix of album tracks and hit singles including long-standing ELO favorites “So Serious” and “Calling America.” Like day and night compared to the grandiose prog vision of the first Electric Light Orchestra album with ELO brainchild Royston Wood from 1971, Balance Of Power masterfully shifted the emphasis with hard hitting, Euro-tinged pop melodies that leaned heavily on drum machines, sequencers and massive amounts of reverb. The bottom line looking on, what?, is it all worked and amazing to say this retrofit reissue sounds much better today than it did 20 years ago. Legacy’s 2007 reissue of Balance Of Power is complete with seven bonus cuts and new liner notes from Jeff Lynne and ELO historian Rob Caiger. Commenting, Lynne adds, ‘This was to be the last ELO album of that century. Even so I think it turned out to be one of the better ones (the album, not the century.)’ Long time ELO followers should note the the two Traveling Wilburys CD, Volumes 1 and 3 are now slated for reissue by Rhino later in 2007.
Legacy revives the catalog of L.A. pop icon Michael Penn, rescuing his 2005 album as a double CD set while simultaneously releasing a compilation of Penn. Mr. Hollywood Jr. was released as an indie cd by Penn a couple years back. A strong pop rock epic, the song cycle kicks off in style with a gut-wrenching rocker entitled “Walter Reed” and never lets go. Legacy pairs the 13 track CD with a second disc featuring six tracks recorded for KCRW radio in late 2005. The late Phil Ochs would have loved Penn’s ‘thinking man’s pop’ voice—a sonorous baritone that effortlessly renders his ironic words and melodies. Regarding the 2007 retrospective of Penn’s earlier music released on both BMG and Sony, the 20 track Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea dates back to tracks from Penn’s ‘89 debut on RCA and moves forward through various tracks Penn made in the ‘90s and new 2007 versions of earlier tracks. With that Phil Ochs inspired vocal played against a finely wrought Beatle-esque backbeat, Penn’s guitar playing is tasteful throughout. Top sidemen and production from several big names doesn’t exactly hurt matters either.

- There is a slight Brooklyn-y, feels like home edge to the moody instrumental music of Kings County (Brooklyn to those outside the borough of NYC) based J.A. Granelli And Mr. Lucky. On their 2006 CD Homing—subitled A Feeling In Nine Parts—the sound is at once jazzy bebop, leaning funereal in a guitar-noir style, while also echoing a slight return to ‘60s psychedelia. Bass ace J.A. Granelli has put together a fine team including electric guitarists Brad Shepik and pedal steeler Gerald Menkeb, atmospheric B-5 of Nate Shaw and drummer Mike Sarin. J.A.’s countrified Brooklyn fusion of sounds works real well in an instrumental setting that will impress jazzers and jam band rockers alike.

- A division of the EMI / Blue Note stable of labels, Manhattan released a 2007 CD from Chinese superstars 12 Girls Band. As beautiful as they are gifted, these ladies fuse the ancient traditions of Chinese classical and folk music with Western pop, classical and jazz. On their 2007 all instrumental CD, Shanghai, the Girls keep their cutting edge reputation in tact blending a solid offering of Chinese traditional folk music with fresh interpretations of modern western pop hits—including instrumental covers of tracks made famous by Sting, Celine Dion—with all played on classic Chinese stringed instruments like pipa, erhu and guzheng. On Shanghai, the girls also feature a ‘backing band’ of western rock-based instruments including electric guitars, bass and drums. Amid this glorious sounding traditional Asian music, there’s even a tasty cover of the Dave Brubeck jazz classic “Take 5.” Tasty Chinese stuff, indeed. There’s also a Live From Shanghai DVD also on Manhattan featuring the 12 Girls Band live in concert.

/ UME - Armed with solid pop song writing with hooks and moods enough to sucker punch a veteran cosmic rocker, So-Cal rocker William Tell arrives with his major label debut. Tell admits, ‘I’m a guitar player, but I’m a sucker for great song writing more than big riffs.’ UME are plugging Tell’s mood enhancing pop tracks everywhere and if you’re lucky enough you might hear Tell and his fine band on a pop muzak station blowing younger minds down at your local mall. Summing up his shot at the big time Tell adds, ‘Making this record helped me accept that sometimes what life gives you is better than what you had in mind.’ Tell’s You Can Hold Me Down is solid choice for pop fans young and old.

