REVIEW-January 7, 2013-Here are a few quickie reviews of some really fine music that I personally recommend that you add to your music collection in the coming year:
1)Wishbone Ash- "ELEGANT STEALTH" -Released in 2012,this is hard driving double guitar rock. Led by longtime guitarist Andy Powell, this is IMHO, the finest double guitar rock album I've heard in a long time. Highlights include the opening tune "Reason to Believe" and the pulsating "Heavy Weather". Classic hard driving rock, good melodies and great guitar playing.
2)Elton John- "CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY" -Originally released in 1975, this is a semi-autobiographical concept album that actually does work. This is some of Elton's finest work from this era. Highlights for me are "Tower of Babel" with some nice guitar work from Davey Johnstone, who does great work throughout the whole album, the rockin' "Meal Ticket" and the classiclly inspired "Better off Dead". The remastered CD contains 3 "bonus tracks" also. In my opinion only one is of any worth-Elton's remake of the Beatles "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". The pop hit "Philadelphia Freedom" is also included but I was not much of a fan of this tune. I have a habit of ripping these cds WITHOUT the bonus tracks because I think the original album's song mix had a purpose and a certain sound. I also think most bonus tracks are generally not as good as the real album otherwise they would have been on the album to begin with!
3)Acoustic Alchemy- "AART" -Released in 2001, this album by the instrumental group fronted by guitarists Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale is one of their finest efforts. Carmichael specializes in nylon string while Gilderdale does acoustic steel string and occasional electric guitar. Check out the foot tapping Flamoco Loco which combines some flemenco playing with some pulsating R&B rythms. There's also the cruisin' "Viva Che" and the smooth jazz of "Tuff Puzzle". All in all if you've never heard this band this is a good place to start. Excellent musicianship combined with elements of jazz, R&B, rock, flamenco and world music.
So there you have it. Enjoy the sounds and HAPPY LISTENING!REVIEW-July 14, 2012-IAN ANDERSON, Thick as a Brick 2-As most of you know, I am a big Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull fan. So, it is not easy for me to give a negative review of an Ian Anderson project. But I can honestly say, that after listening to this album numerous times, “Thick as a Brick 2” just doesn’t work. Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t some fine music on this cd. There IS! The opening tracks, “From a Pebble Thrown” and “Pebbles Instrumental” are fine and draw from the original “Thick as a Brick”. “Banker Bets, Banker Wins” is a catchy piece that has been getting some radio airplay. This tune is somewhat in the style of the tunes on “War Child”. “A Change of Horses” is perhaps the best work on this album. That being said, “A Change...” is closer to “Roots to Branches” than “TAAB”. What doesn’t work for me is that no matter how Ian attempts to TELL us how this album is structured storywise, it still sounds disjointed to me. Also, Ian Anderson’s solo work has been more intimate sounding and designed for performance in smaller venues. On TAAB2, he harkens back for the production sound of TAAB1 and its’ arena style production while he sings and writes in the intimate style has now developed. It just doesn’t coalesce for me. Musically, the band sounds fine with John O’Hara and Florian Ophale doing their best John Evan and Martin Barre imitations. Scott Hammond lays down some fine drum work and David Goodier keeps the low end solid. Overall, it sounds like a Jethro Tull cover band but with the old Ian Anderson singing. I can see why Martin Barre did not want to be part of this project. Buy it only if you’re like me-a hardcore fan. Ian should not have done this project but instead should have given us another of his fine truly solo works. REVIEW-February 27, 2012- These are just some quick snippets on a few suggestions for additions to your CD collection that you might not have thought of.