- Daniel Bruce is an up and coming jazz guitarist teaching guitar studies at University of North Texas. Having performed in various Broadway musicals, and citing George Gershwin as a big influence, Bruce follows his instincts on the 2006 CD release of his solo debut, A Single Thread. Performing electric guitars, nylon string guitar and lap steel, Bruce gets excellent assistance from a full band backing on horns, bass, drums and keyboards. The sound of A Single Thread is instrumental avant gard jazz, all played with feel and expertise.

- Over in Holland, Dutch guitarist Emiel van Dikk keeps the spirit of acoustic guitar driven jazz alive and well with his 2007 CD entitled Rhythm Of The Guitar. Released on the Pluck label, the CD features Emiel backed by a solid rhythm section. The sixteen track CD features an all original set of instrumentals including a seven track soundtrack to a musical theater piece called “Echoes From The Heart.” From Leo Kottke style guitar pieces to a more sultry bossa nova style sound, Emiel covers a lot of musical territory with Rhythm Of The Guitar.

- Renowned for his on-fire guitar solo on the 1975 Steely Dan favorite “Reelin’ In the Years,” guitarist Elliott Randall takes that world renowned song solo to it’s logical next step on a five track, 25 minute, 2007 CD EP entitled Still Reelin’. With it’s Celtic style pt. 1 intro, “Reelin” gets a new lease on life with Randall backed up by key players including his ex-Steely Dan mates Bernard Purdie (drums) and Chuck Rainey (bass) with Tasmin Archer bringing her cool but uniquely effective vocal style to the song. After hearing Randall’s long awaited return to form, it’s clear that “Reelin” has lost none of its pop appeal. A pair of jazzy rock instros, one featuring Al Kooper on B-3, and a cover of “Lovely Day”—written by Bill Withers—with vocals by a fellow named Jag, add further zing to this short but sweet offering from Randall.

- Following the heyday of bands such as U.K. prog icons Yes and Genesis, the American band Starcastle came along in the late ‘70s to carry that prog-rock torch forward in the U.S. With a range of gifted players and composers including Gary Strater (bass), Matt Stewart and Bruce Botts on guitars, Starcastle released a comeback CD, entitled Song Of Times in 2007 with enough fresh ideas to almost eclipse some of their earlier works. The band also features a singer, Al Lewis, who with his higher pitched voice sounds like a rev-ed up Jon Anderson. All this basking in the golden days of ‘70s progressive rock would be innuendo without some fine music to back up those chops, though clearly Starcastle are up for this musical task with new music that features vital contributions from many of the key players from the band’s early years, including the late Gary Strater, to whom the record is dedicated.

- The Voyces are an excellent NYC based outfit and on their 2007 CD Kissing Like It’s Love they can’t seem to make up their mind if they’re Pink Floyd, The Archies or any number of acoustic folk-rock bands from NYC’s Village scene. What sets Voyces apart is the excellent singer-songwriting of Brian Wurschum who sounds firmly in charge. Fine studio sound and attention to detail brings these modern day folk rock aficionados further to the cutting edge. The Voyces gently rock and the quintet sound is greatly abetted by the sparingly used but effective electric guitar of Steve Dawsson. The Voyces can also be heard performing track two on a twenty track tribute to the late great Rick Nelson, also released in 2007 on Planting Seeds Records. Among the luminaries, besides The Voyces, sharing the honors in this salute are Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Wilson guitarist Jeff Foskett and Jeff’s partner in the New Surf North label, Jeff Larson, to name just a few. /

- Born in Chile to Argentine parents, Brazilian guitarist Rick Udler echoes the best of the bossa nova / solo jazz guitar sound as played on nylon string classical. Having produced legendary Brazilian guitarist Paulinho Nogueira’s first U.S. release, Reflections back in ‘99, Rick Udler steps forward with his 2007 solo instrumental release, entitled Papaya. Having lived in the U.S. for many years and adept in both jazz and rock, Udler flavors this mostly solo Brazilian classical bossa nova outing with some jazzy twists and turns. Featuring the occasional backing on acoustic bass, percussion and on one track, piano, Papaya is an instrumental guitar lovers dream that provides an intimate setting for Udler’s crafty nylon string guitar expertise.

- The Dutch instrumental rock group Focus was formed at the end of the ‘60s by guitarist Jan Akkerman and co-founder keyboardist / flutist Thjis van Leer. Quite a number of albums later both artists are still will in their prime—Akkerman as a prolific guitarist in Europe and van Leer as the current leader of Focus. Still keeping the arty instrumental guitar-centric sound alive on the 2007 CD release of Focus 9 / New Skin, van Leer adds guitarist Niels van der Steenhoven to fill the void of Akkerman, while producer / bassist Bobby Jacobs and Dutch drumming legend Pierre van der Linden make a formidable rhythm section. Hats off to Euro keyboard icon Thjis van Leer for keeping the Euro flavored Focus classical / jazz fusion sound alive and well in the new millennium. /

- The bottom line here is that Virginia-based guitarist Vince Lewis makes listening to instrumental jazz easy and fun. A Heritage Guitar performing artist since 1991, Lewis returns in 2007 with a mainstream jazz album that expertly blends bebop jazz, pop standards and more. Commenting on Charlotte Swing Lewis adds, ‘This project, recorded with all first takes, shows the invaluable benefit of working with a trio that regularly plays together.  We went into the studio, recorded 16 tracks, and picked the tunes we felt were the best ones to release.   The recording process was actually completed  in less that 3 hours.  I truly believe this album is my best recorded effort to date.  In my opinion, Tom and Phil are the best supporting rhythm section around. Commenting on his guitar/amp setup Lewis explains, ‘I recorded this CD with my custom built Heritage arch top guitar played through a Redstone RS 8 speaker cabinet.  The cabinet was mic-ed in order to present the natural sound of the cabinet.  Thanks to Dave Mc Elroy, Gwen Jones and Stan Lee for their wonderful design and engineering.’

- Had Joe Meek lived long enough to hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band he would no doubt have been impressed by a new instrumental version of the complete Beatles album by guitar synthesist Les Fradkin. Honoring the 40th anniversary of the Beatles classic and his own original role of George Harrison in the 1977 Beatlemania on Broadway Fradkin beams up a super compressed Meek style recording sound, driving the meters into the red zone with Pepper - Front To Back 40/30 Anniversary. Taking his cues from John Lennon’s overdriven guitar sound on the 45 version of “Revolution” and George Harrison’s guitar sound on “It’s All Too Much,” Fradkin’s no holds barred start to finish summary of Sgt. Pepper ends with an over the edge instro of “All You Need Is Love.” Like he did with Jeff Beck in the mid ‘70s, its too bad George Martin wasn’t around to further refine Fradkin’s scintillating electric guitar orchestrations of rock most revered classic album. Fradkin was great in ‘77 Beatlemania and he extrapolates the spirit 30 years after with an album bound to polarize guitar fusion freaks and maybe even bring in long time Beatles fans with open ears.