1)King Crimson- “DISCIPLINE”-From the eccentric “Elephant Talk” to the abstract “Theta Hun Gingeet” this is one of Crimson’s finest albums. This line-up of Fripp, Bruford, Levin and Belew is probably their best. Great playing, inventive musical ideas and some audio accessibility for those not accustomed to regular doses of King Crimson.2)King Crimson- “THE POWER TO BELIEVE”-Keeping with the Crimson thing, this line-up features Trey Gunn replacing Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto replacing Bill Bruford. This is a power-prog album with lots of relentless double guitar work. There is still the eccentric with “Happy with What You Have to be Happy With” and the enticing, meter shifting “Eyes Wide Open”. This is a great addition particularly for guitar lovers. 3)Ian Anderson- “THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF BIRDS”- A collection of short, lyrically poetic, songs by Jethro Tull’s front man. This album pretty much established Anderson as a solo artist capable of standing on his own two feet (or should I say ONE foot!). The instrumentation is basic- just acoustic guitar, flute, drums and some keys. The songs are emotional, evocative, lyrical and might have you humming them in your head for few days. Highlights include “Little Flower Girl”, an ode to a painting by Russell Flint, “Panama Freighter”, and “Circular Breathing”. Great addition for Tull fans in particular. 4)Miles Davis- “KIND OF BLUE”- This album is considered a jazz classic and for good reason. If you want to know how great improvisation is done just check out this album. Even if you are not a jazz fan per se, this is a great album to put on while you’re reading, studying or doing quiet things around the house. Some famous names in jazz appear with Miles on this, including Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Winton Kelly and Bill Evans. 5)The Who- “WHO’S NEXT”- Maybe the best Who album. Great tunes like “Baba O’Riley”, “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Roger Daltrey’s voice is strong, clear and emotional. John Entwistle’s bass is pounding but lyrical and Pete Townsend’s writing is perhaps his best. If you watch “CSI” on T.V., these are the songs used in the intros of the various “CSI’s”. Periodically we’ll post a few more suggestions. In the meantime, HAPPY LISTENING!
REVIEW-September,2011 YES, Fly From Here- So what is a band that’s been around for 40 plus years supposed to create for a new album? Just what are a bunch of guys in their 60’s supposed to do? You create an album like “Fly From Here” from perennial prog-rockers YES. Real nit-picking fans might say “it’s not Close to the Edge” or “it ain’t YES without Anderson and Wakeman”. Baloney! Yes has never done more than 2 albums with the same line-up. So, YES is what it is at any given point in time. All that being said, this is one fine album. All the songs have melody, substance and great energy and emotion. Musically, these guys have nothing to prove with the exception maybe of singer Benoit David. Speaking of Benoit David, he comes through strong and clear with a real sense of his own contribution as an artist and not just as “Anderson’s replacement”. He was greatly encouraged to make his mark by producer and former Yes front man Trevor Horn. Check out the vocal work on “Sad Night At the Airfield”. Brilliant background harmonies by Squire and Howe are also evident on this track. Speaking of Steve Howe-this album certainly highlights Howe’s unusual abilities and talents including some killer slide work on “Sad Night…” and some great lead guitar on “Into the Storm”. Howe’s solo piece “Solitaire” while not compositionally in the class of “Mood for a Day” or “The Clap” is still a fine piece of music with some interesting changes and some nice blending of quasi-classical and ragtime. Alan White once again “makes it all look (sound) so easy”. Whether it’s shifting meter or shifting accents, the flow and rhythm sounds natural and easy. Check out “Life on a Film Set”, particularly the second half in 11/4 time or the shifting downbeat in “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”. Which leads us to Mr. YES himself, Chris Squire. Squire has kept this thing going all these years constantly demanding good musicians and good musicianship. His own performance on this album is excellent. The usual great bass playing! Check out the bass line on “We Can Fly”. Sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it! Great vocals on “The Man….” and some terrific background harmony arrangements mark Squire's major contributions. Lastly, Geoff Downes’ keyboards are the glue that holds the whole thing together. Downes adds the color to the songs through the use of his many different keyboard sounds while not competing with either Howe’s guitar or getting in the way of the vocals. There are no soaring solos but rather some great “in your face” background work. Think Tony Kaye on steroids. As far as the songs go, my stand outs include “Sad Night…” which I think is the best track on the album. This song defines this version of YES. I also like “Madman at the Screens”. The instrumental melodies and counter-point are classic YES. Squire’s “The Man….” is also a fine track more reminiscent of some of his solo work but with some real nice guitar lines from Howe. The “suite” “Fly From Here” pretty much works as a story about prop planes and love and the flow is fine, My only complaint was that the “Reprise” was a little short and maybe could have used a bigger build-up. But, no failing grade there. Kudos to producer/writer Trevor Horn for proposing this idea and doing a splendid job on a nice crisp and clear production. Overall, this is a fine effort from a bunch of “old guys”. I certainly hope not the last!