- At the dawn of the ‘70s few ‘indie’ labels had as much cred in the music world as the great Kama Sutra and offshoot Buddah. Still reeling from the greatness created in the wake of ‘60s classics from The Lovin’ Spoonful and subsequent bubblegum classics, Kama Sutra ventured into progressive pop with the great Buzzy Linhart (his all time classic Music) and an unheralded, yet equally brilliant pop band called Stories. Kama Sutra wound up releasing three Lps from Stories, the first two of which are book ended on a single disc 24 track CD from Raven entitled, Stories / About Us. Originally formed by Michael Brown—pop genius and founder of ‘60s pop prodigies The Left Banke—Stories also features a great singer in Ian Lloyd and gifted guitarist Steve Love. Both their self-titled first Stories album from 1972 and the ‘73 release of About Us remain American pop classics. Although the group enlisted producer ace Eddie Kramer for About Us, it seemed Kramer and Brown didn’t exactly hit it off—an unfortunate circumstance at best—and sadly, Brown wound up leaving after much of the About Us album was recorded. Strangely, subsequently Stories achieved massive success with a post-Brown number one hit, “Brother Louie,” (an oddity featured as an afterthought on later pressings of About Us), and even recorded an excellent third album without Brown, but those great pop songs from the band’s first two albums were never to be equaled by Lloyd or Browne, and the latter is rumored to be putting together a Left Banke reunion band. Raven’s 2007 pairing of Stories / About Us features excellent discography info and a rare Stories bonus cut from 1974 called “Another Love.”
Ditto for Raven’s excellent John Sebastian anthology entitled Life And Times 1964-1999. In a shrewd commercial move, the 29 track CD features 21 Sebastian originals with his band mates in The Lovin’ Spoonful, moving on the Reprise solo years of the early ‘70s, capping off with “Welcome Back” and a pair of late ‘90s tracks with John Sebastian & The J-Band. Raven chooses the pack their set with the Spoonful’s biggest hits coupled with some unexpected album tracks and movie music.
Much the same is true about Raven’s 2007 pairing of Patchwork / Fancy by fabled ‘60s country pop singer Bobbie Gentry. Best known for her own “Ode To Billy Joe,” as a singer-songwriter she sails way past that huge 45. Released as Lps on Capitol Records during 1970-71, both albums—as well as Raven’s two other Gentry CDs—are well worth hearing again. Without being chauvinistic, this lady looks as good as she sings and simply put, they don’t make great singers like this any more. As usual, Raven packs there down under twofer reissue from Bobbie Gentry with loads of color and b&w artwork and liner notes.

- Tom Salavatori is known as a guitarist’s guitarist—an expert at both classical guitar and the combination of classical with any number of musical genres. Tom enchanted listeners with his last album from 2002, Late Night Guitar, which was a children’s album disguised as an excellent, meditative study in the healing power of the nylon string guitar. In 2007 Tom joins forces with pianist Iris Litchfield for a gorgeous duet album of timeless instrumental music—supplemented by the cello arrangements of John Cutchings. A seamless blend of vintage classical music and the curative vibes of the New Age meditation genre that was so popular in the mid ‘90s, When Evening Falls is the most appealing outing yet from the versatile guitar imagination of Tom Salvatori.

- Modeling his jazz sound after the ‘60s guitar / B-3 / drums trio of Grant Green, Larry Young and Elvin Jones, guitarist Bob DeVos returns with his 2006 instrumental CD Shifting Sands. DeVos was influenced early on by guitars greats like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Pat Martino and he carries that tradition of timeless instro jazz groove on the nine track Shifting Sands. In addition to the B-3 sound of Dan Kostelnick and the drums of Steve Johns, DeVos is also joined by Eric Alexander (tenor sax) and Gary Fritz (percussion). Whether performing his own original tracks or reinterpreting classics from giants like A.C. Jobim (“Mohave”) and Jimmy Van Heusen’s 1947 classic “But Beautiful,” DeVos simply shines on his favorite guitar, a Robert Engel custom built. In his informative liner notes DeVos goes into detail on his love of jazz guitar, offering additional details of the music on hand.

- Following in the aftermath of supergroups like Blind Faith and Mountain, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer stunned the music world with their 1970 debut. In a crowded field of incredible talent, ELP managed to sound completely unique. In 2006 Shout! Factory began releasing new titles in their ELP remasters series beginning with the self titled 1970 debut, Emerson Lake & Palmer and 1971’s Tarkus. ELP were a progressive favorite and managed to chart with an occasional top 40 AM radio hit. For a prog band in 1970, that was just amazing. Things got even more amazing for ELP with the follow-up to Tarkus, the late 1971 Lp release of Pictures At An Exhibition. For a band that didn’t have a proper six string electric guitar player, Pictures made a whole lot of sonic classical rock noise. The concept of covering a classical piece by Russian composer Mussorgsky was a stroke of genius, especially considering that Emerson was the premier rock keyboardist in the world at that point. Following Pictures, ELP were back on the charts in a big way with 1972’s Trilogy. It seemed like ELP were all over FM radio with Trilogy, which sported a chart-topping hit, “From The Beginning.” ELP went on to even bigger world-wide success after Trilogy, yet for some early fans, the initial magic of these first four ELP albums was gone. That’s not to say that the band stopped breaking new ground, it was just that fabled 1967-72 turning point in 20th century music history was a hard act to follow. Perhaps bass great Greg Lake summed it up best by adding, ‘ELP had a certain chemistry and a certain power that was obvious to all three os us when we would get together to record or play. It was something special.’ Look for Shout! Factory to continue reissuing the ELP catalog into 2008.

- L.A. based Sonic Past is a great pop reissue label run by the artistic eye and ear of founder Joey Stec. Back in the ‘60s Stec worked with greats like Gary Usher and Usher’s cohort, the late great singer/songwriter Curt Boettcher. Usher worked with Boettcher on a number of projects including Sagittarius and SP and Sound City mines Curt’s solo career with a circa ‘71 pop based acoustic guitar album that he made with guitarist Web Burrell. Burrell’s insightful liners puts new spin on a lesser known, yet equally deserving, album classic. Although he based away too soon, Boettcher’s singing is great on Chicken Little Was Right and with Gary Usher as executive producer you know the sound is cutting edge. As long time fans of classic L.A. pop may know, Stec and Boettcher were members of the band, The Millennium, who are anthologized by Stec and Sound City on a 21 track compilation from ‘67-68 entitled Pieces. There was lots of unreleased tracks from the band, and complete with detailed eye-opening liner notes of the band’s illustrious history, the CD is complete with loads of liner notes and pics. In a twist of fate, Boettcher’s cohort Web Burrell resurfaced in recent years and fans can catch up with his appealing guitar work, vocals and songwriter—sounding like Curt Boettcher meets The Band—playing everthing on his 1999 CD,The Usual Suspect. /

- Considering this CD was produced by New Age guitar pioneer Will Ackerman, you can really feel the Windham Hill effect over the course of The Language Of Spirits. Since his emergence as a guitar pioneer back in the late ‘70s, Perrone has appeared on a number of film soundtracks, children's music, progressive rock, folk, classical/new age and alternative health soundtracks. The Language Of Spirits is really just that—a summoning up of instrumental acoustic guitar imagery in the spirit of Ackerman’s Windham Hill sound as well as the early music of Ralph Towner in the Paul Winter Consort. Several artists assist Perrone on his third acoustic guitar disc including Tim Story, Michael Manring, Glen Velez and Ackerman too on Parlor Guitar. The Language Of Spirits is highly atmospheric, meditative stuff that breezes by as the hours flash by. CD mastering by Bob Ludwig caps off Perrone’s 2007 New Age instrumental guitar classic.

- Described as slice of instant summer, surf-guitar maestro Dick Dale is a top priority at Sundazed in 2007. With Sundazed having released Dale’s 1962 album debut (first out on the Deltone label) Surfers’ Choice last year—reissued by Sundazed on CD with six bonus tracks—they follow suit with four more 2007 CD reissues from Dick Dale And Hit Del-Tones, including King Of The Surf Guitar (Dale’s 1963 album and first on Capitol Records), Checkered Flag (late ‘63), Mr. Eliminator (1964) and Summer Surf (1964). Each Sundazed title features bonus tracks and as usual with Sundazed, in depth liner notes. Although Dale was and still remains a class surf-rock guitarist—renowned for his firebrand mix of reverb-ed to the max instro and vocal blend of R&B, folk and pop—fans will also marvel at the musicians Dale featured on his sessions. For instance, on 1963’s King Of The Surf Guitar, players at the sessions included guitarists Glen Campbell and Barney Kessell along with Leon Russell and drummer Hal Blaine. Dale’s early influences included the tribal beat of wildman drummer Gene Krupa, with Dale explaining, ‘When I started playing for high schools, the female teachers made the girls sit down on the floor and cross their legs, because I was using that tribal beat.’