REVIEW-July, 2010-The Steve Hackett Band and Renaissance at the Egg in Albany, N.Y- Steve Hackett finally has come to the USA for a tour with his rock band. Steve has been here before with the acoustic trio but this is the first time in many years for his rock band. The band has essentially been together for over 10 years with Steve on guitar, Rob Townsend on flute and sax, Gary O’Toole on drums and Roger King on keys. Nick Beggs replaces Terry Gregory on bass and new addition Amanda Lehmann adds a second guitar to round out the group. Steve reached all the way back to Genesis and all the way forward to his latest album “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth” for a wide selection of material. Opening with “Every Day”, Amanda Lehmann’s presence was immediately noticeable with the addition of her high harmony vocals. Later on she would bring “Ace of Wands” to new heights with some stunning dual guitar work and guitar harmonies with Steve that breathed some new life in to a Hackett staple. My award for the “most improved” member of the band goes to Rob Townsend. My basis for comparison are the 2 live DVD’s “Once Above a Time” and “Somewhere in South America” which range back to 2001. His ending solo on “Blood on the Rooftops” and his back and forth solo with Roger King in Los Endos were exceptional. Rob is also a master on the Pan Flute on which he played both melody lines and an astonishing improvised solo in “Serpentine Song”. There were very fine vocal harmonies all night and some much improved lead vocals from Gary O’Toole on “Blood on the Rooftops” and “Firth of Fifth”. As far as Mr. Hackett goes- what can I say? Flawless playing, his trademark sustain guitar cutting and searing all night, tremendous melodies and slick fast improvisations. Steve gave us just a taste of his tremendous classical guitar skills with the finger picked opening to “Blood on the Rooftops”. In fact that was the only song in which he played any acoustic guitar all night. The band introduced some new material from “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth” including “Fire on the Moon”, the beautiful “Emerald and Ash” which features some superb harmonies and soprano sax and the Hackett style blues of “Still Waters”. I thought this was a very evenly performed show- all the songs were performed well- but I had my favorites. “Blood on the Rooftops” has always been one of my favorite Genesis pieces as has “First of Firth”. Both were just done superbly. “Every Days” surprised me with it’s renewed energy and “Emerald and Ash” with it’s sheer beauty (keep in mind I had never heard that song before). Overall, a very strong and satisfying show from a Master and legend. Now, about Renaissance…. This is a band that has definitely been helped by today’s technology particularly in regards to keyboards. The ability to quickly switch sounds and being able to use a second keyboard player to play all the layered orchestral parts made this band sound full and exciting. Vocalist Annie Haslam showed she still can reach the stratosphere with here amazing voice. Keyboardist Rave Tesar was superb, sometimes evoking a little Keith Emerson. Highlights for me included “Prologue” and “Carpet of the Sun”, “Midas Man” and “Mother Russia”. “Mother Russia” was particularly astounding with it’s back and forth tempo changes and it’s musical intensity. This is a superb and exciting band. If you have a chance to see this twin bill-DO IT!
REVIEW-January 2, 2010-This is from the MYSTERY RADIO internet radio station (www.independentartistscompany.com/mysteryradio)on my song "Deep Right Center"."Marty always gives us well thought out progressive music and this tune is no exception, he is a master of production and provides all the right kinda touches on this song with fine guitar work,catchy riffs and cool progressions.Sitting on the edge of a quasi jazz thing too, great listen as usual and that funky little break was sweet, nice organ patch, what you use there,like it." Our thanks to Mystery Radio and check out all the great artists there.