TELARC - Having spent a lifetime performing and recording some of the greatest classical guitar works, guitarist David Russell marks his latest recorded achievement with the 2007 CD release of Art Of The Guitar. Recording for Telarc since 1995, Russell’s latest solo guitar CD on Telarc spans 67 minutes of music from the traditional Spanish classical guitar repertoire, while highlighting works by composers from Latin America, Hungary and England as well classical adaptations of classical giants Edvard Grieg and Claude Debussy. There’s also some very impressive Russell performances of two well known preludes from Brazilian composer legend Heitor Villa-Lobos. Commenting on Art Of The Guitar, Russell states, ‘This collection of pieces has been a part of my repertoire for many years. I am happy to finally find a home for them on this recording.’ Following in the footsteps of classical guitar giants such as John Williams and Julian Bream, Russell brings a fresh vision to the world of classical guitar.

- The drummer of Yes since Bill Bruford flew the coup in late 1972, as well as on hundreds of classic rock performances, Alan White has taken advantage of the long hiatus of Yes and has released a fine new CD recently recorded in ‘06. The self-titled White features Alan’s patented drumming skills still in peak form, while the sessions are further accented by strong performances from one time Yes band mate Geoff Downes (keyboards), Shane Boyce (bass) and Karl Haug (guitars). Singer Kevin Currie fits in nicely with White’s stadium size rock beat, a wonderful ‘80s style shine that echoes the big beat of 1983’s 90125 and the first Esquire album from ‘89. White was the drummer of choice for both John Lennon and George Harrison as well as Gary Wright in their early solo careers and he’s remained at the forefront of classic rock drumming with Yes since 1973 when Lennon told us that Yes is the answer, but we already knew that, for sure. /

UMBRELLO - The news in the rock world is that Chris Squire departed The SYN at the end of 2006. SYN—the psych-pop band formed by Squire and Steve Nardelli in ‘65 and disbanded when Squire formed YES in 1969—staged a brilliant comeback CD, Syndestructible, at the end of 2005. 2007’s seven cut CD, Armistice Day debuts a classic rock title track fueled by catchy hooks and utopian lyrics of world peace. The CD is further fleshed out with live 2006 XM radio versions of tracks from Syndestructible that feature key contributions from YES drumming legend Alan White and guitarist Shane Theriot. The Syndestructible covers are interesting, near unplugged versions with White’s tasteful drumming offset by Theriot’s acoustic guitar and acoustic piano from Gerard Johnson. Armistice Day may signal the end of the 2005 revival with Squire and Nardelli, so here’s wishing them both much success in the future.
Over in the U.K. the multitalented singer/songwriter Steve Nardelli has launched his Umbrello Records roster with some mighty impressive CD releases including Dreamer by N.J. based Anton Roolaart. With his vocals very much in the spirit of late period Pink Floyd, Peter Hammill and even label boss Steve Nardelli in SYN, Roolaart proves to be more than an adept singer songwriter and guitarist. Joined with an excellent band—including drummer Rich Berends of the group Mastermind—Roolaart conjures up a sumptuous palate of symphonic rock textures, heralding the era of when the prog-rock pioneers like Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant ruled the earth. Another intriguing CD on Umbrello comes from guitarist Kurt Michaels. Michaels follows the 2004 release of Inner Worlds with his 2007 CD Outer Worlds. Taken from a series of 2006 live show where Michaels opened for the Umbrello supergroup SYN, the 75+ minute Outer Worlds features Michaels performing his fourth dimensional, dreamlike guitar instrumentals. Although Michaels cites John McLaughlin and Miles Davis as his early influences, Outer Worlds sounds inspired by the otherworldly soundscapes of early Tangerine Dream combined with the atmospheric guitar looping of Robert Fripp. From the cover art down to the up close and personal sound of the CD, there’s an air of authenticity to Michaels’ guitar sound. /

UNICORN DIGITAL - Up in Quebec, Unicorn have been releasing prog-rock from all over the planet up to and including a 2007 CD from the Ukrainian progressive group Karfagen. Featuring multi-instrumentalist, guitar/keyboardist Antony Kalugin, the group blend modern progressive with back ground that hints of groups like ELP and Procol Harum. The all instrumental CD really allows the music to breath. This first ever North American Karfagen CD features Kalugin backed up by some excellent jazz-rock players including guitarists Denis Moroz. Further into 2007 Unicorn have a new CD from the label’s founder and guiding light—guitarist, songwriter and arranger Michel St-Père—and his group Mystery. The group’s 2007 Unicorn CD release, Veil Of Winter’s Face will definitely appeal to Rush, Journey and Genesis. The CD is a real work of art, and to top it off, there’s a 28 page CD booklet pairing the complete CD lyrics in English with some wildly impressionistic photos to accompany the prog-rock vibe. Speaking of great prog-bands from Montreal, Unicorn also have an all instrumental, guitar intensive jazz-rock CD from the band Capharnaum entitled Le Soleil Est Une Bombe Atomique. Like the legendary, long departed Montreal band Maneige, Capharnaum pull out all the stops on their ten track, 2007 Unicorn debut. Clearly Michel St-Père has his ear to the ground Whether playing guitar in Mystery and his exemplary work with Unicorn he’s clearly breaking new ground in both the prog-rock and instrumental jazz-rock fusion worlds.

- The bible when it comes to the music biz, This Business Of Music was recently released again in June 2007 (now in it’s 10th edition) by Watson-Guptill Publications. Originally written by several prominent lawyers specializing in music copyrights and publishing—including M. William Krasilovsky and the late Sidney Shemel—this 576 page, hard cover ten edition confronts the ever changing landscape of the music industry, including an entirely new chapter dedicated to music in cyberspace. This Business Of Music remains the bible when it comes to examining the legal labyrinth known as the music business.

WITCHWOOD MEDIA - Although they started out primarily as a group of folk hippies, The Strawbs took it up a notch when Rick Wakeman joined the band in 1970 for their From The Witchwood Lp on A&M. Further additions of keyboard genius John Hawken and later with electric guitarist Dave Lambert on a bunch on early ‘70s Lp classics solidified their progressive meets folk rock credentials. In fact, the loudest earsplitting concert I ever saw was The Strawbs live at the Academy Of Music back in 1973. That sense of that early ‘70s Strawbs rock sound comes alive on Live At Nearfest 2004. One of the unheralded great prog-rock guitarists of the mid ‘70s, Lambert is in the fine company of founding singer-songwriter Dave Cousins, prog keyboard wiz John Hawken and the rhythm section of Chas Cronk (bass) and Rod Coombes (drums). This was the classic Strawbs lineup on their 1974 Hero & Heroine CD. As this in concert CD proves, these guys have this music imbedded in their DNA. Let Cousins and company take you on a trip down Strawbs memory lane.
As great as The Strawbs were in the studio, they were truly at their peak in a live setting. As a matter of fact, the loudest concert I ever saw was the Strawbs in NYC at the Academy Of Music. Not bad for a folk-rock band. With ear splitting mellotrons with songs that made good use of them, Dave Cousins and his Strawbs men have, through the years, come to define British folk and rock and their universal message is put into a superb focus on their self-owned release of A Taste Of Strawbs. You can’t miss the cat on the cover, but for those who know of their music, the four CD box set is quite essential. A 48 page booklet tells the tale of their rise to fame with superb BBC studio tracks and a staggering cross-section of studio quality rarities to amaze hard core fans. What’s even cooler is the attention to chronicling the many great players with amazing pictures to back it up. Timeless British folk, rock and prog but into a sonic mix, The Strawbs have an impressive legacy and it’s all there on A Taste Of Strawbs.

- Forty years ago Cat Stevens made a huge impact in the pop world with his ‘67 smash “Matthew And Son” and four decades later he’s back with his first real pop album in nearly 30 years. It’s still a little hard accept Cat man as the Islamic convert, Yusuf, but one can only praise Allah that he’s given us back Steven Demetre Georgiou for some new millennium sounds. Several tracks on Yusuf’s late 2006 CD release of An Other Cup harks back to classic late ‘60s, “Matthew” era Cat Stevens, especially on a new and very cool remake of his 1970 original “I Think I See The Light.” Yusuf’s cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”—made famous back in the ‘60s by Eric Burdon and The Animals—sounds like the best rendition of the song ever. Both track fit in nicely on an album of Yusuf originals that truly do justice to the genealogy of the artist’s best ‘60s/70s era songs. Some top players add studio luster including early Cat Stevens guitarist / sideman Alun Davies, guitar greats John Themis, Martin Allock, Danny Thompson and many more.

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in and 20th Century Guitar. Send to CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249 e-mail:



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